Guest writer Peter F Hamilton loves OMNI.
Peter F Hamilton, guest writer
OMNI was the glossiest of all the glossy magazines our genre has ever produced. I bought the very first edition ( and still have it) which came out in October 1978, and the reason I knew in advance it was coming out was from the TV advert. Yeah, that’s right, a TV advert for an SF- themed magazine! I said OMNI was glossy, and that meant money, lots of money. Backed by Bob Guccione of Penthouse, er, fame, it drew in plenty of expensive full page advertising; where else could you get colour ads for big aerospace companies alongside fine wines and Jovan Sex Appeal Aftershave ( no I’m not kidding, that was a real cologne). Back then OMNI was an amazing blend of SF, science and the paranormal, with the most wondrous artwork. That first edition even had a t- shirt iron- on page featuring the space shuttle Enterprise on its drop flight test. See, you just don’t get that in today’s webzines.
So apart from the gloss, what made OMNI so memorable? Well, for a start, there was the fiction. Over the first few years subscribers were treated to William Gibson, George RR Martin ( writing SF), Asimov, Frederik Pohl – basically all the SF royalty of the day. The interviews: Freeman Dyson, Alvin Toffler, Robert Redford, and Albert Hofmann, among others. The monthly Continuum section, a sublimely bonkers version of Tomorrow’s World printed on eye- killing silver pages, detailed all the future products and ideas that would be in every home real soon now. Intelligent articles which explained science for the everyman, along with the more quirky pieces on UFOs and psychic abilities. OMNI was also an unapologetic space advocate, the holy grail for those of us suffering Apollo program withdrawal symptoms. And then there was the artwork and photography, which is where that high quality gloss really paid off. There wasn’t an issue I didn’t stare at and marvel at the realistic future it revealed in exquisite detail.
Ask any SF writer of my generation about it, and they’ll produce a fond smile of recollection. We were all inspired by OMNI. Damn, even the cartoons were funny.