I feel blessed typing this, i’ve evolved to the level of gay where i not only enter other people’s places from the back, but i also enter book series from the end. Most recently, i finished Cassandra Khaw’s Rupert Wong novella trilogy, going backwards from The Last Supper Before Ragnarok to Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef. I began this series a year a half ago, so i don’t remember LSb4R very sharply, except i know it’s my favorite because it features a tonal curveball and supercute lesbian wedding that’s unforgettable and probably my favorite thing any book did in 2019.
The whole series is a dreamboat, and I like how it includes cannibalism, that’s right, people eating people, a topic i return to as if it were a friend i enjoy hanging out with, and, in a way, it is. For a series with “cannibal chief” in its first title, there isn’t that much cannibalism in this brouhaha, but that title is basically a joke. Rupert doesn’t get to do a lot of cooking. He spends most of his time trying to cool the apocalyptic drama between all of the divinities, like every sorta god from every sorta pantheon. Cannibal cooking is a sidenote in Rupert’s stressfully paranormal life, the messy, dreary job that provides a banal foundation for his tenuous existence.
Though there are memorable scenes of the cannibalistic culinary arts. The second novella, Rupert Wong and the Ends of the Earth, opens with a cannibal cook-off. Wonderful, beautiful gore prose, including jokes about how to truly utilize a penis in a meal. It’s a good time. I like this narrative approach to cannibalism, where it’s part of a relatively basic, and comic, job, not a major, soul-shattering gross-out, and not a metaphor for class exploitation or something like that. It’s dehumanizing, sure, but all labor involves some amount of dehumanization.
Rupert is wry about his ability to work with human remains as if it’s meat like any other. It makes him queasyish, but he adapts, managing to semi-pretend it’s not human corpses he’s flavoring. Pretending people aren’t people is also pretty common to everyday labor. Rubert’s feelings toward his cannibal tasks are entirely relatable. In my own food preparation jobs, i would pretend the meat was fake vegetarian meat because i don’t like touching dead stuff.
Rupert excels at his ethically questionable job. I’ve gotten hungry reading how he prepares some of his people. One detail that sticks out from that mentioned cookoff: eyeballs filled with a kind of lemon jelly. Sounds great.
This problematic excellence is shared by cannibal baker Ms. Lovitt, somewhat praised in my previous post, but Rubert is more self-aware, and painfully so. Ms. Lovitt buys into capitalist goals, hopeful her people bakes will reward her with a gorgeous seaside home. Rupert has the added disadvantage of working within a capitalism that’s cosmic in scope. He doesn’t entertain any hopes of his profession rewarding him so materially, his only real hopes are for his wife so he's selfless in that way. He’s certainly a capitalist though, the series begins with him union-busting some demons beginning to organize.
Cannibalism fits right in with a cosmic horror perspective. It highlights the insignificance of humanity much like how the solar system does. That’s why i like it when it’s a minor part of the story, a casual detail concerning a character’s occupation. Much of cosmic horror has an epic scope, which i usually don’t really get into. By epic I mean lots of action, spectacle, tedious moments of awe, the ingredients for a religious experience, which is about the tackiest sort of experience there is.
The Rubert Wong series is a borderline parody of cosmic horror, so there’s lots of action and spectacle except it’s funny so i liked it. I’d like seeing comedic cannibalism in more cosmic horror, or maybe better yet in a sci-fi horror, like maybe a sci-fi story about a stranded spaceship where the astronauts ultimately need to eat each other because their technology messes up that bad, or on a space colony where cannibalism develops into acceptable practice because that's the best meat around in outer space, the taboo around eating people maybe dying with the last of the earthlings, because maybe these outer space cannibals are the last people, the rest of humanity destroyed in ecological collapse on the planet earth.
I feel 70% sure the last people will be cannibals.