Five Writing Prompts for Science Fiction

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:

Artificial antibiotics
What is we engineered artificial microorganisms to serve as antibiotics? Would such microorganisms be better or worse than using nanites to fight disease?

Barnard’s Star colonization
What if Barnard’s Star, an old red dwarf that in 9000 years will be closer to the Sun than Alpha Centauri, had a habitable planet that humans can colonize? The planet would be tidally locked and orbit its star every 5-22 days. 

Emotion sharing
What if while viewing a photo, through direct brain stimulation, you also could experience the emotion that the photo-taker intended? How does society balance the bonding and creative potential of such sharing with the potential for mind control and manipulation by politicians and marketers?

Problem-solving games
What if video games become collaborative efforts to solve problems – breaking genomes of new pathogens, locating natural resources, dancing on a pad to generate energy – rather than competitive in nature (that is, human vs. human)? When world problems become “fun,” how does this change the dynamic of human and cultural relationships?

Senses upgrade
What if humans could receive implants that allows their brains to safely detect electromagnetic radiation outside of their senses, such as radio waves, infrared, ultraviolet, and X-rays? What laws would have to be passed to prevent people from committing crimes against people with upgraded senses?