When I’m dealing with fantastical settings, I like to know how the practical details work. I think it’s getting the little, mundane things right that is key to making big, strange, magical things feel plausible. I experience this as a reader as well as when writing. I want to know where you go to take a shit, what people are wearing in terms of materials, how they keep warm, or cool, and what they eat.
Hopeless Maine is a lost island. It used to be more connected, and resources used to head its way, but these days, new materials either come from natural resources or wash in from shipwrecks. Recycling is a must. The Hopeless Maine diet is not for the squeamish. Food is in short supply, and you have to be willing to eat anything passably edible that comes along. This is why ‘bottom of the garden stew’ is…
This is a book with serious depth. I am already fifty pages into my second read of it, because I just know that there are things I didn’t quite get the first time round. When We Are Vanished is a beautiful, quietly kaleidoscopic piece of work. It has the feeling of a fever dream just before waking, when sleep logic and waking logic meet for a few moments. It also has a wonderful, sometimes sharp sense of humour that runs through the entire book and that had me chortling to myself at more than one point.
The story is set in a world where computers stopped working. In fact, all silicon-based tech is now useless. Most of the plot takes place some years after this has become the norm, and everything is crumbling away and being reclaimed by nature. The remaining people soldier on through the new…
Confession: I’ve killed people. Sometimes meticulously, sometimes casually, nearly always brutally and most probably unnecessarily. Worse – I made money from it, initially felt overjoyed by the simple thrill of opting out of ‘the rat race’ with this new, exciting and often ‘sought after’ lifestyle.
‘Sought after’? Allow me to explain… Twenty-years ago I was a crime-writer, and had a series of what were termed at the time ‘psychological thrillers’ or ‘why-dunnits’ published by HarperCollins. The theme was ‘suburban bleak’. Living on the outskirts of London, I was able to swap the daily commute into the capital for a fictional ‘life of crime’. I was in my early thirties, blinded by the dubious lights of success and just about able to scrape a living by simply doing what I enjoyed the most – writing.
Friends at the time were envious, some wrongly assuming I was somehow fabulously wealthy (I wasn’t…
Currently, the press is out of action, life is too busy. However, you can read books one and two of the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series at www.hopelessmaine.com and you can buy the first one in lovely, splendid hardcover almost anywhere thanks to the splendid people at Archaia.
The Hopeless Vendetta reaches a remarkable milestone this week. Seventy years ago, Edgar Titus Prerogative arrived here from the mainland, enthused by developments he had seen there. According to his journals, Hopeless was a wilder place in those days, with society structured around the four founding families, and very little technology at all. At first unable to buy or make a printing press, my maternal grandfather erected a large board, painted it black and wrote news upon it in chalk. A tradition that continues to this day, as does the habit of writing personal comments upon it in response to local events.
Five years later, Prerogative managed to buy a small press from the mainland, however, the ship bringing it floundered on rocks, and the press sank. Over the next year, my ancestor dived repeatedly and was able to bring up what he believed to be the greater part of the press, improvising whatever was needed to fill in the gaps. Only at this point did the issue of paper occur to him, and two more years passed during which he mastered the art of paper making. The first press produced copies one at a time, and was remarkably slow and cumbersome to use.
Sixty years ago this week, the first Hopeless Vendetta went to press. It was a historical moment for the island, bringing the community together, facilitating public arguments, and allowing opinions to be widely aired. Edgar’s daughter married one Percival Jones, who took on the business of the press, inventing a new, faster device, and thence it passed to me. The future of this publication lies, it appears, in the hands of Modesty Jones. God willing however, I shall maintain its noble tradition for many more years yet.
(from Frampton Jones) I can only apologise for the abysmal quality of last week’s Vendetta. Apparently they had to tie me to a chair. It has been most embarrassing, but I have since been able to educate my nephew in the correct use of the press! Doc Willoughby says that I can start going out again now. They have taken away my old camera and smashed it up. I regret this. I feel there were mysteries I was close to solving, and now that knowledge is lost.
I consider myself a rational man, but the world is not a rational place and sometimes these things are hard to reconcile. Yesterday morning I watched as the only ship to successfully leave Hopeless in perhaps twenty years, set sail. I cannot explain how that ruined remnant of a boat floated, much less how it managed to leave out shores when so many others have tried and failed. What reason can you apply to a craft sailed by the undead? Sometimes, you can do no more than look, and wonder.
There is inspiration to be taken from their departure. Their sheer uncanniness undoubtedly played a role, but they prove it is possible to leave. Hopefully we will not all have to wait until we are animated bones on a floating wreck.
And so the ancestors have left us, and we will no longer see their bony figures on the shore at twilight. I for one will miss them, and wish them well, wherever they are bound. We return to work on the bridge, and turn our faces to the future once more.
In the last week, there have been three separate sightings of the missing O’Stoats. Archibald Buckets claims to have seen them in the graveyard. Serendipity and Felicitations Jones both report seeing the pair walking at twilight on Hunger Hill. Jed Grimes tells me he woke in the night and saw Durosimi O’Stoat stood beneath his window, staring up at him.
Are these ghosts? Hauntings seem to be on the increase, so this is a possibility. Are they alive and in hiding? The weather has made any serious searching impossible. Given the horrific fate of their son Drustan, these two are not to be trusted, and if you see them, do not approach them on your own. They are very likely dangerous. Hopefully in time we will have opportunity to see justice served to this unnatural pair.
Work to lay the foundations for Balthazar Lemon’s bridge to the mainland hit a setback. The small headland to the south of the harbour had been determined as the best spot, facing where our brightest thinkers understand the mainland to be. However, this small headland turned out not to be rock, as first imagined. Excavations to put down support posts revealed wood. Work on the bridge has stopped because all of those involved were far more interested in finding out what this buried wood is from, than in building the bridge. Your humble editor is not a man of science, but feels the future should take precedent over the past.
Man hours have been lost in digging up the sandbank. This work has revealed the remains of a ship. A large one, as far as can be ascertained, although the vast majority remains buried. Already tales are flying around, filling the wreck with imagined treasures. I would like to assure readers that based on my observations, the ship is filled with mud, slime and old seaweed.
Plans to lay the bridge foundations are delayed, but I have been assured the work will continue.