is a popular subject of fiction
, especially science fiction
During the early twentieth century, science fiction writers began to consider the possible alteration of human beings and other species, either through the natural alteration of genes or by the use of deliberate genetic engineering. Stories of mutated humans
first became common in the 1930s pulp magazines and in the British scientific romances of the time, mutation often providing the justification for stories of supermen
. Such narratives provide scientifically rationalized accounts of the transformation of human beings and nature, a theme of timeless fascination, as shown by the many examples in ancient mythology and earlier forms of fiction.
While narratives that depict unexpected and uncontrolled mutation (e.g. as a result of radioactivity from nuclear tests) are usually often pessimistic in their attitudes to science and technology, more optimistic (or at least ambiguous) attitudes are sometimes found in narratives that deal with the deliberate alteration of human or other beings. In many comic book series, genetic engineering is sometimes used as a "plausible" explanation for superhuman powers or abilities.
Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda
In the television series Andromeda
, the Nietzscheans
(Homo sapiens invictus
in Latin) are a race of genetically engineered
humans who religiously follow the works of Friedrich Nietzsche
, Social Darwinism
and Dawkinite genetic
competitiveness. They claim to be physically perfect and are distinguished by bone blades protruding outwards from the wrist area.
- Nietzscheans pride themselves on their attractiveness, strength, cunning and treachery; tierlessly working to improve themselves and, through planned reproduction, their offspring. Charlemagne Bolivar, when asked what he wanted, replied:
- "The usual. Hundreds of grandchildren, utter domination of known space, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in terrible, highly improbable accidents that can not be connected to me.
- Our people were meant to be living gods, warrior-poets who roamed the stars bringing civilization, not cowards and bullies who prey on the weak and kill each other for sport. I never imagined they'd prove themselves so inferior. I didn't betray our people — they betrayed themselves. Gaheris Rhade-(The Unconquerable Man, Episode 310)
Anna to the Infinite Power
- In the 1983 film Anna to the Infinite Power, the main character was one of seven genetically cloned humans created by the late Anna Zimmerman as a way to groom a perfect person in her image. After her death, her work was carried on by her successor Dr. Henry Jelliff, who had other plans for the project. But in the end we learn that her original genetic creation, Michaela Dupont, has already acquired her creator's abilities, including how to build a genetic replicator from scratch.
Biohazard/Resident Evil series
The video game series Resident Evil
involves the illegal creation of genetically engineered viruses which turn humans and animals into organisms such as zombies, the Tyrants or Hunters by a world-wide pharmaceutical company called the Umbrella Corporation
In the video game Bioshock
, most of the enemies, as well as the player, gain superpowers and enhance their physical and mental capabilities by means of genetically engineered plasmids
, created by use of ADAM, stem cells secreted by a species of sea slug.
This novel and its sequels are widely recognized by science fiction critics as among the most sophisticated fictional treatments of genetic engineering. They portray genetically-engineered characters whose abilities are far greater than those of ordinary humans (e.g. they are effectively immortal and they function without needing to sleep). At issue is what responsibility they have to use their abilities to help "normal" human beings. Kress explores libertarian
and more collectivist
philosophies, attempting to define the extent of people's mutual responsibility for each other's welfare.
In the Science Fiction series, The Clans have developed a genetic engineering program for their warriors, consisting of eugenics and the use of artificial wombs.
The Champion Maker
In The Champion Maker
, a track coach and teenage phenom stumble upon a dark conspiracy involving genetic engineering while pursuing Olympic gold.
Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium/Empire of Man
In the series, the planet Sauron develops a supersoldier program. The result were the Sauron Cyborgs, and soldiers. The Cyborgs, who made up only a very small part of the population of Sauron, were part highly genetically engineered human, and part machine. Cyborgs held very high status in Sauron society.
Sauron soldiers, who made up the balance of the population, were the result of generations of genetic engineering. The Sauron soldiers had a variety of physical characteristics and abilities that made the soldiers the best in combat and survival in many hostile environments. For instance, their bones were stronger than unmodified humans. Their lungs extract oxygen more efficiently than normal unmodified humans, allowing them to exert themselves without getting short of breath, or function at high altitudes. Sauron soldiers also have the ability to change the focal length of their eyes, so that they can "zoom" in on a distant object, much like an eagle.
The alien Moties also have used genetic enginnering.
