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.

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