Image from Steve Bowers

Gengineering is the art and science of manipulating hereditary material to modify organisms or even to create entirely new organisms. Traditionalists restrict the term to manipulations of the hereditary material of biological organisms, and sometimes just to Terragen organisms. Others apply the term to any technology that involves altering the code of neumann-capable devices, regardless of substrate. Popular usage tends to lean in the direction of the more traditionalist sense of the word, but this varies by context.

Terragen gengineering began with the realization that the primary code for hereditary material in Old Earth's biota is carried in DNA, and with the evolution of techniques to understand and edit that code. The term "gengineering" emerged during the Information age, at about the time when results actually became reliable enough to merit the term "engineering". In humans and other eukaryotic organisms this meant an ability to manipulate epigenetic effects, to alter not only nuclear DNA but the DNA of mitochondria and chloroplasts, and a recognition of additional structures and substances involved in heredity. Understanding these systems and their interactions and long term effects was to remain a challenge for centuries, as it still is for neophytes in the field today, but essential techniques were well established by the dawn of the Interplanetary age, and helped account for the rise of powers like the Gengineer Republic early in the pre-Technocalypse era. By then biological vat-based and cell culture based industries were essential components of the economy, splice and tweak organisms had become ubiquitous, and the first provolved clades had emerged. Gengineering and gengineered organisms have been foundational to and pervasive in Terragen civilization ever since. In the case of major Sephirotic powers such as the Zoeific Biopolity, interstellar organizations such as the Institute for Primate Provolution, or movements such as Pan-Sophontism, gengineering is important in an ideological as well as in a practical sense. The vast majority of existing bionts today, sophont and otherwise, are products of gengineering, either in whole or in part.

Image from Bernd Helfert

  • Agrimonkey  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    An ancient superclade of presophont splices, derived from a variety of Terragen baseline monkey species and originally designed as specialized labourers and servants.
  • Akilaspek Trees  - Text by Johnny Yesterday
    Giant planetbound trees used for food production and habitation.
  • Algaehol Bloom Disaster, The  - Text by ROM 65536
    Early genetic engineering causes an ecological catastrophe.
  • Allosaurus (animal)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Large (8 to 14 meters; weight 1.5 to 5 tonnes) Old Earth Jurassic carnivorous dinosaur
  • AmatFruit  - Text by John B
    The rarest and most power and resource hungry of the astragens, this life-form (of which there are only 3 known surviving genomes of a historical max of seven) was seeded in close orbit to many 'green' stars.
  • Ammonite  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A type of formerly extinct marine Terragen cephalopod mollusk, distinguished by an elaborately coiled and chambered shell.
  • Animadvert  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Any of a number of corporate organic life forms, mostly subsapient, which have slogans, logos, and even freebies and consumer liteware incorporated into their genetic structure, and hence expressed in their phenotype and/or secreted or excreted.
  • Astragen(s)  - Text by John B
    Nonsentient lifeforms, plant- or fungal-based, neogen, or xenobiont organisms which have evolved or been designed to survive in space at a given orbital zone and radiation level.
  • Babel 'Fish'  - Text by Sethbord
    A genetically engineered computer designed to fit into or around the ear of a modosophont. As well as translation duties the Babelfish can act as an information provider and cultural guide.
  • Bacca - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Family of crops derived from the tobacco plant through gengineering during the Solsys Era and later. Designed for use in space hydroponics, different strains produce livestock feed, vegetables, drugs and decorative flowers. Especially common is Qianxuesen, a bacca vegetable eaten, generally either boiled or mashed, by terragen bionts.
  • Bacterics  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Use of bacteria in biotech - e.g. as simple biobots, as bionano processing nodes, and more.
  • Bamaglider  - Text by Peter Kisner
    Bamagliders are explosive filigliders. These range in composition. Some are merely normal filigliders with carbonated or nitrous oxide injected filling. Others are non-edible filigliders that produce a small fire-cracker explosion at a safe distance from the appropriate pheromone source. Additionally, like the poisiglider, there are some maliciously designed bamagliders that explode with damaging force in close proximity to a particular pheromone source.
  • Barbwire-Bush  - Text by David Hallberg
    The Barb-wire Bush is a genetic construct designed for use in low-tech entrenched fortifications, such as those on the Western Front in the First World War of Old Earth, or in any number of prim to low-tech conflicts in the millennia since. It may also be used in civil settings as a low-cost privacy and security measure.
  • Baseline  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    In the context of gengineering and provolution, a human (or other biont) that has not been genomically modified from its original natural condition. Pure baselines are extremely rare; most sophonts classed as "baseline" are actually nearbaselines that are very similar in phenotype and genotype to the original H. sapiens sapiens.
