Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bob Smith has a success with gay science fiction.

Bob Smith is a comic writer, and I have enjoyed some of his earlier work. But this novel is really entertaining in all sorts of ways.

Remembrance of Things I Forgot

Remembrance of Things I Forgot (272 pages, University of Wisconsin Press, $25.95) is your typical gay science fiction narrative.  I mean who wouldn’t want a time machine to go back and figure out what has gone wrong in a relationship or to try to change, just slightly, some of the things that have happened to you?

John Sherkston has these fantasies just as anyone might, but in his case--a gay guy with a partner who has invented a time machine—these are more than idle thoughts.  In fact, when Taylor drags him out to see the new invention, John is simply irritated and feels that he has to make the break.  He’s been more and more upset with Taylor since Taylor shifted politically so far to the right that he is working for the second Bush administration and making fun of democratic ideals.

When John gets to the hotel that hides the secret laboratory, he finds himself challenged once again by Taylor’s charm, and when he hears what the time machine can do, he imagines going back just far enough to keep Taylor from changing his political sympathies and maybe correcting a few other things, like his sister’s suicide, which devastated him but a few years before, and his father's death from alcoholism.

Of course, no one but John is surprised when he steps into the time machine and is hurled back to 1986.  Dick Cheney, the vice president, has flipped the switch, but John hopes that Taylor knows what is going on and will try to bring him back.

The first person John encounters in the past is his earlier self, Junior.  John is impressed at how much better looking his older self is, and Junior responds positively to John’s good build—he has recently been working out—and his familiar manner.  At first Junior feels that he has fallen for an older man, but when John persuades him that he is an older version of himself, Junior feel that it is just his luck that he would fall in love with himself.

John explains to Junior what he wants to achieve, and Junior at first doesn’t believe that his sister would commit suicide.  He is also appalled when John tells him about the political climate of the age and the particular egregiousness of Bush and Cheney, who had led the country into the Iraq War.

John and Junior hook up with an earlier Taylor, whom Junior hasn’t yet met, and all three decide they should do something to stop Bush form being elected.  They will travel to Texas on their way to California and do what it takes to prevent Bush’s victory.

Their trip is made more interesting when they recognize that they are being chased and threatened by Dick Cheney, both the vice president and his younger self, who seem to have gathered a militia to stop them.

The novel is beautifully paced and full of fun at every turn.  But what is most wonderful is the encounter with the past.  Aside from having to persuade members of his family who he is, he has to persuade them very difficult things about themselves.  It is a wonderful way to talk about the past and to confront those things that have made experience so difficult.

The novel has a happy ending—happy in the past and in the present as well—but it is how he gets to that ending that makes this such an entertaining book.

Bob Smith

Remembrance of Things I Forgot is available at Powell's, Vroman's and Amazon.

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