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:
Body part farms
What if your body’s organs could be cloned and grown at a laboratory (known as a “body parts farm”) for use when you suffer a serious injury or are in old age? How would this change people’s perspective on risk-taking and abusing their bodies through alcohol and drugs?
Habitable West Antarctica
What if thanks to global warming West Antarctica’s climate becomes comparable to that of modern Iceland or Scandinavia? What if it became the world’s fastest growing region?
Mobile phone implants
What if you never had to worry about forgetting or losing your cell phone because it is implanted in your body? Placed in your tooth, the cell phone would use accelerometers containing piezoelectric crystals that send vibrations along your jawbone to your ear drum; you would dial the phone and text on it by moving your mouth in a certain way for each number and letter.
Oceanic thermal converters
What if to generate electricity, use of this technology – which uses the temperature difference between the ocean’s warm surface and cooler deep water to run a heat engine – becomes commonplace? How would this affect the environment, especially if taken to the extreme?
What if vehicle windshields emitted ultrasound waves that kept bugs and rain off them? How could this technology by applied to other aspects of daily living (such as a city sidewalks using the same technology to keep rain, snow and dust off them)?
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.