Crest/Banner of the Stars
In the Science fiction series, the Abh
are a race of genetically engineered humans, who contiune to practice the technology. All Abh have been adapted to live in zero-gravity environments, with the same features such as beauty, long life, lifelong youthful appearance, blue hair, and a "space sensory organ".
In the TV series Dark Angel
, the main character Max is one of a group of genetically engineered supersoldiers spliced
with feline DNA.
In military science fiction series Exosquad, the plot revolves around the conflict between Terrans (baseline humans) and Neosapiens, a race of genetically engineered sentient (and sterile) humanoids, who were originally bred for slave labour but revolted under the leadership of Phaeton and captured the Homeworlds (Earth, Venus and Mars). During the war, various sub-broods of Neosapiens were invented, such as, Neo Megas (intellectually superior to almost any being in the Solar System), Neo Warriors (cross-breeds with various animals) and Neo Lords (the ultimate supersoldiers).
Genetic modification is also found in the anime series Gundam SEED in coordinators
, who were created from ordinary humans by GM.
Guardians of the Galaxy
In Marvel Comics
, the 31st century adventurers called the Guardians of the Galaxy
are genetically engineered residents of Mercury
, and Pluto
The film Gattaca
deals with the idea of genetic engineering and eugenics
as it projects what class relations would look like in a future society after a few generations of the possibility of genetic engineering.
The video game Halo
has a genetically modified supersoldier called a Spartan
and one of the protagonists you play as is Master Chief
, otherwise known as John 117
or Spartan 117
strip Lobster Random
features a former soldier-turned-torturer, who has been modified to not feel pain or need to sleep and has a pair of lobster claws grafted to his hips. This state has left him somewhat grouchy.
Metal Gear Solid series
In Metal Gear Solid
, the Genome Army
were given gene therapy enhancements.
Also in the series, the Les Enfants Terribles project involved genetic engineering.
The Moreau Series
The Moreau Series
by S. Andrew Swann
has as the central premise the proliferation of humanoid genetically-engineered animals. The name of the series (and of the creatures themselves) comes from the H. G. Wells
novel The Island of Dr. Moreau
. In the Wells novel, humanoid animals were created surgically, though this detail has been changed to be genetic manipulation in most film adaptations.
The Neanderthal Parallax
The Neanderthal Parallax
by Robert J. Sawyer
depicts a eugenic society that has benefitted immensely from the sterilization of dangerous criminals as well as preventing the 5% least intelligent from procreating for ten generations.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
The character Rei Ayanami
is implied to be a lab-created being combining human and angelic DNA
. (compare to the Biblical Nephilim
Genetic engineering (or something very like it) features prominently in Last and First Men
, a 1930 novel by Olaf Stapledon
Oryx and Crake
Genetic engineering is depicted as widespread in the civilized world of Oryx and Crake
...Prior to the apocalypse, though its use among humans is not mentioned. Author Margaret Atwood describes many transgenic creatures such as Pigoons (though originally designed to be harvested for organs, post-apocalyptic-plague, they become more intelligent and vicious, traveling in packs), Snats (snake-rat hybrids who may or may not be extinct), wolvogs (wolf-dog hybrids), and the relatively harmless "rakunks" (skunk-raccoon hybrids, originally designed as pets with no scent glands).
A bacterium in an agricultural experiment accidentally escapes from a research laboratory in Canada, reaching the American Northeast and Great Britain.
Using a method similar to the DNA Resequencer
from Stargate SG-1
, and even called DNA Resequencing
, the Operation Overdrive Power Rangers
were given powers of superhuman strength, enhanced hearing, enhanced eyesight, super bouncing, super speed, and invisibility.
Quake 2 and Quake 4
These games contain genetically-engineered Stroggs
In the long-running 2000 AD
series Rogue Trooper
, the eponymous hero is a Genetic Infantryman
, one of an elite group of supersoldiers genetically modified
to resist the poisons left in the Nu-Earth
atmosphere by decades of war.
The Seedling Stars (James Blish)
's The Seedling Stars
(1956) is the classic story of controlled mutation
for adaptability. In this novel (originally a series of short stories) the Adapted Men are reshaped human beings, designed for life on a variety of other planets. This is one of science fiction's most unreservedly optimistic accounts to date of technological efforts to reshape human beings.
