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Reed, Kit

Entry updated 10 July 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1932-2017) US author – her name was legally changed from Lilian Craig Reed – as well known for her work outside sf and fantasy as for her prolific output within the water margins of modern Fantastika. Her fluency among the modes of the modern was remarkable [all her titles are therefore given in the Checklist below]. She wrote one horror novel, Blood Fever (1986), as by Shelley Hyde, and three detections – Gone (1992), Twice Burned (1993) and Strait (1995) – as by Kit Craig.

Reed began publishing stories of genre interest with "The Wait" in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for April 1958, afterwards publishing her sf and fantasy mainly with that journal. After some non-genre novels, Reed began to assemble short stories of genre interest in Mister da V. and Other Stories (coll 1967), where her first tale appeared under its better known vt, "To Be Taken in a Strange Country". Later collections include The Killer Mice (coll 1976), Other Stories And ... The Attack of the Giant Baby (coll 1981), Revenge of the Senior Citizens ** Plus: A Short Story Collection (coll 1986), Thief of Lives (coll 1992), Weird Women, Wired Women (coll 1998), Seven for the Apocalypse (coll 1999), Dogs of Truth: New and Uncollected Stories (coll 2005) and the comprehensive The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories (coll 2013), which contains much of her best-known work, emphasizing Satirical takes on the American century. The last collection reinforces a sense that her most significant achievement in the fields of the fantastic is probably her large body of short work. It could be said, unkindly, that her stories domesticate the world of Shirley Jackson; but that would be unduly to deprecate the sharp, clear, self-amused perceptiveness of her best moral fables, often closer to fantasy than sf as they make their uncomfortable points with precision and delicacy; and it would scant the consistent high quality of her work over half a century, over which period she has explored with subtlety and deceptively quiet verve the varieties of Paranoia that do much to delineate our condition.

Much of Reed's longer fiction, beginning with her first novel, Mother Isn't Dead She's Only Sleeping (1961), hovers as noted above between the fantastic and the associational; her first sf novel, Armed Camps (1969), posits a Near-Future USA sliding into irretrievable collapse; neither the soldier nor the woman pacifist who share the narrative, nor what they represent, are seen as representing any solution. Magic Time (1980), less effective because of its chatty plot, treats America as analogous to a grotesque theme park, posthumously run by a Walt Disney-like guru [for Disney see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] in cold storage in an Underground Keep from which he aspires to direct the future; the novel itself, which is full of filmscript directions, is also a Satire of the kind of California boosted in Disney films (see The Walt Disney Company). Fort Privilege (1985) more convincingly transforms into moral fable a tale set in an expensive New York apartment building or Keep under siege from the innumerable homeless of the great city; Little Sisters of the Apocalypse (1994) similarly examines the lives of a group of women besieged – in a world tainted by violence and social disintegration – by conflicting gangs of marauders;as world Disaster nears, they form themselves into a motorcycle gang.

@expectations (2000), though essentially non-fantastic, intriguingly explores the interface between the Internet and delusion. The Baby Merchant (2006) is a Near Future thriller about a man who steals babies. Where (2015) again utilizes a story structure long typical of her work, tales like Fort Privilege (above) or The Night Children (2008) where, with a remorselessness evocative of the Thought Experiment characters and communities are forcibly isolated from the world at large; in Where the population of a small village finds itself in something like a rural prison, or perhaps a Virtual Reality version of this sort of constrained space. Her last novel, Mormama (2017), is a fantasy featuring a protagonist with Amnesia. In tales such as most of these, along with her shorter fiction, her apparent reticence is overpoweringly deceptive; Reed is, at her best, stealthily, an explosive writer. [JC]

Kit Reed

born San Diego, California: 7 June 1932

died 24 September 2017


collections and stories

works as editor

  • Fat (Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1974) [anth: hb/]



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