The Fingers of the Colossus has reached the Top 5 in Amazon’s science fiction short stories bestseller list. And what’s particularly interesting about that is the book sitting beside it at #6: Robert Heinlein’s” ‘—All You Zombies—’ .“
“ ‘—All You Zombies—’ ,” which I will abbreviate to AYZ for ease of typing, is Heinlein’s mind-bending story of a man who walks into a bar and meets an older man, then tells the tale of once being a woman and having a child. Through the story, we learn that all of the primary characters are the same person at different times. And, to make matters worse, the old man version is responsible for putting the younger male and female versions of himself together and producing the child version of himself. So yeah, it’s a little trippy.
But Heinlein is a sci-fi master, and this story was nominated for a Balrog Award a scant 21 years after its first publication. Sure, AYZ flips on itself in completely bizarre ways, but Heinlein was purposefully toying with the idea of a temporal paradox (or several). The story was even made into a movie starring Ethan Hawke just last year, titled ‘Predestination” (it’s from Australia, which is probably why you’ve never heard of it before unless you’re Australian or you went to SXSW 2014).
For my short story collection, I wanted to do something with time travel, but not forward and backward, and not even in a way where any sentient being knowingly moved around in time. Instead, I thought over the idea that we are all made of star dust. Sure, that phrasing is rather dramatically romantic. But fundamentally, the particles that make up our bodies have moved from one spot to another, across the universe, across great expanses of time. They predate us and they will outlive us. And so, my trippy little head-bender story called “Time in Time” talks of a creature who is annihilated, becoming nothing but star dust. Eons later, two other creatures walk into a bar — yes, they do, and it is a purposeful reference to AYZ — and perhaps they fall in love. Even the references to the creatures as “s/he” are intentionally pointing back to the intersex main character in AYZ. I’m not so much making the (possibly cynical) statement that love is just an accidental reunion of familiar particles as I am just toying with a strange idea: that the things inside of me, inside of you, have been flowing around the universe for a very long time, and wouldn’t it be interesting if they reunited and remembered one another?
It’s been called the weirdest of the stories in the collection, but in case you were too worried, it’s also the shortest. Nonetheless, it definitely has its origins with Heinlein’s story.
So, in a very odd way, like traveling through time to meet yourself, or like two particles randomly reuniting across the expanse of the universe, it makes perfect sense that they would sit together on the charts now.