Hot Dish Vol. 2, Edited by Dark End – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Hot Dish. Volume 2, edited by Dark End. Illustrated.
St. Paul, MN, Sofawolf Press, December 2016, trade paperback $17.95 (viii + 307 pages)
Hot Dish #2 is an anthology intended for an adult audience only and contains some explicit sexual scenes of various sexual orientations. It is not for sale to persons under the age of 18. (publisher’s rating)
Hot Dish #1 (edited by Alopex) was published in March 2013. Sofawolf described it as “Hot Dish is a collection of stories about the romantic and erotic relationships between characters of disparate species and sexual orientations. It is a hearty portion of quality fiction which was too long to fit into our yearly adult anthology, Heat.” It won the 2013 Cóyotl Award for Best Anthology.
Hot Dish #2 does not have only stories that were too long for Heat. Sofawolf solicited stories especially for it during 2014. But otherwise this is a good description of Hot Dish #2: eight long novelettes of romantic and erotic s-f & fantasy relationships with humanoid animals, each illustrated by one of three artists. Romance and eroticism are presented in an extremely wide range of backgrounds and emotions.
These eight novelettes are so lengthy that each feels almost like a short novel. This is a long review.
“Loops and Knots” by Tempe O’Kun (illustrated by Anyare) is a time-travel comedy. Tess, a jackal, and Erik, her golden retriever mad scientist/hippie lover, can’t get enough of each other. So Eric turns their large refrigerator into a time machine and brings his one-week-future self to join them for three-way fun-&-games. When Tess is too tired and needs a break, she gets an erotic thrill watching present-Ertk and future-Erik making love to himself.
“‘It’s more like retro-chronal masturbation, really.’ Erik draped a blanket over her lap.” (p. 10)
“Still in a post-orgasmic daze, Tess watched her boyfriend’s temporal tryst. His silken shag blended together, every shade of gold shining in the autumn sun. His muzzle locked with itself. Feeling an odd pang of jealousy, she crossed her arms. ‘You’re completely shameless, aren’t you?’
She pressed a hand to her forehead, trying not to smile. ‘Oh, all right. Go fuck yourself.’” (p. 17)
It’s very lewd, very sticky, and very funny.
“Spaces to Breathe” by Slip-Wolf (illustrated by Kalahari; also the book’s cover by Merystic) is an intriguing story, but ultimately unconvincing. Earlan Rokeh is a young otter technician on an exploratory spaceship with a mixed species crew, investigating a large “artefact” drifting in space for over two hundred years. They bring with them Kaenshi, a mystery Seracete alien who may know what the artefact contains. She wears a lifelike female wolf body suit to conceal her true form. The body suit has been created by Dr. Harmun Cirjus, a real wolf. The body suit is realistic enough (including a vagina) that Earlan and Cirjus both fall in lust/love with her. Supposedly Kaenshi’s true form – the reason a body suit is necessary — is so shocking that she fears nobody would want to have anything to do with her, but Earlan proves faithful.
Earlan is an earnest, naïve adolescent tech-geek who is required by the story to fall in lust with any attractive female mammal. Several flashbacks to his pre-mission life make the teenage tech-geek persona more convincing, but the lover persona less convincing. Dr. Cirjus must know what her true form looks like; why does he fall in lust/love with the body suit he’s made for her? I didn’t buy the original Pygmalion legend and I don’t buy this reworking of it. The story is not helped by such poor proofreading as a lack of commas (“Kaenji what of the systems on the artefact?” Dr. Cirjus intoned), incorrect pronouns, and run-on sentences (“Her and that coyote first officer of hers didn’t know how to follow orders properly and it surprised Cirjus that this was one of the Tribes Commission’s most highly rated crew.”)
“The Theorist” by Huskyteer (illustrated by Anyare) is a pastiche of the Victorian uproar over the theory of natural selection, with cats rather than man as the “divine” creation. Leo Mountjoy is a feline scientist who has theorized the evolution of all species. Even though he does not deny the existence of God, he is aware that almost everyone else is “on the side of the angels”. In private life, Leo’s wife Felicity almost died from the difficult birth of their child, and the doctors assure Leo that another pregnancy will be fatal to her. Leo has never felt homosexual, but when Noel Tate, a young fan of his theory, indicates a physical interest as well in Leo, he accepts it as a means of relieving his bodily needs while remaining romantically faithful to Felicity. Of course, it doesn’t stop there…
It would be possible to rewrite “The Theorist” with humans instead of cats, but Huskyteer does an excellent job of adding enough feline attributes to make this a furry story. Printing in this civilization consists of raised symbols read by paws instead of inked symbols read with eyes:
“It was raining when he left, fat drops pattering on his hat and overcoat. He caught the last train and buried himself behind the pages of his newspaper; flicking his wet tail and ears. He studied the print with fierce absorption, running the sensitive pad of his finger across the pattern of lines and dots. Halfway down, the text was interrupted by a cartoon. Under his pads, he suddenly recognized his own features, crudely drawn and transplanted upon the body of a black and white cat.
