Back nearly a quarter-century ago, I first made my acquaintance with my friend Joey Shea, already well-known as an illustrator and reviewer back during the desktop publishing era. One day, I received a package from him, and the term “Joey Box” became a regular part of my vernacular. Over the years, we’ve traded assemblages of magazines, weekly newspapers, comics, flyers, buttons, random toys, and even videos, and the term picked up popularity among friends and cohorts who liked the idea of getting free stuff in the mail.
The important consideration with Joey Boxes is that while they’re full of all sorts of interesting items, the whole idea is to spread the wealth. The absolutes were not to send anything that the recipient couldn’t already get, or at least keep that to a minimum. You couldn’t just send junk mail, but junk mail of a particularly bizarre or appropriate bent was all right: if the recipient was into book collecting, for instance, sending antique bookseller catalogues was perfectly all right. Most of all, everyone had to be comfortable with the idea that anything the recipient couldn’t use could also be passed on to friends and cohorts alike. At the height of the zine and weekly newspaper boom of the late Nineties, I was sending out Joey Boxes at the absolute upper weight limit of what UPS would deliver, knowing full well that Joey had a good dozen friends looking forward to putting to use anything he didn’t want.
And what does this have to do with the price of eggs? Well, most people spend extended vacations visiting exotic locales or spending time with family. The Czarina and I spent this last week cleaning our offices. Events of the past year intruded upon regular organizing activities, and my office was starting to pass for a life-sized mockup of certain scenes from the novel Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. In the process of excavation and deposition, which filled both garbage cans and recycling bins by last Thursday, I discovered caches of promotional materials and review copies from my old science fiction writing days, a small pile of books I’d purchased more than once (and now I understand the value of those smartphone apps that track your library and its current contents), a large pile of magazine contributor copies, and all sorts of high weirdness. It all went into boxes, and the boxes are waiting to go out.
Some people may not be interested in participating if they don’t know what they’re getting. I argue that this is half of the fun. The only absolutes are that each Joey Box has at least two books from my gardening library (either copies I accidentally repurchased or paperback copies of books I already owned in hardcover), at least one back issue of Gothic Beauty magazine, and Triffid Ranch buttons. Other than that, I’m not saying.
As far as getting one of these, keep an eye open for a new contest, and the winners get a Joey Box. Don’t worry about missing out, though: the pile of sealed Joey Boxes in the hallway says a lot about the amount of reading wealth waiting to find a new home.