Shimmer #20 Interview: Laura Pearlman

Laura Pearlman
Laura Pearlman

Tell us a little about how “Why I Hate Zombie Unicorns” came to be.
I wish I could take credit for inventing the concept of a zombie unicorn, but I actually encountered it in a blog post lamenting the fact that there were no zombie unicorn stories. The story’s ending came to me almost immediately (although it took me some time to figure out that it should be the end, not the beginning) and the rest flowed from there.

Zombie unicorns don’t actually seem that bad (at least, to me). What about the following undead mythological beasts? Feel free to rank them from least to most terrible, and talk a little about why: zombie manticore, zombie dragon, zombie tooth fairy.
Zombie dragons would just be pathetic. They wouldn’t be able to fly, breathe fire, or do magic. Most would probably wind up trapped in their own lairs. Any that did manage to shamble down from their mountains into civilization would be easy to avoid — the larger ones wouldn’t be able to fit through doors, and none of them would be able to climb stairs. They’d still pose some risks: they’d be traffic hazards, for one thing, and of course there’s always that one idiot who has to climb up the zombie dragon’s back and take a selfie. So zombie dragons wouldn’t be allowed to roam free; local Animal Control departments would round them up.

After a while, you’d start seeing TV commercials featuring black-and-white photographs of these once-majestic creatures languishing in captivity while Sarah McLachlan sings mournfully off-screen. Then the debates would start. What’s an appropriate habitat for a zombie dragon?  What — and how much — should you feed a creature with an insatiable appetite for living flesh? Should they be euthanized? People would write long hyperbolic rants, call each other nasty names, and defriend and unfollow each other on all the social media platforms. Eventually, the dialogue would degenerate even further into a seemingly endless stream of horrible puns about dragon flame wars.

Zombie manticores would be less controversial but more problematic. They’d move more slowly than standard manticores, and their venom-shooting range would be reduced, but the venom they shot would be zombie venom. They’d create human zombies, and those would be the real threat.

A zombie Tooth Fairy would be the most devastating, and the creepiest. Actually, the Tooth Fairy is pretty creepy even without being a zombie. She buys children’s body parts! And parents facilitate these transactions. They tell their kids it’s perfectly fine for a total stranger to creep into their rooms at night and rummage around their beds while they sleep, as long as she leaves some money under the pillow afterwards. Everyone knows about this, and no one thinks there’s anything wrong with it. It’s practically a Shirley Jackson story already.

The Zombie Tooth Fairy would appear in the bedroom of a child who’d lost a tooth, just like the regular Tooth Fairy. But instead of gliding silently to the child’s bed and reaching ever-so-delicately under the pillow, she’d lurch towards the bed moaning “TEEEEETH, TEEEEETH”. Most of the time, she’d receive a tooth (handed to her by a parent waiting for her in the child’s room, hurled at her by a frightened child, or found under a pillow) and leave without incident. If no detached tooth was available, she’d stick around long enough to sense the teeth inside the child’s head and — well, I’ll spare you the details, but she’d acquire them. All of them.

Imagine you’re a parent. Monday night, your child is fine. Tuesday morning, he’s a zombie. Tuesday afternoon, he’s been kicked out of school for violating some ridiculous zero-tolerance no-biting policy you’ve never even heard of.  You try to reason with the principal. Sure, you say, your son has recently developed the somewhat annoying habit of clamping his mouth onto people’s arms or legs and making chewing motions, but he’s not actually biting. He can’t bite because he has no teeth. The principal is unconvinced. Eventually, you decide to quit your job and home-school. Your friends begin to avoid you. You plunge into poverty, loneliness, and despair.

Do you have any favorite comedians?
I think Tig Notaro is hilarious. And I like just about everyone connected in any way to the Daily Show, and Mike Birbiglia. Other things that make me laugh on a semi-regular basis are Portlandia and web comics, especially xkcd, Basic Instructions, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and Hyperbole and a Half.

I find funny people fascinating because I’m not that funny. Are there characteristics that you admire in others that you lack yourself? If you could borrow them for a day, what would you do?
I’ve seen a few videos of people parahawking — parasailing with birds of prey flying along. It looks amazing. I’d love to try it, but there’s just one problem: I’m a total coward when it comes to any kind of physical danger. I’d be too terrified to even consider doing something like that. So if I could borrow a characteristic for a day, I’d book a parahawking trip and borrow fearlessness. I’d also appreciate it if you could throw in an extremely high tolerance for pain, just in case.

If you could be in a book club with a historical or futural person, who would it be and what would you read?
Douglas Adams. Because who wouldn’t want to hang out with Douglas Adams? We’d read SFF and mysteries and nature books.

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