How to Research Science Fiction Topics
Are you in need of some ideas about researching science fiction? Do you need to know where to start looking for topics and where to find sources of information for sci fi ideas?
This article has ideas to help you come up with science fiction story and paper ideas, common sci fi themes, where to research the topics further, and how to learn more about science fiction.
Whether you are researching a paper, are an aspiring science fiction writer, or just love sci fi you will find resources for researching sci fi and learning more about it here.
Sources of Information from Experts
- The Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database
Great resource to find scholarly and expert articles on science fiction and fantasy topics.
For Research Papers or Projects
If you are researching science fiction topics for a school paper or for a project, here are some things to remember:
- Keep your focus narrow. Pick a theme from one or a couple of books or look at a specific element in one book. Don't try to tackle a huge subject like government in post-apocalyptic novels.
- But don't pick an extremely obscure topic either. Make sure the idea is broad enough that you will be able to find sources for the paper.
- Think about what stands out the most to you. If you've read a particular book or watched a movie, research the idea that made the biggest impression on you.
- Search scholarly journal databases for sources. Type in the title of the book or the element you are going to write about. Search for key phrases in your idea.
- Search the internet for information and sources. You may not be able to use them as official sources in your paper, but they can help you understand the topic. They can also point you to sources you can use like books or credible sites like online journals.
At a loss for inspiration?
- 1001 Story Ideas
Science fiction and fantasy story ideas and story starters.
Finding Story Ideas
If you are writing or planning to write a science fiction story, coming up with original and creative ideas for the story can be the hardest part. Here are some ways to get your creative juices flowing and find story inspiration:
- Read a wide variety of books and stories. The best source of inspiration is other stories. A tiny idea that another author never explored could become your novel. Explore other genres of stories as well. Sometimes a change of perspective is all you need.
- Watch lots of science fiction and fantasy tv shows and movies. These are another great source of inspiration and a way for you to study the technical mechanics of creating a story, like plot, character development, and so on.
- Watch shows about science. Documentaries and reality shows about scientific topics are a way to understand the world and explore new possibilities.
- Ancient stories, mythology, and folktales can provide inspiration. The past can be a key to the future. Another culture's way of explaining something they don't understand can lead to new insights for you as well.
- Look at science fiction and fantasy pictures and art. It could spark a story in your head. Write about what you see and make up a tale to go along with the image.
- Dreams are a fantastic source for ideas. When your mental guard is down, your own mind can be at its most creative. A lot of your dreams wouldn't translate into a good story, but you can take a basic idea and turn it into something usable.
- Browse sites about new research in science for ideas. Research and new scientific breakthroughs today lead to the technology of tomorrow.
- Think about social issues that are important to you. Science fiction often tackles social problems, but disguises it in an unfamiliar context. How could you disguise an social issue we are facing today?
- Ask yourself "what if" questions. Think about the effects and repercussions of small changes in the world around you.
Sci Fi Themes
This is by no means all of what is included in science fiction. These are the most common themes. Most sci fi fits into one or more of these categories or sub-genres. There is some overlap with fantasy, especially with paranormal/supernatural topics.
You can use these themes as a starting point for your paper or story.
- Alien encounters/alien worlds - This could be alien invasions or humans living peacefully with aliens. It also includes stories that take place somewhere other than earth.
- Alternate history - It explores how the world would be affected if a historical event turned out differently. Steampunk is a good example.
- Artificial intelligence - Sentient computers, robots, and other technology form this theme.
- Biomedical - This involves cloning, genetic manipulation, or any other type of medical or biological advances.
- Ecological - Planetary changes and changes in the environment and how they affect humanity are part of this.
- Parallel universes/dimensions/alternate realities - This has to do with the theoretical idea that there is more than one universe and that other realities and time and space dimensions are possible.
- Paranormal ability/super powers - Psychic abilities or physical abilities beyond that of a normal human. These would typically be explained by science to be included in science fiction.
- Post-apocalyptic/dystopian - These would be stories where civilization as we know it no longer exists or is drastically altered. The key part, though, is that the change is for the worse.
- Supernatural creatures - Vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, even zombies, and other mythical creatures would be included if they are approached from a scientific point of view or a scientific explanation is given for their existence.
- Technological advances - This could be anything that is beyond the technology of today like spaceships, flying cars, gadgets, and so on.
- Time travel - The characters can go from one time period to another through non-linear means.
- Utopian - This is similar to dystopian and post-apocalyptic except that the world or society has changed for the better rather than the worse.
Sci Fi - Social Issues in Disguise
Helpful Science Links
- EurekAlert! - Science News
EurekAlert! is an online science news service featuring health, science, and technology news from leading research institutes.
- Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology
Breaking science news and articles on all things scientific and the latest discoveries in astronomy, anthropology, biology, chemistry, climate & environment, computers, space, and more.
- The Why Files | The Science Behind the News
Your source for science behind the news. The Why Files explores current science findings and explains it in an easy to understand way.
Researching Topics for Stories
- Think about what your story is generally about and find nonfiction books on the topic by experts in the field.
- Look for scientific sites or expert or professional sites about what you are interested in writing about.
- Read other similar stories to see how other authors have treated it. This can give you an idea of how you want to approach it and to ensure you aren't taking too much from another author.
- Look for the history and lore behind your idea. What are popular opinions and thoughts about the topic.
- Search for it online. Google searches are probably the best way to find out about anything. Try searching several terms so you know what all is out there.
- Talk to someone in a field related to your idea. If you have friends who know a lot about it, bounce your ideas off them. Or seek out an expert in the field, like someone from a local university.
- Shape your idea and refine it. Make sure you can explain it before trying to explain it to your audience.
- Test it out on friends or family. See if they understand it and think it is believable. Adjust accordingly.
- Realize that this is a made up story, so you might not be able to find technical details or heaps of research about it. Just make sure your ideas seem plausible in the story. Writing science fiction is all about convincing the audience of the impossible.
Sci Fi Poll
Why are you researching science fiction?
Learning More about Sci Fi and Fantasy
If you are interested in learning more about the genres of fantasy and sci fi, there are several ways to accomplish this. Try some or all of these suggestions:
- Go to science fiction conventions like Dragon-Con and Comic-Con. Conventions are the perfect place to meet other people, hear fresh ideas, and to see a mixture of science fiction fandoms that could spark an inspiration or help you discover a part of sci fi you really like.
- Follow sci fi bloggers, read sci fi forums, subscribe to websites about the genre. In other words, explore what other people are saying about science fiction.
- Hang out at science fiction-based stores like comic book stores, game shops, and some internet cafes.
- Watch sci fi tv like what is on the SyFy channel. Even the Science Channel has programs that involve science fiction.
- Read more sci fi, both old and new. Go to a book store and look for the sci fi and fantasy section or search sci fi on Amazon.
- Join a book club or group dedicated to science fiction/fantasy.
Science fiction and fantasy is a big world full of amazing stories, ideas, and amazing fans. Explore it and contribute to it with your own mind-bending ideas.