I just got home from a nice stay at my mom's and it's put me in a reminiscing mood.
I have a confession to make.
Despite being a voracious reader of science fiction (among other genres), I never picked up a copy of one of the "big three" science fiction magazines - Asimov's, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog - until I was in my early 20s. And when I did finally start picking up the occasional copy of Asimov's or Analog, I often felt like they fell a bit short of my expectations.
Part of the problem, I suspect, was that much of my short story reading had been in anthologies, which highlights an author's or magazine's best stories.
But it's also almost certainly because the magazine with science fiction I did read regularly was OMNI. It was the first grown-up magazine I had a subscription to and it was awesome. The magazine had science articles - in retrospect often pretty "fringy" or pseudoscience-based, yet always interesting - and original short science fiction stories, all in a glossy colorful package.
Just look at the short stories OMNI published - during my subscription that spanned from 1980ish to 1987ish the list included William Gibson, Pat Cadigan, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Greg Bear and many others edited by the Ellen Datlow. These were the short stories of my teenage years and they came in a shiny sciency wrapper.
OMNI eventually ceased publication in the late 1990s, but it lives on at the OMNI Online tribute site (from which I borrowed the cover images) and some pages of the web-only version of the magazine that were archived by the Internet Archive.
To my 20-year-old self Analog and Asimov's seemed dull in comparison. And honestly, they still seem a bit dull me as a 40-something. It's not just the lack of pretty pictures, but the magazines' stiff "attitude" (for want of a better word) and old-fashioned feel. To my mind the spirit of OMNI is closer to current personal science blogs than any print magazine.
And sure, the "big three" still publish good short fiction. But there is strong competition from other mags like Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Subterranean Magazine, to name a few. It's not a surprise to me that the circulation numbers for the big three has been declining.
I don't know what science & SF-loving teenagers are reading these days, but I hope whatever it is provides as much entertainment to them as OMNI did to me.
(See also Frederick Pohl's recent post about writing about the July 1991 solar eclipse for OMNI.)