Unicorns vs Zombies

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...


  1. Would Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (the book, hot the horror movie) count under these criteria? If a zombie is dead, yet his bones move, Shelley's tragic monster appears to qualify.

    I guess I'm in the unicorn camp, since I prefer live animals over resurrected dead ones (including humans). The cutsie-wootsie ones are too much, though. (I still do like CS Lewis' Jewel) I prefer my unicorns black, with bat wings and saber horns.
    My cat characters also like horned beasts, but theirs have three horns instead of one.

    All in fun, CB

  2. Great post, Charlotte. I loved finding these kinds of connections when I was reading Cybils books, too. I'm definitely in the unicorn camp. I don't have much of my unicorn paraphernalia left from my teen years, although I do still have a couple of things. And zombies are just icky.

    Rathacat, I like your black unicorn image! I'd like to ride one of those!

  3. I love unicorns ( I stll have a gold unicorn charm necklace:)....uncool?
    BUT I love creepy zombies and scary books too......
    I guess i'm in the zombicorn camp!

  4. Yes, I would count Frankenstein! But I've never read it, so I can't comment as to its worth.

    The bat-winged unicorns always scared me a bit. They sound like Kim's zombicorns!

  5. I think I am leaning towards team zombie - just because they are usually in more exciting books. Unicorn books tend to be pretty cheesy...

  6. I think it might be true that unicorn books are cheesy but that's all the more reason to champion the unicorn and get them out of their cheesy exile. Madeleine L'Engle has a good one in one of the Time Quartet books, and there's a really interesting one in Diana Wynne Jones's recent Pinhoe Egg, but I don't know of any good unicorn protagonists. Still, I'm on team unicorn despite my immense respect and affection for John Green, and my admiration for Justine Larbalestier, both of whom I hesitate to cross.

  7. I'm totally on Team Unicorn! Thanks for bringing up this important issue. ;^)

    (Now Zombie Unicorns. That might really go somewhere.)


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