  • Bio-Geo Planetary Node/Brain  - Text by Mike Parisi
    Any planet or similar-sized, originally naturally-occurring body that has been converted and dedicated to processing tasks through Bio-Geo-Computing.
  • Biobots  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Bioengineered organisms, e.g. bacteria, neogens, etc, modified to act out specific orders. Biobots of some form or another have been used since the middle information period for nanotech (bionano), production, monitoring, medicine and much more.
  • Biocity - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss
    A city or urban area created and maintained primarily through biotech ("wet" tech) methods and materials, and consisting of living organisms or their products (bone, wood, coral, shell, and so on) as opposed to one constructed using non-living "dry" tech and associated materials such as concrete, steel, glass, stone, diamondoid, or corundumoid.
  • Bioforge  - Text by Todd Drashner
    A biological factory or manufacturing device capable of creating a wide range of biotech products.
  • BioGeoComputing  - Text by Tony Jones
    A layer of crustal bacteria in several planets which has been converted into processing substrate.
  • Biomachine  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and AI Vin
    Any machine or device based on organic components rather than inorganic mechanisms.
  • Biomeso - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Biological mesotech; like bionano but on a meso- rather than a nano- scale.
  • Bionanite - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    An individual bionano unit - a biological/organic nanobot.
  • Biopower - Text by Anders Sandberg
    In some worlds a system of living solar collectors for powering underground biospheres is employed - e.g. the Zoeific Biopolity and the Arcadians would build such systems when settling an otherwise inhospitable world. The bases are visible only as verdant green smears of shimmering electromoss, with the tunnels far below the surface.
  • Bioship  - Text by Steve Bowers and M. Alan Kazlev
    Bioships are either grown partially or entirely using biotechnology or by a close analogue to biological growth: they can be very similar in final composition to other ships but often look distinctively 'organic' in form.
  • Biowar  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    An organic warship, a sentient, self-contained, evolutionary, self-replicating superbright bio-autowar. Like autowars, biowars can form long-lived populations and make regions of space hazardous long after the original conflict is over.
  • Bucky Spiders - Text by Steve Bowers
    Small spidersplices with adapted spinnerets producing buckyfibre on demand - controlled by bionano (mostly Zoeific clades) or hylonano neural implants - used in small scale construction and the manufacture of fabrics.
  • Buildbug  - Text by Todd Drashner
    An arthropod-like biobot used in construction.
  • Burning Library Project, The  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    Information Age project to rescue as much information as possible regarding species that were being driven to extinction as a result of human activity.
  • Canopy Plant  - Text by Terrafamilia
    Canopy Plants are neogen plants used in terraforming, paraterraforming, or habitat creation.
  • Carpetbeast  - Text by John B and Stephen Inniss
    Typically an animal-derived neogen or splice designed to thrive as a living carpet or rug, usually for use by human nearbaselines or similar bionts. Some varieties, in addition to being soft and warm, and of a pleasant colour and texture, produce pleasant scents and sounds such as a musky scent and a purr. Most are self-cleaning, sometimes with the assistance of mite to insect sized neogens. These creatures are usually sessile but some variants are capable of slow movement and a few are capable of shaping themselves into items of furniture.
  • Claymore Tuber  - Text by David Hallberg
    A more sinister plant than most neogenic domestics is the infamous Claymore Tuber, which is widely used by bio-terrorists. Its tiny seeds can be scattered in the target area by an explosive device or missile.
  • Clone  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A biological organism asexually reproduced or bionanonically copied from another cell or genome or a template thereof. A clone is genetically identical to its original.
  • Copy Resolution Types  - Text by Steve Bowers
    The different types of copying available to a sophont mind
  • Corporate Surrogacy  - Text by Elliot Schutjer
    In the latter half of the Information Age and even well into the early Interplanetary Age, genetic engineering corporations had a problem: they had to find mothers to carry the genetically altered children they produced. Popular vids from the time tell story after story of young women from Asia (Particularly Cambodia and Thailand) being sold into corporate slavery as surrogate mothers for the gengineered children arranged by major corporations, though this practice was simply not as prevalent as popular imagination supposed.
  • Cytobot - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A bot approximately the size of a cell. Alternatively, a bionano or biomeso-based and/or built or grown organic device the size and shape of a biological cell; an artificial but still organic cell that can be given instructions like any nano or mesobot.
  • Deadite Nanovirus  - Text by Ben Higginbottom
    Extremely clever prank nanovirus (actually a gengineered biological virus) - entirely cosmetic.
  • Dura Grass  - Text by James Ramsey
    Neogen plant developed as a floor covering.
