Genetic engineering - insects

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Genetic engineering - insects

Ago 16, 2021, 4:51 am

I've just listened to a fascinating podcast about the research into the possibility of using CRISPR-engineered mosquitoes to help defeat malaria, and it's a very intriguing subject, fraught with potential benefits and dangers.

Are there any decent SF books that specifically explore this subject? All the ones I can think of look at genetic engineering on humans or larger mammals but I reckon insects would be a much higher-impact class of creature.

Editado: Ago 16, 2021, 12:30 pm

I don't believe that there is anything with that detail. Borne and Oryx and Crake go there at a more theoretical level.

Ago 16, 2021, 3:29 pm

A Civil Campaign.

The dinner party that's hijacked by an infestation of the gengineered butter bugs always cracks me up, although they are included as more of a plot device than a philosophical discussion.

Ago 17, 2021, 12:08 am

Queen City Jazz and its sequels, by Kathleen Ann Goonan, present a future U.S. overrun by malfunctioning biotech, some of which includes large "bees" and "flowers". It's a good set.

Ago 17, 2021, 2:50 am

There is a Danish book "Raslen med nøgler" by Niels E. Nielsen (1988). Some farmers buy "Red assistant" bugs to kill off another type of bugs. As you can guess this works fine until the "Red assistant" bugs have eaten the first type of bugs and starts eating something else :-) The "Red assistant" bug was designed by an AI computer. Etc, etc.

John Wyndham: "Web" also comes to mind. Don't read it if you don't like spiders. The spiders in the book are probably the result of radiation mutations, so at best it's a crude form for genetic engineering.

Editado: Ago 17, 2021, 3:43 am

Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time is mostly about a far future where spiders have evolved to human-like intelligence, but it's very far fetched and set on another planet, and the spiders have evolved because of an intelligence-inducing virus, so probably not the kind of thing you're looking for. Very good book, though. (in case you are literal about "insects", there are enhanced ants in the book, too.)

Ago 17, 2021, 4:09 am

Thanks guys, some good suggestions. I've read most of them except the Danish book - is there an English translation, sounds just what I'm after? - and the Wyndham.
I agree the "butterbugs" are a plot device but so funny. I'd forgotten about Queen City Jazz - interesting ideas but I found it quite slow so didn't bother with the sequel. The Tchaikovsky is a great book but not quite what I had in mind.

Editado: Ago 17, 2021, 5:45 am

Kameron Hurley's Bel Dame Apocrypha series includes a lot of "bug tech", colonies of tailored insects controlled by pheromones and the mind to do a huge variety of things.

There's also The Screwfly Solution.

Ago 17, 2021, 7:26 am

Thinking on it, there's an interesting inversion in that it's the humans being possibly gengineered by the intelligent insects: Serpent's Reach.

Ago 17, 2021, 7:45 am

>7 SChant: Don't think any of his writings have been translated. Probably because they were not so good :-)

Ago 17, 2021, 8:30 am

>10 bnielsen: Ah, OK then.

Thanks everyone for the recommendations but I've read them all and they're not quite what I was looking for - the unexpected ecological consequences from engineering one insect species for a supposedly beneficial purpose. Maybe Screwfly comes closest, or Queen City Jazz.

Looks like this is a subject that hasn't paricularly caught the imagination of SF writers - maybe I'll just stick with the science :)

Editado: Set 3, 2021, 1:38 am

>11 SChant: The Danish book fits the bill. It's just not very good. I.e. you have a problem with aphids and create a mutated predatory mite. So far so good, but when the mites has killed off all the aphids, there's really no good explanation why they don't just die :-)

The author wrote the same story over and over again about scientists creating something good just to have it turn into disaster overnight. But sometimes the world is saved and sometimes not, so I should have said two stories :-)

I think he both liked and disliked scientists.

Ago 17, 2021, 10:04 am

I ran a tagmash here on LT of "genetic engineering" and "insects" to see what came up:,+insects

I haven't read either of the likely looking books, but there were some: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith and Invasive by Chuck Wendig.

Ago 17, 2021, 10:49 am

>13 Stevil2001: Thx. Will take a look.

