Why Do I Paint Monsters?

 

They say I am veiled as the paintings in my attic

that I keep my life concealed like skeletons beneath white sheets

that only hair pins hold me together and a spinster’s habits

that I am pale because only tentacles touch my heart.

How little they know what goes on in my secret place,

my haven, where I keep my paintbox, my paints, my easel,

which always tells the truth whoever steps from behind the curtain

into the frame and by the steady brush of my hand coalesces.

Why do I paint them? You ask. Why do I keep their faces

emptied out with a candle above as a nod to their puttering souls

lit without a single match by flames that grow ever brighter

as this island gets more hopeless and I grow wiser?

My life has not been easy. Read this in my downturned lips –

this would not have been my first choice, but now they want me

to oversee the rules of a new game I am hiding my damp brushes

and paints away and smiling a small smile like a masquerade.

 

Words by Lorna Smithers, who we welcome to the island with this piece. I have had the honor and pleasure of doing the art for two of her book covers- The Broken Cauldron and Gatherer of Souls. It is beautiful writing of the sort that will change your internal landscape.  Please visit Lorna here.

 

Art- Tom Brown

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Mrs Beaten dreams of an orphan fund

Mrs Beaten does not like children. She detests their sticky hands and snot encrusted faces, and lives in fear that some horrible, uncouth creature will touch her when she is outside. She is very glad that nature did not see fit to make her the mother of such monsters. Mrs Beaten is uncertain of the exact process leading to the presence of yet more vile children in the world. Mr Beaten never expressed a desire for children. He tended to say thing like “you are both my child and my wife.” Mrs Beaten did not find this statement creepy.

On those nights when she cannot sleep, Mrs Beaten lies in bed and thinks about solutions for children. The island seems to have rather a lot of them, and the excess ends up in the orphanage. She suspects islanders of giving away children they can no longer bear. She understands this – she would give away her own children, she feels certain. However, she has managed not to have any and she feels that other islanders aren’t doing enough in that regard. Sometimes she worries about where, exactly, all these children come from, but has been unable to imagine the mechanism. She assumes it must be rather unseemly.

Mrs Beaten wonders if she could lead a fundraiser to provide the orphanage with swimming lessons. The fundraiser is mostly to legitimise the whole process. She would give the lessons herself, she thinks. She would stand on a big rock and encourage them all to get into the sea. Some of them would probably die of cold. Some would be eaten. A few might learn to swim. As she sees it, there would be nothing but win, here.

No one really has a problem with death, she understands. It’s just that these things must be seen to be done properly. One cannot simply murder orphans for being annoying. One must have a publicly endorsed program that appears to be for some other purpose entirely.

The Jester

 

Riddle me this, riddle me that
What am I sowing under my hat?”

Gifting hallucinatory dead flowers
at the Bridge of Bottles underpass
The Jester bites his teeth
and swirls his swanky walnut hourglass
Jabbing japes and swastika shapes
he slinks the serried lanes
and covets nocturnal landscapes
with those knotty sweat-soaked veins
residents pass scornfully dumb
he amuses dogs and orphans
laughing and trustingly they come
as lambs to the terrible slaughter

“Riddle in laughter, riddle in tears
What am I knowing between my ears?”

Playing imaginary dead reality
at the cold and broken children’s home
The Jester tastes his tongue
and masks his manic antique metronome
Flaunting flouts and swiping clouts
he sinks the barley wine
and communes with gnarly snouts
with motives of ill design
naked and torn willingly shoved
the dispossessed son and daughter
hurting like they’ve never been loved
as fish out of turbulent water

“Riddle your heart, riddle your brain
Where are you going in Hopeless, Maine?

Here we welcome, bus driver, poet, artist, photographer, ponderer of the imponderable, worker of miracles- Derek Dohren to the island. We very much hope to hear from him again soon, as this is a brilliant addition to the lore of Hopeless, Maine.

 

Art-Tom Brown

Steampunk Summer Postcards: Greetings from Hopeless Maine!

A postcard from Hopeless, Maine. May contain tentacles and tea.

Blake And Wight . com

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… Why it’s a postcard from our dear friends on the island of Hopeless Maine, our favourite gothical place to be! (As long as one is armed with a sturdy rolling pin to ward off…

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In which Mrs Beaten is both confused and alarmed

It has come to my attention that some of the persons wearing trousers and sporting cropped hair are not in fact men at all! I had been making the perfectly reasonable assumption that anyone dressing like a man or possessed of locks that do not reach the jawline must of course be a man. However, yesterday I chanced upon three young creatures who were involved in such an indelicate conversation that the truth did not escape me! Women! In trousers! With short hair! And one of them had her hands shoved roughly into her pockets for good measure!

