"The Language of Flowers" by Ian Creasey — story background

Every morning I harvested the most luscious blooms from the gardens for display in the showroom.  Today the quince blazed with bright orange blossom, so I cut a few twigs.  As I carried them inside, I sniffed the flowers to check the engineered pheromones.  A wave of longing overtook me: a sudden urge to do something mischievous and subversive.

This story is a sequel to "Ormonde and Chase".  I didn't create the original story with a sequel in mind, but it was a lot of fun to write.  So as soon as it was accepted for publication, I started thinking about potential sequels.

Travis Chase and Harriet Ormonde run a business selling genetically engineered plants.  In this story, they sell plants that produce pheromones conveying various emotions.  The story's title refers to the Victorian "language of flowers", in which different flowers have different meanings, e.g. a poppy is consolation, quince is temptation, and so forth.  The engineered plants produce pheromones conveying their traditional meanings in the language of flowers.

Harriet is ambitious, and she doesn't want to stick to the Victorian repertoire.  She wants to create new flowers with new meanings.  When a customer arrives with an unusual commission, Travis and Harriet encounter Cornish nationalists agitating for an independent Cornwall.

Conflict ensues, diligently covered by a local journalist.  The journalist is Susanna Munro, a recurring character who has now appeared in four of my stories (the others being "The Hastillan Weed", "The Edge of the Map" and "Cut Loose the Bonds of Flesh and Bone").  In this piece, she's very young and just beginning her career; the other stories come later in her life.

Because Asimov's published the first story, "Ormonde and Chase", I sent the sequel there first, but the editor rejected it.  I therefore submitted "The Language of Flowers" elsewhere, and it sold to Analog, becoming my third appearance in that magazine.

I later followed "The Language of Flowers" with a third story in the sequence, "Super Sprouts".  That one was rejected by Analog but sold to Asimov's — editorial taste is fickle!

Page last updated: 15 April 2021