Current Projects (as of September 2015)


BEACH ROAD 360 VR short film produced with Hiverlab

BALI WAVE GHOST  novel set in Bali…98% finished

TOWARDS A NEW CINEMATOGRAPHY notes on the revolution…

TO EAT TIONG BAHRU … another nearly finished book; the sequel to I Ate Tiong Bahru

… as well as various art projects, including the “Foreigner kway”, the follow up to the “thumb kway”.

 SPOKEN Table of Contents

CG game cloudy night silhouette jumoing over moon

David over the Moon by Eugene Soh

black and white image of man dropping vase

Ai Wewei, Yesim Agaoglu, Stephen Black, Eugene Soh collaboration in

Avatar drinking

Nhung: overhead perspective

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in SPOKEN

Nhung: Floating

low tech in hi tech

Works created with ink

SB & 3D (Why I’m excited to be in Eugene Soh’s virtual gallery project)

THIS post was written before SPOKEN started. SPOKEN is a project I am doing with Eugene Soh, an experiment in which art, text, virtual reality and social media intersect. Learn about SPOKEN here.

To enter and experience SPOKEN, click here.
Here is the extremely short version: from 2002 until 2008 I was involved with a visionary virtual reality project that combined educational practices with gamemaking and multimedia. However, the spiritual captain of the project was part Disney, part Microsoft and part Sex Pistols. An unexpected death, treachery, incompetence, inexperience, bureaucratic boondoggles and more made my life “interesting”… I have pages of notes about the events and the spirit of the times. We were doing things like Youtube and Second Life before they started. The project was so close… and yet so far away. (Actually, now that mobile technology has settled down, I hope that the lessons and products of that experience can be revitalized. But that’s yet another story.)
In 2006, as a way of showcasing our technology,  I entered a gamemaking hackathon. A theme was given on a Thursday morning and the next day at five the results were judged.The theme was something about healthy eating, I think. Working with my programmer in Hong Kong, we made a game in which the viewer learned about the calorie count of certain foods. The player competed with an AI character.  It was fun to do.
However, what I remember most was a team that made an incredible flash game. I don’t remember if they won or not, but I do remember two guys on that team very well. George Parel and Eugene Soh were full of energy, knowledge and bursting with creative ideas.
They still are.
I’ve been lucky to work with George and Eugene on a few projects since then. In 2008 I finally had to put the educational gamemaking project on hold while I waited for a programmer and the mobile device situation to stabilize.I put more time into writing and art projects. George and Eugene (that dude from Singapore) however, have kept on doing remarkably creative things with IT, art, design and more.
Virtual reality may seem to be an artificial place, but the gallery Eugene has created fills me with memories and hope. I am honored and very thankful for I Ate Tiong Bahru to be on display in
IATB in virtual gallery
Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!

Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)


This informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It’s part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books.
Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books.

το πνεύμα του Ιανού

After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I’ll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it.

This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era.

This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author’s Guild.

Although I’ve done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations:

1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy.
Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
Stephen King

Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About…
And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers… The title of Guy Kawasaki’s excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.)
Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading.

2. A great writer or a great marketer…
….or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells.
Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below)
Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages…

3. There are no independent, hugely successful ebook-only self-publishers.
Note: Two days after this post went up, I became aware of this great piece by Dana Beth Weinberg on Digital Book World. Thank you Jacqueline Church!

Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you’re not truly independent.

OK, A bit of an attention grabber there…but the author’s need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These “automatic partners” will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author.

Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood.
-the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010)
-the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets
– the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles
– writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking’s first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010.

E.L. James’ book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans?

These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW!
However, the writing is…”not terrible” or worse

I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed.

There are “indie success stories” about authors who “rode into town” on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these “indies” were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers.
As the ‘first mover’possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition… Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: “…was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

There certainly are “ebook only” indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don’t know of any. (FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others! them! Somewhat related to this, are there any “ebook only” awards?

Here, authors talk about their sales experiences.

4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this.
Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways.

It is an exciting time.

