Category Archives: Hopeless

A plump, hearty stocking

Now that spade up Sunday is behind us, many of you will be cultivating black eyed meese ahead of your festive preparations. If you missed the traditional gathering day, there’s still plenty of time to go rooting about under hedgerows and anywhere else dank that hasn’t entirely frozen over. You may end up with smaller meese, but you may still consider it worth the effort!

You may be tempted to feed them bones, gristle or even worms – there’s always someone who feels the urge to try a wider diet than is recommended. There are reasons for the recommended feeding of meese. On the correct diet, meese remain biddable and cooperative. Stray from this advice and the behaviour of your meese will become unpredictable at best.

Now is also an excellent time to start thinking about the stockings you will use over the festive period. The git moths will no doubt have had a nibble on any stocking you have tried to store from last year. While we make less of a tradition of stocking repair Sunday than we do spade up Sunday, you know what you have to do. Patch those holes! And if it turns out that your festive stockings are now more hole than fabric, you may have time to source or make a new pair.

Anyone who doesn’t have solid, hole-free stockings can of course expect to have terrible things happen over the festive period. If your black eyed meese tumble from the carelessly left holes, nothing will go well, and there’s also the issue of it being a really terrible omen. 

Obviously we all want the reassurance of good omens from our seasonal stockings, so I further remind you not to let git moths lay eggs in them. Do not put spoons in your stockings and leave them unattended. Do not allow anyone who has consumed night potato vodka to handle your stockings, or to breathe on them. No matter what Reverend Davies says, do not be persuaded to take any of them to any of his festive sermons, this never goes well.

And may your meese bless you with abundance and charm, and may their odours be pleasing. A reminder that an uncanny smell of vomit is not always a bad omen and can be the result of someone having tried to throw up discretely. You know who you are.

Welcome to Hopeless!

The Hopeless Vendetta started life as the newspaper for a fictional island. These days, the site is a mix of fiction, whimsy, and news about other Hopeless, Maine projects. 

Hopeless, Maine is a haunted island off the coast of America. It first put out its tentacles as a graphic novel series. The project now includes a live performance team – The Ominous Folk of Hopeless, Maine, a role play game, tarot deck, prose fiction, music, puppets, costumes and a film project. Check out the static pages for further information on those.

I’ve made a Hopeless Handbook to help people orientate themselves. Hopeless is a large, many tentacled entity lurching in at least three directions at any given time.

If you have questions the handbook doesn’t currently answer, please wave, and answers will be forthcoming.

The Hopeless Vendetta started life as the newspaper for a fictional island. These days, the site is a mix of fiction, whimsy, and news about other Hopeless, Maine projects. 

Why are there so many graveyards?

Candles at the O’Stoat Crypt

Those of you who read the Hopeless, Maine graphic novels will likely have noticed that there are a lot of graveyards on the island. More graveyards than make any kind of immediate sense in relation to the apparent population size. There are reasons for that, of course.

Some of the reasons are geographical. There are a lot of places where the soil is thin. Bury the dead in shallow graves and hungry things will dig them up. No one likes seeing the partially eaten remains of their dead loved ones. It’s not even that much fun when it happens to people you don’t like. There’s also the problem that sometimes you bury people in shallow graves and they get up out of them. Therefore sometimes graveyards are small because they run out of useable land.

Of course there is halfway decent farmland on the island. Most people prefer not to put people into the soil where they intend to grow food crops. There is a story about how this is where night potatoes came from in the first place. It’s as well to think carefully about what you plant.

Some of the graveyards are just practical. They were the first bit of suitable soil nearest the pile of bodies. Usually the pile of bodies are on a beach and have washed in from a shipwreck which is why small clifftop cemeteries are so common. Dead people are one of the island’s major imports, thanks to the tides, and malevolent local magic. No one wants to go hauling dead strangers across the countryside and not everyone wants their beachcombing ruined by dead people. There are arguments over this, because there’s nothing like a shipwreck for bringing massive crabs onto the beach looking for food, and crabs in turn, are tasty. Still, the general consensus is that using human corpses as crab bait is a tad uncivilized.

At The Bridge of Bottles

The bridge of bottles connects Gaunt Street to Gaunt Town. Also known as The Old Town, Gaunt Town is the oldest part of the island’s major settlement. It remains inhabited, but mostly not by people. It is not a place for the living, nor for those who intend to remain living, as James points out in our current show.

