Good evening! I'm glad you guys are still giving my blog plenty of support. Periodically, I talk about some of the genres that have a close relationship to steampunk. There are many literary and cinematic genres that end with the word punk. Several of them are very interesting and becoming more stylized each year. My current post is covering biopunk and it's basically a really messy version genetic engineering. Steampunk features worlds that rely on steam power. Dieselpunk usually focuses on the interwar periods and diesel fuel. Cyberpunk emphasizes futuristic periods with computer technology. Every punk genre focuses on a specific resource. Biopunk covers a world that has a fascination with genetic engineering or splicing. I'll cover the genre in quite a bit of detail today and give some potential examples.
What makes biopunk different than traditional forms of genetic engineering? Honestly, it's usually a really elaborate form of junk science. It's not a realistic genre. Usually, an experiment or accident in a laboratory creates monsters or weird side effects for human test subjects. The setting is usually futuristic, although it occasionally takes place during the modern era. Mankind is developing new advancements in genetic engineering and their curiosity leads to catastrophic events. Like many punk genres, biopunk serves as a warning. Are you thinking about bringing someone back from the dead with some enhancements? I wouldn't recommend it because they're not going to come back as the same person. Maybe our military would like to create an army of super soldiers. Inevitably, it's going to backfire on them. Scientists are always eager to experiment with alien technology in the movies. That's a bad idea too. Let's create a brand new virus that will wipe out our enemies. I guarantee it will end badly for everyone. See what I mean? Science is a valuable commodity, but it turns into a nightmare when people abuse boundaries and become corrupt. Keep one thing in mind. The situation needs to focus on people or entities who receive drastic genetic alterations.
Believe it or not, biopunk has precursors. The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells is a great example. A mad scientist turns animals into hybrids with human features. It's a very disturbing and violent book that focuses on themes like compromised morality, God complexes, survival of the fittest, tiers on the food chain, etc. The book has a lot of interesting concepts, but it's not for the faint of heart.
Ironically, the best and most deliberate examples of biopunk are video games. One of my favorite examples is the BioShock series. It's a combination of biopunk and dieselpunk. The first two games take place in an underwater city called Rapture. The residents of Rapture use gene tonics and mutagens recreationally. Can you believe it? Naturally, it leads to increased mutation, mental instability, and the total downfall of the city. Many unfortunate characters are also the subjects of brutal experiments. It's an entertaining series with a complex storyline. I highly recommend the BioShock games for anyone who owns an Xbox or PlayStation.
A game called Prototype also appears to fit the biopunk mold. The protagonist, Alex Mercer, was the subject of genetic engineering and now he's a shape shifter. The game has a big emphasis on melee attacks, featuring Alex's shape shifting abilities. I find it similar to the Souls games except the story takes place in an urban environment. The gameplay is quite brutal. Alex even has the ability to completely absorb his enemies.
I think The Last of Us works as a biopunk game. It features a post-apocalyptic setting with zombies who were infected by a bizarre fungus. Well, I'm sure the fungus came from someplace. Most likely a laboratory. If I remember correctly, The Last of Us features a mutated version of the Cordyceps fungus. I seriously doubt it mutated on a natural level. It's a fabulous post-apocalyptic game and a sequel is coming out in 2018.
The Resident Evil franchise is probably the original biopunk game series. At the very least, it's probably one of the most well known examples of biopunk. Keep in mind, Resident Evil features a lot of creatures beyond zombies. Explaining it won't help you very much. Basically, a team of soldiers must stop a deadly virus and monster outbreak from spreading across the globe in every game. Try a Google search for the monsters in Resident Evil and see what pops up. You're going to find a ton of freaky abominations.
Occasionally, I find biopunk candidates in cinema. eXistenZ is a weird yet interesting biopunk film that came out in 1996. In the world of eXistenZ, video games have a biotechnological element. The players insert connectors in their spines and then the characters have a chance to have a more realistic version of gameplay. One of the characters develops shape shifting abilities along the way. For example, his hand turns into a functional gun. It's not one of my favorite movies, but I definitely noticed a lot of biopunk elements.
Splice appears to have some biopunk elements too. Scientists create a hybrid that has DNA from humans and animals. I guess it's supposed to signify a big step in science. The plot is really thin, so I can't honestly identity a lot of substance in the film. Naturally, this new hybrid becomes dangerous, almost like an apex predator. It can adapt easily to changing environments and brings a lot of horror elements to the movie.
There's a television series called Orphan Black that seems to have some biopunk qualities. In short, a woman has multiple clones, all of whom have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. If nothing else, Orphan Black definitely fits the punk theme. It has very dark and rebellious elements. I actually believe a lot of works that feature cloning can easily fit within the biopunk genre.
What about something like Jurassic Park? I'm not totally sure if the Jurassic films and books truly count as biopunk. Possibly. It's definitely a good example of science and greed that went horribly wrong. Dinosaurs went extinct long before mankind existed and everything got screwed up because someone wanted to make money from a new type of amusement park. Human beings don't stand a chance against dinosaurs. I guess there can be a strong case for Jurassic Park and biopunk. The creatures were created in laboratories with a combination of DNA from dinosaurs and other animals. Jurassic World is probably the best example. It includes a newer and deadlier type of dinosaur that's a mishmash of many creatures.
Can biopunk work as a stylized genre? I think biopunk definitely seems like a legitimate genre, but that's a matter of personal opinion. It can be confusing because a lot of genres feature genetic engineering and body modifications. For example, genetic engineering is not uncommon in the other punk genres like steampunk or cyberpunk. Think of it this way. If splicing or genetic engineering is the true hallmark of a specific work, biopunk is a potential candidate.
There are several works that may seem like biopunk at first glance, but aren't upon further examination. John Carpenter's The Thing is not a biopunk film. It includes an alien that can infect people on a viral level. The results involve shape shifting and body horror, but it's not the product of genetic engineering. Likewise, the Terminator series is not biopunk. Terminators are basically robots with synthetic human flesh. The Fallout and Metro games are more in the realm of atompunk. They include a lot of mutated creatures and humans courtesy of radioactive environments. The Evil Within game series isn't biopunk either. You'll encounter a lot of deformed beings and mishmash creatures, but it's actually a psychological experience. Everything is happening in the player's head. In a way, the monsters aren't real.
Hopefully, this post will give you a basic idea about biopunk. There aren't many online resources, but I'll list a few. Leave a comment if you want to have a discussion about this topic. That's all for now. Good luck with your holiday shopping and feel free to come back next week.
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