The limited edition print run of Personal Demons has arrived in Japan!
At this point, we’re looking at three potential Japanese shows this summer! There’s a limited edition print run for the first one, and if that sells out, we may well be looking at proper Japanese versions, possibly even in translation – although Dr Abbey has to sleep at some point and we don’t want to entirely wear him out!
Here’s a celebratory Sloths in Okinawa that our publisher Nic did for the first show, which happens in July.
As I write this we are engaged in the process of a Kickstarter campaign to fund the new US edition of Personal Demons and also the new Hopeless, Maine Role Playing Game written by Keith Healing and powered by Alan Bahr’s innovative Tombpunk system. Here are some examples of the interior artwork I have done for the game.
This is the culmination of several years’ work (and dark incantations) so I very much hope you will join us.
I hope you will join us too in supporting and celebrating two fellow travellers who are bringing their projects to life by crowdfunding. Chandra Free is bringing us a new and shockingly deluxe version of The God Machine (Originally released by the same publisher and about the same time as the first release of Personal Demons) and also Boston Metaphysical Society: The Book of Demons by Madeleine Holly-Rosing. Boston Metaphysical is a fellow traveller and exactly the sort of unspeakably cool steampunk with supernatural elements and heart we want to see more of in the world. So, please become part of these campaigns too if you can!
I hope, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.
There are many truly lovely people who have, one way or another, thrown themselves into the tentacled embrace of Hopeless, Maine.
It would be fair to say that we’ve had a tough few months. As many of you know, Tom had a stroke back in December – he’s recovered well but it was scary at the time. Nimue has been ill a lot – nothing so dramatic, but ongoing adventures in pain and weariness. And so it was that some of the wider Hopeless Maine family gathered together and did a lovely thing to cheer us up.
This was apparently the brainchild of Nils Visser – who you will have seen a lot of here on the blog with his glorious Diswelcome series. He pulled a fabulous team together to make this happen. He’s a fine chap, and responsible for inventing Snugglepunk. Or possibly Smugglepunk.
There’s Professor Elemental doing the music, aided and abetted by Tom Carunana. We love the Prof, and the video features some of the art Tom’s done for him over the years.
Bob Fry is a longstanding supporter and spoon fancier, also an essential part of Nimue’s Wherefore project.
Herr Doktor once went so far as to make a spoonwalker. He’s also widely believed to be a deity of the steampunk pantheon.
John Bassett can be held responsible for Steampunk Stroud, and is also part of the Hopeless Maine film team, wearing many different hats for that one. All in one stack, obviously.
Cair Going is a gorgeous person and we were there when she was crowned as Queen.
Bill Jones can teach you how to grow Victorians in your garden. You may have seen his work in Private Eye.
Lou Pulford has written for this blog and performed with us in public places and has the best tentacles.
Susie Roberts sings with A Cup Full of Tentacles – the performance side of Hopeless – when we’re allowed to go out and do unspeakable things in public places.
Deep gratitude to you all, for being in our lives, for being so relentlessly lovely, and for making us cry over this video. You are all splendid and we wish we could hug you all.
Obadiah had forty different words for fog. From his fishing shack on the waterfront, he watched various fogs come and go, ebbing and flowing around the town. He needed every one of the words to describe the varied types that ran their blurry touch over the island.
There was the mist, the slight tendrils of cloud just barely wrapping around the houses. That one was so omnipresent that folks rarely even bothered to note it. Most of the town was mist-touched at any given time. The moments where you could see clearly end-to-end were the real rarities. Obadiah had no word for that kind of weather. It had never seemed worth it.
There were the pea-soupers, the thick deep fogs that ate the sound and blocked out all sight more than an arm’s length away. They rolled in on the regular, removing the rest of the town from view and giving Obadiah the impression that he lived on an island the size of his three rooms. If the windows weren’t sealed it was even less than that, as the fog seeped in through cracks and hid even the corners of his own house from him.
In between the two extremes were the mousters, the corrywinders, the bell-smiths and dozens more. Obadiah knew every sort of fog the sea could cough up and had names for them all. Seventy years of waterfront living would do that to a man.
Which made this fog all the more unusual. It wasn’t like any other he’d ever seen. It crawled along the ground in slow waves, gently rolling along paths and around corners like it was looking for something. It didn’t spread out evenly, either, but clumped together in great dense folds. Parts of it were nearly transparent, while others seemed almost solid.
