The End of 2020*

John Scalzi

Wait, why the asterisk? Because 2020 is not a normal year, my friends! For me, 2020 began on March 11. That day I was on a cruise, avoiding news, when people started rushing up to me saying “Did you hear about Tom Hanks?!?!?” This was due to me actually knowing Mr. Hanks and therefore everyone on the boat wanting to inform me of his fresh COVID-positive status (and also, I had lunch with him in February, juuuuuuust outside the generally accepted infection window). Then I got back to my cabin and there was an email from my editor, begging me to call him, which was difficult because, you know, boat in the ocean. He told me my book tour was being cancelled and that it was basically the end of the world out there. So I reluctantly checked the news.

He wasn’t right about it being the end of the world. We still had another ten months to go.

Likewise, 2020 won’t end in a few hours. It will end at noon on January 20th, when Donald Trump is no longer president and we don’t have an administration that is staffed with incompetents and/or bigots and/or grifters. Once that crew is punted then the year can actually get underway. So like 2020, there will a brief interregnum before the year can truly get going. Even briefer than 2020’s, which included nearly ten weeks of the year.

For all that, January 1, 2021 will represent the light at the end of the tunnel. We see it coming, it’s inevitable and all that’s left to do now is to get to it. I will take it, appreciate it and celebrate it for what it is. I hope you will, too.

Happy new year*, folks. May it be a far sight better than the one it replaces.

— JS

40 Comments on “The End of 2020*”

  1. There’s a meme floating around about the light at the end of the tunnel being Vader with a lightsaber.

    I just hope Trump doesn’t start any wars in the next 3 weeks, and the idiots coming to town (I live near D.C.) on the 6th don’t do too much damage.

  2. “ He wasn’t right about it being the end of the world. We still had another ten months to go.”

    Great opening paragraph. May I steal this?

    Happy New Year!

  3. 2020 started with my mother being diagnosed with lung cancer and her dying on February 20th. Just a few weeks later, the covid lockdown started. So, yep, a very bad start to a very bad year. The only good was the fact that mother did not have to die alone in the hospital like so many others.
    Donald Trump has been one long nightmare since his ride down the escalator in 2015. Getting him out of the White House will be a good first step, but the destruction he has wrought will take years to repair. The hundreds of thousands of deaths he’s responsible for will never be repaired.
    I’m hoping for 2021 to improve. It will still suck, but hopefully suck a little less.

  4. we don’t have an administration that is staffed with incompetents and/or bigots and/or grifters

    Not completely, anyway. The incompetents and/or bigots and/or grifters are doing their best to get their hooks in and not let go. For example, Michael Pack, the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media which includes Voice of AmericaTrump is working on getting a contract signed that says he and the other Trump toadies on the board can’t be removed for two years. Hopefully shining some light on this cockroach will make him scurry away with his contract in tow.

  5. The administration won’t be hopelessly corrupt and incompetent any more, but with McTurtle firmly ensconced in the Senate like a blood-engorged tick, all the Biden house can do is right the ship and prevent further corrosion until the Dems lose the House in 2022, when all bets are off. It’s going to be Senate Burisma investigations, fake election fraud investigations, Benghazi investigations (just from muscle memory), Russia collusion initiation investigations, as far as the eye can see, all in a hope to derail and smear Biden. And unhidden racist/sexist attacks on Kamala Harris.

    Hopefully COVID will be somewhat muted in the reality-based states, once the Biden admin sorts out the distribution that Trump and his idiots ignored. So without the virus and COVID< things should improve a little.

  6. Our year ended with my wife’s car getting broken into and the theft of her phone, laptop, house keys, credit cards and driver’s license. We’ve spent the last day of 2020 cycling through all the places we have accounts and doing what we can to prevent identity theft.

    I hope you had a better last day of the year. 2021 is bound to start off better by comparison. Or it might just mean that 2020 is now old enough to drink.

  7. Let’s hope ‘21 is HAPPIER than ‘20. It doesn’t have to be great (or even that good) just provide at least one or two good things (the bar is low so I suspect my wish will come true).

