When I’m dealing with fantastical settings, I like to know how the practical details work. I think it’s getting the little, mundane things right that is key to making big, strange, magical things feel plausible. I experience this as a reader as well as when writing. I want to know where you go to take a shit, what people are wearing in terms of materials, how they keep warm, or cool, and what they eat.
Hopeless Maine is a lost island. It used to be more connected, and resources used to head its way, but these days, new materials either come from natural resources or wash in from shipwrecks. Recycling is a must. The Hopeless Maine diet is not for the squeamish. Food is in short supply, and you have to be willing to eat anything passably edible that comes along. This is why ‘bottom of the garden stew’ is…
This is a book with serious depth. I am already fifty pages into my second read of it, because I just know that there are things I didn’t quite get the first time round. When We Are Vanished is a beautiful, quietly kaleidoscopic piece of work. It has the feeling of a fever dream just before waking, when sleep logic and waking logic meet for a few moments. It also has a wonderful, sometimes sharp sense of humour that runs through the entire book and that had me chortling to myself at more than one point.
The story is set in a world where computers stopped working. In fact, all silicon-based tech is now useless. Most of the plot takes place some years after this has become the norm, and everything is crumbling away and being reclaimed by nature. The remaining people soldier on through the new…
Confession: I’ve killed people. Sometimes meticulously, sometimes casually, nearly always brutally and most probably unnecessarily. Worse – I made money from it, initially felt overjoyed by the simple thrill of opting out of ‘the rat race’ with this new, exciting and often ‘sought after’ lifestyle.
‘Sought after’? Allow me to explain… Twenty-years ago I was a crime-writer, and had a series of what were termed at the time ‘psychological thrillers’ or ‘why-dunnits’ published by HarperCollins. The theme was ‘suburban bleak’. Living on the outskirts of London, I was able to swap the daily commute into the capital for a fictional ‘life of crime’. I was in my early thirties, blinded by the dubious lights of success and just about able to scrape a living by simply doing what I enjoyed the most – writing.
Friends at the time were envious, some wrongly assuming I was somehow fabulously wealthy (I wasn’t…
Currently, the press is out of action, life is too busy. However, you can read books one and two of the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series at www.hopelessmaine.com and you can buy the first one in lovely, splendid hardcover almost anywhere thanks to the splendid people at Archaia.
Last week’s thunderstorms and wild seas cast a great many fish onto the bridge, and our platform out on the Devil’s Fingers. Amongst the more usual residents of the ocean, was a mermaid. Once the storm abated, her enthralling singing drew many folks towards the bridge. Those of us who remember the last such experience stuffed our ears with wax and fabric to keep the singing out, and mounted a barrier on the bridge to keep people at a safe distance. Some of our younger men (my unfortunate nephew included) made efforts to get out to the mermaid, but we were able to keep them safe.
Our venerable Doc Willoughby, who really should know better, was completely overwhelmed, and, unable to gain the bridge, threw himself into the sea. He was fortunate, his clothing prevented swimming, and the mermaid herself was unable to get down from the platform, or else he would surely have been drowned and eaten. Jed Grimes had to knock him unconscious before the good Doctor could safely be returned to dry land.
When Doc Willoughby regained consciousness, and had his ears blocked, he was all for a few of us going down the bridge and ‘killing the ghastly creature’. There was much support for this and some folks went so far as to arm themselves. However, Sophie Davies made a plea for compassion. She asked if anyone had the decency to return the mermaid to the water. Not a single man offered to help. (In my defence, I was preoccupied with keeping the bridge closed). Annamarie Nightshade stepped forward however. We were treated to the unlikely sight of the Reverend’s wife and the resident witch assisting the mermaid back into the water. Despite their fierce reputations, the creature did not attack either woman, and made a rapid exit. It is said to be tremendously bad luck to kill one, but worse luck still to be lured by their fatal music.
I am pleased to announce that the repair of our church organ has been an almost complete success. Testimony Albatross’s fabulous device has been repaired by Balthazar Lemon, with some curious additions. The repaired organ was played this Sunday by Mrs Sophie Davies, and the music delighted everyone. Some doubts remain however, over the smells the organ now releases. The original Testimony Albatross design included a large tank, the purpose of which no one had truly understood. It is now full of fish (see photograph). I suspect it is no coincidence that, when played, the organ now fills the church with a distinctly fishy smell.
Questioned on the matter, Balthazar Lemon said, “It’s obvious this is how the organ was designed. It sounds better now.” He has a point. Filling the tank seems necessary. Lemon continued, “The organ is a thing of beauty, designed to bring us closer to God, through sound, scent and visual impact.” I asked him why he had filled the tank with fish, and not, for example with flowers, fruit or some other more appealing thing. He responded by saying, “What do you think God smells like?”
I delayed the Vendetta this week so that we could use it to celebrate a most historic moment. I am proud to present an image of The Hopeless Civic Band performing at the grand opening of the bridge. It is now possible for people to walk all the way out to The Devil’s Fingers, where platforms have been built, allowing visitors to view the sea. This crowning achievement of modern technology, engineering and determination was greeted with great enthusiasm and a party that lasted well into the night.
A rather unfortunate fight between Malcolm Atilla, and Jim ‘Lardbucket’ Smote, caused several sections of balustrade around the centre of the bridge to collapse under the shock. Repairs begin on Monday, but despite Jim ‘Lardbucket’ Smote being cast into the sea, the bridge is entirely safe to use. It provides some excellent and new views of the sea, and the fishing from here is very good, by all accounts. Most importantly, this completed first stage will enable us to strike out further, and eventually reach the mainland.
I can only apologise for my neglecting of the Vendetta last week and the shoddy excuse for journalism you were forced to endure in my absence. Although it is true that Shrove Tuesday Jones recently gave birth to a horned baby, but the horn is far smaller than the turkey image may have lead you to believe.
The news is that tremendous progress has been made on the bridge. We’ve taken advantage of the warmer weather and calmer seas to get some serious building work done. The bridge itself has been successfully tethered to the Devil’s Fingers, and it won’t be long before it will be possible to walk out to the small island. Plans are afoot for a celebratory party once we reach land. We’ve all learned a lot during this stage, insight that will serve us well as we make the next stage from The Devil’s fingers. Balthazar Lemon has made a spying glass and we are searching for other rock outcrops to work with, or signs of the mainland. I am confident that we will soon be back in touch with civilization!