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Impossible Colors in Fiction

-In 1927, H. P. Lovecraft wrote a short story called “The Colour Out of Space” in which a meteorite crashed into a family farm in rural New England. The meteorite contained a mysterious globule of a color that was “almost impossible to describe,” with a note that it was “only by analogy” that professors studying the globule called it a color at all.

-David Lindsay in A Voyage to Arcturus described ulfire and jale, two colors visible under the sun Alppain: “Just as blue is delicate and mysterious, yellow clear and unsubtle, and red sanguine and passionate, so he felt ulfire to be wild and painful [and] jale [to be] dreamlike, feverish, and voluptuous.”

In 1949, Enid Blyton wrote The Mountain of Adventure, in which the children become involved in an experiment to create weightlessness: “Out of the hole in the pit floor shone a brilliant mass of colour — but a colour the children did not know!”

-In 1955, the poet Robert Graves wrote “Welsh Incident,” in which something unusual from the sea caves of Criccieth is described as “mostly nameless colours, colours you’d like to see.”

-Octarine is Terry Pratchett’s imaginary eighth color, described as a “greenish-yellow purple.”

-Mgru is a brand new color described in a short story of the same name by Stephen Moles as being like “a sarcastic pink or orange, but with a hint of gold impersonating lime”, “radioactive claret” and “a really, really aggressive beige”.

-A hoax or spoof recording by Negativland, featuring the fictional character Crosley Bendix, purports to describe the newly discovered, “fourth primary” color, named “squant.”

-“hTun” is an impossible color that is “similar to brown” in the book Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine.

-In episode 4 of the first series of Nebulous, “Holofile 333: Madness Is a Strange Colour”, Vartox Paint Company’s new color, Garrow (a sort of yellowy black but with more of a pinky green feel…), is sending people insane.

Oh, I love this. I know it’s not an impossible color, but this whole post reminds me of the description of an apple in The Giver the first time Jonas sees it in color.

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  4. hypermetrical reblogged this from allwayshallways and added:
    This is incredibly relevant to my interests — color representation in literature as a speculative linguistic method to...
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    This is something I actually think about from time to time. How would you or could you describe a new colour? Since you...
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