Editado: Set 2, 2021, 7:53 pm

I just read a book that a friend of mine wrote back in 2017, just rewrote, and is relaunching very soon. I put the blurb for it below. It features a genetically modified scorpion, as well as (spoiler!) a genetically modified insect that makes an appearance. It is a quick read, and a great little sci-fi satire.

When man toys with nature, nature strikes back.

Dr. Haylen Bennett, a genetic scientist at the Center for Biological Defense Research, and colleague Dr. Sarah Li, live quiet lives on a remote island base. When ordered to perfect an organic natural armor able to withstand .50 caliber AP rounds, it’s just another job for them.
Suddenly their world is turned upside down when two agents from the Department of Defense show up and whisk them away on the adventure of a lifetime. Everything that Haylen and Li have done at the lab is brought into question as they learn that the impenetrable armor they helped create provides protection to a 10-foot scorpion with a mouth that spouts armor-eating acid, a giant stinger and a bad attitude. When Dr. Li is viciously killed by the scorpion, Haylen vows vengeance, and teams up with lovely Sergeant Jen to take the monster down.
Filled with action, adventure, tragedy, comedy, and a ton of heart, the story will hold you in its clutches from the very first page and carry you along on a rapid romp through the world of sci-fi satire.
Contains graphic violence, some mild profanity and a behind-closed-doors love scene. Not recommended for readers aged 13 and under.

Set 2, 2021, 2:31 pm

I understand we have both the technical capability to create the so called 'gene-drives' and the theoretical modelling of how they should work, but I'm not sure they've actually ever been tried in large scale real world practise to see what the real effects/side effects are. Lab-scale studies seem t confirm predictions. (

Plenty of room for SF writers there, but it's quite near-future and perhaps not as interesting as larger genetic tech versions. Out of the 52 books I've got that were found with a 'genetics' search of my catalogue only GM deals with insects at all, but it's a poor story and gets the biology wrong. "Not worth the effort, its a bad zombie book, a worse anti-science one, and only just about notable for a minor social comment regarding the difficulties of aid in africa. There are plenty of good books along any of those lines, but cramming them all into one failed miserably."

There's also a short story collection wasps at the speed of sound which doesn't really cover the genetics but is fun.

Set 2, 2021, 2:48 pm

>15 SDaisy: Advertising for a friend is also advertising.

Set 2, 2021, 3:10 pm

>17 MarthaJeanne: I think what's prohibited is "commercial solicitation," not just advertising in general. When someone asks about books on a very specific topic, and someone else posts about a forthcoming book on that topic (whether or not self-published), I have a hard time seeing that as "commercial solicitation." Particularly when it involves LT members who have been around for years as active participants in the site.

Set 2, 2021, 3:18 pm

>18 JacobHolt: Like me. This is crazy. I didn't start the topic. Honestly, I think some members are way too sensitive. I didn't put any links, I'm trying to be helpful, I'm not soliciting... this is nuts!

Editado: Set 2, 2021, 4:15 pm

>17 MarthaJeanne: There was no advertising there!!! For Pete's sake, I'm talking about a friend's book! No links, nothing! What do you have against me? You should really stop acting like you own this forum. You're just a member who likes to help, like me.

Set 2, 2021, 3:25 pm

>19 SDaisy:
I've counter-flagged your post >15 SDaisy:, because I think that the relevance of that book for OP's very specific query trumps the advertising angle here.

Set 2, 2021, 3:28 pm

>21 Petroglyph: Thank you. I really appreciate it. I don't understand why some people are so sensitive. It's why I don't post on the forums as much as I used to anymore.

Set 2, 2021, 3:47 pm

I fail to see what part of "He's looking for as many reviewers as he can get right now, so if anybody would like a PDF review copy, contact me and I'll hook you up. Feel free to pass on the word to anybody you know who may be interested." that is not soliciting.

We are sensitive because we want LT to be free of editors and writers soliciting reviews and work. It's not complicated.

Editado: Set 2, 2021, 6:58 pm

>21 Petroglyph:
I also counterflagged for the same reason, although I will allow there was a bit of hucksterism in the tone of the post.

