Cover Photo: This photograph is of the graffitied walls of a dark tunnel, illuminated by a camera flash. At the end of the tunnel, we see that a question mark has been traced in light and captured by the camera. Everything has a sort of red glow, which makes it feel a bit mysterious and creepy.
Photograph by Emily Morter/Unsplash

The Power of “What If”

Speculative fiction is fueled by curiosity and questions. Try your hand at starting a new work (or building on something you’ve already started) with this exercise from classes instructor Tara Campbell.

  1. chlorophyll-based weight loss empire of the future

  • Flash Fiction:

  • World building:

  • Character:

  • Conflict:

Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University. Previous publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Booth, CRAFT, Strange Horizons, and Escape Pod/Artemis Rising. She's the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and four collections: Circe's Bicycle, Midnight at the Organporium, Political AF: A Rage Collection, and Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection. Connect with her at or on Twitter: @TaraCampbellCom