An Interview With
Scot Noel is an established author, publisher and a digital marketer. He’s also passionate about creating computer games. Science Fiction and Fantasy are his favourite genres in the fiction world, and he’s a great optimist. The world is slowly drowning in an ocean of darkness. People like to think of future as a dystopian society. Scot wants to change this view. He believes in hope. His publication house, DreamForge Magazine, is a direct manifestation of this belief.
Check out his work before you get to know the man?
Hi Scot, I’m thrilled that you are here with me and about to share some of your deepest secrets. Let’s start with the most important question. You’re a hard-working man who has done many incredible things in life. You worked as a writer, then a digital marketer. You made computer games, and now you opened your own publication house. This is no easy feat and I’m sure you must have faced many difficulties in reaching where you are. What inspires you to keep going?
People. Everyone provides inspiration for everyone else. We all want to test ourselves by achieving or surpassing the examples we have in our lives. It’s just a question of what that motivation is. People can be as inspired by hateful examples as well as by hopeful ones.
Fate plays a part too. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by hard working, creative people whose priorities are family, community, and problem solving. In my circle, they don’t set much in the way of walls around the ideas of family or community either.
While it is not given to us to play a big role in inspiring the world to adopt a more hopeful mindset; we couldn’t see ourselves being silent either when our skills, talent, and resources gave us an opportunity to speak up – to however few, however briefly.
So, to my wife, our families, our co-workers, our volunteers, and our friends, I extend my thanks for your inspiration and your support. You keep me going in this daunting challenge we’ve taken on with DreamForge Magazine.
Often it is in our childhood days that we realize what we’d like to do when we grow up. Stories are now an essential part of your life. When was the first time you fell in awe with a story, and consequently, the art of storytelling?
I became interested in storytelling and science fiction simultaneously. At the age of 5 I saw a cartoon series on TV called Space Angel concerning a space pilot named Scott McCloud and his rocket ship the Starduster. He explored a non-apocalyptic universe teeming with aliens and antagonists, but along with his skilled crewmates Crystal and Taurus, they always managed to maintain fairness and justice throughout the stars. After that all my toy soldiers were astronauts and every backyard playtime an adventure in exploring new worlds.
Can you recall your very first story? When was this? What was it about?
Sometime after Star Trek premiered in 1966 (I was 9 years old by then), I found myself transitioning from playing with space toys to writing about the adventures of my toys. I started keeping a longhand journal about their explorations, and I remember the influence of Star Trek because I dated each entry with a Stardate. There wasn’t much in the way of plotting going on here, as one episode I recall involved setting up my toys outside after a snow storm, throwing snowballs at them, and writing about the great snow meteor event.
Things just became more sophisticated year by year. In my sophomore year of High School I was compelled to take a class in typing. I failed miserably in the accomplishing the skills necessary to type according to instruction, but I fell in love with the idea of typing out a page with one of my stories on it. What I failed to grasp in class, time and relentless practice provided soon enough. Today, I can keyboard at warp speed.
In High School, and later in College, I became aware of local science fiction and Star Trek clubs, some of which used the primitive mimeograph technology of the time to print “fanzines,” and those fanzines needed material. As you can imagine, many of my first stories were about starship crews encountering challenges in the exploration of the galaxy, and the ship name I most often used was “Intrepid.”
Please tell us about your novel Stellar Glory. Do you see yourself writing more novels in near future?
Stellar Glory has its roots in my High School writing, from those times when I first learned to type. It has been rewritten many times over the years under a variety of titles, including one all my friends hated: Extreme Passage.
Stellar Glory is largely an homage to every SF show and book I enjoyed in my youth, with many odd elements thrown in for good measure. There is of course a starship, the Intrepid, a valiant crew and a stalwart captain. That said, I hope readers find these are far from cardboard characters. My captain is suffering from a kind of PTSD; his First Officer is a cowardly traitor, and their alien antagonists are psychopaths.
In general, the novel tackles the notion, first put forth by Arthur C. Clarke, that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In the Stellar Glory, I take that a step further, introducing a civilization with instrumentality indistinguishable from divine power.
The key theme of the novel is that we bring meaning and purpose to the universe, and one day we may even decide what the fate of the universe itself should be.
As to future novels. At 62 years of age, I don’t see the luxury of time to shop my works around for evaluation by traditional publishers. They will no doubt come out through DreamForge Press, LLC. One already completed is called Sovereign Ice, and strangely enough is an apocalyptic zombie story set in a future ice age, but so unlike any apocalyptic zombie story you can imagine that I’m sure readers will wonder WTF is going on. Look for that one in 2020.
