Originally Posted by Nancy Fulda
In my experience, the best ideas come out of the intersection of two or more known facts. Or sometimes out of the questions that intersection raises. Here's an example.
Fact: Mechanical prostheses are beginning to exceed natural human capacities.
Fact: Mankind is beginning to establish a commercial presence in space.
Idea/Question: What niche in spacefaring societies will prosthetically-equipped humans be uniquely suited to fill?
As far as I can tell, this pattern holds true for most authors. A couple of ideas come together, a new connection is forged between neurons, and suddenly a chain reaction of 'what-ifs?' begins to form.
Accordingly, one of the best ways to generate new ideas is to assimilate new facts. Read Discover Magazine, or whatever news or technology publication most fascinates you. Talk with interesting people. Read cool books. And then, when the ideas come: Recognize them for what they are, write them down, mull them over, and see what emerges.
And sometimes ideas come out of what a person has themselves read I imagine. The Sci. Fi. reader of yesterday may well be the Sci Fi writer of today etc.