The Devil Wives of Li Fong by E. Hoffman Price, Del Rey(Ballantine Books), 1979.
E. Hoffman Price (1898-1988) was an old-school pulp fiction writer (“fictioneer” was his term for it) who, long after the pulp era ended, renewed his career by becoming a novelist in the emerging sf/fantasy field of the 1970’s and remained active right up until his death. He had a great and abiding interest in Asian mythology and religion, and both sides of that coin are evident in The Devil Wives of Li Fong.
The premise is that two female snake-spirits take on mortal form in a quest to become fully human. Why they do this and why they would want to be human in the first place is closely tied to Buddhist beliefs. In short, being human is a step or two above spirit/devil-serpent on the great wheel of Death and Rebirth, a sort of spiritual boost on the way to eventual Transcendence. The two snake-women, Mei Ling and Meilan, become wealthy by discovering an abandoned villa with a buried treasure, and soon after meet an apothecary’s apprentice named Li Fong, who they think is an agreeable young man and they decide to marry him, again as a further step in their quest to become fully human. Li Fong, charmed by their beauty and not exactly reluctant to part ways with his current master, agrees. Things are going swimmingly, until… Continue reading