We recently received this list of science fiction story settings from Venezuelan writer Vladmir Vasquez. Vladmir runs the Spanish language sci-fi blog “La Cueva del Lobo“, but he decided to share his list of ideas on our site too so as to reach a wider audience.
The list contains 22 simple settings for science fiction stories. The story settings are very simple, but as Vladmir himself explained, “the key to using this list is not to take one of the settings but to combine two or more and see what ideas are inspired by those combinations.”
Combining several of these basic settings does indeed get the imagination working, and it provides an interesting mental exercise at the very least, especially as some of the settings don’t seem to be compatable at first glance. Take settings #2 and #6, for example; that’s a story set on Earth but also in the whole galaxy. How can we tell a story involving the entire Milky Way from the very narrow viewpoint of one small planet? Well, maybe we should add the portals Vladmir mentions in #1 – I guess this would give us something similar to Stargate SG1, which manages to explore events of galactic significance from one small facility under Cheyenne Mountain.
Anyway, I’ll let you explore these ideas on your own.
To help you out, and to challenge you to work with some of the more tricky combinations, we’ve created this simple randomizer. It will randomly select two of the settings for you to combine using your powerful sci-fi brain. Full descriptions of each setting (as written by Vladmir Vasquez) can be found below.
The story is set:
19- A Ring World, a Huge Space Station or a Dyson Sphere
16- The Endless Archipelago
1- On a Planet or Several Planets
Instead of setting your story in space, it could be done something like a Space Opera with characters hopping from planet to planet using some kind of portals or teleportation of some kind.
2- In the Solar System
Fill the Solar System with planetary colonies, orbital space stations, hollow asteroids, space pirates, merchant fleets, and maybe a Ringworld or even a Dyson Sphere.
3- Another Planetary System
Similar to our own Solar System but perhaps missing habitable planets or to the contrary having several of them. Are planets too close to the central sun or perhaps too far?
4- A Multi-Stellar System
Rather than having a single star in the system, there are several of them. How would be life if Jupiter or Saturn (or both of them) were stars?
5- In a Sector of the Milky Way
Take a wide zone in the galaxy and populate it with different species. How do they communicate? How do they traverse interstellar distances? Do they live peacefully or do they wage war? What do they discover outside of that galactic sector?
6- In the WHOLE Galaxy
A single species/culture inhabits all the stellar systems in the Milky Way. Did they extinguish the other civilizations? Was the galaxy empty from the beginning? Is a terrible menace coming from another galaxy? Or perhaps several factions inside that single species/culture are about to start a war?
7- A parallel Universe or Several Parallel Universes
It turns out that its possible to travel interstellar distances but to do so it’s necessary to go through other parallel universes with different physics to our own, but during one of this travels it’s discovered that there is another universe almost identical to our own. Is the new universe populated with a dangerous enemy or an interesting ally?
8- Inside a Dream
The whole story is developed inside of a dream. Is it the dream of a single person or the shared dream of several dreamers?
Alternatively it isn’t the dream of a person but a deity, or perhaps several deities that share a dream. What if the principal characters discover this truth and must ensure that the gods keep on dreaming to ensure his own existence?
9- In a Virtual World or in Several Virtual Worlds
The characters are players inside a videogame or virtual world. The players keep the same avatars during all the story but must adapt to different environments and gameplay. The videogame programmers are like all powerful deities, however they’re morals are no different than those of the players.
10- Traveling through time
Instead of traveling through space our protagonists travel in time, but history is not happening as they recall it. The French Revolution happens in Africa, the Greeks discover America, the Industrial Revolution starts in Argentina, The first Feminist Movement triumph in middle of the Age of the Pharaohs. Who is changing history and why?
11- The Endless Dungeon or Endless Castle
The world is but an endless castle or dungeon, it doesn’t matter where do you go the walls of the castle or dungeon are everywhere. There isn’t such a thing as “outside”, you are always in the inside of a construction or cavern, with innumerable floors above and below. The characters build huge drillers to explore this world, but they go too far and…
12- A Huge Spaceship
Like the endless dungeon but it turns out it’s not a huge castle or dungeon but a colossal spaceship and the characters explore the reactors, circuitry and pipes.
13- The Magical Mountains
Each huge mountain is it’s own world that rises endlessly towards haven and goes down toward hell. What are these mountains and how did they come to be?
14- Flying Islands
These are not mountains but islands that fly without help. What is keeping these huge islands up? And does all that goes up eventually come down? How can you prevent this disaster?
15- Giant Trees
Another alternative is that each world is but the branch in a tree (Yggdrasil?) and the universe is but an endless forest.
16- An Endless Archipelago
A simpler alternative, the story is set in a huge ocean filled with a variety of islands of varying size and with different characteristics. It could turn out that the islands are really in a huge ring world or Dyson sphere, and perhaps the medieval Japanese wars are being fought there again?
17- An Asteroid Belt
Instead of islands we are talking about asteroids, mining space stations or hollow asteroids that spin to generate artificial gravity. The people that inhabits this world know little about the worlds beyond the belt and in fact they have no interest, the asteroids have provided for them and always will (or so they believe).
18- The Infinite Library
From the Library in the middle of realities the protagonists can take any book and travel to the worlds described in those books. The Library is the axis of endless parallel universes and is the only means of communication between them.
19- A Ring World, a Huge Space Station or a Dyson Sphere
A world made by man (or perhaps aliens) is the place of adventure of our characters. It doesn’t matter how but the reader realizes this while the characters are completely oblivious to the fact.
20- A Huge Space Fleet
It’s not a huge artificial world but many little artificial worlds, perhaps a huge fleet crossing the interstellar void or a huge hive of different space stations; some are brand new while others are old and decaying; some are highly populated while others are almost empty or simply controlled automatically.
21- An Old Universe
The stars died long ago, a dark empty sky is the only thing that our characters can see from their spaceships that run in transuranic metals since nuclear fusion was never discovered and is but a dream that only the most crazy individuals seek. Our story could be about one of these crazy seekers.
22- A Very Young Universe
The Stars are too young and powerful, the planets are barely forming, they are unstable with big earthquakes and volcanoes, and meteorites continuously fall from the sky. How did a civilization develop in these circumstances? The protagonist of this story can’t find a logical answer and his conclusion is that only time travel could make it possible, but why start a civilization in a time so dangerous?
23- In the Past
Your science fiction story is set in the past, rather than the future. This isn’t a time travel story, it just takes place in the past.
24- In a Single Room
The entire story takes place in one room. What is outside the room and how do you explore it without leaving? Perhaps everything interesting takes place inside the room.
25-In a Distant Galaxy
The story takes place in a galaxy far, far away.
Article written by Mark Ball and Vladmir Vasquez.
Vladmir Vasquez runs the Spanish language sci-fi blog “La Cueva del Lobo“.