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Kit Reed

By / September 30, 2017 / no comments

The death has been announced of Kit Reed. She was 85 and had been suffering from a brain tumor about which, in characteristic fashion, she told no one except her closest family.

MormamaAsimov's Science Fiction, September-October 2017Reed started writing when she was five years old, and wrote pretty much every day since then. Her first publications appeared in the late 50s; her most recent novel, Mormama, appeared earlier this year, her most recent novel was published in the September edition of Asimov’s.

One of the curiosities of Reed’s long and distinguished career is that, although her work was regularly praised by many of the best authors in the field, she won no major awards. In 1959 she was shortlisted for the Best New Author Hugo, and lost to “No Award”. It was the only time she was shortlisted for any Hugo Award.

The reason for this may be that her work was so hard to classify. Although she wrote some pieces that were unquestionably science fiction or mystery or horror, in the main her fiction tended to move restlessly between the genres. A story that started out as mainstream might well shift suddenly into supernatural fantasy. The only consistent features of her work were a sly wit, a strong feminist sensibility, and a persistent sympathy for her characters, whatever their circumstances.

The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of StoriesMuch of her most eye-catching work came in short stories. The career-spanning retrospective, The Story Until Now, gathers together many of the best and most intriguing of her short fictions. What is particularly interesting is how many of these stories echo, without duplicating, the themes and ideas in her novels.

Fort PrivilegeHer novels often placed characters under siege. Fort Privilege, for instance, describes an expensive New York apartment building under siege by the city’s homeless; while Little Sisters of the Apocalypse has a group of women under siege from various groups as the world Little Sisters of the Apocalypsestarts to disintegrate. The sense of isolation created by such a scenario is reflected also in Where, in which the entire population of a South Carolina island disappears overnight and finds itself mysteriously transported to a desert location.

The Baby MerchantSocial collapse and the isolation it engenders is also a characteristic of her first sf novel, Armed Camps. While other novels explore the place of children in society, including The Baby Merchant about a man who steals babies, and Enclave, in which a supposed refuge from a disintegrating world Enclaveturns out to be anything but.

The thing about Kit Reed’s work is that you can always find themes and threads that seem to link them into some greater pattern, yet when you read her work it always seems very different, each story or novel a radical change from what has gone before. She was one of the greats, and believe me you’re missing out if you aren’t reading her work.

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