5 Unconventional Science-Fiction Themes
Tired of space operas and time travel? Here are a few fresh ideas. Writing prompts included.
Science-fiction brings images of space travel and the dysfunctional Skywalker family to mind. Killer robots and David Tennant. Maybe biochemical warfare just to spice things up. Climate issues are getting more popular. Can’t imagine why.
No hating on Doctor Who (I’m obsessed), but there is so much more under the “science” umbrella to pick at!
Human evolution is fascinating, and I am shocked not many people have created Neandertal characters! I’m currently working on a story with a Neandertal narrator, and let me tell you, it needs to be done more.
We write so much about aliens, but not as much about our Homo ancestors. This is shocking to me because it seems to be a popular subject. But I get how it would be difficult to write fiction about it.
- What if someone Jurassic Parked Neandertal DNA? Or H. erectus DNA?
- What if a live H. erectus was found in the Sahara Desert?
- An underground city is found that is more technologically advanced than most ancient civilizations. Only Australopithecus remains are found in the cemeteries.
- Chimpanzees/Bonobos reach the Bronze Age and start writing stories and building houses. (technically, they’re in the Stone Age).
I have heard of a work that is about human evolution going backward, but I lost the note I took on it. So, if anyone knows what I’m talking about, please help a girl out.
2. Medical Engineering
Medical-themed novels are common, but what isn’t as common is medical technology-focused fiction.
Maybe your character is developing a new type of scanner or diagnostic technology and it goes wrong.
Biotechnology and androids are common, but if done from a medical angle, it would be a fresh take on a common theme. Usually, this goes in a consumerist route. I.e. Cybermen from Doctor Who. And it isn’t like the medical route hasn’t been taken, but it is certainly the road less traveled.
- Your character recently had a pacemaker put in 200 years ago. Now they’re immortal.
- Your character discovers the cure for all viruses, but there’s a terrible cost in manufacturing it.
- The year is 1500 and your character is desperately trying to find a cure for The Sweat. They find a device that seems to be able to cure everything, but where did it come from?
3. Civil Engineering
Buildings, construction, architecture. There’s so much potential here. It is harder to come up with prompts for this one because so much research would need to be done.
Civil engineers usually assess soil quality (especially after the Tower of Piza) and manage risk for earthquakes/volcanic activity/general disintegration. You could mix this with #5 on the list.
One good thing to research is Karst Processes and sinkholes. You could probably make a hell of an action story.
- Your character developed a new element stronger than steel to construct buildings, but one day, everything made with it collapses with no explanation.
- Your character was given the simple job of assessing the soil, but the soil collapses underneath them in the middle of the job.
I’m not telling you to write a book about rocks, except I’m telling you to write a book about rocks.
Hear me out here. If you look at layers of sediment, you can date when different events happened. It’s how we know when non-avian dinosaurs went extinct.
Maybe your character finds a strange type of material that places a geological event (super-earthquake) every 200k years and it is around go-time again.
But there are also volcanoes, and think beyond Vesuvius and Yellowstone (psst. It will probably never erupt anyway).
- Your character finds a new type of rock that is much much older than the Earth. And it’s alive. (Pet rocks, anyone?).
- A volcano appears out of nowhere and your character is tasked to study it. But there’s no telling if and when it will erupt.
- Your character develops a way to prevent earthquakes for good, but what is the cost?
You can write a compelling book about geology, and I will die on this hill. It’s an underutilized science in fiction.
Outer space stories overwhelm science fiction, and there’s nothing wrong with that! I love great space operas. But science is so much more than the stars. There’s a lot here on Earth to write about and use in your writing.
I hope this gave you some ideas or inspiration to go forth and find different sciences to research and twist.
PS: If you use any of the prompts I gave, I’d love to read them if you want to share!