OMNI Magazine
October 20, 2010 11:47 AM   Subscribe

OMNI was launched (PDF) by Kathy Keeton, long-time companion and later wife of Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione, who described the magazine in its first issue as "an original if not controversial mixture of science fact, fiction, fantasy and the paranormal".

OMNI developed a dual personality during its life. In its early run, its high circulation (permitting payment for stories many times higher than that of other science fiction magazines), coupled with some outstanding fiction editors, allowed it to attract prominent sf and fantasy writers, and it published a number of stories that have become genre classics, such as Orson Scott Card's "Unaccompanied Sonata", William Gibson's "Burning Chrome" and "Johnny Mnemonic", Harlan Ellison's novella "Mefisto in Onyx", and George R. R. Martin's "Sandkings". The magazine also published original sf/f by William S. Burroughs, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Carroll, T. Coraghessan Boyle, and other mainstream writers. The magazine excerpted Stephen King's novel Firestarter, and featured a 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.
posted by Joe Beese (64 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
Omni rocked.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:49 AM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I remember being scandalized by the debut issue costing the exorbitant amount of two dollars.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:50 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I fucking loved that magazine. Don't forget it taught us about Lucid Dreaming as well.
posted by boo_radley at 11:51 AM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


I used to hoard the issues. I remember well the heft of them.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:53 AM on October 20, 2010


I had a short story rejected by Ellen Datlow when I was in college. Omni folded not too much later. I got an email from Ellen Datlow saying she'd consider it for an anthology of gay science fiction if I was willing to punch up the sex scenes. That's all the further it went.

I grew up on Omni.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:58 AM on October 20, 2010


I could be mistaken, but I think the original title of the magazine was going to be "NOVA" until the TV show told them no way.
posted by digsrus at 11:59 AM on October 20, 2010


Omni was the first place I ever saw those 3D magic eye pictures. And I still haven't been able to make one out. Thanks, Omni!
posted by bondcliff at 12:00 PM on October 20, 2010


I loved that magazine. Miss it terribly.
posted by zarq at 12:01 PM on October 20, 2010


As a child, I guess around 8 or 9, I would read MAD and OMNI at the grocery store while my parents shopped. I've often felt that this was formative.

Especially the cartoon, I think it was called "Art", or "The Artist", can't remember the title....

And then it started sucking and I stopped reading it.
posted by sotonohito at 12:02 PM on October 20, 2010


Omni was pretty great before its downhill slide into giving increasing space to fringe quackery. As best I remember it, the beginning of the end was a format shift that saw a sort of pullout middle section on hyper-glossy paper (you had to fight to find a readable angle for it) that may as well have been called Sightings: the magazine. I'm pretty sure the intent of the nigh-unreadable gloss section was to keep it firewalled, but then it started to spread.
posted by Drastic at 12:03 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember my cooler high school teachers having stacks of old OMNI issues; I loved that magazine.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:08 PM on October 20, 2010


When I was in high school, and sort of interested in the paranormal, conspiracy theories, and the like (I would stay up to listen to Coast to Coast AM whenever I could, even though it gave me nightmares), my grandfather gave me 3 or 4 boxes full of back issues of Omni magazine, which I read in order starting pretty early in the run.

Needless to say, I had some of the best paper collages glued to my school binders.
posted by muddgirl at 12:10 PM on October 20, 2010


God, I remember that magazine. My mother threw such a fit when I was reading it way back when, she got the impression it was the same as Playboy.
"The articles mom, I swear!"
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:15 PM on October 20, 2010


Trondant.
posted by sourwookie at 12:16 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's association with Penthouse led me to start using the term "Sci-Porn" before anybody else. Loved lots of the fiction, but for some strange reason, the most memorable was an excerpt from Anthony Burgess's "End of the World News" in which I vividly recall (I think) as another planet was about to collide with the Earth, a spaceship trying to let a few humans escape used the gravity from the approaching planet to make a very-slow-and-soft lift-off, a concept that for some reason I consider one of the most awesome ever.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:17 PM on October 20, 2010


I loved omni.
posted by empath at 12:17 PM on October 20, 2010


I always liked it's guest appearance in Ghostbusters.
posted by nutate at 12:17 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Catalog of all Omni covers.
Index of all fiction in Omni.

