This collection of succulent mini-stories started appearing in 2001 as isolated pieces posted to the Erotica Readers and Writers Association list and to other on-line sites including the website of Logical Lust, the small press which eventually collected and published them in paperback form. Most of these stories are flash fiction: 100 words at most. These are suggestive without including much sexual description, and they prepare the reader for the longer, more diabolically explicit tales.
The central character, depicted on the cover in the style of a vintage horror movie, is described in the forward:
“One of the lesser-known angels to fall with Lucifer at the climax of the battle between heaven and hell, Crimson Succubus imbues wanton desire without measure.”
Crimson Succubus actually seems to be every female demon in Judeo-Christian mythology. She is described as a daughter of Lilith, first wife of Adam, the first man. According to unorthodox Biblical sources, Lilith rebelled against her husband by refusing to “lie beneath” him, whereupon a patriarchal God banished her to the outer regions and replaced her with the more submissive Eve. Crimson Succubus, daughter of Lilith, is also identified as the Scarlet Whore of Babylon.
These stories about the shapeshifting demon, who appears in her “true form” as a black-haired, red-skinned woman with leathery wings, a forked tongue and a snake-like tail, look like bawdy teaching stories from the distant past. Passages like this help establish the atmosphere:
“Father Matthias wakened before dawn and stared at the moldering wall across from his bed. Upon the rancid plaster writhed an amalgamation of deformed creatures engaged in infinite forms of debauchery.”
As a reader who lived in cheap apartments in my youth, I can attest that “rancid plaster” can actually give this impression, especially when the tenant has been drinking too much.
Unfortunately, the author’s use of formal, archaic language doesn’t always work like a charm. Introducing Crimson Succubus in a structured poem (“To the Devil, a Daughter”) was a good idea, but authors with no sense of rhythm probably shouldn’t try to seduce their readers with song lyrics. Here is some evidence, with my comments:
Come here, my darling
And sit by our fire
Set free inhibition,
let loose your desire
Feel how the flames burst
[ooh – the catchy dactylic beat of the first four lines is slipping]
within this tenebrous pyre [and now it is totally lost]
Savor each struggling ember [apparently the author is trying to recover the beat here]
Climbing higher and higher [too little, too late].
“Struggling” seems to be a key word in this stanza. While the concept of a potentially endless saga about an immortal sex-demon seems promising, there are both technical and philosophical problems in the way her history is presented.
Most of the characters who interact with Crimson Succubus as adversaries or victims of seduction (or both) seem too obscure to be recognized by readers in a secular age, and they are not explained in footnotes or an index. A bigger problem, at least for me, has to do with the world-view from which a succubus could be born, or hatched. Do 21st-century readers share the dread of sexual sin and damnation which plagued our ancestors? Do we regard women with wills of their own as evil incarnate? (Well yes, patriarchal thinking is often impervious to common sense.) Are we supposed to find Crimson Succubus weird, horrifying, fascinating or campy? The author’s intentions don’t seem clear enough.
Like real “chronicles” of ancient or mythical worlds, these pieces are episodic and disjointed. Gaps and contradictions are characteristic of old literature which has been rediscovered, so the very thing that frustrates a reader’s desire for a coherent story also contributes to the period flavor of the collection.
Maybe the inconsistency of this collection is only a problem for curious readers like me. The stories are appealing as individual fantasies about a kind of archetypal Mistress or supernatural Domme. If they are read as BDSM scenarios, it needn’t matter very much that Crimson Succubus is not always on top, or that her desire to give and receive pain as well as pleasure sometimes makes it hard to distinguish winners from losers in her perpetual war of wills with other beings, male and female.
Here Crimson Succubus has a lesbian encounter with one of her enemies:
Seal of Solomon
Demon-huntress Mytoessa stepped into the dark chamber, her shimmering blade at the ready. Along the obsidian-like floor writhed a young woman whose hands tugged at strawberry nipples while dawn’s dew painted her crescent-shaped cleft.
