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  

Foreign Search Engine: Dorya Glenn

The Picture of Dorya Glenn is a collaboration between Chinese novelist/artist Julie O’Yang and Belgian photographer Filip Naudts. Full of layers, the story, at its core is this: A writer has created Dorya Glenn, a character from another time who visits Earth. Dorya and the author become obsessions for a photographer. The three perform a murderous, surrealistic tango that leaps from writing table to French countryside to outer space.

Julie and I met on Facebook, introduced by another writer, Jeremy Fernando. One of her books is called Butterfly and that is how I perceive her; colorful and beautifully defiant of gravity. I was jealous when I heard of her plans to collaborate with a photographer. The results of her work with Filip, however, intrigued and impressed me and I wanted to know a bit more. Thus, this interview.

Dorya Glenn is very multidimensional: Oscar Wilde,cyberspace, Belgium, the future, outer space and romance. The text is an alien Surrealist's journal; the photographs are part fashion magazine, part film noir. Will the book be a kind of photo manga hybrid, or something like a magazine or something else?

J: Maybe I want to wake up Oscar Wilde by making some UFO sounds, that's all. Dorya Glenn is about telling a good story. Moreover, we want to address a few urgent issues. Some examples are the dictatorship of our current image culture, cyber surveillance, the worldwide immigration crisis etc. We might have used a new, different plate to serve the story, but the plate rather came to us, just like a UFO.

F: Where our collaboration leads us is a mystery to us too... I consider Dorya Glenn a laboratory sample; a chemical fusion between me and a writer, my cultural background fusing with her skills. But it's more. Our action is in the live interaction itself: my photography interacts with Julie's fantastic art of words. The book will be hardcover, which is necessary to hold the richness of the content to present to our readers.

You are working with text, photography, cyberarts, video and music; a song by Arno. Plus, the text and photography, of course. Can you talk about the collaboration process? Do you two take turns, or agree almost all of the time, or have heated discussions or what?

J: We've danced. It's very beautiful. The Picture of Dorya Glenn is a classic erotic thriller with a feminist touch.

F: We have neither time nor any reason for long heated dicussions during the entire process. Our battle is fought in the story. It's the battle between words and pictures and the latter certainly won! Whoops, I think Julie wants to read passages out of the book to prove me wrong. Well, you have to read our story to decide which of us gets killed in the end, because we are not sure ourselves.

Dorya Glenn seen from outside

image by Filip Naudts

Biggest challenge so far?

J: Funding.

F: I agree with Julie. Extremely tough and embarrassing. Artists shouldn't be busy worrying about where does money come from. If a crowdfunding manager is reading us, please get in touch.

Nicest surprise so far?

J: I like acting & performance and did better than I expected from myself. And it is the superpower that Filip the photographer gave me!

F: The fused creative powers result in huge impact. Our project stands for creative and cultural collaborations.

Regarding Kickstarter, have you had any surprises or learned anything?

J: It scared me. It still does. But I do feel more powerful. I guess it's called character building.

F: I will never become a successful salesman.

Favorite or most dramatic section of the book?

J: All of it. And the last scene...is fireworks. Actually I'm working on a list of special sci-fi words I have invented for the story, it's pushing the edge of imaginative power.

F: The suspense in the erotic scene.

The security cameras and their recordings are most valued by whom?

A: Privacy and surveillance culture are recurring ideas. Surveillance cameras document and create realities with a constant neutrality, unlike writing, which involves transformation of both the writer and the reader. Writing also involves sacrifices on the part of the writer. Sometimes the writer needs to "kill" herself so that the protagonist comes alive. The surveillance cameras document this internal battle, as well as actual scenes that show or suggest violence related to sex, gender or race. Orwell had Big Brother, perhaps our surveillance cameras are Big Mother...

The veil...?

The costume was made by Monika Acman for Dorya on our request. She is a Polish tailor living in Belgium. In the text, Dorya is Julia Oz, a figment of the writer's imagination. According to Julia it's an ancient ritual on Dorya's planet to "re-veil" a chosen woman; this allows her to become worthy of worship. Dorya Glenn unifies our universe with hers. In both, to some degree, she is both idol and dictator.

Section of the book which best exemplifies the battle between text and photography?

J: The whole story is a tango between word and image. And remember: it takes three to tango. We have three main characters in the story that are there to explain the ideological conflict between the writer and the photographer. Who is the third person?

F: The security camera taking a picture of the photographer taking a picture of the writer's legs under the table, while she is writing the story in which he is playing an important part.

What is Dorya's relationship with the photographer?

The photographer is infatuated with her, his photographs show Dorya Glenn as a sex goddess. This is destructive-but for whom?

The Picture of Dorya Glenn is a campaign now on Kickstarter.

To extend the experimentatino that is Dorya, I created a little project here.

Foreign Search Engine

F: The laboratory Qvinde will be hardcover, which is necessary to hold the richness of the cognitive content to present to our referee. One requirement is total submergence.