There was a really freaky story about a robot that lived underwater in a pond in a park that ate the ducks. It made me shudder. I miss Omni, too, but it's the 10-year-old me that misses it. It wouldn't be the same now, I suspect.
posted by dammitjim at 12:22 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


When Omni first popped up, it struck me as an immediate fixture-- as something that would pretty much be published forever. It was sad to see otherwise.
posted by darth_tedious at 12:22 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I imagine the focus on the paranormal would piss me off now, but as a child I read every issue for years.
posted by sourwookie at 12:24 PM on October 20, 2010


Also loved Omni. I might still actually have torn out pages from saved articles somewhere.
posted by weston at 12:28 PM on October 20, 2010


Omni lost out to Heavy Metal for my discretionary, science-related literature dollars.

I mean, it wasn't even a contest.

I like to read, but my tastes at the time leaned more towards National Lampoon.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:31 PM on October 20, 2010


I loved Omni, and I have several Omni anthologies in my bookcase. Some great, great stories in there.
posted by biscotti at 12:32 PM on October 20, 2010


There's another bit that I remember from Omni: a short piece of nerd-related bathroom graffiti that included the bit "Herman Kahn but Immanuel Kant". I didn't know who either of those people were, and felt compelled to look them up so I could laugh at the adults' joke.

Thinking about this makes me wish so hard that there was a full-text version of the magazine available online so I could go through and find where my young brain got its wacky ideas.
posted by dammitjim at 12:33 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I loved that magazine and had no idea there were anthologies of the short stories. I must find those anthologies. I remember one about a new planet where they found some sort of carnivorous plants? I would really love (to buy) a full-text digital version of their archives.
posted by jeather at 12:46 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


My father, Anthony Wolff, was an editor at OMNI for its first five ("the good") years and had 10 or so bylines, mostly on photo essays. I remember visiting the OMNI offices, which were tucked away in the back of the Penthouse offices on a high floor of the Lipstick Building, pretty exciting for a 13-18 year old — and pretty weird to walk past the not-tasteful framed pictures in the elevator lobby and the front offices, back to a nerd's paradise of tech toys and pre-publication galleys of SF books (free for the taking!)
posted by nicwolff at 12:46 PM on October 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


I do miss that magazine terribly.
posted by everichon at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2010


I would pay good serious money for an OMNI archive in PDF.
posted by mrbill at 1:17 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed OMNI when I was a kid, even though the stories sometimes baffled me.
posted by dragonplayer at 1:20 PM on October 20, 2010


Loved the magazine and (like New Yorker) the cartoons. I'll never forget the one of the executive's desk with a pillar of fire sitting in the chair. A hand was reaching out of the flame and hitting the intercom on the desk and the caption was:

"Liz, get me everything we've got on Spontaneous Human Combustion."
posted by spock at 1:26 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would pay good serious money for an OMNI archive in PDF.

This is not the same, but interesting.

"THE OMNI INTERVIEWS Richard Leakey, Hans Bethe, E.O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Gerard O'Neill, B.F. Skinner, Roger Sperry, Jonas Salk, John Lilly and more. - Paperback (1984) by Pamela, edited by Weintraub 1 used from $49.99"

I own a copy and found this on amazon. There's another paperback listed on the amazon site for $6.95
posted by uraniumwilly at 1:28 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I grew up on it too. It was a lifeline in that it helped me realize that somewhere in the world, people thought about more interesting things than they did in Oklahoma. I remember one of my teachers (with whom I didn't get along) spotting an issue in my locker, and exclaiming "you read OMNI?!?" in a way that communicated both bewilderment at the fact that an apathetic misfit 7th grader like me would be interested in/capable of reading something so "adult" and an overwhelming disgust for the publication itself. That was a pivotal moment for me: it confirmed that the nitwits in charge of my education at that time in my life were, in fact, nitwits.

My all-time favorite pun came from OMNI. If I recall correctly, they'd run a pun contest, and it was a runner-up.
What do you call a hand-grenade rolled across the kitchen floor?
Linoleum Blownapart.
posted by treepour at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


"an original if not controversial mixture of science fact, fiction, fantasy and the paranormal".

