Biopunked
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Syn's mansion on Blaxni IV was the worst strand of madness, the kind only a billionaire's mind can produce: every surface –every wall and ceiling, every piece of furniture, the very floor on which I treaded– was made of an unspoilt nacre substance, iridescent and perfectly smooth to the touch. Light permeated the insides of the house, its source unidentifiable even to my chameleonic eyes, making every glance feel like a trip through a bubble of soap. I struggled to grasp the purpose of what little furniture there was, their shapes undoubtedly meant to accommodate a biology all too alien to me– or to any vertebrate.

The room where the interview was to take place was, just like the rest of the immense estate, immaculate, spotless, sterile. It came as no surprise. After all, no one had received me at the door, only a monotone, disembodied voice that directed me into that room and told me to wait for my interviewee before ceasing all communication. The only things alive in that extraordinarily minimalistic space, I concluded, were myself and a single housefly which I quickly snatched and swallowed with one strike of my tongue; it became apparent to me that even the ultra-rich dealt with house pests.

Syn arrived soon after, his body befitting the house it inhabited, a mixture of elegant and off-putting. He too was iridescent, his three double-jointed digitigrade legs supporting a wide-hipped torso. His abdomen was a translucent membrane proudly displaying his innards. A single arm jutted from his chest, ending in a nine-fingered hand with two thumbs. His head, resembling that of a hominid, sported a large pair of golden eyes with vertical pupils, his nose a simple hole in the middle of his face, two convex protrusions at the sides of his cranium in lieu of ears. He had no lower jaw, a bulbous red thing at the bottom of his sinuous neck pulsing as he spoke.

"Mr. Gathers," he said in silky voice, "welcome to my home."

I immediately noticed that he was naked, deciding almost as quickly that it was best not to ponder where his anus was. That, or anything else, really.

"I go by "he" now, but I've had other sexes before, and I will again once I get tired of this one," Syn told me. "I'd rather keep myself unlabeled, I'm sure you understand."

Fashion these days…


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Syn, the Synthetic Sinner


There are many strange things in the Multiverse, I'll tell you: vampire dens moonlighting as BDSM clubs in Barcelona; space whales floating in the skies of Katodan; concerts played on asteroids rocketing towards oblivion. But if you want shit to get weird, and I mean really weird, your best bet is to take a plunge into the sea of amniotic fluid that is the world of bioaugmentations.

To the non-initiated, the very concept of bioaugments is odd at best and repulsive at worst. Artificial wombs, extra eyes and limbs, exposed muscle tissue, and all things slimy are not exactly fashionable in the mainstream. There is, however, a phenomenon born in back-alley clinics and renegade laboratories, a growing movement advocating for the use of bioengineering for things less mundane than medicine or warfare. It is a call to arms for artists and madmen –often one and the same– to take over, to make evolution theirs. Death to the double helix! they cry, Long live the New Flesh!

The New Flesh. That's what they call it, what they call themselves and their augments: the membranous sacs full of fluids; the prehensile tentacles extending from the tip of each digit; the fangs, claws and horns that turn their owners into living weapons; the malformed symbiotes embedded into the skin and intestinal linings of the masses. For the squeamish, they are a carnival of horrors, a parade of depravity. For the enlightened, they are the next stage in the democratization of biotechnology. This is the way of the New Flesh: to have one's shape crafted by surgeon's blade, one's DNA broken down and restructured into new and terrifying forms, is bodily autonomy exercised to its logical extreme.

Bioaugmentation has yet to gain a foothold on fashion and aesthetics as firm as that of its cybernetic counterpart, but the New Flesh has been steadily growing for almost a decade. The lawlessness at its core is an irresistible lure for the youth of worlds way past ecological collapse, its intrinsic shock value a quintessential component of multiversal counterculture. Biopunks, like end-stage cancer, are here to stay.

Growth, however, brings change with it, and as more and more people become drawn towards the New Flesh and their augments, an undesirable mutation starts taking shape. Just like how Banksy's graffity is now a sign of imminent gentrification, biopunk risks no longer being a niche way of life, but a trend ripe for the taking. Here be the defilers, the dread capitalists ready to appropriate, repackage and sell at a profit.

Enter the Bio-Lords. Enter the False Helix. Enter Syn, the Synthetic Sinner.


I sat down with Syn– me on the only piece of furniture with lumbar support, him on a couch that befitted his shape.

"Nice house you have," I said. Getting this interview had not been easy. Some reporters –like a certain mantis– would kill for a chance to interview the Synthetic Sinner, the hottest biohacker in the fashion business. Best to feed the beast before it thinks of eating you, I thought.

Syn took my praise with the false modesty of someone who demands worship.

"Oh, this thing? Nothing too impressive, I promise. I simply thought it'd be better to grow my own house than to build it."

"The house is alive?" I asked.

"Indeed! Flesh is the best construction material, if you know your way around it, which I do. This one body is made of the same DNA as the house, you see," he said, his single hand motioning up and down. "I've always liked that Terran joke about the gingerbread man in the gingerbread house."

I was literally in the belly of the beast.

"Right, though I've never heard this variation where the gingerbread man is also the baker."

Syn extended his arm dramatically, his neck straightening as if to compensate for the lack of other limbs.

"I wouldn't be a real biohacker if I didn't make myself my own canvas, my own muse, would I? That's the bioaguments' whole thing! Reinventing oneself, again and again, against conformity, against the norm! Don't you agree?"

"I know this to be the core philosophy of the New Flesh, yes. But what about those who say that the movement is losing traction, becoming commodified, losing its essence to high-end biohackers?"

