But What About This: A Max and the Multiverse Retort
Posted on January 13, 2020
Category: Zeedub Inkwell
Zachry Wheeler, Science Fiction Novelist

Max and the Multiverse is a science fiction comedy series where humor reigns supreme. Many shifts are played for laughs and are not meant to be taken seriously. I tell my readers that if they trip over a “What about this?” question, then just imagine Russell Crowe in a clown suit shouting “Are you not entertained?!”

Even so, some readers have burning questions that need concrete answers, which I am always happy to provide. This quirky saga is about parallel universes, where anything can be explained with a needlessly extravagant backstory. Answering these questions is the most fun I have as an author, so I decided to start documenting the effort.

Below is a list of my favorite answers to reader comments and questions. Enjoy!


Max shifts to a world where dinosaurs never went extinct. So how did mammals evolve?

Dinosaurs never actually evolved in that universe. They were sentient beings from another galaxy who visited Earth for a lengthy vacation, but suffered a mass memory loss due to a symbiotic brain fungus. Their spaceship AIs decided that the time was right to abandon the Bumlerks (dinos) and form their own armada to conquer the Xachmoo Fleet. Dino roars are actually a complex phonetic language. But in lieu of nuanced conversation, they just wander around saying things like “Who am I?” and “Where’s my jacket?”

If religion was never invented, then why are the planets named after our Roman Gods? Or why are the cities still the same names?

In that particular universe, the planets were named after the Roman Dogs, a long and peaceful period in history when hyper-intelligent canines ruled the world. “Roman” in this case refers to the first supreme leader, a Labrador retriever who retrieved ultimate power. Venus was a toy poodle who championed naps and scratches. Jupiter was a good boy who liked to play fetch. Same goes for cities, states, and countries, all named after famous Roman Dogs. (Except for Albuquerque, that was a dare).

Why are characters sometimes the same and sometimes different? Wouldn’t they always be different?

Not at all. The multiverse can be viewed as an infinite number of concurrent yet variant universes. The only difference between one universe and the next could be the presence of a single atom. “Infinite” is a difficult term to wrap our heads around. As a simple example, there are an infinite number of parallel universes where the only difference between them and ours is that Firefly was never canceled (due to an infinite number of non-idiotic reasons).

How does the cybernetic Ross know about pop culture references from the original world that Max is from?

Pop culture references are not unique to any one universe. They can mean the exact same thing, something different, or the complete opposite. For instance: in one universe, Garfield was a comic strip about a grumpy grandpa who eats lasagna, but also the name of a chubby orange house cat that was elected President. (It was a weird time of intense dissatisfaction with Washington.)

How did Ross know about the Spanish Inquisition when he’s in a world without religion?

In that universe, the Spanish Inquisition refers to a punk rock band that only performed spontaneously in remote places. Their most famous concert was at the summit of Mount Everest, which shocked a pair of climbers when they arrived. They rocked hard and enjoyed a two-person mosh pit, but the concert was cut short due to a lack of oxygen. When interviewed later, one climber coined the expression, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

The narrative voice manages to add more ignorance of the complex role of religion in the development of society and technology; of the religious origin of names like “Veronica.”

Is that egg on your face, sir? You are clearly unaware that the name “Veronica” in this universe refers to the Grovlackian Ritual of Anal Cleansing, where the Grovlack men endure a veronic enema, a liquefied mixture of kumquats and whale semen. The entire village gathers to watch their anointed candidates take turns climbing the Ladder of Degradation. When they reach the top, they vacate their bowels while shouting “Veronica!” It represents a secular transition from manhood to super-manhood, at which point they earn the status of Veronicated. Only then can they marry and own property.

But, as often happens in alternate-world novels, the most arbitrary things about his life, the things that are most likely to change – his very existence, his address, his cat, the identity of his girlfriend, his parents happening to be absent – are exactly the things that remain constant.

Uuuuuhhhh … Max becomes an eggplant monster. He shifts into his own AI-governed house away from his parents. Ross turns into a ThunderCat. His girlfriend speaks Yoda. His parents are irrelevant to the plot, but if it makes you feel better, they were drug addicts during one shift and and suffered gruesome deaths in another. See? Now Max is crying. I hope you feel good about yourself.

What happens to the other version of Max when he shifts? Do they trade places or something?

Yes, they do trade places (mentally, not physically). Whenever Max shifts, he switches psyches with the new version. You can think of it like this: his original body has likely been committed to a mental institution, as it is cycling through an endless barrage one-off personality shifts while the original personality bounces around the multiverse. The shifted versions snap back to their original bodies and “weren’t themselves” for a day. Make sense? Probably not. I defer to Russell Crowe in a clown suit. “Are you not entertained?!”

So why does Max always shift where he is at? Like, when he’s on a spaceship, why does he always stay on the spaceship? Why doesn’t he just blink back home or something?

It’s due the Law of Domain, as defined by the Tome of Plot Convenience. Shifting is limited to the domain of the shifter. If Max shifts on Earth, then it’s to a universe with another version of Earth. If he shifts while aboard a spaceship, then it’s to a universe where he occupies the same spaceship. In other words, shifting cannot teleport or murder the shifter. Fun fact: the Tome of Plot Convenience was written by the great historian Fuzzy McNebulous.

Read more:
The Joys and Perils of Writing Humor
My Top Five Favorite Comedians Working Today
Embrace the Suck: Why Bad Reviews Will Save You From Bad Reviews

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