What if…and “Creepy, Lethal Plants”

Today’s “what if” post is one from the “truth is stranger than fiction” file: plants with creepy and/or lethal abilities, as described here (@blastr).

The article describes six really wild species. I won’t describe them all, but here are some of the more extreme. There’s a carnivorous plant that ignores bugs and goes for bigger game: birds and rats. The article includes a tree whose sap can blister your skin or even kill you; burn it down, and the toxic smoke blinds you. There’s also a plant whose every part is toxic–even its pollen can kill animals within hours of exposure.

So beyond the obvious point–it’s a cool article–why put this article in a “what if” post? When it comes to world creation, in both science fiction and fantasy, I frequently see things that look very Earth-like. Creatures are tweaked every so slightly and given names that are almost homophones of their Earth counterparts. I suppose this is done to make the readers more comfortable with a strange, new setting; or perhaps it is to make it easier for a reader to picture the new creature. Perhaps it’s to make one thing easy because the reader already has to take in new characters, new settings, and new contexts. Or perhaps it’s just a shorthand to describe the setting so the author can get back to the action.

The truth is, I don’t know why things are simplified, but I would think a good writer is capable of incorporating wild and extreme creatures into their world and describing them accurately. After all, if your characters are not human, or have never been on Earth, they would lack the ability to describe the creatures in an Earth-like context anyway! I would encourage writers to really push for extreme creatures if their story allows for it. As this article shows, there is tremendous variety on Earth, so why not be even more extreme in your fictitious world?

What if a carnivorous plant was capable of eating a person? What if your characters discovered the plant’s lethal capacity by accident (like burning down a forest of the trees described above)? What if your characters confront a group of natives who use the plants against your characters? If your characters are unfamiliar with the world, they will not understand what is going on, and they will have difficulty responding. Instead of very large, what about very small? What if the moss covering a forest floor was one plant, and it had the ability to respond to threats?

What do you think? What sort of extreme creatures–plants, animals, or otherwise would you create?

1 thought on “What if…and “Creepy, Lethal Plants”