5 Writing Prompts for Science Fiction Writers

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:

Drinking water from jellyfish
What if coastal communities received drinking water from giant jellyfish bio-engineered to convert salt water to fresh water? With local water supplies limited but coastal cities’ growing populations, the life-giving liquid must be found somewhere.

Mind uploads to robotic bodies
What if the space industry required that any of its employees working in outer space upload their minds to robotic bodies, which are better able to handle the adverse physical conditions? Would the intelligent, conscious robots be truly “human”? How would this change what “being human” means?

Modified space explorers
Given the limitations posed by the speed of light, what if future interstellar space explorers were modified humans whose bodies and brains have been adjusted to better deal with the rigors of long journeys to other stars? How would they cope with “real” humans upon encountering them?

Rewilding the Amazon rainforest
What if deforestation largely turns the Amazon rainforest into a desert by the end of this century – and more environmentally-minded generations that follow decide to rewild it? How would they achieve this?

3D printer city kits
What if after a natural disaster (such as when Hurricane Irma flooded Houston), large 3D printers were brought in to quickly replace destroyed homes, businesses and other structures? Designs for existing buildings could be digitally stored so that the 3D printer could give a duplicate of any lost home or business.