Omni was a science and science fiction magazine published in the US and the UK. It contained articles on science, parapsychology, and short works of science fiction and fantasy. It was published as a print version between October 1978 and 1995. The first Omni e-magazine was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996. It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton; activity on the magazine's website ended the following April.
Cover of the October 1984 edition.
|Categories||Science and Science fiction magazine|
|First issue||October 1978|
|Company||General Media, Inc.|
|Based in||New York City|
Omni was founded by Kathy Keeton and her long-time collaborator and future husband Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse magazine. The initial concept came from Keeton, who wanted a magazine "that explored all realms of science and the paranormal, that delved into all corners of the unknown and projected some of those discoveries into fiction."
Dick Teresi, an author and former Good Housekeeping editor, wrote the proposal for the magazine, from which a dummy was produced. In pre-launch publicity it was referred to as Nova but the name was changed before the first issue went to print to avoid a conflict with the PBS science show of the same name. Guccione described the magazine as "an original if not controversial mixture of science fact, fiction, fantasy and the paranormal". The debut edition had an exclusive interview with Freeman Dyson, a renowned physicist, and the second edition carried an interview with Alvin Toffler, futurist and author of Future Shock.
In its early run, Omni published a number of stories that have become genre classics, such as Orson Scott Card's "Unaccompanied Sonata", William Gibson's "Burning Chrome", "New Rose Hotel" and "Johnny Mnemonic", and George R. R. Martin's "Sandkings". The magazine also published original science fiction and fantasy by William S. Burroughs, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Carroll, Julio Cortazar, T. Coraghessan Boyle, and other mainstream writers. The magazine excerpted Stephen King's novel Firestarter, and featured his short story "The End of the Whole Mess". Omni also brought the works of numerous painters to the attention of a large audience, such as H. R. Giger, De Es Schwertberger and Rallé. In the early 1980s, popular fiction stories from Omni were reprinted in The Best of Omni Science Fiction series and featured art by space artists like Robert McCall.
Omni entered the market at the start of a wave of new science magazines aimed at educated but otherwise "non-professional" readers. Science Digest and Science News already served the high-school market, and Scientific American and New Scientist the professional, while Omni was arguably the first aimed at "armchair scientists" who were nevertheless well informed about technical issues. The next year, however, Time introduced Discover while the AAAS introduced Science '80. Advertising dollars were spread among the different magazines, and those without deep pockets soon folded in the 1980s, notably Science Digest, while Science '80 merged with Discover. Omni appeared to weather this storm better than most, likely due to its wider selection of contents. In early 1996 publisher Bob Guccione suspended publication of the print edition of Omni, attributing the decision to the rising price of paper and postage. At the end of its print run the circulation was still reported to be more than 700,000 copies a month.
In September 1997, Keeton died of complications from surgery for an intestinal obstruction. The staff of Omni Internet was laid off, and no new content was added to the website after April 1998. General Media shut the site down and removed the Omni archives from the Internet in 2003.
Omni magazine was published in at least six languages. The content in the British editions closely followed the North American editions, but with a different numbering sequence. This was mainly accomplished by wrapping the American edition in a new cover which featured British advertising on the inside. At least one British edition was entirely unique and was shipped under the banner of Omni UK. An Italian edition was edited by Alberto Peruzzo and ran for 20 issues from 1981 to 1983, when Peruzzo detached the name Omni from his local edition. The Italian spin-off continued with the name Futura, while maintaining the same graphical style and with an unchanged intended audience, for another twenty issues, up to July 1985. The Japanese edition ran from 1982 to the summer of 1989 and included almost entirely different content to the American edition. The German edition began in 1984 and ended in early 1986. The first Spanish edition appeared in November 1986 and ran until the summer of 1988. A Russian edition was published in the Soviet Union beginning in September 1989 in conjunction with the USSR Academy of Sciences. These editions were 80% in English and featured both Russian and English advertising. Publisher Guccione arranged for 20,000 copies of the Russian edition to be placed on news stands and onboard internal Aeroflot flights in the Soviet Union in exchange for an equivalent number of copies of Science in Russia being distributed in the USA. Omni ran subscription adverts beginning in August 1989 for Science in Russia. This arrangement was intended to last for one year and was made possible by the Glasnost events in the Soviet Union.
