A Field Guide to Surreal Botany

A Field Guide to Surreal Botany

Finalist for the 2009 World Fantasy Award for Best Artist

Two Cranes Press presents A Field Guide to Surreal Botany, an anthology of fictional plant species that exist beyond the realm of the real, with contributions from Jay Lake, Eric Schaller, Darja Malcolm-Clarke, Ben Peek, Victoria Elisabeth Garcia, Mark Teppo, Vera Nazarian, and many, many others. Fully illustrated in gorgeous full-color by Janet Chui, the specimen entries are by turns witty, hilarious, and very strange.

Praise for A Field Guide to Surreal Botany

“With its delicate illustrations, Latin names, notes on ecology and life cycle, and seemingly aged paper, this appears to be an old-fashioned botanical treatise. What makes the imagined species so much fun is the extent of the details, which draw the reader into plausible descriptions that suddenly take a turn to the bizarre. It is hard to pick a favorite, but contenders include the kvetching aspen (the only known tree with a mating cry, which resembles the call of a stilter’s jay), the wind melon (which can levitate), the twilight luon-sibir (which has an “abyss-probability” center), and the bone garden (bottom right, also known as Adam’s ribcage). The small book is a bit of lunacy sure to appeal to slightly twisted plant lovers.” —Sherman Suter, Science

“I could go on and on about the excellent work here — about all the care put into making the entries read as authentic but the sly hints and literary winks that let readers know they are in on some cool joke with the writers. Lundberg and Chui show with A Field Guide to Surreal Botany just how many wonderful things can be done when you lavish care and attention on a literary project. This is a small press title that exceeded all of my expectations and has easily become one of my favorite reads this year. It’s a delight; irresistible on every level. Fantasy fans will enjoy it for sure but if you are looking for something special for the plant lovers in your life (especially those with a sense of humor) then you should buy this book. It will be completely unexpected and wholly adored.” —Colleen Mondor, Chasing Ray

“Edited by Janet Chui and Jason Erik Lundberg, with contributions from over four dozen writers, and featuring marvelous illustration by Chui, A Field Guide to Surreal Botany has so many strengths it’s hard to know where to begin the praise. Maybe with Chui’s drawings, which combine a National Geographic specificity with a Edward Lear-like whimsicality. Then there’s the precise and logical arrangement of the book into regional taxonomies that lend ecological and evolutionary credence to the strange plants. The editorial insistence on uniformity of style and division for each entry also contributes to the whole scholarly apparatus. And when it comes to the individual pieces, by such folks as Jay Lake, Vera Nazarian, and Steve Berman, we find that the authors have really exerted themselves. Most entries consist of brilliant blends of history, scientific jargon, outrageous conceits, bizarre nomenclature, and resonant fakery. Reading this charming book is like taking a visit to a richer parallel Earth where Nature, already prolifigate and extravagant, went on a real bender.” —Paul Di Filippo, Asimov’s

“Science fiction is usually defined as a story that incorporates elements of science, but rarely does scifi actually take the form of a scientific paper or research volume. That’s why Janet Chui and Jason Erik Lundberg’s A Field Guide to Surreal Botany from Two Cranes Press is so startling and pleasurable to read. This slim, beautifully-illustrated volume is an anthology of 45 fictionalized plant species — it’s fiction written to resemble science, and which comes out sounding almost like poetry. […] It’s a strange and detailed book, rather extreme in its interpretation of what science fiction can be, and therefore most welcome indeed.” —Annalee Newitz, io9

“Yes, Two Cranes Press have really got it right, totally, totally right with this one. Gorgeously designed and printed, and yet (appropriately, given the subject) dirt-cheap, A Field Guide to Surreal Botany gets it right every way. […] Printed on thick, slick, matte, faux-faded paper, it literally oozes quality, to the point where you might be tempted to lay it on a lesser volume and hope the process of osmosis will work some sort of ‘magick.’ But I think most readers will be loathe to lay it down anywhere. It’s a compulsively readable and ultra-cool book.” —Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column

A Field Guide to Surreal Botany directly addresses the necessity of truth, or reality, in the narratives we produce to explain the world around us. […] The investigation of an alternate reality firmly rooted within the confines of our increasingly familiar world is a worthwhile endeavor representative of the general project of fantasy fiction, and here in this little volume of made-up plants is a successful realization of that goal, one which explains the desire to imagine the impossible as a pursuit less about whimsy or fancy and more about discovering the hidden possibilities of the world we think we already know. Who are we, the book asks, to say that these plants do not exist? What do we really know, anyway?” —Richard Larson, Strange Horizons

“Here is a book equally at home on the bedside table and—for those of a more adventurous bent—in the backpack; happily the editors have provided a blank page for field notes.” —Paul Witcover & Jeff VanderMeer, Realms of Fantasy