  • Dyson Tree Variant: Wagon Wheel   - Text by Mike Miller
    Genetically modified tree grown in space which rotates to produce artificial gravity
  • Dyson Trees  - Text by Todd Drashner, Anders Sandberg and M. Alan Kazlev
    Genetically engineered trees employing bio-nanotech. Created to function as a biological space habitat. First proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson in the early Information Age.
  • Exoatmospheric - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Vehicle or tweaked life-form capable of operating both in a vacuum and in an atmosphere. May be planetary- or space-based.
  • Exploding Cockroach  - Text by David Hallberg
    A gengineered insect, with an altered biochemistry. It is modified to produce an internal deposit of some explosive (most commonly Penthyle, since it is a naturally existing chemical in most biosystems).
  • Extended Color Convention  - Text by Omeganian
    Colour vision outside the conventional visible spectrum.
  • Filigliders  - Text by Peter Kisner
    Small, about 5-8 cm long organisms with a nervous system only slightly above that of a flatworm. In appearance they vaguely resemble moths or humming birds, with a slightly elongated neck and a 1.2 cm bulb of various primary colors where a head would be.
  • Flera  - Text by Michael Walton
    A genetically engineered plant derived from lettuce.
  • Flugumes - Text by Peter Kisner
    A genetically engineered instrument derived from various legume varieties, typically used by baseline or near baseline humans, but more as a humorous prop than a seriously taken musical apparatus. During the early 2300's the composer Mlarr Bigglemun did come up with a Flugume Suite in the tradition of P.D.Q. Bach that gained widespread popularity among more renowned baseline musicologists.
  • Freebirds  - Text by Mike Miller
    Microgravity-adapted varieties of birds created through gengineering.
  • GELF  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    [Genetically Engineered Life Form] An old First Federation term, which every so often comes back into favour, for sophont custom-made lifeforms created through significant or total genetic engineering.
  • Geneered watermelon variants  - Text by Johnny Yesterday
    A popular and diverse gengineered food plant.
  • Genematode  - Text by Steve Bowers
    A neogen/splice nematode-like defence system as an antiviral/antibacterial agent.
  • Genemod  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Genetic modification. Can be somatic (designed not to be heritable), germline (capable of being inherited by offspring) or both. Genemods are designed to alter a bionts body at a fundamental level, "reprogramming" their capabilities and responses to the environment.
  • Genen, House Genen  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Bioaugmented traditionalist superclade and House.
  • Genentics - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Genetekkerese dialect, developed as part of the family historicism of the 2000's. Commonly spoken by Genen, official language on Frog's Head. Part of the Genetekkerese family of languages. Contains elements of Anglic, Arabic and Esperanto.
  • Genestick  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Various compact genetic analysis and engineering devices.
  • GeneTEK  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    An important Interplanetary Age biotech corporation, GeneTEK incorporated into the "biopunk" Genetekker culture/clade. It was one of the few corps to survive the Technocalypse, and went on to dominate the First Federation biotech industry as a megacorp, and survives in ossified form as House Genen. Some small hyperturing-run neo-GeneTEK type biocorporations can still be found flourishing in the Zoeific Biopolity to this day.
  • Genetekkers, The  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Early superior/tweak biocorporation culture and later superpower of the middle and late Interplanetary and Nanotech Age, internalized to the Jupiter moons and the outer Sol System, developed into a number of clades. A number of nearby star systems were colonized by Genetekkers. Some First Federation age Genetekkers became the Genen.
  • Genetic Independents  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Pro-genetic engineering activist group, late Information Age.
  • Genome  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The total genetic material in the chromosomes or other gene-containing structures of a particular organism, containing the genetic blueprint of the entire organism. Its size is generally given as its total number of base pairs (or equivalent units for non-Terragen life forms).
  • Genotypic Augmentation - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Modification or augmentation that effects only the genotype of the gametes and descendants of an organism. Genotypic augmentation is biological or genetic modification or augmentation that effects only the genotype of the gametes and descendants of an organism. It does not alter the characteristics of the user, or of clones from the user's somatic cells, but it does modify that of all of the user's offspring. Contrast with phenotypic augmentation.
  • Glow-Orb Cactus  - Text by David Hallberg
    A relative to the Lantern plant.
  • Gourd Houses  - Text by AI Vin
    A biotech house grown from a vine-like plant.
  • Homo Superior Genemods  - Text by Updated by Extherian 2020
    Various modifications to the human genome which make up the Homo superior genotype.
