Review: 'Trick or Treat', edited by Ianus J. Wolf
This is Rabbit Valley’s Halloween 2013 theme anthology, “something for the adults to enjoy”. It presents eleven new stories; five scary horror “tricks” and six “delectable romantic and erotic” “treats”. The book’s fine wraparound cover is by Stephanie "Ifus" Johnson.
Ianus J. Wolf says in his introduction that this is the first of Rabbit Valley’s planned annual Halloween anthologies, to mix furry horror and adult erotica, so there will be more to come for those who like it.
Halloween just isn’t Halloween without both the scary and the sweet.
The two sections are each introduced by the two EC Comics-style ‘horror hosts’ shown on the cover, Trick the wolf and Treat the cat. The “tricks” all come first, to leave you with a pleasant taste. They are “Hellhound” by Renee Carter Hall, “Son of the Blood Moon” by Bill “Hafoc” Rogers, “Slough” by Ray “Stormcatcher” Curtone, “Unrealty” by Rechan, and “Wild Night” by Tarl “Voice” Hoch.
Las Vegas, NV, Rabbit Valley, September 2013, trade paperback $20.00 (313 pages).
All five are well-written, but they seem rather lightweight. The blurb describes these as “fun horror stories”, and their mood is mostly eerie, not really scary. Except for “Hellhound”, which is my favorite and, in my opinion, the best of the lot. A confused puppy in a pound is adopted as a pet dog by Laura, who has just separated from an abusive husband. As the puppy grows, he remembers that he is really a Hellhound, banished by his sadistic supernatural Master to be reborn as a natural dog, to bond with his loving human owner, and then to savagely tear that human apart when the Master orders it. Will Chance, the dog, bond so thoroughly with Laura that he can resist the power of the Master?
“Slough” is unique in my experience, a furry story featuring Carter, a snakeman who morphs into a different kind of snake every time he sheds his skin. Black racer, water moccasin, garden snake, rattlesnake – he can never know whether he will be a harmless variety or a poisonous snake with a really bad temper next. Lexine, his mink girlfriend, tries to help him stabilize into a safe snake permanently. The Halloween connection seems slight, but it is definitely supernatural, and has a successful surprise ending for the reader. However, as I have said about Eddie Drueding’s Arraborough that also features anthropomorphic snakes, I have never been able to visualize a snake walking upright, wearing clothes, sitting at a table, holding a newspaper, rattling his tail and so on.
“Unrealty” is funny-animal furry, but it does feature a truly eerie setting. Jake Blake is a recently-divorced realtor (hence the pun in the title) who has moved (his ex-wife got their house) into the only-completed show-model house in his new housing subdivision under construction. On a dark Halloween night, he is taking his six-year-old daughter out trick-or-treating when he realizes that he has forgotten his cell phone back home, so he makes a side trip there to get it, and is dumbfounded to find all of the other half-built homes under construction are suddenly finished and wired for electricity, with – WHAT? – people living in them, all ready for Halloween night. There is no real reason (other than that this is a furry anthology) for Jake and his daughter to be anthropomorphic otters rather than humans, and while “Unrealty” avoids the stereotypical built-upon-an-abandoned-graveyard explanation, it doesn’t give ANY explanation!The unfinished housing subdivision is just suddenly finished and full of spooks. This reader was disappointed by the WTF conclusion.
“Treats” presents six stories: “The Witch Doctor” by Huskyteer, “The Pharaoh’s Throne” by NightEyes DaySpring, “The Things We Do For Love” by Naomi Bellina, “Phobophilia” by Whyte Yoté, “The Magic of Desire” by Roland Jovaik and “Once a Year” by Ianus J. Wolf.
These are all funny-animal stories where the characters are just animal-headed humans. There are two winners here; “The Witch Doctor” and “Phobophilia”. The first is the sweetest story in the anthology, and I mean that in a good way. Lots of tender loving and no sex. Marty Doubleclaw (Shiba Inu dog) is a divorced young father whose only interest is in making sure that his young son Luke enjoys himself when it’s his turn to take custody of the boy. Marty has a slight accident on Halloween that sends him and Luke to the hospital, and a sympathetic young wolf nurse persuades them to spend the evening serving in the children’s ward’s Halloween party. Marty learns to stop holding himself in and get on with life to be a proper father for Luke, and for his own good.
