Seven Deadly Sins: Furry ConfessionsSeven Deadly Sins: Furry Confessions by Thurston Howl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/13667169 You can see how many stars I gave each work here.

NOTICE: I have a story in here. Way deep down in the sloth section.

DON’T JUDGE ME by Sisco Polaris

It may be a bad omen for a reviewer when the first story in an anthology challenges you not to judge it.

To be sure, the first two or three pages threw up a few red flags for me. I hated the way the character described himself. What was this world with humans and anthro peers? What’s the social moors were here? For gosh sakes, there was an Orca in the steam room!!!

Then I realized I was thinking too hard; the narrator was just here for a needed servicing and the story left real world concerns behind, for both the reader and the narrator. Once we got into the sex, the author’s many skills really shone. I was transported to this world and I was there on my knees with the narrator. I opened myself up and I understood his submission and his pride in that. In his need for that.

The title became irrelevant.

Although I am not a big fan of body fluids, I understand the attractions and the glory of being rewarded with a shower of approval, if not love. And the somewhat anonymous nature of the steam-room is a staple of gay porn and memoirs for a reason. Connections are made quickly and rashly because time here is much too limited. It was the nature of gay sex in the Seventies and earlier. A needed Shadow World because homosexuality was a crime in so many places. A world I fear the current government may be trying to drag us back to.

And, then, the narrator is spent and he most leave the safe haven… Back in the real world, the title of the tale becomes very relevant again. Not to give spoilers, but… yeah, I found myself judging the narrator.

Yet, I understood. I do very much understand our narrator and I wonder at the hidden suppressed rage that lies beneath it all.

DOWN IN THE VALLEY by Billy Leigh

This was a nicely plotted story with a less obvious tie to lust than the first. Of course, it’d be hard to be less subtle than the bottom’s tale.

Ralph Travers is a British Fennec Fox, a civil servant in a foreign posting in at a time when the sun doesn’t yet set on the British Empire. WWII is just around the corner as the Fox does his very best to keep his head down and carry on without attracting much attention.

Yet… a male has desires and we join Travers just as he braves a social excursion that nets him an invitation to a weekend getaway at a posh estate and a connection with a flyboy Wolf by the name of Giles.

Lust is an undercurrent in their relationship as they get to know each other, but it’s more of a love story. Lust is more accurately the driving force behind the antagonist of the piece, an American Feline by the name of Lois. She wants Giles.

The history and culture portrayed in the story feels well researched and authentic. It comes close to capturing the feel of the period and the proper attitudes of the expats. The only things I felt missing would be British spellings and maybe there should be a bit more jingoism in the dialogue and the narrative.

I’m not fond of the way Travers referred to the reader in the tale. The last story used this same device to great effect, but — here — it makes me wonder who Travers is confessing to.

Still, it’s a nice tale of romance and death.

CLICK
by T. Thomas Abernathy

One of the nicer things about Furry literature is how it can play into allegorical amplification; allowing us to explore and exaggerate uncomfortable issues like racism and sexism. If done well, you might even garner some sympathy for the devil.

Click is a perfect textbook example of what you can do with Furry to explore these themes. Except to imply that it reads like a textbook does it a disservice.

I’ve taken a turn or two creating bad people as leads, so I feel confident when I say the author did a great job in making Jack, a human, actually feel human. He’s tired, exhausted, angry, and — in the background — suffering a bit from blue balls. He’s not the worst person in the world, a nice guy by his own sights, in a situation where his worst traits come to the fore.

It’s guilt and shame that sent Jack running to the mens room, not fear. Although it is fear that keeps him there. Lust is the catalyst. And the way that Jack tries to brace himself so he can leave his sanctuary is very human.

The violence at the end is a wonderful contrast to all that comes before.

10 stars for the author’s first story in print, too.

FUN AT THE MALL By Teiran

*spoilers*

Wildfire the fox does his shopping at Yiffs R Us and he’s a power bottom. He seems like he might have been a fun character, if the story hadn’t gone dark. Mind you, I’m not above writing or enjoying a rape turnabout story, but I don’t think being a dismissive asshole is really enough to justify what happens with these characters in this story.

