SmokeLong Quarterly
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Smoking With Bob Arter

Art by Marty D. Ison
Art by Marty D. Ison
The last time we talked, you said, "I know a million great reasons for having sex and not one puny little reason for waging war." Any thoughts on our current state?
First of all, we're not at war in Iraq—we're occupying the wretched place. In all of history, there has never been a popular occupying army. Would we like to have a foreign army here, setting curfews, brandishing weapons, killing and dying, appointing our governments? And we wonder why they don't like us. That's stupid. Further, our own death toll has recently passed 900—how many is it going to take? This is exactly what happens whenever you commit combat troops to a region without first deciding two things: a clear objective and an exit strategy. We have neither, which assures us that this one will end as Vietnam did—with pseudo-diplomats pretending to negotiate a peaceful resolution while we're pulling out the last of our people, clinging to the skids of a helicopter. And the President will bleed our young people to death before he'll ever admit that the Iraqi invasion had absolutely no linkage to the tragic events of 9/11.

You also mentioned wanting to take more risks with your writing. What forms have those risks been taking?
I've been trying, in nearly every piece I write, to go for the Big Bang, the jaw-dropper—and to couch it in prose that makes it believable. It's very difficult to establish, and I still fail more often than I succeed, but it isn't costing me a salary, so why not?

I'm going to harp a little on politics, because I think it's something important to both of us right now. What would you say to anyone who's on the fence about the upcoming election?
How on earth can anyone be on the fence? There's more at stake than school prayer and the marginal tax rate—this time it's about lives. If you're in favor of continuing to waste them, Bush is your man, and Dick Cheney is his prophet. If it sickens you, as it does me, then give thanks that democracy offers us an alternative.

What director do you think would most effectively translate the vision of your words to the screen?
Whether I'm writing about war or another favorite topic, sex, I only wish that Stanley Kubrick were still alive to blow the budget.

Aside from SmokeLong, what other literary magazines should people be reading?
A long list springs to mind—mainly, little, quality print mags such as Tin House, Ploughshares, the Mississippi Review, Night Train, and so on. The problem is, there aren't enough hours in the day to read more than a few and still write. So I'd caution any writer against plunging too deeply into the list. Read the ones you want to submit to, keep another in the bathroom, and don't forget to go outside and breathe.

Read Back Home.
Issue Five (August 15, 2004): Lovers by Karen Simpson Nikakis «» Shore by Susan Henderson «» Lovechild by Ellen Parker «» Lipstick by Claudia Smith «» Back Home by Bob Arter «» Gloves by Gary Cadwallader «» Gilda by Patricia Parkinson «» Attic by Kim Chinquee «» The Radioactive Chicken or the Egg? by Randall Brown «» Summer Swim by Pia Z. Ehrhardt «» Two Benches by Pasha Malla «» Fall by Richard Hulse «» Drop by Roy Kesey «» Galveston by Steven Gullion «» Every Pane of Weathered Glass by Ellen M. Rhudy «» I Can't Talk About Butter Because Margarine Is All I Know by C.R. Park «» Something of Value by Brian Reynolds «» The Therapist Told Her Not to Stop Smoking–Right Now by Astrid Schott «» Maintenance by Miriam N. Kotzin «» Enough by Katrina Denza «» Interviews: Karen Simpson Nikakis «» Susan Henderson «» Ellen Parker «» Claudia Smith «» Bob Arter «» Gary Cadwallader «» Patricia Parkinson «» Kim Chinquee «» Randall Brown «» Pia Z. Ehrhardt «» Pasha Malla «» Richard Hulse «» Roy Kesey «» Steven Gullion «» Ellen M. Rhudy «» C.R. Park «» Brian Reynolds «» Astrid Schott «» Miriam N. Kotzin «» Katrina Denza «» Cover Art "A Character in Short Fiction" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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