5 Interesting 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:

Body logins
What if rather than passwords, tablets and smartphones instead allowed you to log in by reading your body movements – the way you place the phone to your head, the way you slouch in a chair, and so on? Research, after all, has found that the way we move is as unique to each of us as a fingerprint.

Composite metal foams
What if instead of heavy body armor, new lightweight foams could turn bullets into dust upon impact? How does this change the way we fight wars? Would a nation with this invincible technology be emboldened to devastate its enemies in a first strike? What are other applications of this technology (space exploration, nuclear waste shipping, etc.)?

Eta Cassiopeiae A colonization
What if far future explorers colonized a planet orbiting this sun of the binary star system? The planet’s year would be slightly longer than Earth’s, necessitating a 14-month calendar.

Smart cop dashcams
What if a rudimentary AI connected to a dashcam in a police crusier could quickly identify wanted people, weapons, and other information? What countermeasures might criminals take to counter this technology?

Turing glasses
What if you could wear glasses that allowed you to determine if the biped before you was an intelligent android or a human? How would the glasses work? How might androids wishing to conceal their identity employ countermeasures to trick the glasses?