Despite its intermittent thinness, it muffled sound as well as the thickest fog Obadiah had ever seen. The whole house felt wrapped in cotton batting. The lapping of the sea, the creaking of the dock, the mournful calls of the birds—all of these, the background of Obadiah’s life, were gone. It was this sepulchral silence that kept him staring out the window. He told himself he was just casually watching, but the truth was that he needed to keep an eye on the world to reassure himself that it was still there.
A booming knock sounded at the front door. Obadiah startled from his chair, the sudden sound no less concerning than the silence that had preceded it. He craned his neck to try to see along his front porch, but the drifting fog and awkward angle kept him from getting a good view.
The knock came again. Obadiah headed for the front door, taking up his stout oaken stick as he did so. If it was a neighbor who needed help outside, he’d be happy to have the extra support to keep his footing in the thick fog. And if it turned out to be someone who meant him ill, he could still hand out a pretty good wallop.
A third time: the knock. “I’m coming!” called Obadiah, his voice abnormally loud in the silent house. “Who is it, anyway?”
“Me, Obie,” came the muffled reply. He cocked his head. Sounded a bit like Isabel, the neighbor woman. Nice woman, lovely young mother, but not the sort to just drop by randomly. Especially not in weather such as this.
“What do you need?” he asked, opening the door. To his surprise, the battered wooden porch stood empty. The rocking chair creaked gently next to the door, but only the wind was stirring it.
“Your help.” Isabel’s voice drifted up from the bottom of the steps. Obadiah squinted into the fog. It was swirling thickly here, obscuring even the railing posts beside the stairs. He could make out a humanoid figure, but no more.
“What is it, Isabel?” Maybe she needed his help finding a lost animal. Maybe she’d gotten lost herself. “You need to come in?”
He took a step back, holding the door open, but the fog-shrouded figure shook her head. “No. I need your help. Can you come down here?”
Obadiah hesitated. Something was off about her voice, though he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was. Still, if she needed help, he wasn’t about to turn her down.
“Let me get my coat,” he said.
“You don’t need it. Please, hurry.”
The air was chillier than he liked, but if Isabel was that desperate, he could handle the discomfort. Surely she only needed him for a short time if she was encouraging him to go out coatless. With a sigh and a shrug, he stepped onto the porch and closed the door behind him.
The fog had thickened again. Everything was a uniform shade of grey. Even the bottom step was hidden from view now. Obadiah gripped the railing with his left hand and his walking stick with his right, stepping carefully down the weathered steps.
“Isabel?” he called, unable to see her through the fog.
“Right here,” came the reply. He took a few tentative steps toward the sound.
“No, over this way.” Her voice was to the left of him now. He edged forward again, but still saw nothing.
“Where are you?”
“I’m here.” Her soft tones came from the right of him now. “I can see you. Just walk toward me.”
Two more steps, and there was still nothing there. “Girl, are you playing games with me?”
“Never, Obie.” But there was laughter in her voice, and not the kind sort, either.
“All right, enough of this. Nothing better to do than taunt an old man? I’m going back inside,” he grumbled.
“How do you plan to do that?”
Obadiah took several steps forward, expecting to see his house swim into view. It did not. There was nothing but an endless grey wall. He stopped, befuddled. “Musta gotten turned around in this.”
He turned back and tried the other direction, but found nothing there either. The fog swirled hungrily at his legs, hiding his feet from view. Isabel’s voice rang out from all around him, laughing gaily, shifting positions with every sentence.
“This way.” “No, over here.” “You’re close.” “Right here.”
“Obie.” This one practically a breath in his ear.
“Enough!” He whirled, striking out with his walking stick, but the heavy wood swooshed uselessly through the air. Obadiah staggered and nearly fell as the momentum tugged him to the side. The fog fluttered in its wake, forming curlicues that winked and smiled before vanishing into the main mass.
“Try again,” whispered Isabel’s voice. Clearly mocking though she was, Obadiah settled his grip on the cudgel and took her advice. He struck out blindly, swinging from shoulder to hip in a repeated X-shape. The laughter rose around him, mocking as he hit nothing but air over and over again, but Obadiah gritted his teeth and continued.
With every strike, he took a small step and made a quarter-turn. Swoosh, swoosh went the stick, and the circle Obadiah walked in grew steadily larger. He might not know which way his house was, but he knew it had to be close. If he just maintained the pattern….
