HI EVERYONE. WELCOME TO THE NEW OMNI.
Before OMNI existed here, it was a flesh-and-blood publication that thrived for 18 years, filling the mailboxes and newsstands of its devotees with thrilling dispatches from the edge of tomorrow. It’s difficult to overestimate OMNI‘s impact on a generation of minds. In taking the first hesitant steps in these big editorial shoes, I’ve crossed paths with countless people–scientists, artists, hackers, dreamers, engineers, critics–who trace the genealogical lines of their inspired, polymathic thinking to a single origin point: OMNI. It’s daunting.
OMNI‘s own lineage is complex. It was the brainchild of Bob Guccione, known to most as the kingpin of the Penthouse empire. Bob cared deeply about both art and science, believing that the mysteries of the universe could be made comprehensible if the right combination of analytic and experimental inquiry was continuously applied. This may have been an ambitious notion, especially for a man known primarily as a pornographer, but it was sincere, and its scope allowed for nearly two decades of radical, invigorating, gonzo exploration. Bob, all gold chains and leather pants, with his eyes to the sky, is our unlikely patron saint now.
The new OMNI will not be the magazine you remember. We will never be able to compete with your nostalgia. We can’t. If you’re here, catalyzed to explore our OMNI Reboot by your fond memories of OMNI as it once was, you know what I mean: it’s too sacred to imitate. No one–not even a fan–should crawl into its crazy, lucid, beautiful skin and attempt to speak through it like a puppet. That would be living in the past–and OMNI was a magazine about the future.
Sure, we’ll crib from the original every once in a while. We have a fifteen-year archive of images and ideas to draw from; we’ll go there and we’ll return inspired. We’ll bring back jewels from its depths. We’ll breathe the old stuff back to life, as it deserves. But OMNI Reboot must be new, in order to be truly OMNI. As Bob Guccione wrote in 1978, in the opening pages of the very first OMNI Magazine, “the frontiers of human knowledge and experience are forever changing, forever expanding, and we, who are living at the very dawn of time, must make our common peace with change if we are to survive the next 1,000 years.”
We can make our peace with change, and map it, too: at the intersection of science fiction and reality, and the point where the two stray apart. After all, there have only been a few periods, fleeting, incandescent, where technology, science, and science fiction have found themselves expressing the same desires. In the Space Age, writers conjured the stars just as scientists worked diligently to send us there. In those days we dreamt collectively–our heads in the sky, our feet on the moon. But more often than not, science and science fiction diverge. Now, far more than in OMNI‘s heyday, our visions of the future are fractured in the simultaneous, ever-changing electronic marketplace of ideas we call the digital world.
The future has become a product. It supports a cottage industry of folks who earn their bread prognosticating, prophesying, designing, and marketing it. We are sold the impression that it will happen, like an event, from one day to the next–and told we will need the right gadgets to properly recognize it. But the future doesn’t work that way. It’s not a clubhouse; it’s not a trend; it’s not a place. The future will mostly likely happen as it always has: emerging from a million transparent forces, from patterns already, always, in place everywhere around us.
So think of this new OMNI as a future radar. The writers, artists, and speculators on these pages aren’t trying to tell you how it will go down. They’re looking, in all earnestness, in every discipline and beneath every stone, for those patterns. Sometimes this search will lead them to strange places, to examine phenomena not ordinarily seen in science magazines. It will lead them to the arts, to music, to the unexplained, to all the weird corners of human thought. Here at OMNI Reboot, we’re looking for the places where the future begins–and the places it went when we weren’t looking. We’ll be mining the lucid space between science fiction and reality, and our aim is true. Bear with us while we find our way. It’s a wild world out here.
This week, we’re talking about archives, collapse, and extinction. It’s our way of acknowledging that things must end before they can begin anew.