Calling All Dreamers

A new popular theme is emerging in the arts – one of unabashed, unapologetic hope. While partially a reaction to society’s current divisiveness and anger, it also has a lot to do with faith in humankind and our future – and a very large dose of the courage to speak out, to try to lead the way.

The first issue of DreamForge Magazine

Yes, human beings can be cruel, violent and selfish, but we can also be kind, generous and open to learning to be better. What’s more, I believe that the latter tendencies are the stronger, more prevalent. So it is that my own art has long explored the questions we need to keep asking ourselves if we wish to reach toward a wider, richer future.

As John Lennon sang, “You can say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” A case in point is the launch of a new science fiction and fantasy magazine DreamForge, whose motto is “Connecting Dreamers – Past and Present. Imagine. Engage. Inspire.”

What a leap of faith – to start a new magazine in this era of so many publications failing to survive the digital transition. Yet, it’s fitting that Scot Noel (Editor and Publisher) and his wife Jane Noel (Designer) have jumped in, with all their heart and, I’m sure, a large portion of their savings. How else could they, as Scot wrote, “make a noise in favor of hope”?

I have just read the first issue of DreamForge. It’s a beautiful publication, filled with delightful stories. I was so impressed – particularly by Scot Noel’s personal message – that I immediately emailed Scot, and asked for permission to reprint his editorial as the first guest blog on this my new website.

Here it is, an editorial designed to give all of us hope about publishing and about our future as a species.


Which Shall It Be?

by Scot Noel

Scot Noel, Editor & Publisher of DreamForge Magazine

The world has been coming to an end for a long time, for centuries if not for millennia. While the doomsayers wring their hands and point to evidence of moral decay and economic collapse, the reality is – cities grow larger, nations grow richer, and the population of humankind is approaching 7.7 billion people. (It was less than 3 billion at the beginning of the space age in 1957.)

Science, technology, and knowledge itself are advancing so quickly, their growth rate is becoming exponential. Only 476 years ago, Nicholas Copernicus published a blasphemous theory that the earth and planets revolved around the sun. Today, we have charted the shape of the universe itself, and in another 500 years we, as a species, are likely to command godlike powers that any human who has ever lived, including those of us around today, would consider the province of the divine.

Why does it all seem so terrible and doomed to destruction? Are we like Icarus, son of Daedalus, daring to fly too close to the sun?

We are indeed like Icarus and the ancient Greeks, and like our Cro-Magnon ancestors of 35,000 years past: we are human. We are built for an enemy and predator-filled world where spreading bad news and taking violent action were essential to survival. Fierce tribal loyalties and a win-at-all-costs attitude have been our go-to kit since before civilization was conceived.

Times are changing. We are a young species with short memories and a dull sense of what the future really means. A thousand years, ten thousand, a hundred thousand and we will not yet be middle-aged, and by then the stars will be ours. Literally. What will we do with them, I wonder? Before that day arrives, we must mature, and the very forces of our increase will pressure us to do so.

We will grow out of our messy teenage years and clean up our act. We may pollute our planet for centuries to come; we may fight horrendous wars a thousand years from now, but we will also be learning, building, and changing all along the way. We will end suffering, poverty, and sickness at a faster rate than the worst among us can create them. We will heal this world and build new ones. Long before the end, the better angels of our nature shall – as they have been for a thousand years – rise up to overwhelm the destructive impulses of our genesis.

Hope, big dreams, and perseverance will get us there. Hope is not an illusion; it’s simply a perspective backed by engagement with the world, whatever the condition of the world may be. And fiction has its part to play. At DreamForge, we believe words are important; that the stories we tell ourselves affect the present and become the future. It’s been said that the arc by which fiction changes the world is long and subtle, but powerful nonetheless.

One day we will meet new civilizations among the stars but, more importantly, we must learn to respect the aliens among us right now. You know who they are; they’re the people who by circumstance, culture, or choice are different from you.

By our human heritage, we are built to see them as threats, competitors for scarce resources, subversive forces ready to challenge our beliefs and tear apart our communities. In the future, there will be too many different peoples, beliefs, political ideologies, and – eventually – species of human to count. We’re going to have to get over our fears and loathing.

When you find yourself thinking the people on the other side of the ideological divide are too stupid to understand your point, that you can’t empathize with them and their values, that their way of looking at the world is ruining your country, your community, and your life – that’s an ancient evolutionary adaptation the purpose of which is as extinct as the trilobite.

Mere tolerance is unacceptable, extreme diversity inevitable. It’s the only way we can ever begin to embrace the vast gulf between ourselves and the creatures we shall meet among the stars, they who know nothing of the doctrines and dogmas over which we are willing to take life and destroy worlds.

