These Our Revels part three -Darkbox.


Next to last in the series of These Our Revels, which started with a concept  from Hopeless, Maine and has been brought into the world by a concerted creative effort lead by Fiona Sawle and Nimrod Lancaster.  This stunning eerie photo was taken by  Gregg McNeill of Darkbox Photography during the Sanctuary event.

Gregg has this to say  about this plate-

” I love this plate. Exposure time was a trim 4 seconds because it was taken out doors, under a marquee, so lots of ambient soft UV light. It’s only the second time ever I’ve made portraits outside at an event. ”

There were additional challenges due to the weather conditions that day, and their Marquis  nearly blew down overnight.

Steampunks in general, and our people in particular are absolutely bloody amazing.

Darkbox Photography have a patreon which can be found here. Please do support their work!

A girl with no name

One of the main characters in the first half of The Gathering is never named. She’s deliberately a manga satire, she’s the big eyed, be-ribboned innocent,  but she’s also something else entirely, and nasty with it. In the script, she’s The Poor Little Me – a reference to the Eliza Carthy song that inspired her. Where that was too clunky, I’ve also called her Ribbons, but she doesn’t really have a name, she’s not that sort of girl.

Ribbons

I will be your friend, your best friend

I bet I’m the first pretty girl who

Ever wanted to be friends with you. I bet

Even the unpopular girls mostly do not want

To be friends with you. You’re so alone.

You are so odd, so awkward, so unlovely

It is as well I am so good and kind.

I’m very generous, everyone says so.

And now I take pity on poor you.

Poor little you, unloved, unwanted. Here I am

For you, here to be yours and in return

You’ll be so glad to do what I want

So happy with anything to make me smile.

Poor you, not much to smile about, is there?

But I can put up with you, I’m so kind

And you will be my best friend, my most

Loyal, devoted, trusting, obedient friend

So grateful because you know you don’t deserve

A friend as pretty and lovely as me.

I will be kind to you and you will say

How kind I am, how nice, how sweet

You will say I am the best, the very best.

I will be patient with your mistakes and failures

You are so slow, and clumsy, and sad.

Poor you. Poor little you. So hard, being you

Never happy, are you? Poor you. So sad.

So hard for me, being around you all the time

So tiring, with never enough joy to feed on

Never enough life in your marrow for me.

But I try, I do my best, it’s so hard

Being your friend, you are so useless

So weak.

Poor me.

Poor little me.

Art by Dr Abbey,

These Our Revels continued.

Hello people (and others) Here we continue the story of how an image from Hopeless, Maine was made real by Nimrod Lancaster Fiona Sawle and  others in the steampunk creative community. Part one can be found here.
On the making of the masks and outfits
Nimrod made one version of his own mask, but two of Fiona’s
The body of each mask was Fosshape but the attached parts around the edge were mainly EVA foam sheet. plus two of his were wooden dowels. For the edge of Fiona’s I used two layers of EVA foam with stiff wire in between to make it stronger and pose-able. The top spike on his was 3D printed as was his medallion. The glass cabochons were painted using nail varnish and then Mod-Podge behind to give strength. The Fosshape was coated in liquid latex and then acrylic paints mixed with latex were applied over that. Fiona made her handbag from scraps of fabric left over from the outfits. The fabrics were sprayed with Dirty Down spray in various colours. The shells dangling from Fiona’s mask were collected from the beach in the Bahamas in February. Nimrod’s mask also has  dangling sharks teeth. Thin black fabric was glued behind the eye and mouth holes. The tentacles are removable for ‘ease’ of storage!

Salamandra as a Child

I had a lot of conversations with Dr Abbey about child Salamandra as he started getting to know the deeper lives of the characters on our fictional island. It’s always interesting bringing someone new into the inner life of the books, seeing what is obvious to them, and what I need to talk about, and what new things are discovered in that process.

“How old is she in this book?” he asked. I had to admit that I couldn’t tell him. Her age is vague, reliably, for reasons.

