Friday, March 16, 2007

Stories of the Weekend Assignments

Weekend Assignment #156: Repost your favorite Weekend Assignment from the past three years. Or, if you can't choose, post the first Weekend Assignment you ever participated in.

Extra Credit: Should we keep doing the Weekend Assignments? Or after three years, should we give it a rest? Let me know; I'm curious.

When I first saw this assignment this afternoon, I thought it would be quick and easy. All I needed to do was look up Holiday Picnic with Tom and Abby and Friends, repost it, and I'd been "rolling with puppies," or whatever it is that Willow says in that one Buffy episode. Then I decided I ought to actually look and see what else I've written at Scalzi's behest since June 2004. I started with a search for Weekend Assignments on Musings from Mâvarin, and never really got beyond that. After all, between the two blogs, I've written well over a hundred of these things. It really wasn't possible for me to read (or even skim) all of them tonight.

But I did read or skim a bunch of them, and I found two contradictory patterns emerging:
  1. Despite the occasional overlap, there really has been a huge variety of subject matter in Scalzi's assignments.
  2. Despite #1, I personally tend to write responses that hook in to my own obsessions. Several times I've worked in some kind of time travel story or premise, relating to The Beatles, Disneyland, Doctor Who and certain early U.S. presidents. I've written about my novels, about books by L'Engle and others, and about friends, teachers and relatives of the past and present. And when the assignment was something that didn't interest me, such as pie, I tend to dispose of it as quickly as possible and find a tangent to carry us someplace more interesting.
That last thing under #2 led to the entry I'll be reposting tonight instead of the picnic with Thomas Jefferson. Oddly enough, it involves the same "Scalzi's clone" photo that Scalzi himself reposted today. I don't like it much, and wasn't terribly interested in captioning it, but that was the assignment that night. So I did it, and then I had an interesting conversation about it with my pirate house guest, Black Rose Katie Specks. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 3, 2005
9:17:00 PM MST

The Clone and the House Guest

Weekend Assignment #84: Take a look at the picture below. Tell us what you think is going on in the picture. You can write as long as you want, or as short as you like -- even a photo caption works. Now, it's a fairly weird picture, but I thought that would just give you more to work with. Ready? Here you go:

John Scalzi is finally forced to admit it was a bad idea to crib
his cloning experiment from a Treehouse of Horror episode of
The Simpsons

Extra Credit: Would you like to see more "explain what's going on in the picture" sort of assignments?

No. Not as such. There's not enough material here for writing one of my patented long entries. Yet somehow I'll manage anyway, especially with my nosy house guest asking questions!

Kate is not amused."Tell me again who John Scalzi is," Black Rose Kate orders.

"He's AOL's designated, professional blogger," I tell her. "He's there to encourage and inspire people to post in their AOL Journals, give tips on how it's done, point the way to interesting or amusing stuff online, and generally entertain us."

"Then by what authority can he assign you to do anything?"

"Oh, it's completely voluntary. But it gives me something to write about that I might not have thought of otherwise."

"Is this something you wanted to write about, now that he's thought of it for you?" she asks pointedly.

"Not really, but I'm proud of the caption I came up with for it."

"I do not understand it. What is a clone?"

"A clone is an exact copy of a person, like a twin, but made by science instead of nature. It's been done with a sheep and other animals. Nobody's ever really cloned a human being yet, as far as we know, and a lot of people say we shouldn't even try it."

"But the monster on the left isn't an exact copy," Kate points out.

I decide not to mention that "monster" would not be a politically correct term for a "cloned American," even a wonky-looking one like Scalzi's. "That's because the premise of the photo is that the cloning experiment didn't quite work out," I explain. "It's supposed to be a joke."

"Well, I fail to see the humour in it," says Kate. "What does your caption mean, about The Simpsons? You have DVDs with that name on them. Are there clones in The Simpsons?"

"Not that I recall," I admit. "But the fake clone in the picture looks a little like the drawings of Homer Simpson in the tv show."

"There are drawings in the tv show?"

"It's nothing but drawings. You can watch some of the DVDs tomorrow if you like."

"And the treehouse of horror? What, pray tell, is that?"

"It's a series of Halloween episodes of The Simpsons, in which horrible things happen. If a cloning experiment went wrong on The Simpsons, it would probably be in a Treehouse of Horror episode."

Black Rose Kate shakes her head. "I think I have done very well so far in understanding your century; but this explanation remains unclear to me."

"It's not important," I tell her. "Nothing kills a joke faster than trying to explain it."

Kate nods thoughtfully. Then she hits me with a question that I should have expected but didn't. "Am I a clone?"

I look at her. There is no denying that Katie Specks looks enough like me that she could indeed be my clone. It is also true that she still doesn't know how she got here. I can't blame her for wondering whether she might not be who she thinks she is.

"You're not a clone," I tell her.

'Karen"Am I a twin?"

"Not of me, you aren't. Perhaps we're related."

"Aye, perhaps. Were your ancesters from England or Ireland?"

"Some of them. I used to jokingly refer to the Irish ones as Viking Irish royalty, the ones who got tired of returning north and became landed gentry instead."

"Aye, I come from the same hardy stock," says Kate. "Mayhap we are relatives. But stay, I have one more question for ye."

"What's that?"

"Am I fictional? You told people that I was a fictional character."

Uh-oh. "How do you know about that?"

"I read the emails you sent to Paul and Gem."

Poor Kate! I'll have to approach my explanation delicately.

"I didn't think you would learn to use my computer so quickly," I admit.

Kate is amused."I find your keyboard difficult to operate, especially the keys with the letters missing. But even I can point and click with the mouse. What is your explanation, Karen?"

"What would you have me tell everyone, Kate? If I post the truth, that you're really here but we don't know why or how, people will either assume that I'm lying, or that I'm crazy, or that I'm telling a story. As a fiction writer, I'd rather they think I'm writing fiction than that I'm lying or crazy."

"You think people will not believe the plain truth?"

"That's right. People just don't turn up from centuries past, alive and well and asking questions."

Kate chuckles. "Fair enough. All right, then. We can pretend that you're spinning a yarn, an it helps you preserve your reputation."

"Thank you."

"But you should have asked me, Karen."

I nod. "Yes. Sorry."

"Aye, well, 'tis unimportant now. Tell me more about The Simpsons. Do these drawings you mention move, like the images in Buffy?"

I think I'll spare you the rest of that conversation.


Extra Credit: please don't stop handing out Weekend Assignments. It would make me sad.

Some Fictional and/or Time Travel W.A.'s:
Holiday Picnic with Tom and Abby and Friends
Not Your Usual Subscriptions
With the Beatles

Black Rose Katie Specks
An 18th Century pirate looks at the modern world.

1 comment:

Bea said...

I love your friend, Black Rose Katie... fictional or otherwise (don't want to hurt her feelings!) A person could carry on some interesting point of view conversations with such a friend. bea