It’s been over 17 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 occurred here merits more than just a nod to survival in an increasingly disgraceful, ruthless, throwaway medium. This is not so much a testament to the resilience 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 creative possibilities of an inexpensive and new form of expression evolved into an international effort of artists, one whose collected works (a mere click away in our Vault of Smoke) is startling in its thematic range and breadth. 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 very, very 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 Magazine, 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 we are 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 especially, the inimitable Kurt Eisenlohr (whose striking work has graced these pages every issue since that very first one in 2000).
While plenty has changed in the years since October 2000, all of the assaults on our sensibilities and basic human decency railed against then are still in place, in all cases having badly worsened. Smokebox (if viewed as a device of catharsis) has done its share of spleen-venting in the years since, and will no doubt let fly with 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 the respite that creative energy and output can provide.
Mostly, just thanks for reading the stories. It means a lot to the crew that puts this unholy but strangely blessed thing together.
In the end, what keeps us going is the colors and words and narratives and music and mayhem and bleeding and crying and laughing. If producing Smokebox has taught us anything it is that “art” is a broad and loosely defined concept. Eyes wide open. Listen for the quiet, determined voice of the storyteller. Don’t be misled by the highly corrosive interweb onslaught of irony, bombast and pretense hiding much darker, more nefarious objectives. ‘Artists’ grow everywhere you choose to open up to them. Find one. Love one. Be one.
— January 2017