Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things.
For your delight and delectation, we bring you… the Hopeless Maine Winter Doom Festival card.
We’ve stolen this name from Merry Debonnaire as it is clearly more suitable for Hopeless than ‘Christmas’.
There is a history to our making seasonal cards, and it is a story worth telling. We started doing them to participate in the Tea and Jeopardy Advent calendars on Emma Newman’s podcast. You can find that here – http://www.teaandjeopardy.com/
Emma is a wonderful author, I love her work. She’s well worth checking out. She’s also on hiatus at the moment having had a hard time of it recently. You can find her books here – http://www.enewman.co.uk/my-books – and you should!
When I arrived, it was hard to imagine anywhere more isolated than Mewton, Maine…but that was before I experienced the diswelcome that awaited me at my final destination.
Mewton had no railroad station. Coaches couldn’t negotiate the few rough tracks that offered a semblance of connection to the wider world. The fishing village’s minute landing field was only visited by an Air Mail cutter once a fortnight.
I had bartered passage to Mewton on such a flight, and as the cutter approached from the ocean, I found a porthole that allowed me an opportune view. I saw a wall of grim, grey cliffs, towering hundreds of feet over their base, battered and bashed by furious waves. We were coursing for a gap in the cliffs, where they sloped downwards to meet in a narrow glen, in which I could see cottages huddled protectively around a church. Just outside of the village, about halfway up one of the slopes, was a solitary low stone building, remarkable because it succeeded in looking even grimmer than the rest of Mewton combined.
There were more buildings on the lower side of town: A series of sheds, workshops, and racks on which fishing nets had been hung to dry. The ‘beach’ was a grassy slope elevated some twenty feet above the ocean’s raging waves, suggesting that the fishing craft parked there were dependent on flight to make it in and out of port.
Before too long I was hauling my suitcase through Mewton’s unpaved streets. My other luggage was my writing satchel, slung over my shoulder, containing paper, quills, and my precious inks. I checked in at the Merry Tentacle Inn, which boasted two whole guest rooms – left mostly unused I was told –, and quickly departed again to explore the village.
Mewton smelled of brine, as fishing villages and towns ought to. Apart from the pale green grass on the glen slopes, and the muddy brown of the streets, everything appeared grey. The wooden boards of the small cottages, many of which looked like they had been salvaged from the hulls of shipwrecked boats, had been white-washed in a distant past. The paint was faded now, or peeling and blistering to reveal the ghostly grey of the weary wood beneath. The few stone buildings on Main Street were constructed from the same grim rocks that made up the cliffs. There wasn’t much in the way of shops: A butcher’s, a baker’s, two General Stores, three fishmongers, a barber shop, and the Post Office. The largest building was a tackle, bait, and net store.
My ears were filled with the screeches and squawks of seagulls wheeling overhead in the dull, overcast sky. The human population seemed vastly outnumbered by the seagulls, and added to the general greyness of Mewton, for I saw very few younger people, and only a handful of children.
The outlying structures between the village and the ‘beach’ were remarkably familiar in sight, sound and smell, for I had grown up along the Sussex Coast. The stench was a vicious, olfactorial assault which permeated everything. Remnants of fish, deemed unappetising even by the seagulls, were strewn around at random. Equipment dating from the previous century stood rusting or rotting in between machinery still in use. The quality of the boats ranged from possibly usable, to skeletal ribs rising from the ground in a spectral fashion.
My tour of Mewton was mercifully short, for there really wasn’t much to see. I was grateful this dire place was just a temporary stop, like so many others on my long journey from Sussex. I didn’t want to stay here a minute longer than I had to. All I had to do was arrange some sort of passage to…
§ § § § §
They all reacted in the exact same manner…all of the Mewton folk I tried to talk to about finding a way to reach a small island named Hopeless. They stared at me like I was some kind of a – possibly violent – lunatic, as they repeated the name of my destination. That was followed, invariably, by:
“You cahn’t git they-ha from hee-ah.”
The reply confused me at first. “Pardon me? Heehaw?”
I got it the second time, when a fishmonger became exasperated, and pointed repeatedly at the ground by his feet…“Hee-ah! Hee-ah!”… and then at the door of his shop… “They-ha! They-ha!”
