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A bioship is a type of spacecraft or starship described in science fiction. Bioships differ from other types of spacecraft in that they are composed, either predominantly or totally, of biological components, rather than being constructed from manufactured materials. Because of this, they nearly always have a distinctively organic look.
Bioships are usually quite powerful, and can often regenerate or heal damaged parts. Some bioships are intelligent or sentient, and some are considered to be lifeforms. Like most organic beings, many bioships contain large amounts of "scaffolding" materials to keep their shape, such as the xylem in trees or bone and chitin in animals.
In the science fiction short story "Specialist" by Robert Sheckley, published in 1953 in Galaxy magazine, it is revealed that many galactic races are actually capable of symbiotic cooperation to become bioships, with each race forming a different part. Earth, apparently, is one of the planets inhabited by creatures that are supposed to function as FTL drives (Pushers), and, it is stated that all the conflicts and discontent of humanity are due to the fact that, while they have matured, they have nowhere to apply their true purpose. This story is perhaps the first mention of a bioship in science fiction.
Volume 322 of the German Perry Rhodan magazine series, first published in November 1967, marks another very early appearance of the bioship concept in science fiction. The Dolans are powerful bioengineered combat spaceships that are grown from the same synthetic genetic material as their extraterrestrial commanders. Different types of bioships are a recurrent feature in later stages of the Perry Rhodan universe.
The Night's Dawn Trilogy: the Edenist Voidhawk and Mercenary Blackhawk are both advanced bioships (the latter being a genetic tailoring for combat of the former). Both types employ mental bonding to the captain. In the case of Voidhawks this is done by both the craft and captain gestating together and maintaining mental contact during their formative years. Blackhawks however are purchased as eggs and are bonded to the buyer who will become captain when the Blackhawk matures.
In the first novel of Julian May's Pliocene series, The Many-Colored Land (1982), the backstory of two races of alien refugees living in the Earth's Pliocene epoch describes their hard landing in a bioship. The bioship was emotionally bonded to one of the aliens (the "shipwife") and sacrificed its own life to safely deliver its passengers to the planet surface.
- Noel Keyes, editor Contact: Man Faces Extraterrestrial Life New York:1963 Paperback Library, Inc. "Specialist" by Robert Sheckley (1953) Pages 153-166
- Perrypedia vol. 322: Ein Gigant erwacht (A Giant Awakes) (German)
- Schematic of a Dolan Archived
- Hamilton, Peter F. (1996). The Reality Dysfunction. Pan Books (UK).
- May, J. C. (1982). The Many-coloured Land. New York, NY: Tor Books. ISBN 978-0330266567.