Omni first began its online presence as part of Compuserve in the summer of 1986. On September 5, 1993 Omni became part of the America Online service. The AOL unveiling took place at the 51st World Science Fiction Convention in San Francisco. AOL subscribers had access to much of the Omni printed archive as well as forums, chat groups and new fiction. After the print magazine folded, the Omni Internet webzine was launched on September 15, 1996. For the first few months the new website was integrated into the AOL service, replacing the existing AOL Omni interface. Now free of pressure to focus on fringe science areas, Omni returned to its roots as the home of gonzo science writing, becoming one of the first large-scale venues to deliver a journalism geared specifically to cyberspace, complete with real-time coverage of major science events, chats and blogs with scientific luminaries, and interactive experiments that users could join. The world's top science fiction writers also joined in, writing collaborative fiction pieces for Omni's readers live online.
A short-lived syndicated television show based on the magazine's format (and called Omni: The New Frontier) aired in the United States beginning in September 1981, hosted by Peter Ustinov. A French-language, dubbed version of the show appeared on the Canadian public TV network Radio-Québec (now known as Télé-Québec) in 1994. In 1985, extracts of the 1981 television series were re-edited and repackaged into four television shows hosted by Keir Dullea under the title Omni: Visions of the Future. Episodes were titled Futurebody, Space, Amazing Medicine and Lifestyles in the 21st Century.
An equally short-lived spin-off magazine called Omni Comix debuted in 1995, and was published in the same glossy, newsstand magazine format as its sister publications Omni, Penthouse and Penthouse Comix. Omni Comix ran for only three issues, and the third and final issue featured an abortive revival of the 1960s superhero series T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.
From 1983 to 1986, Zebra Books published a series of anthologies containing selected non-fiction content from Omni magazine:
From 1984 to 1989, Zebra Books also published a series of Science Fiction anthologies containing stories published in Omni magazine with all volumes edited by Ellen Datlow who was also serving as the editor of Omni magazine at the time:
Ellen Datlow also edited and released the following Science Fiction anthologies of stories published in Omni magazine under the OMNI Books imprint:
The magazine was initially edited by Frank Kendig, who left several months after the magazine's launch. Ben Bova, who was hired as Fiction Editor, was promoted to Editor, leaving the magazine in 1981. After Kendig and Bova, Editors of Omni included Dick Teresi, Gurney Williams III, Patrice Adcroft, Keith Ferrell, and Pamela Weintraub (editor of Omni as one of the first major standalone webzines from 1996–1998). Kathleen Stein managed the magazine's prestigious Q&A interviews with the top scientists of the 20th century through 1998. Ellen Datlow was Associate fiction editor of Omni under Robert Sheckley for one and a half years, and took over as Fiction Editor in 1981 until the magazine was suspended in 1998. In 2016, two print issues of OMNI were published by members of the original staff, including Weintraub and Datlow. Under the umbrella of PGMI, OMNI was reimagined as a series of print quarterlies starting in 2017, with Pamela Weintraub as Editor-in-Chief and Ellen Datlow as Fiction Editor. Other team members include Robert Killheffer and Corey S. Powell as Executive Editors and Matt Westphalen as Creative Director.
In 2013, Glenn Fleishman undertook a research project with the goal of learning who currently owns the Omni intellectual property, and concluded that the rights to the fiction published in Omni had long since reverted to the original authors (who had only sold first North American publication rights), and that "possibly even the current ostensible owner" may not know who owns the rights to the rest of the content.
In August 2013, plans to launch "a new online project", described as an "Omni reboot" were reported by The Verge. The project was said to be under the guidance of producer Rick Schwartz and businessman/collector Jeremy Frommer who purchased a storage locker "on a whim" in November 2012 that was found to contain "a sizable chunk of the estate of Bob Guccione". The rediscovered materials include "cover drafts with greasy pencil notations, thousands of 35-mm slides, large-format chromes, magazines bundled with stapled paperwork, production materials, and untold amounts of photos and artwork."
Penthouse Global Media acquired Omni in 2017, and announced plans for a new print issue, to commence publication on 24 October 2017. The issue was published, and billed as the Winter 2017 issue, the first on a quarterly schedule.
