Letter to the Reader: Linkages

Ho Lin

Recently a friend received an email invitation from an old acquaintance to connect with him on the networking site LinkedIn. Only one problem: The acquaintance had been dead for months. In spite of this, the system, oblivious and unstoppable, had continued to forge linkages with others. Ghosts affecting the world of the living used to be the domain of Hollywood romances and schlock horror movies; now a posthumous connection is as certain as a username and password.

The word "link" has a special resonance for me. Back in 1992, when hypertext was young, I had the pleasure of taking a hypertext workshop with the postmodern writer Robert Coover. The act of linking two electronic documents via a click of the mouse had the tang of revolution to it. Seven years later, the promise of the hyperlink had given way to the bureaucracies of dot-com, as I worked as an editor (read: "web surfer") for LookSmart Ltd., dully gathering all useful links that referred to the Spice Girls, at the mercy of the "Dead Link Checker" which X-ed out our hard work whenever a site we had catalogued ceased to exist.

A few years ago Christopher and I attended a panel on the future of magazines at the Juniper Creek Writers Conference in Carson City. Caught up in the spirit of the moment, I uttered "print magazines" and "dinosaurs" in the same sentence. No longer would we be solitary writers holed up in our hovels, existing only via tattered manuscripts and rejection envelopes. We would form intricate little communities, hooking up and squabbling and commiserating and creating together over this World Wide Web, everything as free and breathable as air.

Cynicism may rule the day, as our links to each other get clogged with white noise, misunderstandings and sheer overload -- and what to say about a system that continues to perpetuate us after death, our thoughts and history co-opted as profile pages and web traffic? But even as spam mail threatens to crash our systems, and iPads and Kindles threaten to render publications like this obsolete, we choose to tolerate the bitter and find solace in the sweet. Thanks to the web version of this site (www.caveat-lector.org) our reach has expanded from being a local Bay Area publication to an Internet presence that attracts submissions from all corners of the globe (as far away as India and Africa, just to name two regions who have contributed to recent issues). Electronic media (and its attendant loss of privacy and control) may signal the end of life as we know it, but we also treasure the opportunities to greet new artistic comrades-in-arms through all avenues, electronic or otherwise. It's all about the link, after all.

So in that vein, we hope you enjoy the estimable writers and poets who grace this issue, but also hope you'll also peruse the Caveat Lector website, which features a strong array of multimedia contributors this month. Poet Joan Gelfand and musician Marty Castleberg have created some enticing audio concoctions; Nara Denning showcases a winsome yet astonishing short film; and just to toot my horn, my rock band Camberwell Carrot has something less than reverent to say about getting fucked up.

In the months ahead we're planning major updates to the Caveat Lector website, changes that we hope will continue to usher us towards further connections with the world at large. And if in the process we are all fated to become ghosts, our remnants scattered over the wires and floating in the ether for the duration of civilization, it seems a small price to pay.

~The Editors