The bridge of bottles crosses The Gaunt River here. Those of you who know your folklore will be aware that there are all sorts of things who do not like to cross running water. Being on the Gaunt Street side of the river is considerably safer than being on the Old Town side. Especially after dark.

The living tend to stay out of The Old Town. It is a place of shadows and unease. Even on the best and brightest days, it is never warm there. The past sits heavily on the land. However, there are many who venture as far as the bridge of bottles, to make their own strange rituals.

Quite how, or when or why any of this started, no one knows. These days, there are always bottles on the bridge. People bring them with little offerings inside. If you don’t have an empty bottle you can spare, it works just fine to bring the offerings and drop them into one of the empty bottles. There are always empty bottles, the offerings are usually accepted.

What meaning you bring to this is personal. Perhaps you wish to placate something by making an offering here. Perhaps you need to atone, or to seek good fortune. That’s between you and your bottle. Between you and whatever empties your bottle. Choose your gift carefully.

They say that blood makes the most powerful magic. It is a risky thing though, to give another entity a taste for you in this way. What is most personal is most potent, but there are always consequences. 

(With particular thanks to Keith Healing, who discovered the ruins of the Old Town while he was working on the role play game, and worked out the connection between Gaunt Street, the bridge of bottles, and that especially haunted bit of landscape. Gaunt Street, for anyone who hasn’t put it together, is where Owen, Lilly May and Donald take up residence in the graphic novel ‘Victims’. )

Why we don’t have gun fights

Steampunks tend to be fond of preposterous weaponry with things you can point at people being popular features for costumes. Hopeless, from that perspective, is disappointedly short of things you can shoot people with. 

Part of the problem is the damp. Which is relentless and gets into everything. Gunpowder is notorious for needing to be dry in order to work and so mostly… it doesn’t. 

If you were going to try and make your own gunpowder, you would be further thwarted by the total lack of saltpetre on the island.

Import used to be a thing, back in the days when boats managed to get to the island deliberately, and it wasn’t all accidental shipwrecks. If you’ve wondered about salvaging gunpowder from a shipwreck, let me refer you back to the issue of dampness and the impossibility of drying anything out without using a fire.

This, incidentally is almost certainly how Ignatious Chevin blew up his house a couple of years ago. His grasp of chemistry was not all that it might have been, and he had managed to get a lot of barrels of gunpowder from the beach.

About the only reliable ways of firing weapons is either to get some wood and gut and make a bow, or you have to stuff a demon up your blunderbus (not a euphemism) and keep it angry enough that it will attack someone else when you fire it, but not so angry that it blows up in your face. Firing an apathetic demon who is sick of your shit can lead to results that will amuse onlookers but will do nothing to help you in a fight.

When is Hopeless?

If you’ve been paying close attention to the blog, you may have found yourself wondering, when is Hopeless? 

You may have noticed that our guest writers don’t all operate in the same timeframe. Nils Visser brought a story to us that connected with his Wyrd Woods. Martin Pearson’s Squid and Teapot stories relate directly to history as we know it. Keith Errington’s Oddatsea places Hopeless in a steampunk sort of history.

Is it all just chaos? You might reasonably ask.

Well, yes and no.

I have an entire other novel (Spells for the Second Sister) that turned out to hold the key to all of this. I’ll be self pubbing that one in the foreseeable future, for anyone who gets the urge. One of the central concepts in that book is of a tidal reality. Places move in relation to each other, and many places exist that are versions of the same place. When the tide is out, they’re all distinct and separate places, but as the tide comes in they merge, overlap and sometimes crash messily into each other.

Hopeless exists in that tidal reality. People who have read New England Gothic will already know that Hopeless has layers, and that its many different places all in the same place. As a consequence, it’s a relatively stable point in a constantly shifting universe.

This is also part of why it’s so hard to leave. It’s not just a case of getting out, but of getting out to wherever specifically you want to go. The tides of the universe are just as likely to throw you back at the island as the local sea currents are. 