"A Thousand Deaths" is a short story by Orson Scott Card. It appears in his short story collections Capitol and Maps in a Mirror. Card first published it in the December 1978 issue of Omni magazine.Burning Chrome
"Burning Chrome" is a short story, written by William Gibson and first published in Omni in July 1982. Gibson first read the story at a science fiction convention in Denver, Colorado in the autumn of 1981, to an audience of four people, among them Bruce Sterling (who Gibson later said "completely got it"). It was nominated for a Nebula Award in 1983 and collected with the rest of Gibson's early short fiction in a 1986 volume of the same name.Dogfight (short story)
"Dogfight" is a science fiction short story by American writers Michael Swanwick and William Gibson, first published in Omni in July 1985. The story was also included in Gibson’s 1986 short story collection Burning Chrome.Fat Farm
"Fat Farm" is a short story by American writer Orson Scott Card. Originally published in the January 1980 issue of Omni magazine, it also appears in his short story collection Maps in a Mirror.Hinterlands (short story)
"Hinterlands" is a science fiction short story written by William Gibson . It was first published in Omni
in October 1981 and was republished in his short fiction collection Burning Chrome (1986). The story is a fable about the "cargo cult'" mentality and explores the consequences for cultures and civilisations when confronted with artifacts - from an unknown but likely superior source - that are dangerous but nonetheless valuable.
"Hinterlands" is a German term that literally translates to "behind land", and in that original context it refers to a remote or less developed area behind a more central or developed site, for example the land behind a coast, a harbour, or a city.Johnny Mnemonic
"Johnny Mnemonic" is a short story by American-Canadian writer William Gibson, which served as inspiration for the 1995 film of the same name. The short story first appeared in Omni magazine in May 1981, and was subsequently included in 1986's Burning Chrome, a collection of Gibson's short fiction. It takes place in the world of Gibson's cyberpunk novels, predating them by some years, and introduces the character Molly Millions, who plays a prominent role in Gibson's Sprawl trilogy of novels.
The film plot differs considerably from the short story, and a novelization of William Gibson's screenplay written by Terry Bisson was published in 1995 under the title of Johnny Mnemonic. In 1996 a film tie-in edition of Gibson's original short story was published as a standalone book.Mefisto in Onyx
Mefisto in Onyx is a science fiction novella by American writer Harlan Ellison. The introduction and cover art was by Frank Miller. Originally published in OMNI Magazine October 1993, then released as a hardcover in December 1993, Mefisto in Onyx was later included in the Harlan Ellison's 1997 collection Slippage.Ellison stated in an interview with Salon that he wrote Mefisto in Onyx to be adapted into a film starring Forest Whitaker.The story won the 1993 Bram Stoker Award, tied with The Night We Buried Road Dog by Jack Cady. It also won first place in the 1994 Locus Poll Award "Best Novella" category.New Rose Hotel
"New Rose Hotel" is a short story by William Gibson, first published in 1984 in Omni and later included in his 1986 collection Burning Chrome.Rautavaara's Case
"Rautavaara's Case" is a science fiction short story by Philip K. Dick. It was first published in 1980 in Omni magazine and subsequently in the 1985 short story collection I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon. The story was also included on We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, volume five of the Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick in 2003.
The story is about Agneta Rautavaara, a young Finnish technician, who dies in an accident while working on a space vessel with two other technicians. However, a rescue team from Proxima Centauri gets there in time to save Rautavaara's brain and impose artificial life support on it. In her damaged brain, Rautavaara goes through a series of experiences that draw on the conceptions of afterlife held by herself on the one hand and the Proxima Centauri natives on the other.
A theme of the story is whether it is ethically right to keep a human on life-support if they exist only as a mind, with their body paralyzed or otherwise destroyed.Red Star, Winter Orbit
"Red Star, Winter Orbit" is a short story written by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling in the 1980s. It was first published in Omni in July 1983, and later collected in Burning Chrome, a 1986 anthology of Gibson's early short fiction, and in Sterling's 1986 cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades. The story is set in an alternate future where the Soviet Union controls most of the Earth's resources, especially oil. As a result of this the United States is no longer a dominant economic power on earth and the Soviets have won the space race.
