“A Big Family”—A Letter from the Editor

by Christopher Allen September 17, 2018

This has been such a full year so far for the SmokeLong family. Our first competition—the SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction—was a staggering success, resulting in 23 killer stories in Issue 60. We’ll be holding the competition again in 2020 (so now would be a good time to start drafting something amazing). The other big news: on May 21 we became a paying market!

This year, we’ve also welcomed two new submissions editors to the staff: April Bradley and Helen Rye, both sensitive and insightful editors. We’re thrilled to have them in the SmokeLong family and are grateful for the work they’ve already done. And, if you’ve had a look at our masthead recently, you’ll have noticed we’ve done a bit of nominal rearranging. You’ll also have seen that we are legion. It takes one. Each person on our staff does something quite special for SmokeLong and the wider flash fiction community.

One of these is Huan Hsu, whose creative writing class works with SmokeLong periodically to choose a story. We’re excited to see flash fiction used in the classroom and are very interested in learning about the experiences of people involved in bringing new voices to the form. If you are a creative writing instructor and teach flash fiction, we’d love to publish your thoughts.

One new voice is our SmokeLong fellow, Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor. Just weeks ago he moved to the US to study. This is such an exciting time for him, and we wish him all the success in the world. Another very new voice is our social media editor, Megan Phillips’, baby! He’s not writing flash fiction just yet, but I’m sure he’s vocal. We also wish him great success.

We’re also excited to tell you that later this year on November 27 we’re holding a SmokeLong reading in Singapore. That’s right. Book your tickets now (if you come from the US, I’ll definitely buy you a drink, which in Singapore will cost as much as your plane ticket). SmokeLong contributors Elaine Chiew and Sharmini Aphrodite as well as SmokeLong editors Shasta Grant and Christopher Allen will be reading.

But right now we have this issue to bring you, and it’s all about family. There is no end to the mysteries and miseries of family. You’d think writers would have run out of stories centuries ago, but the bonds that bind us are tight and surely limitless.

At SmokeLong we don’t have themed issues but also somehow usually end up having a themed issue. Does that make sense? Themes have their way of emerging. While I think most fiction is in some way about family, Issue 61 is hilariously, tragically, weirdly–and above all consistently–about the relationships that shape us (and of course also about rabbits). The ending of Janika Oza’s “Gathered Family” sums up Issue 61 quite well, when Carl turns to the narrator and says “it must be exhausting to have such a big family.” The narrator’s unspoken response to Carl is so poignant and true, but I’ll let you read that for yourself.

From Gary Moshimer’s endearing and sharp “Sweetness” to Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor’s troubling “A Case of Fire,” each of these 17 stories, and their accompanying interviews, examines themes of identity within a community of sometimes loving, sometimes hostile characters, each in its unique way.

Christopher Allen

About the Author:

Christopher Allen's debut collection of flash fiction, Other Household Toxins, is available from Matter Press. His fiction, non-fiction and book reviews have appeared widely, most recently in Lunch Ticket, New Flash Fiction Review, Jellyfish Review, [PANK], and The Lobsters Run Free, Bath Flash Fiction Volume Two. He is the co-editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.