Category Archives: Hopeless

Hopeless Seasons

This blog post has been written in response to a reader question about island life. I have a list of questions to work through, but it isn’t that long, so if you’d like to ask something, please do! Hopeless is and always has been a community project, and  we’ll gladly explore whatever anyone is interested in.

Geographically, the island of Hopeless is somewhere off the coast of Maine, and gets something akin to Maine seasons, only it doesn’t really do summer. Summers in Maine can involve blue skies and warmth, but the island is always on the chilly side.  Sometimes, if you look carefully, you can see a distant line of blue on the horizon, out beyond the island’s inherent malevolence. That’s about as good as it gets for islanders.

The best way to tell where we are seasonally is to look at the trees. Not the dead ones. Don’t look at the dead trees. Especially don’t look at the eyes on the dead trees…

We digress.

Hopeless Victims (volume 3) is set in the autumn, and we do have some leaf colour – far more muted than the rest of Maine tends to go in for, but it is there.

The next book – Hopeless Optimists is set in the winter and there is snow on the ground, and Salamandra still isn’t wearing a coat.

Which means that the final book in the series, Hopeless Survivors, will be set in the spring. Because there’s nothing like juxtaposing  extreme peril against signs of new life and hope.

I grew up in a small town on the edge of the Cotswolds. It is the place the rainclouds often first stop when they’re wandering up the Severn River. It is a place that is more often than not under a dark cloud.  On foggy days – and there were plenty of those when I was growing up there – the landscape would fill with mist, turning the hills into small islands. Whether Dursley is quite as cursed as Hopeless I can’t tell you, but the climate is certainly plausible – regardless of whether you ascribe it to demons or not.

Hopeless Maine and diversity

One of the things that really bothers me with fiction and comics is the way that bad history and white supremacy get in the mix. The number of times I have seen people suggest that including People of Colour in a situation is woke and historically inaccurate is distressingly high.

The problem is that so many people have got their minimal historical education by watching films that were made by people who were racist and/or had other issues. American films from the first half of the twentieth century would cheerfully have white men playing people from anywhere in the world while failing to include People of Colour in times and places they most assuredly would have been. It’s not improved much since then.

The evidence is widespread, the art, the historical information, the written records, the photographs… Ignorant of actual history and fed only a whitewashed history, some people get really cross when faced with better representation.

The oceans of the Victorian era were multicultural places. People working on boats worked on whatever boats they could. If you lost a few key crew members to accident or illness, you’d take on people wherever you next landed. Crews were diverse.

And therefore we can confidently say that people with an option of shipwrecking off the coast of Hopeless, Maine would also have been diverse. We’ve populated the island with people whose ancestors came from all over the place and had no intention of getting stuck here! We’ve also kept it deliberately vague because we don’t have the knowledge to depict the specific experiences of people from around the world. It’s a balance to try and strike – inclusion but not trying to speak for people. We’re very aware that the publishing world lacks for diversity, and that representation matters.

We’re not good history, we’re wilfully anachronistic, and we like to play with things. But we’re still more accurate than the whitewashing.

Agents of Change

Agents of change are small entities that often crop up in the background in Hopeless images. They are beings who live out their names. They change things. The more of them there are, the more scope there is for change. Their presence on the island is a major reason for the island’s odd flora and fauna.

We’ve not used them prominently in any plot. But, Merry Debonnaire has used them repeatedly – first in this short story https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2018/07/06/the-aunties/

And then again in this excellent tale about what really happened to Annamarie Nightshade https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/annamarie-nightshade-is-going-to-die/

Merry’s concept of the agent’s of change as Aunties was taken up by Keith Errington and turns out to be significant in his Oddatsea novella.

There have to be agents of change in the film, because if you look closely at the opening to The Gathering, there they are in the water with baby swimmy Sal. Helping her change. They are not solely responsible for Salamandra’s watery transformations – she does most of it for herself, but they give her a lot of ideas.

