If you think you’ve seen every kind of succubus out there, I’d posit you’ve probably not had a gander at M.E. Hydra’s “A Succubus for Christmas.” To say that there’s variety in the temptress demons that delight in draining men dry in these tales would be quite the understatement. Within the group of stories, we move from the more typical seductress succubi – bat-winged, but big-breasted – to some of the more original creations I’ve come across for demons in fiction.
There are plant succubus creatures, and ones that seem to walk only in dreams; there is even a bubble-bath succubus – as in, formed from frothy bubbles – that is one of the more creative stories in the collection. The stories range in setting and form, but not as much in conclusion. Steven Ennis, in the title story that opens the anthology, is gifted a Succubus through a mystical object, and is hooked by the coquettish demon right from the start. Tempted by such a mistress of sex – with a prehensile tail, no less – you feel for him as he can’t quite work up the nerve to spare his friend’s soul, which is feeding the demonic lust. That things don’t work out for Steven, either, isn’t surprising, and it sets the tone for the rest of the tales. The men – most of whom aren’t the nicest guys, or are just a little stupid, or looking for something on the side – share the same fate as Ennis by the end of nearly all the tales: quite literally sucked dry, but with one heck of a smile on their face.
It’s in this that I have my only real caveat to offer – if you’re not open to the idea of erotica ending darkly, this collection won’t be for you. I didn’t have trouble connecting with the eroticism of the characters – and I’ll admit that knowing what was likely to happen to some of the jerkier fellows had its allure – but once or twice I was surprised by these endings in a non-titillating way. In one tale, the story ends with someone having their skull crushed by a pipe, which jarred me a bit and made me take a break from the collection.
“A Succubus For Christmas” is a dark erotica collection, and M.E. Hydra absolutely hits both marks there – the dark is in full force, and the erotica is as well. The anatomy of the various succubi are paranormal without breaking verisimilitude – if you accept that this is a demonic seductress, you’re not going to stumble on the things her body can do – and I was quite taken with M.E. Hydra’s use of vocabulary as each story progresses. It’s a subtle touch, but it’s noticeable that as the demon becomes more overtly evil, the metaphors are dropped for cruder language. It evokes the change well. The women – or demons – are described with a fleshy eroticism not lacking in detail. The men are painted with much broader strokes. The deaths are there, but if you know what you’re getting into and have a predilection for the dark seductress vibe, it’s worth a visit. I didn’t gobble the stories – it becomes borderline relentless in one sitting – but that’s the joy of the anthology format.
Still, it might take me a while to use bubble bath again.