it was well received and i think it pretty clearly features some of my best art, but the highly divergent interpretations of the story are perhaps most interesting.
the core of the tale is one that i'd wanted to write for years: an overwhelming force annihilated through its underestimation of an apparently fragile but incredibly, even perversely dangerous nymph/mermaid/whatever. the "Hubristic Stroll Into Utter Ruin" trope is one of my favorite, and one that is tremendously difficult to pull off properly. having written this thing i can't adequately judge how close i got, but despite my best efforts through narrative misdirection, the dream appeal, and the nubile appearance of the nymph, i'd wager that i fell short. the two examples that come first to mind are from:
1) the end of Matheson's "Hell House," in which the intellectual protagonist appears to save the day Through Science! before being brutally ghostmurdered in one of the most well-written evocations of nightmare logic of all time.
2) choice scenes in King's "It," in which the protagonists return as bold adults to confront a childhood bogeyman before discovering that it is in fact a nearly omnipotent, transdimensional, malevolent god and they are three feet from it. the end cops out big-time, but there are a few bits along the road that... *shudder*
i've spent a long time in reflection on why this potent device resonates with me so. it seems to hinge on the simple fact that the times i have gotten into the most nauseating, existence-threatening trouble in my life, i not two minutes earlier thought that i was an unimpeachable Force For Good. the sudden and horrifying subversion of one's position in such a way is at the core of nightmare.
i love it when it doesn't happen to me.
anyway, this one was a long time slow-cookin' after i decided to use a mermaid as the core, having reevaluated their potential through, no joke, things like Dethklok, strange Japanese novels, and my usual old investigations of comparative myth. i knew that i wanted her to be a siren, to sing with an unearthly bass (one of my favorite phrases from the story is "Three notes, so deep as to maul bedrock."), and to wield power sufficient to murder every trifling fool within miles.
"Deep of the Well" began as a straight-forward (well, as far as these things can be) story along the lines above. the dream appeal and its ambiguity given the final scene were always critical: what exactly did she want from Agenor? to call off the dogs, as he thought? to join her in nuptial bliss? to consume him? one of my greatest satisfactions in publishing this story has been receiving messages from readers who have come to profoundly different conclusions on its outcome and fundamental message.
early drafts of the script implied that the cynical interpretation was most likely correct, but as i painted this thing, i softened the text. i added hooks (e.g. the farmer's unreliable testimony) to cast doubt on deliberate malice by the nymph... even if the old man may have been completely right in the end. much like Agenor, i was mollified by her call.
my brother, who knows me better than do all humans save perhaps J, had one of the most interesting interpretations of the tale that fits with these adjustments to the narrative. he saw it as allegorical for my relationship with J (we moved in together a month after i started the project), in which i chose her over my wilder days in grad school and the influence of my Sigma brothers. beyond the general arc of the story, he noted the resemblance of some of the mages to my crew, and the likeness of the moon and partner to an engagement ring.
sharp kid, that one. i think he knows my subconscious well. a frightening thought. apologies for the things you've seen in there, bro.
there is lots more one could touch on, of course: the witch-hunt to distract the republic from its long decay, further symbolism, the art itself. it grows late - maybe another day.
"The Bone Garden" is coming, hopefully in October.
/.n [while listening to Dethklok]