Angels and Demons: Humanizing Succubi with Edward Buatois

I’m running a series of all the guests I invited to drop by my booth at the Virtual Fantasy Con, which ran on Facebook, October 15-21, 2017. Last week I posted the transcript of my chat with Graeme Ing; this week it’s Edward Buatois’s turn.

Ed and I know each other through various Facebook writers’ groups and we became friends when he began posting excerpts of his novel Storm Angel, one of which is included after the interview here. I love Ed’s characters and prose, and I can’t wait to see these books in print.

AMJ: Tell us what inspired you to begin writing about Succubi.

EB: Well the short answer is Lost Girl. I’ve been writing on and off since I was in my late twenties. I was in a long hiatus and I got into this show about Bo the Succubus and her human friend Kenzi. Bo thought she was a freak but Kenzi the street rat thought Bo was awesome. It was also a rich world, and I thought, “I could write that!”

AMJ: I haven’t heard of this series.

EB: It came on about six or seven years ago. Canadian series. Bo and Kenzie turned into Carrie and Katsumi. My version’s a bit darker. Katsumi’s had a hard life and she’s fiercely loyal to her people. Carrie, despite being a Succubus, is suburban and sheltered. Bit of an odd couple. They learn from each other compassion on one side and strength on the other.

I also enjoy writing strong female characters––not exclusively, but I like writing women who are “real” people and not just waiting around to be rescued.

AMJ: Sounds like a great matchup. You and I share a desire to portray women who fight for themselves and are rescuers, not rescuees. I like how you use the deadly sexual power of Succubi to subvert notions of female power, especially with Erytena, who is a fighter, not a sex kitten.

EB: Yes, exactly. Sex is something she does –– and enjoys –– but it does not define her… ironic I suppose for a Succubus.

It was fun coming up with her character. She’s changed a lot over time. I at first came up with the idea of a Succubus who could “taste” her victims like “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.” Then I thought, what is the one thing you wouldn’t expect from a Succubus who can have sex with anyone? That it’s not enough, that she’s desperately lonely… that she fills in the void with trashy romance novels. I also like stories with humor and quirkiness. ‪:-)

Themes addressed are her transition from being selfish to selfless, the nature of good and evil… wrestling with whether she’s actually a demon (as she has always believed) or something else, and if something else, what exactly? It’s a search for self.

AMJ: Did you have an interest in Succubi before you started watching Lost Girl?

EB: No, not exactly. I’ve found vampires to be cliché, so wasn’t really interested in writing them. I was talking to my girlfriend at the time –– this was around the time Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire was out –– and I said, “What if it’s a vampire that feeds on sex?” She was like, “Oh, you mean like a Succubus?” I was like, “What’s that?” So began my education.

I tried [writing] a novel involving a mopey Incubus, might finish it someday. He had been “turned” and didn’t like being an Incubus. But he came to grudgingly accept it. He had the power to “not be noticed,” but he came upon a young girl in the clutches of a serial killer who could “see him.” At that point, despite that for centuries he’d decided not to get involved in human affairs, he rescued her, terrified at saving this girl who could see through him and knew him for what he was.

AMJ: I think those are the things that really appeal to me about Erytena’s story, and I’ve always liked stories that explore the humanity of supposedly “evil” creatures, going all the way back to Interview with a Vampire and even Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in which Dracula is undoubtedly the villain but at least some of his motivation is love for his long-dead wife, whom Mina embodies.

EB: I missed the long-dead-wife theme of Dracula, I’ll have to review that.

AMJ: That’s why he wants Mina in particular; she looks just like the dead wife.

EB: OOOhhh. There was a friend who he made into a vampire, who exclusively fed on children… there’s a lore about how Dracula the story was itself a corruption of Victorian values… while Dracula drinks blood, it’s his seductive/sexual power that’s really central for the otherwise buttoned-up Victorian readers of the time… and the female vampire feeds exclusively on children, upending the “maternal protection” theme.

AMJ: Right. I also like the idea of mythical beings being real and in the world, and in your stories you present them as simply another humanoid species (which again, appeals to my own sensibilities of having a pseudo-scientific rationale for the supernatural in our stories).

EB: Yes, that’s another reason to write dark creatures like Eyrtena, or Dracula… writing them as “real people” with their own goals, desires, and perspectives, which only seem evil to us because we’re kind of on the short end of those imperatives.

As the guy in Jurassic World said, “To the mouse, a cat is the monster.”

AMJ: And cats are monstrous cruel villainous creatures…that I adore. (I’m totally a cat, not a dog, person.)

EB: I enjoy cats that I get to hand back.

AMJ: Getting back to writing mythical beings as “real people”—it begs the question in Erytena’s case (which you explore in your story), is being a Succubus a genetic flaw to be “cured”? A lot of Erytena’s kind would be outraged by that idea.

EB: Yes, I suspect most of them would. They give up a lot… mostly, eternal life. To a being that has eternity in front of them, and all they have to do to heal is to feed, the prospect of a decaying body that they can do nothing about would be terrifying.

