Sci-Fi Writing Workshop​

Thank you for your interest in our workshop! We hope that you will enjoy it and that we can create something wonderful together. 

In this workshop, you will write a sci-fi story set in one of four possible future scenarios. 

Sci-fi stories are posted to our blog, which will remain open for story submissions - there is no deadline for submissions. Click here to read stories that have been submitted so far. 

You can submit your story by sending us an e-mail to conaturecommunity@gmail.com. You can also reach out if you have any questions or if you would like some help crafting your story. 

What follows is an explanation of our intentions and a guide for your writing process. You can also click the "info package" button above to download our introduction video, in which we provide a description of the task. 

 
 
 
 
 
 

What is Sci-Fi Prototyping?

Science fiction is the playground of the imagination. If you are interested in science or fascinated with the future then science fiction is where you explore new ideas and let your dreams and fears develop on the safety of the page or screen. 

 

But what if we could use science fiction to do more than that? What if we could use science fiction based on scientific fact to develop new ideas for the cities of the future? What if we could use stories to explore the real world impacts of decisions made today? In this exercise, we want to do exactly this.

How do we do this exactly?

We provide the science and set the scene with a projection into the future of the climate and urban life in the year 2080. Then, you provide the fiction by writing a short story of 2-4 pages, starting from this scientific base. You may write your story in English, French, or Dutch. If you feel inspired to write a longer story, we encourage you to do so! Your story can go in any direction, but we particularly want you to explore how and why your characters interact with nature to respond to the challenges they face. Think radically! Once you have written your stories, you will send them to us and from the stories we collect, we will make illustrations of the participants’ imagined futures. Then we’ll gather one again to discuss the outcome and your experience.

Timeline

Monday, March 29   

12:00: Introduction video conference (not compulsory)

Monday, March 29 - Sunday, April 18

Writing of the stories by you

Monday, April 19 - Monday, May 3

Revision and (visual) summary of the stories by the CO-NATURE team

Thursday, May 5

Publication of the outcome of the exercise online

Monday, May 10             

14:00: Sharing thoughts through video conference (participation requested)

The goal of this exercise

We want you to explore the role of nature in the city of the future in a short story. What is nature’s role in this imagined future? How will it help your characters meet predicted or imagined challenges? How will your characters interact with nature? Will they have to give back to nature or will they completely bend it to their will? How can their lives be better or different with and in urban nature? 

How will these stories be used? The CO-NATURE project is exploring the potential for nature-based solutions in the region. Nature-based solutions are solutions to environmental problems that are inspired by nature. This might be a simple solution, such as a single street tree, or something more complex, like a green roof or new nature-inspired drainage systems. Your stories will give us a better idea of the potential and necessity for urban nature in tackling social, governmental, and environmental problems of the future. In other words, we’re turning to you for inspiration! Your stories may even be shared with different stakeholders in the region. Nature can be a main topic in your story, or a part of the setting in which your story develops.

The Process

There are five steps to the process, divided in three phases.

 

Scientific foundation
(provided by CO-NATURE)

  • Start of the story: apply the science and build the world. This is the world in which your story begins. 

  • A major problem occurs - This is the “scientific turning point”. We introduce a problem, which may be ecological, technological or societal. Note: You can create your own turning point rather than using the one we have provided.

 

Narrative development

(by you, between 29.03 and 18.04)

  • Imagine the impacts of this turning point on people and their environment

  • Imagine how your character(s) will deal with this challenge. What is the way forward? How do your characters overcome this problem and return the world to normal? Or, perhaps, how do your characters make a new, better normal?

 

Report out

(online meeting on 10.05)

  • What did we learn? 

The scientific foundation - the mise-en-scène

 

Based on realistic projections, we offer you four possible futures to develop your story in. Ideally, there will be an even distribution of participants over the four futures, but we need a minimum of 3 participants for each world. We will ask you to tell us which world you choose before you begin writing. 

 

The general projection

The year is 2080

 

The population of Brussels has grown significantly, the region has merged with its surrounding cities into a real metropolitan area. Some of this growth is due to the migration of people from parts of the world that are facing extreme drought or flooding due to climate change. As such, the population of Brussels is a mix of Belgians, immigrants and climate refugees.

