Some foods take longer to cook. Some stories take longer to tell.
Hot Dish is a collection of stories that arose from submissions to Heat, our all-orientations anthology of romantic and erotic short stories, comics and poetry. Mixed in among the submissions were great stories that we had to reject simply because they were too long for the Heat format. We squirreled these submissions away in our cold cellar, and we kept in touch with the authors in hopes of finding a suitable recipe for their stories.
Eventually, we had enough stories to whip up a full anthology. We called it Hot Dish in homage to the gooey, Midwestern casserole that is slow-cooked to let flavors deepened and meld — in contrast to the more crispy, flash-fried tales found in Heat. The length of Hot Dish’s stories allows for more complex and subtle flavors to develop, leading to a deeper, more satisfying reading experience.
Cover art is by Kamui, and each story is accompanied by illustrations by Keovi.
Seducing the Sky by Kandrel tells the tale of a star-fighter tiger who crash-lands on a planet of technologically-primitive otters. Despite the clash of cultures, he unites with the otters’ chieftainess against a shared enemy.
Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre by Huskyteer brings two same-sex, mixed-species couples together for the purpose of procreation. Friendships are tested and traffic rules are violated, but in the end a new life is created and the characters’ own lives must adapt.
The Evening’s Festivities by Faora Meridian finds a coyote thief infiltrating a high-society ball for the purpose of absconding with the lupine host’s most prized possession. However, a distraction in a dress on the dance floor diverts the thief from his original plan.
The Moment at Eternity by Dark End throws a human woman and a “meta,” a human-constructed canine sex slave, into the Alaskan wilderness when their cruise ship sinks. Each must depend on the other to survive, and along the way the woman comes to a much greater understanding of the implication her own species’ genetic machinations.
A Monster and a Gentleman by Lady Chastity Chatterley tells the tale of a queen who, desperate to avoid a beheading, turns to enchantment to produce an heir. Her beastly offspring finds love, but also prejudice against his monstrous appearance.
Dream a Little Dream of Me by Kandrel finds a mink confused and worried about the dreams being induced by his new SDU (Sweet Dreams Unit). Soon, his waking reality seems to start misbehaving too, leading to some startling insights about who he is.
A Secret Place by Dwale pulls a stallion from his technologically-advanced but socially-stratified urban life to a nursery run by his wheelchair-bound aunt in a forgotten corner of the land. When not working in the greenhouses, she teaches him the nearly-forgotten romantic language of flowers, and he struggles with feelings that society considers taboo.
Dance With Me by Tack Otter follows an Australian shepherd and his male crow roommate through their preparations for a talent show competition. The stress they are under comes from more than just the shepherd’s troubles herding his fingers across the piano keys.
What Would You Do If I’m Not What I’m Supposed To Be? by Arcane Reno forces a reclusive African wild dog to confront his fears and his sexual orientation when he finally meets his best online friend — someone who knows him as a totally different species in an online role-playing game.
Whew, that was a lengthy summary, wasn’t it? However, I feel that this anthology is more than worth it, as these stories combined make for an excellent and interesting read. I will highlight my personal top 3 here in no particular order.
Seducing the Sky by Kandrel is the first story of the book, and immediately deals with material that always manages to grab my attention: the encountering and exploring of an unknown tribal culture. In this story, we follow Taj as he crashes down after encountering an enemy spaceship. A tribe of otters takes him in and cares for him. He teaches them the way of the warrior as he was taught it, and they, mainly Sky, pretty much teach him what it’s like to be part of a tribe and to actually be a normal living being, instead of being something that resembles the behaviour of a machine. The clash of cultures in this story is absolutely wonderful.
A Secret Place by Dwale is another story where two cultures clash, but in a different way. The story main characters are Ipomoea, Ipo for short, and Fjola. Ipo was raised in a high-tech environment, while Fjola enjoyed the ways of old. When Ipo visits Fjola on work vacation, he has to get used to quite a few new things, especially his feelings for his auntie. The way Dwale so seemingly effortlessly created this new world is absolutely amazing, and the characters feel real, due to them being very believable. The way the characters make their feelings and emotions known through the language of flowers is an amazing touch that I’ve never seen in a story before. I’m quite surprised that Dwale doesn’t have more books on the market.
What Would You Do If I’m Not What I’m Supposed To Be? by Arcane Reno is the last story in the book, and one that deals with the difference between a wonderful fantasy realm and hard cruel reality. The story revolves mainly around Kraid, real name Marcus, and his gaming partner Daigen, real name Jade. The story is set in the future as well, in which virtual reality has evolved up the point where people’s senses are actually lined up with the game. Sounds fantastic, right? Kraid sure thinks so, especially because he uses the game as an escaped of his “trapped” existence in a wheelchair. After Daigen moves to his city and wants to meet up, he knows he can no longer hide behind his in-game avatar. The interaction between the characters is wonderful, and the in-game moments are great,however, I do feel the “romantic” scene between the two feels a bit rushed.
The funny thing about these three stories are set in the far future, which is generally something I don’t enjoy that much. I’d say that says enough about the quality though. Reno’s story doesn’t feel like it’s set that far in the future though. It’s very subtle about it.
All in all, I think this is a wonderful anthology that definitely deserves to be read by many