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Literature / Zombies vs. Unicorns

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"Since the dawn of time one question has dominated all others: Zombies or Unicorns?"

A 2010 Young Adult Fantasy anthology. The short stories were written specifically for the book by many well known Fantasy and Science Fiction writers, and the book was edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. The 12 authors and their respective stories are divided into two teams: Team Unicorn and Team Zombie.

On Team Unicorn, led and edited by Holly Black, we find:

On Team Zombie, led and edited by Justine Larbalestier:

This anthology provides examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Liz's boyfriend cheats on her when he goes to college, after she spends a thousand dollars texting and calling him. She gets revenge thanks to Princess Prettypants, plus a watch worth that amount.
  • Adults Are Useless: In "Prom Night", all the adults are either dead or undead. In "Princess Prettypants", they're just not very helpful.
  • Affectionate Parody: "Purity Test" features a Cliché Storm complete with an evil wizard and referring to Virgin Power.
  • After the End: "Bouganvillea", "Inoculata", and especially "Prom Night"
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The zombies in every story except "The Highest Justice" (because it has zombies, despite being a unicorn story), "Love Will Tear Us Apart", and "Cold Hands".
  • And I Must Scream: "The Children of the Revolution": stuck forever as a zombie, just barely capable of cognitive function, knowing you need to do something, to leave, but never being able to concentrate enough to actually do it…
  • Apocalypse How: The 'Before' sections of "Bouganvillea" deal with this.
  • Armored Closet Gay: Jack in "Love Will Tear Us Apart."
  • Badass Adorable: "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn".
  • Buddy Cop Show: In "Prom Night", the kids are running the (now barricaded) town they live in because of a Zombie Apocalypse that was Only Fatal to Adults. Tahmina and Jeff play the role of cops, keeping down crime and shooting any zombies that pop up. The story mostly focuses on their interactions with each other and their (mis)adventures as teenaged cops, and there's a bit of a Running Gag where Jeff constantly jokes about how stuff would be good material for when they get their own TV show.
  • "Cavemen vs. Astronauts" Debate: Pretty much how the book came into existence; it all started with a blog post Larbalestier made in February 2007
  • Church of Happyology: "Children of the Revolution" features a cult/religion founded by a science fiction author that requires a lot of money to progress and is quite popular among rich famous people, a lot like another cult/religions we're all familiar with... except with zombies.
  • Crisis of Faith: The narrator in "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" has one.
  • Exact Words: The princess in "A Thousand Flowers" says that no man has touched her when Manny, who's been accusing of raping her, is brought to the court. As we find out, what touched her wasn't human . . .
  • Expy: "Children of the Revolution" features a super-famous movie star who's adopted a butt-load of kids from third world countries with her equally famous movie star boyfriend.
  • Familiar: The relationship between unicorns and their master has shades of this in "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" and especially in "Princess Pretty Pants".
  • Fantastic Drug: Life Energy for the unicorn in "The Third Virgin". More seriously, he's also got a serious Self-Harm problem and lets the titular virgin cut him into pieces just to feel love from her while she's doing it. She realizes this and calls him out on it. The virgin even compares him to her cousin, who was a meth addict.
  • Fluffy Tamer:
    • The main character in "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn", at least as far as said baby killer unicorn goes (she even names him Flower).
    • Liz and her aunt from "Princess Prettypants" are revealed to be one.
  • Fluffy the Terrible:
    • Flower, said unicorn that the main character in "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" cares for.
    • Princess Prettypants also counts; she may have a silly name, but you don't want to get her owner angry. Liz later renames her "Gloria" after Gloria Steinem.
  • Gender-Blender Name: The main character in "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" names the unicorn 'Flower' before realizing that it was a boy. She renames him "Flayer" when he starts to eat squirrels.
  • Healing Horn: In "The Third Virgin", combined with the ability to steal Life Energy.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Lampshaded in "Bouganvillea" when Iza describes the covers of the romance novels she's read
