Surreal Botany and the Singaporean Connection

April 3, 2010 at 5:54 pm 2 comments

Just to toot my own horn here for a moment: I just discovered that Quarterly Literary Review Singapore gave a glowing review to A Field Guide to Surreal Botany (an anthology I edited with my wife Janet Chui, published by Two Cranes Press in 2008; her illustrations for the book shortlisted her for the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist) in their January 2009 issue. The review is by Leonard Ng and is called “A Postmodern Naturalism“:

At first glance it seems to be a fairly formulaic concept: solicit a bunch of botanical articles on imaginary plants, sort those articles by geographical region, add some watercolour illustrations, and there you go—a pretty little postmodern book. The whole thing, frankly, sounds like the sort of too-clever idea which would work much better as an intellectual exercise than a completed work. It is, therefore, rather a surprise that A Field Guide to Surreal Botany succeeds at all.

Yet succeed it does, and more than that: A Field Guide to Surreal Botany is a delight from start to finish.


[F]or all the book’s simulation of a document from the past, one cannot get away from the fact that it is printed on decidedly modern acid-free paper. The weathered age spots call attention to their own artificiality by virtue of the very material they are printed on: acid-free paper does not, after all, spot and yellow in the manner of older wood-pulp papers. This book is indeed very much a document of a more contemporary time: the article on the Twilight Luon-Sibir (Russica spectrata) makes reference to a 2006 botanical expedition, and the Esemtep is a plant which is, in fact, part computer—a cyber-botanical organism. This collision between simulated past and simulated present is symbolic of the aporias which form the conceptual core of the work: a place where science fiction and fictional science blend into each other, and where reality and imagination call each other into question.

Since the book’s publication in July 2008, it has been reviewed in major genre magazines such as Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, and Realms of Fantasy; in highly-respected blogs like io9, Chasing Ray, The Agony Column, and Bibliophile Stalker; and, to my great delight, in the peer-reviewed journal Science. But I’m also incredibly pleased to see a review in QLRS, because of the book’s relationship to Singapore.

Though Janet and I conceived of the book whilst still living in the USA, it wasn’t until after we moved to Singapore that we finished compiling the entries, and she began the arduous task of illustrating each specimen and designing the book’s layout. Once we’d finished assembling the book, we tasked local printer KEP Media (who also design and publish HCI’s triannual newsletter Panorama) with printing the book. And when we wanted to celebrate the anthology’s release, we did so at local literary bookshop BooksActually, who were gracious enough to help us launch the book and invite much of Singapore’s currently working writers to make us feel a part of the literary scene.

The book is available in Singapore at BooksActually and Select Books; if you would like to acquire a copy, I highly recommend that you patronize one of these excellent independent bookshops. Janet and I will be happy to sign copies upon request.

(As a side note, my novelette “In Jurong” was published in QLRS in October 2009.)


Entry filed under: Fantasy, Reviews.

Creative Writing Competitions for Young Singaporeans Library Week! (12-16 April)

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kean  |  April 5, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Wow congratulations Mr Lundberg. But where are these bookstores? I would like to know as I am considering buying it

    • 2. Jason Erik Lundberg  |  April 6, 2010 at 10:26 am

      BooksActually is on Club Street, on the edge of Chinatown, and Select Books is at Tanglin Shopping Centre. If you click on the links above, you can find the addresses and then pop them into Google Maps or


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