The Biopunk Reader

4Jan/115

What is Biopunk?



You might be wondering what biopunk is. It's kind of obscure--a bit like clockpunk or sandalpunk. A science fiction subgenre with tons of potential, but no visible movement. We're trying to change that.

Biopunk is HUGE--an ocean of unexplored possibilities. Like cyberpunk, it envisions high-tech dsytopias--Better Futures For Mankind (TM) packaged by megacorporations and delivered only to the elite. Like steampunk, its tech is sometimes messy and sometimes smelly--and sometimes just a little mad, too. But biopunk isn't about cybernetics or steam engines. Its technology is built of protein and cellulose, not brass or silicon, and it's programmed with a different sort of code than 1s and 0s--the G, A, T, C, and U of DNA and RNA. Biopunk's technology grows and breeds. It lives inside of us--sometimes, it is us.

Genetic alteration, living machinery, computers that grow--these belong to biopunk. Bioengineering plays a significant part in the biopunk tech landscape, and the genre explores this tech's effect on individuals and the community. Although biopunk often focuses on the genetic alteration of humans, its biotechnology can drive any domain of society: transportation, warfare, computers, medicine, art, information, entertainment.

Biopunk doesn't just live in designer gene studios or well-lit labs. It exploits men as easily as animals or plants, and sometimes blurs the lines between them. In biopunk, mad scientists have a place as prominent as hackers. H. G. Wells, with his Island of Dr. Moreau, can be considered the great granduncle of the genre. Mary Shelly with Frankenstein, the grand matriarch.

As in all good punk genres, societies in biopunk are usually stratified: a wealthy, privileged elite towers over a poor, underserved population, frowning down upon a community of punks who refuse to sit still below them: the hackers, the gangs, the gene runners, the black market clinicians.

Biopunk can be so sleek it looks like cyberpunk, so advanced it acts like fantasy, so dark and large it shudders like horror.

Welcome to biopunk. What worlds will we build?

--Christine

Comments (5) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Beggin’ forgiveness, I don’t often post on anything, but when Steampunk magazine linked me here I was overjoyed to find you were working on a subject that had piqued my interest several years ago. There was a novel called “Too Too Solid Flesh” by Nick O’Donohoe about a group of Shakespeare- performing bio-androids (hence the reference in the title) in a fairly dystopian future. What struck me about the book was how everything in the city was built on living technology. Jewelry that moved, houses that healed… I always loved the concept behind it and thought that maybe, just maybe, it would bark up your tree. Or not. Either way, fantastic having you around, and I look forward to dropping in and seeing how it goes.
    ~CB

    • CB,

      Everything built on living technology? Yes, that barks right up my tree! And I agree with Leah. ^_^ Thank you for the recommendation. I’d never heard of the book before. Just snagged a used copy for myself on Amazon and cn’t wait to dig in!

      It sounds like you might be interested in Thomas Easton’s Organic Future series. I haven’t read any of his novels (Sparrowhawk is the first), but his short story, “Down on the Truck Farm” (starring some adorable living truck puppies) appeared in a used 1990 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine that I picked up some time ago. The cover of that issue is a lot of fun: http://backissues.com/issue/Magazine-Fantasy-and-Science-Fiction-March-1990. And so is the story! I plan to write up a review of the series sometime down the road. I’d love to get my hands on his novels.

      –Christine

  2. CB,

    Thanks for your comments, and the recommendation. Any book that involves Shakespeare-performing bio-androids is guaranteed to make the very top of my reading list.

    Cheers,
    Leah


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