Biopunk

Biopunk (a portmanteau of "biotechnology" or "biology" and "punk") is a subgenre of science fiction that focuses on biotechnology. It is derived from cyberpunk, but focuses on the implications of biotechnology rather than information technology.[1] Biopunk is concerned with synthetic biology. It is derived of cyberpunk involving bio-hackers, biotech mega-corporations, and oppressive government agencies that manipulate human DNA. Most often keeping with the dark atmosphere of cyberpunk, biopunk generally examines the dark side of genetic engineering and represents the low side of biotechnology.

Description

Ribofunk cover
Cover of Ribofunk by Paul Di Filippo, a seminal biopunk story collection.

Biopunk is a subgenre of science fiction closely related to cyberpunk that focuses on the near-future (most often unintended) consequences of the biotechnology revolution following the invention of recombinant DNA. Biopunk stories explore the struggles of individuals or groups, often the product of human experimentation, against a typically dystopian backdrop of totalitarian governments and megacorporations which misuse biotechnologies as means of social control and profiteering. Unlike cyberpunk, it builds not on information technology, but on synthetic biology. Like in postcyberpunk fiction, individuals are usually modified and enhanced not with cyberware, but by genetic manipulation.[1] A common feature of biopunk fiction is the "black clinic", which is a laboratory, clinic, or hospital that performs illegal, unregulated, or ethically-dubious biological modification and genetic engineering procedures.[2] Many features of biopunk fiction have their roots in William Gibson's Neuromancer, one of the first cyberpunk novels.[3]

One of the prominent writers in this field is Paul Di Filippo, though he called his collection of such stories ribofunk, a blend of "ribosome" and "funk".[4] In RIBOFUNK: The Manifesto,[5] Di Filippo wrote:

Why Ribo?
Cybernetics was a dead science when cyberpunk SF was born, a cul-de-sac without living practitioners. Furthermore, the "cyber" prefix has been irreparably debased by overuse, in vehicles ranging from comic books to bad movies. The tag now stands for nothing in the public mind but computer hacking and fanciful cyborgs such as Robocop. And Weiner's actual texts do not provide enough fruitful metaphors for constructing a systematic worldview.
Why Funk?
Punk was a dead music when cyberpunk SF was born, a cul-de-sac albeit with living practitioners who just hadn't gotten the message yet. The music's nihilistic, chiliastic worldview had already culminated in its only possible end: self-extinction.
What is Ribofunk then?
Ribofunk is speculative fiction which acknowledges, is informed by and illustrates the tenet that the next revolution--the only one that really matters--will be in the field of biology. To paraphrase Pope, ribofunk holds that: "The proper study of mankind is life." Forget physics and chemistry; they are only tools to probe living matter. Computers? Merely simulators and modelers for life. The cell is King![5]

Di Filippo suggests that precursors of biopunk fiction include H. G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau; Julian Huxley's The Tissue-Culture King; some of David H. Keller's stories, Damon Knight's Natural State and Other Stories; Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth's Gravy Planet; novels of T. J. Bass and John Varley; Greg Bear's Blood Music and Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix.[5] The stories of Cordwainer Smith, including his first and most famous "Scanners Live in Vain", also foreshadow biopunk themes.[6][7]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Quinion, Michael (1997). "World Wide Words: Biopunk". Retrieved 2007-01-26.
  2. ^ Pulver, David L. (1998). GURPS Bio-Tech. Steve Jackson Games. ISBN 978-1-55634-336-0.
  3. ^ Paul Taylor. "Fleshing Out the Maelstrom: Biopunk and the Violence of Information". Journal of Media and Culture.
  4. ^ Fisher, Jeffrey (1996). "Ribofunk". Wired. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
  5. ^ a b c Di Filippo, Paul (1998). "RIBOFUNK: The Manifesto". Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  6. ^ Gary K. Wolfe and Carol T. Williams, “The Majesty of Kindness: The Dialectic of Cordwainer Smith”, Voices for the Future: Essays on Major Science Fiction Writers, Volume 3, Thomas D. Clareson editor, Popular Press, 1983, pages 53-72
  7. ^ GURPS bio-tech

External links

Biorobotics

Biorobotics covers the fields of cybernetics, bionics and even genetic engineering as a collective study.

