5 Sci-fi Writing Prompts That Will Motivate You

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:

Deuterium mining
What if city-sized communities floated on the oceans to mine deuterium from seawater for fusion fuel? What would life be like in such a community?

Geoneutrino satellites
What if space-based geoneutrino telescopes allow high-resolution imaging of the Earth’s interior? What positive effects does this yield for mankind?

Microwave-powered rockets
What if gyrotron microwave arrays could beam light rockets into orbit? How does this dramatic reduction in the cost of leaving the planet open up space exploration?

What if optogenetics – the use of light to control neurons in living cells – allows disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, autism and schizophrenia to be cured? How do those who suffered from such diseases reintegrate themselves into society?

Sigma Draconis colonization
What if a habitable planet were found orbiting this nearby but old star? Would the expedition find the ruins of an ancient civilization there?