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 is 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  

The first one star review for `i ate tiong bahru`… and why I appreciate it

i ate tiong bahru book review "It was difficult to read.It didn't flow. Too many assumptions made. Did not enjoy this. " the reviewer on Amazon wrote. This saddened me: someone purchased my book and did not enjoy or benefit from the reading experience. The reason given, that I did not provide enough exposition or background information, taught me a lesson. Exposition, I tend to think, is like fat in cooking; too much overpowers and clogs the reading experience, too little and the reader finishes the book wanting more: unsatisfied. The person who wrote the one star review thought I was thin on details. I understand and accept that opinion. The subject matter of i ate tiong bahru includes Singapore's colonial history, the Japanese Occupation, life during pre-and post Independence, food, Art Deco architecture and and vignettes of life in Tiong Bahru, both contemporary and historical. I tried to explain local words and customs  with context and footnotes*. However, having said that, I often very consciously want to create a situation where the reader does not know the meaning of a word or has become "lost " as a result of cognitive dissonance. A narrative artist can use words to create a trail of breadcrumbs that satisfy but lead to a place that may-- or may not be, familiar, dark or joyful. For example, there is a difference between writing about a confrontational situation  and using words as elements in a confrontational situation created by the author. A reading  experience, that is what I work towards creating... (In this video I attempt to explain this.) I will make it a point to familiarize myself with more science fiction, where imaginative, non-existent gadgets, customs and environments must become crystal clear in the reader`s mind.The lessons learned can be applied towards the follow up to iatb, tiong bahru mouth. Bottom line: Most of the reviews of i ate tiong bahru have been very supportive but, as the book continues to attract readers outside of the Southeast Asia area, I should not be surprised by more one star reviews such as the one posted. And, as I rewrite tiong bahru mouth, I am carefully considering when to challenge readers intentionally, if at all. sb i ate tiong bahru and other reviews are here. *Having converted iatb into an audiobook, I now avoid footnotes; they do not  easily flow in the audiobook format.

An Open Letter to Facebook Groups with an interest in Tiong Bahru (part 1)

Hello... My name is Stephen Black and I wrote a book called i ate tiong bahru. Regarding Facebook groups that have some type of connection with Tiong Bahru, I have been cautiously respectful. Too many posts about the book may look spammy; if I don't post at all, those genuinely interested in the topics in iatb may not discover it.This post will likely be the last one on this FB page for a while...until the launch party for tiong bahru mouth! A lot of exciting things are happening with iatb, as well as tiong bahru mouth,its soon-to-be-released follow up. BOTTOM LINE (almost): if you are interested in i ate tiong bahru, special offers and discounts, photographs, iatb T-shirts and/or glasses,and tiong bahru mouth please like the Stephen Black AUTHOR Facebook page. or follow this blog. or drop me an email. bookmerah16 AT marq gmail.com THANK YOU... OK... for those who are interested in the ongoing, and often surprising, iatb experience. The most memorable "review" was from a woman who came up  to me and wanted two more copies. As nice as that was, she nearly made me cry when she said,"I read it to my children".... Asian Art Review wrote the following, three years after iatb was published! artreview-asia-review-of-iatb iatb has sold almost 2000 copies, qualifying it to be called "a Singaporean national bestseller". The follow up book, tiong bahru mouth, is very nearly done. iatb glassified information!iatb-glass Following the trailblazing path of the Thumb Kway artworks, the iatb kopi glass confuses and delights with its simple functionality, its cultural ambiguity and  its postmodern yet nostalgic pop art sensibility. There will soon be a crowdfunding project to fund the production of a limited edition of these glasses, as well as an unlimited edition. However, I now have a number of the glasses, so do let me know if you are interested in getting one. I have already received orders from stores, so things will be interesting. new topic: STORIES..from you! From your relatives or friends! from Tiong Bahru residents who only speak Chinese or Malay or any other language... I would love to listen to you! In case of languages other than English, I will find a translator. PHOTOGRAPHS Besides writing, I'm also an artist/videomaker/gamemaker and photographer. I have a degree in Photographic Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology and my works have been exhibited and collected in places like Tokyo, New York, Paris and  Hong Kong. I have been creating images from the second floor entrance of the market... I am testing a "print-on-demand" method of getting the prints to collectors and those interested in the work. To learn more about this and other iatb projects, click here for part 2.   THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST! sb  

An Open Letter to Facebook Groups with an interest in Tiong Bahru (part 2)

As mentioned in Part 1, the Tiong Bahru Mouth edition of photographs is now being prepared. Some images from the series are here. A description of the print ordering process is here, including links to the outstanding printer (Samuel Chia) and the museum-quality framer, Framehub.
sb-samuel-and-jonathon-at-isetan

SB (wearing VR viewer, the printer Samuel Chia and John Cheng, from Cheng Sugar, a Singaporean company that is over seventy years old!

