Hello!

Hello and welcome. My name is Stephen Black and I work with media, words and art. Media: VR, computer-generated environments,video and photography. Words: articles and books, including Bali Wave Ghost,  I Ate Tiong Bahru (a national bestseller in Singapore), Tiong Bahru Mouth, Obama Search Words and a few others. This post gives you some idea of my current projects. Thank you for stopping by. Stephen Black physical laborers
black and white image of man dropping vase

Ai Wewei, Yesim Agaoglu, Stephen Black, Eugene Soh collaboration in gallery.sg

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in SPOKEN

Nhung: Floating

low tech in hi tech

Works created with ink

two men smiling

If one person can be said to symbolize the Tiong Bahru Market, it might be this guy in the hat...

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 gallery.sg 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 gallery.sg

IATB in virtual gallery Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!

Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)

Preface

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.

Consider: -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. http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/amazon-makes-life-easier-for-authors-of-historical-literary-fiction/

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 www.blacksteps.tv for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks

 

19 Crimes AR: the artwork of the millennium (Viva la ARPOP!)

19 Crimes has created the most relevant artwork of the millenium. With it, ARPOP is born. Ponder its relationship with:

- Rembrandt, Dodd, Warhol, and Anderson

- the legacy of black and white photography

- the world becoming MOMA

- the innovations of VR artists

- the act of viewing. AR can become a form of performance art on a private, intimate level

- cinema!

- a companion piece: Duchamp's urinal.

- the "lighthouses"(galleries, theatres and museums) that are no longer the dominant guides for social and cultural navigation. AR, GPS and social media, viewed on glowing phones and tablets, are replacing ivory towers. Decentralization is the future. 19 Crimes exemplifies the future of art.

-ARPOP is born.

I will be discussing ARPOP at ECHA this weekend:

Check Stephen Black on Facebook for details on live broadcasts.

TREE

composition with hands

from the TREE exhibition by Stephen Black

Stephen Black presents TREE, 12 images symbolizing his thoughts and experiences of 2017.The year was spent experiencing Southeast Asia: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.The images themselves are usually abstract, and are accompanied by short texts that connect to topics such as food, AR, social media and world events, as well as personal experiences.

Beach Road, Stephen Black's short film, was recently featured in the Singapore National Museum's VR Showcase.Black has worked for media giants such as Cartoon Network, Fox, Fuji TV and France 2, as well worked on small indie projects. Black co-founded 3how, a music/performance group that has released one CD, as well as appeared at the Singapore Night Festival and other festivals in Singapore. A bestselling author, he is now working on a new book called Eating Where Orwell Ate.

Stephen Black: Ipoh/Perak Artist in Residence 2018

A4 self-promotion document

when printed out on A4 paper, this explains Stephen Black's background, AR plans and network.

An artist-in-residency would enable Stephen Black's completed Ipoh projects, and new ones, to be shared internationally.

His research about Perak and Ipoh, his Ipoh/Perak multimedia projects and his international experiences as an artist and writer could be shared internationally. Although based on heritage, multiculturalism, natural wonders and food, the spirit of the artworks is forward thinking, especially in regards to technology.

In all cases, the artworks support the ideas of community, multiculturalism and the idea of "doing locally and thinking globally".

An artist-in-residency would allow the following existing projects to be publicized and further developed, in addition to new ones being created.

IPOH IDENTITY(PHOTOS + TEXT)

The first of several blog posts on the Ipoh branding project is here.

TT5 (AR DISCUSSIONS AND MORE)

Since opening in October 2017, TT5 is rapidly establishing itself as a destination for locals and foreign visitors.

woam tour guide in industrial area

The TT5 tin dredge in Ipoh, Malaysia is a popular tourist attraction. Here, a guide explains the workings of the dredge.

Crowd receiving a tour.

On the deck of the last remaining tin mining dredge in Malaysia, a guide gives an explanation

tours of industrial places

A tour entering the last remaining tin dredge in Malaysia.

tin dredge

brainstorming by Stephen Black on the idea of Ipoh identity

YASMIN AHMAD MUSEUM at KONG HENG

Featuring the works of filmmaker and poet Yasmin Hamda, this museum is planning a project that would use AR to connect scenes from Yasmin's movies with their actual locations in Ipoh, by using AR.here are many possibilities here...