“[It] is a beautiful book, and the humor and erudition is more than consistent enough to carry the bemused reader away—they do warn you about some of those plants! While the Forget-me-bastard merely causes itching, stinging, and rash, the Time Cactus can trick the unwary researcher or amateur botanist into a quite deadly trance (sending nutrients back along a wormhole to previous times of scarcity). I would recommend a copy of this book to be nestled in among any collection of its more prosaic ilk.” —Kaolin Fire, Greatest Uncommon Denominator

A Field Guide to Surreal Botany is a superb book, production-wise if nothing else. Various contributors showcase fictional plants that take on supernatural (even science fictional) aspects, each one as bizarre and ingenious as the entry preceding it. The book has a consistent format but don’t let that fool you: the various authors own up to their entries, infusing it with their own sensibilities. […] This is certainly a book that’ll stick out and make a fine addition to anyone’s library–and perhaps a book you might want to pass along to your friends.” —Charles Tan, Bibliophile Stalker

“I can’t think of a better gift than this book. It can be kept in a shelf and be consulted for inspiration, or be left over the coffee table and serve some flash fiction along with fine biscuits. Or it can be read cover to cover and appreciated as a fine salad, with green leafs that tastes like dreams.” —Jacques Barcia, Post-Weird Thoughts


  • Susan Fedynak | (Floating) Armor of The Dark Blue Heart
  • Alexandra O’Neal | Attercopp plant
  • Andrew Nicolle | Avian Trumpetflower
  • Jay Lake | Baby Cabbage
  • Elizabeth Langford | Big Yellow Flower of Unnecessarily Obvious Information
  • Steve Himmer | Bitter Mortar
  • Eric J. Millar | Bone Garden
  • John Bowker | Burning Bush Fungus
  • Ann Leckie | Clickweed
  • James Trimarco | Cloud Anemone
  • Jonathan Wonham | Couch Kelp
  • John Black | Devil’s Pork
  • Jon Hansen | Dream Melons
  • Steve Berman | Esemtep
  • Lucy A. Snyder | Fairy Apple
  • Francesca Forrest | Firefly Bellflower
  • Matthew Baugh | Flame Lily
  • Elaine Clift | Forget-Me-Bastard
  • Patricia L. Havis | Giant Cloud Lily
  • Mark Teppo | Haunt Vine
  • Mary E. Lowd | Kitty Willow
  • H.F. Gibbard | Kvetching Aspen
  • Brendan Carson | Lautokan Ear-blossom Plant
  • Adam Nakama | Leonidas’ Bloom
  • Merrie Haskell | Library Plum
  • Kris Dikeman | Nightmare Lotus
  • Cassandra Phillips-Sears | Ozymandias-plant
  • Shveta Thakrar | Padmamukhi (the Lotus-Mouthed)
  • Victoria Elisabeth Garcia | Poliphila, or “Shriner Vine”
  • Eric Schaller | Queen Victoria’s Bloomers
  • Yvonne Pronovost | Screaming Mimi
  • Darja Malcolm-Clarke | Shade’s Globe
  • David Kelly | Singing Grass
  • January Mortimer | Stag-eye Nettle
  • Suzanne Palmer | Swift River Hopping Pitcher Plant
  • Livia Llewellyn | Teslated Salishan Evergreen
  • Philip J. Lees | The Faerie Hogweed
  • Stephanie Campisi and Ben Peek | The Nabokov
  • Toiya Kristen Finley | The Poseur Nosehairs
  • Matthew Kressel | The Sembla
  • Catherine Gunson | Thuringian Shade-tree
  • Christopher M. Cevasco | Time Cactus
  • Vera Nazarian | Twilight Luon-Sibir
  • Tom Pendergrass | Ugly Tree
  • Erik Amundsen | Waterbaby Cress
  • Shweta Narayan | Whistle Tree
  • Alex Chambers | Wild Homilywort
  • Dave Coulter | Wind Melon

From the Editors

The specimens contained herein—dutifully and, in some cases, painfully recorded by our keen-eyed assortment of contributing cryptobotanists, field researchers, and graduate assistants (laden with glass jars, magnifying glasses, and appropriate body armor)—are organized according to geographical region, and described in erudite detail by our contributors.

Inside the book you’ll find specimens such as the Couch Kelp (Siturfatarscea velvetorleva monthlypaymetis), a floating seaweed with an inflatable bladder resembling a sofa; the Big Yellow Flower of Unnecessarily Obvious Information (Explanatum obviosis), a plant with a flower that is big and yellow; Twilight Luon-Sibir (Russica spectrata), which has an extremely short life cycle and exists in a state of probability; and forty-five other plant species from all over the world and beyond.

Not since Cryptethnophytology of Latin America by Dr. Dean Jameson (Palgrave, 1978), Asian Pomological Fantastika by Sng Chen Whye (Tinhau UP, 1981), or Parallel Botany by Leo Lionni (Knopf, 1977), has such a comprehensive volume of surreal flora been assembled in one place. Produced in conjunction with the Surreal Botanists Association, A Field Guide to Surreal Botany is an unforgettable tour through the fantastical plant kingdom.

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