Locus Magazine is running an essay called Minor Futurism: Where SFF is Headed by Gabe Chouinard predicting the coming changes, decay and rebirth of science fiction in the new century.
We begin here:
As a society, we’ve passed through our era of technological progress, and have moved into an era of technological refinement. We’ve abandoned looking outward toward the stars, and have turned our gazes inward. From self-help pop psychology to biotechnology, our focus has undeniably changed. Gone is the halcyon dream of Progress, with its shiny chrome futurism. Instead, our future looks grimy and slimy, dominated by terrorist splinter cells and stem cells. It’s a world of mass commercialism, AOLFuture 8.0.
And end up here:
Our current cultural shift is one that requires fantasy. We’ve grown tired of the future, have grown tired of the promise of Progress that never really comes. We’re tired of looking outward, and have turned our gazes inward. It’s time to stop exploring the Outer Rim, and time to start exploring the Inner Being. Science fantasy allows that; hard SF does not. Likewise, science fantasy is more accessible to a generation of potential fans that have grown up on media sci-fi, such as the Star Wars movies. Science fantasy is a freewheeling almost-anything-goes subgenre that fulfills the needs of a culture that has developed a ‘half-imagination’ over the years.
So a grimy future leads to science fantasy. Although these arguments never seem to end within science fiction there is a certain fascination watching us dissect the literature that has inspired so many. Chouinard has a blog. This link came via Charlie Stross’ diary.