BLOG A Better Class Of Tentacle: Talking Genre Fiction With The Pornokitsch Crew

Chances are, if you went to the SFX Weekender last year, you’ll have seen the Kitschies. Hosted by Jared Shurin and Anne Perry, the awards ceremony was everything awards ceremonies normally aren’t; short, funny, enthusiastic and refreshingly free of the usual suspects. Jared and Anne have been quietly making a name for themselves in the field for a while now with their excellent pop culture blog Pornokitsch (the chilli recipes alone are brilliant) and their small, non-profit publishing company Pandemonium Press. Also, they give the best-looking awards ever. I talked to them about Pornokitsch, Pandemonium Press and, of course, tentacles.

What led to your decision to start Pornokitsch?

“We actually ran a food blog for several years, but discovered that we were spending more time writing reviews of books and films than we were of restaurants. (It made for a very strange sort of food blog!) We embraced the geekery fully in 2008 and haven’t looked back since.”

What do you think makes you stand out from other blogs or organizations?

“It’s hard to pinpoint anything we’re doing that’s 100% unique! That said, everything we do, we do with a sort of tough love. We love science fiction, fantasy, pulp and kitsch in all its forms, but we also try to take it seriously, because we believe that you can love something but still want it to be, you know, better. So our goal, in everything we approach, is just that: to take it all seriously. That doesn’t mean we go into everything with our teeth clenched and our brows furrowed; we also want to have fun and be funny. But at the end of the day, we want to walk away from our projects – be they blog-posts or award ceremonies – with the belief that we’ve done our best by the things we’re talking about.”

The Kitschies’ award ceremony at the last SFX Weekender was a massive highlight for many people. Funny, enthusiastic, short and you were both incredibly well dressed. What led to the formation of the Kitschies?

“Thank you! The formal tentacular outfits were a lot of fun. The Kitschies used to be our informal ‘end of year’ awards, but, thanks to the support of our sponsor, The Kraken Rum, the prize has gotten bigger by leaps and bounds.

“We also owe a huge debt to Lauren Beukes. She won the Red Tentacle for Zoo City, then stuck around to judge the prize the next year and really help establish its presence as a fun (but worthy) alternative to many of the existing awards.”

How do they differ from other awards?

“People sniff at SF/F for being escapist or populist or regressive or [insert dismissive epithet of choice], and we’re out to prove that it’s just like any other genre – it has its lows and it has its highs, and those highs are very high indeed. The prize is not about finding the ‘best’ books, which is impossible to do objectively. Instead, the prize is after the most ‘progressive, intelligent and entertaining’ speculative and fantastic books of the year. We don’t want to celebrate the status quo, but to challenge the field to improve – and to challenge everyone else to sit up and take notice.

“It helps that we’ve had some great judges; this year, we’re working with Patrick Ness, Rebecca Levene, Gary Northfield, Lauren ‘Deadly Knitshade’ O’Farrell and Ed Warren. An eclectic group of creative geniuses, all of whom are united by their love of great speculative fiction (and of argument).”

Lauren Beukes with tenracle

Where do you get your wonderful tentacles?

“Anne makes them!”

What brought you to publishing and e-publishing? Is there one you prefer over the other?

“We absolutely see them as part and parcel. Publishing is evolving at a spectacular rate, and we’re delighted and inspired by that evolution. We can (and hopefully do) create physical objects of great beauty, things that collectors will admire and treasure, but we can also get exceptional fiction out on the market quickly and efficiently. Ultimately, the books we produce, be they physical or digital, are just a vehicle for getting words on pages, and those pages out to readers.”

With your work, and the likes of Anachron Press and Fox Spirit, there seems to be a real movement towards new voices in genre fiction. Do you think this is a natural evolution or has something inspired it in the last few years?

“Five or so years ago we saw an explosion of citizen-reviewers when blogs went from hand-coded passion-projects to publishable in one click. Readers have always had opinions; but now it’s easier than ever to share them.

“Presses like Pandemonium and Anachron and Fox Spirit (and Clarion and Anarchy and…) are an extension of the same principle: editorial opinions that were always there, but ebooks and digital printing permit inexpensive and polished presentation to a degree never available before. And, like the blogs, whether or not we stick around is a matter of whether or not the readers find us compelling. Fingers crossed.”

What’s next from the publishing side of things?

“Skywriting!”

What’s next for Pornokitsch?

A little bit more of everything – more events and categories for The Kitschies, new books from Pandemonium and new pointy sticks to poke at people for the website. We’re confident 2013 will be our best year yet!”

Lost Souls and Kingdom Come are available from Pandemonium Fiction now. A Town Called Pandemonium will be released shortly. And you really should try their chilli too.