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THE DEEP ONES: "The Idol of the Flies" by Jane Rice

The Weird Tradition

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2elenchus
Edited: Aug 31, 2018, 10:32am Top

From the YES! Weekly article: "The co-author of The Idol of the Flies, James Rockhill was not credited in the original article as being the co-author."

I think that means Rockhill is co-author of the the Midnight House collection The Idol of the Flies and Other Stories and not the story itself, but that's a sloppy way of putting it. Co-editor, rather, and use the full title of the book!

Online for me.

3KentonSem
Edited: Aug 31, 2018, 10:42am Top

4paradoxosalpha
Aug 31, 2018, 10:46am Top

I just read the YES! Weekly piece, and it has my psyched for the story.

5KentonSem
Edited: Sep 5, 2018, 11:11am Top

What a repugnant little git! What's even worse, though, are the spineless, in-denial adults who make up Pruitt's world. I don't feel very sorry for anyone in this story, although the boy's comeuppance is truly sweet. I really liked Rice's version of Asmodeous, who comes across as scary and fearsome, and not as someone to haggle - or make deals - with. As Peter Straub and others have mentioned, Rice's prose is really stark and fine, and not exactly what you'd expect to find in a pulp. Maybe Matheson could have come up with something like this. Pruitt reminded me of the children found in Bixby's "It's a Good Life" and Tryon's The Other.

6paradoxosalpha
Sep 5, 2018, 11:04am Top

>5 KentonSem:

Yeah, Bixby's story is the obvious comparandum, I thought.

7elenchus
Edited: Sep 5, 2018, 12:11pm Top

Other than hoping I was being lead somewhere other than a comeuppance tale, I did enjoy Rice's storytelling. In fact, both Bixby's and Rice's adults are as much at fault as their coddled children, and I suspect at least a subconscious morality tale there. Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Rice also did well to intimate what was really happening without info dumps. The ruse with the lemonade sketched out between Pruitt's actions and Mrs Bittner's reflections on getting a fresh glass; the hints at Pruitt's dead parents; the trap for the cook. Rice leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader which allows the realisation in each case to have more of an impact.

What lifts the story above all that, though, is Rice's imaginary ritual for Pruitt calling upon Admodeous, and the highly suggestive nature of Pruitt's "not-thinking-time". The viscous, sentient nature of the "dream things" and Pruitt's efforts to capture one, Rice's effective descriptions of them as polliwogs in "that deep strange place in his mind where They lived," these were the Weirdest and most distinctive parts of the story. How did Pruitt come upon the idea, was he lured by Asmodeous or was it more Pruitt meddling and conjuring the demon?

Based upon this reading, I voted in favour of the nomination of Rice's "The Refugee" for the next DEEP ONES schedule.

8KentonSem
Edited: Sep 5, 2018, 12:09pm Top

>7 elenchus:

The ritual itself definitely elevates the story into the realm of the weird. The "hahneeweemahneemo" chant seems to be a childish nonsense word granted power by Pruit's intensely evil focus.

Thinking on it a little more, Little Anthony in Bixby's tale doesn't seem to be truly evil, even though his godlike powers allow him, in his childish immaturity, to do awful things. In a way, his case actually makes a better fit for the "he's just a child" excuses provided by Pruitt's aunt. Children like Pruitt, Rhoda from The Bad Seed, and Holland/Niles from The Other are out-and-out homicidal.

9paradoxosalpha
Sep 5, 2018, 12:09pm Top

So, it seems to me that Bittner's pteronarcophobia perhaps inspired Pruitt's mere psychopathy to take the form of efficacious diabolism.

I thought the "dream things" were by far the most interesting part of the story, and I'm still not sure what to make of them. They seem like such an original contribution that I wonder if Rice didn't take them from personal experience.

10elenchus
Edited: Sep 5, 2018, 2:15pm Top

>9 paradoxosalpha: Bittner's pteronarcophobia perhaps inspired Pruitt's mere psychopathy to take the form of efficacious diabolism.

That is a provocative interpretation. In effect, one person's fear can trigger or focus another person's supernatural (preternatural?) abilities. This almost follows the model of genetic reproduction and epigenesis, the world has a vast potential not immediately apparent to everyday observation, and certain circumstances will activate some of that potential. This potential is affected by individual motivation and intent, but is not exhausted by same. Certainly that is a Weird understanding of the world we live in.

This world Rice envisions is more interesting than the story set in it. Pruitt is psychopathic and destroys himself in profligate exercise of powers he doesn't understand. The ending is almost comforting! But the glimpse of the world this story reveals is far less comforting. Some of Pruitt's harmful acts can be explained without resort to the supernatural (his parents dying, the cook's fall), but others cannot: Bittner breaking her hearing aid, the conjuring of so many flies at the end.

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