The imagining of possible worlds is the staple of science fiction. As expert Bruce Sterling puts it, science fiction (or SF or sci-fi for short) is ‘a form of fiction that deals principally with the impact of actual or imagined science upon society or individuals’. In speculative fiction this impact can be strictly technological (as in novels featuring robots or degrees of space exploration not yet possible) or it may be environmental (as in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood). Here are 43 must-visit sci-fi websites for writers:
Informative and research sites
- The Gunn Center for the study of Science Fiction is Kansas University’s online portal to all things sci-fi. Here you can find essays on the science fiction writing craft along with other useful resources for aspiring speculative fiction writers.
- Cornell University’s science fiction and fantasy research guide is a useful list of encyclopedias and guides for SF writers and researchers. Reference works such as the Encyclopedia of Fictional and Fantastic Languages and the Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction are listed along with ISBN and other information, making it easy to find and order or borrow the book you need.
- The Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide has an extensive timeline of science fiction, from precursors in ancient history to the present. Want to know exactly what year the telephone, airplane or robot was invented? Here you can obtain useful facts for contextualizing your story.
- SciFiSource offers lists of the best TV shows to watch for inspiration, and you can also find information on events and organizations that provide networking opportunities for sci-fi writers.
- The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is a free resource providing an A-Z of popular SF tropes and themes, from aliens to zeppelins. Browsing this guide will give you a broad overview of possible subjects and inspirations for your own novels.
- Bruce Sterling’s entry on SF for the Encyclopedia Brittanica gives an insightful chronology of major developments in sci-fi writing.
- Scifan – ‘books and links for the science fiction fan’ – offers one of the biggest databases of science fiction and fantasy writers. Over 10 000 authors’ published books are cataloged, and each entry provides links for purchasing the book online. Useful if you need to get a little context or background for your own SF novel.
- Slice of Sci-fi is a blog providing the latest news on the genre. TV and film news is included alongside interviews with SF writers and links to podcasts for writers and readers of the genre.
- The Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database was established by Texas A & M university’s libraries. It indexes more than 100, 000 books in the SF and fantasy genres. The collection can be searched by full text, subject matter and more, making it valuable regardless of whether you want to check that your SF idea is original or find new reading matter in your genre.
- ‘Writing the future: a timeline of science fiction’ is a useful article contextualizing modern sci-fi, written by Dr. Caroline Edwards, a lecturer at Birkbeck in London who specializes in sci-fi among other subjects.
- ‘Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fantasy’ is a very useful resource for SF writers, put together by science fiction author and scientist Dan Koboldt. Find information about how you can correctly use scientific subjects such as biology and ecology, genetics and more in your speculative fiction.
Resources for writing space-based science fiction
- The US government agency NASA’s website provides a wealth of information and inspiration sources for SF writers. If you want to incorporate space exploration or general hi-tech aeronautical technology into your writing, you can find the latest tech news. There are also separate site sections on Mars exploration, the international space station and more.
- Find inspiration through images and videos of space, along with the latest breaking news regarding space and space travel at Space dot com.
- Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s would-be commercial space travel line, plans to ‘democratize’ space by giving more people the opportunity to experience space travel. On Virgin Galactic’s site, you can read about the technology behind the process, astronaut training and more, all of which might furnish useful details for your novel.
- This post on io9 explains 10 of the things that sci-fi movies frequently get wrong about the physics of space travel. Reading science non-fiction is crucial if you want to write SF that will please even the experts.
- The Academy for Future Science is a non-profit corporation that examines new scientific discoveries. You can find fascinating information on the latest space exploration discoveries, as well as other information on the latest technology.
Writing robots in science fiction
- Want to know a little more about self-driving cars? Trust and autonomous robots? The videos section on Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute website provides clear insights into many aspects of robotics and robot design. These help you to incorporate robotics into your sci-fi writing convincingly.
- Gizmag is an online magazine offering emerging tech news. The ‘robotic’ category is brimming with interesting information on the latest in robot design. For example, Cornell University has created a robot barista that ‘learns as it brews’. Tech news stories can inspire you when creating your own SF scenarios.
- The Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) bills itself as ‘the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology’. The IEEE’s robotics section also provides breaking tech news on drones, vehicle automation, robots and more.
- If you plan to incorporate robots and Artificial Intelligence into your novel, NASA’s Robotic Alliance Project provides basic information on AI and additional resources.
- PAL Robotics is at the forefront of humanoid robot development, so this website can provide you with inspiration for writing science fiction about humanoid machines.
General resources and SF writing advice
- On SFF World you can read interviews with (and reviews of) authors who write science fiction, fantasy or horror, and there is a discussion forum and articles on all things sci-fi.
