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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: It's a Colorful World (12/03/09)

TITLE: Garnet, Cobalt, Magenta
By Jan Ackerson


When Lily Bauer was born a few seconds after midnight on that historic day, her doctor and the nurses in the room gasped. All limbs accounted for, button nose and rosebud lips, a cap of blonde fuzz—and skin a pale shade of green. All manner of tests were run, and as the doctor was waiting for results, news came from his obstetric colleague; a child had been born in the second delivery suite who was blue from head to toe.

It didn’t take long for news to spread citywide, statewide, and beyond, for soon it was obvious that every child born on this day—from Albania to Zimbabwe, 203,144 children in all—was born with skin of a surprising and unpredictable shade. The news media captured it all: the Icelandic mother nursing her orange infant, the Nigerian family gazing in astonishment at their yellow newborn, the Japanese parents proudly cradling orchid and turquoise twins.

In the days to come, the world held its breath—was this a short-lived phenomenon, or would babies continue to come in rainbow colors? The answer was readily apparent in delivery rooms worldwide. No one could ever again know what color their child would be at birth.

These astonishing babies proved to be suffering from nothing more than a mysterious gene defect which became known as GPM, for Genetic Pigment Mutation. The birth color neither faded nor intensified as the children grew. And so the GPM generation matured, peopling the world with every imaginable hue and shade: garnet, salmon, tangerine, goldenrod, olive, cobalt, magenta.

Studies showed that there were no predicting factors for baby color. Neither diet nor ethnicity, neither education nor wealth, nor any other factor could be shown to contribute to the child’s shade.

GPM changed the world.

No longer could judgments be made based on skin color. The child of the most fervent Klansman might be the same shade of lilac as the child of his hated neighbor. People quickly realized that it made no sense to hate, for example, the Oranges, when their own offspring could easily be born orange. In every country where racial differences had caused oppression and hatred, GPM children in rainbow shades filled classrooms in harmony.

For a brief while, it seemed as if children in the less beautiful colors (maroon, umber, puce) would form a new lower class. It was more difficult to dress them in colors that wouldn’t clash with their skin, and next to their more whimsically colored siblings of lavender and peach, they seemed drab and uninteresting. But a backlash occurred when parents of Drabs made an extra effort to favor them—especially those from groups who’d never before experienced discrimination. The song “Me and You in Every Hue” became the theme song of the GPM generation.

As the GPMs grew, sociologists watched closely—not only for color-related traits, but also to see how the GPM children formed groups—would Blues choose only Blue companions? Would Oranges avoid Purples? What they discovered was truly remarkable: these children, having grown up in a world where color was truly insignificant, totally disregarded it in all human interactions.

The next milestone for scientists occurred several years later, as the GPM generation reached puberty. How would the mutation play out in the second generation? Would the child of a Red and a Yellow be born orange—and what of the more complex color combinations? What color would the offspring of a Copper and an Aquamarine be?

They had their answer soon enough, when a Magenta boy and an Indigo girl gave birth to a child in a lovely shade of emerald. Subsequent births over the next months and years confirmed it—even in the second generation, nothing could predict a baby’s color. GPM had become the status quo.

Until eighty years later, when Micah Wexler was born. His eager parents (a Crimson and an Lilac) had been speculating about their child’s hue—but they never expected what they got: a perfect little boy in a pale pinkish tan. In fact, he was precisely one of the skin colors often seen in photos and movies from four generations in the past.

Every child born after Micah—from Afghanistan to Zambia—was one of those “throwback” colors: mostly shades of brown, from light to dark, reddish to yellowish. No more rainbow colors, no more GPM. The mutation had disappeared.

And the world waited—how would this new generation, the Shades of Brown, deal with the Problem of Color?