Maybe, the author might have sold me the plot better if these two knew each other well. If these two had a history, then their innate knowledge of each other and what the other might secretly desire, might justify pimping out the lion’s ass.

Or maybe there were a dozen other little things that in the story that were good but didn’t fall into place for that magic weave. Certainly, naming the victim “humanized” him and reduced the distance between the supposed villain and the reader. And then, I thought what if this was a man and a woman and the woman was being too aggressive and “had to be taught a lesson.”

And then there’s a the happy ass, tail up smiling lion at the end, accepting and even enjoying being used by serial strangers. Well, while I love the idea that all your cares could be f*cked away… I always thought this type of ending was an insult to real rape victims. It’s a Penthouse cartoon of an ending. The slut got what she/he deserved and enjoyed it at the end, so… happy ending?

BONES by Searska Grey Raven

Our first story in Wrath is something of a reverse werewolf tale where the wrath feels a bit more like a virtue than a sin.

I thought it was awfully sweet and dark, like an expensive gourmet chocolate wafer that melts in your mouth and is then gone. There slight accent of bitterness is like a dash of salt on some caramel.

THOSE THREE LETTERS by Rayah James

HIV. It’s enough to break man, a bone shattering bullet for any soldier to take. Orion let down his guard to love another and he feels betrayed. Enter Wrath.

Its a very short story and nicely done. I might have read dozens of similar revenge plot and stories over the years, but the author keeps it fresh and linear. There’s nothing particularly furry about it, mind you, but it’s still a good read.

FOR THE SINS OF THE FATHER by Sisco Polaris

Sisco Polaris returns to explore wrath with a deeper insight into the emotional entanglements of vengeance and spite flavoured sex, which I enjoyed with a soupçon of a writer’s jealousy for the depth the author explores with his mc, Forrin.

As with his previous story in this anthology, the first few pages were a little rocky and awkward. Happily, I had less world confusion here. In this story, the suspension of disbelief came in more easily, more readily… more organically.

I was quite happy with the pivots and the guilt building as Forrin seduces his younger target. I get sugar and spite.

I BURNED THE BRIDGES TO HEAVEN by Weasel

Weasel’s reprint is rich and lush, full of dark images of a recovering victim of domestic abuse. The wrath in this case is lingering, even if the abuser, Andre, is long gone.

I’ve read it three times and I’m not at all sure I understand what is on that folded piece of paper, and I’m not at all certain what happened with the abuser, but I know a haunted victim when I see one.

Weasel’s poetic description of the paranoia, the anxiety, and the flashbacks are well written. Even a squirrel can seem menacing when he reminds you, with a loving a touch, of the lion who scarred you.

THE COLLECTION by T. Thomas Abernathy

The first story in the Greed section.

This is a more sedate and slower story than the author’s previous in Click. The anxiety of running late kept me turning the page, enjoying the drive and the character’s origin story. It might have gone a little too long, but only by a few dozen words. Once the tiger finally makes his Craigslist style meet, he is confident and reveals the full extent of his current hobby with a nice pay off.

I’m not sure it really reads modern greed to me, we are shown the pursuit of an earthly desire performed dishonestly. Classically, I know this is greed because, thank you Sunday School.

STAY by Hypetaph

*spoilers*

This is the second story in Greed and echoes the only other greed story with a niggle that distracted me slightly. Neither quite feel like greed. The both felt more like “covetousness” than capital G Greed. I know, my logic is flawed, but these both appear to track the same “vector.”

The crime in this story is similar to the previous story; but not exactly. One with a stranger and the other with a loved one. Had there been a story or more between them, I might have not made the connections so much.

Plus, there was just a little too much head hopping. It’s only a few lines here and there, but I’d rather see the little clues that ring ominously than hear thoughts meant to soothe the reader into false sense of security.

Still, Hype brings Kal alive for me, so there’s that.

THE BEAUTY REGIME by Evelyn Proctor

This goes south fast and flirts with body horror like a college girl on her second bottle of Southern Comfort.