He did not bother reading the caption.
Leo realized that his claws were out and had scored the paper, rendering the second and third pages illegible. He snorted, and a drip fell from his whiskers. Outside the train, the dairy farms around London would be giving way to the trout and salmon lakes of the south. He let his claws work in and out of the fabric of his carpet bag instead.” (p. 81)
But most of all, she makes Leo, Felicity, Noel, and one other such sympathetic and appealing characters that you will not care whether they are cats or humans. It’s touching and very satisfying.
“The Favor of the Gods” is by Kyell Gold (illustrated by Kalahari). Gold is one of the top writers in furry fandom, but I can’t decide which I like better here; the story or its background?
The story is set in the ancient mythological Greek town of Taxos, a favorite of the Greek gods and where most of their half-animal children live. “When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody”, as W. S. Gilbert wrote, so being a grandson of Hermes doesn’t get Teknas, an apprentice carpenter, any special privileges:
“Before anyone else (such as Giles) could start, Teknas told the selector the story of how Hermes had traveled to a distant land and taken on a shape he’d seen there, something between a fox and wolf. ‘And he fathered our ancestors on a maiden named Kaothus, and so we took our name from her,’” (pgs. 110-111)
Teknas is a coyote, and that’s what coyotes are doing in ancient Greece. But he’s not the only coyote; Hermes has been lusty. Taxos is also the home of anthro bulls, foxes, sheep, rabbits – you name it, besides humans. I’m tempted to just quote background and not get to the plot at all:
“Most of Taxos worked in the orchards and fields, rising before Teknas and returning during the mid-afternoon heat while he still labored in Master Risto’s workshop. […] and then he found the small cluster of coyotes standing near the fox families, a veritable storm of wagging tails.” (p. 108)
Teknas is in love (or adolescent lust) with Thea, who wants a feather from the famous Pegasus, who is visiting Taxos. Teknos hopes that the flying horse has shed one, but he finds that the flying horse is actually Galatea, Pegasus’ granddaughter – and she develops a crush on him. Teknas pretends to reciprocate to get the feather, and there’s some graphic … is it bestiality between a flying mare and an anthro coyote? Teknas isn’t too worried because a lusty male taking advantage of an innocent female is a proud tradition of ancient Greece; but this is a granddaughter of Pegasus, which makes her a (favorite) great-granddaughter of Poseidon:
“I’m sorry, he cries, but the god’s eyes do not relent, boring deep into his own. ‘I SHOULDST KEEP THOU HERE, AS A TOY FOR AMPHITRITE’S CHILDREN.’ The Nereids holding him draw back their lips and grin in glee. ‘BUT FOR ONE OF HERMES’, SOMETHING MORE … EDUCATIONAL IS IN ORDER.’” (p. 131)
What does Poseidon do to Teknas? And what does Hermes do about it? Read “The Favor of the Gods” and find out. Teknas and Galatea are two very physically different but sympathetically presented adolescents.
“The Hound and the Tree” by Kandrel (illustrated by Black Teagan) is set twenty years after the hounds have destroyed civilization. It’s narrated by Alex, an anthro wolf, a lone survivor who may have gone a little crazy from loneliness. He names a tree “Roger” for companionship:
“I had been sweeping up Roger’s discarded leaves – he really was a pig. All that slurry got slippery when it rained. I’d had more than a few undignified face-plants, and under those leaves was steel. Home was a platform, built before the hounds. I’d found it not long after I’d escaped from that crowded train car. Near the scaffolding I’d climbed up into the sky, signs advertised the new ‘Alfland Arcology.’ It was one of the most ambitious projects ever started. In it, a million and a half people would be able to live, work, and enjoy the very greatest of life above the old city. All that had ever been finished was the stilts and platforms upon which the arcology was planned to be built. This was home now – whole square miles of suspended steel, with the occasional crown of a tree pushing its way through, like Roger. It was safety. It was isolation. It was also hell on the knees when I slipped. Steel did not forgive. So up went the leaves, into a pile, then down into the below. I’d cleaned the front of my little hut and out towards the trail. Not that anyone would be coming down it. They never did, but it was good to be prepared in case they did.” (p. 144)
Someone finally does come down the trail:
“She was running – sprinting really — through through the twilight-dark forest. In my view, she was just a reddish blob, but I could clearly make out the posture. Two arms, two legs, one tail, so definitely not one of the pack. I tracked her from camera three, then to camera eight, then to camera one as she stopped against Roger’s roots to catch her breath. This was the closest any survivor had come to Roger and I with the pack on their tail. This time, I could see it, watch what happened. Before, they’d always been too far away, and only after weeks of searching after a hunt would I find the sad little bundle of clothes and scavenged gear. This time, I’d finally learn what hounds could do,” (p. 146)
Alex saves Lee, the wolf woman, and since they’ve both been alone for years, they have lots of sex. To add any more plot would give too much away.
