OK, so: cyberpunk’s very own apostate chairman-in-voluntary-exile Bruce Sterling has a word for the “problem” that sf (and almost every other sphere of human endeavour) is having at the moment: atemporality. Paraphrasing somewhat: atemporality is basically end-case po-mo (and has also been labeled as “altermodernism”). It’s what the world looks like when the conceptual space you inhabit is – and always was – saturated with po-mo’s erasure of metanarrative; when you’ve learned from birth that if you don’t construct your own narratives pretty fast, someone else will construct them on your behalf. (And then charge you for the privilege of featuring in them, most likely, unless you’re on the lower tiers of their freemium package, in which case you’re getting some sort of intangible and easy-to-scale benefit in exchange for reinforcing said narrative. But I digress…)
The Future (caps deliberate) was old-school sf’s metanarrative. The Future used to be somewhere awesome and clean which we could either build, conquer, or travel to. But the closer we got to the real (uncapitalised) future, the more it looked like… well, a lot like today, really, or even yesterday, only faster, more ruthless, more worn at the corners, and packed full of grim new threats alongside a remarkably persistent cast of old classics. The future isn’t somewhere that anyone – except possibly the more hardcore transhumanists, who are getting intriguingly vocal and self-assured of late – wants to escape to. Indeed, I think most of us, at some level or another, are more interested in escaping from the future.