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January Prompt: Weather Warnings


Your challenge this month is to write a story in which the weather or climate is an important plot element.

Our monthly theme prompt is running a little late this month. That's partly because it's been colder than a snowman's carrot out there and I was iced in for a few days with a spotty Internet connection. The good news is that the theme for January just fell out of the sky and piled up all around me.

Yes, I know anthropogenic climate change is a contentious topic these days (at least among those of us who are not climate scientists), and I don't want to invite sermons on any side of that argument. Instead, let's use our sci-fi imaginations and story-telling talents to explore possible implications, both good and bad, in worlds where climate and weather patterns differ from ours here in the present on Earth.


  • Entries should be submitted in the usual way using the Write for Us submissions link.

  • Mention the title of the prompt (Weather Warnings) in the Notes field of the submissions form.

  • Submissions must be received by February 15 to qualify.

  • Entries must comply with all the usual SFS Guidelines.

  • Your work can be horror, dystopian, alien, or whatever, as long as it’s Sci-Fi and addresses the prompt's theme.

  • Submit only one story for this prompt.

  • You may continue to submit stories to SFS that are outside the contest, and we encourage you to do so.

If you have more than one story that fits the theme, please submit your best one for the prompt and send us the others as non-theme entries. Also, if the editors feel your theme entry is good enough to publish but does not quite satisfy the theme requirements, we reserve the right to accept it as a non-theme submission.

After the prompt has ended and all the entrants have been processed (usually before the first day of the following month), we will list and link to the participating stories in a blog post. The editorial staff will then choose one story for special mention as the Editors' Choice of the Month.

Image Prompts

Alongside the theme prompt, we will also have some pre-made art related to the theme in the image-prompts discord channel. For those of you who are visually inspired, image prompts can be an excellent resource. While it is an aid we recommend using, you can still submit a story without an image and we will choose one for you.


This month I have chosen three excellent short stories and one flash sci-fi piece to exemplify the theme. By reading these in temporal order, we can see how the treatment of climate-related themes has progressed over the last seventy-five years of science fiction literature. The links below are to free online versions of the stories.

In the '50s, sci-fi writers had to go off-planet to invent fantastic settings where the climate drastically differed from our own. In The Long Rain, Bradbury weaves a story about a group of men marooned on Venus, where rain and storms are constantly looming. Their Sisyphean search for the illusive "Sun Dome" is still entertaining, despite the dated descriptions of the planet Venus.

A few decades later, Nimbus uses a similar setting, but in a near-future version of Earth. In Watts' tale, the violent storms have become sentient, and they scold us in hissing tones as they cleanse the planet of its human contagion.

Margaret Atwood's flash piece in The Guardian is every bit as starkly dystopian as you might expect from the author of The Handmaid's Tale — kind of a 500-word planetary suicide note.

But climate stories don't have to be dystopian. One might argue that today, the most imaginative, unexpected, and rare "cli-fi" tales are the optimistic ones. There is an emerging sub-genre called "solarpunk" that conjures up futures where unlimited free energy, typically from the sun or nuclear sources, allows us to save the planet and still fuel a thriving economy. Or maybe not the whole planet all at once. Perhaps we can create pockets of light and prosperity embedded in an otherwise inhospitable global climate. Like Bradbury's Sun Domes from 1950.

The Scent of Freetails is set in one such future pocket of prosperity: San Antonio, Texas. But the story isn't all rainbows and unicorns (tacos and mariachi?). There is an ominous undertone woven through it that keeps the reader on edge, despite the idyllic setting. Just as in Brave New World and 1984, utopia can be a very scary place.

Hopefully, this theme will inspire our talented group of writers here at SFS to imagine a whole range of climate possibilities and explore their impact on the sentient beings who live there. We look forward to reading your forecasts.

Good luck, and stay warm!

 — The Editors

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