Science fiction stories typically revolve 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:
Ice Age Park
What if scientists were able to create hybrids of extinct animals and plants from the Pleistocene, such as wooly mammoths and saber-tooth tigers, that people could visit like they do zoos today? What would such a park have to do to remain financially solvent?
Portable medical test
What if a device could test a person’s blood, saliva or urine to determine conditions ranging from malaria and typhoid to anemia and diabetes? It could be powered or hooked to the Internet by plugging into a cell phone.
What if food were grown in vertically stacked levels, over bodies of water near cities? Feeding on liquid nutrients, a 106-story high farm that is 200-yards wide would produce more than 8 tons of vegetables and 1.5 tons of fish per year.
What if instead of boarding a plane at an airport you boarded a pod-like train, carrying your luggage with you, that a descending airplane would pickup and bring to another airport. There, the airplane would drop off your pod, which would head to a specific section of the city closest to your destination? The airplanes never would land except for maintenance), reducing fuel needs and the time an aircraft needed at an airport.
Virtual reality news
What if you could experience the news as the reporter does via virtual reality? You could head through a battlefield with embedded reporters, walk across a refugee camp, or live through a hurricane, all from the comfort of your own home. Would this change the way people perceive the world and others?
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