So. Apparently cannibalism is bad.
I mean, of course it's bad. It's gross; it's squick all around. But apparently, cannibalism is one of those things that You Should Not Put In Books either.
I'm currently over halfway through the third Downside book (which I am extremely happy with, yay!) and my Bad Baddies are really starting to crystallize. Of course they've/he's/she's (no spoilers here!) been around since the very beginning, because that's the way I roll it, baby. But now we're exploring the BB more intimately. And one little character trait I had in mind of this particular/these particular BBs was that they occasionally enjoyed sitting down to a nice meal of other human beings.
Perhaps it's because I was seventeen when Silence of the Lambs came out--the book, which I read before I knew a movie was coming, and then the movie which I saw the day it was released--this didn't seem to me to be that big a deal. I mean, clearly it's yucky, but not horrifyingly, shockingly so.
Especially when you consider that Hannibal the Cannibal was and is so, so popular.
Especially when you consider that, for example, vampires are so sexy (yeah, you might not think so but I sure as hell do); and really, while drinking blood isn't exactly the same as actually eating flesh, there are distinct similarities. And while I know there are people who find vampires gross for that reason, there seem to be a lot of others who find the idea more of a turn-on than a turn-off. I freely admit I fall into this category.
And that's not even touching on the fact that, of course, one of the greatest heroines in urban fantasy is Mark Henry's Amanda Feral, who eats people, and whose latest adventure was just released yesterday so you should go buy it!! And while you're at it, but Mario's and Anton's books as well, of course.
I have recently been informed by several people In The Know that cannibalism should be avoided. It's not a big deal; I'm not complaining or anything. But I am, well, a bit worried. Make that a lot worried.
Because, um, there's a little bit of it in the second Demons book. I don't want to spoil it (no pun intended), but it is there. It's ritual cannibalism and clearly presented as such; a gesture of respect, a continuance of something, a transfer of power, all that and more. It's there. And while I had a concern when writing it, I felt fairly confident that I'd made it and the purposes for it clear enough that readers would understand it and not be too horrified; that it would equate largely with vampiric blood-drinking. I made several mentions of ancient tribes practicing ritual cannibalism. I made one or two oblique references to Communion and transubstantiation (Yes, I'm fully aware there is a difference; please do not think I'm equating Catholicism with cannibalism; I'm simply pointing out that there is a similar form of ritual to which people don't give a second thought, really). I make it clear that this is a very distinct, once-in-a-lifetime sort of ritual and is not a part of the everday lives of any of those involved.
But I have to admit I'm still worried.
I can't do anything about it now; there's no way I can remove it because it is such an important part of the events of the book. It's the lynchpin on which the entire last act of the book spins and is the basis for several Important Discussions and Events. But given that DEMON INSIDE has a darker spin overall, and given that cannibalism is apparently a real taboo... I am concerned. Quite concerned.
What do you think? If a character you like performs such an act--once-in-a-lifetime, remember, with deep ritual meaning; one symbolic bite, say--would you be sickened? Would you find it difficult or impossible to continue seeing that character in the same way? Would you throw the book against the wall and decide I should be committed? Would you question the sanity of a character who didn't condemn the act, who didn't decide s/he couldn't possibly contemplate even speaking to that character again?
Give it to me straight. I can take it. Sigh.