Everybody always says that every story idea has been done before - which is totally not true, because nobody's done a "nuns raise an ostrich to be the perfect killer" story before. But even if a story idea has been done to death, you can always make it fresh and brilliant all over again, by adding just two little words: "in space."
Science fiction fans have known this forever, but it's time that everybody was told. There is no genre, no type of story, no set of story beats, that cannot be improved by adding "in space." It bears the same relation to storytelling that "in bed" does to fortune cookies. And we've got the proof, right here.
Top image: Sunrise in Space by Gucken on Deviant Art
Eventually, our descendants will all be born in space and live their entire lives on board space stations or deep-space freighters. And when that happens, all of our stories, no matter what type they are, will be told in space. Planetside will be like this exotic weird setting that people tell half-fanciful stories about, that nobody quite believes. (What do you mean, gravity was constant? Getouttahere.)
But for now, we have to settle for taking our Earthly stories and boosting them out of our gravity well and into the endless expanse.
How can we prove that every single type of story is made better by putting it in space? Two ways. First, by explaining what awesomeness space adds to any story. And second, by listing every single type of story and proving that it's already been improved in space. Don't worry, this won't take long.
Why space is the can't-miss additive
Space, as you might have heard, is really big. It's mysterious and voidy and full of huge phenomena, many of which defy explanation. But more to the point, it's both deadly and full of limitless possibility. It's like the ocean, times infinity. You can drown in space way more easily than you can drown in the ocean, and it's way easier to get lost as well.
Also, space has really cool visuals. Here's one right now.
Space is sometimes described as "the final frontier," even though that doesn't really make sense - a frontier is more like a line, dividing one piece of territory from another, and space isn't really line-shaped. But it's still true that space is the biggest challenge that we humans face, and conquering space is the key to the survival of our species in the long run. So, you know, it's worth telling stories about space for its own sake.
There are lots of unique dangers in space, like drifting away from your ship and almost running out of oxygen, or getting caught in a gravity well you can't escape from. Or having engine trouble in the middle of nowhere. Or dodging asteroids. Or just running into some kind of interstellar phenomenon that causes everybody aboard your ship to start turning into newts or having a bad trip.
And even though space is really, really big, it can also be just like a small town, if you've got magical faster-than-light drives or stargates or hyperspace. You can zip around and meet lots of creatures, and visit lots of strange places. It's like getting on a train in France and getting off in Spain - everything's different, but it didn't take that long. And that means you can meet up with people in space and have awesome space battles, sometimes more than once. You can hang out at your neighborhood space bar.
So what does space actually add to your usual boring old story? A whole lot of possibility. Even, perhaps, an infinite amount of possibility. It adds danger, and wonder.
And space adds romance - the more that people see how small they are in the context of all that vastness, the more they want to cling to something, or someone, to create some kind of meaning in their tiny lives.
Space adds instant swashbuckling, even if the buckle is actually on a spacesuit instead of a swash.
Space adds gravitas - because everything is so very silent in the vacuum (unless you're going to wimp out and have sound in space.) And there's a grandeur to everything floating through the darkness, punctuated only by the tiny pinpricks of starlight and the clouds of hot gas off in the distance.
Most of all, space is both exciting and incredibly slow, like rafting through sulfuric acid.
Every single story idea, and what space adds to it
Seriously, what have you got? Name a story idea and we'll prove that space has already made it better. If we forget anything, please name it in the comments and we'll add space to it right away.
A middle-class family comes together for the holidays and deals with their issues... in space!
Almost every space TV opera show has done a "family reunion" episode, and some of them are surprisingly great. Plus check out House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds for a great/weird family reunion, in space.
Suburban angst... in space!
Most of Glasshouse by Charles Stross is basically exactly this. And it's awesome, in a way that suburban angst often isn't, but also captures some of what's great about suburban angst. This book really should be a movie.