Omni, the Iconic Sci-Fi Magazine, Now Digitized in High-Resolution and Available Online

There was a time, not so long ago, when not only could a block­buster Hol­ly­wood com­e­dy make a ref­er­ence to a sci­ence mag­a­zine, but every­one in the audi­ence would get that ref­er­ence. It hap­pened in Ghost­busters, right after the tit­u­lar boys in gray hit it big with their first high-pro­file bust­ing of a ghost. In true 1980s style, a suc­cess mon­tage fol­lowed, in the mid­dle of which appeared the cov­er of Omni mag­a­zine’s Octo­ber 1984 issue which, accord­ing to the Ghost­busters Wiki, “fea­tured a Pro­ton Pack and Par­ti­cle Throw­er. The tagline read, ‘Quan­tum Leaps: Ghost­busters’ Tools of the Trade.’ ”

The movie made up that cov­er, but it did­n’t make up the pub­li­ca­tion. In real­i­ty, the cov­er of Omni’s Octo­ber 1984 issue, a spe­cial anniver­sary edi­tion which appears at the top of the mag­a­zine’s Wikipedia page today, promised pre­dic­tions of “Love, Work & Play in the 21st Cen­tu­ry” from the likes of beloved sci-fi writer Ray Brad­bury, social psy­chol­o­gist Stan­ley Mil­gram, physi­cist Ger­ard O’Neill, trend-watch­er John Nais­bitt — and, of course, Ronald Rea­gan. Now you can find that issue of Omni, as well as every oth­er from its 1978-to-1995 run, dig­i­tized in high-res­o­lu­tion and made avail­able on Ama­zon.

Omni was a mag­a­zine about the future,” writes Moth­er­board­’s Claire Evans, telling the sto­ry of “the best sci­ence mag­a­zine that ever was.” In its hey­day, it blew minds by reg­u­lar­ly fea­tur­ing exten­sive Q&As with some of the top sci­en­tists of the 20th century–E.O. Wil­son, Fran­cis Crick, Jonas Salk–tales of the para­nor­mal, and some of the most impor­tant sci­ence fic­tion to ever see mag­a­zine pub­li­ca­tion” by William Gib­son, Orson Scott Card, Har­lan Elli­son, George R. R. Mar­tin — and even the likes of Stephen King, Joyce Car­ol Oates, and William S. Bur­roughs. “By cou­pling sci­ence fic­tion and cut­ting-edge sci­ence news, the mag­a­zine cre­at­ed an atmos­phere of pos­si­bil­i­ty, where even the most out­ra­geous ideas seemed to have basis in fact.”

Orig­i­nal­ly found­ed by Kathy Kee­ton (for­mer­ly, accord­ing to Evans, “a South African bal­le­ri­na who went from being one of the high­est-paid strip­pers in Europe”) and Pent­house pub­lish­er Bob Guc­cione, Omni not only had an impact in unex­pect­ed areas (the eccen­tric musi­cal per­former Klaus Nomi, him­self a cul­tur­al inno­va­tor, took his name in part from the mag­a­zine’s) but took steps into the dig­i­tal realm long before oth­er print pub­li­ca­tions dared. It first estab­lished its online pres­ence on Com­puserve in 1986; sev­en years lat­er, it opened up its archives, along with forums and new con­tent, on Amer­i­ca Online, a first for any major mag­a­zine. Now Ama­zon users can pur­chase Omni’s dig­i­tal back issues for $2.99 each, or read them for free if they have Kin­dle Unlim­it­ed accounts. (You can sign up for a 30-day free tri­al for Kin­dle Unlim­it­ed and start binge-read­ing Omni here.)

Jer­rick Media, own­ers of the Omni brand, have also begun to make avail­able on Vimeo on Demand episodes of Omni: The New Fron­tier, the 1980s syn­di­cat­ed tele­vi­sion series host­ed by Peter Usti­nov. And with­out pay­ing a dime, you can still browse the fas­ci­nat­ing Omni mate­r­i­al archived at Omni Mag­a­zine Online, an easy way to get a hit of the past’s idea of the future — and one pre­sent­ing, in the words of 1990s edi­tor-in-chief Kei­th Far­rell, “a fas­ci­na­tion with sci­ence and spec­u­la­tion, lit­er­a­ture and art, phi­los­o­phy and quirk­i­ness, seri­ous spec­u­la­tion and gonzo spec­u­la­tion, the health of the plan­et and its cul­tures, our rela­tion­ship to the uni­verse and its (pos­si­ble) cul­tures, and a sense that what­ev­er else, tomor­row would be dif­fer­ent from today.”

via The Verge

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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