What next? Swaggering? How are the ladypersons of Hopeless Maine to tell if they are being courted by a proper boy or by another ladyperson? Now that I’ve started looking for this, I find I’m not at all sure who are the boys and who are the girls dressed up as boys, and who has linked arms with whom does not clarify matters at all. Could they be doing it on purpose? Why would they do that? It is most confusing.

It led me to the uneasy possibility that the reason some of the women of Hopeless Maine look so oddly proportioned is that they could be men, wearing dresses.

Then it struck me (oh, horror) that the reason Doc Willoughby always sounds as though he is putting inverted commas around the ‘Mrs’ when he addresses me, might be because he thinks I am in fact a chap wearing a dress. Oh, the shame of it! And I can hardly go round telling people that I’m not a chap wearing a dress because it will only serve to confirm whatever suspicions they now have.

Hopeless Tourist Officer

Thank you, dear people Now let me explain

That if on Hopeless
You wish to remain

I am the chap
With whom to converse

The truth you will hear
For better or worse.

You have probably formed An impression so far

Of darkness and fog
Of the world left ajar

And while it is true
That things can look drear

There are many joys
To be found living here.

Uummm!
Ah!
The landscape is stunning

When viewed through the murk Which lends it a grandeur

And hides things that lurk On the edge of your vision

That watch as you pass That rustle the bushes

And slither through grass Behind you

Speaking of which
If you’re into your plants

The flora is…nice
Though some of it chants

In dialects dead
The language of dust

It whispers to both
The true and unjust

Constantly

Errr!

The animal life
Is completely unique

And whether it has
Toothsome grin or sharp beak

Tentacular grip
Or glowing green eyes

There are certainly habits To keep, it is wise

Lock your damn spoons away

We have many graveyards Really – a lot

So we know where our dead are As often as not

It’s not just the fact
That the corpse can up sticks

But the graveyards themselves
Are not geographically fixed

And the dead wander

The truth is, dear friends
To survive here you’ll need

A guidebook, a reference Something to read

That will tell you the rules Of this Island so odd

And give you some help
On the paths you have trod

And so we have made THIS…

A game, it is true
That will guide you

Prepare you,
And give you a clue

How best to endure
On this island of mist

To visit this land
And put up a fist

That cries NO to the demons Which infest our dreams

And wards off the vampires Who suck at our seams

To give us some hope
That out of despair

Something less Hopeless Can take to the air.

Written by the rather brillaint Keith Healing (Creator of Travels in Hopeless-the impending Hopeless, Maine RPG and all around lovely chap) Illustrated by Jacinta Haden-Newman who was our work experience student for a week. I see a bright future ahead of her! (DO look closely at the detail of the lighthouse)

Hopeless Sinners and other Oddities

Hello again people (and others)

Hopeless, Maine Sinners has had a proper send off into the world at The Ale House in Stroud.  It was a grand evening, enjoyed by (almost) all. (There was a bloke who was convinced that we were somehow anti-Pope…? Not an audience member I should add.. For the record, no, we’re not. We don’t really think about the Pope that much at all, truth be known)

My personal takeaway from the event is that we are building a truly amazing creative tribe around the Hopeless, Maine stuff. Long may it continue and take on new forms and bring in more people! In times where it sometimes feels as though we are standing on shifting sand, this is a good and solid thing to hang onto.

Nimue enchants

Martin Pearson- The father of the Squid and Teapot (and also- Nimue)

The hero of the night was Madeleine Harwood. Despite personal difficulties, she came, brought and set up the PA and performed an utterly beautiful rendition of Nimue’s Lullabye for a Dustcat. (we all had goosebumps) There is a possibility that there may be more Hopeless, Maine music from her in future! Watch this space. Martin Pearson, the creator of (and writer for) The Squid and teapot performed with panache! Keith Healing (the creator of the Hopeless, Maine RPG) wrote and performed a poem which introduced people to the island (and the game) Keith Errington (The Keith OF MYSTERY) read, to dramatic and amusing effect, his recent addition to Hopeless, Maine lore, and a long-awaited tale from Rebecca Willson was read by the author, introducing doctor Headly Case to the island. (You will get to read the text this coming Friday- or if you are reading this later, it will be on the site already)  Nimue and I were masters of ceremony and Nimue told stories of how things had come to be and generally enchanted people. Robin Collins performed Daphne and the Dead Seagull (including the song contained within it, which will *have* to be recorded for posterity one day!) and Meredith Debbonaire read The Aunties (which is a tale that will make you think differently about the beginning of the Graphic novel series) The Hopeless, Maine sea shanty (written by Nimue) and “Magpies” were performed by a Cup of Tentacles (Which is James, Nimue, and I…currently)

