Long-defunct magazine of ‘science, imagination, and the future’ back in print after 20 years
By Clive Ramroop, Columnist
You’ve heard of Scientific American, Popular Science, Discover, and Wired, but perhaps not OMNI. What distinguished this title from other science magazines was its unlikely pedigree and the creative approach behind it. As of October 24, you have the chance to see it for yourself for the first time since the mid ’90s.
OMNI was co-founded in 1978 by Kathy Keeton and her eventual husband Bob Guccione—the publisher of Penthouse. OMNI blended science fact with science fiction, fantastical art, and more than a few dashes of the paranormal and the speculative, its viewpoint aimed for the future with virtually no limits on the imagination. Articles on respected scientists like Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, and Freeman Dyson would be nestled among sci-fi short stories by Orson Scott Card, Ray Bradbury, and George R. R. Martin. Artwork by H. R. Giger of Alien fame “beautified” the pages of several issues, including the cover. Then there’s the word “cyberspace.” Commonplace in our lexicon now, that word was coined for the short story Burning Chrome, first published in the July 1982 issue and written by Neuromancer author William Gibson.
With its gonzo journalistic approach, OMNI wasn’t meant as a scholarly journal for scientific researchers, but an advanced, imaginative science-for-fun piece to appeal to a wider populace. The print edition’s run ended in 1995, though its online version survived for another two years. However, when Keeton died shortly before the final 1998 online issue, and Guccione died in 2010, the magazine with a futuristic vision was cast into limbo. After some sparse false starts over more than 20 years, it took the combined efforts of Penthouse Global Media CEO Kelly Holland and returning OMNI Editor Pamela Weintraub to regain ownership of the trademarks.
The newly-released Winter 2017 print issue is already beyond simply picking up where it left off: The feature article is a concept of an Ark-like spacecraft with its own ecosystem, capable of sustaining human explorers over several generations (or centuries) before finally landing on an inhabitable exoplanet. Other articles discuss ideas like building a Doctor Who-inspired time machine, and slowing down aging to extend a human lifespan up to 150 years. It also contains an interview with William Gibson, three new short stories, and an art spread of giant old-style robots in human society in 1920s Poland.
So far, the new OMNI is only available for sale in the US and Canada, and its online presence has oddly not reached as far as its futuristic mindset would boast. It’s opened a new website, a mailing list, and a Facebook page, but its social media presence hasn’t gone past that yet. Its publishers are currently working on a digital version of the magazine, and an online method to order issues and subscriptions. But going print first seems like a strange approach to relaunch a magazine today, as digital-release media is now the norm. Still, reaction to OMNI’s revival has been strongly positive on their Facebook page, and OMNI has been quick to respond with their hopes to expand their title’s reach both overseas and in the Web. Quoting one Facebook respondent, “The Astros win the World Series and OMNI is back. Anything is possible.”