It is incredible how much the five human senses can shape the way writers describe a scene in literature. This is especially apparent in the niche realm of furry literature and anthropomorphic erotica. Sometimes, we take them for granted. The tiniest of details can change how we perceive sexual intercourse and the way it is imagined in our heads whenever we read a work of erotic fiction. Thus, we have SENSORY DE-TAILS, an erotic anthology edited by Thurston Howl, which focuses on the five human senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing.
Be warned though, some of these stories contain some elements that play into their respective themes of the anthology, which can make readers uncomfortable. They include, but aren’t limited to depicted expressions of ableism, sadomasochism and even dubious consent in one story. None are too extreme, but it is better to be safe than sorry for some of the interested readers out there. And there are content warnings in the book at the beginning of each story!
“Paths” by Kyell Gold
For the first short story appropriately centered around Sight, we have “Paths” by Kyell Gold focusing on a gay blind fennec fox named Kesh, who is convinced by his best friend, a lesbian possum named Jenny, to join her in attending a costume convention. While she is dressing up as a superheroine named Vicious Vixen, Kesh is convinced to costume as a blind shaman fox named Puquanah, or "Puck" for short. Both hope to have fun at the convention, especially after Kesh’s boyfriend recently dumped him, as well as to hopefully hook up with other convention goers in costume. One of them is a seemingly charming cougar dressed as a fantasy soldier only known as "Xiller." Sexy and contemplative hijinks ensue.
For those who do not know, Puck is a character (who is also a gay blind fox like our main character) from Rukis Croax’s fictional Red Lantern universe, specifically in her “Off the Beaten Path” trilogy while Vicious Vixen and Xiller belongs to Kyell Gold’s “In the Doghouse of Justice” and his “Volle” novels respectively. As someone who has read both series and “In the Doghouse of Justice”, it was a genuine surprise that enhanced how I read the story. From understanding the inside jokes to drawing parallels between each fictional character as well as how much Kesh and the various con attendees stayed in character, it greatly immersed me into the narrative. However, even if the reader has no idea who anyone is cosplaying as, it does not change how sexy and entertaining “Paths” is as a standalone work.
The way Kyell Gold describes how Kesh interacts with the world is realistic without leaving too little to the imagination. The lack of description in the setting beyond what is heard, smelt, touched, or tasted actually manages to display some of the chaotic nature of fandom conventions. You, as the reader, are with him as he navigates the con with Jenny, without Jenny and when he is alone or intimate with someone else. Without diving too much into spoilers, you are also understanding in how much Kesh feels frustrated towards the way people view his blindness as a disability.
If I needed to complain about something, I wish Kyell maybe could have delved into the backstory of the ex-boyfriend; I feel like it is a small nitpick. Overall, “Paths” is a strong start with great character, a unique but subtle commentary on cosplay and a dedication between fandoms. Highly recommended.
“These Are the Days of Our Lives” by Weasel
In this cute yet sexy submission apparently based on a true story, a purple-colored Doberman secretly prepares to propose to his loyal, equally horny terrier boyfriend out on a walk, where they end up having public sex.
Unfortunately, while the story itself is not bad and is adorably sexy, I feel like it does not wholly commit to what I wanted to see in SENSORY DE-TAILS. In my opinion, while Weasel does focus on incorporating sight and aspects of color, he could have gone further with it into the plot. Like, why not have the Doberman change color based on his mood or something? There is so much to consider in terms of literary possibilities.
In all fairness though, “These Are the Days of Our Lives” does have so much to go for it, from the corny but comedic dialogue to how much chemistry the Doberman and terrier have. The location itself is wonderfully mystifying and the way that Weasel describes the characters and the gothic atmosphere surrounding it and the protagonists’ sexual excitement really makes it a delight to read. I personally could have benefited from more plot; it is still a sensual and romantic piece of short fiction to read, whether by yourself or with a partner by your side.
“Violets” by Joel Kreissman
The first story for Smell does incorporate the sense further into the narrative, as we follow an arctic fox named Lucy trying out a new artificial pheromone with the help of her extraordinarily supportive and sweet boyfriend, a bisexual fox named Tom. See, Lucy’s therapist wishes for her to try wearing the pheromone in private and public before starting gender confirming surgery, hoping that it will help them become more used to the different scent that will be produced if Lucy decides to fully transition into a vixen.
Basically, the entire story focuses on Lucy trying out the artificial pheromone while she and Tom have a dinner date together. There is not much to cover in terms of plot, yet Joel Kreissman does an excellent job describing the differences between Lucy’s original scent and the artificial pheromones that, as Tom describes, makes Lucy feel like she's in heat.
As to be expected, “Violets” has a musk-descriptive sex scene between Tom and Lucy that is one-third intense, one-third romantic, one-third sensual and 100% erotic for any reader. I don’t know what else to say other than that it is simply a good story about how far you will go for those you truly love.