Mytoessa’s mouth and slit watered. She dropped the blade and stepped into the woman’s sphere. She was accepted and both drank deep from each other’s honey-filled well. “You are mine,” Crimson Succubus said as her flesh turned sanguine. “I did not think you could be so easily fooled.”
“Seen from above, we form a hexagram.” Mytoessa grinned as she licked. “It is you who are trapped.”
Crimson Succubus seems more clearly dominant in her relationship with the Countess of Bathory, legendary vampire. After being seduced by the succubus in the form of a maidservant named Ruby, the Countess writes her own epitaph:
“Beauty is to reflection
As blood is to dust;
The minion is Beth Bathory;
The mistress, Crimson Succubus.”
In another story, Crimson Succubus invades a hidden temple devoted to “forbidden arts” where a Japanese “Master of ropes” asks her what she wants. She answers: “Excruciating pain, Master.” He strips her naked and uses elaborate rope bondage to turn her into an “ikebana,” a flower arrangement, suspended from the ceiling.
The succubus complains, “This is nothing!”
The Master explains: “You shall give pleasure to all my guests, for every night I shall hold a sumptuous repast in this very room. Their eyes shall gaze upon you, a thing of beauty. Ah, a true ikebana. Is this not a demon’s pain?”
Crimson Succubus sees his point, and lets “euphoria” pierce her heart.
One of the most memorable characters in the book is Shanna the hermaphrodite, who works in a whorehouse run by Crimson Succubus and performs as a human pony at Sanguine, the succubus’ “most exquisite residence.” Shanna has “full breasts,” “luscious hips,” and “eight inches of thick, round meat.” Crimson Succubus uses her as a tool to debauch those who can’t resist Shanna’s versatile charms.
Another sex worker whose life is changed by Crimson Succubus is the tragic Lupita Morales:
“Five years ago, Lupita was a senior in high school, active mostly in theater and cheerleading. She had wanted to become an actress, and upon graduation, she drove an old Volkswagen bus to Hollywood, which two years later spit her out like a rotten tooth. Then she worked as a waitress and later helped out at a warehouse, where she met Doug Stone. He introduced her to the lucrative world of pornography and prostitution.”
Some time after Lupita is disfigured by a disappointed john, Crimson Succubus offers to erase her scar and the signs of wear that have decreased Lupita’s market value. The succubus tells her:
“A whore requires beauty, not dignity. Relinquish the latter and embrace the sins of vanity, lust and sloth. Forsake the dust, for you are made of filth and sediment, much like the sister that imbues those who forsake the second one, who many call Eve.”
It seems unlikely that Lupita would understand such unclear advice. Nonetheless, she responds by screaming to her reflection in a cracked mirror that she is a whore. She accepts the skin-deep beauty offered by the succubus as well as the material rewards it brings. What happens to Lupita as a result ranks with the most extreme and unbelievable expressions of cruelty in the works of the Marquis de Sade.
As one who knows that prostitution has always been a default career for women who have lost their dreams one way or another, I was nauseated and confused. Are we meant to see Crimson Succubus as the ultimate “Scarlet Woman” (whore) and role model for all mortal whores, or as the ultimate sadistic vice cop? Or is Lupita’s grim story, like Countess Bathory’s epitaph, meant to suggest the illusory nature of whatever is physically desired? Is “Carmine,” the mysterious author, a disappointed john, a cynic, a lapsed Catholic, a fan of black comedy, or a woman trapped in a conventional life?
Some fans of BDSM fantasy can probably enjoy the adventures of Crimson Succubus without needing answers to any of these questions. As a thinking reviewer, however, I can’t help thinking that the colorful demon sometimes seems like the embodiment of ancient religious prejudices which have never deserved to be taken seriously.
In any case, this book is food for both the intellectual and the sensation-seeking reader. Read it, and judge for yourself.