Big news: yours truly has been tapped to become the Editor-in-Chief of a rebooted version of OMNI, the classic science and science fiction magazine upon which yours truly cut her very own teeth. The chain of events leading up to this appointment is so strange and circuitous that I recommend you read my entire article on the subject over on Vice.
For an autodidact science fiction head, this is the equivalent of being given the keys to the palace. Preparing for the launch of the magazine over the last few months has been the most terrifying and ecstatic experience of my career. After a million emails and as many pots of coffee, however, I’m so proud to have kicked off OMNI Reboot with new fiction from Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker, two of my all-time favorites, along with a heady mix of nonfiction and aesthetic inquiry.
A lot of people have been asking me how the world has changed since the original OMNI went out of print. At 28, I’m too young to have bought the magazine when it was on newsstands; my initiation came much later, when I found old copies and fell in love with their voice, which seemed so similar, in many ways, to my own. For me, looking at old OMNIs has always been an exercise in paleofuturistic archaeology: what did the future look like to clever, eccentric thinkers 20 years ago? Did those visions end up manifesting themselves in reality? The disconnects are often more telling than the accuracies.
In a 1987 OMNI feature, a young Bill Gates imagined a world database at our fingertips by 2007, while David Byrne dismissed computers as “just big or small adding machines,” adding that “if they can’t think, that’s all they’ll ever be. They may help creative people with their bookkeeping, but they won’t help in the creative process.” We all know how wrong that is. But it gives the reader a very evocative peek into the specific mindset of that time, a time where computer scientists could be more visionary than artists.
OMNI came onto the scene at the dawn of the computer age. In suit, its tone, when discussing technology, was by and large hopeful–it predicted all manner of cybernetic enhancement, innovative leisure, high-tech sensuality. Its advertisements hawked hi-fi systems, computers, cars, liquor, and self-help tapes. OMNI believed in a better tomorrow, and think it inspired a generation of dreamers because of that. But that’s not our world–there were unforeseen consequences. Now we have a different relationship to technology. We ask ourselves what it’s doing to our society, what deleterious effects it might have on culture, how it has changed our children.
Ideally, I’d like OMNI Reboot to consolidate those two visions of the future–to be pragmatic and even cynical, but hopeful, too. After all, our idea of the future, like Gates and Byrne’s varyingly accurate predictions of the Internet, says more about who we are than who we hope to become.