So you might already have heard that Simon and Schuster is putting out a book (in 2010, a long ways away), entitled, catchily, "Zombies vs Unicorns."
Unicorns. John Green calls them "horned beasts of suck." How this would have hurt my 11 year old self, who loved them passionately (although strangely my unicorn rug, book ends, unwritten in journals, pillowcase, cushion, etc. all failed to make it inside my grown-up house. I think my poor mother is still trying to use up unicorn notepads back at home). Heading up Team Unicorn is Holly Black--here's just one of her arguments: "Unicorns are interesting because there is something to subvert, something to transgress. No one wants to see the zombie transgressed. Well, only crazy people."
Zombies. I just don't much care for the undead. Possibly because, before Pet Cemetery was even written, I had recurring nightmares (well, at least 2) about digging up my dead cat. In the Zombie camp is Justine Larbalestier ("Why Zombies Rule"): "You can fight them off. You can get away. But in the end? Not so much."
Read more about this epic battle here.
2010 is a long time to wait to see which side will prevail. So what, you might ask, is the status of Zombies vs Unicorns this year, now, 2008? Thanks to my position as reader of the 168 or whatever books nominated for the Science Fiction Fantasy Awards, I can answer that question with Hard Data.
In the zombie camp are Zombie Blondes, by Brian James, and Generation Dead, by Daniel Waters. If you are a reader who craves books about Zombie Cheerleaders, 2008 was great great great and will probably never be surpassed. Then there's Playing With Fire, by Derek Landy, the second Skulduggery Pleasant book (is a sentient, "living" skeletal creature a zombie?) There is also an undead hamster from hell (The Curse of Cuddles McGee, by Emily Ecton). He is perhaps more ghost than zombie, although his bones move, instead of staying sweetly in one place, the way a ghost's do, and I have now decided (mainly so that I can include this book) that if your bones move, you're a zombie.
Final count: 4 zombie books (I have read 2)
Unicorns are represented by Dark Whispers, the third book of the Unicorn Chronicles, by Bruce Coville, and Charm for a Unicorn, by Jennifer Macaire. I haven't read either of these; once I do, if I have anything interesting to add, I'll come back and say it.
Final count: 2 unicorn books (I have read 0)
In general, I am on Team Unicorn (although I will of course read the zombie books on the Cybils list with respect and careful consideration). How can one not be. Think of some of the classic books with unicorns, like Elidor, by Alan Garner, or The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis, or even (although it's not really a favorite of mine) The Last Unicorn, by Peter Beagle. Now think of the powerful, beautiful, moving books with zombies, books destined never to fall out of print. I can't think of any. But maybe my parents, busily buying me unicorn notepaper, kept such darkness from me...