This weekend (September 24 and 25), and next, I'll be at the Isetan at Wisma Atria, Level 1. I will be casually holding a seminar on the story behind the images, as well as the ordering process. This is a bit of an experiment and, from what I learn, I may develop a kind of "pop up" gallery in the future. new topic: AUDIOBOOK  Mirai Booth-Ong, a Los Angeles- based Singaporean actress/singer is now finalizing the iatb audiobook... new topic: CROWDFUNDING VIDEO "outtake" new topic: FREE  iatb EBOOK... just send me an email and I will send you the file. However, if you want to buy from Amazon... Also, I have a special offer of $18 for all 8 of my ebooks. Drop me an email if you are interested. new topic: T-SHIRTS...and soon iatb baby wear! 21528_925038137582297_1761505173788481572_n Thank you for reading this far, as well as your interest and support! See you in Tiong Bahru! Sincerely, Stephen Black The following interview starts with questions about Bali Wave Ghost, my most recent novel, but also covers a bit of the story behind i ate tiong bahru.

i ate tiong bahru book reviews + glasses + t-shirts

Reviews are now being collected and updated, but for now, there is only this link . i ate tiong bahru has sold almost 2000 copies, qualifying it as a national bestseller in Singapore. A second edition is now being planned. The follow up book is tiong bahru mouth. Printed copies of i ate tiong bahru are in all Singapore public libraries, as well as at Naiise, Booktique, Books Actually, Plain Vanilla, City Book Room, Kinokunya and excluniqueeee. Ebooks are available on Amazon.iatb-book-on-white-paper iatb-glass iatb-tshirt-and-porridge-vertical

The Exciting New Cemetery (casual presentations about photography by Stephen Black)

Who: Stephen Black
What: The Exciting New Cemetery
When: 3-9 PM, Saturday, September 24 and Sunday, September 25.
Where: Isetan, Wisma Atria Level 1 (nearest MRT: Orchard)
rainy-street-scene-tb-club
Stephen Black will be:
- projecting images from his latest series, entitled Tiong Bahru Mouth. The lens-based images were recorded at the entrance to the second floor of the Tiong Bahru Market.
- discussing, and reading from, his nearly completed book, also entitled Tiong Bahru Mouth.
- discussing a prototype pop up gallery/shop called ay4ya. For this project at Isetan, printing is provided by Samuel Chia (Cacao Editions). Framehub is the official framer.
- presenting the i ate tiong bahru book, Tshirts and kopitiam glasses which are soon to be in a crowdfunding campaign hosted by Zingohub.
The title of this casual, two-day seminar refers to the fact that "Tiong" is the Chinese word for 'cemetery' and "Bahru" is the Malay word for 'new'.
Online papers about photography written by Stephen Black;
Stephen Black graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technogy with a BFA in Photographic Illustration. His photographs and videos have been shown and collected around the world. He works with musicians,most recently 3howBeach Road, his co-production with hiverlab, was featured in the 2015 Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Film at the 2016 Las Vegas VR Fest.
SPOKEN, a virtual gallery collaboration with Eugene Soh, featured an international collection of artists and writers;curation by Stephen Black.
There will be other activities and presentations as well.
Questions? bookmerah16  at gmail.com

Tiong Bahru Mouth (images)

This gallery contains 8 photos.

… will require time to write about these…

The 2016 Sudden VR Festival (360 Videos on Youtube)

The following videos were created by some of the participants in the 2016 Sudden VR Festival. This year, the Sudden's first, there was no theme. In the spirit of building a VR community, all participants were able to submit work of whatever type they cared to. Lee Wen Ping Pong Go Round by Hiverlab and Stephen Black 360 Active Content Showreel  and 360 Video Asia Showreel by Picture Perfect Productions North Korea in 360 by Aram Pan Contributions for 360 VR are still coming in.

the exciting new cemetery (discussion of the fine art photography aspect)

