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January 1991 issue of Omni
OMNI was a science magazine and science fiction magazine published in the USAmarker. It contained articles on science fact and short works of science fiction. The first issue was published in October 1978, the last in Winter 1995, with an internet version lasting until 1998. Bob Guccione described the magazine in its first issue as "an original if not controversial mixture of science fact, fiction, fantasy and the paranormal"


OMNI was launched by Kathy Keeton, long-time companion and later wife of Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione. Before launch it was referred to as Nova, but the name was changed before the first issue to avoid a conflict with the PBS science show of the same name, NOVA.

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 Richard Teresi, Gurney Williams III, Patrice Adcroft, Keith Ferrell, and Pamela Weintraub (editor of OMNI Online). 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 folded in 1998. Sherry Baker was the Continuum editor, now working as a freelance editor and writer in Atlanta, Georgiamarker. The very first edition had an exclusive interview with renowned physicist, Freeman Dyson, the second edition with American writer and futurist, Alvin Toffler.

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 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 and De Es Schwertberger.

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 between the different magazines, and those without deep pockets soon folded in the early 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 its later years, especially the last year or two of the print publication, OMNI was criticized for weighting its coverage more toward pseudo-scientific topics like UFOs and ESP. Some have speculated that this may have been an effort to increase circulation during leaner years, but the strategy backfired. Though OMNI 's treatment of these topics was essentially skeptical, the weighting nonetheless damaged its credibility and led, in part, to its demise. Guccione shut down the print version of the magazine following the Winter 1995 issue due to waning popularity and the many financial difficulties plaguing his company, General Media.


After the print magazine folded in 1996, the OMNI Internet webzine was launched. 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.

Though the website generated large traffic, it did not turn a profit. In 1998, Kathy Keeton, whose vision inspired OMNI, died from complications of breast cancer, the staff of OMNI Internet was laid off, and no new content was added to the website. General Media shut the site down and removed the OMNI archives from the Internet in 2003.


A short-lived syndicated television show based on the magazine's format (and called OMNI: The New Frontier) aired in the United Statesmarker beginning in September 1981, hosted by Peter Ustinov. A French voice over of the show appeared on "Radio Québec" in Canada during 1994.

References in popular culture

  • In The Fly, Stathis threatens to send Veronica's teleportation story to OMNI -- his own publication, PARTICLE magazine, created for the film, is a clear nod to OMNI.
  • In the 1989 romantic film Say Anything, Diane Court has an issue in her bedroom next to her desk. There is also an issue visible in the garbage can in the background when James Court is sitting in the bathtub after having his credit cards declined.
  • In The Breakfast Club Anthony Michael Hall's character (the brain/nerd) is wearing an OMNI t-shirt in the last scene of the film.
  • In Ghostbusters, the Proton Pack appears on a fictional front cover of the magazine.
  • In the 1985 movie Real Genius, Kent has an oversized mock-up of OMNI on the wall of his lab, with his face adorning the cover.
  • In the film 2010: The Year We Make Contact, a future OMNI issue appeared in front of Heywood Floyd (played by Roy Scheider) as he used his laptop on the beach.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, a fellow passenger can be seen reading OMNI magazine on the bus that Kirk and Spock take across the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • On the 2005 album Robot Hive/Exodus by the band Clutch, the song "Mice and Gods" references OMNI Magazine in the very first line of the song.
  • In the film Jurassic Park, Tim Murphy mentions having read an article by Alan Grant in Omni magazine.
  • In The X-Files episode Fallen Angel, fellow UFO enthusiast Max Fenig informs Agent Mulder that he has read Mulder's articles in OMNI under the pen name 'M.F. Luder' — an anagram for 'F. Mulder'.
  • In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Zelda briefly mentions OMNI Magazine.

See also


  1. Guccione, B. First word, OMNI 1(1):6, October 1978
  2. E-mail with Jules Siegel, an editor

External links

Some of the archives can be located at*/ Warning: the links past Jul 21, 2003 will go to Penthouse magazine instead, but most of them are web-archived Omni pages, including chats, short stories, and articles.

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