Facebook screen capture

Screen capture of Facebook page for Yasmin at Kong Heng

HOTEL ABBY

An interesting hotel with an excellent reputation among international budget travelers, the Abby Hotel hosted the Ni Art Week in 2016. It was also the basis for Stephen Black's 72 hour Facebook Live event and the surrounding area is featured prominently in the IPHOh: 38 iPhone Photos by Bubiko Foodtour AR project. The hotel's rooftop terrace offers the best spot to admire the sun setting over Ipoh.

Ipoh, Malaysia

IPOH:38 iPhone Photographs by Bubiko Foodtour first test of beta, by Claire Monfray

SYMPHONY SUITES BOUTIQUE HOTEL

Located near some of Ipoh's most impressive limestone caves and literally across the street from pomelo vendors and the Nam Thean Tong Temple, Symphony Suites was the location for another experimental 60 hour Facebook live event. Pomelos in Ipoh

IPOH: 38 Photos by Bubiko Foodtour The world's first AR Photo Exhibition

Soon available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

IPOH: 88 iPhone Photographs by Bubiko Foodtour Advertising and marketing to follow, as well as a print version. For now, the ebook version is available on Amazon.

IPOH SING!

This online photo and video exhibition was an unofficial part of the Singapore-Ipoh Causeway Exchange project.

NEW BOOK PROJECT

The author of eight books, Stephen Black is currently writing about the Ipoh area. The book combines research with personal observations and will be stylistically similar to i ate tiong bahru, which is a bestseller in Singapore.

Augmented Reality in Asia

Malay Mail article about Stephen Black in Ipoh

Bubiko Orwell Tour

The Bubiko Orwell tour is an international project by Stephen Black and Sayuri Okayama. The tour has three objectives:

- create the foundation and support network for an AR startup

- create an AR character, Bubiko Foodtour, based on experiences and information learned during their Southeast Asian "food tour"

- provide the foundation for Eating Where Orwell Ate, a new book by Stephen Black based on research, history and observations about Southeast Asia, IT and food.

The foundation and support network are being built online and by personal interactions.

Ipoh, Malaysia 2017

The Dundercats exemplify the online networking possibilities of the BOT. Encouraging the appreciation of symphonic music, especially its historical context, The Dundercats have an international audience of fans. These fans learn about the Bubiko Orwell Tour; the BOT publicizes the Dundercats.
cats with Christmas caps and a kazoo

The Dundercats deck the halls with a kazoo.

The established art and media projects of Stephen Black also contribute to the efficacy of the tour. Example: the recent screening of Black's 360 short film entitled Beach Road, at the Singapore National Museum.

A4 self-promotion document

Meant to be printed out on A4 paper, this image explains Stephen Black's background, AR plans and network.

Bubiko Foodtour, whose personality is a cross between Hello Kitty and Anthony Bourdain, is on track to becoming AR's first superstar. Bubiko's physical appearance will soon be finalized for both 2D and 3D(AR). Bubiko's Instagram account documents her food tourism adventures.

Eating Where Orwell Ate will be Stephen Black's ninth book project. With a writing style similar to the bestselling i a ate tiong bahru, Eating Where Orwell Ate brings to life the small details that define a culture, and documents the major social events and changes of 2017.

Animal84

2018

This is a placeholder for now... not all of these links are live yet. Ask me if you have any questions...

3how

AR (Augmented Reality)

Beach Road 360 “VR” movie (+ screening at Singapore National Museum)

360 films

Stephen Black in Beach Road, the film he co-produced with Hiverlab

Stephen Black’s Book and ebooks

Bubiko Foodtour

David Severn

The Doughbots

The Dundercats

The Fierce Aunty’s No-nonsense Guide to the Perfect Laksa by Nazlina Hussin

Hotel Abby 72 hour Facebook Live Event

i ate tiong bahru

I ate where Orwell ate

Instagram Bubiko Foodtour

Ipoh’s Branding as a Tourist Destination

IPOH: 38 iPhone Photographs by Bubiko Foodtour AR app on Google Play and Apple’s App Store

IPOH: 88 iPhone Photographs by Bubiko Foodtour ebook on Amazon

SPOKEN virtual gallery

Symphony Suites 60 hour Facebook Live event

Thumb-shaped kueh artwork

Toyo photo and video art and book project

TT5!

