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February 2012

The Kitschies: A Gothic Evening at Blackwell's

Thursday, 8 March, The Kitschies are proud to host an evening of dark entertainments at Blackwell's Charing Cross. Following on from the success of the Steampunk evening, we'll be delving into the forgotten lore of another popular genre: The Gothic.

Vampire Squid

The Gothic is a tricky one. Originating in the 18th century as a cleverly conceived revival of the medieval romance, its modern thematic legacy includes horror, romance and fantasy, while the aesthetics of the movement have expanded even further afield.

Appropriately, our guests for the Gothic evening come from a wide variety of disciplines and traditions. We're exceedingly pleased to have in attendance:

Christopher Fowler
Marcus Hearn
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
John Kaiine
Tanith Lee
Suzanne McLeod
James Pearson
Jonathan Rigby
Emma Vieceli

If you're interested in learning more about our guests - and the Gothic in general - we've assembled a (not-so-brief) reading list. This is intended to be a broad survey with a special emphasis on the work of our guests. If you have a favourite book with a Gothic influence, please share by letting us know in the comments.

We'll be opening the evening with a short talk then we'll encourage everyone to chat, browse and ogle as they see fit. This is a wonderfully sprawling topic and there's a lot to discuss. Plus, The Kraken Rum will be providing tasty samples of their appropriately dark beverage.

From late February, a host of guests will be taking over on Charing Cross Read - the official blog of Blackwell's Charing Cross - keep your eyes peeled. 

Facebook RSVPs are welcomed but not mandatory. They do, however, let us plan how much rum to bring along. More details can be found here.

The SFX Weekender 3

The Weekender is drawing nigh, and Pornokitsch is here to help!

We've journeyed down to Rye the last two years, but the Weekender is being held at a new location this year - Prestatyn, in Wales! Here are some exciting Prestatyn facts you may wow your roommates with:

  • Prestatyn has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The Romans liked it, too; there's evidence that a Roman fort stood on the road from Chester to Caernarfon.
  • Prestatyn's name is a Welsh corruption of an English corruption of the Anglo-Saxon words preosta (priest) and tun (farm). Priestfarm! 
  • Prestatyn was just a teeny fishing hamlet until the nineteenth century, when the Victorians got into sea-bathing and ran a railroad out to it. Apparently the Prestatyn beaches are very nice (in the summer)!
  • Prestatyn was bombed during WWII - but not by the Germans! It was one of the few locations in the UK to be hit by the Italian Air Force!
  • Philip Larkin once write a poem about Prestatyn! Gold star for anyone who memorizes at least a stanza before the Weekender.
  • A bog mummy, known as "Prestatyn Child," was found in 1984, apparently nearby!

More tips, tricks, recaps & musings below...

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The Kitschies: Guess the Winners, Win a Tentacle!

KrakenThe Kitschies will be announced this Friday, 3 February at the SFX Weekender. We're on at 7 pm in the Screening Room. No additional ticket is required - the joy of the tentacles comes as part of the convention package. Hope to see you there!

Now it is time to put your guessing hat on and guess the winners! We've got a special hand-crafted mini-Tentacle trophy for whomever gets it right.

If you need to brush up on your options, you can find our reviews for all fifteen finalists linked from the Red, Golden and Inky Tentacle pages.

[Editors' note: If it helps, we don't even know yet!] 

Guess away!

Golden Tentacle Finalist: The Samaritan by Fred Venturini

SamaritanHorror isn't about fear of death, not really. Horror is about something more primal, more basic: fear. The best horror novels (and the worst, and a lot in between) are steaming with fear: fear of death, yes, but also fear of pain, fear of anger. Of rejection. Incompetence. Meaninglessness. Vulnerability.  Sex. Society. Identity.

Fear of one's self.

Is it any wonder that so many horror novels feature teen-aged or college-aged protagonists, characters who are of an age when those concerns are totally consuming?