"Hah! What do those guys know?" Syn's expression was difficult to read, but I could tell what was going through his mind that very moment: contempt. "Let me tell you something about the so-called "New Flesh." They're obsolete, endlings doomed to extinction! Biotech is the mastery of evolution. Adapt or die!"

"So you believe that what you're doing is, to put it bluntly, the result of natural selection?"

"Oh, Duke– may I call you Duke? There's nothing natural about what we do. That's the point. Everyone who has ever crafted flesh has known this truth: we are beyond natural selection, beyond nature itself. For us, it's a plaything, one that can be used to create chaos, like the fools who waste their talents making plagues and war beasts, or to create art and beauty, like I do."

"Expensive beauty, from what I gather."

"Of course! My art takes much talent and effort to create. I charge accordingly. I mean, have you ever seen one of my pieces upclose? Here let me show you…"

A wall opened behind Syn, revealing a slab of tender flesh coursing with glowing veins. At its center was a thing resembling a sphincter. Syn walked towards it, introduced his entire arm and retrieved a tiny transparent slide of acrylic. A minuscule cluster of nerves and tissue rested in that crystaline prison.

"This one body, one of many that I've had through the years, was grown entirely from a sample like this one. I can make a whole being grow in a matter of days, Duke. I create angels out of lowly stem cells. Perhaps I'll even make one out of you…"

I frowned.

"Listen, I ain't for sale."

"No, you're not, Duke. That would be slavery, something all too… kitsch. However, I think I would like a sample of your DNA. Just a tiny sample. My next batch of product could use a reptilian touch, if you know what I mean."

"You mean you're trying to incorporate scales and prehensile tails into your next set of augments, don't you? Why? Are those in this year?"

"Oh, how I'd love to tell you what I've planned for the autumn collection! You'll have to forgive that I don't. Trade secrets and all that. Rest assured, your invite to the fashion show is more than guaranteed. And, of course, a part of the profits would go to you…"

"Is this how you get your samples? Buying them off people?"

"Of course! I'm not a savage!"

"I don't mean to imply that you are. But I do recall that the O.G. bioaugments, the more "traditional" ones, are meant to be grown from samples picked from ususpecting passerby, off public restrooms and bars. Isn't the hunt for desirable DNA part of the fun?"

"For the obsolete and the crass, maybe. We're on a whole different level here. This here;" Syn waved the acrylic slide vigorously, "is not the result of sticking to some archaic, bullshit tradition. It's the result of careful selection, precise cultivation and care. That is what separates art from some bootleg attempt at science."

"What you call art some have called appropriation. The Gliscian and their planetary neighbors, for example, have been very vocal about not wanting biohackers using their DNA in any way. How would you respond to those who believe that the New Flesh and biohacking in general do them a disservice?"

"Please." Syn rolled his eyes. "I don't waste my time with such closed minds! I don't listen to any of them, not even to the Nälkä who try to picket my events because I offend their Prophet by profiting off biohacking. Sure, they might have invented fleshcrafting, but we are today's enlightened ones. We make the rules now!"

He leaned in closer to me, the red bulb pulsing faster.

"You don't want to have your DNA used for art? Fine, be uncultured swine for all I care. But that's not gonna stop me, or any other biohacker with guts, from getting what I want. In fact, they should be thanking me! I'm doing them a favor by incorporating their species into my work!"

"How so?"

"By creating bioaugments out of a species' DNA, I'm not only making a fashion statement, no. I'm pushing for something greater: understanding. With my products, you can experience life as other beings! You can see the Universe in completely alien ways, walk in the steps of people inconceivably different from you! And not just one species at a time– I am currently in a body made from the genetic material of fifteen different sapient and non-sapient beings. You cannot begin to imagine the things I've experienced through the countless bodies I've inhabited, the many eyes through which I've seen. My art, Duke, goes deeper."

"I believe you. However, I cannot help recall that you've never marketed your products as a means of promoting peace and understanding."

Syn frowned. I could tell I had touched a nerve.

"It's all in the subtext, Duke! People are meant to find out when they buy and use the augments."

"And you believe that experiencing life as other species do is what consumers are looking for?"

"Oh, I'm sure. That and looking absolutely FA-BU-LOUS. Hell, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: I recently got a sample from a species whose skin is transparent in most wavelengths of light, but becomes shiny and opaque under UV lighting. It'll be all the rage for nightclubs and raves."

"Sure."

"Well, if that doesn't impress you, then maybe you'll be more interested in a full-body augment. I'm pretty good at making those; you could go home in the body of a lion, or glide your way out as a mitraral. Any creature, sapient or non-sapient, I can make you into."

"Sorry," I blurted out in an almost knee-jerk fashion, "is this an interview or a sales pitch?"

We laughed a surprisingly candid laughter. Syn might be a genius buying too much into himself, but something about him was starting to grow on me– hopefully not a tumor.

"Not to make this about me, but I'm wondering what you plan to do with my sample, assuming I accept your offer. What will be your priority, Syn? Style or substance?"

"Ah, wouldn't you like to know? I'll just say that I guarantee you'll be more than pleased with the result, I'm sure. I'll even have my fiancée model it for you."

Now that was unexpected news, and I could not hide my surprise.

"You're engaged?"

"I am! To a lovely lady who has been my muse for over a year now. She loves those full-body augments I was telling you about; it's made our relationship very, very sweet."

"Then maybe she'll concede me an interview," I said trying not to imagine some poor woman being used like a lab rat, "just to get the perspective of someone who has… undergone full-body procedures."

"I'm sure she'll tell you all you want to know. Reptiles are in, remember?"

"And where is this lovely lady of yours?"

Syn looked around.

"I swear she was buzzing around here somewhere…"

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