Like a lot of writers, I draw inspiration from many of my favorite creative works. Since I’m currently writing a science fiction novel, some of my biggest sources of inspiration are other science fiction works — but not always books. Anything with great worldbuilding is a candidate. The smallest detail can spark a new idea. It’s never a matter of copying what something else is already doing, but sometimes an item from another piece of fiction sets a mood or makes me think of something that would work in my own story.
There are a lot of worlds I keep going back to. For many reasons, I love spending time in them. These are the ones that are the greatest inspirations for me right now!
Destiny is a science fiction video game that leans heavily toward fantasy. At the beginning of the game, you can choose your combat class — and besides the typical tank-like Titan, you can play as a Warlock in robes or a Hunter in a cloak. Since I like both sci-fi and fantasy, I love seeing this unique blend. I think there’s a case for epic storytelling when fantasy and a focus on lore enters a sci-fi mix. In Destiny, the “magic” players can wield is produced by the mysterious Traveler entity in the sky. I don’t include magic in my story, but I like including legend, history, and the mystery of the unexplained!
Sirantha Jax (Grimspace)
The Sirantha Jax novels by Ann Aguirre, which launches with Grimspace, is my favorite science fiction romance series. Every book introduces you to new characters, planets, races, and governments. That’s exactly what I’d like to do in my story. I enjoy exploring new worlds through characters’ eyes and having aliens meeting each other in my story, which is also what Sirantha Jax emphasizes.
Joss Whedon’s Firefly TV series (and Serenity movie) introduce a space western world where a crew takes odd jobs, ranging from train robberies to hospital heists. The characters are good at heart, but the captain Malcolm Reynolds is particularly ambiguous at times. What I find most inspiring about this world is the focus on characters and the beat-up places they frequent. I don’t want to write a space western right now, but I like the idea of places on the outskirts of civilization and tech that you need to bang on with your fists to get it working. Firefly is very much that type of world.
Of course the video game series Mass Effect has to make this list! It is science fiction that includes huge space stations, aliens working together to form a galactic government, all kinds of different planets, and a mysterious race of machines that has been around for tens of thousands of years… at least.
One of the most inspiring things about Mass Effect is the way the government is set up to include many alien races, who have to prove themselves worthy of being part of this alliance. I also enjoy the technology that permeates this world, making it feel sleek and savvy. My own story features a sci-fi world that’s not quite as high-tech, but the government consists of many aliens who are trying to work together — sometimes succeeding, but not always.
This comic is an inspiration partly for how totally unique it is as a fantasy — but also for the focus on family. It tells the story of a young married couple, who are aliens from worlds at war with each other. And they have a newborn to take care of. I love seeing the dynamics of their family life while they’re on the run — it grounds the story and gives it a special twist. Sure, there are governments chasing them and political stories happening, but some of the most interesting parts of the tale are about this couple sticking together, what makes a relationship work, and the struggles of taking care of a baby. It’s so much fun.
For my current science fiction novel, the video game series Borderlands is a huge influence. I like the idea of a burned-out planet full of weirdos and runaways making a life for themselves, sometimes in the middle of nowhere. There’s a nice mix of futuristic tech and old-world rust that makes Borderlands feel original without quite becoming a space western. In my story, characters rely on fixing up junked tech a lot. I guess I just like the idea of old, clunky things in my science fiction, and Borderlands totally embraces that!