Space: Above and Beyond
The Space: Above and Beyond
series includes a race of genetically engineered
and artificially gestated
humans who are born at the physical age
of 18, and are collectively known as InVitros
or sometimes, derogatorily
, "tanks" or "nipple-necks". At the time of the series storyline, this artificial human race was integrated with the parent species, but significant discrimination still occurred.
Sonic the Hedgehog series
The Ultimate Life Form
project, that produced Shadow the Hedgehog
was a genetic engineering project.
In the Star Trek
universe, genetic engineering has featured in a couple of films
, and a number of television
The Breen, the Dominion, Species 8472, the Xindi, and the Federation use technology with organic components.
Khan Noonien Singh, who appeared in Space Seed and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, was a product of genetic engineering. His physical structure was modified to make him stronger and to give him greater stamina than a regular human. His mind was also enhanced. However, the creation of Khan would have serious consequences because the superior abilities given to him created superior ambition. Along with other enhanced individuals, they tried to take over the planet. When they were reawakened by the Enterprise, Khan set himself to taking over the universe. Later, he became consumed by grief and rage, and set himself on the goal of destroying Kirk.
Others of these genetically enhanced augments wreaked havoc in the 22nd century, and eventually some of their enhanced DNA was blended with Klingon DNA, creating the human-looking Klingons of the early 23rd century (See Star Trek: Enterprise episodes "Affliction" and "Divergence").
Because of the experiences with genetic engineering, the Federation had banned it except to correct genetic birth defects, but a number of parents still illegally subjected their children to genetic engineering for a variety of reasons. This often created brilliant but unstable individuals. Such children are not allowed to serve in Starfleet or practice medicine, though Julian Bashir is a notable exception to this. Despite the ban, the Federation allowed the Darwin station to conduct human genetic engineering, which resulted in a telepathic, telekentic humans with a very effective immune system.
In the Star Wars
universe, genetic engineering was also used.
In Attack of the Clones, the Kamino cloners who created the clone army for the Galactic Republic had used engineering to enhance their clones. They modified the genetic structure of all but one to accelerate their growth rate, make them less independent, and make them better suited to combat operations.
Later, the Yuuzhan Vong are a race who exclusively use organic technology and regard mechanical technology as heresy. Everything from starships to communications devices to weapons are bred and grown to suit their needs.
In the show Stargate SG-1, the DNA Resequencer was a device built by the Ancients, designed to make extreme upgrades to humans by realigning their DNA and upgrading their brain activity. The machine gave them superhuman abilities, such as telekensis, telepathy, precognition, superhuman senses, strength, and intellect, the power to heal at an incredible rate, and the power to heal others by touch.
In the futuristic game series, the Imperium of Man's Space Marines
are genetically modified to become superhuman soldiers. At the same time the Tau Empire
uses a form of eugenic breeding to improve the physical and mental condition of its various castes.
In the book, Methuselah’s Virus, an ageing pharmaceutical billionaire accidentally creates a contagious virus capable of infecting people with extreme longevity when his genetic engineering experiment goes wrong. The novel then examines the problem of what happens if Methuselah’s Virus spreads to everyone on the entire planet.
In World Hunger, author Brian Kenneth Swain paints the harrowing picture of a life sciences company that field tests a new strain of genetically modified crop, the unexpected side effect of which is the creation of several new species of large and very aggressive insects.
Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future
Genetic Engineering is an essential theme of Man After Man, where it is used to colonize other star systems and save the humans of earth from extinction.
Eugenics is a recurrent theme in science fiction
, often with both dystopian
elements. The two giant contributions in this field are the novel Brave New World
(1932) by Aldous Huxley
, which describes a society where control of human biology by the state results in permanent social stratification.
There tends to be a eugenic undercurrent in the science fiction concept of the supersoldier. Several depictions of these supersoldiers usually have them bred for combat or genetically selected for attributes that are beneficial to modern or future combat.
Brave New World
The Brave New World theme also plays a role in the 1997 film Gattaca
, whose plot turns around reprogenetics
, genetic testing
, and the social consequences of liberal eugenics
. Boris Vian
(under the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan) takes a more light-hearted approach in his novel Et on tuera tous les affreux
("And we'll kill all the ugly ones").