Ebooks: Born to Click, Part 2 of 3

visit for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks


Norm Black: Before

Norm Black is the name of my exhibition at Mettlework Art Space, from September 3-6, 2015. I will be showing a VR short film created with Hiverlab, a virtual gallery created with Eugene Soh and involving 40 artists and writers, a conceptual piece with kuehs and black and white prints of Tiong Bahru. I will do a reading. 3how will play, at least once Finally, there will be appropriated photographs of the bottoms and sides of anchored ships

Please note: Norm Black is also my dad’s name. He sells books. I always thought his name would be a great name for a book, band or exhibition.


OK, first an explanation of what ‘s going on. Norm Black is being put together very quickly as I soon hope to return to an almost hermit-like existence while I complete a novel called Bali Wave Ghost. I have been planning to start writing on September 10.

Less than two weeks ago, Beach Road went online. It soon became apparent that many small screenings would need to be arranged, as opposed to renting a theatre or art space. A VR movie is meant to be viewed with a viewer, also called a HMD. Which means many HMDs have to be bought OR many Android phones have to be found so that they can fit into the Cardboard viewers which Hiverlab has.

Moving the story along, I put out a call, looking for spaces. Boom! Dennis Tan,  who is very familiar with Mettlework and Bruce Quek from Mettlework both responded. So that’s how it started.

The work to be shown/what’s happening:

Beach Road VR movie (5 minutes)

SPOKEN Virtual Gallery

3how Sept. 3, maybe another night or two. 3how on FB

Depth images

Taste, Trial and Error (kueh: edible sculptures/conceptual art)thumb kways

Dissolving Tiong Bahru (experimental black and white prints)

Words were the first VR: a reading by Stephen Black Sunday, 7pm -9pm

Plus a surprise or two…

Exhibition Hours:

Thursday, September 3  7pm-11pm

Friday 10 am- 3pm

Saturday 10am-11pm

Sunday 10am-11pm

Location: 50 Lorong 17. Closest station: Aljunied


Stephen Black: bookmerah %at & gmail





Stephen Black exhibition at Mettle Works Art Space

September 3, 4, 5 and 6… at Mettlework

What’s in store:

Beach Road, a pioneering VR movie will be shown. Beach Road is a co-production between hiverlab and Stephen Black.

SPOKEN will be projected live.

Taste, Trial and Error: the kuehs are back!

Tiong Bahru prints: black and white lens based artworks. Details soon to follow.

Depth: appropriated artworks, back in the spotlight.

Words Were the First VR:  talk and reading by Stephen Black.

Music! 3how?

Details and times to be posted soon.


Independent Archive Reference Materials : Pamphlet from Performance Art Laboratory 2014 in Hong Kong, organised by CCCD


Pamphlet for performance art event in Hong Kong

Front and back cover of brochure for the 2014 Performance Art Laboratory in Hong Kong, organised by the CCCD.

This post is a bit of an experiment. As you may know, the Independent Archive has an impressive collection of materials on performance art, especially that of the Southeast Asian region.

With this, and subsequent posts, it is hoped connections of all types will be made. The selection of materials posted will be varied, to exemplify the diversity found within the Independent Archives.

Do feel free to comment or to suggest genres, specific performances, individuals or regions.

Eventually these posts may appear on the Independent Archive website itself.

Thank you for your interest.


Chinese and Western performance artists

inside of pamphlet of Performance Art Laboratory in Hong Kong, organized by CCDC

Performance Art Laboratory 2014, presented by Centre for Community Cultural Development. May 13 and 14 2014.

Producer: Mok Chiu Yu

Curator: Chan Sammu

Coordinator: Liu Nanxi

Designer: To Yeuk

Helpers: Lam Foon Hiu, Wong Yuk Ming and Guo Feng


Featured artists:

Boris Nielsony and Art Service Association

Chan Sammu

Chumpun Apisuk

Lo Lok Him

Mok Chiu

Marilyn Arsem

Tomas Ruller

To Yeuk

Ting Liping

Yim Monique

Au Lai Tak

Chen Yiling

Dominic Thorpe

Jeremy Hiah

Kwan Ero

MARU Yuenjie

Moon Yumi

Qiao Shengxu and in here

Tanaka Toshi …and Google led me to this link as well, one about Shinichi Arai.

