Category Archives: Hopeless

Hopeless Moths

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…

Hopeless Role Play

As a young human, I played a fair few role play systems and it was a significant part of my life. One of the normal features of a role play game is that the world is… well… world sized. The setting you game in is usually as large as your imagination is willing to invest in.

A role play game set on Hopeless Maine is clearly a very different kettle of fish (or tentacles). It is, by any definition, a rather small setting. You could walk across it in a matter of days, and one of the features of the island is that it is very hard to leave it and go elsewhere. It is a tiny reality of its own, full of weirdness, but it is not really how most role play worlds function.

But, small can be beautiful. Small can be really intense and there’s not much scope to run away from the consequences of your actions. Everything you do as a player on Hopeless will stay round to haunt you – probably in a literal sort of way. You can’t just leave town and move on if things don’t go well, or you’ve nabbed the treasure or made an enemy. Outside of town, beyond the farms it is difficult to survive, which is why people mostly aren’t living there.

Hopeless as a role play setting is really good for intense scenarios. It lends itself to mysteries and murder mysteries. If you’re looking for a setting where your characters will have to make long term relationships with NPCs, this is for you. If you’re looking for situations where people have to think and role play rather than dungeon crawl, Hopeless works well. It’s not going to be the right setting for anyone who wants to spend their time slaying monsters, grabbing treasure and hooking up with pretty NPCs. But, if you like your gaming experiences to be weirder, more gothic and with more focus on the role play, this could well be the ideal setting for you.

The Hopeless Maine role play game has been a work in progress – and largely the work of Keith Healing – for some time now. We will have some significant news for you soon, we think, which is why I’m dangling this teaser-tentacle today. Also, the cover above is the old cover, there will be a new cover soon…

Life with spoons

What did spoonwalkers do before there were spoons on the island? Their bodies are soft, their tentacles might otherwise be used for dragging their delicate flesh over the cold, hard, unforgiving ground… Clearly this is no way to live. Although, it is easy to imagine that their mournful faces are somehow the consequence of generations of soft bodies dragged mercilessly over the island’s harsh terrain.

Before the spoons, there were sticks. Of course the island has a lot of sticks, so you might wonder why a creature would give up such a plentiful supply of stilts in favour of scavenging for spoons. But spoons tend to be of a size with each other. The spoonwalkers cannot break sticks to get the right length, and finding a really well matched set of sticks, like in weight and length, is no easy task. And then, those perfect sticks will not last. The island is a damp place. Water will inevitably get into the wood and the wood will rot and when you are running for your life, a suddenly breaking stick can be the death of you. Spoons do not break, and many a spoonwalker has escaped being eaten by a glass heroin for just this reason.

There is also the shiny factor. You will never see a spoonwalker with dirty spoons – at least you won’t unless it is at that moment fleeing through mud from something that means it harm. Spoonwalkers lovingly polish their spoons, using leaves to clear away dirt, licking the spoons and rubbing them to make them shine. There isn’t much on the island that naturally shines with the lustre of polished cutlery. It appears that the spoonwalkers have fallen in love with shiny metal.

And so, if you wake at night and hear a soft ‘zee-boo, zee-boo’ sound from within the darkness of your home, it is likely the sound of a spoonwalker who has stolen one of your socks and is huffing gently to itself as it polishes the spoons you will never see again.

(This was written for a rather exciting thing Gregg from Dark Box is doing – a Hopeless Maine project that has drawn in other Hopeless family members… watch this space…)

Hopeless Family

The Hopeless Maine family is large, sprawling, and wonderful. We have so many awesome people getting involved in all kinds of ways to make the island ever more weird. We love you. You make it all worthwhile.

In 2019, we didn’t go to the enormous steampunk gathering in Lincoln, but Lyssa did, bearing a copy of The Gathering to put into the hands of Japanese film producer and wizard Dr Abbey. He was rather taken with it, and a conversation developed from there.

We fell in love with him. Emotionally, creatively. Tom and I were enraptured by his ideas, his perspective, his energy.  Over the months he became more of a part of our lives and we talked, ever more seriously about what we might do together. If you’re a regular here, you will have seen bits of that going by.

In July, he came to us from Japan and for some weeks he has lived with us, drawing, talking, sharing ideas. There were a lot of ideas, and most of them are things we simply can’t do without him. We were daring to dream large there, for a while, and to imagine a future for the series beyond the story arc we already have planned. Abbey drew a number of images that clearly belong further along the timeline of some characters than I was expecting to go.

