Ethan Hawke’s upcoming zombie movie adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s ‘All you Zombies’
Variety announced that Sony Pictures will produce the movie “Predestination” based on Robert Heinlein’s 1958 short story “All you Zombies” starring Ethan Hawke and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig. In the article:
“Predestination is based on the classic Robert A. Heinlein short story ‘All you Zombies.’ No, it’s not a Zombie flick but it’s one of our favorite short stories and is unlike anything you’ve ever read before,” said the Spierig brothers. “The short is on many sci-fi lists as one of the greatest short stories of all time, and the mother of all time paradox tales. Heinlein is considered one of the great science fiction masters alongside Phillip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke.”
I presume this quote came from a press release and I think it very humorous. First, the thought of those four writers being “alongside” one another in person (for instance on a panel discussion) is amusing. Second, referring to “All you Zombies” as “the mother of all time paradox tales” is a fun pun. If you don’t get it, read the story or it’s synopsis on wikipedia.
The reason I post this story is because I object to how the directors say “it’s not a Zombie flick”. Sure, this story is not about Romero zombies, fast or slow, and it’s not about brain-eating, or blood-thirst or rage or epidemic. What it is about is time travel paradoxes; the bootstrap paradox, the predestination paradox. It is also about contradictions between absolute Otherness and self, alienation and self-creation, past and future, social construction and existentialism.
The ontological problem is not confined to time travel. Which came first the chicken or the egg? The human or the zombie? And linguistic bootstrapping is considered an important step in of the modern theory of language development. Douglas Hofstadter says that our consciousness itself (the ego or “I” function) is a strange loop that twists back on itself as self-fulfilling prophecy – a future disturbing the past disturbing the future or the other way around- like an Ouroboros or like Hegelian logic (which came first Being or Nothing? has it always been so becoming?).
I would argue that all this relates very much to what it means to be “zombie” because that definition is wrapped up in the ambiguity of what it means to be alive and human. The undead inhuman monster is a dialectical negative that constructs our conception and recognition of humanity in ourselves and others.
I’m sure the directors know this but just didn’t feel like explaining it in the press release and thought it more expedient to simply announce it not a “zombie” movie. Also they previously made a more typical zombie movie “Undead” (2003) and the prior recent movie (also with Ethan Hawke) “Daybreakers” (2009) was vampires, so I can’t blame them for wanting to distinguish. Still, Heinlein’s story is important to understanding zombies ideology. We should expand the term beyond the bloody version to understand how it is used to marginalize and alienate individuals caught in drastically different temporal conditions. Though causality is paradoxical, the stories we tell construct our world by structuring our perceptions and associations.