Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Biopunk: A referral post

Today I'm just going to refer you to something that I found very interesting. It's a post by William Jones about Biopunk. Biopunk appears to be a particular type of post-apocalyptic fiction, in which the apocalypse is brought on by some kind of biological pandemic. I suggested in my comments to William's post that The Stand by Stephen King might be an early example of this relatively unknown genre.

I also suggested that post-apocalyptic fiction in general arises out of the fact that humans, alone of all the species on earth, know absolutely from early on that we will die, and because we also have a strong suspicion that our civilization itself and the whole human race will eventually die as well. In fact, I think this is a driving force behind much of what humans do, but that probably needs to be expanded in a longer post.

28 comments:

Susan Miller said...

I just completed The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a post apocalyptic journey. In your last post you mentioned his style of writing and lack of quotation marks, which can be somewhat disconcerting, but his storytelling is top notch. I especially loved this book!

Charles Gramlich said...

Susan, that is one of my favorite books for just the reasons you mentioned. I think it's his best work.

benjibopper said...

only post apoc i've read is ronald wright, who wrote about a guy who goes into the future only to discover life in britain post climate change.

i hope you write that longer post though, it's a fascinating topic.

Middle Ditch said...

It's the only thing we are sure about, dying that is. Everything else in life is a surprise.

Sarai said...

I would like to learn more of your thoughts on this topic. I have always been interested but have never heard the theories surrounding it.

December/Stacia said...

Boy, now I know where to go if I need a laugh. Over here, where we're talking about the inevitable death that awaits us all. :-)


I do love The Stand, though. Even the unedited version.

Lana Gramlich said...

Thank you for being so helpful & considerate, baby. I appreciate & love you.

Shauna Roberts said...

"we also have a strong suspicion that our civilization itself and the whole human race will eventually die as well"

Your optimism surprised me. Do you see some way our civilization or our species may avoid the fate of every other civilization or species?

Billy said...

I consider King's THE CELL to be apocalyptic fiction, and it was closer to the kind of King fiction I can truly recommend as opposed to LISEY'S STORY. Although I would have liked to see more clarification at the end of THE CELL, perhaps the ambivalence is intentional, and I can accept that (although I find King endings in general to not always be totally satisfying, but I enjoy him immensely nonetheless).

Lisa said...

A co-worker and I were just talking about post-apocalyptic fiction because I watched "I am Legend" over the weekend. He said -- and he's a reader, not a writer -- that you can never go wrong writing post-apocalyptic fiction. We do have a fascination with it. I remember reading "Alas Babylon" and "On the Beach" when I was a kid and then being deeply impacted by the TV movie "The Day After" years ago and then of course, "The Stand". I know many of these are post-nuclear stories, but the idea of man bringing down mankind does seem to be endlessly fascinating to us. I read "The Road" too and it also captivated me. Can't wait to read a longer post on this and why we are so fascinated by these stories.

Demon Hunter said...

I think we're fascinated by these stories because we're constantly questioning what will be the downfall of man.

I love THE ROAD as well.

**Spoiler Alert for CELL**
Billy,
The ending of CELL was abrupt, but I thought that the son was cured. And with that the father could cure everyone else. That's just my guess! :*)

ANNA-LYS said...

I made a new post due to that You did not like the music ... better now?

;-))

Steve Malley said...

I would have thought the label biopunk referred to a future in which the 'zip' comes more from biochemistry than cybernetics, 'wetware' instead of 'software'.

That said, I've read some post-apoc work where the point seemed to be to clear the board for an intimate drama (you can do swords and arrows but still cherrypick bits from the present day).

Most, though, seem to arise from a buried awareness of our own deaths and a subliminal desire that the world not survive us.

Or because zombies are, like, cool.

Charles Gramlich said...

benjibopper, was that a book written by Peter Tremayne? I think I may have read that.

Middle ditch, yes.

Sarai, I will have to do another post on it then. It is an interesting topic.

December Stacia, yep, that's us. Just full of fun. Tomorrow I talk about disease. ;)

Lana, and I you sweetness.

