Friday, August 28, 2009

The Editors: Steve Upham

Screaming Dreams is an independant press producing paper and ebooks in all the speculative genres. Editor Steve Upham also produces the ezine Estronomicon. To find out about both of these ventures, I tracked Steve down to deepest Wales where we chatted among the valleys.

GDJ: Can you tell us how you came to be running a small press imprint and a genre magazine?

SU: By accident really! Originally I wanted to pursue the artwork side of things and the SD website was setup as a personal homepage for my illustrations. Then along the way I got to know other artists and started to include a small showcase section on the site to display samples of their work too. From there I guess it was a natural progression to develop that further and the eZine idea was born, to feature the work of more artists.

I hadn't thought about including short stories in the eZine to begin with, but after attending WorldCon 2005 I started to get to know a lot of authors who seemed interested in submitting their work. So then Estronomicon took a different turn and became more of a fiction 'zine, but still retaining the artwork showcases in most issues.

Of course, it wasn't long before the authors (and readers) started to ask me if I would produce a print version of the magazine, but I didn't feel it was financially viable. But it did get me wondering about publishing paperback books, so I decided to give it a try and I haven't looked back since!

GDJ: The title ‘Screaming Dreams’ suggests you’re looking for perhaps darker stories, while Estronomicon always suggests Victorian SF to me. Do the titles reflect your reading preferences?

SU: It's actually a bit unfortunate that a lot of people think Screaming Dreams is just a horror publisher, as I also enjoy fantasy, science fiction, slipstream and humorous stories too. So the titles are probably not an ideal indication of my full preferences, but everyone seems to really like the SD name so I stuck with it.

The name Estronomicon is derived from the Welsh word 'estron' which means 'strange' (as I'm a Welsh-based publisher, I thought it would be nice to reflect that in the name). The rest of the title is inspired by the infamous Necronomicon, so the 'zine title means something like 'Book Of The Strange'. I thought this may be an appropriate description for the type of content that will be included.

GDJ: What is it you look for in a story when it lands in your in-box?

SU: Just something that's a little different or has in interesting storyline. I tend to like stories that are character-driven and build tension and suspense as they go along. As long as it's fairly well written and entertaining, that's the main thing for me.

GDJ: Do authors submit work relevant to the magazine or do you get completely random submissions?

SU: Most of the eZine submissions tend to be short horror or SF stories which are ideal, but I do get the occasional submission which makes me wonder if the author has actually read the submission guidelines! I think some authors will submit their work to every magazine out there in the hope it will get picked up, rather than carefully selecting the titles that are most suitable for their story.

GDJ: You produce both paper and e-books. What advantages does this offer and how do you decide which to produce for a certain book?

SU: Publishing paperback books is expensive, even doing short print runs using digital presses. So I'm limited to how many titles I can release each year in this format. E-books, on the other hand, are a great way for SD to expand the fiction titles available at little extra cost. So it makes sense for me to offer both types of books on the website.

How do I choose? I guess it's down to the submissions I receive, as some authors are willing to allow their work to be released as a free eBook for extra exposure, while others are obviously looking to earn royalties on a printed title. I think most authors would prefer to see their work in print, but it simply isn't possible for me to offer this to everyone as the funds for SD are very limited indeed!

GDJ: I hear you’ve been quite ill in the past year or so. How do you schedule your time to work on the ‘zine and the book imprint?

SU: The unexpected health issues have certainly had a big impact on my life, and obviously affected my plans for Screaming Dreams since then. As I haven't been able to work my day-job for the past year there's been little money coming in to help pay for the book printing, which makes things extremely difficult to say the least! But I'm doing my best to carry on regardless.

Although I'm not working, a lot of my time has still been taken up with hospital appointments and other things that need to be done, but the rest of the time has allowed me to carry on with the SD website, eZine and books over the past few months, so I have been making progress.

GDJ: What plans do you have for books and ‘zine in the next year or two?

SU: A lot will depend on how things develop with my health, so I can't say for certain yet. But if all goes well then the plan is to carry on publishing the next few book titles on my list and continue with the eZine as usual. So there are no major changes in mind for the next year or two, it's mainly just trying to catch up with my backlog of existing work.

After that, who knowS?!

GDJ: Thanks for your time.

SU: You are most welcome.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dog's Best Friend Reviewed

Jupiter has been reviewed at The Fix for the first time, and David Hebblethwaite has this to say about my contribution:

Rounding things off is “Dog’s Best Friend” by Gareth D. Jones. This is a very short piece (one page), attached to the universe of Jones’s “Roadmaker” stories, but it stands perfectly well on its own. It is a character study of Alf, who lives in a post-apocalyptic society, and would rather spend time with dogs than seek out human contact. The story is nicely effective within its limited parameters, and ends the magazine on a poignant and thoughtful note.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Anthologies

That's all I can say. Two anthologies that have got just beyond the 'I've got an idea...' stage. I may be involved somehow in both, assuming either of them progress any further. Admittedly, that's not much news, but I had to tell someone!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Linked Stories

Several of my stories are set against the same backgrounds, though it’s not always obvious that they do. I never intended to do that, although there is a certain appeal in returning to a familiar setting.