Biorobotics may make robots that emulate or simulate living biological organisms mechanically or even chemically, or make biological organisms as manipulatable and functional as robots, or use biological organisms as components of robots. Biorobotics could use genetic engineering to create organisms designed by artificial means.

Blood Music (novel)

Blood Music is a science fiction novel by American writer Greg Bear.

It was originally published as a short story in 1983 in the American science fiction magazine Analog Science Fact & Fiction, winning the 1983 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and the 1984 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

Greg Bear published an expanded version in novel form in 1985. The completed novel was nominated for the Nebula Award in 1985 and for the Hugo, Campbell, and British Science Fiction Awards in 1986.Blood Music deals with themes including biotechnology, nanotechnology (including the grey goo hypothesis), the nature of reality, consciousness, and artificial intelligence.

City of Night (Koontz and Gorman novel)

City of Night is a novel released in 2005 by the best-selling author Dean Koontz and Ed Gorman. The book is the second in Koontz's series, entitled Dean Koontz's Frankenstein. The third book in the series, Dead and Alive, was published in 2009.

Darwin's Radio

Darwin's Radio is a 1999 science fiction novel by Greg Bear. It won the Nebula Award in 2000 for Best Novel and the 2000 Endeavour Award. It was also nominated for the Hugo Award, Locus and Campbell Awards the same year.The novel's original tagline was 'The next great war will be inside us'. It was followed by a sequel, Darwin's Children, in 2003.

Dead and Alive (Koontz novel)

Dead and Alive is the third novel in the first trilogy of Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series. Originally intended to be co-authored by Ed Gorman and Dean Koontz, Koontz opted to write this entry alone.

Far Cry (film)

Far Cry is a 2008 English-language German action film loosely adapted from the video game of the same name. The film is directed by Uwe Boll and stars Til Schweiger. It was a major box office bomb and, like Boll's other films, a critical disappointment.

Gattaca

Gattaca is a 1997 American science fiction film written and directed by Andrew Niccol. It stars Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, with Jude Law, Loren Dean, Ernest Borgnine, Gore Vidal, and Alan Arkin appearing in supporting roles. The film presents a biopunk vision of a future society driven by eugenics where potential children are conceived through genetic selection to ensure they possess the best hereditary traits of their parents. The film centers on Vincent Freeman, played by Hawke, who was conceived outside the eugenics program and struggles to overcome genetic discrimination to realize his dream of going into space.

The film draws on concerns over reproductive technologies which facilitate eugenics, and the possible consequences of such technological developments for society. It also explores the idea of destiny and the ways in which it can and does govern lives. Characters in Gattaca continually battle both with society and with themselves to find their place in the world and who they are destined to be according to their genes.

The film's title is based on the letters G, A, T, and C, which stand for guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine, the four nucleobases of DNA. It was a 1997 nominee for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.

The film flopped at the box office, but it received generally positive reviews and has since gained a cult following.

Grinder (biohacking)

Grinders are people who apply the hacker ethic to improve their own bodies with do-it-yourself cybernetic devices or introducing chemicals into the body to enhance or change their bodies' functionality. Many grinders identify with the biopunk movement, open-source transhumanism, and techno-progressivism. The Grinder movement is strongly associated with the body modification movement and practices actual implantation of cybernetic devices in organic bodies as a method of working towards transhumanism, such as designing and installing do-it-yourself body-enhancements such as magnetic implants. Biohacking emerged in a growing trend of non-institutional science and technology development.According to Biohack.me, "Grinders are passionate individuals who believe the tools and knowledge of science belong to everyone. Grinders practice functional extreme body modification in an effort to improve the human condition. [Grinders] hack [them]selves with electronic hardware to extend and improve human capacities. Grinders believe in action, [thei]r bodies the experiment.""Biohacking" can also refer to managing one's own biology using a combination of medical, nutritional and electronic techniques. This may include the use of nootropics, non-toxic substances, and/or cybernetic devices for recording biometric data (as in the Quantified Self movement).

