It’s been over 16 years now, much to our amazement, since Smokebox first sputtered to life as an internet-only, noncommercial e-zine of “pollution-fueled commentary.” There’s been a whole lotta water under that bridge since then.
What has been accomplished here merits more than just a toast to survival. Which is not so much a testament to the resilience, wisdom or talent of Smokebox’s core editorial team, as much as a nod to the incredible, insensible, humbling generosity of our contributors. What started as a small group of surfers, punks and social misfits messing around with the possibilities of a new medium evolved into a truly international effort of artists, one whose collected works (a mere click away in our Vault of Smoke) is nothing short of staggering in its range and breadth of perception. That’s what we were hoping for when we started out and seeing it come to pass is what has sustained us in the years since. It’s overwhelming. It’s cool. But most of all, it is pure, uncut and real.
Anyone who has written a book that includes acknowledgements knows the feeling of dread that they will commit the unforgivable act of leaving out people who deserve unstinting thanks, so let us apologize now to those who go unnamed.
Smokebox would have had a hard time getting off the ground without the help of our east coast sister publication, the long-departed Lurch, and their team of Mike Morgan, Brendan Costello and the inimitable Bill Carney. Kristina Eldredge’s “My Fluent Mundo” column added solid literary criticism in our early years, and John Pinamonti’s “Root Cellar” did the same for music, touching on everything from Honky Tonk Heroes to Dueling Ukeleles. Sports, culture, essays, Mr. Grant’s Rant, interviews (Greg Sage, Tom Tomorrow, David James Duncan, John Backderf, Johnny Ramone, the Monkey Boy and many more), all of these have to them a certain ebb and flow in the overall tone and makeup of Smokebox. Fiction came to the fore about five years in; flash fiction made its appearance more recently than that; but thanks to the talents of our regular contributors and those who submit from out of the blue I’m always floored by the distinct personality of each issue as it comes together. Brian Doyle, Laine Perry, David Moscovich, Ed Markowski — follow the links and make no mistake — the writers are the foundation of the whole project.
Except then there’s the the art. The words lay down the rules, but the pictures lay down the law. It has always been imperative that each issue of Smokebox has its own mood and feel. Though we have featured the illustration work of many over the years, it would be disgraceful not to mention the graciousness of artists Troy Dockins, Dee Sunshine and the inimitable Kurt Eisenlohr (whose striking work has graced these pages since the very first issue).
While plenty has changed in the years since October 2000, many if not all of the assaults on our sensibilities and dignity railed against then are still in place, in many cases having worsened. Smokebox has done its share of spleen-venting in the years since, and will no doubt let fly with plenty more rants and ruminations in years to come, but we have no intention of letting the temporal repercussions of simply existing in the 21st century steal from us the respite that art truly provides. If you were to run your iPhone over with a rotary blade push mower and punt your Kindle through your laptop screen in a fit of Howard Beal-worthy rage we certainly couldn’t (and wouldn’t) blame you.
But since you haven’t (and won’t) thanks for reading. Really. It means a lot to the crew that puts this unholy but strangely blessed thing together.
In the end, what keeps us going is art and colors and words and stories and music and mayhem and bleeding and laughing until you have to smile in spite of it all. If producing Smokebox has taught us anything it is that “art” is a broad and loosely defined concept. Don’t be misled. Artists are everywhere. Find one. Love one. Be one.
— January 2017