Songs, Movies, Novels with "genetic enrichment"
January 21, 2007 12:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for novels, movies, lyrics, poems, games, ie nonscientific cultural artifacts where germline engineering of humans or humans with added artificial genes appear.

Bonus if they are not state-imposed eugenics on the whole population as in Huxley's Brave New World. Note: I do not read scifi or watch tv and will not be aware of even obvious references but will be grateful for your shared knowledge.
posted by Listener to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Almost any superhero comic.
posted by martinrebas at 12:13 PM on January 21, 2007

Accelerando deals mainly with cybernetic enhancement, but mentions gene enhancement several times - p53 tumor suppressor modifications, telomerase activation, etc. It's freely downloadable under a CC license.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:17 PM on January 21, 2007

Engineering of humans: GATTACA the movie.

In some sense, the human instrumentality project in Neo Genesis Evangelion.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 12:18 PM on January 21, 2007

Michael Crichton's most recent book, Next.
posted by frogan at 12:52 PM on January 21, 2007

Best answer: Exactly what you want (the motivation for your question?): Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
posted by Methylviolet at 12:52 PM on January 21, 2007

Response by poster: the motivation for your question?
I had no such references and need them for a project. So thanks all so far. I was vaguely aware of the idea of superheros, but if anyone could name a few that fit exactly, that'd be great.
posted by Listener at 12:59 PM on January 21, 2007

Best answer: And of course there's Futurama:

"If anyone ever got hold of anchovy DNA, they could chop out the oil-making gene, stick it in a bunch of third-world kids, and BAM! ... cheap, effective oil."
posted by kisch mokusch at 1:18 PM on January 21, 2007

Best answer: Check out Nancy Kress' story "Beggars in Spain", both the original prize-winning novella and the three novels it turned into. It's about a group of people (who we meet as kids and young adults in the first book) who were genetically engineered before birth to never need to sleep and the social problems that ensue from others who are jealous of their gifts -- very X-Men-ish.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:22 PM on January 21, 2007

Best answer: Blood Music by Greg Bear. It's not quite genes, it's more nanotech but still pretty interesting and a good read. He also wrote Darwin's Radio and Darwin's Children which address the idea of evolutionary jumps and class divisions that come up as a result of new "species" of a sort. Again, not exactly right, but interestingly close.
posted by jessamyn at 1:39 PM on January 21, 2007

A bunch of Greg Egan's work, but especially the short story 'The Moat'. Quite a bit of his work is online and is linked to from his Wikipedia entry and his homepage.
posted by ganseki at 1:40 PM on January 21, 2007

posted by magikker at 1:47 PM on January 21, 2007

Response by poster: Wikipedia says Spiderman became that way from a spider bite. So it's more of just fantasy than specifically germline engineering or addition or HAC's, human artificial chromosomes. . . I see there is a modernized "ultimate" Spiderman where the spider was genetically modified, but the transmission to the human is still fantasy/supernatural, the spider bite. Also I see there are different characters cloned from Spiderman, but I am not interested in adult cloning, just modified germlines. Actually, a spider bite figures in my project, so thanks for the serendipity.
posted by Listener at 1:57 PM on January 21, 2007

Best answer: Pater Watts writes a lot about this kind of stuff; any of his books that I've seen at least touch on the subject. And he's super-smart.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:16 PM on January 21, 2007

That's "Peter Watts". Having some real problems with mental hiccups today.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:22 PM on January 21, 2007

C.S. Friedman's In Conquest Born and its sequel The Wilding. They're space operas about two interstellar empires at war. One of them has embraced genetic engineering and is researching psychic powers.

I remember there being a thread about genetic manipulation in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series (again space opera), particularly in Cetaganda, but I don't recall whether there was explicit genetic manipulation or just selective breeding.
posted by aneel at 2:27 PM on January 21, 2007

Err... "explicit genetic engineering".
posted by aneel at 2:29 PM on January 21, 2007

Engineering of humans: GATTACA the movie.

Actually, one of the points they make is that there's no engineering. All they do is select a sperm and ovum, or maybe generate an artificial sperm or ovum out of the parents' DNA. But they specifically make the point any kid they get is a kid that they could have had naturally, if probably an unlikely one.

