OMNI Reboot-ed & The Starcrossed

Over this past summer, the legendary OMNI magazine has been revived as an online publication now called OMNI Reboot. I first became aware of the revival through this piece at Boing Boing.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, Editor Claire L. Evans is striving to honour the legacy of the mighty OMNI while simultaneously pushing it into the 21st Century.

One of the earliest articles posted on the new site was this good little interview with Ben Bova, a five-year editor at the dawn of the original OMNI, and a prominent writer and editor in the history of science fiction.

The Starcrossed

Mr. Bova was one of the most gracious and gentlemanly writers I had ever met at a convention. I was maybe 15 at the time and he was very patient and seemed entertained and bemused by the book I had chosen for him to sign: The Starcrossed.

The Starcrossed is a fictionalized account—set in the near future—of Mr. Bova’s experiences as a consultant on what is, without question, one of the worst television shows of all time, The Starlost.

Despite Harlan Ellison as the head writer, Ben Bova as a consultant and the godlike Douglas Trumbull as an Executive Producer, the production of The Starlost was crippled by bad studio decision making. (One quick example: the concept of the show involved a huge space-ark that would consist of a series of domes. Ellison and Bova had conceived each dome as so large that you could shoot a variety of material on back-lots or other locations, but the producers decided that their concept was “too big” and forced everything to be shot on sets, contributing to an overall cheap and shoddy look.)

At the con I attended, I asked Mr. Bova about The Starlost and he told a great anecdote about the star Keir Dullea (of 2001 fame.) Dullea, according to Mr. Bova, showed up to the set on the first day of shooting so high that he was incapable of delivering lines. To try and make use of the time, the crew decided to shoot a spacewalk scene. They hoisted Dullea up into the air in a spacesuit and flight rigging, which then failed so badly they quickly rendered Keir unconscious flinging him into parts of the set.

What’s particularly marvelous about The Starcrossed as a read is that Mr. Bova not only skewers the production of The Starlost, but he also uses the book as an opportunity to write an elaborate and loving parody of Harlan Ellison, under the guise of character Ron Gabriel. During the first meeting between Bova’s point of view character Oxnard and Gabriel in the chapter The Writer, Gabriel rants, fumes, call his lawyer to threaten someone with legal action at midnight, and parades around in nothing but a towel.

Is The Starcrossed an accurate portrayal of the behind-the-scenes story of The Starlost? It is clearly fictionalized, (and, as an aside, oddly predictive of the rise of 3D in Hollywood in a slightly different, imagined version of the tech) but based on what I’v read, and interviews I’ve seen with the man himself—not to mention Dreams with Sharp Teeth—the veil of fiction over The Starcrossed might be pretty thin.

Much like the thin line between science fiction and the real world of technological innovation that OMNI has long attempted to blur.