Zombies and Unicorns Battle for Literary Supremacy

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A small feud has been brewing between young adult writers who are lovers of zombie fiction and those who prefer unicorns. Zombie fans argue that unicorns are a boring relic of high fantasy, while unicorn advocates claim that the whole zombie concept has been done to death. To determine which creature makes for better fiction, two writers on opposite sides of the debate are editing Zombies vs. Unicorns, an anthology that pits horned beasts against the shuffling undead.The feud appears to have started with science fiction scholar and urban fantasy novelist Justine Larbalestier. Although Larbalestier’s young adult novels feature magic and fairies, she detests all things unicorn. In praising Simon Pegg’s discussion on zombies as metaphor, she notes that the unicorn metaphor hasn’t successfully been brought into the 21st Century:

Maybe in the olden days, Diana. But I don’t know if you noticed: this isn’t the olden days. No one allegories or alchemises no more. Unicorns are metaphorically as dead as the dodo.

Although Larbalestier has found some support on this matter (fellow young adult novelist John Green described unicorns as “the horned beasts of suck”), Holly Black, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, believes that the failure of writers to explore unicorns with a modern eye is exactly what gives them potential:

1. Justine says that zombies are so chilling because they represent inescapable death and that unicorns have no resonance. This is massively untrue. Unicorns symbolize eternal life, hence their healing powers and their association with both religious figures and kings. Eternal life can be pretty chilling. 2. For example, but also as a separate point, the photoshopping and painting of Obama with unicorns and McCain with (or into) zombies as a means to make a political argument. Unfair? Maybe, but resonant. (I did find a single McCain unicorn picture, for anyone who's interested in that kind of thing.) 3. Unicorns are interesting because there is something to subvert, something to transgress. No one wants to see the zombie transgressed. Well, only crazy people.


So, with that in mind, the pair conceived of Zombies vs. Unicorns, an anthology that will be half zombie stories and half unicorn stories, with Larbalestier editing the former and Black the latter. It’s an interesting idea, but I think the unicorn folks have their work cut out for them. While it’s a challenge to keep zombies fresh and interesting, I’m hard pressed to think of instances of unicorns being successfully brought into the science fiction or urban fantasy sphere. But, perhaps knowing that the stories will be published with zombie tales will push unicorn writers farther outside the high fantasy conventions. Simon & Schuster will publish the anthology in 2010. Zombie unicorn from jawboneradio. [Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black via Shaken & Stirred]

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As much as I hate most fantasy, I have to agree with Holly Black. Because Unicorns are outdated I think that gives writers a great opportunity to reinvent the lore. People have disdain for them because they seem to be done the same way every time, but add a little spice to it and you could have another monster franchise on your hands.

If anything zombies seems to be wearing out their welcome. I mean, how many times can you have a plague or spooky mist make people into the undead?