25 different Sci-Fi Settings

Alien planet

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:
20- A Huge Space Fleet
and
7- A parallel Universe or Several Parallel Universes

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“.

  • Hi, I’m Vladimir Vasquez a.k.a. Lobo7922 from the blog “La Cueva del Lobo” and I wanted to thank Mark publicly for allowing me to participate in this great blog, and for the creation of that excellent generator. I just got this two:

    The story is set:
    20- A Huge Space Fleet
    and
    10- Traveling Through Time

    WOW! just imagine that, a huge space fleet traveling through time, that’s a great starting point for a good story.

    I hope this list helps all the Sci-Fi Writers fans of SciFi Ideas to create the best stories.

    Si hablas español y quieres leer la lista en tu porpio idioma puedes hacerlo aquí:
    http://lacuevadellobo.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ambientaciones-de-ciencia-ficcion.html

  • Welcome Vlad. Thanks for joining us in the comments, and thanks very much for sharing this.
    I think the mixture of different settings here makes for an interesting mental exercise. If used correctly, this simple generator makes for a great thought-provoking writing exercise. It’s already had me thinking outside my personal idea box.

    The asteroid field/huge space fleet setting is a really interesting concept. It reminds me of an idea we recieved some time ago about an advanced nomadic human civilization exploring the Oort cloud at the edge of our star system…
    http://www.scifiideas.com/sfi/story-ideas/story-idea-oort-cloud-civilizations/

  • Yeah, the Huge Fleet seem to combine very well, it also gives you the chance tu add lots of characters and lots of settings inside the fleet. A concept worth exploring.

  • …And welcome to anyone joining us from La Cueva Del Lobo.
    Bienvenido a la ciencia ficción ideas.

    Please feel free to comment in whatever language you feel most comfortable with.
    Por favor, escriba sus comentarios en español. Inglés idiotas puede utilizar google translate.

    • Hmmm, you know “Idiotas” is kind of a hard word in spanish, hehehe ;D

  • I really like #18: the Infinite Library. I once considered doing a story similar to that, but set in an art museum.

    • Perhaps it could be both things, a library and a museum, you can find there all kind of art, and each one can lead to a new Universe.

  • Gabriel

    I like # 11 (endless dungeon) because it has some grip on reality: A classical example of sci-fi example(I saw it on Star trek, don’t remember which episode)is making a walk along the ship’s “bridge” ending back where you’ve started. The Klingon even sees his own back side from far. Knowing the Earth is round, if you walk long enough you get back to where you started: A curved space-time behaves just the same: Everything, even light, travels back to where you beamed it from. Scientists advocating the big-bang theory say the universe is an expanding “sphere”, so light coming from far galaxies may be light doing endless “loops”, with some light reaching our eyes after each loop completed, interpreted as an image of a farther galaxy each time. As the world expands, the far “galaxies” seem to move away faster than the closer ones.

    To visualize that, put two mirrors facing each other and you will see multiple mirror-inside-mirror iterations. As you move the two mirrors away you see that the far “mirrors” (reflections, actually) step away much faster.

    I found this idea in the following link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shape_of_the_Universe#Spherical_universe
    with hopefully clearer explanations.

    The fun side: A scientist attempts to use an Alcubierre drive which bends space-time and inadvertantly creates a mini-cosmos sphere in which the ship is cut-off from the rest of the world. Just like in the Star Trek story, he has to find his way out of this s***…

  • gwgweg

    21 sounds nice and i’ve often pondered this scenario, although i would be shocked if fusion has not been harnessed by mankind by then and even if it is they will be running short on fuel as much of the universe will be iron (the most stable nucleus and therefore uselsss to fission or fusion) forged in the now dead stars. i’ve wondered about a story of “the last starship” returning from some important mission which failed to find something that civilisation needed returning slowly to it’s home base, the last embers of intelligent life in the universe huddling round a blackhole and “feeding” off it’s hawking radiation output.

    24 will most probably be awful with two notable exceptions, the CIC/bridge/main control room of a starship (or other cool long range vehicle) and the “cockpit” for a remote controlled drone. perhaps the drone pilot thinks he is piloting an interplanetary/interstellar drone on a suicidal long term mission but comes to realise that the room isn’t actually safe in a shipping container on the outskirts of a base on earth but he’s instead in a room made to look like a drone pilot’s station which is instead ONBOARD the drone.he’s been told that an ftl comms system exists so he can fly the drone without lightspeed lag but infact the lack of timelag is because he is on the drone, his commanders hoping he will take bolder decisions because he was never supposed to know he was at risk. does he have the fuel to return home, is he in a hostile alien starsystem, if he can survive where he is and fly home how pis*ed will he be with his commander?

    regarding dyson sphere ones, one obvious sign to the inhabitants hat they are on a dyson sphere might be the lack of any nights, unless an inner half sphere has been added to the immense structure. one could imagine a story where a crew of astronauts on an interstellar voyage are awakened on the surface of what they think is a planet they have landed on, they never knew exactly where they would end up as their ship was piloted by an AI set to home in on anything that looked pleasant when it got close. ofcourse some aliens have had to capture the ship outside the dyson sphere and bring it inside but this has happened before the crew wake and the AI is conveniently damaged by the aliens so it doesn’t remember seeing that happen to the ship. one of the first signs they might see is the lack of any nights, or if there is a half sphere in place the lack of any stars during night. then they start to wonder exactly where they are and how they got there.

    18, the library need not be infinite but it could be some sort of library/museum/gallery with information and artefacts(given the state of modern technology more artefacts than information, who needs a planet sized library when you can have one room, some screens and every book that would be in the library stored on a solid state drive a few metres across). the library could have been operating on and in (lets give it floors going kilomtres down into the crust) a planet for centuries the current librarians/curators/caretakers/(guards?) not remembering anything before the library existed and rarely actually reading it’s contents (if they were all digital maybe the format has been forgotten, i can’t open a version 8.1 file with my 12.6 program etc). maybe outside the library the universe has descended into chaos and then one of those factions discovers an old record on their planet about the library and sets out to enter it and recover all the information they would need to technologically outpace their enemies. when they arrive do the library’s inhabitants even know why they’ve come, do the fight, do they co-operate, what happens when the “librarians” learn the reason for these outsiders’ visit?

    one more thing, you’ve missed a setting, multigalactic. between 6 and 7 there are several different categories going from a galaxy and it’s closest neighbours (milky way, magellanic clouds, sagitarius dwarf galaxy,triangulum) through a galactic cluster to a galactic supercluster, all of them only feasible with very advanced ftl, but if your characters can cover a whole galaxy then they can get to the next one as well. galaxies are only 10 to a hundred times as far apart as they are wide.