Tse Wai Kee

Wang Mingfeng

Yoyo Yogasmana and this

Au Yeung Tung

Cheng Man Chai

Choi Ger

Fang Fang

Li Xiaoming

Richard Martel

Urich Lau

Xiang Xishi

Yu Wing Kei




Beach Road: on Google Play (1)

a man watching using a VR headset

A VR experience in a coffee shop

This is the first of a five part series about introducing Beach Road to the public.

Well, Beach Road is  online!

Unlike a video artwork or a movie, there was no public event. I actually did not know we went live until the day after it happened. Ender and I were both busy, but had agreed to meet to hear Lionel Chiok’s talk about VR. Lionel is a Singaporean who has been studying and working with new technologies in England. He was back in town to share his thoughts and experiences. I prepared a press release and Ender had made preparations to show Beach Road on his phone with the Hiverlab headset. It was only when we met that Ender realized he hadn’t told me about Beach Road being on  Google Play. So, the press release was lacking information on how to access the movie!

The first person I saw wearing the headset and watching Beach Road was a young woman from India, a design student at LASALLE. I can only say she looked enthralled.(v.also enthral “to hold in mental or moral bondage,”1570s, from en- (1) “make, put in” + thrall1610s. !!!) Once she took off the headset, she just beamed for a while. And then she asked if she could work for me! I directed her to Ender.

That was just over a week ago. Since then, I have seen that same expression  on the faces of the twenty or so people who have seen Beach Road. I do not delude myself; the technology is what is enthralling them. I think it will only be in about a year or so that I will get true reactions to the film itself, when the shockingly beautiful novelty of 360 VR has worn off. For now, I can only enjoy the ride and be thankful for the enthusiasm that is being shown, as exemplified by reviews like this one, on Ground Zero. 

2015 Tiong Bahru Hungry Ghost Festival I

tao monster priest wheelchair fraction peoplepriest touching head tao priest revealing blue god face priest painting the sky priest painting lip priest on altar with paper mask on god priest little goddess priest holding red cup ceremony prayers one holding a box Musician against yellow wheelchair woman smoke

Beach Road VR Singapore Tour 2015

Hello! Thank you for considering our offer to share the Beach Road VR movie in your space.

What is this about?

We would like to introduce you and your customers/visitors/friends to VR. We are not selling anything and no costs are involved. We would like to simply set up a small table, display a sign and talk to people about VR, Virtual Reality.

Most important of all is that people can easily watch Beach Road, our VR movie, on the viewing gear that we will bring.

A press release with more information is here.


What is Beach Road?

Beach Road is a five minute movie about a parking lot attendant who wants to be a writer. It stars Alps Bethneck and features music by Bani Haykal and Chen YiQi. It was co-produced by Hiverlab. The script was written by Stephen Black.

Singapore hawker center in 360 VR

… writing in a notebook, surrounded by an empty hawker center…(still photo from Beach Road)

Stephen Black, Ender Jiang and Jeff Zhen

The team behind Beach Road, one of the first VR films made in Singapore.

Hiverlab viewing glasses

VR viewing goggles created by Hiverlab…

What do I need to prepare? I do not have staff to help with this!

We will take care of everything. We do not need electricity and do not need your staff’s help in anyway. Just show us the table and we will take it from there. We are not selling anything. If people later want to download Beach Road, it is available for free on Google Play.

If you can promote this event on Facebook or by emailing, that would be helpful. We will promote you as much as we can, on twitter, LinkedIn, by emails and Facebook. If you know of any press people, bloggers, reporters or news people, do let us know. Beach Road has appeal for those interested in movies and visual arts as well as those interested in technology and communication.

I don’t understand VR at all. Can’t I just use my laptop to watch Beach Road on Youtube?

Virtual Reality is new. It is also simple and fun to use. Until you try it, is difficult to understand. Simply to say; you need a device to see a VR movie. That device can be made of cardboard or it can be an expensive, stylish hi-tech piece of equipment. We are prepared to bring 50 devices which were created by Hiverlab. Beach Road is five minutes long, so we hope that no one has to wait a long time to see it.



