This interview is with Screaming Dreams’ Editor-in-Chief, Steve Upham.
When and how did Screaming Dreams form?
It started purely as a personal homepage, around the turn of the Millennium. It was early days for my attempts with digital artwork and I originally created the site as a place to upload some of my images at the time. The site then expanded by publishing other artist’s work and interviews, and it grew from there really.
The breakthrough came after attending my first ever convention in 2005. I decided the site needed something else to ‘reach out’ to a wider audience, and the Estronomicon eZine was born. I had no idea at the time that it would take off in the way it did, but from then on it seemed to take on a life of its own.
Of course, it wasn’t long before the lure of print called out to me. ‘Print books’ it whispered, until I could no longer resist! So I tried it and have been hooked ever since.
What attracted you to the horror genre?
I guess I grew up watching too many old B&W horror films when I was a kid! I loved anything scary from a young age. Loved the imagery, the imagination of it all. And I’ve always loved reading too, so it was only natural that I’d enjoy horror books as well.
What type of horror do Screaming Dreams publish?
I prefer more ‘subtle’ and atmospheric horror, rather than all out gore. I always think what you ‘don’t see’ is sometimes scarier than simply coming face-to-face with some horrific monster or whatever. If you don’t know what’s after you, then it builds the tension and fear inside.
I like stories that are very character-driven. The location can be anywhere and the time period doesn’t matter either, it’s always the people that are the most important part of any tale for me. If you care about the characters in the book, then you should enjoy the story.
Talk us through some of the key authors at Screaming Dreams.
I wouldn’t say there are any ‘key’ authors as I’ve always considered Screaming Dreams to be a long-term project, with every person being as important as the next. It’s not about the ‘names’ for me, it’s purely about the work. If I like something, I will publish it. I give the same amount of attention to a book by a first time author as I would to a more established one. I try to be as fair as possible and give everyone the same opportunities. I know that may sound a bit of a weak answer, but that’s the way I’ve always worked at SD!
I’m looking forward to publishing The Screaming Book of Horror, due to be launched at FantasyCon in September. Johnny Mains is currently selecting the stories and editing this anthology, which will contain work by Bernard Taylor, Reggie Oliver, David A Riley, Paul Finch, Rhys Hughes, Sara Brunsdon and more.
Johnny and I are also busy collaborating on a joint publishing venture (between Screaming Dreams and Noose & Gibbet) called The Year. This is a rather ambitious project containing a large collection of 52 stories, one for each week of the year. We aim to launch this book at the World Fantasy Convention in 2013.
I also have several other titles waiting in the wings, so keep watching the SD website over the coming months for any announcements.
What are you most proud of thus far, and why?
I think it’s just the fact that when I started all this I knew nobody in the business (and nobody knew me), plus I had no experience with this type of thing, so I was amazed at how quickly things took off. I honestly never expected this much interest in Screaming Dreams, so I have been very pleased at the response to what I’ve been doing.
It was also nice to be shortlisted in some awards over the past few years too. And when Allyson Bird won ‘Best Collection’ for Bull Running for Girls, it was quite an experience to be at the ceremony and watch her get up on stage to receive the British Fantasy Award for a book that SD published. I think those are the moments when you realise what you are doing is having some impact out there.
I don’t think there’s any threat to print in the short term. People have been predicting the death of print for years, but we still have an awful lot of paper around us to prove them wrong! Of course we have new generations growing up with the advances in technology and it’s good that they are embracing these tools. I don’t think we should shy away from e-books, but the mistake many people make is they think it’s an either/or situation. There’s this absurd belief that ALL print books have to be replaced by e-books in future. But there’s no rule that says that e-books and print can’t co-exist.
Personally I think e-books are ideal for things like newspapers and magazines that have a very short shelf-life. And for reference books too, things that might be too obscure to make printing viable, or for titles that are out of print. It’s so easy to download what you need any time of day or night, without having to go to the shops or even order a physical book and wait for delivery. This is a fantastic development in my opinion.
When it comes to reading fiction on screen though I have mixed feelings. Although I use a computer pretty much every day of my life, I still find it much easier and more comfortable to pick up a trusty old paperback if I want to read a novel or whatever. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old and set in my ways. Plus the collector in me still wants to buy those lovely signed limited edition slipcased hardbacks!
Buying a print book is quite a different experience than purchasing an e-book. You are getting a physical product, as well as the content. So I think that difference will always attract a certain audience, as printed books can be things of beauty in their own right too. And where would be the fun in taking your Kindle to a convention and getting the authors to sign it for you?! I think print will be with us for a while yet.
Are you currently open for submission?
No, not for the print books unfortunately as I already have enough submissions to keep me going for quite a while. I’m always open to subs for the eZine though.
What authors would you love to see write for Screaming Dreams?
I’ve been fortunate to have worked with quite a few of the authors I really admire already. But if I had to pick a name or two who I’d like to add to the SD line-up in the future, it would be Simon Clark and Tim Lebbon. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read by both these authors and it would be an honour to work with them on something one day.
Hmm, difficult question! Stephen King is an obvious choice, in modern times, purely down to the sheer amount of exposure that modern media has allowed for his work to be seen (and adapted) around the world. So how would authors from previous generations compete with that? I think if you asked anyone in the street to name a famous horror writer, King’s name would be at the top of their list. That’s influence.
But if we had to go back a bit then I’d say Poe is one who has reached a lot of people over the years. Long before King stories were being adapted into movies, Poe’s tales were popular translations for the big screen too, so these are stories that will be familiar to a wider audience than those who read only the books.
I know I’m not just talking about the work in its original written form here, but I think it’s worth mentioning the film angle (or any other adaptation) if we are dealing with the subject of influence, as exposure in other media does help determine how many people the stories ultimately reach.
What does the future hold for Screaming Dreams?
To continue pushing forward with the print books, money permitting, plus making sure I cater for the Kindle crowd as well this year. I also want to get back on track with the eZine schedule, to make it more regular again. Plus I’ll be working hard to get more artwork commissions from other publishers this year, as I would really like to get more of my art ‘out there’ in future.