How to Go About Science Fiction Worldbuilding

All the aspects of worldbuilding we’ve talked about over the past few weeks apply to science fiction as well as fantasy. There are a few key differences worth noting though.

In the simplest of terms, instead of detailing different countries, you may be more concerned with different planets. Likewise, instead of magic, you’ll probably want to focus more on technology. What sort of questions you need to consider will vary greatly depending on the type of science fiction you are writing, but here are a few to get you started.

Questions about Science and Technology
  • How has technological development affected daily life?
  • What technology is used for communication? Entertainment? Daily travel?
  • How accessible is technology? Does everyone have access to it or only the wealthy?
  • Are there any technological or scientific advancements that are forbidden?
  • Is AI commonplace? If so, does it have a specific purpose? Or is there different AI for different tasks? Is there any danger of AI becoming self-aware?

When thinking about the wider universe, it may be worth considering the questions posed in Land and Animals, and Countries, but with a broader scope. If your story deals with multiple planets, then you’ll need to understand how each planet functions and how they differ from each other.

Questions about Planets
  • How many planets are in the solar system?
  • Are all the planets habitable? How many are inhabited? And by whom?
  • What is the atmosphere like? How much gravity is there?
  • Does the planet produce nutrients that your dominant race can consume? If not, where do they get their nutrition?

Once you know how many planets are relevant to your story and how they function, you’ll need to address how people travel between them and how they deal with any life found on those planets. If you plan to develop alien races, it may be helpful to first look at life on Earth. Knowing what life has already evolved to do can be a great guideline to follow.

Questions about Space Travel and Aliens
  • Is space travel possible? If so, what means are used?
  • Is space travel a recent development or has this civilization being doing it for a while?
  • If they’ve been doing it for a while, how has it evolved over the years?
  • Can anyone space travel or do certain requirements need to be met? If so, what are the requirements?
  • Are there alien life forms? How are they dealt with? Are they enemies or allies?

How deep you delve into the science and technology aspects of your world is up to you, as is how realistic those aspects are. If your goal is for the science and technology to be based in fact, make sure you do the research to back it up. Researching the most prominent fields of your story will not only help make it more realistic but can help take it to the next level. Otherwise remember that internal consistency, a strong plot, and well-rounded characters can carry you to other planets.

Are there any science fiction specific worldbuilding questions you like to consider? If so, let me know in the comments.

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