    On a side note, even though ‘20 felt like a decade unto itself, I did get a lot of reading done and finished some writing projects (wrote my first stage play!), so it wasn’t a total bust. Even so, ‘20 can take a flying leap into Mount Doom with all bigots holding onto it for dear life.

    I’m glad that I have my wife with me to watch ‘20 disappear.

  8. I think it’s pretty cool that the nicest actor in Hollywood (probably the world) is a friend of the nicest science fiction writer around (probably in the world). You two should hook up with the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, the nicest guy in Rock ‘n’ Roll (and probably in the world), when the pandemic is over. Invite me, the nicest adult male in my household, and I’m buying! :) Hoping for a better 2021 than the 2016-2020 shit show!

  9. On March 11, I posted to my Facebook page, “Why does today feel like the before picture in some future textbook?”

    I should have bought a lottery ticket.

  10. All I have to say to 2020 is AMF. I am so looking forward to Biden and Harris taking office in 20 days; it will be such a relief to have sanity and normal behavior in the White House again.

    Wishing everyone a healthy and happy new year.

  11. Meh, it’s just future history happening. Looking back it did feel like it happened in slow motion. I’m not ready to relax yet. I’m thinking end of January. It looks like our system worked and a wanna be tyrant failed to become President for life. I’m not as impressed by this as I would like because he was such an incompetent. I’m am concerned about how it would play out if someone a little more competent got the job.

  12. So true about “the Business World” coming to an end. Before it was only people with the power to negotiate being able to work outside of the office who could work from home. Now businesses are “know” a lot of their knowledge workers have the discipline to be productive just about anywhere. What’s got businesses concerned is that they’re still saddled with 5 year leases for offices their people no longer need. Serviced Offices may be an up and coming option, but we truly haven’t seen just how science fiction authors are going to write the future (aside from the huge number of dystopian novels that aren’t a lot of fun to read, just my opinion, that). 2021 is the going to be a GREAT YEAR for change – Looking forward to it and I hope you are too!

  13. You so speak the truth, my dear. ( I can do the my dear thing because I am one of those senior citizen grandmother types.) happy new year. It had to get better and it will.

  14. Good riddance to 2020 and to Trump. I am looking forward to a better future and for me that starts Monday when I get my first dose of the vaccine. Hopefully, we can soon say good riddance to COVID.

  15. Happy new year to you, Scalzi family, though it seems like five years since last i said that.

    Hope next new Year hits a happy spot and doesn’t take as long to go by, and returns us to normal space, it will take while for these waves to settle

  16. For me, 2020 won’t really end until vaccinations are ubiquitous and we can gather in groups face-to-face closer than 6’ apart again. Or we can safely leave our homes without wearing masks.

    It’s going to be a long several months of 2020 hangover.

  17. While wishing for wonderful things in the new year, I’m pessimistic about actual improvements. I find myself thinking that incarceration is actually pretty harsh on criminals, now that I’ve experienced something like house arrest. I am grateful that my brain has continued to function, sort of, and that I have intellectual work to do. I’m looking forward to beginning a discussion group on Zoom about one of Plato’s dialogues. The past, even in ancient Greek, seems doable. My admiration is extended to our host and those commenters who do and can engage more actively with the present than I feel able. However, I do intend to write to some elected officials, come January 21, urging the pragmatic approach taken by McMaster in Battlegrounds. That, I can do.
    I’m also grateful for this blog and its community–I check in every day.

  18. My biggest New Years’ wish is that as we go into the new year, we don’t all just wave goodbye to 2020 and assume that 2021 will automatically be better just because of that arbitrarily temporal boundary. The things that made 2020 suck have actual causes, and the work ahead in 2021 means addressing those causes and trying to prevent future dumpster-fire years. Fingers crossed.

    I am grateful for the things that helped me get through this year with sanity intact, and I have to say that this blog is one of those things. So thanks, John – you did in fact help many of us get through the dumpster-fire.

  19. I have always felt that times are bounded loosely like you stated (2020 ends on Jan 20, 2021.) For example, I believe the 1930’s ended on December 7th 1941. The 1950’s ended on November 22, 1963, etc.

