Word on the street is that the peerless Holly Black and her peer, sf historian and YA author Justine Larbalestier, have tired of championing their favorite imaginary critters (unicorns and zombies respectively) in sordid smackdowns through all the back alleys and undertubes of the internet and are settling the matter in the only reasonable way, by co-editing an anthology titled Zombies Vs. Unicorns. That’s high concept so high it smacks of genius. Or some sort of hallucinogen.
I’m a noncombatant in the zombie-unicorn wars, but I have to admit I incline a little toward the widely loathed unicorn. They may have been pop-cultivated into my-little-ponies-with-spikes, but they still strike me as a powerful symbol of otherworldliness. There are no unicorns around here (wherever “here” is): if you see a unicorn you are there instead. I’m thinking of the occasional appearances of the unicorn in Zelazny’s Amber series (the original five, not the saddeningly inept sequel books), or Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. Dunsany wrote a couple of stories (The King of Elfland’s Daughter and maybe the best of all the Jorkens stories, “Hunting the Unicorn”) involving unicorn hunts, a notion which has always struck me as deeply depraved. But at least Dunsany’s unicorns were remarkable beasts, whose presence indicated escape from the fields we know.
Unfortunately, that’s not what most readers seem to think of when they read the word “unicorn”, and it’s audience reaction that seals the deal (or doesn’t), not the writer’s intent.