Birthday Reviews: Kit Reed’s “The Shop of Little Horrors”

Birthday Reviews: Kit Reed’s “The Shop of Little Horrors”

Dogs of Truth-small Dogs of Truth-back-small

Cover by Henry Sene Yee

Kit Reed was born Lillian Craig on June 7, 1932 and died on September 24, 2017.

Reed’s collection What Wolves Know and The Story Until Now were both nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. Her novel Where was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her books Little Sisters of the Apocalypse and Weird Women, Wired Women were short listed for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and the story “Bride of Bigfoot,” which appeared in Weird Women, Wired Women also made the short list. Her short story “The Singing Marine” was a nominee for the World Fantasy Award. In 1958, she was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best New Author of 1958, a forerunner of the John W. Campbell Award.

“The Shop of Little Horrors” was original to Kit Reed’s 2005 collection Dogs of Truth. The story has never been reprinted.

In “The Shop of Little Horrors,” Kit Reed explores the life of Lynn and Martin Larkin, a couple of New Yorkers who have made the decision not to have children. Ten years into their marriage, they are free to live the life they want to, travel as they desire, and mock those around them who have decided to have children. “The Shop of Little Horrors” specifically looks at one Saturday when they are relaxing at a coffeeshop watching the harried parents with their children on a beautiful day.

Their calm is destroyed, however, when one particular child invades their space. Stanley bumps their table, causing their cappuccinos to spill all over them and, when they are distracted mopping up the mess, the juvenile delinquent grabs and eats Lynn’s doughnut while Stanley’s mother is oblivious to the destruction he has caused.

The perfect days turns into abject terror as they try to make their way home in a city crawling with children. A lunch in the Tavern on the Green helps reestablish their equilibrium until they find themselves face-to-face on their walk home with a woman pushing an enormous stroller that contains six children.

There is a subtle humor in Lynn and Martin’s reaction to the abundance of children on the streets, as well as the descriptions of the enormous stroller which finally sets them over the edge. By applying a horror trope to a most mundane experience, Reed can almost be seen to be mocking their decision not to have children, but at the same time, the humor of the story undercuts both the horror and the Larkins reactions to their predicament, eventually leading to the reasonably ambiguous ending Reed provides.

Reviewed in its only appearance in the collection Dogs of Truth, by Kit Reed, Tor Books 2005.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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