In his introduction to the sixtieth anniversary edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Neil Gaiman lists three phrases that inspire works of science fiction/speculative fiction:
- What if . . . ?
- If only . . .
- If this goes on . . .
Fahrenheit 451 is a “If this goes on . . .” story as are most works of dystopian science fiction.
Right now I am reading The Punch Escrow, which is a “What if . . .” book about 3D printing. Or maybe it is a “If this goes on . . .” book about a variety of technologies.
Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves is one of the most memorable books of science fiction I’ve read in the last few years. The central question around the story is, “What if the moon blew up?”
You can apply these three phrases to any work of science fiction and start to see where the author got the idea for the story.
If you are a writer of science fiction and you are looking for starting points for story ideas, then these three phrases are great places to start.