The Fashion of Sci-Fi Part 6 – 1980s

Posted: September 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

1980s: Cyberpunk and the post apocalyptic threat


It rains a lot in 1980s sci-fi. If you don’t believe me, then check out Back To The Future Part II, Max Headroom or more importantly the iconic Blade Runner. The aesthetic theme of 1980s sci-fi was ‘gomi’ – junk, rubbish and post apocalyptic versions of the run down and decaying estates that were built just twenty year before.

Happiness Patrols ran towering city blocks, lone gunmen roamed deserts to confront mutated frogs or Tina Turner in a wig, mega-cites were built and protected by judges and the strikes. Unrest, social decay and the end to once-great manufacturing businesses permeated sci-fi like the rain and pollution that slowly began to rot around the country.

1980s sci-fi wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t idealised. The future according to the 1980s was going to be bleak, with either the chance of being invaded by lizard aliens posing as visitors, or our mutually-assured destruction from either side of the Iron Curtain.


The sci-fi aesthetic was one of misery, of dank and dark corners, or lawlessness. The technology that was creeping into our homes and becoming commonplace was not going to help.

If you wanted to ‘jack-in’ or become a Neuromancer, then life online was only just slightly better than the one outside, and filled with betrayal and strange goings-on that only Joanna Lumley could only solve. No, it’s a good job the style and prediction of the 1980s future didn’t come to pass, and that we are not now living in some ‘futuristic, ‘industrial’, ‘medieval’ or indeed ‘Aztec’ zones.




The Sprawl trilogy (William Gibson)
The Difference Engine (William Gibson and Bruce Sterling)
Headcrash (Bruce Bethke)
Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson)


Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo)
Robocop (Paul Verhoeven)
Mad Max Trilogy (George Miller)
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott)
The Running Man (Paul Michael Glaser)


Star Trek: The Next Generation
Max Headroom
Sapphire & Steel
Red Dwarf


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