I haven't been able to get over the idea that "history" (a collective, shared history, at least) may have indeed ended with the collapse of the USSR. I was just toddlin' around at the time, so really, I'd have to be at least 10 years older to have a meaningful awareness of pre- vs. post-Cold War life.
But maybe there's another reflection of this same idea in the stagnation of sci-fi:
[Cyberpunk] was science fiction perfectly tuned for the Reagan-Thatcher era. Its connection with punk music and subcultures is, of course, contingent. (Who knows what might have happened if Bethke decided to call his story Techno-Hipster.) Yet the clichéd punk imperative to “Do It Yourself” is in fact perfect for a kind of fiction whose ethos is that you have to survive in a world where unstoppable megacorporations control every aspect of everyday life. The best you might hope for is to carve out a temporary autonomous zone of freedom before you—like the hero of Bethke’s short story—are caught by parental authority and sent away to a re-education camp. At its root, then, cyberpunk is arguably a kind of fiction unable to imagine a future very different from its present.
Do we need some kind of perceived external threat to keep a collective culture? Without one, are societies innately prone to infighting and collapse? Does an internet hasten the onset of instability?
I'm beginning to think that the answer to all three is yes, and 9/11 may have even staved off the current hyperpolarization of American culture by a few years.