(As a side note, please permit me to apologize for the lack of new fic content over the last few days. I appear to have once again contracted some sort of death plague that is playing merry hell with my creativity, so I’m just sitting around crunching numbers, popping excedrin, and playing video games. Normal operation will be resumed as soon as I can operate normally.)
Used Future: Averted in the Empire – as you can probably tell by the way we hit up Crystal Spires and Togas, Everything is an iPod in the Future and Raygun Gothic on the way here, not to mention Scenery Porn, the Empire sits hard on the shiny side of the Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty. Note: it’s not necessarily new; some of it’s just been lovingly maintained for millennia and polished every morning until it gleams. Even more so with robotics and nanotechnology and post-scarcity energy supplies that fervently and with zeal ensure that all litter is picked up, all spills vanished, all nicks and dings repaired, and everything maintained in a state of appalling just-off-the-production-line perfection at all times! Even the garbage trucks are gorgeous!
The metaphorical appearance of the actuality may best be compared to the perfect streets and shiny happy people seen mostly in architect’s impressions and Jehovah’s Witnesses pamphlets.
How used everyone else’s future is tends to depend on location: see Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty for this, and Shiny Looking Spaceships for one way this trope plays out in practice.