§ § § § §
Made despondent by my lack of progress in finding a possible means to reach Hopeless, I returned to the Merry Tentacle. There were only a few customers in the inn, and I chose a table by a window, offering me a view of that foreboding, low building on the slope. I could see now that its narrow windows were barred.
It was fast becoming clear to me that reaching Hopeless seemed…hopeless, but I hadn’t come all this way to give up now. I’d be the laughing stock of the news room at the Gazette, if I returned with empty hands after having travelled so far.
By now I was quite famished, and I recalled that Gaffer had always said victuals should forever be a primary concern, before sipping away at his illicit Dutch Gin or French Brandywine.
There was no menu of any kind, so I beckoned the voluptuously rotund innkeeper, who swayed her waist as she approached my table. She was wearing a low cut apron, apparently designed to accommodate the ample bosom that threatened to spill out of her blouse.
Ignoring her none too subtle winks, I asked: “Do you serve food?”
“Ayuh, Mistah! We got all kinds of food. Spoilin’ you with choice, is the Merry Tentacle’s motto!”
“Excellent,” I said, somewhat relieved. “What’s on the menu?”
“Bug chowdah or quahog chowdah. Both of the finest kind.”
The expression on my face appeared to trigger the amusement of the local clientele, especially the two old men seated closest to me, who grinned and guffawed appreciatively.
“I see, wonderful…erm, do you serve any other kinds of food?”
“Othuh kinds?” The puzzled look on the innkeeper’s face provided my answer.
The quahog sounded so outlandish, that I opted for the bug option, in the hope that it was unlikely that anyone in the world would truly serve bugs as a meal.
The two old men were still chuckling when the innkeeper returned with a steaming bowl. Their comments were just loud enough for me to hear…
The innkeeper set the bowl in front of me. “One servin’ of bug chowdah, Mistah. Don’t you be minding these chucklin’ old-timahs now. They-ha wicked numb, not a braincell between ‘em.”
Bug chowdah turned out to be a delectable creamy lobster stew, and I speak not one false word when I state that it was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.
I told the innkeeper so, when she returned to collect my empty bowl.
“Mighty kind of you to say so, Mistah!” She beamed, then leaned in low, to add in a conspiratorial tone: “Now if you don’t mind me meddlin’, tis Ole Ted you’ll be wantin’ to speak to.”
“Ayuh. Ole Ted. This time of day, he’s usually to be found down the road apiece. By the boats.”
This is a follow up to my previous post Why I ended up trapped in Hopeless, Maine which covers how a came to write a story for the world of Hopeless, Maine and explaining (justifying?) some of the decisions I made when writing it. Just like the initial story, The Prospect of Joy, my blog post demanded a follow up (well, in my head anyway).
The second of the four stories that go to make up the Oddatsea I titled The Journey of Faith – because the quest that Jason sets himself on is very much an act of faith and I wanted something in keeping with the title of the first story. Both were intended to sound like Victorian morality tales.
It is curious that I chose Jason as the name of Alison’s nephew – at this point I was still just writing stories for the Vendetta – the title of The Oddatsea for all four tales was only decided on once they had all been written, but there was a definite classical Greek vibe in Jason’s full name; Jason Hercules Pettigrew Johnson. Jason from the legendary ancient classical tale of Jason and his crew of Argonauts and their heroic quest for the Golden Fleece, and Hercules from the TV series starring Kevin Sorbo.
Anyway, that’s enough of names.
The story once again features a journey to the Island in a submersible – but this time it ventured much closer to the Island which allowed me to go to town on the terrors inhabiting Hopeless’s coastal waters.
I had a certain word length in mind when writing the story, so I knew fairly early on this was definitely going to end in a cliff-hanger. Thus, I followed the noble literary traditions of Charles Dickens and Flash Gordon. Jason was in a right fix – a proper cliff hanger – at the end of the story.
The brave and noble Jason needed a miracle to get out his predicament alive. So being the helpful writer that I am – I provided one, with hints at the end of that story and the resolution provided at the start of the third story, The Fate of Rapture. In this case, my Deus ex machina was delivered by a group of three wonderful characters known as The Aunties – which I nicked – with permission – from the equally wonderful Meredith Debonnaire.
