Category Archives: Hopeless inhabitants

Crow Queens

The Queen of Crows started life as part of the tarot deck and I developed her as as a character in our Hopeless Romance live show, for which I wrote her a song. More of that over here –

The illustration with this post shows me as a crow queen. It’s part of the image we’ve been using this year with The Ominous Folk. 

There’s something evocative about the queen of crows, something that speaks to more people than just me. One of the people who has found the idea meaningful is Pauline Pitchford. In the video below, Pauline explores the idea of crow queens from the perspective of a member of The Hopeless, Maine Scientific Society. It’s a beautiful piece, full of magic, possibility and menace.

How do you become a crow queen?

Meeping Kazoos

Guest blog by Steven C Davis

No one knows quite how the first Meeping Kazoo came to Hopeless, Maine. Some say Lady Carriage Clock had a tame one – a rarity in itself, although little is known about Lady Carriage Clock, other than she was often pre-punctual for meetings. According to reports from that time, Lady Carriage Clock was not well liked and people would often try and avoid her – hence, she developed the habit of turning up to visit people before she met them to arrange the meeting.

But the Meeping Kazoo. Well now. Who has not heard a symphonicmare (the term for hearing a collection of Meeping Kazoos) and compared it unfavourably to the screeching of fingernails down a chalk board? It is a truly hideous thing to behold in the wild – and if you are lucky, such are its effects that you may be rendered deaf to all other sounds.

But in Hopeless, Maine, with its fog-enshrouded environs, the sounds of a herd (or some say, collateral) of Meeping Kazoo are somewhat muffled. Odd squawks are sometimes heard. A single finger, scratching at a chalk board. A random ting-ting-ting, but that may be the Meeping Kazoos attempts to lure a Spoonwalker out into the open.

They look rather like – well, perhaps that is not their best feature. The sounds they make are definitely not their best feature either, but they are the most striking aspect of them. Unless, of course, you happen to be a Spoonwalker who is caught out in the open –

They are a non-migratory species, which suggests there was some incident, possibly a tsunami caught some in the wild and delivered them to the island a long time ago. Breeding patterns and preferred habits are not known, and best not-guessed at. Frankly, even talking to you about a Meeping Kazoo is to invite the potential for a localised symphonicmare.

But one thing is known. No Meeping Kazoo ever hunts alone. Whether a collateral of them could tackle a human sized creature is unknown. But the best form of defence may be attack – since the physical aspects of the Meeping Kazoo are unknown, it may be that the range of Meeping Kazoo physical aspects is quite wide, and they may be identifiable more by sound than sight.

That being the case, if you think you are about to be attacked by a collateral, the best defence might be to sound like one.

This is David Atteneighbourhood, signing off, for Planet Maine. Hopeless, Maine.’

The boffin

The boffin has shown up in a few places of late – he’s on the wrap around cover of the Outland role play game, and he’s part of the wheel of fortune tarot card. This image is going to be a chapter cover for Survivors, where we have devices as a theme. And yes, this is shameless steampunk bait, and no, we have no regrets.

The boffin is a machine made by a young islander called Necessity Jones. Necessity made the boffin while still living with her parents, out at Hermit Cottage – a rather lonely spot on the coast, a modest walk from town. Necessity’s device making is very much influenced by having seen Lilly May’s walking chair.

At the moment, Necessity’s adventures are coming out in installments over on Patreon, but we do have plans to make this, and other prose fiction more available next year. Watch this space!

Our secret lives

There is a version of me who wears a hat and goes out to take care of the pigs. There is a version of me who does not. Two lives, two selves, swimming in and out of focus. Whichever version of myself I am, the other life seems to be a dream. Perhaps there are other dream lives I forget.

Yesterday I dreamed that I was at The Crow and I ordered the breakfast special and it turned out that I was the breakfast special and everyone was eating plates of me. I ate me, too. Is this real? Is this one of the lives I lead? No one else has ever admitted to being on a breakfast menu.

It seems preposterous to me that I could ever be human. All those fingers. The shoes. 

Tomorrow when I wake up perhaps I will be a pig herder dreaming of being a breakfast. Perhaps in truth I am really a breakfast and sometimes I imagine that I am an owl man. Perhaps none of these things are real and you are dreaming me in your own desperation.

Lights in the darkness

You may have wondered about the lamps. There is no grid on Hopeless, Maine. There are no gas pipes, and since the end of the trade in oil pressed from giant oceanic gnii, there hasn’t been much in the way of reliable lamp oil, either.

Of course any dead thing that washes up on a beach can be rendered down for oil, if you’ve the stomach for it. When the choice is make and use hideous corpse oil, or sit in the dark wondering what it is that you can’t see… well, it’s surprising how attractive those dead things can become. Thanks to the tides, dead things are mostly what wash up on the shores of Hopeless.

Balthazar is one of the island’s more successful inventors. No doubt his greatest achievement is having built a lighthouse, mostly from the bones of a massive sea monster. Balthazar tries very hard to be a scientist, but often finds he is an accidental occultist who has almost no idea how any of that side of his work… works.

Lamps being such good and useful things, people tend to adopt them and try to work out how to keep them going. The one powered by hurdy gurdy mercifully doesn’t need you to actually play a tune. Several are uncomplicated enough to just need oil of some sort. There’s one you have to wind by hand, and one where a weight drops on a chain. The one that was supposed to gather daylight and release it again at night somehow mostly gathers moths, and feeds on them. It is probably best to stay well away from that lamp, in case it gets ideas.

