“–All You Zombies–,” Robert Heinlein, 1959

“–All You Zombies–,” Robert Heinlein, 1959 – A time traveler paradox in which an orphaned “intersexed” man (hermaphrodite) switches genders, travels back in time to impregnate a younger version of himself, and gives birth to himself.  He is thus his own mother and father.  He (?) is initially introduced as “The Unmarried Mother,” a man who writes confessions stories for the magazines about “his” experience as an unmarried mother.  Of particular interest are the three groups s/he’s told will employ someone in his situation, all of which provide comfort to men: W.E.N.C.H.E.S, A.N.G.E.L.S., and W.H.O.R.E.S.  Instead, s/he learns how to type and lands a secretarial position.  Eventually, a version of him/herself recruits him/her to the Time Bureau.

At the conclusion, while meditating on the sight of his scar from the Caesarean section he had to have in order to birth himself, he thinks: “I know where I came from—but where did all you zombies come from?”

Comments: Read in The Mirror of Infinity: A Critic’s Anthology of Science Fiction; intro by Alexei Panshin.  Regarded as one of Heinlein’s best stories concerning gender and identity, but also well-known for the time travel paradox, which leaves the story open-ended.  All of the characters are versions of himself, from different points in time.  Mentions the song “I’m My Own Grandpa” by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe, a song inspired by an anecdote from Mark Twain. 

According to SF Signal, the story is scheduled to be made into the film Predestination by the Spierig brothers, starring Ethan Hawke, to be released in early 2013.

Wikipedia notes an allusion to recursion or self-citation in the title: “It is noteworthy that the title of the story, which properly written includes both the quotation marks and the dashes, is actually a quotation from a sentence near the end of the story itself (taken from the middle of the sentence, hence the dashes indicating edited text before and after the title). In this way it mirrors the life of the protagonist, whose life is a ‘quotation’ from itself.”

Author: Wikipedia: “Robert Anson Heinlein…(July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction writer. Often called the “dean of science fiction writers,” he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre in his time. He set a standard for scientific and engineering plausibility, and helped to raise the genre’s standards of literary quality. He was one of the first science fiction writers to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. He was one of the best-selling science fiction novelists for many decades. He, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke are known as the ‘Big Three’ of science fiction.”


About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1946-1959, agency/will/freedom, class/labor/"work", death/immortality, favorites, gender, identity/authenticity, love/family/children, masculinity, multiplicity, sex/reproduction/sterility, the body, the Other, time/history/causality. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “–All You Zombies–,” Robert Heinlein, 1959

  1. Pingback: Robert A. Heinlein: Love « Rubber Tyres –> Smooth Rides

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