At the moment, our schedule looks like this:

August 21 Instinc Art Space

8/22 Tiong Bahru private screening

23 The Projector

8/24 secret party with guitars and everything




8/28 +39 Gelato Bar

8/29  Saturday 9AM-1 PM Tiong Bahru  2:30-4:30 Singapore Science Center

8/30 Sunday 9AM-3 PM Tiong Bahru


September 1


9/3 Mettle Work

9/4 MAAD at The Red Dot Museum

We are open to showcasing Beach Road after this time as well. Any questions? Please contact Ender: ender AT hiverlab dot com or Stephen Black via this blog. Thanks!

Virtual Reality for Beginners/Simple Chart/Designer Project

hello… Hey designer/designers… the basic  idea for this chart is still solid, but drop me a line so I can update you as to what needs to be added or removed. THANKS


THIS POST IS RAW MATERIAL. I hope that a designer or designers will make this into something brilliant. I will then promote it as much as I can.Of coure teh designer should share it as well. It has been my experience that many people have questions about VR, questions that a chart like this can answer. So, if you are designer, I hope you will see what you do. I think there is a large audience that will be looking for something like this.

So, do let me know what you think and help me promote your skills as well as educate people about VR. NOTE: The drawing below isn’t exactly right. See the notes below. (I drew this when I didn’t have internet access to check things.)

hand draw graphic about VR

hand drawn notes for a chart that explains VR to beginners

Here is the text:


Watching VR is simple and magical. For example, when you turn your head to toward the  left of the scene, you see a lot of what i on the left of the scene. Just like reality. When you tun and look behind , you see what is behind you. And when you look up. you see the sky or whatever is above the main scene. The camers nd technologies to make VR create a very life-like experience.

There are two approaches to viewing VR.

1. Holder+ Android Phone

A holder is like a pair of glasses that hold a Androidphone. Holders can be made from cardboard or plastic.

2. VR Device

VR Devices are designed to create optimum VR experiences. They are usually comfortable, stylish and expensive.


-Watching VR is almost like being blindfolded. Of course you can see what is on the screen, but you cannot see the room you are sitting in.

-VR has had a relationship with gaming for a long time. As a result there is a lot of content for gamers. However, VR projects are now being developed for entertainment, music, art, business, medical and tourist-related applications.

Text: Stephen Black

Design by:


I was wrong about iPhones and VR. So disregard that. And, “helmet” isn’t the best word. Seems like VR Device or HMD (Head Mounted Device) are the most common phrases.


Beach Road 360 VR short film PRESS RELEASE

I wrote a series of blog posts about my experiences during the making of Beach Road. The first post is here.

I am currently compiling notes for a book called Towards a New Cinematography, which is about how the interactions between computers and lenses are changing cinematography. Click here for more info.

PRESS RELEASE for BEACH ROAD, a 360 VR short film



Who: Beach Road is a co-production between Hiverlab and Stephen Black. Hiverlab is a Singaporean company specializing in 360 VR storytelling. Hiverlab was established in 2012 by a team led by Ender Jiang, an award-winning indie film director, TEDx presenter and the founder of ifcity Stephen Black is an artist/writer experienced with video art as well as network television and movie production. Black is the author of several books, including I Ate Tiong Bahru. Black is currently working on a book about cinematography in the age of VR and drones.


What: Beach Road is a portrayal of a parking lot attendant who dreams of being a writer. A short film created in 360 VR, Beach Road stars Alps Bethneck and features original music by Bani Haykal and Chen YiQi.


When: As VR is such a new medium, online distribution of Beach Road is now undecided ; it may become an app unto itself.At the moment, it is available on Google Play. Beach Road will also be submitted for consideration by VR distributors such as Samsung’s Gear Indie. A launch party (in Singapore) is now being planned.



