Extra Credit: The Biotech to Biopunk--Shiwei Huang

Lejla Kucukalic talked about biopunk and different types of science fictions on Thursday. The illustration on the Genetics and Society website is from Wildseed by Wayne Barlowe. Science fictions reflect the popular interested in biotechnology and biomedicine. At the same time, science fictions also have influenced biomedical research. One of the earliest science fictions is Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley in 1818. Kuckalic discussed about Frankenstein, and she believed that it represented a tormented scientist and the rewards and dangers resulted from science. Kuckalic summarized four types of science fictions of genetics, and they are monster narratives, human being narratives, GMO narratives, and biopunk. Examples for monster narratives are “Tarantula,” “The Deadly Mantis,” “Splice,” and so on. In Human being narratives science fictions, there is usually an empathy towards the humans that are manipulated and critical assessment about the significance of new technology. Examples of this type of science fiction are “Never Let Me Go,” “Problems of Creativeness,” “Screwfly Solution,” and so on. A typical GMO narratives science fiction is “The Windup Girl.” It is set in 23rd century when biotechnology is dominant and controls food production, and the novel blames businessmen and politicians because they use biotechnology to seize power. Biopunk is the last type of novel that includes all the first three categories. It emerged in 1980s, and it has elements of traditional science fiction, urban-industry, gothic fiction, and extreme violence. Examples are “Gene Wars” “Neurolution” “Necrosis”, and so on. Biopunk as a movement holds the belief that the public should not rely on institutes for results, and it advocates open access of genetic information, such as the genetic information of influenza.

The illustration is from Wayne Barlowe.

“Frankenstein,” First edition.

“The Windup Girl”


Lejla Kucukalic, "The Biotech to Biopunk: Science Fiction's Visions of Genetics" <http://socgen.ucla.edu/events/?event_id=85>

Newitz, Annalee, “Biopunk” 8-8-2001 <http://web.archive.org/web/20021220190353/http://www.sfbg.com/SFLife/tech/71.html>

Roberts, Adam. “The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi – review” 12-17-2010. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/dec/18/windup-girl-paolo-bacigalupi-review>

Wade, Phillip, “Shelley and the Miltonic element in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” <http://knarf.english.upenn.edu/Articles/wade.html>

Waynebarlowe. <http://waynebarlowe.wordpress.com/>