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This article has been read 1633 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sheri Gordon12/10/09
Interesting concept, and I like that you leave the reader with a big question at the end. For a brief moment, it was refreshing to be lost in your world of a colorful population--where color truly didn't matter. If only...
Lynda Schultz 12/11/09
Fascinating idea and you did a great job of packaging it. Well done.
Beth LaBuff 12/13/09
Wow! Truly a wonderful concept in this stunning story. I enjoyed this immensely. You are a master!
Kimberly Russell12/14/09
Wow--imagination gone wild!
I loved this--had me caught up all the way through. Especially the song "Me & You in Every Hue". Really terrific.
Cherie B.12/14/09
I loved this idea! I want to see a whole book in a world set like this...so cool :)
Great Job!
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/14/09
Lots to think about here. A message presented through a wonderfully creative story.
Chely Roach12/14/09
Oh, oh, oh! Uber cool concept, and so perfectly executed. I always love your Sci-fi entries!
Virgil Youngblood 12/14/09
Way out of the box -- wonderfully so! There is a great message here.
Barbara Lynn Culler12/14/09
Out of the crayon box! So fun to read! If only this were real ....
I enjoyed this......it's beautiful. See how fast the story went.......like the speed of light. Prosaic mastery.
Scarlett Farr12/15/09
I enjoyed the story and the message. Too bad it is only a fictional tale. Maybe one day all colors will be equally appreciated.
Henry Clemmons12/15/09
Now this is creative. I might have to start eating more chocolate. Enjoyed every inch and loved the message that trailed along with it. Thanks for the smiles and creating a new rainbow coalition.
Aaron Morrow12/16/09
Extraordinary work Jan. This would be a fun novella, with a great message on the idiocy of bigotry and prejudice. I really appreciated that you found space to come full circle in the story as well. Loved it!
Colin Swann12/16/09
Very interesting concept of how the world cope with this mix up of skin colour - I suppose no better than when God made all speech different at Babel.
Very interesting though. Colin
larry troxell 12/16/09
way, way, way out of the box! has to be a series in prime color(s).
Jim McWhinnie 12/16/09
Such a fascinating concept - there is a book in this idea - a Christian fantasy -- and you are such a gifted sentence stylist.
Catrina Bradley 12/16/09
Very cool idea. I'm not sure I'm crazy about the ending, but I haven't had time to digest it yet. I just love the idea of a truly multi-colored world and the ramifications, and maybe that's why I don't like that babies started being born "normal colored" again..? I like the voice too - I can almost hear someone like Paul Harvey reading it, except we don't know the rest of the story. :)
Edmond Ng 12/16/09
A very amusing story and an interesting read. I like the way the story is written in a news reporting style from a journalistic angle. It is so true how things can be seen so differently if there are no prejudices of color. If everyone can see each other as beings made in the image of God regardless of color, things could have been a lot different and great things could have been achieved with new breakthroughs.
Patricia Turner12/17/09
Hehe! I love this idea! And wouldn't God have just such a sense of humor. Great, great writing of course. Congratulations on your very well deserved EC!
Colin Nielsen12/17/09
Excellent speculative fiction. Loved the idea and well written and implemented. Would make the good basis of a novel.
Maybe just a tiny bit more conflict would have been good. The color thing played out between two characters with one being a racist, but maybe that would be too cliche. Who knows. Congratulations on your wonderful entry and thank you for taking a peek at mine.
c clemons12/17/09
Very interesting.
Deborah Engle 12/17/09
Great job, Jan. Congratulations on placing 2nd!
Charla Diehl 12/21/09
Jan, I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this winning entry. Great, great message and written so smoothly as you brought the reader full circle. Congratulations--again!
Gloria Graves01/10/10
WOW! That was an amazing story. What an imagination you have. Thank you.
Gloria Graves
Martha Davis01/10/10
Jan, your stories never cease to amaze me, but this one is truly a favorite. I think you could use this particular story as a springboard for an elementary to middle school series of stories on tolerance and race relations. Love it!
Carol Penhorwood 01/10/10
Absolutely enjoyable reading! But I always enjoy your writing! You are a master. I agree, this should be a book; I would buy it for sure!
Janice Fitzpatrick01/11/10
Congrats Jan. Insightful and very well done. I really was moved and I thoroughly enjoyed this. I think what I enjoy most about your writing is that it is often way out there, and has the creative imaginativeness of a child, but still packs a punch, without going out of the literature boundaries. Loved it Jan.
Helen Dowd01/14/10
What a very unique, and imaginative story. I wondered what was coming, some sort of Science Fiction? You brought the point out well -- how foolish is color discrimination. At least, that's what I got out of it...Thanks!...Helen
Seema Bagai 02/18/10
Jan, your writing is amazing. Another brilliant entry (pun intended). ;-)