I have only one piece of advice to offer if you’re thinking about writing a sci-fi story.
Write a story that can only be told through the lens of science fiction.
I’m afraid sci-fi is too often marginalized as a sub-genre, which boils the term down to an aesthetic rather than its own separate cultural niche, as if any story can be good Sci-Fi if you just slap a xenomorphic coat of paint on it. You add some aliens, or future tech, or a simulation and—boom!—You got yourself a good Sci-Fi.
Though every story is a human story at its very core, there should be, and is, so much more to science fiction. Speculating about a future or a cosmically influenced scenario is also speculating about a state of humanity that is unknown to us. It’s not just the scenario that’s different; we are. Even in a movie like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where normal people in middle America confront a wider universe, you’re still dealing with a version of humanity wildly different from the humanity you see when you look out the window. Its humanity shown under a light the color of which we’ve never seen before.
Aliens are just the beginning. You don’t have to look to the stars to shine a new light on the human condition. Take the decidedly cyberpunk concept of transhumanism. Transhumanism is defined on Wikipedia as “a philosophical movement the proponents of which advocate the enhancement of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies able to greatly enhance longevity, mood and cognitive abilities.” Transhumanists want to enhance themselves with technology and reach beyond the limitations of the body they were born with. They want to transcend their humanity.
Now for the fun part. If you wanted to incorporate the theme of transhumanism into your Science Fiction writing, the first step is to ask questions—to speculate, if you will.
Ask yourself: “What can happen?”
- What can happen if the rich and powerful use technology to become immortal and lord over us for eternity (Fallout: New Vegas?)
- What can happen if our cybernetic components are compromised (Ghost in the Shell?)
- What can happen if another consciousness were downloaded onto the same “drive” as your own (Cyberpunk 2077?)
- What can happen if technology allowed us to modify our genetic code and grant us the abilities of animals (Batman Beyond?)
- What can happen if a robot replaces all their robot parts with human parts (Bicentennial Man?)
- Is there a point at which a transhumanist has replaced so many of their parts that they can’t be considered human anymore?
- What qualities does a robot need to have before they’re considered more than just property?
What can happen?
That’s just the one common science fiction theme. There are so many more, and luckily for us, Wikipedia has a comprehensive itemized list of many more if you happen to want some ideas. You can find it here.
Science Fiction is one of the most involved and rewarding genres to write and I encourage everyone to try it. Jump on a concept and explore it. That’s what it’s all about.
Thanks for reading. As always, if you consider yourself a writer, or just want to start developing your talent, I hope you’ll consider participating in one of our monthly genre contests for a chance to win cash, a custom digital book cover, and an author spotlight interview.
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