The feelings feel quite real, but the damage doesn’t quite completely ring accurate. The author doesn’t go cartoony with the injuries, but she might have paced them better.

Self-injury and self-hatred are worthy issues to explore and taking all that through a filter of envy is something I’d like to see. I would love to see the Lynx’s healing journey and the final half page was just not enough.

RICHARD CORY by Tristan Black Wolf

I think this might be one of the best stories in here I’ve read in this collection. It hits the classic envy and throws in a heaping helping of Lust, too.

I like the few, well-placed red herrings here and there in the form of police reports and new articles. And if there was a fault, it was the mention of Lickapedia and it’s motto… but I am really being picky to mention it.

LUCY by Dax

More than any other sin, writers seem to gravitate towards Envy. At least as for as this anthology goes, they do. This is the third of five entries and it deals with a classic trope: The Green Eyed Monster and the power of self-delusion.

It’s nicely done, but I’m going to have to use Fred Patton’s Funny Animal flag here. There’s just no plus or added flavor from this being a furry story. No scent marking, no social strata from the various species, or even feral emoting save for one white tail flickering in agitation in an early part of the story. After that, the tail is forgotten. All the tails are forgotten… and by the time we get to the confrontation… we don’t have a cat fight, we have a knife fight.

DEVIL’S SNARE by Faolan

The third offering for Envy brings us a look into vanity surrounding the furry specific head fur/hair. As with the previous story, this could have been humans as easily as wolves and foxes. There were a few missed opportunities to make things furrier (literally, as I question the difference between fur and hair, is good body fur overlooked so easily? Is great headfur a common social status marker between the species?) Hair envy between ladies seems kinda common; adding a multi-species furred covered society really should new depth and vectors to that.

But other than that, its a very good story. I’ve spent much time pondering the spell and what it all really means. Bad stories don’t inspire much contemplation, so there’s that, too.

BLACK FUR by Gullwulf

I really liked this tale of Envy. I found the Envy subtle and justified. Envy can attract you to people as it seems to attract Cherize to Luciana. The multi-species society is explored as a sort of caste system and Cherize’s struggle is framed realistically in that universe, as is Luciana’s attempt to understand her new friend’s point of view and history.

I would liked to have explored the physiological differences between Jackals and Foxes in this setting, as I’m a bit dubious that Cherize’s plan has the slightest chance of working (but maybe that was the point?).

REPOSITORY by Hypetaph

By its very nature, Sloth is not a very dramatic sin. Sloth is the sin of “what I should have done.” It’s also the most easily justifiable sin, because, like Greed, it can mislead the sinner with a rationale of pragmatism. Like Pride, it cloak itself in ignorance. It’s the failure of human spirit in the most subtle of ways and the consequences can be of life and death. The best way to explore Sloth, I believe, is by exploring the aftermath.

Which brings us to the first piece in this section.

I love this mood piece; it captured despair and denial so perfectly, yet teased us with some thin hope. The story is triggered by sloth and setting is awash with tokens of sloth; but our Park is actually working hard at keeping the clock from moving forward.

I’m not quite finished with the collection, but this piece so far best captures the sense of misery and regret of a sinner. Repentance… and self-recrimination… and self-flagellation. I’ve reread the story three or four times now and I’ve come away with a slightly different take on Park’s and on Simon’s sins and fates each time.

THE BEAR NECESSITIES by Bill Kieffer (me)

Rather than review my own story, I thought I’d just note that Sladek is the only “pet” in the collection, shared by two masters. This is something that I’d always thought I’d have been good at, but never really had a chance to try. Mostly because it would be a lot of work to maintain (and you have to be very sure that you’ve got the right people).

RELATIONS by TJ Minde

Aaron and Justin are lovers in this final tale of Sloth. It’s nicely descriptive and while the relationship is very realistic, the stereotype of rabbits is really all the furriness we get. Which is fine as I’m not aware of a human racial stereotype of everlasting randiness… except of course, young males in general.