How Hopeless changes people

The Aunties are agents of change, tiny Gods of changemaking and mayhem. Perhaps you’ve met them already. If you’ve read Keith Errington’s Oddatsea – published by Outland in the ‘Hopeless, Maine’ volume – you’ll have met The Aunties. You may also have found them here on the blog, in Merry’s story –

Often the changes in the world made by Agents of Change are pretty random – at least from the perspective of people seeing the impact. They like a bit of asymmetry, hence the three legged chickens. They like getting in your storage jars and creating surprise flavours, for better or worse.

Most islanders prefer to think of fate as either cruel, or random. Life is considerably more bearable when you don’t have to take it so personally. Terrible things happen all the time for no reason. If you thought there was a reason for it you might go mad trying to find a way of keeping yourself safe. We can say with some confidence that placating the terrible gods of callous indifference gets you nowhere, and tends to make everything that little bit worse.

The Aunties are not distant, powerful beings who care nothing for your irrelevant mortal life. The Aunties are mighty, they believe in justice and they suffer dreadfully from boredom. As a consequence, they may do to you that which they believe you truly deserve. Unfortunately, the logic by which they operate is incomprehensible to the fragile human mind. Why one person grows a tentacle from their elbow, while another sprouts antlers from their head is utterly mysterious. 

The Aunties wish to make it known that they are not responsible for recent outbreaks of vampirism and people getting especially hairy at full moons. They have no idea how donkeys get on roofs, or where all the blood came from the other week. They are not all powerful and it annoys them immensely when people imagine they are *that* sort of gods, and can be expected to Do Things on demand. 

Do not pray to them, for they are not persuaded either by your distress or your ideas about how to fix things. Do not ask what sort of problem they thought you had that they felt could be solved with the sprouting of tentacles, or antlers, or whatever else they may have done to you.

(With thanks to Rostov for the loan of his face. By using his face on this post we are definitely not implying 1) that he’s actually Keith Errington or 2) that he really does have antlers. We’re fairly confident the hat is real.)

Inheritance Manifests!

Outland Entertainment are publishing the Hopeless, Maine graphic novels in hard cover editions. Some of you lovely folk backed the kickstarter that helped made this possible. Then, sad to say, things got messy.

This wasn’t a problem specific to us, or to Outland. We know of other comics people whose comics did not reach them in a timely. Rail strikes in the US, along with paper supply and distribution problems have caused a lot of issues this year. We 100% support strike action, but it has made life complicated.

Finally, our books are getting into the hands of our splendid kickstarter backers. We’ve seen a few photos on social media already – we love it when people post photos of themselves with our books, so please do that and tag us if you have a moment to spare.

The image above was sent us by the splendid and massively supportive Brenda Nix Lively. Many thanks for that.

Welcome to Hopeless, Maine!

The Hopeless Vendetta started life as the newspaper for a fictional island. These days, the site is a mix of fiction, whimsy, and news about other Hopeless, Maine projects. 

Hopeless, Maine is a haunted island off the coast of America. It first put out its tentacles as a graphic novel series. The project now includes a live performance team – The Ominous Folk of Hopeless, Maine, a role play game, tarot deck, prose fiction, music, puppets, costumes and a film project. Check out the static pages for further information on those.

Making Night Potato Vodka

Human residents of the island make night potato vodka whenever they forget what a bad idea this turned out to be last time someone tried it. The usual method is to capture and kill night potatoes, then ferment them – usually in some sort of bucket. The bitterly cold weather in winter makes it easy enough to freeze off the excess water. What results is often excellent for starting fires, and likely to leave a drinker mad, blind, glowing, or all three. 

This is as nothing when compared to the night potato vodka made by night potatoes. Night potatoes are not known for eating each other. However, sometimes a night potato dies of natural causes, and this will go unnoticed by their comrades until decay starts to set in. There is a particular sort of fungi that grows on the eyes of decomposing night potatoes, and it is from this fungi that the night potatoes themselves brew their vodka in tiny receptacles.

Whether it is the naturally glowing eyes of the night potatoes that result in the fungi also glowing, or whether it is the fungi that glow and the night potatoes gain their eye glow through drinking it, is hard to say. My suspicion is that this is a more complex and circular relationship.

If a human has ever partaken of the vodka made by night potatoes, none has ever survived to tell the tale. It does not suggest itself as an especially survivable experience but no doubt at some point, someone will be willing to test this theory – either for science, for poetry or in the hopes of finally escaping from the island.