“Filthy Coyote” by Shoji
The next short story for Smell is “Filthy Coyote” by Shoji. This is also a very good addition to the anthology, though for me, it starts off sketchily. An otter named Remmy and his fox boyfriend James are struggling to live in Hollywood, with the latter trying to be one of thousands of baristas hoping to become a famous singer despite his lack of initiative for change and jealous nature. Needing to save enough money for the monthly rent, Remmy makes a deal to sleep with their Spanish-speaking landlord, a musky, dominating coyote by the name of Alejandro. After the deed is done though, not only does Remmy realize it was probably the most phenomenal sex he has had in some time, but it reveals the cracks underneath his and James’ seemingly perfect relationship.
On the one hand, I can understand the eroticism of tenant/landlord relationships in pornography, but ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and people started losing their jobs and homes, it has really soured for me. Unless it is written carefully, the basic premise all comes down to: protagonist needs to avoid becoming homeless by trading their body for leniency on the rent. Nowadays, I’m not a fan of this particular trope in erotica.
Luckily, Alejandro is not only a likable character as far as landlords go, but he is the catalyst that essentially changes Remmy (and hopefully James) into a better person in the context of the story. Shoji makes the right decision by making none of the characters perfect. Each has flaws that do not make them bad people, yet the story shows they need to make serious introspections on their lives, especially in regards to the relationship between Remmy and James. I don’t know what else to say other than I wished we could’ve gotten more to read.
“The Things We Do” by Tarl "Voice" Hoch
For Touch, we have “The Things We Do” by Tarl "Voice" Hoch, among the more obscure and…strangest of the stories here. And that is saying quite a bit, as we follow a non-binary rabbit in the future named Xe who is talked by their best friend/occasional lover Zain into performing a strange dare in order to join some kind group we never get a full explanation of. That dare involves going into the darkest pitch-black alleyway in New Seattle and touching the other end while avoiding whatever dangers lurk in the darkness. One of these so-called dangers is a nameless yet sentient and massive spider (with a large cock) who is infatuated by Xe. And much ado about kinky spiders.
I have not been this weirded out by an erotic story in some time. And I’m not saying it is a bad thing. Far from it. As far as ideas go, the plot of “The Things We Do” is going to leave you wondering what you read, but it will also make you hot under the collar in the descriptive way Voice describes Xe’s exotic predicament. While there are some hints of dubious consent, the primordial spider—whatever the heck it is—makes it absolutely clear he will take "no" for an answer.
The primary themes surrounding attraction, gender, consent, and identity help mold this together as a decent read for the sci-fi readers and the supernatural readers. The pairing is not for me, but I can still understand the appeal. Overall, a nice addition.
“Black, White, Red” by Kuroko
“Black, White, Red” by Kuroko goes further into the theme of Touch by delving into heavy themes of sadomasochism, involving a female human being slowly yet sensually dominated by a female cabbit (cat + rabbit?) for what I assume to be a pornographic video. There is very little to discuss here or analyze beyond how refreshing it is to read female-on-female erotica in a mostly male anthology.
If you like S/M stories that utilize an anthropomorphic animal’s claws and tearing apart clothing, you will enjoy this story. I personally could’ve been more entranced by having a deeper narrative or complex characters beyond the usual dominant and submissive roles, but I liked this fine. Go check it out. Kuroko knows their writing skills.
“The Spirits of the Woods” by Nathanial LeCount Edwards
The best way I can go on to describe “The Spirits of the Woods” goes along the lines of "erotic fairy tale," which I mean in all the best ways. In the aftermath of a cataclysmic thunderstorm that destroys his father’s crops, a nameless buck is drawn into the nearby forests by a mysterious figure. It is a woodland fairy, who tells the buck that if he wishes to have his family’s farm restored, he must meet with three of the fey guardians that rule over the woodland forest. Should he speak a single word or remove his blindfold however while traversing the path to them, the buck will fail, and likely become one with the forest itself. Once again, sexy hijinks ensue as he loses each of his senses, except his ability to touch, as he completes each task.
“The Spirits in the Woods” is my favorite story for good reason. With its simplistic protagonist in a mythical realm of hunky forest guardians he must please, what makes this even hotter is the way Edwards incorporates the theme of Touch into the plot. For every other sense the buck loses, it only emphasizes the erotic imagination of each scene for the readers. The feeling of uncertainty you have for the buck, mixed together with the amorous way each guardian is described without actual visual descriptions only helps to enhance the three sexual encounters for our protagonist.
Written in a timeless prose and enriched deeply in the aesthetic of fairy tale fables, I can think of very little to complain about. It is a great addition to the anthology.
“Blind as a Bat” by Jay Coates
Jay Coates brings us “Blind as a Bat”, which plays once again into the blind aspect, but this time, it focuses on the way Hearing can be utilized in complete darkness.
A male bat named Silver brings his mouse girlfriend Sierre to his apartment for, what else, but a night of passion. However, wanting to make the moment more interesting and exotic for her, Silver turns off all the lights and teases Sierre as she tries to listen for him in the darkness of the dwelling, especially as he can hang upside down from the ceiling, which is cleverly utilized when they try a few different sex positions.
