Biofiction: Genetic Ethics Edition

Issues: 

 

CBHD often receives requests from educators and other individuals for popular resources that engage bioethics through various media (fiction, film, and television). In this resource, we offer an overview of materials relevant to genetic ethics in fictional books and series. Readers are cautioned that these works represent a wide variety of genres and may not be appropriate for all audiences. If there is a work you think we missed, email us at info@cbhd.org.

 

Genetic Ethics

  • Atwood, Margaret. MaddAddam Trilogy (Series)
    • Oryx and Crake (Anchor, 2004)
    • The Year of the flood (2010)
    • MaddAddam (2013)
    • The trilogy explores the aftermath of a cataclysmic bioterror pandemic that eradicates most of the human species. In the first volume, the main character Jimmy is the unwitting accomplice to the bioterror event for which his friend Crake/Glen is responsible. As Jimmy realizes the scope of what has happened he seeks to protect a humanoid species (the Crakes) that Crake has genetically-engineered, with a group of friends referred to as the MaddAddamites. The second volume follows an environmental cult, God's Gardeners, and two of their members - Toby and Ren - as they seek to survive in the aftermath of a landscape infested with genetically-engineered intelligent creatures. The final volume brings the survivors together as they seek to rebuild some semblance of civilization in the midst of threats from other humans who have seemingly lost their humanity. (Topics: Animal-Human Hybrids, Bioterrorism, Biotechnology, Egg Donation, Euthanasia, Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Personhood, Posthuman, Research Ethics)
  • Baciagalupi, Paolo. The Windup Girl (Nightshade Books, 2010)
    • In the wake of environmental disasters and industrial bioterrorism, Thailand has survived as a refuge from the global influence of multinational bioengineering firms in high stakes pursuit of gene patents. Culturally resistant to genetically reengineered material, the streets of Bangkok are the home to Emiko, a discarded Windup Girl, the product of Japanese genetic engineering to create New People. (Topics: Genetic Engineering, Human-Animal Hybrids, Human Enhancement/ Remaking Humanity, Personhood, Transhumanism)
  • Bova, Ben and Eric Choi, eds. Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction (Tor, 2014)
    • Carbide Tipped Pens is an anthology of seventeen short stories in the sub-genre of ‘hard science fiction,’ described by the editors as a “literature of change . . . that examines the implications—both beneficial and dangerous—of new science and technologies” (11-12).  Together with tales of outer space, aliens, and the survival of human beings, advancements in biotechnology likewise are creatively explored in the narratives. “Old Timer’s Game” imagines sports medicine’s transformation into performance enhancement that alters not only the players, but the popular world of professional sports. Meanwhile, “Skin Deep” envisions biomedical advancements through a custom-designed medical tattoo that shifts medicine from healing into more nefarious purposes. Without shying away from the technical aspects, these short stories intelligently explore the impact of advancing technology upon individuals and culture while making the ‘science’ in ‘sci-fi’ very practical and accessible to the reader. (Review written by Marie Butson, MDIV, MA) (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Genomics, Human Enhancement, Personhood)
  • Brown, Dan. Inferno (Doubleday, 2013)
    • In this latest installment, esteemed Harvard professor Robert Langdon finds himself in a life and death mystery in the streets of Florence to track down a rogue geneticist bent on releasing a bioterror attack as his final answer to the impending "population bomb," and inaugurate a transhuman future. (Topics: Bioterrorism, Genetic Engineering/Gene Therapy, Population Control, Public Health, Transhumanism)
  • Card, Orson Scott. The Ender Saga (Series, also referred to as the Ender's Game Series)
    • Ender's Game (1985)
    • Speaker for the Dead (1986)
    • Xenocide (1991)
    • Children of the Mind (1996)
    • Ender in Exile (2008)
    • A sci-fi series for young adults. Amidst the evolving storyline the series raises a number of issues related to technology and the complexities of their personal and societal implications. (Topics: Reproductive Technology, Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Artificial Intelligence and Personhood, Radical Life Extension)
  • Card, Orson Scott. The Homecoming Saga (Tor Books) (Series)
    • The Memory of Earth (1992)
    • The Call of Earth (1992)
    • The Ships of Earth (1994)
    • Earthfall (1995)
    • Earthborn (1995)
    • This science fiction series picks up the narrative of the exiled human race 40 million years after its departure from a devastated planet earth. To prevent a recurrence, humans were enhanced to allow the subtle guidance of an artificial intelligence to protect them from developing advanced technologies that could again threaten destruction. The series follows their return to a revived Earth, where they encounter other sentient creatures that have developed during the human exile. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Neuroenhancement, Personhood)