If you would like to help us make agents of change as puppets, we’re crowdfunding the film as we go along and your support would be greatly appreciated.  More of that here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/bringing-hopeless-maine-to-the-screen-one-creature-at-a-time/team-creatures/

For the love of Dustcats

Dustcats are one of a number of Hopeless Maine cat species. They are adorable, floating cats who use their long tongues to slurp up dust. In normal circumstances, dust is their main food, but it is important to remember that dust is basically particles of dead skin. A hungry dustcat might not wait for the skin to naturally fall off.

Dustcats have been known to eat people’s faces. Island lore has it that they only eat the faces of the beloved dead, so this is only going to happen to you if you have a dustcat who loves you very much. Probably.

Like all cats, Dustcats are pointy in way they can use to attack and defend. However, they have additional capacities for violence. They can regurgitate dust – a process not unlike throwing up a hairball, only this is a dustball and can be launched from higher up.

In extreme circumstances, dustcats form a wrecking ball – knotting their tails together in the middle and putting all the pointy bits on the outside. It is a formidable thing to encounter.

What would a dustcat look like in motion? What would it look like as a puppet? We want to know. We know we are not alone in this. If you want to know these things, and you can spare a few pounds to help us make dustcats, we’re crowdfunding puppets for the Hopeless Maine film. If you aren’t able to chip in but want to help, please share your love of dustcats and help us find people who can help! We have social media badges and everything. More over here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/bringing-hopeless-maine-to-the-screen-one-creature-at-a-time/team-dustcat/

Spoonwalker by Dr Abbey Masahiro

It sounds to me so botanically beastful

His walking is looking like dancing

And making noise, zee boo, zee boo.

Eye colour changes by temperature.

When rainbows appear, he sings

Songs of the ancient moon.

Rider of storm, rider of wave.

Cutlery thief exposed.

 

 

(Dr Abbey is part of the Hopeless Maine film crew, and slowly being lured into other things, which is what the island tends to do to people – more here  https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/casting-durosimi/  )

Hopeless Folklore

Hello people! (and others) The esteemed Jeffrey Tolbert (Editor and co author of -The Folkloresque: Reframing Folklore in a Popular Culture World, has decided to look at Hopeless, Maine and its growing tribe of participants as a topic of study. “an ongoing conversation on the role of folklore and the folkloresque in Hopeless, Maine.” Your participation would be much appreciated.

Topics of interest include the nature/definition of folklore, its connections to place, and the role of digital media in the creation and performance of contemporary folk cultures. We invite you to come and join him and become part of the conversation here- https://folkloresque.net/community/folklore-and-folkloresque/hopeless-maine-folklore-and-the-folkloresque/ You do need to create a log in and password to participate. If you do not get see a confirmation email, check your spam folder (personal experience) This should be very interesting indeed!

Jeffrey happened to us on Twitter last year, we very much like his folkloresque book and he’s been delightful to communicate with. We’ve found his ideas about folklore really interesting and engaging. He’s interested in what people do – in folklore as living tradition, not dusty museum piece. So, very much our sort of chap!

Social Distancing, Hopeless Maine Style

On social media of late we’ve been sharing images from the island and adding a social distancing commentary. It turns out that Hopeless rather lends itself to this. It’s rare that our characters touch each other. Some of this is a period issue – it is a sort of Victorian setting and people were less demonstrative. Some of it is that you never know who will turn out to be an eldritch horror, so it is best not to get too close.

Mistrust of each other keeps our islanders at arm’s length. The grim realities of life have made a lot of the citizens emotionally unavailable. They cope by pretending there’s nothing to cope with. It sort-of works, but Hopeless is seldom a happy place, as the name suggests.

Hopeless residents have the fear of catching consumption, vampirism, lycanthropy and extra tentacles. No one really understands the mechanics for any of these things. It is hard to form, or sustain any kind of involved relationship when you are afraid of the people around you. Being afraid saves lives, for sure, but it also blights lives. There are questions of balance.