Set 2, 2021, 3:58 pm

>23 anglemark: If the way it was phrased bothers you, then I don't mind rephrasing it. I thought that the purpose of LibraryThing was to talk about and support authors and write reviews. I don't understand what's wrong with asking interested people if they'd like review copies. It's not even my book. But whatever. I edited it. Maybe you'd like it better phrased this way. No wonder more people are turning to Goodreads.

Editado: Set 2, 2021, 4:18 pm

>25 SDaisy: “ I thought that the purpose of LibraryThing was to talk about and support authors and write reviews.”

The purpose of LT is to talk about books and provide a platform for cataloging one’s library - writers, reading and reviews are just byproducts in the whole thing. :)

Editado: Set 2, 2021, 4:46 pm

>25 SDaisy: I thought that the purpose of LibraryThing was to talk about and support authors and write reviews.

Yeah, that would be way wrong. The focus is books, not authors, and I would guess the majority of users have never posted a review. As someone who has posted over a thousand reviews myself, I would never mistake it for the main activity of the site, I.e. cataloging.

Editado: Set 2, 2021, 4:52 pm

>25 SDaisy: I will happily counter-flag >15 SDaisy: if "If anybody would like a PDF review copy, contact me." is removed. If it's not your book I don't understand why it would be a problem to remove that.
I thought that the purpose of LibraryThing was to talk about and support authors and write reviews.
It is not, no. The purpose of LibraryThing is to help people catalog their books easily and connect people who want to talk about books (or people who like talking about books but sometimes want to talk about other things.)
No wonder more people are turning to Goodreads.
According to whom?

Set 2, 2021, 5:27 pm

FWIW: I thought about counterflagging it until I read it :-)
And I think that >24 paradoxosalpha: is spot on about the tone.

Set 2, 2021, 7:41 pm

The tone was meant to be joking. I don't think I did anything wrong, but I feel bad about this poor member's thread getting completely derailed, so I'm going to drop it and remove that part of my post.

Set 3, 2021, 1:50 am

>30 SDaisy: Don't worry. We derail threads all the time here. (Hopefully waiting until the original question / problem has been solved or settled.)

To go back to the original question I think that we've determined that there are very few stories of that kind.

If you had just offered the title and author of the scorpion story everything would have been fine, I think. Copying the blurb was overselling :-) Getting a comment flagged is not the end of the world. So don't panic.

Set 3, 2021, 2:02 am

A couple more insect stories:
Philip K. Dick: "Meddler" is one of my favourite stories, but the insects are (probably) not the result of genetic experiments.

Arthur Herzog: "The Swarm" ?

(For some reason the original question keeps triggering some background search process in my brain :-)

Set 3, 2021, 4:10 am

>32 bnielsen: You might say it has set something buzzing in the back of your mind.

Set 3, 2021, 4:51 am

>16 reading_fox: I like the look of Wasps at the Speed of Sound.

Set 3, 2021, 5:24 am

>32 bnielsen: I know, there ought to more stories around this.

sandkings a GRRM novella before he became really famous is delightfully horrific. I'm not sure if they're really insects, and not genetically modified, although behaviour influencing.

Set 3, 2021, 9:55 am

I think I read "Sandkings" in Omni when it was first published.

Set 3, 2021, 10:23 am

Frank Herbert's Hellstrom's Hive comes to mind as a possibility. It's been so long, decades, since I read it though....

Set 3, 2021, 12:47 pm

This thread itself is acting rather insectile: starting out slowly, then multiplying and diversifying... :-)

Set 3, 2021, 2:28 pm

>36 paradoxosalpha: I think I did too, then I've read it a couple of times in short story collections. Maybe my favorite scifi short story ever.

Set 3, 2021, 2:33 pm

>27 paradoxosalpha: >28 norabelle414: Have to agree with these two opinions, LT is more for book readers and collectors, with a secondary function of allowing folks to interact with authors who choose to be here. Note that's interact with, as in talk to. In the past I've been on a thread with an author who wanted to talk to fans and I'm aware of authors who participate in other groups, but mostly to talk about reading books, not their own books and certainly not to advertise.

Set 5, 2021, 6:31 pm

Not read all this thread, and the insects in this one aren't genetically engineered but definitely display signs of intelligence: Ursula LeGuin's short story The Author of the Acacia Seeds...

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