‘Chromatic’ by John M. Ford
This is a series of vignette-length fables set in an imaginary post-revolutionary country and based around a new set of metaphorical (and ideologically pure) colours. As I have come to expect from my meagre exposure to Ford’s work, it packs a heartbreakingly dense emotional punch into an extremely economical set of words.
I’m sure I said I would stop posting the introductions to the stories but I just can’t help myself. Every time I think H&K have reached the limits of their ability to contort the definition of hard SF they surpass themselves:
John M. Ford is equally adept at fantasy and science fiction, but is known more for the variety and richness of his works than for his rigorous use of science. He is impatient, it seems, with conventional approaches; in such stories as this one, he applies the techniques of and exploits a conventional setting of the school of magic realism to embody the idea of paradigm shifts (from contemporary philosophy of science)… It also demands, by implication, some familiarity with the tradition of “alternate universe” sf — which is usually not hard sf… Since this need not involve either science or technology, this has become as useful to writers out of the genre as in, resulting in a blurring of genre boundaries… What we have here is a story at the very fringe of science fiction that teases at genre definition, yet plays by the rules as Ford perceives them.