Something else: Fantasy and Sci-fi
Jill writes a definition of cyberpunk, and Dennis quotes the concerns of science fiction writers about the future readers. I followed his link to Spider Robinson's article Forward, into the past
I'm not knocking fantasy, but if we look only backward instead of forward, too, one day we will find ourselves surrounded by an electorate that has never willingly thought a single thought their great-grandparents would not have recognized. That's simply not acceptable. That way lies inconceivable horror, a bin Laden future for our grandchildren.
This is an extremely simplified view of fantasy, which I hoped a witty writer such as spider Robinson would see beyond. Fantasy is not mainly about the past. Fantasy is about post-apocalysms, about conservative blindness that leads to tragedy, about the sins of the fathers and the responsibility of the children. Even Tolkien is not about history, but about the threat that needs to be fought, with new alliances, with new techniques, and with a new result: the creation of a new world.
The turn from Science Fiction and to fantasy is perhaps not as much a flight from new ideas, as a realisation that modernism has failed. The future isn't any brighter, and technology will not solve the basic cause of human suffering: Greed, selfishness, ethnophobia and sheer stupidness, just to mention some. And I haven't even directed your gaze towards religious fanaticism and the ambitions of powerful men.
The only thing which will solve the problem is the Deus ex Machina in fantasy: moral choice. Oh, there are a lot of other gods in the machinery of fantasy, but they are just the effects of the choices the characters do. No heroine can have divine assistance in her task to change the world unless she takes the responsibility on her shoulders and goes out to oppose impossible odds in order to make life better.
Personally, I'd rather have a hero who decided to try and find out what the problem is and do something about it, than a hero that builds more fantastic technology to solve it. We have been there, and no, sorry, it didn't work. Tecnology is just technology. Humans have to fix the errors of humans, and no robot can clean up our mess.