  20. Tom Hanks? Meeting in February? Old Man’s War has been optioned, you’ve written screenplays, and he’s about the right age to play John Perry, at least before the new body. Hmm…

  21. John, as one of the people who came up to you with said news about Mr. Hanks, I again apologize for interrupting your well-deserved vacation from reality. (I’d just learned that my university was in the process of going online for the duration of the year – it was a shocking time.) But reality imposed itself on all of us soon enough.

    I’m with you on Jan 20 being the beginning of a new year. It’s clear that the first 6 months will be grueling, but our work and the ongoing actions of “hanging in there” will be an investment in a better future, rather than escapist fantasy or endless cycle on the hamster wheel of “getting by.”

    We all look to your fiction to lift our spirits and take us to other worlds. And to your writing in this blog as an interesting set of observations & analyses about life. I think we all hope that all our souls are fed by more hope in the world; for national policies and practices that are in the best interests of the American people rather than one person alone; and by a leader who tries to exemplify decency and caring.

  22. Trump is like mold; he is an insidious and poisonous substance that will require serious work to clean up.

    He appeals to and tacitly embraces the very bottom of American society, from the white supremacists to the nutty conspiracy theorists to the xenophobes and pro-genocide crowd who would like nothing more than to see anyone who isn’t straight, white, male and/or moneyed wiped off the face of the planet, or the country, at least.

    I don’t think 2021 will be the year of the sane America. After all, the tens of millions of people who threw in for mor of the horrors we’ve experienced over the last four years are still part of this country and living and working where we do.

    They’re detonating bombs, threatening civil war and shooting out windows up and down a major street in my community.

    And Biden is once again reminding me why he was choice number six for me; his treatment of civil rights groups and his willingness to adopt the Obama strategy of appealing to the right is troubling, to say the least.

    I don’t care what progressives were or weren’t discussing (his rant about that is oddly Trumpian); the fact is that he, the centrist, was elected and, as president, is charged with the task of attending to the needs of the folks who came out in large numbers to put him in the Oval Office.

    Please, pretty please don’t let Biden be proof that, underneath the politics and promises, white men are still white men and will always work to protect white men and their interests to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.

  23. I have been thinking of 2020 as the year of the asterisk since they are often used to mark exceptions to the rule.

    So many records, statistics, etc. are dramatically different because of the events of the year. For example, most of the sports seasons were impacted: abbreviated seasons with huge drops in revenue and attendance. Then there are all of the annual events that were canceled or went virtual. Is it the 74th annual parade if there wasn’t one in 2020?

    The path to something approaching “normal” may be steep, but at least it now seems to be visible. After this past year, the climb is something to look forward to.

  24. Sarah Marie:

    Is there a particular reason why your comments lately employ the “code” tag? If you’re doing that intentionally, you should know it makes them more difficult to read and I would prefer that you didn’t.

    (If you’re not doing it intentionally, let me know.)

  25. Hi, John,

    I’m using JAWS and have no idea that, or why, my posts are appearing that way.

    I type my posts in word then copy/paste them into the formfield; I’m not sure if that’s what’s causing the issue, though.

  26. Sarah Marie:

    When you paste, use the option that pastes without formatting; that might help.

    Otherwise I’ll just strip out the coding for now.

  27. 2020, like the past, isn’t dead, and isn’t even past*. But good riddance to it nonetheless.

    And hindsight was never 20/20, but hindsight about 2020 will be even less so.

    * (With apologies to the F aulkner estate and its copyright enforcers for this piece of Fair Use.)

  28. Having Trump out of the White House will make a huge difference. It will take years to recover from the damage done over the past four years. As a divided nation, now is not the time to be complacent that everything will turn out fine but we are on the right path.

  29. As for making a “strictly social call” on Mr. Hanks, sometimes I have the fleeting thought that if I work hard at something, I dunno, and get famous, then I too could make a social call.

    And then I have to smile, as I am pushing retirement age. But hey, folks never stop dreaming.

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