“Since the dawn of time one question has dominated all others,” write Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier in the introduction to their new anthology: “Zombies or Unicorns?” The project began as banter between Black and Larbalestier on Larbalestier’s blog in early 2007. Quite a few writers chimed in, and it “took off from there,” the co-editors say. Black leads Team Unicorn, and Larbalestier captains Team Zombie in this pitched battle featuring 12 leading writers for teens. “Who is the victor in this epic smackdown? Readers, of course!” said Kirkus Reviews.
Did you each “recruit” the writers you felt could make your case?
Holly Black: I had to recruit pretty hard, I admit.
Justine Larbelestier: Nobody wanted to write unicorn stories. We had to turn away hundreds and hundreds of people who wanted to write zombie stories.
HB: And in fact, several people were told, “You may be included in this collection, but you must write a unicorn story.” Meg Cabot [“Princess Prettypants”] is so clearly Team Zombie. She’s a mole on our team!
JL: I did go after Margo Lanagan. I was convinced she would write a zombie story, but she went for a unicorn story [“A Thousand Flowers”]. She’s notoriously perverse.
HB: Garth Nix started by writing a zombie story and it turned out to be a unicorn story [“The Highest Justice”].
JL: Holly is making that up. Garth has been Team Unicorn since he was a small child. He was into My Little Pony. He has a separate study nearby me, and everything is pink and sparkly.
Whose idea was it to approach Carrie Ryan for a zombie story? It’s almost a prequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth.
JL: Actually, Carrie Ryan paid me money to let her into this collection.
HB: It’s a beautiful, rich, textured story. If you read her novels, the ending of this short story is unexpectedly brutal.
JL: Diana Peterfreund’s story [“The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn”] was also very fun. In a way this whole thing started because I was teasing Diana on my blog about how much I hated unicorns because I knew she was writing a unicorn novel. To include one of her stories set in her unicorn world, I think adds a lot to those novels. That’s the one that makes me cry.
HB: You’re so cute [laughs].
JL: And yet vicious.
So you didn’t mind that Peterfreund was on the other team because you thought the writing was so lovely?
JL: The unicorns I’m against are the fluffy, sparkly ones. I think the killer ones are wonderful. They make a worthy opponent to the zombies.
HB: I’m not against zombies as long as it doesn’t decay or shuffle or moan. Like Alaya Johnson’s—I’m totally fine with that. That’s another undead type. I love that story.
JL: Alaya Johnson’s is probably my favorite story in the book, called “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” after the Joy Division song.
HB: And the zombie is not gross. Everybody wins.
Zombies vs. Unicorns
Edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
S&S/McElderry / September / 9781416989530 / $16.99
(Ages 14 & up)