There is some suggestion that no one is quite sure why SMOKE is called SMOKE.
At least that’s what our chief editor Rachel Edwards suggested in a interview with the Australia Broadcasting Commission. There have been some very clever allusions to all sorts of possibilities but as it goes for an origin, they are frankly a load of shit. Everyone involved with Transportation Press, except me, has forgotten the roots, and the roots are pretty simple. SMOKE comes from the Chinese literary term smoke-long, a term used in reference to fiction of a set length, fiction that can be read in the time that it takes to smoke a cigarette.
Smoke, and the act of smoking, becomes a unit of measurement and the measure is time. And the optimum time? Well that depends on your universal vice, the grams, the make, is there a filter? is the smoke hand rolled? Are you in a rush?, how deep are your lungs?How strong is your heart, are your sober, tired, spent? Standing there reading and dragging on a coffin nail, dart, cigo, durrie, cancer stick, fag, सिगरेट, سیگار, سيجارة, zigarette, धुवाँ, toitíní, fumar – whatever you call it.
The key is the work is started and finished before you butt your smoke and the ashes turn grey, and our chief editor has put that down to roundabout 320 words. Our judge Adam Ouston has put it squarely at a page.
The roll of cigarettes as a measure of time (as devised by some genius in China) also has a more elaborate meaning, it points to a state of reading, a place, maybe a literary terroir (a back door, the gutter, a bench, a lane… etc.), a territory if we can talk of such thing in relation to writing and stories at their most basic. This is a pretty unique space and time to read something within, it is very much one’s own time, short and passing.
This nature can’t help but make one question the natural style for such a work; dissenting, critical, outside the pale, brief and secretive (that is my vision of such a work) – a kind of outlaw literary nature, read on the hop with a fag dangling from your teeth, By its very nature it instills structural boundaries to the work. The length of the work is tight, and the structure must embody the essential characteristic that makes for a story, and the better ones must squeeze into every inhale and exhale the essential characteristics and qualities that are in good stories, until the story doesn’t so much smoke as burn, and burn fucking bright, as bright as an ember in pitch black darkness, at least that what we’d all fight for, and that’s what we’d hope to see.
Tadhg Muller or Müller is a co-founder of Transportation Press and a writer. His novel, Get Fat is currently with a number of publishers. Someone should just publish it, it’s a wild ride.