By this point in my writing, I had read as much as I could about Hopeless, Maine – from the graphic novels and from the Vendetta – so I had a much clearer picture of the main characters, and the plots of Tom and Nimue’s stories. I consciously set out to avoid making any major changes to the Island, its characters or its history. In order to make this foolproof (hah!) I set this part of the story in a time we already knew about – starting at the end of the first volume, The Gathering and before the second volume Sinners.
Of course, I still managed to mess things up a bit! Originally the link between Hopeless and a particular historical era was never intended to be established – but I seem to have placed the events of those two first novels firmly in Victorian times.
Or did I? You see, I believe that Hopeless, Maine still sits outside of time – perhaps when you travel to the island time changes and becomes irrelevant? Perhaps Hopeless looks the same no matter when you get trapped there? Is it the other side of some trans-dimensional portal? A warp in the space time continuum? A very black hole? Who knows? (Which only goes to show, you can probably convince people of anything if you have a good enough story. I hope we do.)
I wanted Jason to be slightly ridiculous compared to the island’s inhabitants – hence the armour he carries and his weaponry. As far as I can tell, nobody (? – tell me if I am wrong Nimue) seems to carry any sort of gun on the island – so I reasoned that maybe something there renders them ineffective. Then again, without something special our blundering hero would end up dead pretty quickly. And without guidance, he would get lost.
Enter my favourite Hopeless, Maine character, Annamarie Nightshade. (It seems I was oblivious to so many things when I started writing these stories, including the fact that Nimue was working on a story of Annamarie’s childhood – which was to become the other book in the Kickstarter – New England Gothic.) Even though there wasn’t a lot to Annamarie in the first graphic novels, for some reason I immediately fell for her. I wanted her in my story too!
Now whilst I didn’t want to ride roughshod over the stories and background Tom and Nimue had already established – I was a fan, and so I wanted to write something that other fans would enjoy – little snippets of extra information about the characters they’d come to know. So there a few references to events, characters and even creatures that you would know from the books as well as new characters of my own.
Bearing all these things in mind, I wrote with particular care about Jason’s encounter with Annamarie. Mind you, I still couldn’t resist dropping a subtle hint and a hopeful nudge about Annamarie’s fate. (I was later rewarded by a beautiful piece written by Meredith Debonnaire for the Vendetta). There’s also a hint of Reverend Davies and vampires – or at least, something akin to the vampires in the graphic novels. Oh and Glass herons – let’s not forget those beautiful but vicious creatures.
For the last of the four stories – The Triumph of Hope, I returned to Victorian England. Well, I didn’t – the story did. It had a life of its own by now and was pretty much dictating where it went!
The one deliberate decision I made was to change voices and perspective throughout the four tales. Partly to keep them varied, but partly as a challenge. The first story consists of two first-person narratives, the second and third are third-person tales, and the last returns to first-person again and the strong female protagonist. (Two if you count Homily – and you really should – you underestimate Homily at your peril!)
I should say there is one scene it seemed like I waited ages to write – it’s a simple thing that happens between Jason and Homily, but it made me emotional as I had come to love the characters so much by then. (I had also been working late and drinking a lot of coffee – so that could have been a factor…).
The last story also features, albeit briefly, a main character from the main graphic novels – Owen Davies, his appearance hinting at his travels away from the island and also explaining why he is seen carrying a bonsai when he arrives back at the very beginning of Sinners.
Finally, the four-story tale comes to an end. Or does it? For goodness sake, the end of the story still hints at more to come. Anyone would think I did it on purpose!
It’s a great deal of fun living in Hopeless, Maine – as a writer that is, definitely NOT as a character! In many ways though, whether you are a character or a writer, you end up just the same – trapped on Hopeless, Maine.
My sincere thanks to Tom and Nimue for letting me play in their weird and wonderful world, getting me totally hooked – and for their collaboration on the successful Kickstarter. Thanks also to all the other wonderful contributors to this fantastical project who have inspired the rest of us. I’m very excited for the many mysterious, not-yet-to-be-talked-about ‘things’still to come, for all the crazy ideas in my head and for all the incredible stories still be told about Hopeless, Maine.
“How much do you want for ‘The Squid and Teapot? I’d like to buy it.”
Bartholomew Middlestreet, the landlord of the inn, almost dropped the tankard he was drying.
“How much for the inn. Name your price.”
