How To Write About Technology in Sci-Fi

Doug Landsborough
June 13, 2023

Exploration among the stars, alien empires, even killer robots here on Earth—science fiction is one of the coolest, most awe-inspiring genres in literature.

While the umbrella of sci-fi includes a variety of subgenres and potential stories, there is one common element across all science fiction: really neat technology.

Technology is a hallmark of these stories, the reason that many, if not most, readers choose this genre. Whether it's a planet-destroying weapon central to your plot or small gadgets that bring your world to life, the tech in your sci-fi novel is something you really want to get right.

No, it’s something you need to get right.

Because coming up with tech not rooted in plausibility is a surefire way to get angry reviews and disappointed fans.

We don’t need to worry about those things, though, because we’re going to talk about everything you need to know to describe tech in your sci-fi novel. This includes:

  • The importance of tech in sci-fi
  • How to research tech and find inspiration for your own
  • Creating unique and believable technology
  • How to write passages involving your new tech
  • Crafting dynamics between your characters and the technology around them
  • How to tackle alien technology

It seems like a lot, right? It is, but only because it’s so important. So get ready to download some information about writing technology in science fiction.

Importance of Tech in Science Fiction

You might look at the heading of this section and think that tech in sci-fi is essential because it’s a staple of the genre. I mean, I opened this article with that statement, right? People read these stories for the cool technology.

But it goes deeper than that. Of course it does; otherwise it would be too easy.

It’s not just about crafting shiny machines and flesh-melting laser pistols. The tech you create will be tied directly into your worldbuilding and the narrative itself, enhancing both of those and elevating your story. Let me explain.

Importance in Worldbuilding

Your inventions and gadgets won’t exist in isolation. Instead, they’re like small pieces to an even larger puzzle. To that end, the tech you include goes a long way in creating a sense of time and place; where is the story happening? How far into the future?

On top of that, each piece of tech has its own story behind it. That story doesn’t have to be explicit (we don’t need to know who invented each device), but there should be a reason why it exists and a clear impact on everyday life.

Again, this doesn’t need to be stated outright. But a police drone roaming the streets, bio-scanning the citizens shows us:

  • Everyday people are under constant surveillance
  • The machines keep most people on edge, regardless of their activity
  • Law enforcement is heavily armed and inhuman
  • Police response is near-instant, as the flying drones don’t need humans to direct them or clear roads to get to a crime scene

All of that can be construed to your reader with a sentence or two describing the drone without stating all four of those points, immersing your reader into your world by showing, rather than telling.

Want a deep dive into sci-fi worldbuilding? Check out our guide.

Importance in Your Narrative

Read enough articles about writing and you’ll inevitably come across this nugget of wisdom: everything you include in your story should serve to advance the plot in some way. The same goes for including tech.

When you’re coming up with cool inventions, weapons, or scientific discoveries, ask why? Why are you including this tech? Why is it relevant to your protagonist? Why does it help move the plot along?

In sci-fi, not every piece of technology will advance the plot. It’s too ingrained in the genre to be completely removed from worldbuilding. But the best tech you include, the stuff your readers will remember long after they’ve read the last word of your book, influences your narrative somehow.

Looking at our police drone, did one of them kill our protagonist’s parents? Does the protagonist hack one to cause a distraction in the second act? Do they face an army of them in the climax?

While creating your tech, think of the ways you can use it to enhance your worldbuilding and progress your plot. Just thinking about those two elements will help set your inventions apart.

Research and Inspiration

With that in mind, how do you start making your unique sci-fi tech? You might already have an idea for one or two important devices or weapons, but what about the rest of the world? And how do you make sure your ideas seem realistic?

Luckily, assuming you’re a bit of a nerd like me, there are two things you can do to make sure you’re inspired to create awesome tech while ensuring that tech makes sense:

  1. Consume a lot of sci-fi media
  2. Keep up to date with scientific developments

Consume a Lot of Sci-Fi

I mean, if your homework is to read and watch a lot of science fiction, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

As writers, we’re constantly absorbing new information, smashing it together, mutating it, and adding our own spin to create our own ideas. So look at what’s out there, figure out what you love or hate, and see what you can add to your scientific repertoire.

Need help? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back with some great recommendations. Are these the best? Depends on your taste, but here are a bunch of classics and popular modern sci-fi.