I’ve quoted this at length to show you what Kandrel’s writing is like. It’s very rich and descriptive – but it could be condensed 50% or more. It is well-written, but it never escapes Alex’s overwhelming loneliness. So much solo-wolf background becomes annoying; the reader gets impatient for some action. It’s also very much a funny-animal story that could easily feature humans. It feels like the main characters are given fur and tails just to fit this story into a furry anthology.
“The Years of Living Dangerously Happy” by Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort (illustrated by Kalahari) is a pas de trois between Colin, otter; Katey, gemsbok; and Stellan, mule. Ten years ago, they all lived at Silverbell Lake Lodge, a rustic forest fishing chalet that was home and business for them. Six years ago, Katey and Stellan left for the city to pursue their research, leaving Colin, who cared for the lodge and its environment more than the others, to continue to run it in their absence. Now they have come back to sell it; both his business and his home. Their reunion goes from politely strained to wildly erotic.
Unlike “The Hound and the Tree”, this is an excellent furry story. Colin is not just an otter; he could not be anything but an otter:
“He ran down the dock and dove from it in a clean, tense arc. Colin knifed through the surface with ease and with hardly a splash.
Hitting the water was like being born again.
The cool sunlit water closed around him, and Colin came alive in a way few people ever knew anymore. The water closed around his mind just as much as his body, reducing his thoughts and his perceptions to natural essentials. […] There, under the surface of the water, he was just an otter. And otters were For Fishing.” (p. 174)
Katey and Stellan need the money from the sale of the lodge to complete their research to make Stellan, and other sterile mules, fertile:
“‘You were going to tell me about having kids,’ Colin prompted, after a while.
Katey closed her eyes. ‘It’s why we need the money, Colin. Stellan’s sperm is mostly no good, but about one in ten thousand is viable. Isolating those from the rest is possible, but it’s expensive and difficult. We’ve come up with a way, repurposing the technology they use for livestock breeding. Basically we make microscopic chips that measure and weigh the sperm, and all the bad ones get chucked. Only the ones that are viable get kept. We can do it, Stellan and I. Already filed the patents. But actually building the chips is going to cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then there’s IVF fees to get a viable fetus. Then we look at government approval.’” (p. 187)
The anthro animals are convincing. Their emotions are convincing. The sex is basically humanoid and joyous.
“Cold Sleep” by Faora Meridian (illustrated by Black Teagan) is the emotional opposite. The main characters are Engineers Brishen, an older vular (fox) with graying russet fur, and Tariku, his young new partner. They are part of the engineering team on the Dreamflight space station, desperately trying to save the last remnants of the vular race after its extinction on the planet Vularim.
The corruption has killed (agonizingly and horribly) almost all the vular. Brishen is emotionally exhausted, desperately keeping alive a wife and daughter in cold sleep pods for over two decades. When Brishen’s friend and veteran partner Barriken is killed, he is assigned the idealistic engineering graduate Tariku, just out of the crèche, as his new partner. Since this story is in Hot Dish, the reader can guess that Tariku will renew Brishen’s spirit through a homosexual uplift.
“Cold Sleep” is well-written, but it wallows in bleak despair. This is another story that could be easily rewritten to make the vular humans.
“Reunion” by Sisco Polaris (illustrated by Anyare) is mostly flashback, framed by a beginning and end at a high-school’s ten-year reunion. Damien, a tiger former sports jock, is married to Cheryl, a cheetah former cheerleader. She henpecks him savagely; he meekly takes it. At the reunion, Damien slips into a long flashback to when he was a 17-year-old student and spent all his time trying to get Cheryl to spread her legs; beating up Josh Henderson, a nerdy chubby bunny; and having his cock sucked by a mystery cocksucker. There’s more to “Reunion”, but it feels like 36 pages of nonstop cocksucking. This is a very male story. The story cleverly sets up how Damien could get his cock sucked for months without knowing who the mystery cocksucker is. There are clues, but the revelation back at the reunion is designed to surprise you. The story is with more animal-headed humans.
So: If you don’t care for lots of in-your-face adult sex, don’t read Hot Dish. “Loops and Knots”, “The Theorist”, “The Favor of the Gods”, “The Years of Living Dangerously Happy”, and “Reunion” are all feel-good stories. “The Hound and the Tree” and “Cold Sleep” are designed to be intellectually satisfying but emotional downers. The anthology skillfully blends them among the others. These seven are all well-written, making Hot Dish 2 definitely worth the $17.95 price – if you don’t mind lots of sex. Only “Spaces to Breathe” ought to be better.
As you can tell, I don’t care for funny-animal stories where the characters could be humans just as easily as anthro animals. If you don’t care, you’ll like Hot Dish 2 a lot better.
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