Was your family supportive about your creative endeavours? Who do you think stood with you and your dreams?
I would say my family has always been supportive; though I’ve spent a lifetime being busy at lots of things, including careers in tourism, public transportation, computer game development, and web design. Though I managed a Second-Place win in Writers of the Future, Vol. VI (1990), I never committed myself to writing or to the SF and Fantasy community in a way that would prove out how far I might have been able to go in that direction. I have no regrets; it’s been a good life. These days, age, circumstances, and available resources came together to allow me to try something new – DreamForge Magazine. It’s been humbling to see my family, my wife’s family, our friends, our co-workers, our former colleagues in computer gaming, and volunteers from around the world, pitch in to help make DreamForge a success. It’s wonderful, and it’s not about me; a lot of people seem to think something special is happening here.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you come up with ideas spontaneously or you lay groundwork before you actually start writing? What are the steps in your creative process? How many drafts do you go through until you’re satisfied with the end result?
I’m a plotting, pantser, problem solver. I don’t know how much I have in common with other writers, but here’s how I think it works for me. An idea occurs to me (while reading, dreaming, or pondering), and for a while I try to think about how it might be structured into a story. Sometimes it works out; sometimes not. If it seems promising, I write down the basics: character, plot, conflict, background. Then I start story development and all chaos breaks out. The characters never want to go where I told them to go; the plot falls apart, and the conflict falls flat, but something new emerges from the background. Now I’m a pantser and problem solver.
All this means that I tend to edit as I go. There are never distinct drafts that I could show someone, just reworks within the same document until it all works itself out. I’ve heard that’s not a good way to go. However, it’s my natural method and I feel comfortable doing it.
Which authors do you look up to? Whose works do you enjoy the most?
I like many, many writers and have eclectic tastes ranging from Norman Mailer to Harlan Ellison, Steinbeck to Heinlein, Herman Melville to H.G. Wells. In my heart of hearts, I’ll always be partial to Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Andre Norton.
Did you always want to become a writer and a publisher? If perhaps things would have gone differently, which profession would you have chosen?
My real job these days is content development for web design and digital marketing. My wife and I are owners of Chroma Marketing Essentials, a small, award winning digital marketing agency with 10 employees. We’ve also gotten into software development, and our team produced the readers’ portal for the magazine.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I’ve fantasized about having a career as a novelist, but I’m not at all sure that would have been best for me. My message about choosing a profession is to be prepared for the opportunities that will come your way. When I went to school there were no computers, yet I grew up to work with them. When I started to work with computers, there was no such thing as a computer game, and yet I became a project manager of computer game development. When I worked in game development, there was not such thing as the Internet, and yet my wife and I now own and operate a business devoted to web development and Internet marketing.
I suspect that changes in technology, biology, and engineering are only accelerating. Most of the people reading these words will work in several careers during their lives that as yet do not exist, nor can they be predicted.
What are your proudest and most embarrassing moments?
I’m pretty much an even keel sort of guy who tends to avoid the extremes. Graduating from Saint Vincent College with a Degree in English Literature and winning in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest in 1990 are what I’ll count as my proudest moments.
During my career in computer gaming, it fell to me one fateful day to break the news to William Shatner (during a conference call) that our team did not like his computer game idea. He probably doesn’t remember this, but it was traumatic for me. His Captain Kirk is one of my greatest heroes, and all I could say to my boss at the time was “You want me to do what?” I don’t believe that gaming project went any further with any developer.
Is there anything about you—strange likings or personality quirks—that no one knows yet? Would you like to share them?
Well, as I get older, there are fewer and fewer people around that remember me growing up as an almost pathologically shy kid. For years, interacting with a clerk at a grocery store to make a simple purchase was beyond me. Using public rest rooms was not an option. Public speaking an impossible dream. Life offers endless opportunities for growth and change. Some of those are experienced as terrifying trials that press your coping abilities to the breaking point. Only in hindsight and with years of distance can you understand how life and circumstance has shaped you.
For the record, while I still experience some minor limitations in interpersonal discourse, I easily handle most public interactions and can speak in front of audiences with little hesitation. Never assume that whatever holds you back will be with you always.
Besides writing, what are your other hobbies? Do you watch TV Shows? Name your favourites.
One hobby I’ve carried through life is model building, as in plastic kits of airplanes, robots, space ships, tanks, and such, as well as improv mash-ups of collected parts. I don’t get much time to work on my kits these days, and I have one of the Lost in Space Chariot that’s been waiting for assembly for a few years.
