Modern sci-fi has a problem. It can be summed up in two quotes:
[The present is] too complex, with too many huge sci-fi tropes: global warming; the lethal, sexually transmitted immune-system disease; the United States, attacked by crazy terrorists, invading the wrong country. Any one of these would have been more than adequate for a science-fiction novel. But if you suggested doing them all and presenting that as an imaginary future, they'd not only show you the door, they'd probably call security.
The other is not from a sci fi author, but instead from a conversation between Stanslaw Ulam and John von Neumann, as related by Ulam:
One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.
Science fiction authors have this horrible problem, which is basically that the future they imagined (minus easy space travel) is already here, but is more shlocky than they anticipated, and the future human condition that lies ahead is, with non-zero probability, by definition unimaginable due to our tiny human brains. Into this void steps Charles Stross
(cool enough to have had a vi-powered website since 1993) with his novel Singularity Sky
, and the blurb on the back is that
Where Charles Stross goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow
. Well, if that's true then the future of science fiction is to sidestep all this singularity stuff and to instead tell the story from the point of view of the unmodified humans who are still just people, but are now surrounded by this unimaginably complex system capable of astounding feats and asserting bizarre rules which it enforces with an iron fist.
Basically, it looks like the future of sci-fi is looking more and more like we're going to see lots of variants of Left Behind that substitute the word "nano" every time the Left Behind series (I imagine) uses the world "holy". As in, "Be careful, that thing has a nano-weapon which will annihilate you from the face of the earth!" I'm not sure how I feel about this, but it seems like the most plausible way of writing about an unimaginable future - just tell the story about the normal people and treat the unimaginable parts as mostly magic. But it also means that, unlike the sci-fi of the past, the heroes of these future stories are now going to be mostly luddites instead of technophiles, because the technophiles will have already
been taken up by the rapture uploaded their consciousness and the luddites are the only ones that have a story to tell that is easily relatable to our current condition.