The man who stood before Batholomew was a slightly built, ferrety little specimen. His sharp, city suit and shiny shoes were not items of apparel you would see every day on Hopeless.
“I can’t sell the Squid, even if I wanted to,” said Bartholomew, not a little taken aback by the request.
“Oh, come on,” said the other, producing a bag of coins, with a flourish that would not have shamed a conjurer pulling a rabbit out of a hat. “Everyone has a price.”
“I don’t own the Squid,” said Bartholomew. “No one does. I manage it.”
The other man took some time to process this information. The concept of no one owning such an impressive piece of real estate was beyond him.
Garfield Lawnside had been on Hopeless for less than a week. The circumstances of his arrival on the island had puzzled him at first but logic told him that he had been Shanghaied. He could remember coming out of the waterfront bar in New York and wandering down a narrow side street – oddly, one that he had never before noticed. His drink must have been drugged, he thought, for the next thing he knew was that he was wandering around on some foggy hill, with no clue as to where he was. The strangest bit was that nothing had been stolen. His carpet-bag, which contained many of his worldly possessions, was still in his hand. Being a pragmatist, Garfield decided to make the best of it. He was a city man and was convinced he could do well around here. The locals seemed simple enough. Why, after that pale looking broad – Phyllis, or something – had found him wandering around, this Middlestreet guy had even given him free board and lodgings in The Squid and Teapot. What sort of businessman does that?
“On Hopeless,” said Batholomew, without a hint of condescension, “we don’t tend to own things, especially land and buildings. We take what we need but no one owns anything. Ownership can be a complicated business and – let’s face it – life round here is inclined to be uncertain, to say the least.”
Garfield had not been on the island long enough to grasp the full import of the landlord’s words. His mind was too busy, anyway, focusing on the line ‘we take what we need’.
“So… if I see an empty building, then it’s mine to live in?” asked Garfield, slowly.
“Yes,” nodded Bartholomew. “And you can use whatever the previous owners left in it. They won’t be needing anything, anymore,” he added, ominously.
“How about land? Can I take that too?”
“I guess so…” the landlord replied. ” Though folks don’t tend to, very much.”
Garfield smiled to himself, and strolled thoughtfully out into the morning mist.
It did not take many hours for Garfield to find a deserted cottage. As Bartholomew had predicted, the erstwhile tenants had left it furnished and ready for the next occupant. Garfield wondered to himself why people would choose to up and leave their homes so completely. He also wondered where they went afterwards. As I told you earlier, he had not been on the island for very long.
It was a day or two later, when pegging out a substantial piece of land for himself, that he hit a snag. There had been some heavy rain and some of the ground had become little more than a quagmire. Garfield had always prided himself on being something of a dandy, but the clothes that he was wearing when he arrived on the island was now the sum total of his wardrobe. The rest were hanging in a small hotel room in New York. His shiny, patent leather shoes would be ruined in all of this mud. He needed to be able to get over the boggy ground without actually setting foot on it. The thought occurred to him that, as nothing actually seemed to belong to anyone, there might be something in The Squid and Teapot that he could salvage to solve his problem.
Philomena Bucket was not impressed when she caught Garfield trying to roll up a long length of carpet from one of the corridors of the Squid. He found himself subjected to a torrent of abuse that Philomena had been saving up since the day she had first set eyes on him. She did not like or trust the man she thought of as ‘the city-slicker’, not least because he insisted on calling her Phyllis.
“But Bart said I could take what I wanted,” Garfield whined.
“Not from here you don’t,” said Philomena, then relented, adding, “If you’re desperate for a bit of matting go and have a look in one of the attics. There’s stuff up there, salvaged from a hundred shipwrecks. You’ll be sure to find something. And don’t you go calling Mr Middlestreet Bart!”
The attics of The Squid and Teapot are a veritable treasure trove of goods and chattels, deposited on the rocky shores of Hopeless, Maine by tides and by providence. The passing generations have carefully squirrelled these away, sensible of the knowledge that any newcomer to the island could always count on finding something to make the remainder of their (often tragically brief) life a little more comfortable.
Garfield passed an appreciative eye over the scene that greeted him, promising himself that he would return and take as much of this bounty as he could carry. His task, at that moment, though, was to find something to keep his shoes pristine, while he pegged out the generous dimensions of his land. And then he found exactly what he was after and whistled softly through his teeth.
