Created By: AminatepFebruary 24, 2011 Last Edited By: AminatepMarch 21, 2011
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Genetic Adaptation

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This is a counterpart to the Fisher Kingdom, except it is the outsiders that willingly impose the transformations upon themselves, rather than the environment.

For example, humans are attempting to colonize an alien planet, but unfortunately, it's quite unpleasant to live on: to actually survive on the planet, you'd either have to wear space suits and build sealed cities to shield you from its atmosphere and hazards, or go native. But if you have the technology, you can do exactly the latter: Change and adapt your species to enable you to survive on the planet and become one of its native inhabitants.

There are two ways of doing this: The short-term version affects specific individual persons only, while the long-term solution affects the entire colony, becoming a part of the planet's evolutionary chain, possibly becoming a dominant species with the original humans remembered only as ancient Precursors. Over time, the transformed may also become mentally alien as well as they adapt to the planet's nature, or the mental changes are immediate and directly connected to the process of transformation.

Expect lots of Hollywood Evolution and Lego Genetics.

If the transformed species ever meets its original version, expect to find An Aesop about What Measure Is A Non Human (if from the humans' point of view) and/or Humans Are Bastards (if from the natives' point of view).

Examples:

  • This is a major part of Avatar's plot, though humans don't change their bodies, instead remotely controlling titular avatars.
  • In Clifford Simak's City series of novels, the only way to survive on Jupiter is to become a jupiterian. When such a technology is discovered, people find out that jupiterians are absolutely superior to humans in every single way: they are immortal, superintelligent, telepathic, et cetera. Thus everybody just move son Jupiter, and humanity as a species ceases to be.
  • Way Station, another Clifford Simak's story briefly mentions a race of aliens who colonized numerous planets regardless of the conditions by physically and mentally changing themselves every time to perfectly fit them. The main character wonders whether can they be counted as the same race.
  • In one Sergey Lukyanenko short story the protagonist, who possesses the ability to automatically adapt to anything pefrectly, is hired to deal with a dangerous predator on a distant planet. Gradually adapting to the Death World in question he understands that the dangerous predator in question could not possibly hunt humans for fun as described, as he actually became exactly like him, physically and mentally. When the two finally meet, they start playing as cats do... which gives the colonists a perfect opportunity to kill both with a single rocket, since both aren't technically human and they don't have to pay him this way. He survives, and briefly mentions before leaving that they are the ones who are not human.
  • In Hyperion cantos, we eventually learn that this is how the Ousters came to be - pioneers of interstellar travel, they had to radically alter their biology to survive. When rest of the humanity finally caught up with Hawking drives and means for terraforming, Ousters became persecuted.
  • The 'Amphibians' of Gene Catlow colonize other planets using this method - but on Earth, they screwed up somehow. Seeing as Earth is mainly ocean, they figured that an amphibian form would work best there - while failing to notice intelligent life evolving on dry land at the same time.
  • It's also referenced in Freefall. Florence, an uplifted wolf, is a 'proof of concept' for a process designed to uplift and educate a species from a fertile-but-biologically-hostile world called Pfouts - rather than altering humans to be alien, it's a case of altering aliens to be human.
  • In Killzone, the Hellghast are the result of colonists adapting to a Death World. They aren't happy about it.
  • In Surface Tension by James Blish humans colonize a mostly water-covered planet by creating a race of humanoids out of their own genes hand-crafted to best suit this planet, and leaving all their knowledge, up to and including how to build spaceships, in form of tablets to be read when they develop enough to manage to do so. The driving point of the story is that being made to perfectly suit the world in question includes being microscopic.
  • Western Comics: Marvel's 1970's Guardian of the Galaxy series. Lead by Vance Astro, the secondary members of the team were former humans bio-engineered to survive the harsh conditions of the other planets of the Solar System. http://www.newsarama.com/comics/080606-FBGuardiansGalaxyv1.html
  • In Jack Chalker's "Downtiming the Night Side," it's said that most of the humans who moved to other planets had to radically alter their bodies to survive; most don't even look human now, though they still think of themselves as such.
  • In Transhuman Space, Mars is terraformed, but not to the extent that normal humans can cope with the conditions. Most of the population still live in pressure-domes, but a sizable minority have been "bio-modded" to fit the environment. In addition a large minority of the Rust China population are bioroids genetically engineered for Mars.
  • In All Tomorrows, humans intentionally modified themselves to live on Mars. Then they went on to colonize other worlds, but kept their new form - large chests, bigger heards, slender hands and so on. Then the Abusive Precursors stepped in and modified the humans on each planet into something that can perfectly live on the world they colonized, but is rarely even humanoid, just to have fun.
  • The Sci-fi novel I, Weapon deals with a universe that is essentially the aftermath of this with hundreds of variant human species who have adpated to the various planets of the universe, albeit in some cases with extensive genetic manipulation.
Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • February 24, 2011
    Stratadrake
    So you're talking about a variant Fisher Kingdom where it's the immigrants (rather than the location) that impose the transformations upon them? Interesting variation; clear Sister Trope.

    The reference to Fisher Kingdom is definitely a little misguided, though. Needs A Better Title, but I've got no suggestions at this time.

