Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #57: We Can Fix It! by Jess Fink

A book is either fiction or fact, right? It can't possibly be both at the same time, could it?

(Yes, of course it could. That's a false dichotomy, since all works are somewhere on a fuzzy continuum, including novels based closely on the author's life and non-fiction works with names and identifying details changed for whatever reasons. But it's a decent way of setting up today's book, so I'm running with it.)

Jess Fink's newest graphic novel, We Can Fix It!, is billed as "A Time Travel Memoir," which is exactly what it is: a story about Fink's life and choices -- mostly those bad choices that she wants to undo, like so many of us -- told as fiction through a SFnal idea. Fink has a time machine -- how she got it and all of the geeky details are entirely beside the point -- and is using it to visit her past selves.

Amusingly, the first thing that Fink does with her younger self (five years? ten years? somewhere in there) is to make out with her, and that sets the tone for the rest of We Can Fix It!: it's mostly about Fink's libido and romantic regret and worries about sex and relationships. (And so the buried subtext there is that fooling around with other versions of herself -- the kind of masturbation only time travel can facilitate -- is seductively easier and simpler that dealing with real other people.)

But this isn't porn -- Fink has done porn, and done it well, but this ain't it -- so the make-outs aren't the point here. The point is the emotions behind the make-outs: how do you know ahead of time if this person will turn out to be nice or a douche-bag? (You don't -- unless you have a future version of yourself coming back in a time machine.) So jumpsuited Fink keeps trying to interfere with her earlier life at different points, but all of the younger Finks stop listening to her: she might be them in the future, but she's coming across as a grumpy, demanding, anti-fun old lady, and who wants that?

She realizes that, eventually. Even with a time machine, you can't change who you were. What you can do is focus on the good times -- and, as Fink says pointedly, the fart jokes, because those are always funny -- and not try to change all of the bad things that happened. It's a good philosophy, though it doesn't require a time machine to implement -- and I know a bunch of SF readers who would grind their teeth at the "unrealistic" time machine here, which is really just a giant honking metaphor for memory.

We Can Fix It! is a bit glib, but it's good-hearted and optimistic, forward-looking and self-possessed. It says true things in a clever way, and lets us eavesdrop on Fink's interesting life -- and her makeout sessions, with herself and others -- along the way. It's the best time travel memoir I know of.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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