A quick review... earlier this week I was given the opportunity to use a section Isetan's Level 1  to use. Located at Wisma Atria, the space is filled with some interesting popups, mainly fashion and lifestyle goods. I have named the space ay4ya. Ay4ya has three aspects.
  1. The Sudden VR Festival
  2. Networking and sharing. There is an open invitation to artists to present their works. Sales and pricing will be discussed and the approval of the organizers  is needed.The artist Rachel Jordan will be involved, for example.
  3. the exciting new cemetery
First, the title. The presentation centers around my book entitled i ate tiong bahru, as well as tshirts and a glass crowdfunding project that will soon be on zingohub. Tiong is a Chinese word meaning "cemetery", bahru is a Malay word meaning "new" and this event at Isetan is exciting! Photographs will be presented. The images that will be taped to the walls are from my series called Tiong Bahru Mouth. The images were recorded in the entrance to the Tiong Bahru Market, over a period of months. They are not meant to be documentary,which is all I can say for now. So... color printouts on the walls...and a laptop displaying the same images, plus more from  the series. I hope to be present to explain the images.  They are for sale... The printing will be done by Samuel Chia/Cacao Editions, whom I have known for quite some time. I considered him to be one of the best printers in Singapore years ago; he has become even more experienced and is always on top of technological advances, as well as  developments with paper and ink. The framing will be done by framehub. Samuel suggested them and from their client list of museums and galleries, I am very fortunate that they have agreed to support this experiment. Photography has always been a part of my life and I have a BFA degree in Photographic Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology, with prints in private collections as well as in the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and Columbia University.  My first show in Singapore, Huge Perpetual World, occurred in 2004, at the Photographers Gallery. Depth took place at Domain Gallery, but that show featured appropriated photographs taken by commercial divers. I have been in involved with the Singapore Biennale, film festivals and online exhibitions, but not with photography. Exciting New Cemetery is an experiment, a workshop of sorts. I plan to invite those with a serious interest in photography. Not to sell to them,but to network and get their opinions. The traditional gallery system is based on social patterns from decades ago. I am very interested in new approaches to art like Arto. With this project, I hope to develop new ways to present work, starting with photographs. Earlier I mentioned that I could not fully explain the motivations and questions behind the Tiong Bahru Mouth series.Writing takes time. However, this collaboration with Mee-Young Arkim, as well as the resultant series of blog posts, provides some related information

The Sudden VR Festival at Isetan, Wisma Atria

beachroad-0729_20159994314 On Monday, September 15 I was given the greenlight to use a small gallery-like space on Level 1 of the Isetan at Wisma Atria. I am naming the space ayfya. ay4ya has, at present, two  unique exhibitions. Both are raw, works in progress that are being developed. One exhibition is called the exciting new cemetery, which is based on my relationship with Tiong Bahru. Other artists are invited to participate, and Rachel Jordan is now involved. The other exhibition is The Sudden VR Festival. The Sudden Festival has quickly developed in the past few days. Lionel Chok who is the founder of immersively has provided content and a phone. Hiverlab has provided  viewing head gear. Hiverlab and I produced  Beach Road, which is also available for viewing. Stephen Black: producer/ viewer content contributor for viewer Hiverlab: contribution of four viewers/co-produced Beach Road Lionel Chok content contributor/equipment support Picture Perfect Productions content for 360 Youtube SingaporeVR content for 360 Youtube SPOKEN a virtual gallery by Eugene Soh and Stephen Black, featuring artists and writers from around the world OK...you are likely reading this because you are in Singapore and involved with VR. If you would like to be a part of The Sudden VR Festival, let me know. There is no theme. No charges or costs. Goal #1: treat this is as a beta, a prototype that could become a bigger event. Goal#2: interact with nongamers ;people on the street who have not yet experienced VR If you can be involved in any way, I thank you in advance. What is needed: gear (phones, a laptop or two), publicity and funding for printing/advertising. Still images!At the moment, I only have access to images of my own projects. I need some of your VR images! And if you are also a designer who has some time... Scheduling... at the moment I can only be there on Saturdays and Sundays, from 3-9.  Or, by appointment. If anyone would like to gallerysit, please let me know. Also, do keep in mind that the space can be used by anyone, only the gear needs to be considered. Valuable things will not be on display unless someone is there. Right now it is just a simple display; from this weekend on it will evolve and become more festival like. One hoped for result is that by October 3, contanet and equipment issues are settled and The Sudden VR Festival can leap from beta into being a "normal"festival. This is not updated, but gives you some idea... sudden-vr-festival-w-picture-perfect Lionel!    

as soon as appropriately possible…

This is one of those times where I need to define what I m doing and what I want to do... 1. Spend time with my family 2. Be open and supportive of those around me. 3. Repair relationships. 4. Get the glasses crowdfunding thing happening. 5. Print the second edition of i ate tiong bahru 6. Crowdfund the printing of Bali Wave Ghost 7.Take The Sudden VR Festival to the optimal level 8. Finances 9. Edit the I am LGB video 10. Produce the Tiong Bahru Mouth movie 11. Crowdfund the printing of the Tiong Bahru Mouth book 12. Produce the Tiong Bahru  Mouth exhibition of photographs 13. Throw a party in the Tiong Bahru Market 14. Finish Flame Magnet 15. Develop ay4ya