“Phobophilia” is the most imaginative story here. It is definitely not set on human-inhabited Earth, but on another planet of anthropomorphized animals, in this story mostly wolves. The main characters are an ethereal galactic being that feeds on fear, and a teenage wolf superhero fan. Whyte Yoté has some clever names for his furry world’s comic book characters: Hugh Mann, the Justice Pack, El Super Lobo, Lead Dog, Malamute Marvel, Poison Dapple (a pony) and FabulOso (“a gigantic brown bear in a luchador costume”). The action is all M/M erotica, but the setting is convincingly a furry world even if it is really just Earth with funny animals.
The other four stories are mostly just stories about adult funny animals having lots of graphic sex at mixed-species all-adult Halloween parties.
It is close enough to Halloween 2014 that Rabbit Valley is already announcing “Trick or Treat, Volume 2”.
This time, we want your stories of Halloweens from yesteryear, stretching all the way back to the earliest beginnings of Samhain, or even to primitive harvest festivals that would eventually become the holiday we know. Can you give me a scary story from American colonial times that make me shiver? Can you craft a medieval European All Hallows' romance that will make me quiver? An 80's story that will put me in mind of childhood Halloweens, or a 50's and 60's story of Mischief Night gone wrong (or right)? A Victorian tale of restrained passions set loose on that one night? Or even something that spans several ages? I want to see them all!
This is an old announcement; Volume 2 is already closed out. But you can start writing now if you have any good ideas for Volume 3.
About the authorFred Patten — read stories — contact (login required)
a retired former librarian from North Hollywood, California, interested in general anthropomorphics
I think your review being so dismissive of four stories in the collection is inappropriate as those narratives have value and depth outside of your derisive summary.
Sorry, but they just did not impress me. They are competent enough, and "The Pharoah's Throne" has an ancient Egypt setting that's different, but otherwise they are essentially interchangeable with each other and with most of the short stories in furry erotica anthologies about adult funny animals having lots of graphic sex. Admittedly you can't create much originality or depth in stories this short, but Hall, Curtone, Rechan, Huskyteer, and Whyte Yoté have managed to different extents.
"Admittedly you can't create much originality or depth in stories this short"
I feel this statement is overly dismissive of the short story medium.
Okay. A TALENTED author can create a short story with originality and depth. Huskyteer's "The Witch Doctor" here, for example. It's a simple story about a divorced young father who is emotionally traumatized by that divorce. When he has a minor accident while he is taking his child trick-or-treating, they go to a hospital where a nurse not only bandages the injury, she helps unfreeze his emotions in one evening at the hospital's children's party so he can both become a better father, and "rejoin the human race". This could easily have been a shallow and mawkish story, not really believable that so much could happen in one evening. As Huskyteer has written it, the reader really feels the father's grief at first, and the nurse's skillful and tender coaxing him out of his shell. The reader notices that the characters are only superficially funny animals, but hardly cares about that because the writing is so good.
This and Renee Hall's story stand out by the quality of their writing. A couple of others have imaginative situations that the reader will remember, but the writing could be better. Most are pleasant enough but the reader will have forgotten them by the time that the anthology is finished.
In my opinion. This is why each book should be reviewed by two or more reviewers, so the reader can compare different opinions.
Perhaps consider a more academic review of the works that do not meet your 'standards'.
Define "more academic".
A related question is, how detailed and academic a review are most of Flayrah's readers willing to read? It is relatively easy to go into literary detail about a novel, but not so easy when the reviewer has to cover an anthology or collection of ten or more short stories. Usually there is little room for more than individual plot summaries and a shallow "read it!" or "don't bother".
I believe we could discuss this at length. I would prefer that you discuss works from a Marxist perspective, or perhaps Freudian. I would even tolerate "New Criticism". I would read them but then I have formal education in those.
Are you bragging about how well read you are while complaining about a lack of detail in porn reviews?