I love it when a short story incorporates the traits of animals and utilizes it into their anthropomorphic forms. The way that Jay Coates writes makes you practically hear each time someone whispers or taps the floor. I feel like it is a little too similar in narrative to the previous story, which is nobody’s fault. However, it does make me wonder if it would’ve been more interesting to have Silver be the protagonist, and we are allowed to see his point-of-view. In the few works of fiction out there that have a bat as the protagonist, we rarely see echolocation visualized, and I frankly would like to see Jay try to go even further in exploring it.
“Symphonic Completion” by Al Song
Here we come to my second-favorite story in SENSORY DE-TAILS. Al Song fittingly combines music, romance, and sex into a slice-of-life setting, which I believed at first would be difficult to pull off in a literary medium, but he managed to succeed. “Symphonic Completion” is about a fruit bat named Gus, who is struggling between maintaining a long-distance relationship with Francis, his loving kangaroo boyfriend, trying to have a social life beyond college classes and trying to maintain old friendships, while also trying to write his own musical composition.
Out of all the accepted submissions in this anthology, I feel like “Symphonic Completion” hits the most at home for me personally. As someone who has also gone to college, fell in love, forged friendships I thought would last forever and even had a long-distance relationship, I completely understand Gus’ frustrations of juggling so much responsibility on a daily basis. The feelings of sadness from your friends growing distant due to having their own lives, needing to give up social life in exchange for income, as well as making a relationship work across different time zones. These elements really made me connect with the protagonist.
Anyway, how are the sex scenes in this?
Frankly, they are nothing short of amazingly well-written and thematically ambient. Some slice-of-life stories often don’t need to be erotic, but the way Al Song incorporates it into the story makes sense. Gus is described as almost always thinking of music (his and Francis’ first time even happens mixed with a real-life symphony) and finds a way to incorporate music-based words into the narrative. This makes the sex feel like watching two lovers dance in tune with beautiful symphonies.
What else can I say? It is a good story with melodically charged sex, complex characters, and an excellent taste in classical music.
“Titillating Trivia” by Linnea "LiteralGrill" Capps
The first entry in the final category of Taste is “Titillating Trivia”. Written by Linnea "LiteralGrill" Capps, the main character is a hare named Walter, who likes to hang out with his friends and play a game of shots and junk food to a trivia gameshow. After correctly guessing that a beaver’s anal secretions are used in creating food flavorings such as vanilla, cherry, etc., his friends are quick to ask why Walter would know such obscure trivia, to which he reluctantly explains a bi-curious encounter he once had with an outspoken, motorcycle-obsessed male beaver he met on a gay hookup app.
Overall, the story is simplistic and ingeniously contains real-life knowledge into the sexual encounter, but not without including a memorable main couple between Walter and the beaver, named Anthony. I probably would have liked to see more of the two, especially after their first sexual encounter, and maybe LiteralGrill could have dived deeper into the biology of beavers regarding their unique gland aroma; however, it is good for what it is. I can only think of a couple other stories I have read in the past that explored such an interesting bit of trivia in furry erotica, and if you like a good story that includes that with a character exploring his sexuality, you will enjoy this very much.
“Tasteful Education” by Patrick D. Lambert
The final entry for the anthology is “Tasteful Education”, and boy is it the goofiest of all the previous stories. Though, not without maintaining a sexually charged plotline that seems to toe the line between motivational erotica and erotic parody. The main character we follow is Jay, a flamboyant crocodile college student who is unashamed about being loose with his frat brothers and even teachers. Wanting direction in his life after graduation, he miraculously decides to become a sexual therapist, and—somehow, too easily in fact—employs the college’s hunky coach, who is a closeted polar bear, into being his assistant during a secretive sex class he holds with other horny male students in the locker rooms. That's when the fun begins.
Much like a couple of the stories on here, I feel like “Tasteful Education” could have gone even further with the plot it presents and went more into incorporating the theme of Taste. Don’t get me wrong: the intellectual way that Jay discusses foreplay, consensual teasing and how to arouse your partner is educational. Yet I feel like Patrick D. Lambert had an opportunity to go even further into regarding such a stereotypically fun scenario but is only limited to two characters when the climax—pun slightly intended—has an entire audience watching them. Maybe it is just me wanting to read an orgy.
However, I still really enjoy what the writer has given us. The hands-on demonstration between Jay and the coach is incredibly luscious with smell and taste, as the crocodile keeps the coach on sweaty edge throughout the ‘class’. As for the protagonist himself, I don’t know where Patrick D. Lambert came up with such an idea for a character, but I don’t care. He somehow managed to create a hilarious, sexy, well-meaning, well-spoken, and slutty crocodile I really want to see in a sequel in the future.
In conclusion, SENSORY DE-TAILS is a furry anthology that I highly recommend. Each of the submitted authors provides a unique story that reminds furry writers and readers how much the five senses play a role in fiction. Anyone out there can write a short story, but it takes dedication to make the pages come to life and make the reader feel as if they themselves are experiencing it for themselves. This can come from the way a lover’s scent is described to how their touch feels against yours, to even the background noises of an entire scene. The five senses are an essential tool for the writer to pull us into the illusion of a fictional world.
Should there be a Volume 2 of SENSORY DE-TAILS in the future, I will be more than excited to see what these writers and others will have to bring to the table next time.