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"I know where I came from, but where did all you zombies come from?"
"--All You Zombies--" (1959) is a short story by Robert A. Heinlein that presents to the reader an interesting time paradox. "The Unmarried Mother," as a bar patron calls himself, unloads his life story onto a willing barman. The barman, however, knows more about The Unmarried Mother than he could ever guess.
At roughly a dozen pages, "--All You Zombies--" provides a provocative story and incorporates many of Heinlein's favorite themes.
As the story contains a twist ending, it is recommended you read it for yourself before reading the associated tropes.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep" - The narrator is only referred to as "the barman" until the end of the story when he reveals his real name: Jane.
- Foreshadowing - The barman becomes very annoyed at the song "My Own Grandpa."
- Fun with Acronyms - The same "elite military service corps" is referred to at various points in history as the Women's Emergency National Corps, Hospitality & Entertainment Section, the "Space Angels" or Auxiliary Nursing Group, Extraterrestrial Legions, and the Women's Hospitality Order Refortifying & Encouraging Spacemen.
- No doubt inspired by the Real Life Women Airforce Service Pilots and their naval counterparts, Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service.
- Help Your Self in the Future
- Incest Is Relative - and how! See also One Degree of Separation below.
- Luke, You Are My Father / Luke, I Am Your Father - and mother.
- Most Writers Are Writers - The Unmarried Mother writes short stories for magazines.
- My Future Self and Me
- My Own Grandpa - In possibly the most convoluted, mind screwing way possible.
- Noodle Incident - The Mistake of '72.
- One Degree of Separation - The various characters are connected by zero degrees of separation.
- Ouroboros - The bartender, quite understandably, wears an Ourboros ring.
- Parental Incest - Again, all part of the story's Timey-Wimey Ball.
- Screw Yourself
- Stable Time Loop - The barman already knows the recruitment will work. After all, he remembers the other side of it.
- Tangled Family Tree - It's a very tangled family tree, considering that there's only one person in it.
- Take That: Jack Chalker claimed he wrote Downtiming the Night Side to address the questions this story raised but failed to answer.
- Time Paradox
- Time Travel
- Timey-Wimey Ball - Don't think too hard on the paradox of the story. You will start bleeding from the nose.
- Title Drop - In the closing lines.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future - As with all Heinlein's works. The latest date given in the story is 1993.
- Wrong Genetic Sex: The protagonist starts out as an intersex female and...it gets complicated. Her actual degree of intersexualization approaches true hermaphrodism and isn't biologically possible, at least for normal humans.
- You Already Changed the Past