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What is Biopunk?

I will be the first to admit that when it comes down to sci-fi subgenres, I’m a bit of a noob. I have read some, like dystopian, but I certainly couldn’t name you a whole lot of books in other genres. So as I was researching what I wanted to do for sci-fi month I stumbled on biopunk.

It made me pause for a minute. Because what is that?

The Short Version

Biopunk is a subgenre that focuses on biotechnology. It is something that has gotten seperated from cyberpunk over the years, though looking back there are certainly older works that can also be seen as biopunk rather than just cyberpunk. You could also see it as a subgenre of cyberpunk. Where cyberpunk focuses more on information technology, biopunk focuses more on the implications of biotechnology.

The Long Version

Cyberpunk is a bigger subgenre that as said focuses on information technology. It focuses on a future where there are rapid technological advantages and invasive changes to the body. Which is the cyber part. The punk part is where the main character is often an alone person living on the edge of society, doing things completely their own way. Someone who in a way, rebels to society’s norms.

Biopunk continues to build on that but replaces the information technologyy with biotechnology.  You can think of human or animal experimentations, genetic engineering or mega corporations that have an exclusive control on biotechnology advantages for instance. It shows the consequences of going over certain boundaries when knowledge is all you care about or when you want to gain power through all means possible.

Main characters of biopunk are often victims of experimentations and genetic engineering. Or they come across it and are struck with the wrongness of it all. How it goes against our morals of how people should be treated. Or it all goes so terribly wrong and they are the victim of that. A well known element of cyberpunk is the illegal laboratory or clinic.

Widely Accepted?

Having said all the above, biopunk is not a subgenre that is widely accepted. There are a lot of people that argue that biopunk isn’t a real subgenre and that it is just cyberpunk. More so many argue that it falls over into so many other subgenres of cyberpunk and that it doesn’t seem to be able to hold to its own rules.

My personal opinion to that is that a lot of genres and subgenres fall over into each other these days. Very rarely do you come across a book that is strictly this or that genre, and it can trigger a lot of discussion and conversation. Which I think is great. None of that means that the subgenre doesn’t exist. So I won’t swipe biopunk away under a rug. Lets have the conversations and discussions on what makes cyberpunk, biopunk, dieselpunk and the like.

Examples

Books
The Island of Dr. Moreau / Biofunk / Unwind / Jurassic Park / Frankenstein

Movies/Tv Shows/Anime
Orphan Black / Dark Angel / Blade Runner / Gattaca / Akira

Games
Bioshock / Prototype

Have you read a book that could be considered biopunk?

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14 thoughts on “What is Biopunk?

  1. I like the idea of biopunk. I’ve been a fan of cyberpunk for a while, and I feel like there can be some overlap between the two for sure, but I’m comfortable with it being its own subgenre. I think it’s really fascinating given the emphasis on the biotech aspects. Makes me think of the body modding referred to a lot in Becky Chambers’ books, especially The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet.

    Orphan Black definitely seems like a great example, and Dr. Moreau and Jurassic PArk even too.

    I’d love to read more biopunk stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t read a ton of Scifi so I’m not really in a position to offer an opinion on whether certain subgenres should exist based on my reading! But what you said about the difference between the two categories does make sense-certainly overlap but a different vibe. I’m fine with that distinction. I’ve read quite a few books that would come into these two genres I think but it might take a while for me to decide which is which.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love thinking about genres in science-fiction and fantasy, because they’re two such BROAD genres that you can’t possibly compartmentalize all the books out there within them. I like the idea of biopunk a lot more than strictly cyberpunk, because for some reason, it’s scarier? I can’t explain it, haha, but Unwind was one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read because of this very reason. Great, comprehensive post, Annemieke! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, I think it is scarier too. Biopunk draws me more than cyberpunk does as well. The idea that some can just do that to a body, to a person. bleh. I’ll have to check out Unwind sometime. 🙂

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  4. I say it’s its own subgenre because how is something that is based on bio technology “cyber”? That would be like saying computer science and biology the same thing. And you are right many subgenres spill over into each other. I think you have to determine what the book is percentage wise. I love that you included The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Frankenstein. 👍✨

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree. They aren’t the same at all.
      Yup and that can be a bit personal as some think the focus lays in different places than others do.
      Those were the first that came to mind for this subgenre. 😀

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  5. Ik ben momenteel aan een nieuwe Boekenkast in cijfers bezig en ondervind daarbij nog maar eens hoe moeilijk het soms is om boeken per genre in te delen vermits ze vaak overlappen. Ergens is het dus soms gewoon een kwestie van kiezen welk verhaal-element voor mij het belangrijkste was. De romantiek, de setting, de … Ik denk trouwens niet dat ik al een boek in dit specifieke subgenre heb gelezen.

    Liked by 1 person

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