Are you excited to write a science fiction story but unsure what to write about? Using a writing prompt is a great way to get started.
We’ve created writing prompts in eight popular science fiction subgenres: aliens, biopunk, dystopia, high-tech, robots, science fantasy, space opera, and time travel.
You can start with the categories that you’re most excited about, or read through all of them to see if anything unexpected tickles your imagination.
This article has 80+ science fiction story ideas that you can use for your next novel, screenplay, or short story. Happy writing!
Alien Story Ideas
The alien subgenre is a classic in science fiction literature. Different writers have envisioned countless scenarios for what might happen if we discovered other life in the universe.
- You run a hotel on Earth where various alien species come to stay on vacation
- A child finds out her pet has been an alien all along
- Alien students come to study on Earth for a foreign exchange program
- An alien race comes to planet Earth to help solve global warming
- Humans invade a peaceful alien planet to steal their secrets
- Aliens speak a language you have to learn how to decipher
- Aliens can mind control the human race, except for a certain demographic of people
- Aliens have taken over the Earth, and a family must try to survive against all odds
- A human falls in love with an alien and they have a child together
- Alien parasites can infiltrate the human body and make people commit crimes
- Aliens take over Earth’s prison systems so they can use human criminals as slaves
- Scientists dig up alien technology that has been buried in glacial ice for centuries, revealing secrets nobody expected
Biopunk Story Ideas
Biopunk is a subgenre that grapples with the implications of biotechnology. What happens when humans learn how to engineer and augment their own bodies?
- People steal organs to sell them on the black market
- You can raise a genetically identical version of yourself to give you spare organs
- A scientist recreates her dead family out of grief
- A technology company hides your memories behind a paywall, so you have to pay to access them
- A young woman and her twin sister agree to be genetically modified in two different ways
- You meet someone who looks exactly like you, and find out you’re actually a clone they created
- Every family is only allowed to have one child, and terrible things happen if you break that rule
- Parents are forced to genetically optimize their babies, and those who refuse are forced to work menial labor
- Thieves steal genetic skill sets, such as math skills and gymnastics skills, from the rich
- Evil scientists create a terrible pandemic and unleash it onto enemy countries
Dystopia Story Ideas
If you like critiquing the state of our society or political system, dystopian world building is a great way to do it. This subgenre lets you interrogate the dark side of government control and the erasure of individual autonomy.
- The government, which controls all media, lies about an important historical event to try to erase history
- Nobody is allowed to go beyond the wall that surrounds the city, and nobody remembers why
- The government mandates a hive mind so they can see everyone’s thoughts
- Everyone has a ranking to show their status as a citizen, forcing them into class tiers
- You work for a rebel organization trying to take down the global dictatorship
- The government sets up high-tech surveillance programs that watch everyone 24/7, but only you know how to get around the cameras
- The government decides who you marry and have children with, but you fell in love with someone else
- Nobody is allowed to eat the old foods, but you inherited a recipe book from your grandmother
- The government outlaws a new invention that some people desperately need
- Citizens are forced to participate in brutal competitions
- The government creates a strange new technology for punishing dissidents
- A mechanized police force prevents crime, but also commits atrocities
High-Tech Story Ideas
Many science fiction stories imagine new types of futuristic technology that might change the way we interact with the world, from virtual realities to extreme social media. If you like inventing new things, this sub-genre could be an exciting one to try.
- Someone creates an app that lets people buy, sell, and trade emotions
- Social media gets pushed to the extreme
- A dating app becomes sentient and starts forcing its users to date the people it chooses
- Humans figure out how to upload their minds into computers, effectively achieving immortality
- Everyone begins spending most of their lives in a virtual reality
- Humans are allowed to choose their own VR afterlives
- People can selectively remove some of their memories
- Babies get created and raised in artificial wombs, raising ethical questions
- Laws try to ban an invention that lets you change people’s memories
- A technology can heal any affliction…with a cost
- An inventor tries to patent his invention, only to find that big corporations who want to use his invention are out to kill him
- Someone invents a technology that lets you swap bodies with someone else
Robot Story Ideas
Robots and artificial intelligence are another classic science fiction subgenre. What happens when people create machines that are smarter than we are?
- A woman creates a robot boyfriend, but feels guilty when it starts having an existential crisis
- A young boy and his best friend discover that their babysitter is a robot
- A loophole in the programming of an AI robot causes it to go rogue
- All jobs are taken over by AIs, and humans must find meaning in other pursuits
- Human military officers have designed a robot to serve as a super weapon, but the robot doesn’t want to kill anyone
- The planet has been split into territories ruled by humans and territories ruled by machines
- A lawyer fights for civil rights for androids
- Years after the robots overthrew human civilization, a small group of humans survive
- Robots learn to fall in love, either with humans or with each other
- A robot seeks revenge against the people who killed the family it protected
- The androids don’t know they’re androids, because they’re told they’re humans
- The narrator is a sentient house that takes care of a family
- A child gets raised by robots and learns robotic mannerisms
Science Fantasy Story Ideas
Science fantasy lives at the intersection of science fiction and fantasy. Who says stories based in science can’t have a little magic too?