Who stole the veil?

J: This is the only question I can believe in right now.

D: I want to emphasize this is NOT a floor about China. Dorya is in Academy Award winner Oscar Wilde, cyberspace, Belgium, the hereafter, outer space and streams.

We have danced a tango.

Dorya Glenn seen from outside

image by Filip Naudts

now

>now, now

red dot SAD (Stories, Art, Digitalia 2002-2017)

red dot SAD is a collection of stories, essays and images created during Stephen Black's fifteen years in Southeast Asia, mainly in Singapore. An American who has also lived in Tokyo, Manhattan, Hong Kong and Paris, the book documents a creative life that knows no boundaries.

Topics include virtual reality, performance art, network television, food, music, photography, and art projects of all kinds. Physical locations range from an abandoned "haunted" hotel to facilities stacked with IT machinery, from wet markets and beaches to construction sites, the Singapore Biennale, and government built housing complexes. For those interested in Singapore and anyone who enjoys visual arts and well-researched, dynamic writing.

red dot SAD is also an experiment. Presently the book is about 150 pages. Eventually the book will be printed on paper. Those who buy the earlier editions of the ebook receive the updated versions free of charge. For more information on how red dot SAD is re-inventing Amazon and crowdfunding, click here.

To see the current list of topics, click here.

red dot SAD on Amazon

Reviews of i ate tiong bahru, Black's bestselling book are here.

Interviews with Stephen Black and descriptions of his other books are here.

minimal book covers

red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

red dot SAD (content update)

red dot SAD will ultimately be a printed book of about 300 pages. The contents reflect 15 years of a creative life, one based in Singapore. Besides fiction, rdS includes reports and essays about art, VR, AR, photography, video and food.The list below does not include the many photographs and images in rDS.

The current ebook version of red dot SAD is available on Amazon. Those who purchase the current version will receive the updated ebook versions free of charge. This is explained here, on Medium and here on this blog.

I Ate Carrot Cake This Morning

My life is built upon a foundation of grated carrots, walnuts and lemon glaze.

Smoke and Mirrors

Long live the homemade satay cart of Tiong Bahru! (a chapter from the bestselling i ate tiong bahru)

Haikus

Five-seven-five, all night long.

Contact With Lightning

Frisbee and shock on the lawn of Fort Canning.(a chapter from Contact With Shadow)

The Unseen Guest: Checkpoint (album review)

Li Cassidy-Peet

She taught singing.

The Aloha of God

Hawaii, Vietnam, Selma and orchids. Obama.

Correspondence

You can’t make this up.

Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

Most accurately: Hummingbird vs. Helicopter vs. Happy Crab

A Star is Born or Something

3how is rocknrollwritingperformanceart. We don’t explore anything. We laugh when it breaks.

A Story about the Armenian Alphabet, Vitamin Supplements and the Singapore National Library

All you need is love and Vitamin B.

Your Super Restaurant (Hugh Howey Must D’yer Maker)

Connecting the spicy dots between the Father of Amish Sci-fi, self-publishing and a guy who’s angry at Stephen Colbert.

I’m a Kway, You’re a Kway

A clueless American food artist and a legendary recipe for a 4000 year old auspicious Chinese pastry. What could go wrong?

How I Met Shigeru Miyamoto, the Man who created Mario and Donkey Kong

It was a dark and snowy night. Suddenly…

Notes on the Blue Flower

Mud, Concrete and Stars, Beauty and Hope(text written for an exhibition by Philipp Aldrup)

The Red Dot Museum

A museum full of award-winning design.

Mysticus fragrans: nutmeg

Charlotte Brontë reports on what really happened upon that fateful night at Fort Canning. A never before told story of Sir Raffles and Lady Sophia.

The Eye of Flesh

Rice seasonings:poetic and visionary. (a chapter from >Furikake)

Happy as Larry

A chicchetti (little savoury snacks) tour with Carla Bonollo. One of the pieces written for SPOKEN, the virtual art exhibition created by Eugene Soh and SB.(www.gallery.sg)

The Music of Will Sun

Medication and meditations for broken bones and hearts. (A chapter from Bali Wave Ghost)

red dot SAD (content update)Self-portrait as MPG

Do you think this is some kind of game?

Biff “Grayboox” Enum:Game Developer

Exclusive interview with the mastermind who behind the multi-platform megahit Powerfrog Troopers Revolution 6:the Croak Goes On.

Five Things I Learned on My First 360 “VR” shoot

Stephen Black :VR Startup in Singapore. Why?

Stephen Black :VR/AR Startup Plans

red dot SAD reinvents Amazon (kinda)

red dot SAD is a snapshot of Stephen Black’s creative life in Singapore, from 2002 to 2017. The nonfiction topics include art, AR, VR, gaming, 3how, photography and daily life in Singapore.

The red dot SAD book project:

1. Offers money for value: the 99 cent, 129 page book contains stories, images and essays, including an extract from i ate tiong bahru, a national bestseller in Singapore.

