by Lawrence M. Schoen
When Dugli, the most powerful and feared food critic in the galaxy, invited me to join him at a
restaurant so exclusive even billionaires like me have to wait two years for a table, I didn't stop to
ask why. I packed a bag, scooped up my buffalo dog, and headed for a planet so far off the trade
routes that Dugli had sent his private shuttle to ensure I'd come.
Bwill is not a tourist destination. The people smell, the air tastes funny, and the local language
will make your ears bleed. But alongside other more common sea creatures, its oceans teem
with lithic ichthus, a species of silicon-based fish hard as corundum and ugly as sin. They thrive
there. Imagine a swimming creature made of rock. Rock fins, rock gills, rock scales. The culinary
masterminds of Bwill prepare them using a series of marinades that permeate the minerals of these
creatures, and over the course of months render them as tender and delicate as meringue, and
exquisitely safe to be ingested by us carbon-types.
Dugli's shuttle delivered me to Bwill, and a waiting sloop took me from the splashport straight
to the dock of Stone Fin, a restaurant created by master chef Plorm. A crowd of Bwillers -- with a
handful of offworld foodies -- loitered in front, waiting for their reservations. I was probably the
only human on Bwill and Dugli the only Caliopoean. A dark, otterish pelt covered him from crown
to heel, with tiny flaps where humans would keep their ears and a whiskered nose that gave him an
astonishing palate. We spotted each other at once.
"Conroy!" Dugli's webbed hand pulled me from the sloop and before I could say a word he had
frogmarched me past the outraged stares of would-be diners and into the restaurant. Reggie, my
buffalito, clattered after on tiny hooves, desperate not to be left out. We were expected. Plorm herself
took us through the curtained maze typical of Bwill style and seated us at an elegant table of polished
onyx and chalcedony.