âThey are, after all, in this together,â she wrote. âHunter and hunted. Instrument and destiny, for every great pursuit demands the cooperation of both parties. For every Jean Valjean there is a Javert and if either died the other would be desolate. Imagine Ahmed and Rushdie, the perfection of pursuit and flight. Neither exists without the other.â
Ms. Reed saw herself as a writer of speculative fiction who trafficked not in aliens or flying saucers but in quirky, fantastic and tough-minded leaps from the realities of contemporary culture. In one novel, âThinner Than Thouâ (2004), she satirizes a modern preoccupation with body image; in âThe Night Childrenâ (2008), runaway children live in a shopping mall and come out only at night.
Rather than feel bound to science fiction, Ms. Reed saw herself as part of a group of imaginative writers that included Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury and George Orwell.
âFor me,â she told The Hartford Courant in 2011, âitâs a great big literary ballpark.â
In Ms. Reedâs first published story, âThe Waitâ (1958) â which evokes Shirley Jackson as well as Stephen King â a mother falls ill in a small Southern town, leaving her teenage daughter, Miriam, to become part of a bizarre ritual involving 18-year-old virgins.
âWhen they came to the field,â Ms. Reed wrote, âMiriam first thought the women were still busy at a late harvest, but she saw that the maidens, scores of them, were just sitting on little boxes at intervals in the seemingly endless field.â When the frightened Miriam asked why she was there, a woman tells her little more than âRemember, the man must be a stranger.â
One of her more famous stories, âThe Attack of the Giant Babyâ (1976), follows…