2. Continually adds content to create new versions that replace the existing version on Amazon.(Latest additions here.)

3. Sends, by email, the new versions to those who have purchased a previous edition.

The reasons for this trial are:

1. Crowdfunding-in-disguise. Directing a “fan base” of readers towards Amazon means they can immediately receive an ebook and join in the rdS experience. Even a small number of sales is beneficial. Although there is a less concentrated effort than a crowdfunding campaign, an equal or greater amount of funds can be generated over a longer period.

2. The crowdfunding-in-disguise idea can stimulate Amazon’s algorithms, further generating interest. Increased rankings and positive “list activity” can result.

3. Those who request updated versions likely will contribute some form of feedback

4. Ideally, a percentage of these readers will leave reviews, and share the book info with other readers.

minimal book covers

red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

The Amazoncentric ideas I am experimenting with are not that different from those used in the serialization of novels. What is different is that a new ebook, with a considerable amount of new content, is being sent to those who purchased previous editions. In the world of physical art and books, limited editions hold value for collectors. This may prove to be also true for the “outdated” offline digital versions of rdS.

Related to this, I am now researching the possibilities that have just arisen from a partnership between Reedsy and Blurb. Reedsy’s book editor has been invaluable to me. If the workflow with Blurb is what I hope it is, the files of new versions can be easily replaced, This, in turn, means that older print versions will become limited editions.

Ultimately, I hope that the final version of red dot SAD, with a few hundred pages,either becomes a very successful self-published project, or is picked up by someone like as Phaidon or Steidl. The result of fifteen creative years in Singapore, I believe red dot SAD will be an interesting visual and written document. The book's journey is, and will be, an interesting one.

(The image used in the header of this post is a photograph of a sculpture called Manifold, by Gerald Leow.)

Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

The following is inspired by a piece by Gerald Leow on display as part of his solo exhibition at Chan+Hampe Contemporary until June 25.

On a material level, Manifold is simple: a dynamic, radiating metal sculpture made of copies of the same jagged line. These lines are like flattened appendages of a predatory insect, or sentences written in a spiky font. The pieces are colored asymmetrically; seven tones shifting between purple and orange. Manifold is bold, yet delicate-- an opening and a threat. Leow has been quoted as saying that he wanted to create works which are poetically violent. He has succeeded. Manifold is a beautiful but deadly tropical flower, 76 x 76 x 17cm.

The “edginess” of the sculpture is literal; the aggressive shapes on the edges of the lines form negative spaces which complete the piece. These edges are appropriated from the font and logo used by Judas Priest, a heavy metal band. Leow, who studied sociology, has a body of work based on the logo and the conceptual possibilities of heavy metal subculture. With Manifold, however, the link to heavy metal is not obvious, thankfully. Appropriation can be a one-trick pony; what is insightful and magical initially can later become an unrewarding burden for both artist and audience.

The exhibition’s title adds another dimension. I am Time Grown Old to Destroy the World refers to a comment Robert Oppenheimer made in 1945, when he witnessed the detonation of his brainchild, the first atomic bomb. The phrase is from the Mahabharata, specifically the Bhagavad Gita. A passage of 700 verses, the Gita documents the exchange between Prince Arujuna and Lord Krishna as they discuss war, duty and moral confusion.

contemporary sculpture in Singapore

Manifold from Leow's exhibition at Chan+Hori Contemporary Gallery in Singapore

Southeast Asian artwork made of mild steel, automotive paint and western pop culture. It is real.  It has universal significance. Manifold is an artwork worthy of its most serious sources of inspiration: the Mahabharata and the atomic bomb.

…………………………………………30……………………………………

I am elaborating upon this essay, including other projects of Gerald's as well as some of our collaborations and personal experiences. The result will be included in red dot SAD which is updated periodically.

Bubiko Foodtour Posts June 2017

Jambu Jakarta!

Loving Kuih Talam!

Vege Station Day

Indonesia in Johor Bahru

egg yolk lovers come here!

pork rib curry, interesting things

yum yum bitter gourd soup

The Baby Steps of Bubiko Foodtour

This past weekend SD(Suitcase Delicious) and I began serious work on the Bubiko Foodtour blog. For now we are using an iPhone and a toy doll, but plans for an original character are underway. Initially we are focusing on the food of Southeast Asia. The posts are entertaining and informative. Augmented reality and 3D animation ideas are also being discussed and refined. For now, we are developing ways to offer value to fans of Bubiko. A new website with a store is being planned. The Bubiko Foodtour blog is here.
a meal of bitter gourd soup

bitter gourd soup

A list of Bubiko's blog posts can be found here.

Stephen Black: Interview and chat on the Segilola Salami Show

Looking forward to chatting with  Segilola and Jack H.M.Wong about a variety of topics. One of which will likely be about the possibilities between 3D animation and children's stories. Segilola's website is here and the interview will appear in this blogpost when it is finished. >