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Spank, the antagonist in Princess Prettypants, calls his dad the sheriff from a party where alcohol is being served to minors after Liz orders Princess Prettypants to destroy his cellphone. Thinking his son is drunk, the sheriff proceeds to come and bust the party.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: The unicorn in "The Third Virgin"
  • Interspecies Romance: "Love Will Tear Us Apart" has one between a zombie and a human.
  • Jerk Ass Realization: Liz in "Princess Prettypants" after her brother tattles on her about stealing plastic flamingos and selling the titular unicorn on eBay.
  • Just Before the End: Implied in "Prom Night"
  • Karma Houdini: Part of what makes the unicorn in "The Third Virgin" so messed-up. Even if he kills the people he heals, he's never blamed for it, making it that much easier to justify settling his craving for Life Energy.
  • Killer Rabbit: The unicorns in "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn"
  • Kiss of Death: In "Bouganvillea" Iza uses a kiss to distract the pirate so she can kill him with her machete... and also she kinda just wanted to kiss him.
  • Lack of Empathy:
    • Philip Grayson in "Love Will Tear Us Apart" claims to have this since the prions ate the part of his brain that processes empathy. However, he does have a few Pet the Dog moments
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Or island dictator's beautiful daughter in Bouganvillea. Unfortunately for the pirate Iza chose the path of the Overlord Jr.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn"
  • Not What It Looks Like: Manny, the Decoy Protagonist in "A Thousand Flowers" gets accused of raping the princess when trying to clothe her while drunk. Even when the princess defends him, he gets murdered by the sheriff when she ends up pregnant.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Team Zombie:
    • "Love Will Tear Us Apart" - Type M bordering on O, specifically a mix of elements from F and R (flesh eating, but intelligent and with vague memories and the capacity to love
    • "Bouganvilla" - classic Type P with F
    • "The Children of the Revolution" - Type C
    • "Inoculata" - Type P, later we see some Type O's
    • "Cold Hands" - most like a Type R
    • "Prom Night" - also a classic Type P with F
  • Overlord Jr.: Iza at the end of "Bouganvillea"
  • Pirate: in "Bougenvilla" Iza fantasized about being whisked off to a life of adventure by a Type 1 before realizing that the real ones are all Type 2. The young man who shows up turns out to be a pirate captain who fancies himself to be a Type 1, Iza disgrees.
  • The Plague: Team Zombie stories "Bouganvillea", "Inoculata", and "Prom Night". "The Highest Justice" has zombies come from a disease, but it doesn't appear to be contagious.
  • Princess Classic: The princess in A Thousand Flowers has some elements of this
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Spank in "Princess Prettypants" operates this way; because his dad is the sheriff, he can get away with petty theft and Black Mail against an Ingenue high school student who liked him
  • Telepathy: Unicorns, but only with certain people in "The Third Virgin", "Princess Pretty Pants", and "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn". Also implied in "A Thousand Flowers".
  • Teenage Wasteland: Of the second variation in "Prom Night"; for some reason the adults were the first to contract the disease and by the time the story takes place only adolescents remain.
  • Unicorn: All of the Team Unicorn Stories
  • Versus Title
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Both "The Care and Feeding of Your Killer Unicorn" and "Princess Pretty Pants"
  • Virgin Power: Played straight in "The Highest Justice" and "Princess Prettypants, Deconstructed in "Purity Test", The other unicorns want a virgin, but the main unicorn would rather have a heroine who knows what she's doing.
    • Played with in "A Thousand Flowers" where the unicorns want virgins, but not because they're powerful; the unicorns just want someone to have sex with.
    • Further played with in "The Third Virgin", where it's not sexual purity that denotes a virgin, but a unique kind of spiritual purity. The unicorn wryly notes that if sexual purity was all that was needed, any child would do, while he's encountered only three virgins in his whole life. That said, it does posit that the whole "virginity" thing was an excuse for unicorns to steal the life force from children, as it tastes sweeter the younger the victim is.
  • The Virus: Most of the Team Zombie stories, excepting "Cold Hands".
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The unicorn in "The Third Virgin".
  • Wrong Guy First: "Princess Pretty Pants".
  • The X of Y: "The Children of the Revolution"
  • Zombie Apocalypse: "Bouganvillea", "Inoculata", and "Prom Night".