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The Blue Unicorn

Bruce McAllister's short stories have appeared over the years in the science fiction field's major publications and in many "year's best" volumes. His career-spanning collection of science fiction stories is The Girl Who Loved Animals; his most recent novel is the Locus-recommended The Village Sang to the Sea: A Memoir of Magic.
For those who are tired of hearing about the lovely, perfect unicorns that once existed in our world, tired of seeing flashes of white in the forests that might or might not be them, tired of seeing in the moonlight, near ponds, the ghostly glow of flank and mane and horn that might or might not be imagination, there is an exercise.
It is one used by poets and artists and even alchemists, they say, to regain what has been lost. To regain faith in something beyond what we see, but also to make new and potent what no longer fills us with wonder, what should make our lives worth living and yet has fallen stale, dying inside us.
In this exercise we take what we know about a unicorn, and we start to change it:
If a unicorn is white, we make it indigo.
If it has a horn, we take the horn away.
If it enjoys the company of virgins, we give it whores.
If it drinks at a clear pond in the moonlight, we make it drink from a dirty slough.
We do this because--though it is only an exercise, we know--it may lead to the truth; that is, to a creature not unlike us who is blue, hornless, impure, despairing and furious; but who will soon, despite or because of its shrieks and terrible moans, answer the unrelenting call of the gods and take a journey that always proves more heroic and redeeming than not... because such is the nature (and fate) of unicorns.
Or any who wish to begin again.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, June 15th, 2017


As so many stories do--at least for this writer--"The Blue Unicorn" went through as many incarnations over a five-year period as a shape-shifting beast of legend. Unicorns can be terribly, trope-ishly dull if they are lifeless cardboard, but as Peter Beagle and so many other fine writers have shown us, the unicorn still has life in it. When I realized that what really interested me about unicorns was how they would be used by human beings, the story--a miniature now--found itself at last.

- Bruce McAllister

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