Because drop the condescension and you might have something; I mean ,Fred did not even mention if the stories were M/M, M/F or F/F. I don't even know if I can jack off to them or not!
The book's only half porn. Or slightly more than half I guess, with 11 stories and 6 being adult. :p
I guess he did leave out some of the "tricks."
Though the truth is probably Fred is just being nice; it's a small fandom, after all. We're not here to trash the fandom's writers (I have the advantage reviewing almost exclusively non-fan works, so I can trash all I want). So, he's probably operating on "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." At least that was my interpretation, though, I don't think the stories dismissed were terrible so much as, well, just kind of, I guess, if I had to give it a word ... dismissable.
Also, what bugs me about "I studied New Criticism, nyah-nyah-nyah" guy is, seriously, who cares if you're not using it. There's a nice shiny "submit" button up there on the top of the page. Right now the front page is the Fred and crossie Show (with special guest appearance by Mister Twister); put your money where your mouth is, as it were.
I do actually use those skills. However because I am the editor's spouce it is inappropriate for me to do so for this collection.
Good point and well made.
Well, I think your spouse's story got skipped; but if I recall his WikiFur article correct, it's his second published story (correct me if I'm out of line here). Can't win'em all, but my point is he's obviously only going to get better at this point.
Also, Fred's been reading these for at least three decades, going on four; furry sex has probably lost some of its charm. No reason new versions can't be done, of course, but I know I'd get dismissive after a while.
Actually this makes his 8th I believe. He writes in and out of the fandom, so yes slightly out of line. There is a difference between an opinion piece on a book and an academic review of a book. That is what I was getting at. While I may dislike a piece in a collection, that does not mean I cannot review for the technical merits of the piece. I have been reading and writing in this fandom for a long time as well; I am aware of the trends and forms that items take.
If one has become dismissive one has become "stuck" and therefore has diminished their own relevance. Entrenchment is an issue in many pursuits of life.
Additionally I don't tout my credentials unless necessary to prove a point. I was defining what I meant by academic. I was not, as someone suggested, expecting "I don't know if I can jack off".
Opinion based book reviews have their place, but I would like to see more discussions of new works in the fandom as more than just a summation of their narrative and a personal response. Discussions of the use of theme, how the social interactions of character are thinly veiled consensual illusions over their actual capital gain. Is there a motif that define a commentary on society and culture?
While yes, not all pieces of writing have these things intentionally worked into them, an author subconscious while writing and yield some interesting commentary on culture and other topics.
That's more of [adjective][species] line; you may actually try submitting there. They seem to be running low on content. Of course, they seem to be more interested in furry as a social construct than as a genre. That may just be J.M.'s thing, though. (Also, full disclosure, I mostly hate them.) Claw and Quill would be an even better theoretical venue, except they may be stillborn, or at least annoyingly erratic.
Of course, even though it's not Flayrah's "thing", per se, it's not like we'd turn a submitted article away. Just don't expect a big response; not negative, just, well, dismissive. Also, if you already have an audience of about 10,000 views a month, we'll, congratulations, you've got us beat.
Also , no illusions here, none of our contributors are really that big of fish in the little furry pond, except Fred, who has gained a positive reputation outside of furry, so I kind of defer to him.
That line about the page views is supposed to be self deprecating; I don't think it came out that way.
Equestria Daily's average post has more comments then we have page views, so I'm really not bragging about that.
90% of comments here are also about the act of commenting... :p
In our defense, I never said the EQD comments were any good, either.
Nobody visits a site for the comments, though.
Claw & Quill will eventually return, although it'll probably remain annoyingly erratic. (Trying to lock everything into an issue format was a mistake, in retrospect, which I need to address.)
LOL, [adjective][species]. It was time to pack up and shut down when they got into the moronic "social justice for discriminated zoophiles".
On the contrary, [adjective][species] has some of the most in-depth and well thought out articles I've seen on any furry website. So they've taken on some issues that others are more inclined to avoid - that doesn't undermine their other articles on a diversity of issues.