This sort of thing is a staple of SF of varying quality. Things I can think of offhand, in addition to what's been mentioned already, include:

Hamilton's "Night's Dawn" books, though it's a minor matter

Stirling's Draka books, where the gene-tampered people are mostly space lesbians out to enslave the planet.

Brin's Glory Season, set in a far future world where sexual dimorphism has been radically enhanced by germline gene tampering. Also deals with life as a clone.

Bujold's Falling Free, since it has the quaddies.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:51 PM on January 21, 2007

Best answer: The Elementary Particles. I'd tell you more but it would spoil the book for you...
posted by lovejones at 3:07 PM on January 21, 2007

Best answer: Seconding Blood Music, in both the novella and book versions.

Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Imago), which you can find in a single volume. Good stuff.

I don't recall the individual stories, but you might also check out the Not of Woman Born anthology.
posted by metabrilliant at 3:33 PM on January 21, 2007

You might like Cyteen by C. J. Cherryh. Lots of human cloning and selection (if not direct DNA tinkering) for certain traits in the clones.
posted by Quietgal at 4:39 PM on January 21, 2007

Best answer: The gratuitously titled Beyond Infinity by Gregory Benford deals with heavily modified humans in the very distant future.
posted by squidlarkin at 5:41 PM on January 21, 2007

Any large number of Robert Heinlein novels: Time Enough for Love, The Number of the Beast, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Beyond this Horizon all deal with either cloning humans for rejunevations and/or organ replacement.

However, in Beyond the Horizon, a government agency oversees the genetic "improvement" of humans. Their job includs maintaining a group of control naturals against which the genetic changes could be compared.

But I also found this website with a good list specifically for your needs.
posted by rcavett at 9:10 PM on January 21, 2007

Power metal band The Lord Weird Slough Feg's album Traveller is a concept album about a space pirate whose genes are crossed with dog genes by an evil professor, making him into a human canine hybrid creature. It rules. Here's a YouTube of a live version of one of the tracks.
posted by evisceratordeath at 10:12 PM on January 21, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, all for your replies. I've marked the ones that I have been able to confirm seem to be what I'm looking for. Still open to more and will be back.
posted by Listener at 11:05 PM on January 21, 2007

Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon is one of the earliest modern treatments of genetic engineering; his Friday is another.

Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon.

The Genetic Buccaneer, E.C. Tubb.

Nearly anything by Iain Banks; I'd recommend starting with The Player of Games.

Warren Spector's video game, Deus Ex.

These are works that stand out in my memory as being unusually interesting; I could think of hundreds more. If there's an angle or a particular perspective you're interested in exploring, please say so.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:52 AM on January 22, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, ikkyu2, well, what I'm looking for is especially ones that have broken out from straight scifi or fantasy into a more popular realm, more mainstream, areas where it's not a staple of the genre. I seem to have a lot of those staple type examples now. I'm interested in the effects on society of a few people having the opportunity to choose to enrich (and experiment with) their offspring. Definitely not interested in whole GE societies or interplanetary wars type thing. More like explorations of what could happen here when the inevitable few do start to become "GenRich" to strengthen their position as an "elite" or ruling class in our society as it may evolve, rather than a focus on the escapist adventure yarn type stuff. This symposium report is what got me started on this. In case anyone wants to chat, my email is in the profile (just don't want to break the rules here.)
posted by Listener at 9:44 AM on January 22, 2007

Response by poster: Kisch mokusch's joke was great. It's in pop culture, and it shows the strategy of offering the crippleware version of the technology to poor guinea pigs -- I mean humans.
posted by Listener at 10:20 AM on January 22, 2007

I can't think of any cultural artifacts that wouldn't fall into what you're categorizing as "genre fiction," Listener.

You should hunt down Beyond This Horizon, though; it was written long before genetic engineering was a "staple of the genre." It's my favorite Heinlein novel.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:14 PM on January 22, 2007

Response by poster: Ikkyu2, I will look for it. Thanks. I can read a few scifi/fantasy things, but not too much, so I have to pick and choose. It seems it hasn't percolated into the popular culture that much and people do not generallydistinguish germline modification and HAC versus cloning and somatic cell gene therapy. Which may be a good thing.
posted by Listener at 5:20 PM on January 22, 2007

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