Here at GFR, we’ve talked about the late, much-lamented Omni magazine several times in the past year. Considered by many to be one of the best science and science fiction publications of all time, Omni paved the way for sites such as GFR. After its founding in 1978 — oddly enough, by Penthouse’s Bob Guccione — Omni’s covers were regularly filled with names like Carl Sagan and Freeman Dyson; with fiction by genre titans such as Robert Heinlein, Ursula K. Le Guin, and William GIbson. In the mid ‘90s, Omni evolved in a way many publications have had to, ceasing print publication and shifting to an online format. Tragically, editor Keeton passed away in 1996 from breast cancer, and Omni never recovered, finally ceasing publication in 1997. Today, however, Omni is back.
The aptly titled Omni Reboot is currently online with new content, including fiction by Bruce Sterling and an interview with Ben Bova, who edited the original Omni for five years from 1978 – 1982. You can keep track of Omni’s latest via their blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram, and Tumblr. (Those latter two are already full of vintage images from Omni’s archives.) The resurrected Omni has veteran science writer Claire Evans in the editorial seat.
In her introductory essay “First Word,” Evans comments on the state of the world into which Omni returns to life in, and what the newly arisen publication hopes to strive for:
The future has become a product. It supports a cottage industry of folks who earn their bread prognosticating, prophesying, designing, and marketing it. We are sold the impression that it will happen, like an event, from one day to the next — and told we will need the right gadgets to properly recognize it. But the future doesn’t work that way. It’s not a clubhouse; it’s not a trend; it’s not a place. The future will mostly likely happen as it always has: emerging from a million transparent forces, from patterns already, always, in place everywhere around us.
So think of this new OMNI as a future radar. The writers, artists, and speculators on these pages aren’t trying to tell you how it will go down. They’re looking, in all earnestness, in every discipline and beneath every stone, for those patterns. Sometimes this search will lead them to strange places, to examine phenomena not ordinarily seen in science magazines. It will lead them to the arts, to music, to the unexplained, to all the weird corners of human thought. Here at OMNI Reboot, we’re looking for the places where the future begins–and the places it went when we weren’t looking. We’ll be mining the lucid space between science fiction and reality, and our aim is true. Bear with us while we find our way. It’s a wild world out here.
Omni’s second life comes courtesy of businessman Jeremy Frommer, who inadvertently acquired a chunk of Guccione’s archives inside a storage locker he purchased. After that, he began actively searching out more Omni material, building his collection. He told Vice (in an article penned by Evans), “I don’t think there is anything like this collection.I don’t even think it exists for a specific magazine, let alone the coolest geek sci-fi magazine of the 80s and 90s.” Soon enough, an archaeological expedition through Omni’s past evolved into plans for Omni’s future.
In addition to the resurrecting the publication itself, Frommer plans to take advantage of those classic Omni archives, making photographs, artwork, and original issues from the huge archival haul available for sale. (You can see what’s currently available right here.) That’s in addition to the content that will be finding its way online via Omni’s assorted outlets.
You can also dig into Omni’s enormous back catalog via the Internet Archive, which, as we reported earlier in the year, has much of the run available to read online for free in a variety of formats. I’ve been gradually making my way through the earliest issues, and it is a consistently fascinating read, a window into the state of science and speculation that was unfolding while I was still an infant.
I’m thrilled to see the return of Omni, as a science aficionado, as a science fiction fan, and as the editor of a site that explores paths Omni blazed in decades past. I can’t wait to see where the new Omni takes us, but for now it seems appropriate to leave you with a quote from Bob Guccione, the man Evans describes as the magazine’s “patron saint,” from Omni’s first issue in October 1978:
The frontiers of human knowledge and experience are forever changing, forever expanding, and we, who are living at the very dawn of time, must make our common peace with change if we are to survive the next 1000 years.