Activities in Ipoh

Unexpectedly, but happily, I have became involved in a number of projects and activities in Ipoh.

1. IPOH: 38 iPhone Photographs by Bubiko Foodtour. On Amazon.

2. The world's first AR Photo Exhibition

3. TT5

tin dredge

brainstorming on the idea of Ipoh identity

4. IPOH BOOK/STORIES

5. EXHIBITION ON WALLS OF HOTEL ABBY WINDOWS

6. YASMIN AHMAD MUSEUM

7. MUSEUM ASSOCIATION

Augmented Reality in Asia

article about Stephen Black in Ipoh

8. KOO KEE

9. FACEBOOK LIVE HOTEL PROJECT

10.BRANDING CAMPAIGN

Ipoh Identity Digital Sketches: Miscellanious

The first part of this three part series is here. tin dredge branding for destination cities

Ipoh Identity Digital Sketches: Food

More notes and ideas on the identity of Ipoh, Malaysia. Again, the tools used were an iPhone and Microsoft Paint. Am looking forward to getting feedback and developing these further. The first of this three part series is here.

Ipoh: the brand (sketches)

tin dredge

Selamat sejahtera,

Di sini saya ingin mengucapkan terima kasih kepada semua orang atas layanan yang diberikan kepada saya pada pagi Jumaat yang lalu. Saya amat bersyukur kerana diberi peluang untuk menyaksikan permulaan kepada identiti baru Ipoh yang lebih berkuasa. Semoga yang terbaik kepada semua yang terlibat dengan perjalanan ini. Berikut merupakan lakaran saya setelah sekian lama bekerja dalam bidang seperti : AR, seni, siaran televisyen, creative direction, tarian, pembuatan permainan, perfileman,promosi, VR dan menulis.“I Ate Tiong Bahru”, sebuah buku ditulis oleh saya merupakan buku terlaris di Singapura. Berikut merupakan ulasan dari Goodreads. Di Amazon. Audiobook.Kepada sesiapa yang berminat, saya boleh menghantar buku saya kepada anda dalam versi "ebook".

Artist in residence: Independent Archive ((Singapore,2016) Grey Projects (Singapore, 2015)

Beach Road” merupakan sebuah filem 360° yang ditulis, diterbit, dimasukkan sumber muzik dan dibintangi oleh saya. Ia dapat dimuat turun secara percuma di Google Play dan App Store.

SPOKEN pula ialah sebuah VR hasil kerjasama dengan Eugene Soh, dan dibintangi oleh sekumpulan artis dan penulis yang bernama dan tidak bernama.

Bubiko Foodtour” merupakan sebahagian dari projek 2 tahun yang melibatkan karakter 3D yang akan digunakan dalam AR dan media lain. Karakter 3D yang lain ialah “Secret Donut World” dan “The Doughbots”. Saya juga terlibat dalam penghasilan “The Dundercats”.

Saya mempunyai “BFA in Photographic Illustration” dan telah membuat pameran di seluruh dunia((Rochester Institute of Technology)). Sebagai jurukamera pertama kepada “Tippling Club”, hasil kerja saya pernah disiarkan dalam majalah Times dan dalam sebuah buku yang berjudul “Coco”, yang diterbitkan oleh Phaedon.

“...a spontaneous, studied and ever eloquent eye.”

-Xu Xi, calon “2007 Man Asian Literary Prize”, member ulasan beliau pada “Bus Stopping”, sebuah buku fotografi saya tentang Singapura. Selain itu, buku tersebut juga menerima ulasan daripada Stelarc, seorang artis ternama yang menghasilkan karya daripada mesin; Cyril Wong, seorang penyair yang terkemuka di Singapura dan Shuhei Takahashi, seorang pengkritik fotografi dari Jepun yang berpengaruhi.