  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
  • The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey


  • Star Wars (1977-2019)
  • Blade Runner (1982)
  • The Terminator (1984)
  • The Matrix (1999)
  • Avatar (2009)
  • Inception (2010)
  • Ex Machina (2014)
  • Interstellar (2014)
  • Arrival (2016)
  • Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

TV shows

  • Doctor Who (1963-present)
  • Star Trek (1966-2017)
  • The X-Files (1993-2018)
  • Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
  • Black Mirror (2011-)
  • Westworld (2016-)
  • Stranger Things (2016-)
  • The Mandalorian (2019-)

I’m confident there will be many readers here who have read or watched everything on the list. Great! You’re well on your way. Now it’s time to consider the real world.

Keep Up With Scientific Advancements

One of the worst things you can do when writing your sci-fi tech is to come up with something so outrageous it just doesn’t make sense, even if you’re writing a few thousand years in the future.

Science fiction is, just as it sounds, a blend of observable knowledge and made-up stories. If readers can’t easily trace a line from what we know today to the tech you’re introducing in your novel, they’re going to be confused and, in the case of a lot of online reviewers, outright angry. 

It doesn’t matter if your Warhammer 40k-esque cathedral spaceship uses prayers to an extradimensional god to fuel its cannons as long as you’re abiding by rules of spaceships: pressure, design, engines, FTL capabilities, etc. If you can show thought behind elements that your reader can comprehend, you’ll have a happy reader.

But you can’t do that if you aren’t keeping up to date with scientific advancements. Our scientific knowledge and understanding—and the application of that knowledge—is advancing at an exponential rate. What was possible or known five or ten years ago can already be outdated, disproven, or improved.

So spend a few minutes (or hours) finding sites that report on tech you’re interested in reimagining, subscribe to their newsletter, and nerd out a little.

Creating Unique and Believable Technology

Now that you’re inspired, it’s time to start bringing your tech to life. Like we just mentioned, there needs to be at least a sliver of believability to your technology, even if it’s just a tiny thread tracing back to known inventions.

But that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily restricted to tools and devices we could make in the next decade or generation. The key is balance between creativity and realism. And we’re going to figure out that balance right now.

Balancing Familiarity and Innovation

When creating technology for your science fiction story, it's important to strike a balance between familiarity and innovation. While readers enjoy encountering new and exciting inventions, they also need a point of reference to connect with your world. Incorporating familiar elements or building upon existing technologies can help ground your inventions in a believable framework.

Instead of flying cars or teleportation devices, you could introduce an advanced form of magnetic levitation technology in a futuristic city that allows vehicles to hover above the ground. An idea like that offers a futuristic twist while still maintaining a connection to real-world principles and understanding of magnetism and transportation.

Balancing Realism and Creativity

In sci-fi, there's often a delicate balance between realism and creativity. While it's essential to ensure your technology is plausible and consistent within the rules of your story's universe, you also have the freedom to stretch the boundaries of scientific possibility.

Think about time travel: while time travel as we currently understand it may not be feasible, you can still explore creative interpretations within the framework of your story. Establishing clear rules and limitations for time travel can help maintain internal consistency and make it more believable to readers.

Limits of Science and Plausibility

Even though this genre grants us imaginative leaps and speculation, it's important to acknowledge the limits of our current scientific understanding. As a writer, you should strive for a level of plausibility that doesn't completely defy the laws of physics or known scientific principles unless it's an intentional departure from reality.

By grounding your technology in scientific plausibility, you give readers a framework within which to suspend their disbelief. This doesn't mean you need to explain every intricate detail of how your technology works—more on this later—but having a general understanding of the underlying principles will help you craft a more convincing narrative.

Room for Imagination

Despite the need for plausibility, science fiction is also a genre that thrives on imagination and pushing the boundaries of what is known. Don't be afraid to explore speculative ideas and concepts that challenge conventional thinking.

For instance, you can introduce advanced bioengineering that allows humans to perform near-superhuman feats. While such ideas may not be currently within the realm of possibility, they provide opportunities for thought-provoking narratives and engaging storytelling.

Integrating Technology into Your Story's World

As you develop your technology, consider how it fits into the larger world of your story. Technology should be seamlessly integrated into the fabric of society, influencing how people live, work, and interact.

Think about the social, cultural, and economic implications of your technology. How does it impact everyday life? Does it create new industries or disrupt existing ones? How do characters adapt to and interact with this technology?

Above all else, you want to ensure your technology becomes an organic and essential part of your story's world, enhancing both the narrative and the overall reader experience.

Creating unique and believable technology is a journey of imagination tempered with realism. By integrating technology seamlessly into your story's world and exploring the limits of science and imagination, you can craft a captivating sci-fi story that resonates with readers and leaves them in awe of the possibilities that lie within the pages of your book.

