I have not read very much Robert Heinlein, although “Stranger in a Strange Land” has been near the top of my to-read pile for a shamefully long time. But I have read this gem of a short-short story, “All You Zombies.” It’s written in the hard-nosed noir style of Dashiell Hammett and doesn’t involve any zombies in the George Romero sense of the word. Here a bit from the top with many pulp cliches arrayed like so many toy soldiers about to get jumbled up in Heinlein’s weird bag:
The Unmarried Mother was a man twenty–five years old, no taller than I am, childish features and a touchy temper. I didn’t like his looks—I never had—but he was a lad I was here to recruit, he was my boy. I gave him my best barkeep’s smile.
Maybe I’m too critical. He wasn’t swish; his nickname came from what he always said when some nosy type asked him his line: “I’m an unmarried mother.” If he felt less than murderous he would add: “at four cents a word. I write confession stories.”
If he felt nasty, he would wait for somebody to make something of it. He had a lethal style of infighting, like a female cop—reason I wanted him. Not the only one.
He had a load on, and his face showed that he despised people more than usual. Silently I poured a double shot of Old Underwear and left the bottle. He drank it, poured another.
I wiped the bar top. “How’s the ‘Unmarried Mother’ racket?”
His fingers tightened on the glass and he seemed about to throw it at me; I felt for the sap under the bar. In temporal manipulation you try to figure everything, but there are so many factors that you never take needless risks.
Read the whole thing, as they say.