A chance meeting between Ender Jiang and Stephen Black resulted in the partnership that led to Beach Road. Both Stephen Black and the member of Hiverlab (Ender’s VR production company) are excited about storytelling in VR. Discussions were held and quickly plans were made.

According to Stephen Black, the team worked with their strengths. “Storytelling in VR is so new that we wanted to go slow. We decided to spend a great amount of time on location hunting, as we wanted scenes that really make the most of the 360 degree format. Although I am an artist/writer who has worked on all kinds of productions, we decided that the script would be written after shooting. We used one actor (Alps Bethneck) who simply walked around and wrote down his thoughts in a notebook. This simple approach allowed us to first create a purely visual experience.In post-production we wrote the script and added dynamics with music and voice over. This was a fantastic learning experience and we hope audiences will enjoy Beach Road

Ender Jiang, who is well experienced with the creative, financial and technical sides of new media, especially 360 VR, adds,” Beach Road allowed us to refine our technical innovations, like stitching, and further develop 360 VR  filmmaking techniques like editing. With VR, the viewer explores a story as well as watches it. This means the VR creators must create visual and audio clues so that the viewer doesn’t get lost. The next step for us is to create interactive stories that allow users to trigger the stories by themselves. VR is fresh and new to everyone and we are eager to bring storytelling to a new level. Beach Road will, hopefully be part of a new era of storytelling.”

Haiku Workbook 1 (Singapore: August 1 & 2, 2015, mainly written on bus from Jalan Sultan/Victoria St. to Bedok reservoir)

These were jotted down when it was sunny. They are not in order.


Happy Crab breakfast

Questioning, remembering.

Last dance; new beginning


Excited planning.

Motorbike, wind, Bedok, trees:

here is the center.


Utopia sketched.

Smiling meetings; money sure.

Empty concrete check.



Old Airport Road; there

Joe pulled a bike from the flood,

there we did laundry.


Bedok reservoir

Easily running uphill

Young boy on a swing


Long, cool afternoon breeze.

Dragonflies, blue white skies; shade.

Challenge of music.








Gerald Leow, Artcore Punks, Shaiful Zerox and Stephen Black joined forces to create the installation,community art project/temporary gallery known as Foreign Love Club. The image is from one of the works presented.

Our Facebook page.

The formula: Gerald Leow, band logos as starting points.


Shaiful Zerox, man of mystery and loud wigs.


ArtCore Punks, the independent independents.


Stephen Black ““I think I’ve learnt a number of things off my dad.”


Foreign Love Club

Foreign Love Club are a group of artists who work in a variety of media. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’,Foreign Love Club uses a visual vocabulary that addresses many different social and political issues. The work incorporates time as well as space – a fictional and experiential universe that only emerges bit by bit.

Their artworks demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. They challenge the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves. By merging several seemingly incompatible worlds into a new universe, they present everyday objects as well as references to texts, painting and architecture. Pompous writings and Utopian constructivist designs are juxtaposed with trivial objects. Categories are subtly reversed.

Foreign Love Club create situations in which everyday objects are altered or detached from their natural function. By applying specific combinations and certain manipulations, different functions and/or contexts are created. With the use of appropriated materials which are borrowed from a day-to-day context, their works reference post-colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.

Their works bear strong political references. The possibility, or the dream, of the annulment of a (historically or socially) fixed identity is a constant focal point. Foreign Love Club currently lives and works in Singapore.

Chiaki Williams


Gerald very kindly asked me to participate in The PassionArts Village project at the Bedok reservoir. One morning as we were walking to the Happy Crab, I mentioned that I was interested in continuing work on the Foreigner image I’d worked on for the SPOKEN exhibition with Eugene Soh and other artists and writers. The Singaporean friend we were walking with mentioned that at the end of dances–tea dances, I think, they used to play  I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner’s most popular song. I cringed, but Gerald started laughing.

Full disclosure: the first rock concert I paid to see was a triple bill of Walter Egan, Foreigner and Heart at the Toledo Sports Arena. The second time I saw them was in Tokyo, where they played with Loudness, Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow and Sting,whose band included Wynton Marsalis. The first Foreigner experience was the start of a journey, the second was something like a job.