I grew up watching TV, so I still have a lot of shows I like as time permits. Star Trek in all its series variations tops the list. Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, Firefly, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Orville, and many more.
Now the most important question: are you a foodie? What sort of food do you love?
I am not a discriminating foodie. I would describe myself as an omnivore. I like lots of things and am not averse to trying new foods, but I always circle back to the comfort foods I grew up with, including pizza, hamburgers and French fries, spaghetti, bacon & eggs, fried fish, etc. But if someone said let’s go out for Spanish cuisine, get some Tandoori chicken or try the new Sushi place, I’m there.
What are your goals? What do you aspire to achieve?
I don’t mean to sound selfless, because I’d love to make a ton of money or write a best-seller, but at this point in my life what really means something to me is helping other people accomplish things of importance to them, especially younger people or people trying to learn new things. I think it is as exciting to me now to buy a story as it ever was to sell one. I love working with the young team at our digital marketing agency, and with the creative people and illustrators for DreamForge. Being a part of a good team working together is, I believe, ultimately more fulfilling than being a “name” at something.
Do you think that the future of the writing field is bright? Or must certain measures be taken to ensure progress in the field?
Storytelling is a fundamental human endeavor. I don’t know if magazines have a future, or print publications, but I wouldn’t worry about that. Writing was invented only 3 millennia ago and print is a mere 580 years old. Storytelling evolved with us for hundreds of thousands of years and it’s not going anywhere. Is it still writing when you craft stories for augmented or virtual reality? I think it is. If you argue with that, then imagine an ancient master of the oral tradition looking at a man with a stylus and seeing the doom of his profession. In reality, technology is just another tool for storytellers.
The future is bright because there has never been an age or a society without storytellers.
Do you have any dreams that go beyond the field of writing and publishing?
You never know. I didn’t have a dream of publishing a magazine before January, 2018. I can only hope that a decade from now some serendipitous idea comes my way and sets me off on a new and different adventure. Don’t get me wrong. Planning, organization, education, and preparation are all critical, as without them you have no ability to take advantage of the opportunities that life presents. It would be easy to misconceive that one day I just decided to make a magazine and it magically happened. Before that came 40 years of writing discipline, project management, budgeting, contract development, risk taking and risk tolerance, marketing training, networking, and let’s not forget genre reading. Then, without my wife’s skills of design and layout, I’d still be nowhere. Add in all the friends and volunteers we were able to organize. Sometimes you can pick up on a new dream and see it through, but not just because dreams are easy.
You’re an author and a publisher, and you review dozens of stories every week. The writing wisdom you would have developed from your career must be brilliant. What writing tips would you like to give to upcoming writers? What is the most important rule of fiction?
Ha ha ha. That’s funny! No, I’ve developed no brilliant and sure-fire advice for writing success. First, I would have used it by now. Second, the value of any instruction is only as good as the person using it, meaning we all have varying degrees of skill and understanding, no matter how powerful the advice may be.
One piece of advice I like is this: pick some of your favorite stories by authors you admire and rewrite those stories entirely in your own words, from beginning to end. Read the stories side by side. Read them aloud. Can you hear or sense why your version is lacking compared to the published one? Try again, concentrating on the weakness you found. Work it over and over until your version, your version in your own words and voice, has some of the weight and polish of the published story. It’s just an exercise, but one that can be instructive to some if they have the ear for the comparison step and the eye for seeing things like how tension is developed, backstory introduced, and character revealed.
FYI, starting with DreamForge Magazine Issue #2, I’m doing a series of articles on “How to Write for DreamForge” using everything we are learning from over 700 submissions in this reading period alone.
When did the idea of founding DreamForge enter your mind? Would you please narrate this life-changing incident?
It’s not all that dramatic. Like many things, it’s more a unique alignment of forces and a decision. My wife Jane and I are getting older. I’m in my early 60’s and she is following a few years behind. That means we need to start planning for the future of our small digital marketing agency, Chroma Marketing Solutions. Our succession plan is named “Chrissy,” and she is one of those once-in-a-lifetime employees with the skill, background, heart, and determination to take the business forward and beyond us. We’re not ready to retire anytime soon, but as Chrissy takes on more and more of our duties and team leadership, I was instinctively looking for something to do. Coincidentally, we had started placing some articles in a local magazine, and they allowed our team to not only write the article but do the layout as well. We had some conversations with the publisher about the process of publishing and his reasons for getting into it, etc.
In late 2017, after these different forces started to gel in my subconscious, I looked around one day and thought: we have web development expertise; we have digital marketing experience; and we’ve shown we can handle article layout. We could do a magazine!
