September 29th, 2010

short stories

Zombies V. Unicorns (edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier)

Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is a gut-wrenching story of fear and love, showing the point of view of a zombie with brains (not the edible kind), and how a functional, intelligent zombie might be very like a serial killer. Icky, powerful stuff, with a strong thread of unrequited love which got under my skin.

Margo Lanagan’s “A Thousand Flowers” looks at the medieval tradition of unicorn stories, and tells a tale of courtly love and a disgraced, pregnant lady through the eyes of three different narrators. It’s a beautifully written piece that unfolds slowly.

Diana Peterfreund’s “The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Unicorn” comes from the same world as her novels Rampant and Ascendant, and the story “Errant” which appeared in Kiss Me Deadly. In this, she tells the story of Wen, a girl with unicorn-hunting heritage whose family refused to let her go to be trained properly in Rome, thanks to their religious beliefs. Wen is charged to care for a helpless infant unicorn at a time when her whole town is being terrorised by a larger, deadlier example of the species. Caring for the unicorn means lying to her family and possibly rearing a monster who will turn on her… it’s a powerful, page-turning character story, and I was disappointed when it came to an end.

Meg Cabot’s “Princess Prettypants” makes fun of the kind of unicorn any right-thinking hipster loves to hate – up to and including rainbow-coloured farts! It’s a very cool teen story about friendship and loyalty and bad choices. Those of you who were angry and frustrated at the recent don’t-sext-your-boyfriend-or-we’ll-shame-you ad campaign will enjoy a particular aspect of this story, in which one girl and her unicorn help a friend to get revenge against a badly behaved dude at a party.

I also really enjoyed Naomi Novik’s “Purity Test,” Maureen Johnson’s “Children of the Revolution” and Scott Westerfeld’s “Innoculata.”