"Take a scientific fact or theory, add a futuristic or other-worldly setting, stir in an imaginative plot and fascinating characters, and a science fiction novel emerges from the cosmic mix". -Yvonne Coleman
Science fiction is one of the most popular literary genres at the moment. It’s one of the most imaginative genres to write, your creativity as limitless as the universe with no strict rules to hinder your vision. That being said, however, there are some elements that need to be included in your writing to make it fall into the sci-fi category.
Before writing science fiction, make sure you read it! By reading and studying the speculative authors you love, you can sharpen your craft and be inspired to write even more.
Even if you are a science fiction wordsmith already, it never hurts to refresh yourself on the basics. You might be inspired to use elements you’ve never used before to challenge yourself in a new writing exercise. As a writer, you can never write too much, and your time writing is never wasted, even if it never sees the light of day.
One of the key distinctions to learn as a writer of science fiction is the difference between hard and soft science fiction.
There are also dozens of subgenres of sci-fi as well! Click here to read an in-depth article I wrote on the blog about the subgenres of sci-fi. This might also get your creative wheels turning to help you draft an out-of-this-world story, novel, or poem.
Some tips before writing:
With those ideas in mind, let’s check out some important elements to consider when writing science fiction.
In 2021, colonizing another planet isn’t actually that far off, if you believe Elon Musk. Since the 1950s, science fiction has been celebrating the pioneer spirit in the cosmos. While there are hopeful stories about colonization, most novels place colonies in dystopian territory, where once utopian ideals come crashing down.
Read: Planetfall by Emma Newman
Even though we know now that other life exists in the far reaches of the infinite universe, meeting non-human creatures is still a point of speculation. Many of these stories subscribe to the “first contact” narrative, as it helps readers imagine the impacts of such an encounter in our world.
Read: Contact by Carl Sagan
Science fiction readers are ready to immerse themselves in alternate realities and settings. Creating an authentic world for your characters to live in is a must. In science fiction, world-building is essential to bring your genre to life for your reader.
Read: Dune by Frank Herbert
The phrase “what if” is the underlying idea of speculative literature. With futuristic technologies, you can examine the possibilities and their far-reaching consequences on humanity. With so many new technological advances on the scene, you’ll have tons of inspiration to draw from.
Read: Neuromancer by William Gibson
Who doesn’t love Star Wars or Star Trek? Blasters a’blazin, hyperspeeding across the galaxy tracking your enemies...what’s not to love?
Read: Metaplanetary: A Novel of Interplanetary Civil War by Tony Daniel
If there was ever a place to speculate, it’s the mind. A beloved element of science fiction is the ability to read minds, move things with your mind, or control people with your mind. This topic is also great for exploring dystopias where a central “evil” overcomes its people with mind control.
Read: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The concept of the “multiverse” is surprisingly not attributed to modern science or comic books; Duchess Margaret Cavendish actually wrote about parallel universes in her 17th-century novel, A Blazing World. Since then, it has been a dominating theme in science fiction, as the possibilities with this topic are, well, infinite.
Read: Infinite by Brian Freeman
While robots and AI are a part of our everyday life in the 21st century, there is still plenty of room for speculation. One of the recurring topics in sci-fi is the robots rising above humans and subjugating them.
Read: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
While humans can’t yet teleport, it is possible on the subatomic level in quantum physics, making this a great jumping-off point to speculate what is achievable. Instantly being anywhere in the galaxy in seconds? Beam me up, Scotty.
Read: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
A classic trope of sci-fi, time travel tourism is great fun to write. You can explore alternate histories, parallel universes, and futuristic technologies, to name a few.
Read: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs