Query and First Edit for Grimace Speaks to a Geneticist


(This is an old slide I used for one of my genetics classes - the general idea about what Grimace is exactly was pilfered from a graphic design school advertisement I saw where several presumably student's works were showcased. if you happen to know who the student was that originally designed it, let me know, because a few of my graduate students are interested in finding out).

I can't remember exactly how I found out about McSweeney's, but I do know that upon reading Wendy Molyneux's "How To Tell People That You Are A Billionaire Without Sounding Obnoxious", I was pretty much hooked. Also, around the same time, I picked up a copy of McSweeney's Quarterly #13 (The one with the gorgeous Chris Ware cover), and was privy to a discussion on writing humour, where McSweeney's was essentially mentioned a few times with reverance no less. Basically from there, I guess the bait was cast. Grimace was my first query, and I was lucky enough to persevere with its publication. You'll note below, however, that it took quite a bit of time to get it through.

COVER AND PIECE SENT (July 14th, 2004)

Dear McSweeney's

I am on a mission to show that even scientists can produce good humorous literature. To that end, I have included in this email the first essay in "The Abhorrent and Secret Lives of Genetically Modified Organisms" a piece I hope your audiences will find both funny and enlightening._Of course, I realize that this is a long shot, but it would be lovely to expand my writing kudos, which are currently severely limited and include:

- Several scientific publications where 'protein tyrosine phosphatases' are the principle sources of conflict.
- One feature non-fiction piece published recently in the Canadian general interest magazine Maisonneuve. This piece detailed a trip to teach molecular genetics in Lagos, Nigeria.
- One recent submission sent to McSweeney's Quarterly, destined to be rejected if only because I have an identical name to an author published recently in "The Believer" (How many David Ng's are there?)
- One not so recent submission sent to the Shouts and Murmurs of the New Yorker. 23 weeks and counting.

Anyhow, if you do like the below piece, there are even more which may or may not be a good thing. They include, figure skaters, corn, reality TV producers, and Stem Cell Barbie.

Thanks for your time.
David Ng

SUBMISSION PIECE: (567 words and would happily edit further if need be)

The Abhorrent and Secret Lives of Genetically Modified Organisms.
By David Ng

CASE 1: "Grimace"

July 14, 2004, 3PM: Mildred, the maid leads me onto a sandstone patio, and I have to stop and take in the marvelous view of the San Francisco Bay. Immediately, I know that this is a place for the rich and famous, appropriate for a king or queen perhaps, and certainly fitting for a fast food icon.

"It's a fucking nightmare, that's what it is." he says as if it were a matter of fact, shifting heavily in his lawn chair. "Those bastards, the things they do..." His voice unexpectedly trails off. "Sorry," he looks vacantly at the shimmer bouncing off his swimming pool "My ex-wife always said I swore too much. It's just horrible, that's all. Just horrible."

You wouldn't think that someone like Grimace could show this much body language, but you would be wrong. He is obviously hurting, he is obviously angry, and sadly, he is obviously purple.

"You know I was one of the first GMOs ever." he explains, "Cloning as science fiction was all the rage back then, with books like the 'Boys of Brazil,' and 'In His Image' hitting the lists. The public never knew what hit them. I never knew what hit them."

And I suppose therein lies his pain. Like an orphan looking for answers, he is haunted only by what he doesn't know. Namely, what exactly 'he' is. Grimace is a prime example of what is both wonderfully right and terribly wrong about genetic manipulation. Due to the marvels of this technology, he has luxury, wealth, fame, as many women as he desires, and yet he has no identity, no origin. If ever there were such a thing, he is an organic black box.

Officially however, from the mouth of corporate MacDonald's if you will, Grimace started off as "Evil Grimace" who with four deft arms went around stealing milkshakes from children. Then in 1974, a change of heart and a loss of two arms lead to his current incarnation - a warm, fuzzy, and apparently living representation of the "embodiment of childhood."

To which he replies, "My friend, that is a heaping load of shit. What the hell does 'embodiment of childhood' mean anyway?" He stops to light a cigar. "You know, my friends once told me to hook up with that Barney the Dinosaur dude. They said that 'He's big, purple, waves a lot like an idiot. Maybe he knows what you are.' Except that the bastard never returns my calls."

"What about your work peers?" I press, "They must know something." He explains that ever since they let him go, he doesn't really speak to his buddies anymore. Intrigued I ask. "Even the 'man' himself?"

"You mean Ronny?" he smirks and pauses, "We don't really get along you know? And I can't really talk about him, if you know what I mean. Let's just say that that S.O.B. is one nasty clown and leave it at that." And as quickly as it began, the interview is over and I am politely but firmly led away by Mildred.

For the next week, I can't stop thinking about him. Even I want to know what he is. With his connections, he must know that a simple genetic test would divulge the secret. But I suppose that the irony in all of this is that people testing genetics was what started the whole thing anyway.

In the end, the piece went through about 4 or 5 edits, and was finally accepted in late September (in a very different form). Here is the final edit, entitled Grimace Speaks to a Geneticist.

More like this

GRIMACE: What am I? GENETICIST: That is a very interesting question indeed. And we should begin by briefly discussing your known history. According to your records, you were born as "Evil Grimace," with four deft arms, and a penchant for amusing yourself by stealing milkshakes from small children.…
Timing is everything. That (I'm pretty sure) was the case of my first piece getting into Maisonneuve. And again, it is something that comes up with consistent frequency in my quest to publish. For instance, my gnome piece (shouldn't everyone have a gnome piece?), is another example of this notion,…
To start off the sophomore year of the SCQ, I published a piece that I had sitting around for the last year or two. Basically, it's a creative non-fiction piece that looks at the sorts of things one can fear in the sciences. It actually started off as a request by Maisonneuve for their "Good…
(Actually posted this a little earlier, but we're learning the ins and outs of blogging, choosing categories etc). This is in regards to the Nude Mouse piece, shown earlier today... This wierd little conversation piece initially began as a query to the Believer for a fiction interview piece. My…

IMO, your original work is MUCH better than the final edit!

The McSweeny's version is choppier, and does not flow. Your version OTOH, is warm and emotive and the reader is led to "feel" for the Grimace. He is pleasingly anthropomorphized, rather than sterilized as in the McSweeny's version.

BTW - Where is the article revealing the "Real Truth" behind that SOB Ronald?

It's actually choppier by design, since it's following an earlier piece I presented on the site. Only shows how important it is to get a good feel of the tastes of the editor - something I'm still not very good at, since I haven't had a piece go up at McSweeney's for a while.

I just realized that when I recognized the name "David Ng," it was from the Believer (I'm a subscriber). What are the chances...Anyway keep up the good work.

Actually, I'm not the same David Ng as the one at the Believer (although we have corresponded). Ironically, I do have a piece forthcoming myself at the Believer though, so not sure how I would write my contributor blurb when it comes out: "This David Ng is not the same David Ng..."


By CHAD ADAMS (not verified) on 11 Jul 2006 #permalink

dude. fuck this. grimace is awesome. grimace is my best friend. grimace saved me from suicide. how dare you make mockery of this unspoken hero.

ps grimace is a purple chicken nugget. what more could you want in life?

grimace is a taste bud

ronald mcdonalds but plug

Brazilian wax two weeks prior. For those unfamiliar with the procedure, a Brazilian is about as severe as bikini waxes get. You cover the hair on almost the entire region--"pubis, vulva, and anus" as they note--with hot wax, and then rip the wax off, pulling the hair follicles along with it. One description of the procedure: