William Gibson, one of the originators of the 'cyberpunk' science fiction genre, used the term "otaku" in his 1996 novel "Idoru". The meaning given, from a Japanese-translation computer function used by a character, was 'pathological techno-fetishist with social deficit'. The character so described spent much of his time online in a multi-user domain and subsisted on Ramen-type noodles and canned coffee. Although by Japan's rigorous social standards a "loser", the character was well-mannered and good-hearted.
"The otaku guys at my last school were into, like, plastic anime babes, military simulations, and trivia. Bigtime into trivia." -"Idoru", William Gibson