Science fiction critic Takayuki Tatsumi regards the story as a descriptive account of "the failure of the dream of space exploration", reminiscent of J.G. Ballard's "inner space/outer space" motif. Gibson scholar Tatiani Rapatzikou commented that the motif of the space station was used by the authors as a "symbol of the tension and uneasiness the characters or readers experience every time they deal with the artificiality of their technological world".Sandkings (novelette)
Sandkings is a novelette by George R. R. Martin, published in the August 1979 issue of Omni. In 1980, it won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette, the Nebula Award for Best Novelette and the Locus Award for best novelette, and was nominated for the Balrog Award in short fiction. It is the only one of Martin's stories to date to have won both the Hugo and the Nebula. It was included in the short story collection of the same name, published by Timescape Books in December 1981.
Martin was inspired by a college friend at Northwestern University who had a piranha tank and would sometimes throw goldfish into it between horror film screenings. He had intended it to be part of a series, with Wo & Shade operating shops on many different planets, but the idea did not pan out.
Sandkings is set in the same fictional "Thousand Worlds" universe as several of Martin's other works, including Dying of the Light, Nightflyers, A Song for Lya, "The Way of Cross and Dragon" and the stories collected in Tuf Voyaging.Schrödinger's Kitten
"Schrödinger's Kitten" is a 1988 novelette by American writer George Alec Effinger, which won both a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award, as well as the Japanese Seiun Award.
The story utilizes a form of the many worlds hypothesis, and is named after the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment. It first appeared in Omni, and was also featured in the third volume of The New Hugo Winners in 1994.Skinner's Room
"Skinner's Room" is a short story by William Gibson originally composed for Visionary San Francisco, a 1990 museum exhibition exploring the future of San Francisco. It features the first appearance in Gibson's fiction of "the Bridge", which Gibson revisited as the setting of his acclaimed Bridge trilogy of novels. In the story, the Bridge is overrun by squatters, among them Skinner, who occupies a shack atop a bridgetower. An altered version of the story was published in Omni magazine and subsequently anthologized. "Skinner's Room" was nominated for the 1992 Locus Award for Best Short Story.The End of the Whole Mess
"The End of the Whole Mess" is a short science fiction story by American writer Stephen King, first published in Omni Magazine in 1986. It was collected in King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes in 1993 and in "Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse" in 2008. The story is written in the form of a personal journal, and tells the story of the narrator Howard Fornoy's genius younger brother's attempt to cure humanity's aggressive tendencies.
A TV adaptation of the story was produced by TNT as part of Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King and received positive reviews.The Number of the Beast (novel)
The Number of the Beast is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1980. The first (paperback) edition featured a cover and interior illustrations by Richard M. Powers. Excerpts from the novel were serialized in the magazine Omni (1979 October, November).The Way of Cross and Dragon
"The Way of Cross and Dragon" is a science fiction short story by George R. R. Martin. It involves a far-future priest of the One True Interstellar Catholic Church of Earth and the Thousand Worlds (with similarities to the Roman Catholic hierarchy) investigating a sect that reveres Judas Iscariot. The story deals with the nature and limitations of religious faith.
The story originally appeared in the June 1979 issue of Omni. In 1980, it won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story as well as the Locus Award for best short story. It is set in the same fictional "Thousand Worlds" universe as several of Martin's other works, including Dying of the Light, Sandkings, Nightflyers, A Song for Lya and the stories collected in Tuf Voyaging.They're Made Out of Meat
"They're Made Out of Meat" is a short story by Terry Bisson. It was originally published in OMNI. It consists entirely of dialogue between two characters. Bisson's website hosts a theatrical adaptation. A film adaptation won the Grand Prize at the Seattle Science Fiction Museum's 2006 film festival.The story was collected in the 1993 anthology Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories, and has circulated widely on the Internet, which Bisson finds "flattering". It has been quoted in cognitive, cosmological, and philosophical scholarship.Tower of Babylon (story)
"Tower of Babylon" is a science fantasy novelette by American writer Ted Chiang, published in 1990. The story revisits the tower of Babel myth as a construction megaproject, in a setting where the principles of pre-scientific cosmology (the geocentric model, celestial spheres, etc.) are literally true. It is Chiang's first published work.The story won the 1991 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, and was reprinted in Chiang's 2002 anthology, Stories of Your Life and Others.Unaccompanied Sonata
"Unaccompanied Sonata" is a short story by American writer Orson Scott Card, first published in the March, 1979 issue of Omni magazine. It appears in his short story collections Unaccompanied Sonata and Other Stories and Maps in a Mirror. It was nominated in 1979 for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and in 1980 for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.