In our rapidly advancing world, more and more of us are learning that the stories of sci-fi we grow up reading or watching aren’t always so far from the truth.
Technology we once could only dream of now sits in our pockets or in our homes. Automation is reducing the need for so much human labor. Individual privacy is a pressing issue against a backdrop of tragedy in social media advertisements.
Science fiction’s relevance to life today makes it an increasingly popular genre.
As a writer, sci-fi presents a challenge.
There is a need for unique technology and predictions of a potential future, an incredible imagination, and a basic understanding of physics.
Still, you don’t need a Ph.D. to write a good sci-fi story.
This article includes a list of short science fiction story prompts to get you started. Read through the list below and pick some of your favorite science fiction story ideas to work on.
Before we get to the prompts, let’s take a quick look at some common themes and tropes in the sci-fi genre to give you even more sci-fi story ideas and inspiration.
Science fiction story ideas that appeal to readers
Sci-fi is a broad genre. Aliens and spaceships, dystopian futures, artificial intelligence, and time travel all fall under the sci-fi genre and create an immersive reading experience.
Even though there is an abundance of sci-fi subgenres, it can still be hard to get inspiration to write a short sci-fi story. Any creative writer knows that writing a story, like painting a picture or arranging a song, does not always come easy.
However, inspiration is never far. Sometimes all it takes is a little jolt, something that sparks your creativity and gets your creative juices flowing so you can work on your first draft.
Check out some of the most common sci-fi themes below and what makes them so appealing.
Later in the article, you’ll find a list of 30 sci-fi writing prompts based on the themes and ideas below.
Spaceships, futuristic technology, aliens, and a close-knit space crew are usually the first things that come to mind when we think of sci-fi. You can thank Star Wars and Star Trek for that.
Space-themed sci-fi stories often follow a group of astronauts or a spaceship crew traveling vast distances and coming across other star systems, planets, and even civilizations.
Writing about space, space travel, and alien encounters can be fun because you get the chance to create entirely new species of alien, complex civilizations, and technology one could only dream of.
If you write about space travel or any other space-related theme, brush up on your physics. Sure, your story is fictional, but sci-fi readers are usually already well-versed in the dynamics and tropes of their favorite genre, so it still needs to make sense.
Artificial intelligence stories make for excellent sci-fi horror.
While aliens, strange creatures, and time travel can be scary, AI is a very real and present part of the world in which we live.
AI is intriguing yet equally terrifying because we already give away so much power to our machines.
In the sci-fi genre, AI is often presented as a service to humans at first. Still, as it develops and we begin to take it for granted, it grows in intelligence, eventually gaining more power than its human creators.
The fun part about writing AI-based science fiction is many scopes. It might be a mobile phone that reads your thoughts, a live-in robot servant that feels taken for granted, or even an entire house that traps you inside.
Of course, not all artificial intelligence has to become evil. You can also write a short story about a relatively basic type of AI, or one that has no agenda but still explores the corruption and psyche of the human who uses it.
Cyber security and cyber hacking are more relevant today than ever before.
Like artificial intelligence as a theme, the dangers and potentials of cyberspace make for great short stories.
What makes cyber-hacking such an interesting theme is that it not only reflects a real threat we face but also lets the writer explore themes like safety, one’s sense of security, and individual privacy.
Time travel is one of the oldest science fiction themes and remains one of the most popular.
There are some basic rules regarding time travel – one character cannot travel back in time and then return to the present without affecting some change.
It can be subtle, but just as a butterfly’s wing can cause an earthquake, any choice or action made when a character travels to the past almost always changes the present to which they return.
Time travel is a fun sci-fi subgenre because it lets the writer explore different potential storylines and narratives.
The only other genre in which writers have this freedom is fantasy, whereby characters can travel through time via magic. Time travel in sci-fi does not use magic and must have some basis in the known laws of physics.
30 sci-fi writing prompts
Here are some examples of sci-fi writing prompts to ignite your imagination:
- A team of astronomers receives an unusual signal from the deep cosmos.