This is a disappointing story only in the sense that its about a disappointingly real aspect of human adult relationships: Not bothering to reach out to reconnect. But as an example of Sloth it connects and leaves Aaron with a thin core of loneliness. Previously, I said that in a good Sloth story, you could only really show the aftermath of the sin, but the author proves me wrong by bringing us to a point where Sloth is active, is challenged, and wins by forestalling growth.

Nice job.

A VOICE NOT SPOKEN by Stephen Coghlan

So, at first, I thought this might be a Furry version of 45’s election.
— an unexpected victory of a candidate no one took seriously
— the media concerns that were ignored as alarmists
— the steady degradation of rights of races/species considered dangerous

Sounds familiar, right? But it occurs to me that the inspiration is more Hitler than Trump.

Yet, there’s a significant difference here and that’s the bit of Zootopia in the world/city with a line clearly drawn between the herbivores and the carnivores… with the carnivores on the losing side.

I could make a lot of comparisons to different points of world history (Germany is not alone in hosting genocide, after all, nor is the recoil after a “minority” leader gaining power), but I’ll try to refrain and let others speak on that.

I like that this story follows Smokey as he does the very least that he feels he should. To not make waves. So, this is squarely in the sloth category; right up until the end, where a meaningless gesture is all that Korat cat can muster.

LISTMEMBER LOST by Banwynn (Suta) Oakshadow

I know the story universe that this was written for. This story would have definitely benefited from a more traditional introduction to the rules of this universe. I’ve exceeded the character limit by ALOT, so we’ll skip that here.

This story is a wonderful downward spiral of a young man who gets his wish, but not the mental transformation. His alienation and fear of rejection doesn’t really speak of Sloth to me, mind you… but more of a paralyzing fear that destroys any chance of a future. However, I can see how being frozen in place might evoke images of Sloth.

Like all the Sloth stories, there’s the taste of disappointment and sadness here that is part of Sloth’s package deal. Having four Sloth stories in a row might take a toll on the reader, and that might be the case with me. I had to go read other stuff and come back to this review, despite my knowing the quality of author’s work from our shared mailing list days.

VICTUALS by Dwale

I looked forward to getting to Gluttony, for this is my own sin.

Dwale’s story is a nice take on the sin, without being overt about the source of the victuals in question. The descriptions of the characters are almost spartan, but efficient. The story-telling is lean and hungry.

I really can’t say more without spoilers. I expect we the readers really need to make our conclusions to the source of the nom noms in the story.

ANTHROPHAGY by Zarpaulus

This is an interesting creation and one well suited for a collection of Anthropomorphic sins. The scenes of the feeding frenzy and then the meal planning as our narrator considers what must be done to store all the meat were extremely absorbing. I half expected a joyful continuation of a dark tour of cannibalistic charcuterie… I actually anticipated it, for the narrator of the piece started out being so dry and intellectual, that I cheered when s/he dived into the slaughter.

This story left me hungry for more.

THE MUSIC ON THE STREET by Nighteyes Dayspring

I really enjoyed the struggle between Shadow and Trevor. The temptation and the Pride feel quite nicely portrayed. I was not sure if Pride was the true villain of the piece, as the lack of balance was really what caused the situation here.

I’d like to see more with Shadow. It’s hard to create a good musical performance in a text piece, I think. Nighteyes did very well here.

RUNAWAY by Banwynn Oakshadow

For me, this felt like a trip down memory lane (new story to me, but have I mentioned how much I love TF stories?) and Banwynn’s pretty deft at hitting all the right points in a story like this.

What I really liked was how Drev’s pride kept him from ditching Ramble or falling for the temptation of what the foxmorph all but threw at him.

SHELTER by Avin Telfer

I am still not sure how I feel about this story: at least how it reflects on the sin of pride. Todd is no longer the team player he might have been. I guess it is his pride that keeps him from fully joining the crew… but I can’t help but think his symptoms more reflect depression than someone being overly prideful.

DROP TOWER by Varzen

I liked this piece, even if I had to read it twice to understand Daani’s issue with the recording and her mortal limits.

The goat and bat made an interesting couple, but I’m not sure what this says about Pride.

MIGRATION SEASON by J.A. Noelle

I really liked the realistic interactions of the various age groups here, along with the mix of young adult emotions and I’m pleased that there’s isn’t much BF crushing going here.