Heh. OMNI is where I learned that Americans believed Cabbage Patch Dolls to be infected with Satan.
posted by Artw at 2:04 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember reading OMNI but remember nothing of its contents. As an adult, I lumped it in with memories of Discover Magazine, or Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Thank you for correcting my memory, even if I still don't remember anything about it except for its ultra-70's logo.
posted by not_on_display at 2:11 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's eerie. Just a couple of days ago my wife and I were reminiscing about Omni. Usually I read something on metafilter and then we talk about it, not the other way around. Guess I'm going to have to buy a better grade of tinfoil.
posted by gamera at 2:17 PM on October 20, 2010


I have a very strong memory of the smell and texture of the paper stock.
posted by Artw at 2:17 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Omni had THE vibe. The world needs that again.
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:29 PM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I still vividly remember the first cover - and I was believing all the stuff in the 'Continuum' section because I was at an impressionable age.
posted by bashos_frog at 2:50 PM on October 20, 2010


Also loved that mag to death. Still have my ish #1 safely tucked away someplace.
posted by Aquaman at 3:04 PM on October 20, 2010


As best I remember it, the beginning of the end was a format shift that saw a sort of pullout middle section on hyper-glossy paper (you had to fight to find a readable angle for it) that may as well have been called Sightings: the magazine.

At first I was like, "Whaaa? I don't remember this!" but yeah - it was like grey type on a silvery-glossy paper or something. Weird.
posted by muddgirl at 3:16 PM on October 20, 2010


I still have the Lucid Dreaming issue in a box near me. It was a great magazine for a kid. I remember one issue had recipes for dog and goldfish on the last page.
posted by thylacine at 3:31 PM on October 20, 2010


Loved it! When I was little, I got ahold of my father's copy of OMNI's Catalog of the Bizarre. I didn't understand that the news-like stories might not in fact contain actual news, and bought them wholesale. I remember being frightened of some of the lurid photo-illustrations. It launched a lifelong interest in Forteana, although I approach it as a skeptic these days.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:03 PM on October 20, 2010


I read a lot more Discover and Odyssey (and more recently, Analog), but Omni was an intriguing option.
posted by limeonaire at 4:20 PM on October 20, 2010


The only thing I remember about it is that I could read it in our (very conservative Christian) school library, and I would always giggle about the fact that its formatting, layout and typeface exactly matched that of Penthouse.
posted by deadcowdan at 4:24 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Started buying it from issue one back in the day for the first 5 years or so -- during my teens, basically -- and those covers bring back memories, for sure.

I would pay good serious money for an OMNI archive in PDF.

Hie thee to thy favorite bittorrent site. Scans are out there (though I haven't seen a compete archive yet that I recall).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:27 PM on October 20, 2010


As best I remember it, the beginning of the end was a format shift that saw a sort of pullout middle section on hyper-glossy paper (you had to fight to find a readable angle for it) that may as well have been called Sightings: the magazine.

"Continuum" printed on silver paper, if memory serves.
posted by sourwookie at 6:28 PM on October 20, 2010


I have to agree that, if Omni were published today, the paranormal stuff would probably be exceedingly obnoxious. Not because it isn't interesting, in a certain entirely fictional kind of way, but because growing belief in that kind of stuff is one of the things that's ruining the world right now.

It is a shame because when I was a kid the whole thing seemed awesome. I'm surprised no one has tried to revive it.
posted by JHarris at 6:54 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, I loved OMNI. It probably helped make me the nerd I am today. I had stuff cut out from it stuck on my walls when I was a kid.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:05 PM on October 20, 2010


Bob Guccione died today.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:06 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


>: ""Continuum" printed on silver paper, if memory serves."

Yes! I think my paranormal-quackery annoyance may have some confabulation to it, but I know for a fact that the terrible color choices really irritated me. Before it went to silver gloss, wasn't the Continuum-or-equivalent section on rougher paper that was actually less glossy than the rest of the magazine? And that section used to be more just lighter and humor bits rather than all-UFOs-and-Bigfoot-time.

I do remember one of the reader pun contest entries about Mary Poppins getting a medical degree and opening a west coast practice that specialized in treating bad breath, so her business cards read "Super California doctor: expert, halitosis."
posted by Drastic at 7:22 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The lucid dreaming issue was awesome. The techniques worked very well for me. I still read the first sentence of everything twice to check if I'm in a dream.
posted by humanfont at 7:23 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


My old issues of Omni made for some freakin' wicked collages.
posted by ikahime at 7:27 PM on October 20, 2010


What?
posted by trondant at 7:46 PM on October 20, 2010


I just read a very condescending obit for Bob Guccione in the New York Times.

OK, the guy created Penthouse and "he wore slim pants and silk shirts open to the waist, showing gold chains on a hairy chest."

But he created Omni, damnit, and just for this he is going straight to paradise.

So I decided to create a FPP about Guccione and Omni and discovered that there was this one already.