- A war breaks out between scientists with incredible technologies and the witches and wizards who have been hiding on Earth for centuries
- Spaceships are controlled by people who have magic powers that allow faster-than-light space travel
- Scientists figure out how to create mythical animals in laboratories, such as dragons, unicorns, and pixies
- After a spaceship landed on a distant planet, the natives of that planet have formed a new religion which worships space travelers as gods
- An inventor creates the technology to bring children’s dreams to life, including their nightmares
- A scientist creates a fortune teller that can create magical prophecies
- Using modern technologies, scientists discover the lost city of Atlantis and the ancient magic it holds
- Time travelers go back to ancient Greece and meet mythical beasts such as the hydra
- An experimental government program combines humans with other animals, creating creatures like mermaids and angels
Space Opera Story Ideas
Space opera stories are adventures set in outer space, full of action, drama, and romance. There are a lot of different directions you can take these stories.
- Five people wake up on a deserted space station with no memory of how they got there
- Earth competes in an interplanetary art contest against multiple alien races
- Someone stows away on a spacecraft to run away from home and gets discovered by the crew members after they’ve landed on a distant planet
- A war breaks out on a generation ship, causing the last survivors to reach their destination without any of the skills or resources they were supposed to have
- Intergalactic bounty hunters look for fugitives on faraway planets
- A space pirate lands in your backyard and tries to recruit you
- A galactic empire tries to colonize your peaceful planet, so you team up with other species to fight back
- Single people try looking for romance at an interplanetary club
- Navigators use special powers to plot courses through the stars
- Write a retelling of your favorite fairy tale…in space!
Time Travel Story Ideas
Time travel is an exciting element of science fiction! If you’re a history buff, you might send your characters back to big events in the past. If you like logic puzzles, you might want to figure out a tricky series of actions in time.
- Humans learn how to communicate with their past and present selves
- Time travel journalists go back in time to document historical events with modern technology
- You travel a hundred years into the past and accidentally kill your own ancestors
- A secret society of time travelers patrols different time periods to protect the way history unfolded
- A high school student creates a time machine for a science fair
- In a small town, someone is born with the special ability to visit the same town in the past, present, and future
- A woman befriends her childhood self to try to change her own past
- Someone uses time travel to commit untraceable crimes
- A time traveler meets an immortal vampire and becomes best friends with them
- Knowing that the human population is about to be wiped out, the last survivors on Earth travel back in time as refugees
Tips for Using Sci-Fi Story Ideas
Remember that a prompt is just a starting point. You still need to decide how you’re going to put your own unique twist on the story.
Most of these science fiction ideas have been used many times before, but that doesn’t mean your story can’t be original and unique.
For example, E.T. and Lilo and Stitch are two movies that could conceivably have originated from the same prompt—“a kid discovers an alien and keeps it as a pet”—but they’re very different movies.
Here are some tips for how to use these prompts to create exciting and original stories.
Tip #1: Combine Multiple Ideas
You can consider combining a prompt with an idea for a character or setting, or even with a second prompt.
For example, maybe you want to take an alien prompt and a time traveler prompt and include both in the same story by making the aliens turn out to be humans from the future. When you let two ideas collide, new and exciting possibilities can arise.
Tip #2: Write What You Know
“Write what you know” is a great adage that applies even to science fiction. That’s how you create an original, authentic story that resonates with readers.
If you’re an insurance salesperson, perhaps you can write about an alien who sells insurance to other planets. If you’re a high schooler, perhaps you can write about a high school student discovering time travel.
Using your real life as a starting point for a story can imbue it with your own perspective and voice.
Tip #3: Don’t Forget the Basics
An interesting premise is important, but there are other skills you need in order to flesh out your writing. Craft elements like character development and world building are still crucial for creating a good story.
Tip #4: Write with a Friend
Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary activity! It can be fun to write the same prompt with a friend and then trade stories. Chances are, you’ll be surprised by the different ways you and your friend can use the same idea.
If you’re excited to try some of these prompts and meet other sci-fi writers, don’t forget to register for our free Science Fiction Writers’ Week.
Unlock the secrets for writing, editing, and publishing a science fiction story at Science Fiction Writers’ Week, a free online summit taking place August 29–September 2, 2022.
We have sessions from bestselling authors such as Andy Weir, Nghi Vo, Gareth Powell, and more.