In Memoriam: Kit-reed

Kit Reed (1932—2017)

Kit Reed, a master of wit and social satire, mentor of many authors, and a good friend of mine, died on September 24, 2017. Kit’s first science fiction story, “The Wait,” was published in F&SF in April 1958. Her last tale, “Disturbance in the Produce Aisle,” appeared in Asimov’s September/October 2017 issue.

I can remember being delighted by Kit’s first story for Asimov’s, “The Bride of Bigfoot,” which was published in July 1984. A few years later, Anne Jordan, the managing editor of F&SF, introduced us. Kit had invited us to lunch at Wesleyan University’s Faculty Dining Room. There we enjoyed a long and enchanting conversation that touched on numerous subjects including our mutual love of short fiction. Over the years I joined Kit for tea at the Algonquin, lunch at her fancy Century Club, and in her home in Middletown, Connecticut, and for many, many meals at the Conference on the Fantastic in Florida. Kit taught writing at Wesleyan, and she was always pleased to talk to, and encourage, the Dell Award finalists.

No topic was sacred in the fourteen stories she published in Asimov’s. Kit skewered everything from children switched at birth to writers’ colonies to donor babies to feral Girl Scouts. She often did this by creating charming and lovable characters and then threatening to throw them off a cliff—sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally. One reader was so distressed by the dire ending Kit apparently had in store for the two sweet children in “Biodad” (October/November 2006), that she created a thread on our long-since defunct Forum called “Kit Reed—Bad Writer?” I told Kit that from then on I’d probably have to refer to her fiction as “sardonic” in all my opening notes.

Kit knew that dreadful things could happen to perfectly good people. After I purchased “Military Secrets” (March 2015)—a surreal tale about the children of missing service members—she told me that the story was really about her. Until then I hadn’t known that her father, John R. Craig, was the commanding officer of the USS Grampus. The submarine disappeared with all hands in early 1943, most likely sunk by the Japanese. Kit was eleven. A terrible age, she told me, old enough to have formed permanent memories, but young enough to be able to believe that “lost” meant that her dad would be found. That he was still alive and would come back to her someday.

Despite this early tragedy, Kit never lost her compassion or her wicked sense of humor. It’s not surprising that both Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)—author of the immensely popular Series of Unfortunate Events—and our own Connie Willis—author of “A Letter from the Clearys,” “Even the Queen,” and Doomsday Book—claim her as an antecedent. Kit will live on in her thirty-nine books of fiction, the memories of her three fabulous children (of whom she was so proud), and the lives of all the authors, friends, and students that she touched with her warmth and wisdom.

—Sheila Williams

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