5 More Scifi Novum 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:

Bathroom physical
What if physicals at the doctor’s office became a thing of the past as you received one every time you entered your bathroom? The rug would measure your weight, pulse and blood pressure, the toothbrush check your saliva, the mirror track your height, and an auto-analysis of your waste in the toilet bowl will examine what you ate and drank to recommend diet changes. How does this change our personal health or health insurance rates?

Colonizing Lalande 21185 moon
What if an interstellar expedition locates a habitable moon around one of the gas giants orbiting Lalande 21185, a M-type star about 8.3 light years away? How would the colonists overcome the many challenges facing them, such as the dim starlight, radiation from the gas giant, and blocking of the starlight when the gas giant eclipses the main star? 

Dynamic earpiece
What if we wore earpieces that could filter out specific noises or amplify specific sounds? For example, we might set the earpiece to tune out advertising but raise the volume of teachers in the classroom.

Space cloud
What if to reduce global warming, a reflective mesh of a trillion ultra-thin mirrors (a “space cloud”) were placed around the Earth to reduce the amount of sunlight hitting the planet? At what point will the space cloud have to be constructed?

What if a thousand nanoscale spacecraft, powered by lightsails, were accelerated to 100 million mph and sent on their way to our nearest neighbor, the Alpha Centauri star system? Depending on the StarChips’ destination within that star system, they could be there in 20-30 years.


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.