I would hope that a really terrible story would not make it past an editor into print in the first place. This is not always true these days with self-publishing, for writers who are determined to get into print no matter what anyone says. I have declined to review a couple of books where all I could do is point out condescendingly how bad the writing is.
If you want to read a really awful furry story, I think that "Solarion" by Edgar Fawcett is available for free on Google Books. Fawcett has been dead for over a hundred years, so you can't hurt his feelings.
Read Wikipedia on Amanda McKittrick Ros. They say that the Inklings -- C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and their friends -- used to hold contests to see who could read the farthest into an Amanda McKittrick Ros novel without collapsing into laughter.
There are a couple of books in furry fandom that have gained a similar reputation. "Org's Odyssey" by Duke Otterland comes to mind. And now you've got me curious what books you declined to review.
Well, I will reveal one of them: “The 0th Dimension”, by Kenneth C. Eng, published by FurPlanet in January 2007, before FuzzWolf & Teiran bought the company. I assume that they would not have published it.
Kenneth Eng became slightly notorious because of his hatred of Blacks. He apparently thought that this was okay because he also hated Whites, Orientals, Native Americans, and everybody else just as much. I don’t know if you can get a copy of his novel today.
Hmmm. That weblink no longer works. I can’t find anything about “The 0th Dimension” anywhere online today, but Amazon.com still has his 2005 “Dragons: Lexicon Triumvirate” listed. Read the comments about it.
Here are some other online entries. The Trek BBS, a Star Trek website, says in reply to a deleted comment:
Re: The 0th Dimension
yes, it's spam, just like the last thread you started trying to advertise your book, which was promptly closed
http://www.sfsnnj.com/ftfEng.html, posted in January 2007, is still up. Kenneth Eng describes himself as “the youngest published science fiction novelist in America” aged 22. Robert Silverberg was selling s-f and getting published in his teens.
http://abuse.wikia.com/wiki/Kenneth_Eng pretty much says it for Eng.
HAH! I still cannot get the weblink for "The 0th Dimension" to work, but here is its text.
It does not contain misspellings or nonorthodox sentence structure, but it is still unreadable, in my opinion.
The Oth Dimension
Style: Literary Work
Print: Color Cover, Text Interior
Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Parental Rating: PG-13 – Fantasy violence and language.
Publication Date: January 2007
Synopsis: In the early universe, reddish proto-stellar nebulae filled the voids of rapidly expanding space whilst anthromorphic organisms (half-man, half-animal) reigned across the cosmos. Having evolved near an intense source of radiation, these creatures developed at an accelerated rate, and in less than a thousand human years, their minds became so powerful they could experience entire lifetimes in several human seconds.
Animantis, the most intelligent organism alive, has spent his entire lifetime downloading knowledge throughout the universe for the purpose of obtaining omniscience. So successful is his ability to gather data that a group of living black holes that dominate reality and encapsulate conscious time wish to destroy his potent mind for fear of losing control over the cosmos. After destroying several of their enemy antropomorphic minions, Animantis learns of the existence of these living black holes and joins a group of warriors that are also marked for eradication. Along with his comrades, Animantis battles through countless adversaries in the seemingly endless quest for divine sentience. Little does he suspect, however, that there is more to wisdom than knowledge. There is the overlaying question that pervades all of Ultimate Existence:
WHAT IS THE 0TH DIMENSION?"
This would be very funny if you weren't serious. That sort of stuff is kept quarantined in academic English departments for good reason.
Honestly, some of you people ought to be on your knees thanking your fucking lucky stars that a man of Fred Patten's experience and reputation deigned to even waste his valuable time looking at your furryporn in the first place!
No, not when he's just going to sneer down his nose derisively at anything sexual and get details about stories fundamentally wrong because he can't be bothered to actually pay attention.
It would be better if he just kept his nose out and stuck to non-sexual things since he has such a hostile view towards sex and erotica in the first place.
Which details did I get fundamentally wrong?
I've personally edited multiple Fred sex reviews and I've been doing this only a month.
If you think Fred has sex hang ups, you're the one fundamentally wrong.
