Three Tips For Creating Interesting Sci-Fi Weapons In Fiction And Comics

(And, yes, I know that “Star Trek” phaser beams are meant to be orange – but I used artistic licence. I also kind of wimped out a bit and replaced my original sarcastic dialogue about “Star Wars” in this picture. Sorry about this.)

If you’re writing a sci-fi story or comic set in the distant future then, unless you’re writing utopian fiction or post-apocalyptic fiction, then you’re probably going to have to come up with some interesting futuristic weapons for your story. Even if these weapons are just a background detail, then they’re probably still going to be there.

But, if you’re setting your story or comic in the near future, then don’t bother inventing futuristic weapons. Weapons technology doesn’t really change very quickly or dramatically (I mean, guns and bullets aren’t exactly a recent invention..). So, if you’re setting your story in the near-future, then just include modern-day weapons in it.

If you aren’t writing a military sci-fi story, or a sci-fi detective story or anything like that, then you can probably get away with just including generic sci-fi weapons in your story. After all, if they’re just meant to be a background detail (eg: something carried by guards, soldiers or criminals) then, as long as they look vaguely futuristic, no-one’s going to care.

But, if weapons are going to play a more integral role in your sci-fi comic or story, then it might be worth creating them a bit more carefully, here are a few tips:

1) Superweapons: A quick look at this Wikipedia page will tell you that the sci-fi genre and superweapons have a long history together.

It’s unsurprising that, since the mid-20th century, all of these futuristic superweapons are often just stand-ins or metaphors for the atom bomb. As such, you need to treat them the same way in your own story or comic. In other words, they either shouldn’t be used at all or, at most, they should only be used very rarely during the course of your story.

Although most people expect sci-fi superweapons to devastate or destroy entire planets at an absolute minumum, the trick to inventing a dramatic sci-fi superweapon is in how it does this.

Just having something than can blow up a planet is kind of a cliché. So, think of something that – say – boils all liquids on the planet, knocks a planet out of orbit or something like that instead. Use your imagination.

2) Guns: The “standard” gun in the sci-fi genre is, obviously, the humble laser gun. Yes, it might sometimes fire a beam of super-heated plasma instead of an actual laser beam – but it’s basically just a laser gun.

These are common in the sci-fi genre because they look futuristic and because, in television shows, they also avoid the depiction of graphic injuries or the glamourisation of real weapons.

There’s nothing wrong with using laser guns in your sci-fi story or comic, but they are kind of a cliché. So, try to think of other ways that futuristic technology might affect the kinds of handheld weaponry that people develop in the future. If you put your mind to it, you can think of with some truly fearsome and memorable sci-fi weapons that use scientific principles and ideas to deadly effect.

A good example can be found in an old sci-fi comic from the 70s called “Strontium Dog” (that I read the first volume of back in 2010). One type of weapon used in this comic are called “T-weapons” (although, if I remember rightly, they’re mostly grenades rather than guns) – they work by moving something or someone a few seconds backwards in time.

This might not sound very fearsome or dangerous, but the comic takes a very strict interpretation of the laws of physics. What this means is that, although something may have been moved back in time, it’s relative position will not have changed. Since planets orbit stars at a tremendous velocity, the planet would no longer be in the same position as it was a few seconds ago – leaving the target of the T-weapon stranded in the vacuum of space.

So, if you want to create memorable sci-fi guns, then they need to use the laws of physics in creatively evil ways.

3) Other weapons: Although some weapons, like knives and poisons, probably won’t really change that much in the distant future. What’s to say that weapons in the distant future will even look like anything that we would recognise as a weapon these days?

For example, in a cyberpunk story – a computer virus could be a deadly weapon, so your characters may end up fighting each other using computer files rather than any kind of physical weapon.

What I’m trying to say here is that, if you are setting your sci-fi story in the distant future, don’t be afraid to use your imagination when it comes to thinking of weapons for your characters to use.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

2 comments on “Three Tips For Creating Interesting Sci-Fi Weapons In Fiction And Comics

  1. babbitman says:

    Ah yes, i remember the Time Bombs from Strontium Dog – a really, really cool idea!
    I really liked how, in the Tom Cruise remake of War of the Worlds, the alien death ray atomised people’s bodies and left their clothes floating through the air – very creepy.
    It’s also interesting to see how laser guns works in film & TV – most laser shots look more like machine gun tracer rounds than actual light beams. Which is probably why there are those slower moving ‘photon torpedoes’ in Star Trek. I think Space 1999 and Moonraker were some of the few visual representations that showed long light beams simply blinking on and then off, rather than like a missile.
    Lightsabres are easily the best of the ‘others’ 🙂

    • pekoeblaze says:

      Totally. Although I saw the Tom Cruise remake of “War Of The Worlds” at the cinema when it came out, I can’t really remember a huge amount about it. I never really realised that about laser guns in movies though, but you’re totally right – I wonder if this is because people in special effects departments at the time that lasers really started appearing in sci-fi movies had military experience or watched a lot of news footage from the time or something like that.

      Although, thinking about it, a “realistic” laser gun wouldn’t actually produce a visible beam (unless there was some kind of smoke or mist in the air) but this would probably look kind of boring on film LOL! Thinking about it more, this is probably why “Star Trek” (well, from “The Next Generation” onwards, I haven’t seen that much of the original series) makes a point of saying that the phasers use some kind of plasma or something like that instead of lasers.

      Although I think that I saw at least one repeat of “Space 1999” on TV when I was younger (since I vaguely remember laughing at the title, since it was sometime after 1999) and I’ve probably also seen “Moonraker” ages ago, I don’t really remember the laser guns from them that well. Although, thinking about it, the moonraker laser (or was it the wristwatch laser?) in the old Nintendo 64 “Goldeneye” game used a single blinking blue/white(?) beam rather than a projectile.

      LOL! I guess, although I’ve always wondered why the beam on a lightsaber is a particular length. I mean, if it’s a laser, shouldn’t the beam be ridiculously long LOL!

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