  • Card, Orson Scott and Kathryn Kidd. Lovelock (Tor Books, 2001)
    • (Topics: Enhancement, Genetic Engineering, Personhood)
  • Card, Orson Scott. The Shadow Saga. (Series)
    • Ender's Shadow (1999)
    • Shadow of the Hegemon (2001)
    • Shadow Puppets (2002)
    • Shadow of the Giant (2005)
    • Shadows in Flight (2012)
    • A sci-fi series for young adults. Amidst the evolving storyline the series raises a number of issues related to technology and the complexities of their personal and societal implications. (Topics: Reproductive Technology, Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Artificial Intelligence and Personhood, Radical Life Extension)
  • Lowry, Louis. The Giver (Houghton Mifflin, 1993)
    • (Topics: Designer Babies, Eugenics, Euthanasia, Genetic Engineering, Neuroethics, Personhood, Reproductive Technology, Surrogacy)
  • McCarthy, T. C. The Subterrene War (Series)
    • Germline (2011)
    • Exogene (2012)
    • Chimera (2012)
    • Graphic Futuristic Wartime trilogy. Global super-powers have exhausted conventional and nuclear warfare options in pursuit of rare metals and turned to an escalating arms race of human enhancement and re-engineering. Each volume of the trilogy is told from a different perspective. Germline begins the series following an embedded military reporter who is the first to be permitted on the frontlines, where he encounters "genetics" (re-engineered female soldiers) and struggles to come to terms with their "personhood." Exogene picks up the narrative a few years later from the perspective of a female "genetic" grappling with her nature and purpose, while at the same time uncovering evidence of further attempts to develop the ultimate soldier. Chimera, the conclusion of the trilogy, resumes the story some years later with a human soldier wrestling with the need to embrace "genetics" as they face new generations of even more radically remade enemies. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Genetic Engineering, Human-Computer Interface, Human Enhancement/Remaking Humanity, Neuroenhancement, Personhood)
  • Reeve, Philip. Fever Crumb Series
    • Fever Crumb (Scholastic, 2009)
    • Web of Air (Scholastic, 2011)
    • Scrivener's Moon (Scholastic, 2012)
    • An expected tetralogy, the first three volumes follow Fever Crumb, a once-thought orphan who is trained as the first female engineer in a far distant post-apocalyptic, steampunk future. The novels are set some thousands of years after nuclear war has reshaped the physical world and destroyed human civilization, a world in which 21st century technology has become "old tech" that exists only through the maintenance of the pseudo-scientist guild of engineers and the less scientifically inclined technomancers. The protagonist, Fever Crumb, finds herself on a journey of self-discovery as she learns of her half-Scriven ancestry, and realizes that she is the sole remaining descendant of an enhanced humanoid race. Her journey woven through the sociopolitical conflicts that result from an immense technological undertaking, leads her beyond the biotechnological inventions of her grandfather Auric Godshawk to the origins of the Scriven as a race. (Topics: Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Nanotechnology, Neuroethics, Personhood)
  • Richards, Douglas. Wired (Paragon, 2012)
    • Former special forces officer David Desh is recruited for a black ops mission turned conspiracy theory. His target, Kira Miller, is a brilliant genetic engineer suspected by the U.S. government to be involved in a bioterror plot with global implications as she seeks to explore breakthroughs at any cost in cognitive enhancement and longevity research. (Topics: Bioterrorism, Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Posthuman, Radical Life Extension, Research Ethics)
  • Wells, Dan. Partials Sequence Series
    • Partials (Balzer & Bray, 2013).
    • Fragments (Balzer & Bray, 2014).
    • Ruins (Balzer & Bray, 2014).
    • The trilogy follows Kira Walker, a young medic in a post-apocalyptic U.S. Genetically enhanced humans known as Partials were developed by the U.S. government and the biotech firm ParaGen as a final military solution to the ongoing crises of global wars. After successfully completing their military campaigns, Partials returned to the U.S. in a failed attempt to integrate into society. Civil war broke out, and a genetically modified pathogen (the RM virus) was released, decimating human civilization. The remaining human population has been sequestered in East Meadow, New York as they seek to find a cure for RM—a virus that has prevented a human baby from surviving more than a few days in over 13 years. Kira Walker sets out to find a cure in a bold move that leads her to encounter the Partials directly, and learns a disturbing truth. The Partials are built with a biological time clock that causes them to expire after 20 years, and many of them are quickly approaching the deadline. Is there a solution that can benefit humans and Partials alike? (Topics: Bioterrorism, Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Personhood, Posthuman, Research Ethics)

 

 

Updated December 2016