The orbital habitat Astropolis is the setting for:

The Blind Collaborators - Aphelion
Travel by Numbers – Nature
Up to my Neck in it – Hypersonic Tales
Three AM – Golden Visions (Forthcoming)

The European Hadron Laboratory, based loosely on CERN, is the setting or background for:

Absolute Zero - Ennea
Fluctuations – Bewildering Stories
Turning Over a New Leaf – Aphelion

Turning Over a New Leaf was also set in Dan Hollifield’s Mare Inebrium universe, for Aphelion, along with Ten Years at the Bar.

My abandoned novel Galaxy’s Game, which sadly will never see the light of day, also shares a background with some of my stories, and obscure references to some of them were built into the storyline. I tried to resuscitate Galaxy’s Game recently, but it needs too much work to get it up to scratch. At least I know my writing has improved over the past five years. The stories that share it’s background are:

A Feast of Eyes – Static Movement
Blue Men - Friday Flash Fiction
The Alliterati – Illuminations

Finally, Rufus Balikind, the Galaxy’s greatest big-game hunter appears in three stories:

Shooting Stars – Big Pulp (Forthcoming)
Now You See Me - Friday Flash Fiction
Stone Quarry - Friday Flash Fiction

The latter is also a sequel to Delayed Reaction Illuminations, to be reprinted in Cat Tales.

My other 54 stories have nothing in common.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Tale of Two Novels

Roadmaker is in the final editing stages, though I have to admit I’m a bit weary of the task at the moment. I need a break so I can come back refreshed for the final assault.

To fill the gap that Roadmaker will leave, I’m already working on the next novel, entitled Gap Years. This started life as flash fiction, then was expanded to a 1500 word story. My Orbiter writing group liked the concept I’d come up with, but suggested I expand on the middle section. As I started thinking about it the possibilities and ramifications took off and I realised there was potential for much more.

This time I’m determined to follow all the advice I’ve been reading and plan the thing properly. Last week I wrote a synopsis of the proposed novel, fleshing out some of the concepts into a coherent plot. Next I wrote a plot summary, breaking it down into a series of scenes, each with just a few words. I’m now going through the summary and expanding each heading with thoughts and ideas about the locations, secondary characters, motivations etc.

I’ve written a ½ page biography of the main character. It has far more detail than I’ll likely need but will help to keep him consistent. I’ve also spent some time researching the small island that he comes from.

Another idea that I’ve adopted is to include photos of the characters in the summary. I’ve got some famous people pasted into the plot now. This helps to maintain consistent descriptions throughout the book. I’ve found photos of spaceships and boats too that I can base descriptions on.

Not too much more preparation and I’ll be ready to begin…

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Focus on Writing

The latest edition of the BSFA's Focus magazine for writers has arrived. It always has a nice mixture of articles - advice on writing techniques from succesful authors, and articles on all kinds of writing-related subjects. This issue includes my article What Are They Thinking? in which I've selected comments from numerous editors whom I interviewed last year. I'm very proud to be appearing in this specialist publication.

Friday, August 07, 2009

New Collaboration

Over the past couple of weeks I've been working on a collaborative story with Jonathan C Gillespie, whose stories have twice appeared in Murky Depths. Paston, Kentucky appeared alongside my own Looking In, Looking Out in issue #1 and his more recent contribution Best in Class is a finalist for the Parsec Awards.

We're working on a science fiction / fantasy hybrid that's just reached the 4000 word mark. It's probably going to be closer to 10,000 words by the time we finish. It's a novel and fun experience having another author to bat ideas around with. I'll let you know how we get on.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

In the Post

The postman has been very kind over the past few days. Murky Depths #9 arrived, with another fabulous cover. I just sat and inhaled the aroma for several minutes. Then my latest delivery from SF Crowsnest came. I have Greg Egan’s new collection Oceanic, Charles Stross’ new collection Wireless and the new special edition, huge Ray Bradbury collection The Martian Chronicles from Subterranean Press and PS Publishing. I have an ARC, but the final version will be a hardback signed limited edition, priced at $300, or a super-limited edition at $900. Wow!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New Flash Fiction Sale

My flash fiction Shooting Stars, featuring the Galaxy's greatest big-game hunter Rufus Balikind, has been accepted by Big Pulp. It's scheduled to appear on the website at the end of September, with a PDF version due in October.

Monday, August 03, 2009

New Text and Audio Story On-Line

My flash fiction Up To My Neck In It is now on-line at Hypersonic Tales, where you can both read it and listen to it. It’s set aboard the orbital habitat Astropolis, the same location as The Blind Collaborators, Travel by Numbers and the forthcoming Three AM.

As with several of my other stories, this one isn’t written in a standard format. This time I’ve written it as an article from the station newsletter.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Gondolier in Greek

My contributor copy of issue #15 of Greek small-press magazine Ef-Zin has arrived. It includes the translation of The Gondolier. There's a great illustration to go with it and the cover art is based on the story too.

The Gondolier has now been published in English, Spanish, Romanian, Hindi and Greek. Plus I've posted on this sites translations in Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Manx, Breton, Latin and Basque. Cornish and Welsh translations will published elsewhere later this year. I have translations in French, Dutch, Hebrew, Russian and Swedish still looking for homes.