Do you know what I am tired of? Genetic engineering. At least in fiction that is. I don’t have any exposure to real genetic engineering. At least I don’t think I do. Is it in all of our food yet? It’s the plot device of genetic engineering that I have had enough of.

In the 50s and 60s it was radioactivity that made all of the monsters. Godzilla and all those giant beasts were made, or at least woken up, by radioactivity. In the movies radioactivity made every mundane creature grow to extra large proportions. From ants and spiders to lizards and apes if it got just the right amount of radiation it was gettin’ large and going on a rampage. And that forty foot woman too. Be afraid; the atomic age is here and running wild.

Radiation made a lot of the super-heroes who were born in the 60’s. Spider-Man was bitten by that radioactive spider, the Hulk was pelted by gamma rays, and the Fantastic Four were bombarded by cosmic rays. There are plenty more where they came from. A bar of radioactive whatever blinded Daredevil right in the middle of a Manhattan street and then rolled into the sewer and created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (but that was twenty years later). Radiation could mutate for good as well as make giant monsters.

Yes, fiction writers thought radiation and its power to rearrange atoms would change the human race and offer us all sorts of options for the future. And give us super powers to boot. Who doesn’t want super powers?

In short: if you ever needed to create a hero or villain you didn’t need a whole back story filled with events and motivations. You needed some radiation. It explained everything.

Now we look back at those times and the notion of radiation doing everything as quaint. Those silly writers in the past. Didn’t they know that radioactivity mostly kills you? Super powers, c’mon.

We are so much smarter. After all, now we have genetic engineering.

Some time in the 90s, I’m not sure exactly when, almost every new monster and super-hero was born of genetic engineering. I’m watching season two episodes of the X-Files (1993-4) and there is a lot of genetic engineering but still some radiation monsters too. Radiation was almost dead at that point but genetic engineering was just getting started. Nowadays almost every new super hero dreamed up has the same origin. The are all born of a secret government project. It doesn’t matter what government, sometimes it’s a corporation, sometimes it’s on another planet but it is always a genetic engineering project.

As tiresome as that is what I find most amazing is people. I’ve mentioned I’m bored of genetic engineering before and compared it to radiation and somebody always says, “but the difference is that genetic engineering is real and they will be able to do all of those things one day”. That is what was thought about radiation! No one is ever going to grow wings and shoot blasts out of their eyes because of genetic engineering! Nope, no way, not gonna happen. Sure our food might be more resistant to climate and disease and we might live longer and healthier but super strength, flight and hanging out in the vacuum of space?

Years from now when the next all purpose plot device comes along we will be looked on as the quaint ones who thought genetic engineering could do anything. Anything the plot called for that is.