Of course, it took a little longer than that. I started to read more of the SF and Fantasy Magazines we’ve always read: Asimov’s, Analog, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Blackgate, along with some I wasn’t that familiar with: Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Fireside.
I felt that there was a preponderance of apocalyptic and dark fiction or “warning” fiction about how the next technological development would go awry. I wanted to do something a little more hopeful, encouraging fiction about the triumph of humanity.
Please tell us about the gist of DreamForge.
At DreamForge our mission is to counter the apocalyptic thinking so prevalent today. Our goal is to publish fiction and commentary that embody the principles of integrity and decency, compassion and creativity, intelligence and inventiveness, the dignity of the individual, and the power of synergy to unleash the potential of disparate individuals and communities for the betterment of all.
While acknowledging our world and the universe beyond as a complex and dangerous place and accepting that humans may be destructive to a level not yet seen, we do not subscribe to hopelessness or futility as a vision of the future or of any setting or situation.
In all worlds and times, our tales revolve around those individuals and groups who bring meaning and value to the world, whose actions are of consequence, and whose dreams are the vanguard of things to come.
What difficulties did you face in forming DreamForge? How did you overcome them?
Oh, well we haven’t overcome them yet. As I indicated earlier in this interview, we had a lot of support and many of the skills and technical disciplines needed were close at hand. The big problems were and remain: time, money, marketing, and subscribers.
Time: Both my wife and I work long hours at our digital marketing agency. When we started the idea of DreamForge, we thought our duties might be easing up a bit, but the opposite has proven true. Fate and circumstance have conspired to make us busier than ever at work. And so we often find ourselves working late into the night on DreamForge and on weekends and holidays, etc.
Money: Starting a magazine with no publishing experience in this day and age is not for the risk intolerant. It’s also expensive. Both my wife and I called upon our savings and loans from our life insurance policies. DreamForge may never be able to pay us back. But if I’d bought a sports car, it wouldn’t have paid us back either, and it would have meant far less to us.
Marketing: Marketing is scary. We know because we do it for a living. That’s how we know we can’t afford to market this magazine properly. We had to make a choice – to publish or advertise. We chose to publish and to put almost all of our resources into producing a year’s worth of magazines. We’re counting on our subscribers and contributors to help spread news of DreamForge.
Subscribers: Got to get ‘em. To be sustainable (not profitable mind you, just sustainable), we have to reach the equivalent of 1,000 print subscribers within 12 to 18 months. We are currently below a third of that but growing slowly. We have had a successful Kickstarter and we will have more promotions and marketing efforts in the months ahead. Word is spreading.
DreamForge currently publishes magazines. Can we see it evolve into a full-fledged publishing house? What are your future plans?
The first plan is survival, seeing if we can reach the market we think is out there for our particular brand of positive science fiction. When we incorporated; however, I did found the business as DreamForge Press, LLC, not DreamForge Magazine, and we did publish Stellar Glory as a standalone eBook. It is possible that we will bring more than the magazine to print, but that is a ways off. We have to get our feet under us first.
Every writer is a thinker. You’ve made your vision clear by establishing DreamForge. Would you like to comment further on the future of mankind?
We are a dangerous species and we don’t work and play well with others. All the apocalyptic thinking and doomsaying has a basis in reality. There is no religion, social order, or economic theory that will save us from ourselves. We are by and large a rebellious, recalcitrant bunch that revert to greedy self-aggrandizing behavior and tribal loyalties at the slightest hint of trouble. And those are our good qualities.
No, just kidding! Humans often show a side that is full of grace, selflessness, and self-sacrifice. No religion causes us to do this, nor any threat of punishment, mortal or divine. We sing and create, comfort, and heal because of who we are inside.
We look into the smallest small and the biggest big and strain to comprehend the very warp and woof of existence itself. What we learn we turn to teach and to share, and to share more freely today than ever before in our long history.
We strive for things bigger than ourselves, and many of us strive for things bigger than hate, conquest, and oppression.
I believe that many of the desperate issues faced by humanity today are not apocalyptic threats but painful realities of growth into a phase of civilization we’re never experienced before. Expanding into the solar system and venturing to the stars is going to be a painful, messy business, but it’s also a destiny beyond the reach of any other life form on Earth.
End times? Hardly. The Human Adventure has just begun.
That was a wonderful interview and I hope our readers will learn a thing or two from your life experiences. Thank you so much, Scot, for patiently answering every question. With so much going on, I know your schedule must be crazy, and I’m very grateful for your time. I wish you all the best for your upcoming endeavours.