Cartoonist Jess Fink has already straddled the line between science fiction and sexy times with her webcomic Chester 5000 XYV (NSFW). Her latest book, We Can Fix It!: A Time Travel Memoir blends science fiction, a bit of young sexuality, and something else: autobiography. Fink uses a time machine to change her bad decisions, make out with herself, and eventually discover something more poignant.
When Jess Fink travels back in time, the first thing she does is warn herself that she's about to do something incredibly awkward. The second thing she does is make out with herself. It's an apt metaphor; Fink recognizes that there's something inherently masturbatory about autobiography, but that doesn't mean that it can't be sexy and fun—or that can't involve a hot futuristic jumpsuit.
Fink decides to add a time machine to her autobiography. We're presented not just with her reminiscences of the past, but with her (in her jumpsuit), actually traveling to the past. She draws herself actually visiting her younger selves, spying on them, and giving them advice—and hiding from other people in her past. She seems intent on correcting all the small mistakes she's made in her own history, and when things don't go right with one of her past selves, she hopes in her time travel machine and visits a different past self.
In a different time travel story, Fink's visits to her past might have been predestined, with her attempts to change the past resulting in the humiliations she sought to correct. But this is ultimately more memoir than science fiction, and Fink finds that no matter how much you may want to change your past, the past is a very stubborn thing. At first, the things she wants to change are simple, maybe even a bit silly: an awkward blow job, a bad drug trip, that perfect comeback she thought up years too late, the failure of her 10th grade self to realize there was better anime to watch than Sailor Moon.
At first, some of her past selves are receptive to her meddling (especially when it comes to the comebacks, which are so satisfying), but eventually past Jess comes to resent future Jess' refusal to let past Jess make her own mistakes. So Jess goes further into the past to correct the behavior of her younger and younger selves. That's where We Can Fix It! shifts from a goofy time travel adventure to a truly personal memoir. Fink's life isn't all ill-advised oral sex and gateway anime; there are some profound spots of pain in her past. And much of that pain can't be avoided or even ameliorated; they're part of the selfishness and powerlessness of being a child. A time machine can only do so much.
Ultimately, time travel in We Can Fix It! is not a vehicle for altering the past; it's a vehicle for revisiting and revising our understanding of the past. When Fink travels back in time, she finds pain, but she also finds joys that she had forgotten. What seems at first a package wrapped in a goofy bow of futuristic jumpsuits and make outs eventually reveals itself to be a thoughtful meditation on memory, how our mistakes form the people we become, and how easy it is to let the bad things in our lives overshadow the good. Of course, it never sheds the jumpsuit, because jumpsuits are awesome.
If you read your books digitally, you can pick up a digital version of We Can Fix It! through Top Shelf.