- The sci-fi writing subreddit on Reddit is a place where you can test out your plot or world-building ideas on other redditors and share links to your favourite SF resources for writers.
- On his website, Robert J. Sawyer, a science fiction writer who has won 53 national and international awards, provides practical tips on technical aspects of craft for aspiring science fiction writers.
- Turkey City Lexicon: A Primer for SF Workshops is a great guide to avoiding SF clichés that resulted from a series of writing workshops in Austin, Texas.
- ‘The Hundred Best Sci-fi Movies’ according to Time Out magazine provides many viewing options for finding inspiration for your science fiction writing. Iconic writers such as Stephen King and George R R Martin participated in the voting process.
- If you glean ideas for your SF writing from visuals, you’re likely to enjoy Sci-fi-o-rama. This is a design and illustration blog focusing on all things sci-fi and fantasy.
- Will your sci-fi novel include paranormal elements? If so Paranormal Encyclopedia dot com is a free online encyclopedia that provides concise entries on everything from aliens to ‘Zermatism’ – the theory that all human culture derived from Easter Island.
- Sci-fi name generator is a useful tool for generating names for science fiction characters as well as place names and common names to a specific group or clan. Experimenting with the tool will suggest how you can use a set of made-up prefix and suffix rules to name SF characters, whether they inhabit an extraterrestrial planet or an ordinary fictional country.
- Roberta Osborn’s post on ‘using invented language in your novel’ offers practical pointers on creating a unique system of communication for a fictional tribe or alien race.
- ’15 creative writing prompts – the speculative fiction edition’ consists of 15 succinct SF writing prompts that could set your inspiration off if you have yet to start writing a science fiction plot.
Publishing for sci fi writers
- The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction originally published many important stories, including Daniel Keyes’ ‘Flowers for Algernon’ and Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower’. The magazine pays for successful submissions, and accepts stories up to 25, 000 words long.
- Asimov’s Science Fiction is a respected magazine that publishes SF along with surreal and borderline fantasy fiction. If you want to improve your sci-fi writing craft, reading Asimov’s will give you an idea of what is considered excellent work in the genre.
- Analog: Science Fiction and Fact is a little different in that it publishes both fiction and hard science articles. Described as ‘the magazine where science fiction grew up’, analog accepts submissions from all writers. Read submission guidelines on Analog‘s website.
- Interzone is the oldest science fiction magazine in the UK. It’s published numerous famous writers of SF, including J.G. Ballard and Brian Aldiss. The magazine accepts short story submissions.
- Ace Books, now an imprint of major publishing house Penguin, is one of the oldest science fiction publishers. Since its founding in 1953, Ace has published iconic SF works such as Frank Herbert’s Dune series and William Gibson’s breakthrough novel, Neuromancer. Browsing through the imprint’s page on Penguin’s website can be helpful for market research, so that you understand what kinds of stories and themes SF publishers are most inclined to accept before you begin writing a novel.
- Baen Books publishes sci-fi as well as fantasy fiction. On the publisher’s website you can find useful information on sci-fi specific contests and awards along with submission guidelines for unpublished SF manuscripts.
Sci-fi writing associations and events
- The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is a professional organizations for writers in these genres. Past distinguished members have included the famous SF writers Issac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. In addition to hosting the prestigious Nebula Awards, the SFWA provides online discussion forums and educational and informational resources for all things science fiction and fantasy.
- The British Science Fiction Association, like the SFWA, provides an online community for writers along with useful information such as major UK science fiction event calendars as well as complimentary SF magazine subscriptions for paid members. The association also hosts its own annual awards.
- The Australian Science Fiction Association was formed in 1976 to carry on the work of the first Australian World Science Fiction Convention, Aussiecon. The foundation offers a number of annual awards as well as access to useful sci-fi writing resources.
- SF Canada is a bilingual (English/French) association, more broadly for speculative fiction writers whose work falls under a range of genres (including horror and fantasy). In addition to providing networking opportunities for Canadian writers, book designers, editors and publishers interested in speculative fiction, the association also provides a useful resource list and a frequently updated feed of the latest in Canadian SF news.
- The Science Fiction Research Association was founded in 1970 for the study of science fiction writing and film. In addition to providing information on upcoming events and conferences, the website provides information about several SF-oriented publications that aspiring science fiction writers can subscribe to.
- This listing of sci-fi conventions is another useful resource. Attending an event can provide great insights into what SF readers are currently looking for and will give you plenty of ideas for your next (or first) speculative fiction novel.
- The Speculative Literature Foundation was formed in order to promote excellence in speculative fiction – a broader genre encompassing hard science fiction, epic fantasy and several other subgenres. Besides offering the latest speculative fiction news, the foundation also offers grants for aspiring SF writers.
What are your favourite sci-fi websites for writers?