by Alison Flood)
Ruth Ozeki lost out on the Man Booker prize to Eleanor Catton, but the author will be able to console herself with the fact that her novel A Tale for the Time Being has been named the most "progressive, intelligent and entertaining" book of last year by the Kitschies.
Ozeki won the Kitschies Red Tentacle prize on Wednesday night for her story weaving together the lives of a schoolgirl, a writer, and a zen-anarchist nun. The prize is for novels containing "elements of the speculative and fantastic", with Ozeki seeing off competition from Thomas Pynchon, Anne Carson, Patrick Ness and James Smythe to win.
"The Kitschies don't promise the best of a given year; they promise the year's most progressive, entertaining, and intelligent books with elements of the speculative," said judge, author and former winner Nick Harkaway. "There's a coherence about this year's finalists – a sense of fragmentation and re-creation, of alternative possibilities and the non-linear experience of time. I think one of the many positives of speculative writing is that it sneaks up on us and shows us our world, our concerns, and some kind of image of the bones beneath the skin."
Harkaway said that A Tale for the Time Being was about "time and parallel worlds, both in the human and the speculative sense, and about the deep conflicts in Japanese culture and, of course, how they reflect on our own".
Ozeki wins £1,000, a hand-crafted trophy of a tentacle and a bottle of Kraken rum. The novelist said she had "always wanted a tentacle of my own", adding that the Kitschies had "the nicest literary prize description I've ever seen, and I'm so proud to have won it".
"My tentacle will go on the wall next to my wooden cow head, my benthic anglerfish and my inflatable rhinoceros beetle," she wrote on Twitter.
She apologised for being unable to attend the awards ceremony, writing on her publisher's website: "When I wrote myself into my novel, as the character Ruth, I failed to anticipate the consequences, and now, like Ruth, I find myself marooned on a remote island in Desolation Sound, trapped in a fictional world of my own creation, unable to get away. It is a conundrum that you, at the Kitschies, will no doubt understand.
"And it's a conundrum which speaks to the power of fiction. Fiction is an elemental force, which has the power to shape reality in its own image – or images, I should say – because reality, like light, exists not only as a single point or particle, but also as an array of possibilities.
"This power is why it's so important to speculate progressively, intelligently, and entertainingly, and the Kitschies prize celebrates this truth."
Ann Leckie's space opera Ancillary Justice took the Golden Tentacle for best debut, Will Staehle's cover for The Age Atomic won the Inky Tentacle for cover art, and a discretionary prize for "outstanding achievement in encouraging and elevating the conversation around genre literature", the Black Tentacle, went to Malorie Blackman, the new children's laureate. Both winners received £500, their own trophies and bottles of rum.