Curse My Accursed Honesty!

This just happened, I SWEAR:

Phone guy: I’m calling for John Scalzi.

Me: He is me.

Phone guy: Hi, I’m calling from the Jon Huntsman campaign and we know that you made a contribution to his campaign, and we are looking for people to be Huntsman delegates for the Republican National Convention.


Phone guy: Sir?

Me: I’m sorry. Look, I’m not a registered Republican and I’m unlikely to vote for Huntsman in the general election. I donated to him because of all the Republican candidates, he is the most sane, and I thought that needed to be encouraged.

Phone guy: … oh.

Me: Yeah. He should probably have someone who is actually going to vote him. But thanks for thinking of me.

Phone guy: Okay. Thanks for the donation, anyway.

Me: You’re welcome. Bye, now.

And then I hung up.

And then I felt like kicking myself, because going to the GOP convention as a Huntsman delegate probably would have been awesome. And wrong. But awesome. Just the thought of me as a GOP delegate makes me want to chortle madly.

Maybe they’ll call back. Probably not.

Curse my accursed honesty!

Reminder: Tis the Season Not to Be an Ass

Question from e-mail:

Any thoughts on the current state of the War on Christmas™?

I think it’s about as silly as it ever was, considering that Christmas has conquered December, occupied November and metastasized into late October. To suggest that the holiday is under serious threat from politically correct non-Christians is like suggesting an earthworm is a serious threat to a Humvee. This is obvious enough to anyone with sense that I use The War on Christmas as an emergency diagnostic, which is to say, if you genuinely believe there’s a War on Christmas, you may want to see a doctor, since you might have a tumor pressing on your frontal lobes.

But — but — what about all those horrible atheists taking over holiday displays with crucified Santa skeletons? Surely that’s evidence of a war! Well, no, it’s evidence of some non-believers taking a page out of the PETA playbook, i.e., being dicks to get attention and to make a point. I do strongly suspect that if we didn’t have some certain excitable conservatives playing The War on Christmas card when a business says “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” and such, there would be less incentive for certain excitable non-believers to make a public show of desecrating Christmas symbols, but that’s just an opinion and I don’t have anything to back that up. What I do know is that the War on Christmas crusaders and the Santa crucifiers deserve each other; the rest of us, unfortunately, have to watch them both make public asses of themselves.

This is not to say that non-believers have to passively suck it up during the Christmas season; they have as much right to public display space as anyone and in a theoretical sense I’m glad they’re out there to remind people that not everyone defaults to Christian or even “religious.” I like it better when they do it in a manner that doesn’t explicitly say “take the symbols you cherish and shove them right up your ass.” But then I’m also the sort of non-believer who doesn’t take every public religious display as an intentional slap in the face. When people put up Christmas displays, or (to the point) when municipalities allow public space to be used for them, I don’t see them as a Christian majority saying “bow down to our hegemony, heretics and infidels,” I see them as people saying “Yay! Christmas!” Which is a different motivation entirely.

Here’s the thing: If you’re using the holiday season to go out of your way to be an asshole to someone, believer or non-believer, you’re doing it wrong, and I wish you would stop. That’s not a war, it’s a slap fight and it’s embarrassing. As a non-believer, when someone says “Merry Christmas” to me, I say “Merry Christmas” back, because generally speaking I understand that what “Merry Christmas” means in this context is “I am offering you good will in a way I know how,” and I appreciate that sentiment. Left to my own devices, I use “Happy holidays” because I know a lot of people who aren’t Christians (or at least Christmas-centered) and that seems the best way to express my own good will; the vast majority of people get what I’m doing and appreciate that sentiment too.

I think most people get the idea that regardless of religion or lack thereof, we’ve designated this time of year as the one where we make an effort to be decent to each other. Accept it. Welcome it. Live it, in the best way you know how. Be tolerant and gracious when others share this sentiment in a way different than you would. Look for what they’re saying means, not just the words they use to say it. It would be a fine way to have everyone enjoy the season.

Newspaper Dreams

About twice a year I have a dream where for whatever reason I’m back at the University of Chicago and I’m once again working on the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon. Last night was one of those times; in the dream I’m the same age as I am now, and I was walking into the Ida Noyes building to go to a staff meeting, and I was wondering if it would be awkward for the rest of the staff to have 42-year-old former Editor-in-Chief and professional writer doing stories. In the real world, I think the answer would be “well, duh,” but in the dream it seemed to make perfect sense. Because, you know, dreams are that way.

I don’t really have any ambition to go back and write for my student newspaper; to the extent that the dream means anything other than the Maroon was tangentially on my mind thanks to that picture of me at 20 that I posted, I think it was a reminder that I liked working for a newspaper, both the Maroon and the Fresno Bee, when I worked there (and the San Diego Tribune, when I interned). It’s often said writing is a solitary profession, but that depends on what kind of writer you are. Being a journalist in a newsroom is not especially solitary; there are lots of other people, lots of activity and lots of back and forth and craziness, especially around the afternoon deadline.

That buzz of activity and working toward a daily goal is fun, or at least it was fun for me. And yeah, I miss it. I like my life now, and working from home; right now I’m typing away merrily on a laptop, in a recliner in the front room of the expansive Scalzi Compound, while cats doze all around me. It’s hard to complain when you’re living the writing life most writers would kill for. But I did like the daily contact high of being in the same room with other writers, everyone typing away and making phone calls and getting in fights with the copy editors (wait, that was mostly just me).

Every once in a while I daydream about going back into newspapers; it’s an idle dream, given the health of the newspaper industry, the fact my own career is fiction-centric at the moment, and because then I would have to trade hazy, halcyon memories with an actual day-to-day grind of work and office politics, which are bits of that milieu I can conveniently forget when I don’t have to deal with them. But it’s still nice to imagine from time to time, especially when I focus on being around other writers. I mean, there is Twitter, on which I can bother all my writer friends while they work, and they me. But it’s not quite the same.

2011 SF Film in Review

It’s that time of year again, so over at I give the major studio science fiction films of 2011 a quick once-over, with observations about Transformers, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super 8 and the proverbial “more.” You cannot make it into 2012 without knowing what I think! Seriously, dude, they’ll stop you at the border. You’ll be stuck in 2011 forever. God, wouldn’t that suck. So check it out, and leave whatever comments you have over there.