Coming up with an 'original' sci-fi concept is not an easy task. What I'd like to try with this thread is some concept brainstorming: basically any ideas any of you may have. So, specifically -
Alien races (and all that goes with it: environmental tolerance, social history, unique species viewpoint, home planet etc)
and anything else you can think of. Ever thought 'wouldn't it be cool if...'? That's what we're going for here. I've got some starter ideas and am gathering more, but writing this kind of stuff is a slow process, so your ideas will help me hugely. Bear in mind that posting an idea doesn't mean it will be used - but you might expand the conceptual space wide enough for some aspects of an idea to make it into the final 'product'. Bear also in mind that virtually every sci-fi concept has been done before, so while there's no harm in adapting or reusing existing tropes, there's also no point in posting an idea that already exists (e.g. The Borg/equivalent).
Starter ideas & basic tropes to get you going:
Non-sentience. Based in part on Peter Watts 'Blindsight' (read it, if you haven't: http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm), in which non-self-aware entities that operate solely on reflex/instinct are actually the 'evolutionary end game', making 'consciousness' as we experience it the anomaly.
'Energy beings'. I like the concept, but it's overused. Been considering expanding the definition of 'energy' beyond the sci-fi usuals of solar/magnetic/plasma/etc beings for something with a bit more flavour. Not sure where I'll take this yet, it's more the root of an idea and the details will probably hit me like a train at 4am or something. 'Love is an energy' and other similarities are a flat out no go.
Heavily tech-biased race. Not the fucking Borg (though I am open to the idea of group or enhanced consciousness); I refuse to believe that the merger of meat & machine cannot expand beyond the sodding Borg, or guys with their brains half-wired up. No ideas on this one though, maybe approach it from the perspective of theoretically feasible technology e.g. google glass, subcutaneous nanomachines, idon'tfuckingknow. Lots of tech heads here, if you come across anything cool that could form the start of something, post it.
Concepts of life beyond carbon - silicon based, gaseous based (!), extremophiles, etc. If life elsewhere doesn't take the shape of earth life, what is that life based on? What shape does it take?
Other useful stuff:
The Kardashev scale (wiki it). This is a scale of development applied to civilisations: Type 1 uses all resources on its home planet, Type 2 harness all the energy of it's star, and Type 3 harnesses all resources in its solar system. Might be a useful base point for discussions on relative technological levels etc.
The Law of Complexity/Consciousness: Developed by the Jesuit St Teilhard, it theorises that all matter is engaged in the process of complexifying upon itself until it reaches an 'omega point', which is the highest degree of evolved consciousness possible and leads to a 'higher plane of existence'. This is the subject matter mined by Dan Simmons in the Hyperion Quartet, and though it's already been used, provides an interesting viewpoint regarding the development of civilisations. Again more food for thought rather than anything concrete, andI certainly wouldn't take it in the Simmons' direction - I'm more interested in what (if anything) else can come from it.
No suggestion too crazy, no idea too 'out-there'. Go nuts.