The science-fiction field was about to undergo radical change, as was its reception. A new subgenre, cyberpunk, was to emerge from the typewriters of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, among others, not only in their fiction, but also in the fanzines edited by Sterling. Like many new movements, they disparaged and dismissed their predecessors; Sterling looked back to the New Wave of the 1960s, rather than the 1970s, in a typical generational act of anxiety of influence: ‘SF in the late Seventies was confused, self-involved, and stale’ (1986: 9). The work of John Brunner might be acknowledged, but not much else from the decade. In an era of home computers – PCs – and home entertainment – VCRs – technology was transforming the domestic space, and cyberpunk represented one version of this world.
The descriptions of postmodernism advanced by Jean Baudrillard and Jean-François Lyotard were joined by Fredric Jameson's, in ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’ (1983), first delivered as a lecture in 1983, and then in ‘Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ (1984). Meanwhile, Donna Haraway developed her version of the cyborg as a new feminist identity which questions notions of sex, race and class by drawing upon existing sf – especially the works of Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Vonda McIntyre, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree Jr, John Varley and Monique Wittig, all active during the 1970s. Collectively, these theoreticians brought a new academic audience to sf, and the genre gained critical credibility.