He unfurled a long, narrow stretch of carpet. It seemed to go on forever. It was a runner, designed for a corridor far longer than any found on Hopeless, or anywhere else that Garfield had been. It must have been at least fifty feet of the finest Persian workmanship, destined originally for a palace or some other equally impressive residence. It would be worth a fortune.
It took no little effort to get the Persian runner down the stairs, into the courtyard, then into a borrowed barrow and trundled across the island to Garfield’s new abode. It seemed a pity to use it as a means of crossing a muddy piece of land but it was perfect for the task and within a short while the city slicker was marking out his patch, keeping his shoes clean and eyeing up anything that he might claim as his own. What was it that Bartholomew had said?
‘We take what we need’.
Over the following few days Garfield wheeled his carpet all over the island, using it as a means for putting his nose into all sorts of places that would have been otherwise inaccessible to him. Nowhere and nothing was safe from his greedy gaze; this, inevitably, was his downfall.
You may remember that, at the bottom of the Night-Soil Man’s garden, is a sinkhole. The capstone that had once covered it had long been removed and stood up on end, a letter D etched into its face. Garfield had seen this, from a distance, and wondered exactly what it signified, what it hid. He was convinced that all manner of rich pickings were to be had from this seemingly backward community and he intended to leave no corner unexplored.
Rhys Cranham, the Night-Soil Man, was sleeping in his cottage and heard nothing as the Persian runner was rolled past his door. The capstone – and the, yet unseen, sinkhole – was a good hundred feet distant, so Garfield needed to roll up the runner behind him as he went, in order to gradually unfurl it again on the next stage of his journey. He sure hoped that the stone with the D written on it was worth the effort. What could it mean?
It was only within the final few feet of reaching the capstone did he see the sinkhole. The runner had draped itself over the very edge and Garfield had stopped just in time. He stood uneasily on the brink, peering down into its fathomless depths. He found it hard to pull his eyes away from the faintly green and decidedly weird iridescence swirling far, far below.
When not accompanying Philomena Bucket on her daily walk, Drury, the skeletal dog, could often be found hanging around the Night-Soil Man’s cottage. Despite being devoid of anything but his bones, Drury was still very much a dog and revelled in all things malodorous. Besides this, the Night-Soil Man liked him and was always good for a game of something or other. So, when Drury spotted the edge of the runner, some fifty feet from the cottage door, he could only conclude that it had been put there for his amusement. In Drury’s opinion most things on the island were also there exclusively for his amusement but right now, this carpet was obviously begging to be dragged away.
Drury pulled on it but nothing happened. The game was on as far as he was concerned, and entered into the spirit of things by giving the runner’s edge an almighty tug. Fifty feet away Garfield Lawnside’s reverie was shattered by the ground beneath his feet being unceremoniously removed and his slight form sent down to examine, more closely, the iridescence that had so fascinated him.
By the time Drury had reached Chapel Rock he had tired of the carpet game and left the Persian runner there for the elements to dispose of, as they chose. As for Mr Garfield Lawnside, no one was surprised that he had left so abruptly. As Doc Willoughby observed, with uncharacteristic insight, a man with shoes like that would never have fitted in.
This is Nils Visser as he will appear in the next Hopeless Maine graphic novel…
We’re excited to announce that we’re running a story by Nils Visser over the coming weeks. Diswelcome will be appearing chapter by chapter here on the blog, and will manifest on Fridays. Here’s the opening, to wet your whistle…
PORTLAND, MAINE –The following has been copied from a number of parchments secured in a bottle, which washed up on a beach near Rockport not long ago.
The writing appears to be the journal of one Ned Twyner, from England, who disappeared on a remote stretch of Maine coast many years ago. Twyner was nineteen years old at the time. He was an apprentice journalist for the Brighton Gazette, and on assignment.
The journal is incomplete. Several pages, or parts of pages, have been rendered illegible in a manner that has confounded experts. What they all agree on is that the damaged sections seem to have been partially…digested…
One of the wonderful things about Hopeless, Maine as a project is that the creators, Tom and Nimue, have opened up their world for others to play in. It’s a lovely, generous and munificent (love that word) gesture and it has resulted in some amazing and very talented people contributing to a glorious shared unreality.