I’ll add that the greater source of their outrage would be [the idea] that there is anything “wrong” with them. It is how they were born, after all. It’s part of who they are.

That does bring up a factor of “racism” in the story that I don’t directly address except that it’s kind of necessary, when your food looks exactly like you… you can’t view them as equals. It is given as a large part of the reason for the authoritarian directive among her people to not fraternize with humans because that risks feeling too much compassion for them, causing complications for Succubus society.

AMJ: And presumably, if the humans ever discovered the existence of Succubi, given our (presumably?) greater numbers and our own predatory capacities, Succubi could be rounded up and imprisoned or slaughtered, and humans would have to struggle with moral questions about exterminating another species.

EB: True. That’s a good reason for them to remain hidden. And in my novel, since they can “taste” who they feed on and the “taste” is good or bad depending on that victim’s character, Succubi preferentially feed on “good” people, leaving the morally corrupt ones in place. It turns out that in this way they’re (indirectly) responsible for some of history’s worst cruelties. And as the Succubus population grows, the world’s ability to function lessens, and the Succubi as a race have to figure out what they’re going to do about it, because it’s inevitable that civilization will collapse.

FacebookBackround_CarrieHere’s an excerpt from Storm Angel, an as-yet unpublished novel inspired by Lost Girl, which features Katsumi, a young female assassin and gang leader, and Ceridwyn “Carrie” Rye, a Succubus raised by humans. This scene takes place shortly after Katsumi and Carrie meet at a dance club. After Katsumi leaves, she is attacked by an evil shapeshifter.

Claws appeared on his hands, black and hooked. His smile was cruel, and he stepped past the crossbow.

Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be. Goddess, if you’re there, take me now; don’t let this bastard torture me. Her mind was going darker, the pain becoming a distant thing as she went into shock.

The thing kneeled beside her like an old friend, and rammed the claws into her thigh. “Don’t go to sleep yet. We’re not done playing.”

Okay, that brought me back. She screamed.

He raised her shirt and exposed the smooth skin of her belly. He caressed it with those claws. The skin dimpled where they touched. He chose a spot just below her ribcage and pushed.

Something came at him from the side and knocked him away before he could break the skin. Whoever it was bashed the thing’s head into the ground until it was dazed. Then kissed it, deeply. Oh… gross.

The newcomer kept its mouth on the thing for a few moments and then rose, trance-like, a few inches from its face. But the kiss — Katsumi didn’t have another word for it — wasn’t over. A rope of blue light flowed from the creature to the newcomer, who drank at it like a thing starving, its body heaving with the effort. Her tormentor began to twitch, then convulse. Katsumi hoped it would die. She’d bake the newcomer a cake.

It wasn’t to be. The thing rallied. It threw the newcomer a short distance away and staggered to its feet. It swayed unsteadily for a few seconds, holding its head. Then it went for the case (oh, right, the case) and ran back down the way it came.

After a minute, the newcomer roused and scanned the three bodies, as if taking a moment to remember where it was, and crawled toward Katsumi. She was nearly blind with blood loss, and didn’t recognize the newcomer until it was inches from her face.

It was Carrie. Her hair wasn’t mussed a bit. And her eyes glowed, like twin sapphires radiating in sunlight.

Carrie took Katsumi’s head in her hands, and kissed her hard, driving her tongue deep into the girl’s mouth. Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be. Katsumi’s world went black.

1321061-1440x900-[]Ed’s next excerpt is from the story “Night Shadows.” This is a great tale about a Succubus named Erytena who wants to be “real girl.” Unlike Pinocchio’s grandfather and the Blue Fairy, Erytena’s human lover is the one who’s going to work the magic—via gene therapy—and change her from Succubus to human. Before treatments start, however, a demon named Charis kidnaps Erytena’s loved ones. In this scene, she’s gone to rescue them and ends up in an epic battle with Charis.

“No!” With a speed I didn’t know I had, I get up and run the few steps to hit him, full-speed…glass breaks we’re carried through and out the window, flying through the air sixty stories up. Abraxas frantically kicks me away from him, and I fall alone, the ground rushing up toward me.

At least I know they’re safe, I think to myself. Charis is dead, and Abraxas won’t survive this… I can die in peace. In the few seconds I have left, I reach out with my soul, to my family; my embrace. Our togetherness. My chest feels tight.

Really tight. Like my shirt’s too tight on me, and suddenly the pressure is relieved with a loud ripping sound, and I’m tumbling through the air, the wind catching at me, and I reflexively use muscles I didn’t even know I had. What the hell’s going on?

I close my eyes, and blinding pain as I hit a convertible.

Murmuring next to me… I open my eyes, and a couple of people staring at me, who weren’t there before… how long was I out? Must have been only a few seconds.

I pull myself up to sit, and they run away, screaming.

I stumble out at the car, and catch my reflection in the obsidian black of the building. Wings. I have wings. I flex them; they catch the air and nearly knock me off balance.

Wings four feet long. Leathery, black wings. Hooked at the top.

Demon wings.

“It can’t be,” I say to myself.

To learn more about Ed and his work, you can follow him on Twitter.

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