5 Great Science Fiction Writing Prompts

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:

Abandoned cities
As global warming raises water levels, many coastal cities will be wiped out; Bangkok faces this threat as early as the 2030s. How would the few people who remain on the few yet-to-be-submerged sections of these abandoned cities live?

Gene therapy for deafness
What if some people believe that being born with a defect is a genetic right that should not be taken away? How will this debate play out in a world where gene therapy can solve deafness to make one “normal”?

Last gorilla
What if there were only one gorilla left in the wild? What would the last days of that gorilla’s life be like?

Memory restoration
What if a brain implant could restore lost memories? How would the “recovery” of memories change a person’s life and that of her family?

Nano medic
As technology advances, new jobs that utilize it will emerge. One such job of the mid-21st century is likely to be a “nano medic.” What is an ethical issue a nano medic might face during a typical workday?