(CW: Foul language. Too much language; i.e., SNOOTiness. We don’t do bloodshed but people with decades of Sim serial murder under their belts have called CT “sick” and claimed they “couldn’t handle writing a story that dark.” Make of that what you will.)
“The wise man knows he knows nothing.”
So the great thing about this statement is that, when delivered in person, it implies the speaker doesn’t actually buy that they know nothing—otherwise, why try to pass their wisdom on?—and so while anyone can repeat this quote, few apply it to the person it was meant for.
We generally perceive figurative knowledge-dropping as happening between a teacher and their subordinates. And a fiction author, being the authority of their own world, is very good at delivering convincing narratives based on their own incomplete core belief system. Think Atlas Shrugged. Think Lord of the Flies, where William Golding’s imaginary boys on an imaginary island, shock of shocks, do exactly what William Golding thought they would do. When really, the outcome would probably depend on several factors, including the personalities of the specific people trapped on the island. How many independent trials did you perform, William Golding? Zilch?
Point being, our world is so complicated that no one understands every aspect of reality. Meaning, necessarily, that every one of us can assume some of our core beliefs are faulty. Every one of us including the speaker. We’re all going to make mistakes and we’re all going to be wrong on occasion. It’s time we embraced that.
Catastrophe Theory is a work of exploratory post-postmodern metafiction where the author forfeits her authority over the narrative. It uses The Sims 4 as a form of AI-aided storytelling where the characters can act on their own. Right off the bat the author admits she doesn’t know where the story’s going to go next and that the worldview she’s projecting onto these characters is flawed. She’s a tourist in her own world. Rather than guide the reader from above, she tries to be in the dark right alongside them. Of course that’s not entirely possible, and someone who bills their work as post-postmodern metafiction can appreciate the irony.
But it has some fatal flaws. The AI-aided nature of this story forces it to be SimLit, a dead genre with no readers, so people who otherwise would have been spurred on by the Fanciness Points acquired by reading such a dense work have to balance it with the shame of visiting a fanfic blog that intentionally looks like it was designed by an 11-year-old.
And because the author’s development itself is supposed to be part of the metafictional aspect—really selling that the work is coming from a place of vulnerability rather than authority—the first chapters are the most poorly written by design. And that sucks for reader retention. If you want to skip all the flailing around by an amateur author, consider reading the chapters in this order:
– No Place for a Heroine. It’s relatively spoiler-free and represents the quality of later chapters. The first post does not. I repeat, the first post does not.
– Kendra and Shu Summarize Book I. Get caught up on the spicy gossip fast, and you lose nothing from picking and choosing which Book I chapters to read.
– Book II: Open Floodgates, Closing Door
We also have a character page.
Living in paradise wasn’t enough. Good intentions weren’t enough; they never were. The Jeong-Espinosas and the Lius were successful and talented, but as time went on, they realized their true talent was making themselves miserable.
Mike Jeong and Claudia Espinosa are proud parents to a habitual overthinker, a doll executioner, and a little boy with the personality of a game-show host—but if you listen closely, the jokes thrown around the dinner table are more about control and belittlement, predator and prey, than anything else. And Aileen and Xiyuan Liu love their young son, a violin prodigy, even when their struggles with sexuality threaten to rip the family apart. The first 20 documented years of family history start as a loose first-person gameplay description before plunging deep into the characters’ heads as they unravel.
Book I of Catastrophe Theory explores its initial hypothesis: there is no need to torture Sims. They torture themselves.
(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.)
The tension in Book I can’t be kept under the surface anymore: here it starts bubbling out onto everyone’s shoes. Shu and Claudia struggle to take control of their failing relationships. Kendra finds a way to Keep Strangerville Weird as the Jeong-Espinosas handle an unexpected family tragedy. Liu family drama trickles into the San Myshuno music scene, as if tainting the San Myshuno art scene wasn’t enough. And when the game mechanics poetically thrust the family into the next step in their existential journey, no one is prepared for it.
Book III: Apotheosis
With suspense at an all-time high, the sims are pushed to their limits. Hector enters adulthood with a hate-fueled drive to succeed. Chantel’s career gives her the coping mechanisms she needs and more than a couple shin bruises. Xiyuan and Bernard reveal more of their authentic selves, to the dismay and delight of everyone around them. Jo and Jasper add new and old faces alike to their growing family. But while many smaller mysteries get resolved, they’re minor-league distractions from the decision at the back of the sims’ minds: what are they going to do with the knowledge that they can beat death?
At least a couple people think they’ve figured it out.
After Book II ends in August, we’re going to take a break—draw some comics, make some CC, release some extras, get ahead in the story—and start Book III in December 2020.
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)