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Cardiff Character: Steve Upham

Steve working hard at Cardiff's first Horror Expo, Scardiff

Steve working hard at Cardiff’s first Horror Expo, Scardiff, where he released his 23rd title

Steve Upham, his casual dress and long effortlessly maintained hair, look part of the furniture in a Cardiff rock bar. The artist-turned-publisher may appear a wallflower but his books are rocking the intrepid world of British horror.

Steve’s independent press, Screaming Dreams, is a Cardiff based publisher with humble beginnings.

The one-man show started off as a personal page for showcasing digital artwork when making furniture for a living just wasn’t satisfying Steve’s creative lust quite enough.

A personal page became an online magazine, which quickly led to a following and a whole host of printed titles in the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres.

No Modest Feat

Steve, 41, is a reserved man, he doesn’t boast of his achievements, but he by no means lacks in them. His first digital art show at WorldCon (World Science Fiction Convention) in Glasgow, 2005, featured over 7000 people and all his pictures sold. He recalls having “panic attack” at the thought of his work showcasing along side his idols.

It was only just over two years ago that Steve finally took the plunge and focused on Screaming Dreams full-time. Taking commissions for his digital artwork, editing submissions and publishing works of fiction.

His deals are made mostly in conventions where you get to know everyone in the industry:

“You’d be surprised how many deals are done at a bar- you discuss ideas over a few drinks and a book is born.”

From a young age, Steve loved horror. He recalls growing up on hammer horror films. Bride of Frankenstein was a real influence, with the black and white imagery and shadows. He favors character-driven, atmospheric horror full of tension and suspense.

An avid reader, Steve always appreciated books as well as visual art. Authors such as Clive Barker, Stephen King and James Herbert made long-lasting impressions.

Who does he wish he’d had a chance to discover? Richard Matheson, a literary master and author of I Am Legend. Joe Hill is another author he wishes Screaming Dreams had found; the secret son of Stephen King was picked up by a fellow indie publisher.

“If you get your art on a book cover it can go all around the world”

One of Screaming Dreams aims, he says, is to “take new talent and give them a stepping stone onto bigger and better things.”

Steve published a book by unknown author, Allyson Bird; she went on to win a British Fantasy Award for it and sign with an American publisher; eventually claiming a Bram Stoker Award, a huge achievement for any horror writer.

Steve would love to expand on the range of books he produces; maybe delve into illustrated art books, but print publishing costs money. It’s the downside to the job – running your own business is hard work.

His trips to the bank are always lightened up, however, when paying into the SD account the tender never fails to ask him: “What’s Screaming Dreams?” with a little snigger. Steve always finds it fun to explain.

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