Catastrophe Theory

Shut up and let me read the story!!

Death has fascinated storytellers for at least as long as language has been around. For us, death is inescapable—the last great mystery. Countless authors have dedicated their lives to writing about a topic none of them have ever experienced. Some believe in an afterlife, others believe we achieve immortality through what we leave behind.

But as other authors have pointed out, immortality has its downsides too. Few things are more human than hearing the argument “eh, we’ll get bored of it eventually” and taking it at face value.

Ok—so our current situation is undesirable, as is immortality. Let’s eliminate fear of the unknown. What if we had control over our own death? What if some benevolent force took all the guesswork out of it, so we’d know we’d be immortal until we, ourselves, chose to die? And how would we know we’re ready?

And what if a group of people lived in a perfect utopia designed for their enjoyment, where jobs were plentiful, anyone could gain expertise in any skill, discrimination were nonexistent, and earning money were as easy as making frogs hump and selling their babies? (The frog’s babies.) What, then, could possibly make them decide when to die?

Let’s find out.

The Story

If only they weren’t given free will, the Lius and Jeong-Espinosas would still be living a white-picket-fence idyllic life. Instead, they’re getting the message that you only find true happiness by leaving your wife for a ghost. (Dolly hashed most of these out before intending to make the story public, as the screenshot quality and stylistic changes demonstrate. Regardless, it has its moments.)

Part I Summary (Spoilers)

Before the Storm
In Which Self-Discovery Becomes Self-Sabotage
Hitting the Juice (love you, Claudia)
The Liu Family Makes a Tough Call
Everyone Grows Up Except Mike
Aileen’s Life is One Big MF-ing Never-Ending Party
Seven Days at the Von Haunt Estate (oh goodness so adorable)
Vignettes from San Myshuno
New Beginnings, or at least Sleeping with New People
The Shallot-Liu Family Exists Now!
The Only Title I Like
The Creation of a Legend
Claudia! Duck!
Everyone Gets Older Again, Which is a Vacuously True Statement Due to the Linear Passage of Time
Charlie in Charge
Aileen and Shu Rack Up the Partner Count Until Everyone is Uncomfortable (Part I, Part II)
La Madre Sin Rostro
Heart, Head, Hands, Hector
Shallot-Liu vs. Shu
I Call Shotgun! (Part I, Part II)
To Being an ‘Us’ For Once
The J.E.s Replace Charlie with a Dog
Guide Me, North Star (Winterfest special, published in June)
The Grey Wedding
Option 3 (i.e. where it starts going off the rails tension-wise)

There’s a bunch of badness under the surface in Book I. Here it starts bubbling out onto everyone’s shoes. By the numbers, we’ve got thirteen main characters, eight unhappy main characters, six-ish interconnected plotlines depending on who you ask, two couples who have no business being together, and one horror poet who thinks intentionally getting obsessed by a plant is hilarious.

Love Day, Actually
No Place for a Heroine
Is this Loss?
Al Mal Tiempo, Buena Cara
Look What You’ve Done to Me, Xishu Liu
Bathed in Blue: The Induction of a Legend
Unlike Mike (Part I, Part II)
Venus in Retrograde Rising (Part I, Part II)
Sunshine and Laughter (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI)
The Reaper’s White Elephant (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V) (placeholder—not a spoiler, Bernard carries the metaphor and everyone knows he died)
Marigolds/Cempazúchil (placeholder)

Not Catastrophe Theory

Because the main story didn’t have enough characters. These, at least you don’t have to remember.

The Real Meaning of ‘Claudia! Duck!’ (you’ve activated my trap card)
The Applied Apple Approach (story contest theme was apples… yeah, it was rough)
The Watcher (proof that Dolly isn’t a crap writer, just a crap promoter)