 

Since 2052, Belgium has stopped using traditional energy sources and relies only on renewable energy, but climate change has driven the world beyond a 2°C temperature rise, and heat waves and heavy rainfall challenge everyone throughout the year. Summer days are often unbearably hot and snow in Belgium is a rarity. The housing stock in Brussels is old and cannot protect residents from this extreme weather. Climate change has changed the foods that can be grown in Belgium and has caused a decrease in biodiversity.

 

Farmers have been struggling for the last few decades - due to rising heat, their yields are often low. Mobility has been revolutionized by the introduction of autonomous shared electric vehicles that bring you anywhere on demand, and parking is a thing from the past. 

 

Four alternative futures

The more uncertain predictions, mostly political, are interpreted differently in four scenarios. We use two axes to make the distinctions: 

 

  • Axis 1: The priorities in recent years - nature development vs urban development

  • Axis 2: Governance of public space - citizen led vs state led.

1

Garden City 2.0

After the government’s poor response to the lethal heat wave of 2038, citizens have taken over the management of, and decision making around green space in the city. Different kinds of self-organizing bodies emerged. Awareness of the potential of urban green has grown while regulations have loosened. People know that green is a great way to cool down the city, and, as such, urban streets, sidewalks, and squares have transformed into green oases. The city is turning into a hybrid ecosystem where boundaries between the farm, the forest and the city are fading. Citizens are sharing their skills to educate each other. More and more citizens are learning about new ways to farm and, as such, Brussels has become less and less dependent on other cities and countries for food production.

3

The Living Network

When the ocean streams suddenly changed in the mid-2050’s, the weather patterns altered dramatically. The increase of rain storms and local flood events have disrupted daily life in Brussels to the point of systemic failure. At some point Brussels was mocked as ‘The Swamp,’ which is a wink to  the origin of its name (broek + zele). This situation could only be addressed by a strongly orchestrated set of interventions by the government. Public space management, as well as land cover regulations for private areas has been transferred from the 19 municipalities to Metropolitan Brussels. Over the years, the Green-Blue network was rebranded as the Living Network (a network of urban green and water resources, as well as animals and insects) and its popularity and function have exceeded expectations.

2

Coopcity+

Automation sped up the introduction of the basic income and people have become more aware of their priorities. This made the cooperative model boom and replaced the corporate model. With decent and climate-resilient housing being a rare good in the 20’s and 30’s, many cooperatives started to focus on co-developing new forms of living. Co-ops exchange favors, such as Sun Harvest using the 50.000m2 of roofs of Block1060 to cultivate vegetables and generate solar power in exchange for a part of the power and a moisturized cool roof in summer. However, the development of green spaces was not prioritized and large parts of the parks of Brussels  are now used for producing materials for the different cooperatives to function. Trees in the Sonain Forest are used as timber to build new houses and meeting spaces.

4

Surface inc. 

The renovation of the old housing stock in the 30’s and 40’s did not progress fast enough to keep up with the skyrocketing energy prices. At the same time, simulations revealed that Brussels could not obtain sufficient climate resilience because of the high heat capacity of the buildings and paving around the city. As a result, the government developed a framework that allowed the municipalities and private actors to make deals with companies to manage the surfaces that they own. Companies begin signing rental contracts for ground surfaces and façades with low heat capacity and good insulation. Building codes loosened, buildings were wrapped or ripped apart and the face of the city started changing. Companies try to make the business model as profitable as possible through multifunctionality.

Citizen led

Nature priority

Development priority

State led

Narrative development

Scientific turning point

Here, ecological, technological, and/or societal problems introduce a tension to the story that the characters must navigate > (to be decided)

Impacts on people and nature

This turning point is explored via the plot and action within the world. After the authors of the short story describe the world and the characters, they describe how the scientific turning point brings about change and impacts the character’s lives.

Human turning point

Interacting with the plot and action is the Human turning point, which illustrates how humanity does not simply react to the changes, but rather interacts with the changes. The authors choose this, and describe this in their story.

Report out

Finally, since the goal of SciFi prototyping is to learn something new about potential futures in the system of interest, it is central upon finishing the scenario(s), to have a period of reflection, reporting-out, and learning.


There are multiple steps in the reporting process. The organizers review the stories, illustrate them, and publish them online. The participants (among others) can read the stories. Please let us know if you do not want us to share your story publicly. If we receive many submissions, we will organize a video-conference with the participants for a discussion. The main goal is to share the experience of thinking about future developments and indicate which future developments are desirable and usable in the scenario workshop.