And then I came along.
As many of you may know, I was responsible for the Hopeless, Maine Kickstarter last year where we launched two illustrated books, Nimue’s New England Gothic, and my own The Oddatsea. I thought I would write about how I came to write my story, the choices I made and why I made them.
The Oddatsea is actually composed of four short stories, that together make up the whole tale. The first was called The Prospect of Joy – and this is how it came about…
What attracted me to Hopeless, Maine? Was it the atmosphere? The dark humour? The weird creatures, amazing characters or the tentacles? There is no doubt I have come to love all those things, but if I am totally honest, it was actually the idea of playing in some else’s world that attracted me the most. I know I write best with limitations – give me some boundaries, some rules and I will creatively sidestep and subvert them. Basically, I like a challenge.
I had long wanted to contribute something, and my passion is for short stories. (Actually, my real passion is for a long novel, but my patience and attention span don’t seem to want to play ball!) Working for myself, and – fortunately – being very busy with work, meant that finding time to write was always going to be a problem. But in the beginning, I had an even bigger problem. I knew nothing about Hopeless, Maine!
Yep. I started my story knowing zilch, nada, nothing about the world in which my story was set. So that was my first challenge – how could I write a story set on an island I had never visited; metaphorically or otherwise? Oh alright, I had read the first graphic novel, so the one thing I knew was that you could never leave the island – and that was pretty much the only rule I was given when I asked Tom about what I could and couldn’t do. (Yes, I know I eventually broke it… twice!).
And that gave me an idea.
At what point did this mysterious power that stopped you leaving the island begin? It seemed to me that if your ship was in trouble off the coast – you were inevitably headed to Hopeless. But how far out at sea did the dreaded pull of Hopeless, Maine extend? It must end at some point? I started to think about a sort of aquatic Lagrange point – a point of no return. What would happen if someone travelled to that point and got stuck there – caught between trying to leave and the unnatural lure of the island?
My literary childhood had been all about ‘hard’ science fiction, Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Phillip K Dick, John Brunner, Richard K Morgan, David Brin, Herbert, – I was voracious, reading up to five books a week. Over time I read other science fiction (softer?) and eventually even other genres, but my earliest love was for science fiction. These days I also consider myself a steampunk – I just love that juxtaposition between history and mad science.
Oh, by the way – no spoilers lie ahead if you haven’t read The Oddatsea*.
I decided my story would have elements of science fiction and Victorian steampunk – harking back to Verne and Wells. But I also wanted it to fit with Hopeless, Maine – and for that, I drew on Lovecraft to a certain extent – his weird, literally maddening stories and dark sense of humour. (Well, I think he’s funny anyway).
I chose a female protagonist because I love strong women and it suited the story – I needed a rebel – someone who would go further – what could be more rebellious than a woman in Victorian society who is an explorer, an adventurer and takes no nonsense from anyone?
And I chose a submarine as her chosen mode of transport in the tradition of Verne and because I wanted something different – something that hadn’t travelled to Hopeless, Maine before. We knew ships became wrecked on the rocks of the island, but how would a submarine fare? It was a delicious unknown.
As I found time to write, you will be pleased to know I also found time to read all the graphic novels, and eventually as much of the Hopeless, Vendetta (this very website dear readers), as I could. So about two-thirds of the way through the story, I was as well-versed as I could be in the shared delusion of Hopeless, Maine.
The way I write is quite organic. Oh, I used to plan a story, plotting out every twist and turn, every character and every scene. But the problem was that this was all done in my head. And when I came to write it, I just couldn’t be bothered! As in my mind, it was already written – committing it to paper just seemed a painful chore.
I know to avoid that now. I start with a vague idea and a couple of characters – perhaps an overall aim of the story – but no more. And most of the time I do not even have an ending. I just start writing and it takes on a life of its own. This means that the way the story unfolds and what happens to the characters is probably as much as a surprise to me as it is to the reader! Anyway, it might seem peculiar and ill-advised, but it seems to work for me.
The Prospect of Joy was conceived as a single standalone story – and definitely not part of a quadrilogy (clumsy word – maybe that’s why writers stick to trilogies!). But I didn’t want a straightforward ending – in keeping with the overall feel of Hopeless, Maine, I wanted something unresolved, something uncomfortable, something where the reader could envisage their own resolution. On the other hand, I hate stories that just fizzle out – so, although ambiguous, it needed to feel like an ending.
