Stephanie & dog VCON 41

Stephanie Johanson is the art director, assistant editor, on-staff artist, and co-owner of Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine. How the heck do you start up a science fiction magazine?

The idea came to Stephanie around 4:00 AM one Sunday morning in 2003. Excitedly she woke up her husband. “Why don’t we start up a science fiction magazine?”

“Oh, that sounds interesting,” Karl mumbled. “I’ll think about it in the morning,” and rolled over and went back to sleep.

You’d think further discussion over coffee at breakfast would introduce sanity to the concept. Not at all. Before they knew it they were taking courses in bookkeeping, marketing, and promotion. They made the mistake of asking other Canadian magazine publishers for advice. They received plenty of advice. Despite all the warnings and cautionary tales, they went ahead with their project anyway.

Initially they chose the traditional route, namely hard copy print production with distribution by mail (subscription) and book stores. This involves a lot of record keeping, not to mention continually rising printing costs. Currently they are leaning more and more toward digital distribution.

To date they have produced 26 issues, averaging three issues a year whenever possible. In addition to wading through the fiction slush pile, Stephanie chooses the cover art. On occasion, she provides the cover art herself. Being a West Coast artist, her trademark signature is a landscape with an unobtrusive fantasy element which takes a keen eye to spot.

Neo-opsis #15 cover

For example, her cover for Neo-opsis #15 illustrates what appears to be a typical Vancouver Island shoreline, till you take a closer look. The detail close-up reproduced here reveals a mermaid grasping a rock to hold herself out of the surf while glaring at the painter.

Neo-opsis #15 cover detail

Another work I’ve seen is an interior view of a massive cave which opens on to the ocean. Only careful study reveals a dragon lurking in the shadow of a boulder. This is typical of her work. She loves to paint from nature but chooses to accent the natural with elements of the supernatural since, after all, myth and legend historically has often been inspired by unusually hallowed and hauntingly beautiful landscapes.

Though most of her art has focused on natural fantasy, Stephanie is proud to consider herself a “science fiction activist” which is to say, someone who actively advocates and promotes the creative nature of the science fiction and fantasy genre in all its aspects (remarkably similar to the mandate of VCON itself, in fact).

Another major aspect of Stephanie’s art is soapstone carving. Occasionally she teaches courses in this demanding art form which she has thoroughly mastered. The photo at bottom depicts three samples of her work. The fantasy element is strong in all three. Her ability to convert a lump of rock into a living sculpture with free flowing form which strikes the observer as perfectly natural is extraordinary. Beautiful carvings they be.

Stephanie Soapstones

More samples of her artwork can be found at the magazine website < www.neo-opsis.ca/art >