It’s always difficult to know what to say when there are things in a story that are important, and you want people to notice them, but you also don’t want to spell them out. How old is Salamandra? Is she a physically small child? A precocious child? A magical child? What kind of child is she? If you’ve read New England Gothic, you’ll know that many of the monsters on and around the island are probably her mother’s children. What does that make Sal? What was really going on with her when she was thrown into the sea in The Blind Fisherman?

Who is she? What is she? These are questions at the heart of the story. I can encourage you to think about it, but that’s about as far as I’m ready to go.

In this image by Dr Abbey, we see child Salamandra as she starts to add wrappings to her regular attire. The strips of cloth have prayers, charms and spells written onto them and they are a form of protective magic that she builds up over the years until she has an entire dress of it. She is a grumpy child, and with good reason.

A very long time ago, I read a quote from Toni Morrison to the effect that often the most important part of a story is how we shape holes for other people to put things into. It’s an idea I’ve spent a lot of time with. The holes are where we write ourselves in, bring our own stories and experiences to fill in the gaps. The holes are where the collaboration happens between author and reader. Hopeless Maine is the project in which I have given most thought to the gaps. It’s also the only project I’ve done where a lot of people have responded by wanting to bring their own creativity to those spaces. It’s a truly exciting process.

Who is child Salamandra? She’s the awkward, unacceptable one. She’s the child who refused to be tamed. She is your lost inner child. She is the magic your child self wanted. She is the resilience to survive bullying and to overcome setback. She is herself despite where she came from, she is not simply a product of her parents. She is childhood rage and frustration, and a child’s keen sense of justice and fair play. She might rescue you. She might glower at you. She might set fire to your kitchen chair. If she whispers to you, listen carefully – she may have secrets to share, or demands to make.

These Our Revels coming to life-part one.

Hello again people (and others)

One of the amazing and inspiring aspects of steampunk is the collaborative energy and what can happen when creative people combine their passion and creativity to bring new things into the world.

This project started because we had long admired the outfits and creativity of Nimrod Lancaster and Fiona Sawle  at steampunk events in the UK. We met them at Steampunks in Space (which happens here)   and gave  a print of this image to them in the hopes that they would adopt it as a costuming project.


They took the print away with them and soon we began getting photos like these…

John Naylor was brought in to assist with the masks . He introduced Nimrod to Fossshape and helped him make the rigid part of his mask.

This is the first part of a series on this stunning project and we will show more progress, the outfits and the unveiling at Sanctuary in the following posts…

 

Child Sal to the Dark Tower Came

Child Sal to the Dark Tower Came is the name of the first Hopeless Maine story I ever wrote for Tom. It happened long before I started working on the graphic novels. There are now three versions of the art for this story and they appear in order below – Tom’s first illustration for my short story, the version in The Gathering and Dr Abbey’s version. The words are new, and mine.

The title comes from a vague memory of reading Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. I don’t really remember the poem, except that it was miserable. The dark tower of this story is really a lighthouse, a light tower once it gets going. It’s an important image in terms of the history of the project. It also feels relevant now, because it comes in the story at a moment of profound loss and despair for Salamandra. It’s about having nothing you can really do, and yet still doing something.

 

Child Sal to the dark tower came

With windblown hair and eyes aflame

The sea and sky call out her name

And life will never be the same.

 

 

Child Sal in boots too loose by far

Led by her ancestral star

None would dare her entrance bar

Deserted tower, door ajar

 

 

Child Sal in loneliness comes in

To empty rooms devoid of kin

And hopes a new life to begin

A home to make, a future win

 

 

Child Sal to the dark tower came

And here in secret hoped to reign

Until her heart comes home again

Across the sea, to Hopeless, Maine.

Reverend Davies

Reverend Davies is the father of Owen Davies. He runs the Pallid Rock orphanage, and has a church. Although quite who the church is dedicated to, it may be better not to ask. It features an organ powered by live fish, and there may be a small Elder God living in the rafters.

This piece is set  around Sinners, at which point Reverend Davies has, through a mix of bad luck and his own actions, lost the people who mattered most to him…

The worst feature of grief

Is how things you used to loathe

Begin to haunt you

How your wife fussed over you

Moved things so that you

Could not put your hands on them

The precise way she had

Of closing a door too sharply.