In the end, I was fairly pleased with the way the story turned out – and even better, Tom and Nimue seemed to like it too. (Or perhaps they were far too polite to tell me they hated it! I did tell you they were very nice people didn’t I?) But as I finished it, I realised something. It was crying out for a sequel, by posing the ending as a sort of intriguing what happens next, I was caught in a fiendish trap of my own making. I knew I had to write a follow-up…
Sometimes, we take Hopeless Maine out for live performance as a radio show. This being the most obvious and logical solution to putting a graphic novel onto a stage, clearly…
The genius behind the radio play approach is Keith Errington, aka Rostov, aka The Keith of Mystery. For these purposes he has written, and repeatedly performed this entirely wonderful piece. if you’ve ever encountered the Prairie Home Companion you may spot the similarities, but the weirdness works very well even for the uninitiated…
The Sons of Gnii
It is my great honour to stand before you now in the ancient and traditional outfit of the Grand Spoon of the Sons of Gnii, Lodge number one, circle number three, Hopeless, Maine.
I wear the ancient costume including the garland of night potatoes, representing honest toil (and protection against vampires of course), the glass helmet – I’m carrying it or you wouldn’t hear me. Well I say helmet, it’s actually a goldfish bowl, but it represents the unique wildlife of the island and by implication relentless aggression.
I’m holding the ladle of hope – a large serving spoon on a ceremonial broomstick. Wait a minute, where’s the spoon? It was here just now. Damn it. That’s the fifth one this month. Well, just imagine the spoon.
I have the cape which represents the fog of the island and is woven from the skins of over a thousand Kniris. No-one has ever seen a Kniri, but then, it is rather hard to survive as a species when everyone keeps making capes from your skin.
The Sons of Gnii have some simple sayings as part of the brotherhood:
The Gnii are sacred.
The benefits of the Lodge are many – but they are not for you.
No, damn it, we are not the Masons.
Stay away from the mines.
What did he think was going to happen?
Don’t mess with the helmet.
But possibly the most significant, important and symbolic – a saying that sums up the Sons of Gnii:
Since its writing, the hairy coffee has become a thing of legend, and turns up in other projects.
Like the hairy coffee, Hopeless Maine is an alive sort of thing. It gets its tentacles into people’s heads, and spreads its ideas about, often without Tom or I being involved in any direct way. In many ways we feel like we don’t own the island – it certainly owns us. Sometimes it whispers strange things to other people.
If you’ve been affected by the contents of this blog and have something Hopeless you need to share, just let us know. We’re here to support people who have been driven slightly mad by the fictional island, and glad to share any fresh, or slightly-unfresh and mouldering discoveries anyone makes.
Some years ago, we had the strange experience of outing Hopeless in an art gallery as part of the local book festival. I made some very random things for that! One of the things I made was a collector’s case of moths. The moths were of course all works of fiction and no actual moths were hurt in the process. I invented quite a few moths for the island – some of which I still remember because I rather liked them.
The poisoned Druid moth was made from mistletoe, so was sort of a joke, because of me being a Druid.
The granny’s shroud moth was large and pale, and I like to imagine them flapping about disconcertingly at windows late at night, and being especially horrible to pick out of spiderwebs.
The greater and lesser git moths are the sort of moths who eat clothes, and other household items.
Thinking about the moths this week has led me to realise that we haven’t given much thought to bats on the island, so there are bats going into the bestiary for the role play game.
Here’s a video from the art gallery. The moth case is at around the 10.30 mark…
I’ve been messing about a bit with self-portraits this week, and this is my Hopeless take on me.
Clearly I am some sort of eldritch abomination! Obviously, I have tentacles. I’m not sure why I’m a lamp stand from the waist down – It could be that I was a trial run for Mrs Beaten. I imagine that I have been left in a dark corner of a largely forgotten room, but if people approach me I will tell them terrible things.
What would you look like as an island resident? We’re always open to art, and to cosplay, so if you’re a resident with the time and inclination to send us something, we’d love to share it. If you don’t have direct contact with us already, just leave a comment and we’ll pluck your email address from wordpress and drop you a line.++++++++++++