Our only true enemy is entropy, the gradual dissolution of complex systems, the force behind suffering, aging, and decay. Fortunately, life by its very nature fights entropy, and our prowess in understanding and then mastering the intricacies of universal forces appears unbounded.

In a screenplay by H.G. Wells for the Science Fiction Film “Things to Come,” the movie ends with a dramatic monologue that goes in part:

“… And when he (man) has conquered all the deeps of space and all the mysteries of time, still he will be beginning.  And if we’re no more than animals we must snatch each little scrap of happiness and live and suffer and pass, mattering no more than all the other animals do or have done. It is this – or that: all the universe or nothing… Which shall it be?”

eBooks: The Neverending Edit

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.”
~ Hopi proverb


American Hands exhibit at Danville (PA) LibraryThe above quote comes from The Book by M. Clifford. In that dystopian novel, all “dead-tree” books have been outlawed (in a supposed environmental protection measure), and the powers-that-be (called The Editors) are constantly “updating” all books electronically. In other words, no book is a fixed point. Instead, they are altered frequently and nephariously to shape how the public thinks, feels and acts.

The hero of “The Book” discovers this truth through serendipity, when he happens upon “recycled” sheets from an old printed copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” being used as wallpaper in a men’s room of a bar. He compares his eBook version to the remnants of the printed version, which leads to him into rebellion and a thriller plot designed to intrigue any book lover.

The technology to support the dystopia described by Clifford’s novel exists today and has been in place for a number of years. Any book published digitally can be edited at any time, with little or no cost to the editor or publisher (or censor) other than time and effort. So, what is to keep us from having all facts, stories, histories, etc. altered beyond recognition? Will future Read More

What Will Life Be Like 50 Years From Now?

 

The future Dr. Noel J. Wiener in 1924
The future Dr. Noel J. Wiener in 1924

 

My father is 97 years old. I often think about what he has seen as the world has changed around him. When he was a boy, running around Philadelphia in short pants and riding streetcars to family picnics in Fairmont Park, pushcart vendors provided daily necessities. Entertainment consisted of books, tossing a ball with your buddies, teasing the girls and lots of conversations. Dad now has an iPhone, Kindle, two computers and all the typical high tech devices you would expect in any early 21st century home. He texts and emails us several times a day, reads international newspapers online, devours books by the megabytes, and makes some great meals with the help of a microwave oven (and a more “traditional” electric stove).

I can only imagine what Dad’s parents or grandparents might think of the world we live in today.

If I am lucky (or unlucky, depending on your perspective), I could very possibly live another 50 years. Given how the pace of change continues to accelerate, will our world even be recognizable to me in 2063?

All this came to mind, as I Read More

Present Tense Tension

"Jo Joe" cover for print galleysA bit over a month ago, I was just finishing up what I thought was the last edit of my novel Jo Joe. All my years of writing, rewriting, submitting for critiques, responding to muy editors’ edits/suggestions/critiques, followed by still more rewrites were finally coming to their logical conclusion. My baby would soon go off into the “real” world on her own, to sink or swim, depending on the currents: i.e. publishing vicissitudes and reader responses. The next step would be bound galleys (and ePub galleys) for reviewers. Yes, I would have a chance to make changes after that, but only small, critical ones.

In other words, it was nearly that time when I would have to let go. Parents who send their children off to college probably experience the same mix of dread and elation that an author has when sending their novel off to be published. While I found find it difficult to no longer eat, drink, sleep and dream Jo Joe, I was looking forward to closing the book (literally) and moving on. I have other projects waiting in the wings – another novel plus my ongoing American Hands narrative portrait project. And after all the wonderful feedback we’ve gotten from my editor and Beta Readers, I was very much looking forward to finding out how reviewers and readers would react to Jo Joe. (Hope springs eternal in an author’s breast.)

On the morning of the day that I fully believed I would be saying “so long,” to Jo Joe, not expecting to see her again until I receive my copies of the printed bound galley, Daniel made an apparent off-the-cuff comment over the breakfast table. “I wonder what it would be like if Jo Joe were in present tense.”Read More

Turning Up the Volume on eBook Profitability

Yesterday, at the Digital Book World conference among the various sessions I sat in on was “Doing It on Their Own: Self-Publishing Authors Find Success.” Three of the speakers were Bella Andre , Elle Lothlorien and Bob Mayer, all of whom have had enviable success in ePublishing. In fact, Bella earned seven figures last year. Yes, you read that correctly. She earned over a million dollars from self-publishing her e-Book romance novels. Yikes!Read More