Burning a book seems such a charged act, isn’t it? People use words like ‘biblioclasm’ and ‘libricide’ – as though one is killing something, rather than just destroying a mass produced paper item.
But a novel is not merely a collection of words, a story that someone made up. We think of a novel as a power object. Something that has the potential to whisper secrets, get under your skin, hypnotise you, corrupt you.
Books are not missiles, they are not voodoo dolls. Yet a book may ‘blow the top of one’s head off’. Fiction absolutely does have the power to change thoughts and actions. There’s no denying books can change lives.
Taboos suggest superstition to me, a certain mystical fear. The root of the word itself mixes ‘sacred’ with ‘forbidden’. 
For the most part, I don’t write taboos. I can’t work out if I’m afraid of approaching forbidden territory, or if I’m just happy to accept the validity of the moral consensus and so am not particularly interested in exploring the boundaries of what is ‘permitted’. I admit I avoid writing (and reading) certain stories in part for fear of manifesting them.
In my writing, I think I generally prefer to examine the subtle textures of life, the world, relationships. I find more interest in the gentler taboos, the ones that are harder to see: how we become slowly more invisible as we get older; all the things we avoid saying to people’s faces and what we say instead; the intricate, elaborate subtleties of conversational traditions.
But then, maybe I’m just well trained, having worked for so long within the confines of consensual and sex positive stories. That’s a slightly depressing thought – that I produce sanitized work to suit the market. Is it necessary to explore taboos? Or are they there for a good reason?
I don’t know. I’m not much in favour of shoulds. I do believe freedom of expression is worth fighting for, but I don’t get much of a thrill from pushing boundaries for the sake of it.
I tried to explore one of my taboos by burning a book I really hated. I was curious to see if it would release anything. But destroying a text doesn’t rid the world of the issue. I destroyed the book, but I couldn’t kill it.
Taboos may obscure the things we fear, but they don’t protect us.
Nikki Magennis is an author and artist who lives in a nice wild bit of Scotland. Her first two novels were published by Black Lace, and you can find her short fiction in many anthologies. Visit her blog at firstname.lastname@example.org
 from etymonline.com: 1777 (in Cook's "A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean"), "consecrated, inviolable, forbidden, unclean or cursed," explained in some English sources as being from Tongan (Polynesian language of the island of Tonga) ta-bu "sacred," from ta "mark" + bu "especially." But this may be folk etymology, as linguists in the Pacific have reconstructed an irreducable Proto-Polynesian *tapu, from Proto-Oceanic *tabu "sacred, forbidden" (cf. Hawaiian kapu "taboo, prohibition, sacred, holy, consecrated;" Tahitian tapu "restriction, sacred;" Maori tapu "be under ritual restriction, prohibited"). The noun and verb are English innovations first recorded in Cook's book.