    Avatar isn't a variation, in fact it's not even an example to begin with: Humans by large aren't attempting to colonize the planet Pandora so much as attempting to extract resources from it. The Avatar program was secondary to that, to reduce conflicts with the existing natives.
  • February 24, 2011
    BarryOgg
    In Hyperion cantos, we eventually learn that this is how the Ousters came to be - pioneers of interstellar travel, they had to radically alter their biology to survive. When rest of the humanity finally caught up with Hawking drives and means for terraforming, Ousters became persecuted.
  • February 25, 2011
    Aminatep
    Stratadrake, this trope is basically about somebody voluntarily changing themselves to adapt to an otherwise hostile environment. Politics? Another thing.

  • February 25, 2011
    Earnest
  • February 25, 2011
    troacctid
    This isn't a Fisher Colony, it's more like Terraforming. Only more like Reverse Terraforming. Except, uh, not really? Well, it's a related concept anyway.
  • February 25, 2011
    tropesstealsleep
    Anthtroforming?
  • February 25, 2011
    fulltimeD
    I second Anthroforming as a title
  • February 25, 2011
    Stratadrake
    "Anthroforming" as a title is about as interesting as tofu: workable but tasteless.

    Becoming The Alien? No, not quite....
  • February 26, 2011
    Josech
    The "Toclafane" of Doctor Who are humans turned Brain In A Jar, to survive the end of the universe. The Master arranges for them to meet their human ancestors, whom they kill and enslave.
  • February 26, 2011
    Earnest
  • February 26, 2011
    BlackDragon
    Evolve To Colonize? Maybe not clever, but descriptive. And it's a nice callback to 'Evolve Or Die'. Or maybe Evolve Or Stay Home?

    The 'Amphibians' of Gene Catlow colonize other planets using this method - but on Earth, they screwed up somehow. Seeing as Earth is mainly ocean, they figured that an amphibian form would work best there - while failing to notice intelligent life evolving on dry land at the same time.

    It's also referenced in Freefall. Florence, an uplifted wolf, is a 'proof of concept' for a process designed to uplift and educate a species from a fertile-but-biologically-hostile world called Pfouts - rather than altering humans to be alien, it's a case of altering aliens to be human... would that still count, you think?
  • February 26, 2011
    Bisected8
    In Killzone, the Hellghast are the result of colonists adapting to a Death World. They aren't happy about it.
  • March 1, 2011
    jatay3
    Dune ?
  • March 1, 2011
    Aminatep
    You mean Leto II?
  • March 1, 2011
    LeeM
    "In one short story (I don't remember the name or the author) humans colonize a mostly water-covered planet..."
    • Hmm, nobody recognized this one? "Surface Tension" by James Blish.
  • March 2, 2011
    Aminatep
    Thank you, thank you. I was a child when I read that one.
  • March 3, 2011
    Aminatep
    Bump
  • March 9, 2011
    BlackDragon
    I don't think Dune counts. While the Fremen certainly adapted to the harsh environment of Arraki, they didn't really 'evolve' - genetically, they're not far removed from ordinary humans. And as for Leto II, his evolution wasn't spurred by the necessity of adapting to the environment, and besides, he's just one bloke - hardly constitutes a colony.
  • March 9, 2011
    Aminatep
    The title is just misleading as of now, one guy is enough, as long as he transforms into an alien.
  • March 9, 2011
    ced1106
    If You Cant Beat It Join It :D

    Anyhoo, another example:

    Western Comics: Marvel's 1970's Guardian of the Galaxy series. Lead by Vance Astro, the secondary members of the team were former humans bio-engineered to survive the harsh conditions of the other planets of the Solar System. http://www.newsarama.com/comics/080606-FBGuardiansGalaxyv1.html
  • March 9, 2011
    Speedball
    Adapted Civilization, maybe?

    In Jack Chalker's "Downtiming the Night Side," it's said that most of the humans who moved to other planets had to radically alter their bodies to survive; most don't even look human now, though they still think of themselves as such.
  • March 9, 2011
    DaibhidC
    In Transhuman Space, Mars is terraformed, but not to the extent that normal humans can cope with the conditions. Most of the population still live in pressure-domes, but a sizable minority have been "bio-modded" to fit the environment. In addition a large minority of the Rust China population are bioroids genetically engineered for Mars.
  • March 12, 2011
    Rolf
    Self-modify to environment as title?
  • March 13, 2011
    Aminatep
    Moar title suggestions?
  • March 13, 2011
    Rolf
    My last idea is only one I have so far.
  • March 17, 2011
    Deboss
  • March 17, 2011
    troacctid
    Is there a Trope Namer we can use?
  • March 17, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Fisher Colonist? I know it's just a tweak, but I'm low on ideas.
  • March 18, 2011
    Aminatep
    Huh. Genetic Adaptation is kind of pro.
  • March 18, 2011
    FuzzyBoots
    • The Sci-fi novel I, Weapon deals with a universe that is essentially the aftermath of this with hundreds of variant human species who have adpated to the various planets of the universe, albeit in some cases with extensive genetic manipulation.
  • March 21, 2011
    Madrugada
    Great trope, nice write-up. Tongue-in-cheek name suggestion: Terranforming? Don't bother objecting --I know that it's far to close to Terraforming to work.

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