Tag Archives: history

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.

Ash Peterson – the end of history

By Frampton Jones

Our resident historian Ash Peterson was found dead last night in a scene that can only be described as uncanny. Ash had been digging in the Norse burial mounds looking for insights into the lives of some of the island’s earliest inhabitants. I know technically that’s archaeology, but we’re short of written records. Ghosts associated with the mounds told me that they had discouraged this, but to no avail.

“The trouble is,” Olaf Svenson, deceased, told me, “People expect ghosts to tell them to leave, so they don’t take our warnings seriously. Often we’re only trying to help!”  There were assorted wails from other ghosts of what I can only assume were agreement. “It’s hard for us keeping up to date,” he said.  “I’ve gone to a lot of effort to keep my words  modern so that I can warn people, but no one takes me seriously! What is with you people?”

Closer inspection of the burial mound suggests that it had never been a place for the human dead, but was a prison made of metal and magical signs, covered over with stone, and grown grassy with time. This is a lot easier to tell now that it has been opened up! The metal showed signs of strange, rasping activity as though something had been trying to gnaw or cut its way out. There were similar marks on our departed historian’s body, only they were much bloodier and deeper. For reasons we may never properly understand, an array of ancient looking items were left in a careful circle around him.

My assumption is that some ancient evil, some unspeakable eldritch horror imprisoned successfully by our Norse ancestors, has now been released onto the island. We can no doubt expect more carnage.  I was unable to get a comment from occult expert Durosimi O’Stoat, but he did go so far as to laugh unpleasantly at me when I was leaving the scene. It is not an optimistic interpretation of these events.

This morning, Doc Willoughby entered the circle of objects to examine the body. While his scalp fizzed somewhat, there were no other discernible effects. He ascribes the death to food poisoning, most likely from ill advised mushroom foraging. He then started humming and swaying in a manner I found most peculiar.

This may well be the end of History on the island. It’s always been a problematic subject, but clearly the risks are higher than anyone suspected. The past is a dangerous place, and anyone hopeful for a future should probably try and avoid it.

Witherspoon’s Mother

This is Mrs Witherspoon. She cooks at the orphanage, and teaches cooking. By ‘cooks’ I mean that she is incredibly adept at chopping up things and boiling them, and has an absolute confidence about what can be eaten, even if it does fight back when being dished up. In fairness to her, no one has ever died as a result of Mrs Witherspoon’s cooking, although a fair few people have chosen to go hungry instead. Learning not to be too fussy is a good life skill on Hopeless, Maine.

Like many women in history, her personal identity is obscured. Her surname is not the one she was born with. The late Mr Witherspoon – who we never really see, but whose existence can be inferred from her presence, was Reverend and orphanage manager before Reverend Davies took up the job.

In the portrait, we see her at her best, armed with the tools of her trade and the medium of her art – tentacles. However, as with Whistler’s Mother (a painting we clearly haven’t stolen from even a little bit) the woman in the image is defined by her relationship to the artist. Even as she’s represented, she’s being erased as a person in her own right. Do we succumb to the temptation to ask who the younger Witherspoon is? Are we interested in the artist? Or are we interested in the woman who has been made a subject of the art?

Mrs Witherspoon herself doesn’t say much. Like so many women whose lives have made them invisible, she’s never said much to anyone about her own experiences. She’s seen a great deal that she will never speak of. She knows secrets – most especially the secrets of the Reverends of Hopeless Maine. Her silence supports and enables. It facilitates. It does not challenge or question or offer a counter narrative. Hers is the silent complicity of women through history who have been willing to believe that the men know best and should lead and not be questioned… Women who have done this not in ignorance, but in full knowledge of what they were going along with.

Mrs Witherspoon believes in feeding orphans. She does not believe in questioning why there are so many orphans to begin with. She is not the sort of person to cause trouble by suggesting any of the things that might reduce the number of orphans in the first place. She is certainly not the sort of woman to create a scandal by letting any breath of a whisper escape into the world about how many of the orphans she has tended were actually her husband’s children.

Perhaps that’s why, if you look at the picture in the background, Witherspoon the Younger has suggested a rather unsavoury fate for Mrs Witherspoon.