  • Human Genome Project - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Early Information Age international research program; one of the most ambitious projects of its time; had the goal of gathering a resource of genomic maps and DNA sequence. Provided detailed information about the structure, organization, and characteristics of the DNA of humans and other animals. The project was instrumental in the later work of the bio-hackers, biopunks, ribophunks and tweakers of the middle Information Age.
  • Hybrid  - Text by Steve Bowers
    The (usually infertile) off-spring that results from the mating of two distinct species. Interbreeding between two distinct species or clades may result in a hybrid, which may or may not be fertile. Even non-fertile hybrids can be very vigorous, like mules.
  • HydroFruit - Text by John B
    Astragen capable of producing purified water from contact with oxygen and hydrogen bearing materials. Often used in Oort-belt dispersals, in which case the organism will occasionally be designed to exude ice particulates.
  • Imhotep  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    [1] [historical] administrator/scribe/priest/physician/architect who designed the first pyramid.
    [2] [noun or adj.] Generic term for an exceptional su or suborg using augmented reality for eir research.
  • Injector Serpent  - Text by David Hallberg
    A variation of the Live Jewellry-theme for ingesting drugs.
  • Lantern Plant  - Text by David Hallberg
    A gnarled, bonsai-like potted plant with ivy-like reddish-green leaves.
    It produces large, trumpet-like flowers that are transparent, hard as glass and point upwards. At the bottom of the flower a series of glands produce a flammable liquid, not unlike kerosene. A long, spongy stamen can be set alight and used as a wick.
  • LifeFruit - Text by John B
    Generates ATP (adenosine triphosphate, a basic biologic energy storage molecule), but is one of the more power-hungry forms of astragen. LifeFruit typically requires earth-type solar energy levels.
  • Live Jewellry  - Text by David Hallberg
    The use of gengineered creatures for personal adornment, for example; beautiful, brightly colored snakes as bracelets, necklaces or hairbands; colorful beetles worn like brooches or as earrings and so on.
  • Meatshrooms  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    Gengineered mushrooms, with fruiting bodies that have the taste, texture, and nutritional qualities of animal flesh.
  • Melder  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Six-legged oxygen breathing symbiote/parasite with the ability to meld itself to a wide variety of lifeforms.
  • Memory Grubs  - Text by John B
    These relatively short, damp wormlike creatures were created deliberately in the 33rd century AT to fulfil a role - to help baselines organize and recall memory better.
  • Methanoids  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Methane-respiring cold-adapted extremophile humanoids created by House Genen in the Zoeific Biopolity; very widespread and often actively involved in opposition to terraforming projects. Important faction in the Epp War.
  • Molecular Biology - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Branch of biology that deals with organic life on a molecular level. Includes the macromolecular organization within and between the various cell components, knowledge of different types of proteins, the metabolic function of individual cells, differing mechanisms of genetic expression during embryonic development, cell differentiation, and ageing. Molecular Biology goes hand in hand with Gengineering.
  • Muschine  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and AI Vin
    Subsentient biomachines. Widely used in the Zoeific Biopolity and elsewhere.
  • Narco-Symbiont  - Text by Mike Parisi
    Also known as Naco-Sym or NarSym. Any small gengineered life form, which affixes itself to a subject's body, and supplies em with small, regular amounts of endorphins or some other pleasure-inducing substance.
  • Nearbaseline Human Genemods   - Text by Ryan B
    Relative to Old Earth baseline humans, typical nearbaselines are genetically as well as environmentally gifted in a host of ways, though they are often superficially quite similar.
  • Neospecies - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    [1] In Evolution theory - a newly (naturally) evolved species.
    [2] A gengineered species.
  • Noovleann Tree  - Text by Johnny Yesterday
    Tree-like organisms which hang from dynamic orbital rings at various heights above a planetary surface.
  • Orwoods  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Dyson tree forest ecosystem, especially one that constitutes a stable or evolutionary space-based biota, with or without symbiotic sentient (human, neogen, etc.) interaction.
  • Ova Fusion  - Text by Shane Brannon; some additions by Steve Bowers
    A form of parthenogenetic reproduction which successfully fuses the genetic material from the gametes of two unrelated human females into a viable zygote.
  • OxyFruit  - Text by John B
    Astragen capable of producing pressurized 'pods' (also the seed) of O2 when in contact with oxygen bearing materials and a specific wavelength and intensity of light.
  • Pantropy  - Text by Steve Bowers
    The practice of adapting humans (and other bionts) to live comfortably in a planetary environment rather than attempting to change that environment to resemble the home world.
  • Phototropic Seeds  - Text by Johnny Yesterday
    Plant seeds which orient themselves with respect to a light source rather than gravity.
