Could Gene Wolfe’s “Blacker Than Black” Cloak Be A Reality?

There is a cloak in the Book of the New Sun series by Gene Wolfe worn primarily by Severian, belonging to the Guild of Seeker for Truth and Penitence. The cloak is described as fuligin, “which is darker than black, admirably erases all folds, bunchings and gatherings so far as the eye is concerned, showing only a featureless dark.”

Now, thanks to a current feud between two artists, we might finally be able to see what this blackest black hue actually looks like…

Back in 2014, UK-based company Surrey Nanosystems created Vantablack, a pigment that absorbs over 99% of light—essentially rendering any 3D object coated with the substance a flat, inky void. Research scientists continued tinkering with “the blackest black in the world”, recently releasing an even darker version dubbed Vantablack 2.0—so dark, it effectively eats lasers. This seems pretty close to what Gene Wolfe envisioned for his fuligin cloak, especially when you see Vantablack 2.0 in action:

Vantablack 2.0

But here’s where the story gets interesting: those who follow feuds online might have heard something about the beef between British artists Anish Kapoor and Stuart Semple. In 2016, Kapoor was granted exclusive rights to use Vantablack in his art… which didn’t strike Semple as very fair.

In response, Semple has since released two particularly lovely pigments of his own: the pinkest pink and the glittery-est glitter. Anyone can buy these pigments, provided that they sign a form stating that they are not Anish Kapoor. And when Vantablack 2.0 debuted last month, Semple had his own pigment at the ready. It’s called Black 2.0, and Semple describes it as “the most pigmented, flattest, mattest, black acrylic paint in the world.” Like his other colors, Black 2.0  can be used by anyone… except of course Anish Kapoor.

Black 2.0

So here’s the important question: How black is Severian’s cloak? Is it the deep void of Vantablack, or Semple’s Black 2.0? Personally we’re leaning towards Semple’s hue—while it may not be as black as its competitor, it does reportedly smell like black cherries. And since Black 2.0 is available for (almost) all, you can make your very own fuligin cloak to skulk about in! Just maybe don’t go joining the Torturer’s Guild…

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