National Book Award Nominee John Darnielle is Inspired by Michael Whelan, Unicorns

Gideon Smith amazon buy linkJohn Darnielle, professional Mountain Goat, has just released a new novel and it has already been longlisted for this year’s National Book Award in fiction! And all this because he loves fantasy art.

Wolf in White Van is about a troubled young man who loses himself in a complex game played through the mail, dealing with the ways fantasy can heal people, while also delving into the addictive nature of escape. io9’s Annalee Newitz praised the book, saying that it “captured the intensity of gaming“ and ”never takes the easy way out.” Recently Vulture asked Darnielle to list his greatest cultural influences, and, while the list is magnificently eclectic (Texas Chainsaw Massacre! 1970s Marvel comics! Experimental writer William Gass!) we were especially pleased to see #9:

Michael Whelan’s paintings
When I was in fifth and sixth grade, I was really getting into unicorns and stuff, and fantasy. I preferred it to science fiction — you know, impossible worlds far away with beautiful creatures. Michael Whelan is this unapologetically lush fantasist. They’re not like Lisa Frank in that they’re not quite as searing; his paintings have a real kindness to them. Even when there’s people with swords or whatever, they’re kind of very gentle.

Hmmm… so if Darnielle’s next book chronicles the rocky emotional trials of two unicorns in love, could he go full-Whelan with the cover? Beause that would be amazing.

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