Monday, November 01, 2010

The Other Project

I've had some complaints lately about the infrequency of updates. I know things have been a bit quiet, and this is because I have been working on something else. In fact, on a completely different web site.

Do you remember Omni Magazine? It was published between 1978 and 1995 - so you have to be of a certain age to have encountered it - and it featured wonderful artwork, groundbreaking fiction and a rather variable level of commentary and reporting. Quite serious science reporting was intermingled with hilarious nonsense and crack pot theories. Viewed today, it provides an interesting commentary on a period in history - there are far more tobacco ads than you would see in any current American publication . You can trace the diamond industry's carefully orchestrated campaign to convince people that two month's salary is a reasonable amount to spend on an engagement ring. There was a wonderful series of ads from the International Paper Company, called "The Power of the Printed Word", each ad a two page spread on a subject such as "How to read faster" or "How to use a library". The fiction published in Omni included William Gibson's "Johnny Mnemonic", Harlan Ellison's "Mefisto in Onyx" and stories by Isaac Asimov, Orson Scott Card and many, many other notable authors.

I don't recall when I first encountered Omni - I know that I bought it regularly for much of its life, because many the copies I have still have the newsagent's reservation stickers on them, the early ones with my maiden name written on them, the later ones with my married name. However, some numbers I acquired second hand, to fill the gaps: all the early numbers seem to have come from a university fund raising book fair.

I have a full set now (I filled the last few gaps from eBay), but the paper is beginning to degrade. The company that originally published Omni is long gone, and whatever copyright still exists appears to reside with either the original authors of the material, or with Friendfinder Networks. I can't envision any way in which Omni could be reprinted, so eventually it will probably disappear. This seems a pity: if some entity like Zinio could get the rights, they could reissue Omni to an enthusiastic audience. Omni has many fan sites, and its own Facebook page. But I don't see this happening, because of the copyright issues involved. So a friend and I are scanning the whole lot, as well as we can, so at least there will be a soft copy that we can refer to when the paper copies become unreadable.

Scanning magazines is time consuming, and as a side activity, I am developing a comprehensive index. The fiction component has been indexed in the past, but not the whole contents. If you check the Facebook page, you will find many people who can remember something that they believe that they read in Omni, and which they want to find again. Searching 200 issues is impractical, and lot of requests could be satisfied by a decent index. However, manual indexing is labour intensive, and I'm being hampered by the fact that some of the artwork is not credited. So a lot of my free time has been going into scanning, indexing, and creating a web site where I can store the basic tables of contents and author indices. The detailed content indices will take months to complete (an issue takes about 3 or 4 hours to completely index). If you want to have a look at what has been done so far, the site is The Complete Index of Omni Magazine.

No comments:


Bookmark and Share