Omni was one of the most beautiful and "modern" magazine ever made. It was a kind of a monthly "Dangerous Visions" with a top notch art direction.

I had the complete collection that I finally gave to a prison library a few years ago. I didn't understand why the guards didn't help me bring the boxes from the car to the prison entrance until I heard that they had to go through every page to be sure I had not hidden some dope in there. I hadn't, but I am quite sure that the mag has given some interesting trips to a few inmates.

It had given a lot to me over the years, with great stories and great art. Do you know that Gutenberg made all his money by printing indulgences? And now everybody talks only about the 200 Bibles he printed. Maybe in a few years Penthouse will fade in Guccione's background and the Moma will make a septacular show about Omni.

It should.
Thanks Bob, you did great.
posted by bru at 8:12 PM on October 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


There was a quiz I read in Omni as a child that was something like "Have You Been abducted By Extraterrestrials Without Your Knowledge And Selected For A Higher Purpose To Guide Humanity Into A New Golden Age Of Enlightenment" or something like that.

One of the questions asked you whether or not the word "Trondant" held any special meaning or triggered any unusual memories or feelings.

This word was completely made up by the authors of the quiz to "bait" anyone who may may be delusional or faking about being abducted (the adult me of course is all "whaaa....?" that any part of of the quiz can't be bait for anyone who may may be delusional or faking about being abducted, but I digress).

That word, encountered in Omni as a child, has always stuck in my memory. Imagine my surprise, when nearly a decade ago, I stumble across that word here. Gave me a chuckle anyway.
posted by sourwookie at 8:18 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


BTW, The above was for Trondant.
posted by sourwookie at 8:19 PM on October 20, 2010


Bob Guccione died today.

Spooky coincidence. I didn't even know he was sick. And I thought of this post a couple of days ago. Can't even remember why originally.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:20 PM on October 20, 2010


sourwookie: "
"Continuum" printed on silver paper, if memory serves.
"

Continuum was news items and was on silver paper; Anti-Matter was the outright nutty items on UFOs, Bigfoot and the like. It was on red paper, towards the back of the magazine.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:18 AM on October 21, 2010


The real decline in the magazine seemed to be after they change the binding to perfect bound, rather than stapled. I think this was after the 10th anniversary issue.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:21 AM on October 21, 2010


My cool high school library stocked it. It was - yeah - a different place.
posted by b33j at 2:59 AM on October 21, 2010


This comment comes late, and may not be read by many, but I really want to know: where is THAT now? We're all reminiscing about something that fascinated us and even changed some of us, that summarized the awesome of science and gave us a place to look, to feel up-to-date, and to feel optimistic about the future. There must exist something today that fits the same niche. It's probably not printed, and more likely out there on the web, but nothing I've found seems as comprehensive. So where?
posted by rlk at 7:04 AM on October 21, 2010


This comment comes late, and may not be read by many, but I really want to know: where is THAT now? We're all reminiscing about something that fascinated us and even changed some of us, that summarized the awesome of science and gave us a place to look, to feel up-to-date, and to feel optimistic about the future. There must exist something today that fits the same niche. It's probably not printed, and more likely out there on the web, but nothing I've found seems as comprehensive. So where?

I guess one could make a case that the early web filled this niche, and certain web ecosystems fill it today. But I don't think there's any one place for it, and certainly nothing so polished and well-packaged and that special vibe. A print equivalent may not even be possible today. I suppose BoingBoing sometimes scratches that itch for me, if only feebly.
posted by treepour at 8:24 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


This comment comes late, and may not be read by many, but I really want to know: where is THAT now? We're all reminiscing about something that fascinated us and even changed some of us, that summarized the awesome of science and gave us a place to look, to feel up-to-date, and to feel optimistic about the future. There must exist something today that fits the same niche. It's probably not printed, and more likely out there on the web, but nothing I've found seems as comprehensive. So where?

Considering the preponderance of comments saying how much they loved OMNI as a kid, you may be asking for something rather unlikely. The Golden Age of Science Fiction is 13, as the saying goes.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:48 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember reading my first William Gibson stories in OMNI when I was in grad school. "Burning Chrome" and "Johnny Mnemonic", if I'm not mistaken. "Burning Chrome" was amazing to me at the time, and so I started looking for Gibson's stuff and read Neuromancer (and the rest of the trilogy). The Burning Chrome anthology is great. My favorite story in it is "The Winter Market"; "Dogfight" and BC are also quite good.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:08 PM on October 21, 2010


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