Top 19 of '19: Thomas Towell's "Jon Snow Emails 23andMe About His DNA Results"

Hello, patrons! We've tabulated our most-read articles of the past year and we'll countdown the full list on the Tendency between Xmas and New Year's. Until then, we're offering a Patreon-exclusive peek at some of the pieces that have made our "Top 19 of '19," along with micro-interviews with their authors.

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"Jon Snow Emails 23andMe About His DNA Results" 

by Thomas Towell 

Published July 5, 2019

Excerpt:

Hi Courtney,
So if my father is from Winterfell, then that means my mother is from Valyria??? WOW!!! My father never told me who my mother was before he died. I never thought I’d find out anything about her.
Thanks!
— Jon
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To: [email protected]
From: [email protected]
Subject: re: question about my DNA results???
Hi Jon,
I’m sorry, I should have been more specific in my last response. Based on your data, your father’s side is the Valyrian one.
Have a great day!
Courtney
23andMe Customer Care
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To: [email protected]
From: [email protected]
Subject: re: question about my DNA results???
Huh??? My father was Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell.
— Jon

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On the inspiration for the piece...

My wife and I had been re-watching the penultimate season of Game of Thrones, which, as we all know (sorry for those who don't!), ends with Bran and Sam discovering Jon's true parentage as Jon (ignorantly) hooks up with auntie Daenerys. The next morning, I saw a TV commercial for 23andMe and something clicked in my brain.

On the writing/editing process...

This one came together in a couple of days. I made a brief outline of the back-and-forth email structure. Normally, I'll do a vomit draft and then let it sit for a couple of weeks so that I can look at it with fresh eyes, but this one had an unofficial deadline with the final season premiere approaching, so I jumped right into rewriting it. I did a little bit of research on the 23andMe website (shout out to my father-in-law for letting me use his account) to get a sense of how their DNA reports work and how to work that information into Courtney's answers. I used to work in customer service, so Courtney's responses and tone came from my own experiences with customers. As they say, write what you know!

I try to leave a little bit of room for discovery during the writing process, which is how the Sam ending came about. Originally, it ended with Courtney signing off with her survey request after she's delivered the horrible news, but I wondered if I could twist the knife one more time.

The first draft is always the hardest because your brain wants to make changes as you go along. You really have to tell yourself to ignore the editing part of your brain and just get the idea out on paper before you start tweaking, otherwise, you'll spend so much time chasing this perfect first draft that doesn't exist. 

On the audience reaction...

On Facebook, a lot of people thought HBO and 23andMe had teamed up to write it, like it was some strategic marketing ploy, which, to me, is high praise.

Thomas's favorite humor pieces of 2019...

- "Recent Articles of Mine" by Jack Handey

- "Professor Minerva McGonagall's Letter To The Tenure Committee" by Alyssa Knorr

- "I Am A Stryker-X Assault Backpack and This Airport Lounge Is An Insult" by Tom Ellison

- "I Took The 'Discover Your Patronus Test' On Pottermore and Got Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy" by Keith James 

- "Signs Your Bra May Be The Wrong Size Or A Snake" by Sarah Lazarus

- "Elon Musk or Toad of Toad Hall?" by Harris Wheless

 - "Are You Experiencing Symptoms of Writer's Block Or NBA Block?"  by Ian Goldstein

By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 292 exclusive posts
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By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 292 exclusive posts
7
Audio releases
307
Images
1
Livestream
1
Poll
11
Writings
10
Videos