Omni (magazine)

OMNI was a science and science fiction magazine published in the US and the UK. 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.



OMNI was launched 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".[1] 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.[2]

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, Georgia. The very first edition had an exclusive interview with renowned physicist, Freeman Dyson, the second edition with American writer and futurist, Alvin Toffler.

In its early run, 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. In the early 1980s, popular fiction stories from OMNI were reprinted in "The Best of OMNI Science Fiction" series and featured art by space artists like Robert McCall.

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 among 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.

International editions of OMNI magazine were published in at least five markets. The content in the British editions closely followed the North American editions, but with a different numbering sequence and British advertising. At least one British edition was entirely unique and was shipped under the banner of "Omni UK". The Italian edition was edited by Albert Peruzzo and ran for 20 issues from 1981 to 1983. The Japanese edition ran from at least 1982 to 1989. German and Spanish editions were also published. [3]


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.

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 States beginning in September 1981, hosted by Peter Ustinov. A French-language, dubbed version of the show appeared on the Canadian public TV network Radio-Québec (now known as Télé-Québec) in 1994. In 1985 extracts of the 1981 television series were re-edited and repackaged into four television shows hosted by Keir Dullea under the title Omni: Visions of the Future. Episodes were titled Futurebody, Space, Amazing Medicine and Lifestyles in the 21st Century. [4]


An equally short-lived spinoff magazine called OMNI Comix debuted in 1995, and was published in the same glossy, newsstand magazine format as its sister publications OMNI, Penthouse and Penthouse Comix. OMNI Comix ran for only three issues, and the third and final issue featured an abortive revival of the classic 1960's superhero series The THUNDER Agents.[5]


  1. ^ Guccione, B. First word, OMNI 1(1):6, October 1978
  2. ^ E-mail with Jules Siegel, an editor
  3. ^ Omni International Editions
  4. ^ Omni Advertising
  5. ^ OMNI Comix on

Further reading

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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