I liked the racial/breed (genus?) strife and how migration is the trigger, I like to place this sort of thing in my own work. It makes for a great allegory and it gives a clear reason to use multiple species. A lot of very artful and thoughtful decisions went into creating this world and the author made this look effortless. Bravo.

View all my reviews

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Work In Progress: Interview with Sheela Lambert and the Bi Books Awards

When I offered to help out at the recent Bi Writers Association annual book awards in NYC, I was asked if I could stop and get fives for seed money. Most people were going to bring Twenties, after all, for a $15 cover charge. Easy enough!

But, along with the fives, my teller knowingly whispered that she had over $100 in two dollar bills. My wife and I are famous for using two dollar bills, because they quite often make people stop and smile. But I was especially pleased because on was my way to a Bi-Event and what could be more appropriate than a bi-dollar bill, right?

Of course, someone looks into the money box and they see the $2 bills and they questioned it. “Are those real?”

Yes, they're real. And they're fabulous.

Yes, they’re real. And they’re fabulous.

Continue reading

The Goat wins 2016 Cóyotl Award for Best Novella

The sixth annual Cóyotl Awards Ceremony was held this Saturday evening at Furlandia in Portland, Oregon. The awards seek to uplift works of furry literature and give the best of the year a chance to shine and perhaps get more public recognition.

Unlike its Furry cousin, the Ursa Major Awards, Cóyotl Awards are not open to public voting. The Cóyotl Award winners are the recommended, nominated, and ultimately selected by the members of the Furry Writers Guild. Continue reading

WIP & Rough Plans For May

One of the problems of being a draft horse, is that there’s never enough time in the day to sit down and type (it takes so much longer to type when the keys keep getting stuck in my hooves). It’s even worse when you’re a ROUGH DRAFT HORSE and you have trouble focusing.

To be honest, my follow-thru game is a bit more like fallow-thru, if you’ll ignore the farming pun.

Or if you won’t. Continue reading

Fred Patten reviews The Goat

I’ve looked forward to a review from Fred Patten almost since Red Ferret Press sent me a contract for The Goat: Building The Perfect Victim. And now, thanks to Dogpatch Press, I have it.

This book boasts – or warns – in a back-cover blurb that it delves into “the darkest, deepest reaches of human nature.” It isn’t pretty.

Frank, the narrator, seems like a total loser. He’s sullen, gloomy, depressed, works at a junk yard, and is in an abusive marital relationship. He keeps walking out on his domineering wife Kim, getting into a good relationship with some other woman, then Kim finds him, throws out the other woman, and starts her game of psychological dominance again.

Continue reading

WORKS IN PROGRESS: Interview with Bi Activist Sheela Lambert and some stories.

IMG_20170409_200223Shelfies Interviews Sheela Lambert

Last week, I spent some time with Sheela Lambert, the founder and director of Bi Writers Association and the Bi Book Awards.

As you may or may not be aware, Bisexuals are the B in the LGBT sandwich in Queer culture. By the reckoning of some, bisexuals may outnumber gay and lesbians in the world. But by the reckoning of others, this is simply impossible as bisexuals do not exist to them.

Sheela Lambert has spent most of her adult life educating people about bisexuals and the danger and damage of BiErasure. She’s an inspiration. Interviewing her about the upcoming BiBook awards this summer was such a pleasure. I’m so glad that she was able to take the time away from organizing the tabulations of the votes for this year awards. Continue reading

Work in Progress: Upcoming Interview with Siri Paulson of Turtleduck Press and an update to my challenge with Alexis Paulson…4/01/2017

One of the most interesting things I discovered recently was that a writer’s co-op press was a thing. As a child of the 70’s who grew up idolizing the Hippie esthetic, the idea of running off and joining an artist’s commune on a farm in upstate New York was more attractive than listening to my relatives and becoming a preacher. Or a rocket scientist.

Or even President. Although, in retrospect, maybe the world needs a bisexual horse who is ever so slightly genderfluid as President right now. Horse beats a jackass every time.

But, I digress. Continue reading