Fred Venturini's The Samaritan begins where a lot of horror begins: middle school. Thirteen-year-old Dale finds himself at the mercy of a group of really awful, but attractive, girls; going along with whatever humiliation they're inflicting on him is terrible, yes. But it also makes him the center of their attention, however briefly, and (being a horny 13-year-old boy), that's exactly where he wants to be - again, however briefly.

[A few unavoidable spoilers from here - sorry! To be safe, skip the next few paragraphs.]

The experiment yields unexpected results when Dale winds up making friends with a guy called Mack, an all-around awesome, athletic, funny, boys-want-to-be-him girls-want-to-do-him type, who tries to teach Dale about self-respect. Their friendship continues through high school, though Dale's self-hatred never quite allows him to buy what Mack is trying to sell him. A series of testosterone-fueled run-ins with a violent senior (high school senior, not senior citizen) named Clint leads to tragedy, when Clint rapes the girl Dale's in love with and murders her and four other students. He also gives Mack a career-ending wound and shoots Dale through the hand. And possibly the head.

The day Dale removes his bandages, he finds he's wholly healed - everything that had been shot off has regrown.

Continue reading "Golden Tentacle Finalist: The Samaritan by Fred Venturini" »

Inky Tentacle Finalist: A Monster Calls

A_Monster_CallsA Monster Calls
Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd
Illustrated by Jim Kay
Walker Books 

Although the entire book is a work of art, it's the cover - that hulking, not-quite-human thing striding over the moonlit landscape, across the furrows and toward an isolated farmhouse - that says everything you need to know about A Monster Calls. It's a horror story, of a sort; an invasion, an assault upon the safe places and the quiet moments; monstrous in its pitiless and inexorable progress. The viewer cannot help but be overwhelmed by that invasion, overtaken by that image. It's gorgeous, horrible, and utterly haunting. [Anne]


From 16 January to 3 February, members of The Kitschies' judging panel will be discussing all of the 2011 finalists. Each review only reflects the view of that judge, and should not be taken as representative of the panel's collective opinion or final selection.

You can find the complete list of Inky Tentacle finalists on The Kitschies' site. Please join in the discussion below and on our Facebook page.

Red Tentacle Finalist: Osama by Lavie Tidhar

OsamaThe best advice I ever got about photography was that you shouldn't ever try to photograph the thing itself: the fireworks, the touchdown, the sunset. Instead, turn around and take your pictures of the way the world looks when it's looking at those fireworks, that sunset. Try to capture the way a crowd responds to something, or the way the colors of that sunset bleed across the horizon. The way to access a moment is to try to capture its effects.

A decade after the events of 9/11, it's almost easy to talk about terrorism: suicide bombers and the war on terror and Homeland Security and full-body airport scans. But the thing itself, the event, hasn't lessened in impact; it's no easier to watch footage of the Twin Towers falling now than it was to see it live on television, more than ten years ago. And so, with Osama, Lavie Tidhar isn't writing about the moments of horror that make up the connect-the-dots of modern terrorism. He's writing about their reflections.

Continue reading "Red Tentacle Finalist: Osama by Lavie Tidhar" »

Golden Tentacle Finalist: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss_PeregrineMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children might be the most structurally interesting (peculiar, even) of all the books on the Golden Tentacle shortlist. Superficially, it is an extremely traditional young adult fantasy. But the author, Ransom Riggs, uses elements beyond the text to build additional layers of meaning. As a story, Miss Peregrine is enjoyable, as a book, it is distinctive.

Jacob is a your typically normal boy. He plods drearily through his middle American suburban life, going through the paces until he starts his job at the family business (an ubiquitous drug store chain). His father adds a touch of a Burtonesque – a constantly-scheming failed naturalist, Jacob’s dad sublimates his own familial pressure by taking endless notes on birds.