Knights of Sidonia

Knights of Sidonia (Japanese: シドニアの騎士, Hepburn: Sidonia no Kishi) is a space opera and mecha manga series by Tsutomu Nihei, serialized by Kodansha in their magazine Afternoon between April 2009 and September 2015, localized in English by Vertical. An anime television series adaptation, produced by Polygon Pictures, aired between April and June 2014 and a second season aired between April and June 2015.

List of biopunk works

This is a list of works classified as biopunk, a subgenre of science fiction and derivative of the cyberpunk movement. Some works may only be centered around biotechnologies and not fit a more constrained definition of biopunk which may include additional cyberpunk or postcyberpunk elements.

Lost Souls (Koontz novel)

Lost Souls is the fourth novel of Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series.

MaddAddam

MaddAddam is a novel by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, published on 29 August 2013.

Maddaddam concludes the dystopian trilogy which began with Oryx and Crake (2003) and continued with The Year of the Flood (2009). While the plot from these previous novels run along a parallel timeline, Maddaddam is the continuation of both books. Maddaddam is written from the perspective of Zeb and Toby, who were both introduced in The Year of the Flood.

Moreau series

The Moreau series of books are four biopunk science fiction novels by S. Andrew Swann, originally published by DAW Books from 1993 to 1999. Two of the titles are based on lines from the poem "The Tyger" by William Blake.

Prodigal Son (novel)

Prodigal Son is a novel by the best-selling author Dean Koontz, released in 2005. The book is the first book released by Koontz in a series of five, entitled Dean Koontz's Frankenstein. The book was co-authored by Kevin J. Anderson.

Splice (film)

Splice is a 2009 Canadian-French science fiction horror film directed by Vincenzo Natali and starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, and Delphine Chanéac. The story concerns experiments in genetic engineering being done by a young scientific couple, who attempt to introduce human DNA into their work of splicing animal genes. Guillermo del Toro, Don Murphy, and Joel Silver are the executive producers of this film.

The Dead Town

The Dead Town is the fifth and final novel of Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series.

The Gene Generation

The Gene Generation is a 2007 Biopunk science fiction film about an assassin who battles DNA hackers. The film was directed by Pearry Reginald Teo, and stars Bai Ling, Parry Shen, Faye Dunaway, and Alec Newman.

The Windup Girl

The Windup Girl is a biopunk science fiction novel by American writer Paolo Bacigalupi. It was his debut novel and was published by Night Shade Books on September 1, 2009. The novel was named as the ninth best fiction book of 2009 by TIME magazine, and as the best science fiction book of the year in the Reference and User Services Association's 2010 Reading List. The work won the 2010 Nebula Award, the Campbell Memorial Award, and the 2010 Hugo Award (tied with The City & the City by China Miéville for the Hugo Award), both for best novel. This book also won the 2010 Compton Crook Award and the 2010 Locus Award for best first novel.

Transhumanism in fiction

Many of the tropes of science fiction can be viewed as similar to the goals of transhumanism. Science fiction literature contains many positive depictions of technologically enhanced human life, occasionally set in utopian (especially techno-utopian) societies. However, science fiction's depictions of technologically enhanced humans or other posthuman beings frequently come with a cautionary twist. The more pessimistic scenarios include many dystopian tales of human bioengineering gone wrong.

Examples of "transhumanist fiction" include novels by Linda Nagata, Greg Egan, Zoltan Istvan, and Hannu Rajaniemi. Transhuman novels are often philosophical in nature, exploring the impact such technologies might have on human life. Nagata's novels, for example, explore the relationship between the natural and artificial, and suggest that while transhuman modifications of nature may be beneficial, they may also be hazardous, so should not be lightly undertaken. Egan's Diaspora explores the nature of ideas such as reproduction and questions if they make sense in a post-human context. Istvan's novel The Transhumanist Wager explores how far one person would go to achieve an indefinite lifespan via science and technology. Rajaniemi's novel, while more action oriented, still explores themes such as death and finitude in post-human life.

Fictional depictions of transhumanist scenarios are also seen in other media, such as movies (Transcendence), television series (the Ancients of Stargate SG-1), manga and anime (Ghost in the Shell), role-playing games (Rifts and Eclipse Phase) and video games (Deus Ex or BioShock).

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