As a self-proclaimed and certified Newbie, every week it is my goal to throw myself headfirst into all things sci-fi, specifically peering into some of the most critically acclaimed science fiction based TV shows, movies, and literature! I check them out in pure tabula rasa fashion, with typically nada knowledge about the premise and letting the work speak for itself. Afterwards, I will give you the most honest of honest opinions and retreat to my phantom castle on the other side of the internet.
In this week’s Confessions, I have gone to the top of the science fiction totem pole and read the short story “—All You Zombies—”, by Robert A. Heinlein.
Robert A. Heinlein was a Navy aeronautical engineer turned writer. He published his first short story in 1939 and became the leader of what became known as the “Social Science Fiction Movement,” gearing his works more towards the speculation of human beings within the context of science fiction.
“—All You Zombies—” was originally published in 1959. It tells a story that I could only describe as “trippy.” I’ve never read anything like it. Without giving too much away, I can tell you it involves an ouroboros and a time machine. The plot develops around a Bartender who entices a man, known as “The Unmarried Mother”, to tell him how the name came about. The Unmarried Mother is an orphan hermaphrodite named Jane, who has her baby, her virtue, and her dreams of being a…provider of comfort… for spacers snatched away by an unknown man. On top of all that, the doctors who delivered her newborn took it upon themselves to give her a sex change.
In thirteen pages, Heinlein introduces not only time travel, but presents concepts of feminism and the disillusionment of youth in a satirical way, a shocking ending that I couldn’t decide whether it was vanity or self-preservation, and so much more.
My only question, one that I’m sure many people have, is who are the zombies? My first thought was that they were the various versions of the protagonist through time because he’s (I think) the original, and the others were only mere copies of himself in different stages of life. Then, I thought about it, and the possibilities are endless. The zombies could be us, you and me, everyone outside of the Bartender’s cycle because we don’t have the monopoly on our creation or our lineage. This story uniquely deals with sequences of time by using different stories that seem to be completely independent of one another, but in actuality are connected and divided by time. If you have an hour (maybe less) to spare, then this shortie but goodie is worth a read. Or, if cinema is more of your style, the bees have been buzzing about a film adaptation, starring Ethan Hawke!
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