In the meantime, we are not recommending you carry a hand of glory as an aid to social distancing, even though it would likely work rather well.

Hopeless Maine extras

Let’s start with some technical details. It takes about six months of Tom working full time to draw a Hopeless Maine graphic novel. On top of this, I do about 2 hours of work on each page, plus the writing time, so let’s call that 200 hours on each book at least. Now consider how much you think a person needs to earn in a six month period.

If a comic print run is 2000 books, at £10 a pop, the entire run is worth £20,000. Half of this will disappear into the hands of distributors, and bookshops. In the case of direct sales at events, those also have costs. So let’s say that half the money does indeed make it back to the publisher – that’s 10k. The publisher has to pay for the printing, the warehouse storage and the other costs of being a publisher. What remains, pays the wages of the publisher, the artist and the author. It doesn’t add up to a massive heap of beans. It is not possible, in small scale comics publishing, to earn enough to live on, simply. Not for the creators, and not for the publishers.

Some creators and publishers manage this by making comics alongside doing a job. This means the comics are much slower to create, and you’ve got the added pressure of working 2 jobs, or more.

So, that’s the gloomy bit. However, we do manage and we are committed to getting this series finished. One of the things that really helps is the small stream of income I get from Patreon. A bit of predictability goes a long way. I also work an assortment of day jobs as a freelance sort of person, and Tom also takes other paying work, but there just aren’t enough hours in a day for this to be easy. We are both a long way from being bright young things who can work forty and fifty hour weeks without massive consequences.

Right now on Patreon, there’s a new Mrs Beaten story for supporters. https://www.patreon.com/posts/tale-from-maine-29332415  I’ve also been serialising New England Gothic – a prose prequel to the graphic novels. Supporters get new videos before anyone else, and at the glass heron level, we post things out as well. It gives Hopeless Maine enthusiasts more to chew on, and it gives us more money to buy stuff to chew on, which we like. We’ve tried the hungry creator model, and it really doesn’t work for either of us.

If you are able and willing to get more involved, thank you, from the bottoms of our hearts and the hearts of our bottoms.

https://www.patreon.com/NimueB 

Hopeless Mechanics

What is the relationship between Hopeless Maine and the rest of reality? It’s a question I’ve been asking on and off for about fourteen years, and neither Tom nor I has known the answer…. until now!

It came to us as we were discussing the stories Keith Errington has written for the island, and how his 19th century is so very different from the 19th century Martin Pearson depicts in his Squid and Teapot tales. At this point, the question of what gets to be ‘canon’ and what isn’t becomes really important. There are a lot of people playing with the island in different ways. Some of these explorations will be published, some will start to look more official than others.

Generally, when people get themselves and their stories to the island, it’s all fine. Hopeless talks to them – we’ve had to steer Martin away from important plot points he’d found without any input from us. Keith’s adventures took him into a space that no one has seen yet but that we’d already depicted for the next graphic novel. This happens a lot, and is why we’ve never felt much need to steer people around what they can and can’t do on the island. The island itself takes care of all that.

What’s tricky is where people launch from – their off-island reality. There’s no two ways about it, you don’t all come to Hopeless, Maine from the same time and place. The answer, clearly is to accept that and run with it.

My other fiction is full of unstable and shifting realities. I have decided they are all compatible, and the result goes like this…

Hopeless, Maine is a rare fixed point of stability in an unstable and shifting multiverse. It is thus easier to get in than get out, because if you try to get back and don’t connect with where you came from, there is resistance. Hopeless is, in its own funny way, pretty stable and there is consensus about what happens to new arrivals. And there is no consensus about where and when they came from and how historically accurate, or steampunk or other their starting point was, because they’ve all come from different points in that unstable and shifting universe.

It amuses me greatly to think of Hopeless as something solid and reliable.