5 Writing Prompts for Killer SF Stories

Science fiction stories typically arise from a novum, a scientifically plausible concept that is a “reality” in the tale. The novum might be an mechanical device like robot servants, artificial intelligence, or faster-than-light spacecraft; it also can be a hypothetical idea such as “The Earth is a scientific experiment run by aliens to determine the meaning of life” or “The government outlaws books.” The author then asks “What if?” exploring how the world with this novum is different than ours.

Among the problems of many novice science fiction writers is instead of introducing a new novum they rely on used furniture – that is, they borrow novums from popular SF series. After all, how many novels have you read that use starships exploring the galaxy for the Earth-based Federation? Barely changing names to appear as if you are not appropriating – a starcraft seeking M-class worlds for the Earth-centered Alliance – still doesn’t cut it as original or fully using the potential that science fiction offers to examine our culture or humanity.

To help SF writers, here are some novums of potential near-future inventions from which stories could be built:

Biometric tattoos
What if we wore sensors, implanted beneath our skin, that could monitor our bodies for when we are having health problems? If you were having a stroke, for example, the sensor automatically would call for an ambulance and give your location to them.

Body heat-powered buildings
What if excess body heat in buildings could be pulled into a ventilation system and used to heat water that in turn warms those buildings? How does this sustainable energy innovation affect society?

Neural driving
What if you could drive your car with your mind? Your neural impulses would be linked to the car’s computer so that you literally could think what it should do. What other applications might this technology have (such as changing the room temperature or the television channel)?

3D Fingerprints
Current fingerprint technology is based on a 2D image of the print. What if we could upscale that to 3D fingerprint readers, in which the structures underneath the skin are read? How would forgers attempt to break this?

36 Ophiuchi AB colonization
What if future space explorers attempt to colonize this binary star system? What challenges would they face on a planet orbiting an orange K-type star?


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.