Heinlein’s Short Story “All You Zombies” Heads to the Big Screen!

Variety is reporting that a film adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies” will begin production early next year. Predestination stars Ethan Hawke and is being written and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig (Daybreakers).

Variety describes it thusly:

[The] story centers on a secret government time traveling agency designed to prevent future killers and terrorists from committing their crimes. Pic chronicles the life of a Temporal Agent sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to ensure the continuation of his law enforcement career for all eternity.

I’m really excited about this news…not just because I like time travel stories, but also because this is one of my all time favorites. If you haven’t read it, do so. Escape Pod has an audio version. Or seek out the story in The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, a collection that contains the story (as well as the titular story, which is also being adapted to film).

12 thoughts on “Heinlein’s Short Story “All You Zombies” Heads to the Big Screen!”

  1. I mean no offense to you, but if you harbor the slightest shred of affection for this SF classic, this news should be utterly horrific to you. They will turn this into a travesty, and it will just be one more Heinlein story we won’t be able to persuade people to read anymore because they’ll know it as an incomprehensible mess with a message the author would have found repellent. This is what’s happened with every single RAH adaptation apart from Destination Moon.

    (P.S.: Sure, a good movie COULD be made from All You Zombies. But this won’t be it.)

    1. No offense taken. I gave up expecting faithful adaptations a long time ago when I finally realized that the story must necessarily change when the storytelling medium does. Consider my classic go-to example of David Lynch’s Dune, where the internal monologues from Frank Herbert’s book came off as silly and annoying. I’ll be happy if the film uses the original story idea as a launching point and is entertaining while standing on its own terms.

      1. My attitude is a little different. You’re right that the Dune inner monologues didn’t work in Lynch’s adaptation. I’d suggest as another example “A Scanner Darkly,” which copied too faithfully the narrative looseness of Dick’s original; as with “Dune,” what worked in the book did not work so well in the film. However, I think the burden of proof is on the filmmaker to demonstrate that an adaptation *has* to diverge from the source-material, especially if it diverges sharply. For example, Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” was fundamentally a faithful adaptation — but when it diverged, it was almost always for sound reasons. (Not always; I’m not arguing for the perfection of Jackson’s films or anything.)

        It sounds from the above synopsis like this adaptation diverges sharply from the original. For me, a “commercial” justification for such drastic changes (it wouldn’t sell if we didn’t change it) doesn’t cut it. It’s the filmmaker’s problem to *make* a faithful adaptation work commercially; I refer back to Jackson. If the argument is put forward that the material is “inherently” uncommercial, which (again) I feel reflects more on the filmmaker’s skill than on the material — well, I want to say to such filmmakers: then pick another damn property or make up your own, if you’re too mediocre to make a faithful adaptation yield up the profits your distributors are expecting of you.

  2. I can’t imagine that the film is going to follow through to the devastating finale of the story (Its one of my favorites too, John). That would be too weird for mainstream movie audiences.

    1. Lol! When I was googling to get the Heinlein collection this story was in, that YouTube video came up in the results and the song got stuck in my head for a bit. I’m better now. :)

  3. This becomes extremely problematic when the director’s vision is diametrically opposed to the author’s. Consider the film “Stormship Troopers,” which presents Heinlein’s libertarian message as fascism.

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