Biopunk Dystopias

BookBiopunk Dystopias

Biopunk Dystopias

Genetic Engineering, Society and Science Fiction

Liverpool Science Fiction Texts and Studies, 56


December 9th, 2016


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An Open Access edition of this book is available on the Liverpool University Press website and the OAPEN library.
Biopunk Dystopias contends that we find ourselves at a historical nexus, defined by the rise of biology as the driving force of scientific progress, a strongly grown mainstream attention given to genetic engineering in the wake of the Human Genome Project (1990-2003), the changing sociological view of a liquid modern society, and shifting discourses on the posthuman, including a critical posthumanism that decenters the privileged subject of humanism. The book argues that this historical nexus produces a specific cultural formation in the form of "biopunk", a subgenre evolved from the cyberpunk of the 1980s. The analysis deals with dystopian science fiction artifacts of different media from the year 2000 onwards that project a posthuman intervention into contemporary socio-political discourse based in liquid modernity in the cultural formation of biopunk. Biopunk makes use of current posthumanist conceptions in order to criticize contemporary reality as already dystopian, warning that a future will only get worse, and that society needs to reverse its path, or else destroy all life on this planet. As Rosi Braidotti argues, "there is a posthuman agreement that contemporary science and biotechnologies affect the very fibre and structure of the living and have altered dramatically our understanding of what counts as the basic frame of reference for the human today". The proposed book analyzes this alteration as directors, creators, authors, and artists from the field of science fiction extrapolate it from current trends.

'An important intervention into the ways sf studies is done - it is no longer even remotely credible to treat sf as just a literary genre - and the strengths of this book makes that argument more effectively than any polemic about the transmediality of sf.'
Mark Bould, University of the West of England

'A comprehensive, meticulously researched, and wide-ranging intervention in the union between genetic discourse and contemporary science fiction that has the potential to be very influential in the field.'
Professor Gerry Canavan, Marquette University

‘Biopunk Dystopias represents a substantial contribution to the field and marks Lars Schmeink as a formidable researcher. With the commercialisation of the life sciences continuing apace, the insights he offers in this book will only become more pertinent over the coming years. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the mutated future rushing straight for us.’
Jack Fennell, Fantastika

'Lars Schmeink’s Biopunk Dystopias provides a useful, and mostly persuasive, account of the visions of bioengineering that have come to populate post-2000 science fiction. All of the chapters are dense and rich with insights.'
Steven Shaviro, Journal for the Fantastik in the Arts

'Each discussion engages thoroughly with relevant scholarship, from biopolitics to game studies to creature films and the horror genre. Together, they make a convincing case that biological themes are prominent in contemporary sf across media, appearing in works that are marked by a critically dystopian sensibility.'
Rebecca Wilbanks, Science Fiction Studies Review

'Schmeink brings together perspectives of various disciplines and theoretical approaches, including sociology, human-animal studies, monster studies and game studies, which not only contributes to gaining insight in his analysis, but also the scientific discourse for a variety other fields opens. The discursive link that Schmeink develops between scientific progress, economic interests, social change and fiction as an instrument of cultural intervention represents the scientific and social added value of Biopunk Dystopias.' (Translated from German)
Madeline Becker, MEDIENwissenschaft


Biopunk Dystopias is a strong contribution to twenty-first-century science fiction studies and studies of dystopian fiction, but also will interest critics invested in studies of literary and filmic representations of late capitalism, biopower, and necropolitics.’
The Year’s Work in English Studies

Author Information

Lars Schmeink is Professor of Media Studies at the Institut für Kultur- und Medienmanagement of the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg and the editor of Collision of Realities: Establishing Research on the Fantastic in Europe. (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2012).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
1. Introduction9
2. Dystopia, Science Fiction, Posthumanism, and Liquid Modernity26
3. The Anthropocene, the Posthuman, and the Animal79
4. Science, Family and the Monstrous Progeny127
5. Individuality, Choice, and Genetic Manipulation154
6. The Utopian, the Dystopian, and the Heroic Deeds of One187
7. 9/11 and the Wasted Lives of Posthuman Zombies208
8. Conclusion245
Works Cited255