Writing Engaging Tech Passages

Now that you have a grasp of how to create unique and believable technology, let's explore how to write engaging passages that effectively showcase your inventions. 

A well-crafted tech passage can captivate readers, immerse them in your world, and leave them in awe of the wonders you've created. Here are some tips to help you master the art of writing about technology.

Showcase Functionality and Design

When describing your technology, it's crucial to convey its functionality and design in a way that sparks the reader's imagination. Instead of simply stating what your invention does, paint a vivid picture that allows readers to visualize how it works and understand its purpose within the story.

Suppose you're introducing a holographic communication device. Instead of saying, "He used a holographic communication device to talk to his colleague," you could write, "With a flick of his wrist, a shimmering holographic projection materialized before him, displaying a lifelike image of his colleague. As they conversed, gestures and expressions were faithfully rendered, blurring the lines between reality and virtual presence."

Need help with showing instead of telling? Click here.

Avoiding Infodumping

One common pitfall when writing about technology is infodumping or overwhelming readers with a deluge of technical details and explanations. While it's important to provide enough information for readers to understand your technology, it's equally crucial to maintain a balance and avoid overwhelming them with unnecessary specifics.

Instead, focus on the key aspects that are relevant to the story and the scene at hand. Highlight the features that have an impact on the plot, character interactions, or worldbuilding elements. 

Be picky about the details you share and keep readers engaged without burdening them with an excess of information.

Incorporating Technical Jargon

To create an authentic, tech-driven atmosphere, you can incorporate technical jargon into your writing. But you should use it sparingly and ensure it enhances rather than hinders the reader's understanding.

Introduce technical terms gradually, allowing readers to familiarize themselves with the vocabulary of your world. Provide context and explanations when necessary to help readers follow along. Strike a balance between using technical terms to create a sense of realism and ensuring that readers can still grasp the essential concepts.

Yes, sci-fi readers are usually more savvy with technical jargon than most, but that doesn’t mean you should overuse these words.

Effective Use of Technobabble

Technobabble, or the use of complex-sounding but ultimately nonsensical technical language, can be a useful tool in science fiction. However, you should use it judiciously and purposefully.

Technobabble can add an air of authenticity to your tech passages, creating the illusion of complex systems and advanced knowledge. But be cautious not to rely too heavily on it. 

The key is to make the technobabble sound plausible without detracting from the reader's comprehension or the overall flow of the narrative.

Balancing Clarity and Immersion

When writing about technology, it's essential to strike a balance between clarity and immersion. While you want readers to understand the basic functioning of your inventions, you also want to maintain an element of mystery and wonder.

Incorporate sensory details and evoke emotions to immerse readers in the experience of interacting with your technology. Let them feel the hum of energy, the sleekness of touchscreens, or the weightlessness of anti-gravity devices. 

By blending vivid descriptions with concise explanations, you can ensure that readers grasp the essential concepts while remaining enthralled by the fantastical nature of your inventions.

Character Interaction with Technology

We already know tech plays a big role in your worldbuilding, but the way your characters interact with technology can provide valuable insights into their personalities, their relationships, and the society they live in, too. 

Let's delve into some key aspects of character interaction with technology.

Tech's Impact on Everyday Life

One of the most effective ways to establish the significance of technology in your story is by showcasing its impact on everyday life. Consider how your characters' daily routines, habits, and experiences are influenced by the presence of advanced technology. 

Does technology simplify their lives or complicate them? Does it bring convenience or create new challenges?

Maybe your characters might rely on advanced AI-powered personal assistants to manage their schedules, control their smart homes, and provide real-time information. This technology would seamlessly integrate into their daily lives, becoming an indispensable tool that streamlines their tasks. 

What does this mean for the rest of their lives? Their relationships? Jobs? Hobbies?

Character Relationships with Technology

Technology can also shape and define the relationships your characters have with one another. It can act as a catalyst for conflict, intimacy, or even as a character itself. Consider the ways in which technology influences interpersonal dynamics and emotional connections.

For example, a character's relationship with a sentient AI companion could evolve from initial skepticism to a deep bond and friendship. This dynamic relationship explores themes of trust, companionship, and the blurred lines between human and artificial intelligence. 

Alternatively, technology could become a source of tension between characters, leading to conflicts arising from differences in beliefs or usage of certain technologies.

By highlighting the complexities of character interactions with technology, you can add depth and richness to their relationships, creating compelling storylines and exploring thought-provoking themes.