Defining a demon

Lamashtu is in many ways the classic witch’s familiar. You’ll find him hanging out with Annamarie Nightshade in the graphic novels, and he also plays a role in New England Gothic. He looks like this not because it’s a fair representation of who and what he is, but because this is what’s expected.

Quite a few things on Hopeless, Maine work in this way, because reality and magic alike are affected by belief and intention. People tend to see what they expect to see.

There’s a case for saying that the island is full of demons. It depends on how you like to define things. If you’ve read Personal Demons (which is in The Gathering) you’ll have met the rather self announcing owl demon. Part of the point with that story is that the obvious demon probably isn’t the only demon. They don’t always turn up looking the way you expect them to.

Evil often isn’t self announcing. Usually, the people perpetrating it firmly believe that they are, in fact, the good guys. If you’re reading the graphic novels, this is a line we’ve explored extensively through the character of Reverend Davies. It would be fair to say that the Reverend always feels like he’s acting for the best and doing what’s right, but sometimes he’s alone in those beliefs and his actions are, in practice, hideous.


Screamers are charming little creatures resident on the island. They don’t mean any harm, they just want to get on with their lives.

Their lives involve hanging out in the undergrowth, and killing small prey by first stunning and disorientating them. That’s where the screaming comes in. It’s a terrible noise and will also stun and disorientate humans. It’s just that we are far too big to eat and they don’t tend to hunt in packs.

This screamer is the work of Cliff Cumber.

Screamers are fragile little things, and are easily harmed. It doesn’t take much effort to kill one. This, however, is a singularly bad choice. While the body of the screamer may fly apart, the scream does not. It continues. It may follow you.

This does not entirely answer our frequently asked question of ‘what is screaming all the time?’ Lots of things scream. People especially. Not all screaming can be attributed to screamers be they alive or deceased.

This next screamer is the work of Matilda Patterpaw.

Screamers are one of the few beings that can live inside helltopiary. Apparently the helltopiary has figured out that the consequences of eating screamers are far worse than the consequences of leaving them alone.

His Late Master’s Voice

Memory of a hand, swollen about the fingers. A hand that offered food, that patted. 

The familiar smell of a body that meant home. Belonging. Comfort.

The way they both changed. He knows, and he doesn’t know because Drury thinks about things in his own way. Part of him is still a mud rolling puppy. All of him is still the dog he used to be. Sometimes he forgets about his bones. He recalls bodies as though they were still here, as though nothing has changed.

But also the wind whistles between his ribs sometimes and he knows this is not how it used to be. 

A machine that does not smell of person. A voice that does not belong in a machine. Whispery and distant, caught in wax – not that Drury understands the process. A voice that would make his heart hurt, if he still had one of those. He doesn’t know where it went.

When I was a little child

I went into the sea

Down I went

And down I went

One, two three

And all the hungry fishes

Came to look at me

And ate me up

And ate me up

One, two, three.

Now I’m in the water

Calling, follow me

Tender little girls and boys

One, two, three.

It’s just a nursery rhyme. Something said to amuse babies as they fall asleep. There’s nothing substantial here. Just the remains of a dog, listening with total adoration to the uneasy whispering of his late master’s voice.

Dust and pepper

There are those who say that dustcats are foolish, thoughtless creatures. Annoying sometimes, but not malicious. This sort of thing is generally said by the kinds of people who believe in their hearts that humans are better than other entities. Only humans are capable of the kind of complex thought that makes deliberate malice possible. Only humans can be evil, because only humans understand the concept of evil and can choose.

Do the dustcats know? Do they know when they go through your kitchen and knock every jar from the shelf that they are doing you a great disservice? Of course knocking things over is always fun, but they are more careful with the possessions of people who have been kind to them. Violently evict a dustcat from your kitchen and there is every chance that they will come back for revenge.

Do they know about how rare it is to find salvageable spices in a shipwreck? Do they guess the amount of work it takes to find and process bits of local plant that are tasty and probably won’t kill you? Have they thought about it? For the people who imagine that dustcats are foolish things, living only by instinct, it may be hard to imagine the forms dustcat anger could take.

All that fine ground kitchen spice. It’s a lot like dust really, and is easy to suck up. 

Only people who have seriously upset a dustcat get to experience the ‘blow’ options that the cats have. What is taken in through the tongue can also be released through the tongue. It is a terrible misuse of precious spices to snort them up and spit them out in this way. It’s also a very effective form of assault.

Almost as if they understood that they had been called thoughtless and foolish. Almost as if they were making a deliberate point.

Bone Birds

Bone Birds were designed by Dr Abbey.

While the bone birds look a lot like birds made out of bones, all the theories about them assume them to be neither bones, nor birds. One school of island thought has it that these are in fact demons. Some islanders are confident that bone birds do not exist and will refuse to admit being able to see them. The Hopeless Maine Scientific Society considers them to be some sort of insect. Unlike (other?) demons, bone birds maintain fixed forms and look similar to each other. They gather in small flocks and tend to favour isolated open spaces – hilltops and clifftops especially. They are highly vocal, making unpleasant screeching noises when alarmed, and eerie whispery noises the rest of the time. While they tend to avoid people, they will attack anyone who comes into their nesting sites. During nesting season (which does not come at a coherent frequency), they will also attack you for the contents of your washing basket or laundry line. They take hats, and anything else easily removed, to use as nesting material. They aren’t gentle about this, and while they don’t eat people, they will bite people.