Alright, so I’ve rewritten this description so many times, trying to pin down what I like about Catastrophe Theory, and kept coming up short. And this is what it comes down to:
It’s not rough in a way that has to do with the language. No. The style I’m going for is hard to pull off, so there’s quite a bit of faffing about at the beginning trying to get bearings on things most professional authors have already encountered in a class by now, aphoristically or otherwise; and I’m both rather embarrassed by it and wouldn’t change a thing.
It’s rough because the core purpose of Catastrophe Theory is to slam into everyone’s face, repeatedly, that even though we think we’re good people and we think what we’re doing is the right thing, all of us have false beliefs, all of us, the characters, you, the author. It’s not a story about how awful all those other people are and haha, can’t we laugh at how foolish their behavior is? It’s about the central struggle between being paralyzed by choice in a world where everyone has a point, partly, but knowing that inaction will paralyze you further and make everything worse. And the takeaways are what you’d expect from a very sad lady with a background in mathematical philosophy, being abused, being accused of lying about being abused, and more math: yes, there are ways to sus out the crappy beliefs and pick out ideological manipulation, if you can keep an eye out for red flags and be open to proving yourself wrong.
So CT isn’t based on anything that would give it a built-in audience. It’s written to be challenging.
And as an act of good faith that the author isn’t shielding herself from this take: I’m just a vessel for ideas greater than myself, particularly the concepts of truth and nonviolence. Any merit my work has is due to the concepts themselves. Any shortfalls are my own.
That’s what you’d be getting into. If you disregard that, it’s a bunch of silly prose and some Sims running around. You can have a good time if you sorta squint, besides the, like, extended commentary on reversible death as a form of trauma.
(Because the author’s development itself is supposed to be part of the metafictional aspect—really selling that it’s coming from a place of vulnerability rather than authority—the first chapters are the most poorly written by design. It’s experimental and meant to be analyzed for what works and what doesn’t, which necessarily means it’s weaker in some places than it could be.)
My recommendation for where to start changes depending on the type of writing you prefer.
If you read more fanfic than books, you may prefer to start at the real beginning.
If you read more books than fanfic, I recommend you read the prologue first.
We also have a character page.
Prologue: The Color of Fear
Book I: You Can’t Hide from Yourself Forever
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.)
Book II: Open Floodgates, Closing Door
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.
Calendar of Extras (hiatus between Books II and III) links to the following posts:
20 Things In Catastrophe Theory Books I and II You May Have Missed (or Forgotten About): I strongly advise reading this, especially if you don’t have time for a reread. The listicle progresses from small jokes to crucial, gamechanging details. And there’s more where that came from. Catastrophe Theory wasn’t written to be wholly understandable on the first read.
I Don’t Know How to Feel Real: Training Neural Nets on SimLit and Other Written Work
Character Portraits (still learning to draw… they are what they are)
Character Design for Haunted and Sarcastic Ghosts Mod
Q&A with the Shallot-Lius
Haunted 0.1: Silly small comics (Zombies & “Glove Compartment”)
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)