One of the great voices of the shared Internet is gone: blogger Steve Gilliard died today at age 41. I didn't know Steve very well personally, but he was a brother in the virtual sense. His voice was entirely his - a true iconoclast with a strong, unyielding point of view. We met a couple of times. Mainly we corresponded in email, in comments, on his blog, on my blog. Just before his illness, he agreed to join our little cultural blogging group over at newcritics. I treasure the fact that his name appears there as an author.
There is another important aspect to Steve - one that I think may be a true legacy beyond his pioneering political blogging. Gilliard brought real perspective to race relations in New York and beyond. An African-American who was unafraid to talk about race, Steve willingly jumped into the deep end on many issues that frankly scared a lot of the mainly-white, predominantly middle-class, well-educated lefty blogosphere. His work during the transit strike, for instance, brought insight that none of New York's newspapers even came close to.
And to me, he wasn't predictable. He did relationship advice. He did military history. He did classic rock. He did food. He did technology. He was a big man in every sense. Steve didn't suffer fools, but he was an open source kind of guy - bring it, he'd say, and back it up.
His partner in the Newsblog, Jen, told us that Steve came to know just how much his voice was missed during his long, terrible illness. I'm glad of that. But the feed's been empty for too damned long now. And it's going to stay that way.
UPDATE: Thanks to Jon Swift, a compendium of links and tributes - some great (and sad) reading: American Street, Firedoglake, Mad Kane's Political Madness (featuring a short interview with Steve), Sisyphus Shrugged, AlterNet.org, Daily Kos, skippy the bush kangaroo, State of the Day, The Carpetbagger Report, TalkLeft, August J. Pollak, Jesus' General, All Spin Zone, the talking dog, The Impolitic, Happy Furry Puppy Story, The Democratic Daily, culturekitchen, Comments From Left Field, Brilliant at Breakfast, Digby, Orcinus, Avedon Carol's The Sideshow, Meteor Blades, Making Light, Off the Kuff. Note: that wonderful photo above is by Lindsay Beyerstein.