Navigating Ethical and Moral Questions

Incorporating technology into your characters' lives also opens the door to exploring ethical and moral questions. As technology becomes more advanced, it brings with it a range of ethical dilemmas and moral considerations. How do your characters grapple with these issues?

For instance, the use of genetic modification might raise questions about the ethics of altering human nature. Your characters could face internal conflicts as they wrestle with the implications of using such technology and the potential consequences it may have on society.

Furthermore, characters may encounter situations where they must make difficult choices regarding the responsible use of powerful technologies. These choices can shape their identities, values, and ultimately drive the narrative forward.

Futuristic and Alien Technologies

In the vast realm of science fiction, there are endless possibilities when it comes to imagining futuristic and alien technologies. These imaginative concepts can captivate your readers and transport them to extraordinary worlds. 

However, it’s crucial to maintain a sense of wonder and discovery while ensuring consistency within your story. Let's explore these aspects further.

Sense of Wonder and Discovery

When introducing futuristic or alien technologies, it’s essential to ignite the imagination of your readers. The whole point of these foreign pieces of tech is to inspire awe.

One effective way to achieve this is through the perspective of your characters. Allow them to experience the technologies with a sense of awe and curiosity, mirroring the reader's own reactions. Describe the sights, sounds, and sensations they encounter, capturing the essence of the unfamiliar and extraordinary.

Additionally, emphasizing the impact of these technologies on the world around them can contribute to the sense of wonder. Consider how these advancements reshape societies, redefine cultural norms, or revolutionize industries. 

Consistency within Your Story

While embracing the fantastical and extraordinary, it's important to maintain consistency within your story's world. Establishing a set of rules and parameters for your technologies, even unearthly ones, helps create a coherent and believable narrative.

Consider the internal logic of your alien technology. How does it operate? What are its limitations? Are there any side effects or unintended consequences, especially for human users? By defining these aspects, you create a foundation that adds depth and credibility to your storytelling.

Consistency also extends to the integration of futuristic or alien technologies into the overall narrative. Ensure these technologies are not merely superficial additions but integral components that drive the plot or shape the characters' journeys. They should serve a purpose beyond mere decoration, contributing to the conflicts, themes, or development of your story.

Tips for Writing Futuristic or Alien Tech

While I could go on for days about this particular element of writing tech, here are some quick tips to keep in mind when writing your futuristic or alien inventions.

Establish rules and parameters - Establish a clear set of rules and parameters for your futuristic or alien technologies. Define how they function, their limitations, and any potential risks or consequences associated with their use.

Integrate into worldbuilding - Explore how these technologies have shaped societies, economies, and cultures. Are there political implications, social divisions, or economic disparities as a result? Be intentional with your worldbuilding and create a rich and immersive environment that feels cohesive and believable.

Balance familiarity and uniqueness - Like all tech, you should strike a balance between familiarity and uniqueness when portraying futuristic or alien technologies. Incorporate elements readers can relate to and find familiar, even within the context of advanced or extraterrestrial concepts.

Have a clear purpose - What’s the point of your alien or future tech? Do they reflect the exploration of humanity, the consequences of unchecked progress, or the nature of power? Ensure that the technologies you introduce resonate with the larger ideas you seek to explore.

Have fun - The whole point of writing sci-fi, especially far-future or alien elements in the genre, is to have fun. Let your imagination go wild (while keeping all the tips from this article in mind) and craft a great story.

Create Your Sci-Fi Tech

I’m sorry I can’t bundle up all the info in this blog onto a datachip you can just pop into the biomechanical reader in your wrist. But the best way (other than that) to remember everything we just talked about is to put it into action.

It takes a lot of conscious thought and effort to craft your sci-fi inventions. Balancing scientific fact with your imagination, integrating your tech into your new world and linking it to characters—it’s a lot to keep track of.

Luckily, that’s where Dabble comes in.

With dedicated folders and files for your worldbuilding, characters, or anything else you need to make notes for (like sweet alien inventions), all just one click away from your manuscript.

Or use the Plot Grid to link your inventions directly to your scenes, ensuring you tie your tech into your story as effectively as possible.

And you can try it all for free for fourteen days, no credit card required, by clicking here. Happy writing!

Doug Landsborough

Doug Landsborough can’t get enough of writing. Whether freelancing as an editor, blog writer, or ghostwriter, Doug is a big fan of the power of words. In his spare time, he writes about monsters, angels, and demons under the name D. William Landsborough. When not obsessing about sympathetic villains and wondrous magic, Doug enjoys board games, horror movies, and spending time with his wife, Sarah.