Her only show of anger.

 

The way your son fiddled

Relentlessly, with everything

His insolence, his answering back

His total inability to leave

His dirty socks in a laundry basket

The things of his you sat on.

 

The indecent way she had

Of looking at you, sometimes.

How her mischief enraged you

When it tugged the corner of her mouth.

 

They are gone now

The things you used to loathe

Torture you most, I find.

The boyish, tuneless whistle

I would sell my soul to hear again.

Never to have my collar adjusted

By gentle, affectionate fingers

Never again to be laughed at

By the woman I most wronged.

 

What richness I had

When I thought myself ill-treated.

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.

Drawing Hopeless Characters

This week I thought about the fact that I’ve never drawn anyone from Hopeless, Maine. I’ve coloured plenty of them. I don’t draw much – I’m not very confident in my drawing skills. There’s an additional thing that for me, these are Tom’s characters, and as I can’t draw them like he does, I haven’t ever really thought about me drawing them at all.

In recent weeks, I’ve watched Dr Abbey get to grips with the Hopeless Maine cast. He’s drawn all of the main characters, some of them repeatedly. There’s been a process of him figuring out how much of his own, more manga-informed style to deploy and how far to dig in emulating Tom’s style, and what’s resulted is something that clearly blends the two. It’s been amazing and educational to watch.

And it got me thinking about why I’ve never even considered trying to draw the characters from the books I am involved in creating. Seeing what Dr Abbey has done with the characters has left me feeling like I could have a go.

Art, like any other skill, requires time. Talent is nice if you can get it, but time invested in developing what you can do, is key. I am never going to put in the hours that would allow me to become a good artist, because of the time I need to invest in writing, and reading and other aspects of my life. But, creativity shouldn’t be just about being able to produce work to a professional standard.

So, here are my takes on a few of the Hopeless characters. I hope my sharing this enables other people to feel they can have a go too. We’d love to see your versions of our people.

Owen Davies, as he appears in The Gathering, back when his taste in hats was especially bad.

 

Annamarie Nightshade

 

Salamandra in the grumpy, gothic early teens stage.

Annamarie Nightshade wears green

Annamarie is a witch who features heavily in the early Hopeless Maine graphic novels, and who is the main character in New England Gothic. This piece is set around the same time as The Gathering.

Green was always the witch’s colour. It’s better than black for hiding in wild places. I’ve seen drawings of witches in books in their black dresses. People who shipwreck here tell me I don’t look like a witch. “But you don’t wear black?”

No, sweetpeas. Black is not the only colour.

In the daylight, black stands out. Go into the woods in the night and you need light if you are keen on not breaking your ankle or getting slapped about by branches. If you have a light, others can see you no matter how black the dress. You might as well not bother.

Granted, black mostly does not show the stains, but the gay green gown is all about the stains and this is a good story. Jemima Kettle told me this, as soon as she found out I liked wearing green.

You see, for a lot of people back in the old days, green was considered unlucky. That of course makes it a witch’s colour. Like thirteen is unlucky and a witch’s number. Black cats are unlucky, and crows, and all the rest because they belong with us. If you gave a girl a green gown, what that really meant you’d done is got grass stains on her dress, and what that meant was that you’d rolled her round in the grass a bit. Depending on how you feel about tumbling in the grass, a gay green gown is either a thing of shame, or a thing of pride. Witchcraft and shame do not go together.

Then there are the Puritans who get their kicks imagining the terrible things other people are doing and they have their own stories about witches and gay green gowns. The story goes that we get our green dresses by lying down with the Devil. You have to wonder what Puritans get up to on long winter nights. Nothing good, clearly.

Do I dance in the woods in my fabulous green dresses? Of course I do.

Have I made pacts for power? Well yes, obviously.

Are there stains on my skirt? Most assuredly.

But if you really want to know about horned Devils, I think that says more about you than it does about me.

 

(Art by Dr Abbey)

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.