The real loon, however, is Jacob’s grandfather, Abe. Abe is filled with crazy old stories, the memories of which dot through Jacob’s youth. Stories of monsters and magic, escape and mayhem, nightmare and fantasy and wonder. Like a young Fred Savage, Jacob loves the stories but, as he grows up, learns that the “mature” thing to do is reject them.

Continue reading "Golden Tentacle Finalist: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs" »

Inky Tentacle Finalist: Equations of Life

Equations of Life
Simon Morden
Design by Lauren Panepinto

It's the sort of image that might cover a stylish reissue of a sci-fi classic, and thus lends this very new book a preemptive air of cult cool. There is nothing that gives the plot away, nothing so explicit as the post-Armageddon landscape that the novel itself might have called for. I can see this book being a knackered old paperback in twenty years time, still being passed around between friends like a Ballard, an Orwell, or a Burgess: a timeless backpack mainstay. Where it succeeds uniquely is that it hurts your eyes so much you simply have to open the cover and read the thing to make the screaming stop. [Hayley]


From 16 January to 3 February, members of The Kitschies' judging panel will be discussing all of the 2011 finalists. Each review only reflects the view of that judge, and should not be taken as representative of the panel's collective opinion or final selection.

You can find the complete list of Inky Tentacle finalists on The Kitschies' site. Please join in the discussion below and on our Facebook page.

Red Tentacle Finalist: The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

Testament_Jessie_LambOne of the great pleasures of adulthood is learning to enjoy anticipation. As a kid, waiting sucks. Remember Christmas, and how you would go to sleep under the tree every night because you just couldn't wait for the morning you'd wake up surrounded by presents? (Or was that just me?)

Waiting takes on yottagrams of angst-filled misery when you're a teenager, though. Thought waiting sucked as a kid? At 16, it sucks even more than you could ever have imagined. Often because whatever you're waiting for is clearly the last key to fulfilment/coolness/adulthood/getting laid, but also because everyone else has had it or been doing whatever it is for a billion years while you just sit there, on your loser pizza-faced teenaged butt, waiting. Waiting is the worst thing ever. Waiting is the end of the world.

And then, one day, you wake up old and boring and looking forward to things like, uh, looking forward to things.

This may seem like a strange introduction to Jane Rogers' lovely novel The Testament of Jessie Lamb, but, at its heart, Jessie Lamb is a novel about a teenager, waiting. Waiting for boys and kissing, waiting to be understood, waiting to be trusted to be able to make her own decisions. Waiting for freedom. Waiting for autonomy. Waiting for adulthood. And waiting for the end of the world.

Continue reading "Red Tentacle Finalist: The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers" »

Golden Tentacle Finalist: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Night_CircusOne of the guiding principles behind The Kitschies is the idea of transparency – which is why we much a big deal out of these pre-decision reviews. And, in that spirit, I don’t think there’s a problem with confessing that I love The Night Circus.

Earlier, Anne referenced that one judge compulsively read The Enterprise of Death while vacuuming. Similarly, I read The Night Circus while walking to the corner pub - and then resented the fact that our friends were already there to meet us. Magical competitions, sparkling detail, gruelling training sequences, exquisite use of language, tragic romance and villainous bureaucracies… all some of my favourite things. All wrapped up in one volume, it makes The Night Circus one of my favourite books. 

Which leads tidily into another of the prize’s guiding principles: the use of criteria. (If it helps, right now I’m imagining my high horse as looking like something straight off the Night Circus’ carousal). “Hug it to your chest and coo” isn’t actually what we’re looking for – we’re out for “progressive, intelligent and entertaining” instead.

This is all the more important when it comes to books like The Night Circus, works that are carefully crafted to trigger an emotional response. True, the book makes me all verklempt. That’s a sign of its success in some area. But is it an area we’re looking for?

[There are a few mild & woolly spoilers below the jump. If you're concerned, please pick this up at the final paragraph.]

Continue reading "Golden Tentacle Finalist: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern" »