Shauna, you make a good point. I think I meant to suggest that we're not "sure" when the inevitable will happen. I do think there is a chance for the human race to evolve into something else and thus not die out completely in the short run, but eventually the universe itself dies, of course.

Billy, yes, and it's a kind of a combination of biopunk and technopunk. I liked that book quite a bit by the way, one of King's best in the last few years, and much better than Lisey's story.

Lisa, I want to see "I Am Legend" too, and it may be that I was watching the ads for that that helped get me started thinking in this direction.

Demon hunter, good points about "the Cell." I do think post-apoc fiction shows our fascination with our own eventual destructions.

Anna-lys, you didn't have to change the music for me. Although I indeed didn't care much for that song it was not as horrible as I tried to jokingly say.

Steve Malley, yes, I think our discussion got rather far ranging. "The cell" would not be biopunk, I don't think, although certainly post-apocolyptic. And yes, there's always the coolness factor, which is why I watch horror. I rewatched "The Thing" the other night and can't help but say "cool" when the one guy's head breaks off and sprouts legs.

Randy Johnson said...

The Condemned by David Jack Bell is a recent example of Biopunk. The city's water supply was poisoned by a "terrorist" attack and left it quarantined by the government. The city people have been turned into shambling zombies. Jett is one of the people who enter the city and reclaim old cars for the metal to help the war effort. But, as usual, all is not as it seems. I enjoyed this one. If you haven't read it, it's one I recommend.

Bernita said...

A couple of other reasons for our fascination is (1)post-fiction represents a new "frontier," and (2) we're looking for survival clues.

Randy Johnson said...

Charles, have you seen the hilarious trailer for that new biopunk film, Zombie Strippers.

Charles Gramlich said...

Randy, I haven't even heard of that one but it sounds right down my alley. I love a good zombie theme. You seem to be on a zombie theme here. I have not heard of zombie strippers, but will check it out. I did read a story about zombie strippers in a book many years ago, an anthology called "The book of the dead." Can't remember who wrote it.

Bernita, very true. I like the survival theme.

Jack said...

I've wondered if some people like post apocalyptic stories because the genre breaks down civilization and gives people a new start. Sometimes that new start isn't a very good one. Still, you get rid of the old ways, which people are always criticizing, and then rebuild civilization.

Erik Donald France said...

A "Strong suspicion" of civilization's mortality is right on . . .

Going back -- Omega Man.
And definitely The Stand, as you mentioned.

I vaguely remember Phase IV and Damnation Alley, the first one involved mutant ants gone wild, if memory serves. . .

Charles Gramlich said...

Jack, I would guess that's an important part of it. Most of us probably think we could do better if we were in charge.

Erik, I read Phase IV a couple of years back. Mutant ants. Damnation Alley I'd almost forgotten about. That's an oldy, but definitely post acocolyptic.

SzélsőFa said...

Oryx and Crake by M Atwood is a truly haunting peri-apocalyptic story.
Still gives me shivers.

Miladysa said...

I remember watching a BBC television series in the 1970s [when I was a wee child] named The Survivors - it has haunted me ever since!

Charles Gramlich said...

Szelsofa, I've only read "A Handmaid's Tale" by Atwood but enjoyed that.

Miladysa, I wish I would have seen that one. I really enjoy post-apoc tales.

ivan said...

Gee, I hate to say it about my pal
Margaret, but I have yet to finish Oryx and Crake.
William Golding approaches the subject aa bit more penetratingly, though in another way. Ever read an old back number, Pincher Martin?

...Talk abut the ego surving past death!

benjibopper said...

The author was actually Ronald Wright, the book was called A Scientific Romance. Crappy title, but I liked the book.

Rachel said...

Interesting to me how everything these days needs a label. There have been stories around for years about the end of the world and disease and now it's labeled biopunk. Amuses me how we seem to need to do this.

I remember reading someone a long time ago who said that while our souls tell us we're immortal, our bodies tell us we're going to die and that is the constant tension that humans have to come to terms with.

Rachel said...

Not sure how my cats deal with it though.