The Gate to Women's Country
Other novels touching upon the subject include The Gate to Women's Country
by Sheri S. Tepper
and That Hideous Strength
by C. S. Lewis
. The Eugenics Wars
are a significant part of the background story of the Star Trek
universe (episodes "Space Seed
", "Cold Station 12
", "The Augments
" and the film The Wrath of Khan
). Eugenics also plays a significant role in the Neanderthal Parallax
trilogy where eugenics-practicing Neanderthals from a near-utopian parallel world create a gateway to earth. Cowl
by Neal Asher
describes the collapse of western civilization due to dysgenics
. Also Eugenics is the name for the medical company in La Foire aux immortels
book by Enki Bilal
and on the Immortel (Ad Vitam)
movie by the same author.
In Frank Herbert's Dune
series of novels, selective breeding programs form a significant theme. Early in the series, the Bene Gesserit
religious order manipulates breeding patterns over many generations in order to create the Kwisatz Haderach
. In God Emperor of Dune
, the emperor Leto II
again manipulates human breeding in order to achieve his own ends. The Bene Tleilaxu
also employed genetic engineering to create human beings with specific genetic attributes. The Dune series ended with causal determinism playing a large role in the development of behavior, but the eugenics theme remained a crucial part of the story.
In Orson Scott Card
's novel Ender's Game
is only allowed to be conceived because of a special government exception due to his parent's high intelligence and the extraordinary performance of his siblings. In Ender's Shadow
is a test-tube baby
and the result of a failed eugenics experiment aimed at creating child geniuses.
Time Enough for Love
In the novels Methuselah's Children
and Time Enough for Love
by Robert A. Heinlein
, a large trust fund is created to give financial encouragement to marriage among people (the Howard Families
) whose parents and grandparents were long lived. The result is a subset of Earth's population who has significantly above-average life spans. Members of this group appear in many of the works by the same author.
In Eoin Colfer
's book The Supernaturalist
, Ditto is a Bartoli Baby, which is the name for a failed experiment of the famed Dr. Bartoli. Bartoli tried to create a superior race of humans, but they ended in arrested development
, with mutations including extra sensory perception
and healing hands.
In Gene Roddenberry
's science-fiction television series Andromeda
, the entire Nietzschean
race is founded on the principals of selective breeding.
In Larry Niven
series, the character Teela Brown
is a result of several generations of winners of the "Birthright Lottery", a system which attempts to encourage lucky people to breed, treating good luck as a genetic trait.
In season 2 of Dark Angel
, the main 'bad guy' Ames White is a member of a cult known as the Conclave
which has infiltrated various levels of society to breed super-humans. They are trying to exterminate all the Transgenics, including the main character Max Guevara, whom they view as being genetically unclean for having some animal DNA spliced with human.
Immortel (Ad Vitam)
In the movie Immortel (Ad Vitam)
, Director/Writer Enki Bilal
titled the name of the evil corrupt organization specializing in genetic manipulation, and some very disturbing genetic "enhancement" eugenics. Eugenics has come to be a powerful organization and uses people and mutants of "lesser" genetic stock as guinea pigs. The movie is based on the Nikopol trilogy
in Heavy Metal comic books.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
In the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
a fictional character called Pastor Richards, who is a caricature of an extreme and insane televangelist
, is featured as a guest on a discussion radio show about morality. On this show he describes shooting people who do not agree with him and who are not "morally correct", the show's host describes this as "amateur eugenics".
In the 2006 Mike Judge
a fictional character, pvt. Joe Bauers, aka Not Sure (played by Luke Wilson
), awakens from a cryogenic stasis in the year 2505 into a world devastated by dysgenic degeneration. Bowers, who was chosen for his averageness, is discovered to be the smartest human alive and eventually becomes the president of America.
Battle Angel Alita
The manga series Battle Angel Alita
, its sequel BAA Last Order
, or Gunnm
and Gunnm LO
as it is known in Japan by Yukito Kishiro, contains multiple references to and themes of eugenics, the most obvious of which is the sky city Tiphares/Salem (depending on the translation). Dr. Desty Nova, in the first series in Volume 9 reveals the eugenical nature of the city to Alita/Gally/Yoko and it is further explored and explained in the sequel series.
In the French police drama Crimson Rivers
inspectors Pierre Niemans (played by Jean Reno
) and his coleague Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel
) attempt to solve series of murders triggered by eugenics experiment that was going on for years in university town of Guernon.
In the Cosmic Era
universe of the Gundam series, war is fought between the normal human beings without genetical enhancements, also known as the Naturals, and the Coordinators, who are genetically enhanced. It explores the pros and cons as well as possible repercussions from Eugenics