Style and Technique

The story is told in a brusque, no-nonsense manner, with each of its seven divisions headed by time and location. There is playfulness in Heinlein’s depiction of the young recruit, who as a confession writer has taken to calling himself the “Unmarried Mother,” reminiscent perhaps of the author’s own early days as a pulp writer at four cents a word. “Unmarried Mother” refers not only to the point of view taken in the young man’s published stories but also to his experience as Jane, pregnant (it turns out) with himself. Here the writer is truly the creator. Heinlein peppers his story with intriguing glimpses of a future society. In his version of 1970 (the story was published eleven years earlier), space travel is routine, with the need for female companionship spawning such organizations as W.E.N.C.H.E.S. and, in 1993, the elite Women’s Hospitality Order Refortifying & Encouraging Spacemen. At Pop’s Place in 1970, a song entitled “I’m My Own Grandpaw!” keeps blaring from the jukebox. The mysterious Temporal Bureau headquarters under the Rocky Mountains hints of increasingly complex loops. Are operatives from the farther future at work in 1993 to ensure the workings of temporal agents in 1970?

Against this background, the events leading to the Unmarried Mother’s self-creation are played out. The agent recounts his activities with a serious, though wry, tone. His emotions at the end of the story suggest a lonely, world-weary cry, yet even here the cry is for the self, for Jane. “’All You Zombies—’” is a cautionary tale as well as one of the finest time-travel yarns in science fiction.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Aldiss, Brian. Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction. New York: Atheneum, 1986.

Franklin, H. Bruce. Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Gifford, J. Daniel. Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader’s Companion. Sacramento, Calif.: Nitrosyncretic Press, 2000.

McGiveron, Rafeeq O. “Heinlein’s Inhabited Solar System, 1940-1952.” Science-Fiction Studies 23 (July, 1996): 245-252.

Nicholls, Peter. “Robert A. Heinlein.” In Science Fiction Writers: Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present Day, edited by E. F. Bleiler. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982.

Olander, Joseph D., and Martin Harry Greenberg, eds. Robert A. Heinlein. New York: Taplinger, 1978.

Panshin, Alexei. Heinlein in Dimension. 1968. Reprint. Chicago: Advent, 1974.

Patterson, William H., Jr., and Andrew Thronton. The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.” Citrus Heights, Calif.: Nitrosyncretic Press, 2001.

Stephens, Christopher P., comp. A Checklist of Robert A. Heinlein. Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Ultramarine, 1994.

Stover, Leon. Robert Heinlein. Boston: Twayne, 1987.