The internet is a funny thing. It’s a vast collection of knowledge, of imagery and video and sound. But it’s also a collection of people, and it’s that last part that makes it so fascinating. Millions — billions — of human beings, completely unconnected from each other, yet able to see each other, speak to each other, communicate and share and influence each other. All too often, this disconnected anonymity is used as a weapon, as a way to harass or hurt or annoy. But it’s also a way to speak out, to teach, and to touch and change the lives of others.
It was probably ten years ago when I stumbled across the blog Deus Ex Malcontent, still in its nascent stages. It was run by Chez Pazienza, a complex man with an equally complex history. He worked for a number of major news outlets, was a father, and struggled with a number of personal demons as well. But he was also a hell of a writer, such that it became the first blog that I followed. Eventually, he wrote something — I’ll be damned if I remember what it was now — that I felt compelled to respond to, and I created my very first online username. It was on the fly, and I couldn’t think of anything clever, so I just reversed my initials, and TK was born. We became online friends, and I was inspired to eventually create my own blog, a now-defunct discombobulated mess of thoughts and music and films, but it somehow convinced the editor of another of my favorite websites to take a chance on giving me the opportunity to write.
And that’s the short version of how I came to be a part of Pajiba — essentially inspired by Chez, more than a decade ago. While I never met him in person, Chez and Pajiba followed each others closely over the years. He wrote a book, Dead Star Twilight, that we reviewed years ago, and was a reader and occasional commenter as well. He was also one of our greatest critics, often disagreeing with our changing directions, but it was never done so with hostility, and always out of love. While he never wrote for us (aside from one review), he was a part of us, particularly back in those formative years. He was smart and funny and acerbic as hell, using sarcasm and irony as unrelenting weapons in his quest to show people more about the world they live in. He was a self-described misanthrope, but I always knew that was bullshit — Chez loved too much and too hard to ever fit that label.
As you can probably tell from the tone of this piece, Chez passed away suddenly this weekend. It was unexpected and tragic and devastating. He was a unique and valuable voice, read by many, loved by just as many, and missed by many. It’s rare that you can so easily trace the source of your inspirations to just one source, but that’s the case with Chez. Without him and his writing, I’d never have had the guts to try my own hand at writing, and I wouldn’t be where I am with Pajiba today. He leaves behind a fiancee and two children, and a host of family, friends, readers and admirers. We will miss him greatly.