Kebelakangan ini saya telah membuat kajian dengan penyiaran Facebook Live. Siaran langsung 72 jam yang pertama telah dijalankan di Abby Hotel manakala 60 jam yang seterusnya di Symphony Suites Hotel.

Akhirnya saya hampir menyiapkan pameran foto AR pertama di dunia yang berjudul “About Ipoh!”. Sepanjang perjalanan ini saya telah menikmati keindahan Ipoh secara dekat dan sangat teruja untuk menyampaikan keistimewaan Ipoh ke dunia!

Di sini saya berharap anda akan menikmati kajian ini. Sila ambil perhatian bahawa hasil kerja saya telah dibuat menggunakan iPhone dan mempunyai reka bentuk yang mudah kerana saya cuma boleh menggunakan Microsoft Paint!

PS I should also thank Liew Sunchin/Abby Hotel and Ray Ng/Hotel Lotte.

Hello,

I would like to thank everyone for the hospitality shown to me on Friday morning.I truly enjoyed watching a powerful, new Ipoh/Perak brand being formed. I wish everyone all the best with this exciting project.I should also thank Liew Sunchin/Abby Hotel and Ray Ng/Hotel Lotte.

The following digital doodles reflect years of experience in areas like: AR, art, broadcast television, creative direction, dance, gamemaking, movie making, promotion, theatre, VR and writing. One of my books, i ate tiong bahru, is a national bestseller in Singapore. Reviews on Goodreads are here. On Amazon. Audiobook version.I will be happy to send you a free ebook version of I Ate Tiong Bahru.

Beach Road is a 360 film which I wrote, produced, sourced music for and starred in. It is available as a free download on Google Play and the App store.

SPOKEN is a VR co-production with Eugene Soh, and features an international mix of known and unknown artists and writers.

Bubiko Foodtour is a part of a two year plan involving 3D characters that will be used in AR and elsewhere. Bubiko did the photography for this ebook: Other characters are Secret Donut World and The Doughbots. I am also involved with The Dundercats.

I have a BFA in Photographic Illustration(Rochester Institute of Technology) and have exhibited worldwide. As the first photographer for Tippling Club, my work appeared in Time magazine, as well as this book published by Phaedon: Coco.

“… a spontaneous, studied and ever eloquent eye.”

Xu Xi, 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize nominee, commenting upon Bus Stopping, my book of photographs about Singapore. The book also features comments from also features comments from Stelarc, the legendary robotics artist, Singapore Prize winning poet Cyril Wong and Shuhei Takahashi, an influential Japanese photography critic.

Artist in residence: Independent Archive ((Singapore,2016) Grey Projects (Singapore, 2015)

Lately, I have been experimenting with durational Facebook Live broadcasts. The first was for 72 hours, at the Abby Hotel. The second was for 60 hours, at the Symphony Suites Hotel.

Finally, I have almost completed the world's first AR photo exhibition: about Ipoh!

I have jumped into Ipoh wholeheartedly and am excited about communicating Ipoh's personality to the world!

I hope you enjoy these experiments. Please keep in mind that they were created with an iPhone and very, very simple graphic design: I only used Microsoft Paint!

destination city branding

sketch for Ipoh identity campaign

destination cities branding branding for destination cities branding for destination cities

The second part of this three part series is here.

Uber Return Trip

The squawking stopped when the door opened. The biggest crow stared with its mouth open, then hopped in. It saw a grain of rice on the floor; it ate it. Two males walked closer, then flapped their wings to get inside.

Seven loud crows are now in the car. There are no more grains of rice. The door closes. The car’s voice sounds like a smiling British actress, "Good morning! Where shall we go today?” Beaks become fast yellow scissors, cutting the air into shrill shreds of anger, hunger and fear. The car drives off.

At the border, the scanners, scales and sensors work perfectly: the car is determined to be empty. The car heads towards Kallang.

Fortississimo: Caw! Caw! Caw!

The crows' fury, the driver's perfection: Singapore.