  • Rat Barrel  - Text by Peter Kisner; updated by Steve Bowers
    Originally an Interplanetary Age genetics research station, known as the Barrel, located at the Earth/Sun L4 position, far from any regulatory interference. The most common species of Rat Provolve, Rattus sapiens, was produced here in 410 AT, as well as many other species. Now a centre of hedonic drug manufacture.
  • Recombinant DNA - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Basic primitive technique used in gengineering, dating back to early Information Age Old Earth. It involves cutting the DNA into discrete segments, and then recombining the segments to form new genes. The recombinant DNA molecule is then inserted into a cell.
  • Reef, Reef-city  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Colloquial term for large gengineered arcologies often found on bioist worlds and habitats, particularly in the Biopolity.
  • Road Root  - Text by Michael Walton
    Self-repairing biotech road and highway systems.
  • Safeshrooms  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    Genetically engineered mushrooms, intended to prevent alcohol abuse.
  • Salt Vines  - Text by Mike Miller
    Biological desalination system using geneered plants
  • Security Bush  - Text by ROM 65536
    Antipersonnel guard-plant and defence weapon.
  • Shadowhound  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Bionano based infiltration and combat device. Shadowhounds have no definite shape, but are able to alter their form (usually over a period of several minutes to hours) to suit whatever conditions or situations they encounter. Shadowhounds derive their name from both their matte black outer layer (used to absorb solar energy) and one of their most common appearance defaults as a roughly canine shaped quadrupedal form.
  • Sleepwalkers  - Text by Tony Jones
    Modification and widespread genemod - allowing baseline human-equivalent functioning and interactions on a minimal level of consciousness. Used as a means of social control in some unethical polities.
  • Slinguists  - Text by Tony Jones
    Modification — later a clade — more advanced than Ireaders, having not just an instinctive childhood ability to learn written communications, but made that highly efficient childhood learning process a permanent second 'layer' of ability when learning to communicate.
  • Softbot  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Biological robot, an alife built entire of organic components. It is alive like any carbon- or exotic-chemistry based life-form. May be of any intelligence grade, from subsapient to transapient.
  • Solsys Disinhibition Plagues  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    A plague of tailored diseases that targeted judgment and self-control that were in part responsible for the Solsys Technocalypse.
  • Space Canopy and Greenbubbles  - Text by Terrafamilia
    A space-adapted variant of the Canopy Plant.
  • Space Spiders  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Vacuum and zero gee adapted, sentient or semisentient spidersplices, from micro-scale to giant; usually capable of producing buckyfibre silk. Contribute to many megascale building projects, sometimes controlled directly by transcended postspiders.
  • Spaceweed - Text by Steve Bowers and John B
    A gengineered organism based on bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) that has been modified so that it that can develop in Gas Giant rings, with a small (100-200 metres) bladder full of breathable air, and edible fruit and nuts growing on the inside. The bladders are loosely connected, with insulated flexible corridors between the bladders, and all the ice and rock of the rings incorporated into the spaceweed to avoid collision damage.
  • Splice  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    A gengineered organism with visible traits of two or more natural species.
  • Starlight Gene Patch  - Text by James Ramsey
    An interactive library and gengineering instrument that adapts a biont to local day/night cycles and the wavelengths of available light in a new environment.
  • Teratonics - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The art and science of creating monsters, whether for shock value, life-style choice, scientific research, the entertainment industry, or security and defense purposes.
  • Transmutationism - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    In geneering or (more rarely) natural evolution, any massive, sudden genetic changes, when one mutation can have a cascade effect on the genome.
  • Turbine Plants  - Text by Johnny Yesterday
    Various species of genetically engineered plants which produce electricity by mechanical means.
  • Twitterbird  - Text by Thorbørn Steen
    Genetically modified alien birdlike animal.
  • Vacc-Suckers  - Text by Elliot Schutjer
    A failed clade of early Solsys Era tweaks that were designed to operate in open space without protection.
  • Vacuum Flora  - Text by Mike Miller
    Vacuum -adapted plants such as space cacti and Dyson Trees
  • Wallflowers  - Text by Thorbørn Steen
    Genetically modified flowering plants for architectural display.
  • Xanthric Flowerweed  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev, from original entry by Kevin Self
    A sessile neogen; a carnivorous plant that has recently (since 9800s) become established in a few newly-terraformed worlds in the Udryck region (Outer Volumes), where it seems to have hitched a ride on local subrelativistic bioships.
  • Yggdrasil Bush, Yggy  - Text by Todd Drashner and Steve Bowers
    Variant species of the orwood biological space habitat.
Development Notes
Text by Stephen Inniss

Initially published on 27 July 2008.

Additional Information