The feeling, in the end, was that there should be more of this sort of thing. So, there will be! (and i’m very much looking forward to it)

 

 

Photos- thanks to Meredith Debbonaire

 

Hopeless Friendship

The sloop drifted, dull brown timbers on grey waves. Its sails were rags, the portholes in the little forward cabin were dark. No hands held the wheel. And yet, it seemed to holding some sort of course. Not entirely direct and not swift, but with the cresting of each wave it drew slowly closer to Hopeless and the low earth cliff that lay to be devoured by the hungry sea.

Standing on the rank grass at the cliff edge was the pilgrim. He watched the sloop coldly. He did everything coldly these days. The warmth of life had left him. It was his own fault, he had thought that he understood the nature of the world and had been wrong. Now he was stranded between life and death and only his quest for the light at the end of the world could sustain him.

Friendship, he thought, was a peculiar name for a boat. Friendship was about warmth and laughter and human contact. There was, in his experience, little warmth or human contact with a boat. Cold loneliness had been his experience.

And every journey had to be paid for.

The ship of the weird sisters had demanded a sword in payment. The Demeter had taken every life aboard, and who knows what price the crew and passengers of the Marie Celeste had paid.

The pilgrim, in life, had always been in favour of payment in advance. This was no exception, and as he watched the boat approaching he found his thoughts driven back to another boat, on a different sea.

It had been the shortest day of winter, when the pilgrim had chartered passage on an open boat (known as a Billy Boy) from the Humber to Boston. The first Boston that is, the one in England. They had set off in the early evening from the old whaling quay at Hull and followed the coast south. It was full dark when they reached the Boston Deeps and the pilgrim began the ritual that was the true purpose of the journey. Singing loudly and joyfully, he praised the oceans and cast flowers upon the water. He spoke in rhymes of his love of the wind and water. With tears of passion in his eyes, he cried out in ecstasy.

By the time they reached the Haven, he was spent. Looking out across the marshes, to the place of the skraeings, he saw lights fly up into the sky amid strange guttural howls. The pilgrim shuddered, wondering if his gifts were not enough. But then a new sound drifted across the water. A voice, high and keen, sang an old song of the landsman who kept his faith and his promises and the pilgrim knew that his offerings had been accepted.

Now, so many years later and hundreds of miles away, the pilgrim waited for his reward. No mighty clipper, no warship, no royal barge would do for him. But instead the simple boat of a fisherman, a sloop called Friendship. It was a promise honoured, and the first spark of hope he had felt for many long days and nights.

The sloop bumped against the cliff, and the pilgrim stepped aboard…

Story by Jim Snee– art by Tom Bown

Mrs Beaten shares her views on the subject of trousers

It is a mystery to me why certain women feel that trousers are suitable attire for them. Such women have always been a puzzle to me, but they exist on this island in greater numbers. Trousers do not flatter the female form, nor do they conceal it appropriately. Instead, they can lead to rude highlighting of knees at moments of leg bending, and careless exposure of the sock, or worse yet, the ankle. What kind of woman wishes to display her ankle to all and sundry?

What is the trouser for? Do they imagine that by wearing it, they can partake of masculine power in some way? Do they wish to do things that cannot properly be done in skirts? I do not know what those things might be, having worn skirts my whole life and found them perfectly suitable for almost everything I have undertaken. I admit, that my experience of wading ashore in the aftermath of the shipwreck was a time when I felt my skirts and petticoats to be less than advantageous, but no normal person leaves the house of a morning with a view to having to deal with being shipwrecked.

There is a dignity in skirts. There is a smoothness of movement and a pleasing swish when one turns a corner. There is no unwholesome suggestion of the knee. One might imagine that beneath the skirt, a woman is not the same as a man at all. We might contain any mystery there. We may have wheels, or tentacles, or complex mechanical parts, or extra teeth. Why ruin this by wearing the trouser and dispelling uncertainty about the frequency and placement of limbs? It makes no sense to me at all.

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.