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5 Awesome SF Novum Writing Prompts

Science 00zfiction 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:

Augmented reality
What if we wore glasses and an earpiece that overlaid computer-generated images and audio over what we see and hear in reality? For example, if trying to find a building on a city street, arrows projected onto our field of vision shows which way to go?

Contextual commerce
What if your appliances could make purchases for you based on an analysis of your likes and habits? For example, when your milk is about to expire, your refrigerator orders new milk for you – using the specific brand and fat percentage you prefer.

Epigenetics
What if a class of jobs that turns targeted genes on or off were common? Such drugs could be used to treat cancer and various genetic diseases.

Snagging space junk
What if robotic spacecraft were launched to remove space junk from Earth orbit? What would be the best “capture mechanisms” to pick up the debris – harpoons, nets, robotic arms or tentacles?

Solar surfing
What if a super-reflective material were developed that allowed our spacecraft to get extremely close to the sun’s surface? How would this change our understanding of the sun and allow for colonization of Mercury?

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