- In the year 2150, humans and robots can legally marry.
- A scientist discovers how to travel through time.
- A team of astronauts excavates a potentially colonizable planet, only to find human remains on the ground.
- An advanced, non-man-made engine falls into a young boy’s back garden from the sky.
- A young girl finds a kitten in her back garden. At least, she thinks it’s a kitten. When she gets home, her parents are horrified at the strange creature in their house.
- A controversial discontinued genetic engineering experiment leads to a small group of ‘flawless’ designer babies. Now, adults struggle to relate to the society around them.
- A team of scientists sends a signal to outer space. They get a response.
- Astronomers from another planet discover Earth.
- A cryo-chamber on spaceship malfunctions. The astronaut sleeping within is awakened, with 50 more years until the rest of the cryo-chambers are programmed to open.
- A device planted in the back of the head lets users gain superhuman abilities. In the wrong hands, the cyber chips can be hacked for an evil agenda.
- Players in a war video game are unaware that the game’s events are real.
- Time travel is not only possible; it’s been used since it was first discovered in Nazi Europe in 1963.
- Scientists create a pill that gives humans temporary superhuman strength.
- Bellowing noises from deep underground on a mars colony frighten the inhabitants.
- A young boy finds a portal to another world in his bathroom mirror. Will he make it back in time for school in the morning?
- A young woman is confused by strange dreams and random flashbacks of operating rooms, and lately, she’s noticed a black Range Rover almost everywhere she goes.
- Immortality has been achieved but is only available for the most elite.
- In a dystopian future, the rich live in luxurious, guarded communities. The rest of the world is left to deal with an unusual number of natural disasters across the planet.
- Humans land on an alien planet under false pretenses.
- Aliens make contact with humans for the first time.
- An archaeologist on an excavation discovers a technologically advanced communication device on a 4,000-year-old site.
- Convenience is king in the world of the future. When you wake up, robots make your bed and cook breakfast. Nobody drives because transport is automated. Humans seem to have everything easy, but there is one problem – a prevailing sense of dissatisfaction across the globe.
- A historian discovers proof that aliens have already visited the Earth.
- A new genetic mutation makes those affected incredibly intelligent from infancy.
- A biochemist creates a cure for cancer. Before she gets a chance to release it to the public, her life turns upside down. Her home is mysteriously burned down, and she gets fired from her job.
- A high school student notices that a basement door, always locked, is not locked today. He peeks inside and sees a cage with a strange, non-earth-like creature staring back at him.
- A plane leaves LAX at 5 am and is due to land in Toronto at 9.30m. Air control completely loses track of the flight, and it never lands. Six months later, Toronto Air Control received a message from the pilot.
- A man loses his daughter in a car crash. Overcome by his grief, he approaches a strange and isolated scientist in town who claims he can make a clone of his daughter for a high fee. As much as the grieving father wants his daughter back, he can’t deny that this clone is not her.
- In a dystopian future, debt collectors don’t just come for money or your possessions. Under the new laws, any outstanding debts that go unpaid for too long can lose you an organ.
‘I think that science fiction, even the corniest of it, even the most outlandish of it, no matter how badly it’s written, has a distinct therapeutic value because all of it has its primary postulate: that the world does change. I cannot overemphasize the importance of that idea.’Robert A. Heinlein
Science fiction is a fun read for those who casually enjoy the genre. For avid sci-fi readers, it can become a lifestyle.
Not everyone likes science fiction, but those who do understand that it’s one of the most immersive genres out there.
There is no other genre that makes the reader ask so many questions. No other genre of fiction sparks as much curiosity about the possibilities of what humans can achieve and what lies in the universe as we know it.
Whether you’re a first-time sci-fi writer or a seasoned veteran, writing an excellent short sci-fi story can be challenging.
Still, don’t let that challenge deter you. Creating your own futuristic or alternative world and developing it to make for a great read is incredibly rewarding.
Hopefully, the prompts and ideas included in this article have helped you overcome that dreaded writer’s block and sparked the next great sci-fi short story within you!