I mean, there's really no other way to put it. Well, besides maybe incorrect. Also false. Stupid. Dumb. Not well thought out. Moronic. Idiotic.
Okay, there's a lot of ways to put it, but the point is, really?
Roz Gibson just happened to post this yesterday on her Livejournal. It is an excellent illustration of both the type of books that get self-published by people who are determined to become published authors no matter what anyone says, and of books that I will not review.
This may seem to contradict one review I wrote that was published recently; of "The Face in the Mirror" and "Chained Reflections" by T. R. Brown. That is because, despite his horrible spelling and sentence structure, the very furry story was surprisingly interesting and well-plotted. I felt that it was worth recommending, despite its apparent worth of only making fun of. Amazon.com's CreateSpace will publish anything (and get it listed on Amazon.com) that it is paid to.
"Sometimes I'll do this game with a friend, where I send him a list of books I'm considering reading, and he picks out which one to read first. I do try to send him a list of books I actually would read, but I usually throw in one or two off-the-wall titles that I normally wouldn't get, but I'd be willing to read if he picked them.
Well, one of the 'joke' titles I sent this last round he picked, so I dutifully tried to read it. ( A book about a killer bigfoot) This book was so bad that I did something I'd never done before-- get a refund from Amazon. What made this book so awful wasn't really the plot, which wasn't any dumber than some other books I've read, but the utter lack of grammar, punctuation and spelling. The people I correspond with who have English as a second language write like Hemingway compared to this person. I felt like I was reading something produced by a retarded dyslexic.
Some gems from the book:
Constantly spelling "pus" as "puss." No, the bigfoot does not have cats coming out of his bullet holes.
Doesn't seem to know how to use an apostrophe correctly. "He asked the God's to protect them." and "Holy crap she thought it had to be the lost hunters! Dropping the binocular's she raced to the door and down the stairs, calling out to the man."
Bizarre sentence structure: "Although Mari looked pretty tough. He wondered when the chips were down and he was pretty certain they were down as they were going to get if she was going to hold up."
"As they made their way up to the tower Mari unlocked the door all the while dropping her gear on the platform in preparation to raise the ladder."
And thus we find out why God created editors and proofreaders."
Anthologies and Halloween go well together, because when you open the bag you'll get a small sample of a bunch of different candies. Some you'll find you like so you'll go out and buy the bigger bars. Others, you may not find so great, but you would have never tried it otherwise anyway.
Not to give myself more competition for if I ever write for an anthology again, but they really are a good way to start off if you feel you got something unique to contribute. It's especially good when you got some of the longer talent that is providing stories that may bring in their readers.
Of course you'd not want too many of the longer talent providing their works as well, because then they'd muscle out any of the rookies.
As far as that one line critique of those four stories, I think it's a fair thing to do for a reviews, but not the best. I'd have to read it myself before I can assess if there was more difference in the four than was stated, but when 3 out of 4 of those writers submitted their entry they were unaware of any stories that may be similar to their's (the other one was the editor, so he knew the stories he'd be with).
That's also kind of the fun of writing for an anthology because you don't know who your neighbors will be. That could be scary, because one worries if their neighbors are bad than maybe the reader will assume their's is bad before they read it right? I don't think this is so much the case because if someone paid cash money for the collection of stories you can bet your bottom dollar that they're going to at least give each story a shot. Ironically the thing you have to worry about is the probability that the authors around you are much better than you and will make your's seem generic and bland by comparison.
However, if that does happen, and trust me that I may be in that boat soon enough, it's better to assess what makes your neighbor's story stick out against your own. Don't copy them, but assess what methods they used to make their story more sticky than your own.
Anthologies are tough to review, and tougher to get reviewed for those involved. Authors aren't looking to make it a Hunger Games competition, but from the reader's stand point, when you read so many stories in quick succession your brain is only going to latch to a few. It happens to me when I read anthologies, and my memory is stronger than most, so I can see that it's probably a problem for majority of readers.
I have "reviewers' syndrome" in that I have read so many furry stories over the years that they tend to all blur together, especially the short stories. Where an author may think that he/she has come up with an original idea, I recognize an oft-used plot.
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