Genetic engineering in fiction

Genetic engineering in fiction

Genetic engineering 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.Fact|date=January 2008 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.

Genetic engineering

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, 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."
*However, the alternate timeline Gaheris Rhade had an idealistic view and was thoroughly disgusted with the reality::"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.

"Beggars in Spain" (Nancy Kress)

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".

Dark Angel

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).

Gundam SEED

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, Jupiter, 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.

Halo series

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.

Lobster Random

The 2000AD 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)

Olaf Stapledon

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).

Plague (1978 film)

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

Rogue Trooper

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)

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 "" 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.

onic the Hedgehog series

The Ultimate Life Form project, that produced Shadow the Hedgehog and Biolizard was a genetic engineering project.

tar Trek

In the "Star Trek" universe, genetic engineering has featured in a couple of films, and a number of television episodes.

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 "", 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.

tar Wars

In the Star Wars universe, genetic engineering was also used.

In "", 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.

targate SG-1

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.

Warhammer 40,000

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.

Methuselah’s Virus

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.

World Hunger

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 and utopian 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", "Borderland", "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.

Ender's Game

In Orson Scott Card's novel "Ender's Game", Ender 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", Bean 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.

The Supernaturalist

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's "Ringworld" 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.

Dark Angel

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 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 film, "Idiocracy" 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.

Crimson Rivers

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.

Cosmic Era

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

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