This is a picture Tom did of the three of us before we had met in person. It was drawn as a statement of intent, a small act of magic to move us in the direction we wanted to go. It’s Abbey doing his Durosimi face – he’s a tricky person to catch with one image. How he looks depends a lot on whether he is serious or clowning, or truly happy, or deep in concentration. He usually wears glasses, his hair is far crazier than any image really captures.

I’m posting it now as a statement of intent, an act of hope and dedication. This week has not gone well. There are times in life when you have to choose between dreams and being sensible. When you protect your heart, or keep it wide open no matter the cost. There are times when all you can do is choose whether to step away, or keep trying and hoping.

Hopeless, Maine is a project built fundamentally out of love and a willingness to try unlikely things. It is at heart a project about hope. It’s always been a community project, and we’ve always held doors open and enthusiastically encouraged anyone who wanted to play with us. It’s who we are, and what we do.

At this point, we have no idea how anything might work out with Dr Abbey. We don’t know what options we even have.  It feels like everything is hanging in the balance.  So we do what we always do. We keep moving as best we can. We keep hopeful.  We want the heart of this project to be three people, not two people. We want future projects where Dr Abbey has his hands on the paper. We want to take the larger, crazier dreams and make them real.

This is what we’re for, as a project. This is what the story is about – both in real life and in the graphic novels. What people do when they love each other, and do not give up, no matter what.

Hopeless Optimists – an update

Hopeless Maine volume 4; Optimists, has been delayed. We’ve been affected by the virus and the book will be out later than intended. Sorry about this!

Part of the issue is that Sloth is not a big publishing house, and like much of the independent comics market, depends on events to sell books. With all events cancelled, things have been hard for Sloth. It’s not been a good time to invest money in printing a new book.

As creators we’ve also been hit. We lost work – although thankfully not all of it, but enough that it has impacted on us. Unhelpfully for Hopeless, Tom is the one who has had more paying gigs come in, and it’s made more sense to take those and let Hopeless wait a bit.

We are a fair way into Hopeless Maine Optimists. It should be out early next year when we hope there will be more scope for taking it to events. After that we have one more book to go to complete this narrative arc, and hopefully that will be a bit less affected by the state of the world!

What happens after Hopeless Survivors, is an interesting question. We don’t quite know at this point, but pondering is under way. We had thought Survivors would be the last Hopeless graphic novel – they take Tom about 6 months and they don’t pay for six months of full time work, which is challenging for us as a household. However, there may be entertaining and time efficient ways of keeping on making comics, and we are exploring that at the moment and seeing where it takes us.

The uncanny death of Annamarie Nightshade

Hopeless Maine gets inside people’s heads. This is a story about a story…

Merry Debonnaire was one of the many people who was not best pleased about what happened to Annamarie Nightshade. She dealt with this by writing into the original story and adding a second layer that changes everything. If you’ve not read that story, you can find it here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/annamarie-nightshade-is-going-to-die/

Last week I sat down to look at this story, because we are intending to do something very exciting with it (more on that soon, all being well). I thought I’d just have a look at the original pages and lift some of Reverend Davies’ dialogue because I needed more dialogue than Merry had included.

It was then that I discovered that a scene I was sure we’d put in Sinners, was not in the graphic novel. Cue massive household panic and flailing. We had those pages, they were in the webcomic and they definitely exist and somehow we hadn’t got them into the graphic novel. Sorry about that! Thankfully the story still makes sense without them, but they were important.

When I saw Merry, I asked her if she’d read that story when it was in the webcomic. She hadn’t. She’d written her story, neatly weaving it into a scene that SHE HADN’T ACTUALLY READ!!!

This happens around Hopeless Maine projects far more than is reasonable.

Hopeless Maine – it will posses you.

Hopeless Food

What do people eat on the island? It’s not a great place for growing crops. The cows are small. The chickens are psychopaths and may well turn out to be demons. You can eat the sea life but only if it doesn’t eat you first. There are potatoes, but their eyes glow and they will try and run away. The fungi…. just no…

who knows how your meese will grow?

Sometimes things wash ashore from wrecked ships. You might want to eat those. And weevils are high in protein.

The preferred cooking technique is to cut things up very small, and hope for the best. What the eye doesn’t see, the stomach might or might not grieve over.

One of the key features of Hopeless Maine cookery, is the agent of change. But don’t eat them, the consequences are unpredictable. The wise cook adds agents of change to pretty much anything, and waits around in the hopes of getting something a bit more edible.

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/