Soylent Soy
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Text description of the "Candy Bar" from Deus Ex

Basic Information

Named in tribute to the film Soylent Green, Soylent Soy describes a narrative trope in which "post consumer human" enters the human food chain as part of some industrial scale cannibalism. The term can also refer directly to the foodstuff itself.

To qualify, the food product in question should normally contain processed human - a restaurant serving "unlucky fried neighbour" is just simple cannibalism, it only becomes Soylent Soy after industrialisation.

Whether the end consumer knows (or at least has been told) that he's eating human material varies from setting to setting. In 2000AD's Megacity 1, dead people end up in the Resyk facility … no-one ever specified what they were "resykled" into, but nevertheless … this is fairly mid-range soylenting: we can probably assume that the use of dead people as food is public domain, but not exactly advertised. In other settings (as in the trope namer) it may be a secret - either with government connivance or part of some illegal project - whilst in others (as in Sid Meir's Alpha Centauri) it may be "every citizen's final duty to go into the tanks and become one with all the people" and the resource efficiency may be a point of public pride.

Tank meat made from human cell cultures probably doesn't qualify, and neither does any process that feeds the corpses to something else which is then eaten (from low-tech pigs to advanced digester cultures).

The end product will also vary considerably, although something that doesn't remind people of meat is probably preferred. It could even be something as simple as a vitamin supplement recovered from the dead, but given the level of dystopia like to require this level of recycling, it's more likely to be a protein item.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • A good way to emphasise a dystopia - or at least a culture with massive values dissonance from modern cultural positions.
    • The extreme resource efficiency of Dune's Fremen, or the Belters from The Expanse are probably entry level - and even there there are different approaches: the Fremen are fairly open about their water recovery funeral practices (the solid fraction of the body remains for burial) whilst the Belta-Lowda treat the recycling of the dead as an open secret - everyone knows that it happens, but no-one talks about it much.
  • Using adipocere as a seasoning or cooking fat would probably qualify.
  • If a secret, criminal project, you would need to ask why the hell anyone would go to that much trouble and expense. Supernatural motives are likely, perhaps to ritually contaminate an entire population and make them more vulnerable to magical attack or perhaps something like ghouls or wendigo seeking to reproduce or Black Tamanous securing their own food supply.
    • Of course, it could just be some addictive agent extracted from human flesh that's being added.
  • Expect a certain amount of disease fallout - prion based CJD type diseases like kuru would be likely.
  • Possibly an effective rumour - although very hard to get people to believe.
    • Might be a very useful way of disrupting illegal immigration if the rumour could be spread around in the transit camps and source nations that at least some of the human traffickers are shipping people for food (or, possibly more credibly, to be broken down for organ transplantation).
    • In the same vein, there was apparently, speculation amongst those who sold people into the Atlantic Slave Trade, that the only reason these white people could be buying so many slaves is that they were eating them … apparently this did nothing to reduce their willingness to trade…
  • It would not be unusual for state level soylenting to be entirely above board, but randomly mincing up corpses (however obtained) and adding them to the food supply to remain illegal.
  • In a dystopian setting there may be instances of resistance to compulsory recycling of the dead.
  • Even more so if resurrection is possible - perhaps only the poor are recycled and the rich and/or influential can be resurrected until extremely old.
    • Perhaps the poor are being recycled into some anti agathic for their masters.
    • A less extreme version in the real world - until recently human growth hormone was almost exclusively recovered from the brains of human corpses. This turned out to have unfortunate bio-safety implications.
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