Science fiction stories typically revolve around 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:
What if the only the way people could access their personal or company computers was by having their brainwaves read? Would this increase security or hamper the ability to access information?
What if someone finally figured out how to make a cheap, long-lasting, powerful battery that also was rechargeable after it lost power in a few years? Though this sounds merely convenient, in what ways would it actually help save the planet?
What if C3P0-like nurses served in nursing homes or hospitals, helping patients move between rooms, delivering medications, keeping tabs on those who wander, taking vitals, even entertaining. Can emotional connections with these robots occur?
Sleep in a pill
Only a few neurones in the brain are responsible for sleep. What if you could take a pill that activated those neurons and that could halt their work so you would wake up at a specific time? How would this change the way we approached sleep and planning our daily activities? What if some overdosed on the pills while others chose to modify them so that they didn’t sleep for days?
What if every container of food, every battery casing, and every tire included a strip that monitored and revealed when it was spoiled, out of power, or too worn to be safely used? How would this alter the way people lived their daily lives?