Suddenly, the stick collided with something solid with a resounding crack. The impact jarred the walking stick from his hands, sending it spinning off into the fog. Obadiah reached out with desperate fingers and grasped the wooden ball that topped his porch’s newel post. He wrapped his arms around it, grabbing it like a drowning man seizing hold of a piece of floating wreckage.
“Wait!” called Isabel as Obadiah hauled himself up the three stairs to his porch, one hand always maintaining a strong grip on the railing. “I’m still out here, Obie. I still need your help.”
He shook his head. “No, you aren’t.”
“Look.” And then, in a voice quieter and more tremulous than before, “Obie? Is that you?”
He looked over his shoulder. Behind him, a path had cleared in the fog, the mists shifting aside to make a brief corridor. At the end of it, fifty yards away or more, stood Isabel. She looked confused and afraid. She appeared to have been crying.
“Obie, help!” She took a running step toward him and then the mists fell over her again, consuming her.
“See?” Isabel’s voice again, though Obadiah knew well it was not her. “She needs your help.”
Obadiah shook his head once more. “All I can do if I go out there is give you another voice to play with. And I don’t even have my coat.”
“Wait!” called the voice once more, but Obadiah was already at his front door, opening it to step into the safety of his house. Fog swirled in with him, but it dissipated quickly when the solid wood slammed shut behind it, tiny wisps of cloud vanishing against his carpet runner.
The knocking started again, loud and insistent. Obadiah, ignoring it, walked slowly around the house, checking the latch on each window and then pulling thick curtains to block out the view and muffle the sound. He turned on the record player, settled into his chair and let the scratchy sounds of a trumpet flow over him. He could still hear the knocking in the background, but he figured it would give up soon enough when it realized he couldn’t be lured back out.
Soft cries could be heard behind the trumpet now, the sounds of a young woman in distress.
“You can still save her,” whispered a voice clustered outside his windows.
Obadiah dragged his chair over closer to the record player and increased the volume. He’d seen too many men swept overboard in storms to wonder if Isabel could really be rescued. All you could do by jumping after them was add another death to the tally.
“A murk,” he said out loud. “That’s a good name for it. A murk.”
The fog would pass. They all did, eventually. He’d go find Isabel after that. If there was anything left of her to find.
By Micah Edwards, with art by Tom Brown.
Micah and Tom have collaborrated before and it is likely that they will do so again.
Another year had passed on the island of Hopeless, Maine. This is not as bland and obvious a statement as you may imagine, for while most places on this planet enjoy an orderly, straight as an arrow, passage through time, Hopeless does not always choose to conform. Time on this island – like so many of its denizens– can be a slippery and unpredictable beast. Mostly, it will obediently trot forward at a regulation pace but, at the slightest caprice, will career away at a gallop, or, just as often, slow to a snail’s pace. Once or twice it has stopped totally and then gone off in completely the opposite direction, which causes no end of anxiety and confusion… but I digress. Upon the occasion of which I speak, Time had meekly wandered up to the very brink of the old year and waited quietly, to listen patiently for the chimes of midnight.
To all intents and purposes the evening was progressing in a most satisfactory manner. The produce of the Ebley Brewery and Gannicox Distillery flowed freely and the mood was high-spirited and ebullient. Bartholomew Middlestreet watched happily as the pallid but strangely beautiful barmaid, Philomena Bucket, weaved her way through the crowded bar of ‘The Squid and Teapot’, deftly carrying, in one hand, a tray brimming with hot and steamy starry-grabby pies, and two foaming mugs of ‘Old Colonel’ ale in the other. Business was good in the inn tonight– but after all, it was New Year’s Eve and everyone here, and those at home by their own firesides, had survived another year. Bartholomew beamed to himself as he remembered the chorus of a song, penned years ago by the late Spencer Lypiatt. Being a better poet than he was a musician, Spencer had set the lyrics to a popular show-tune that he had picked up from somewhere or other in his travels (although his claim that South Pacific had at last reached the North Atlantic had baffled more than one member of his audience).
We all live on Hopeless, Maine, (Hopeless by the sea) There’s no reason to complain If you’re living on Hopeless, Maine.
A lot of people thought this was nonsense – after all, the inhabitants of Hopeless have a whole host of reasons for complaint. Bartholomew, being somewhat cannier than most of his neighbours, knew only too well that they just did not appreciate exactly what Spencer was driving at when he wrote the song. The operative word in the chorus is, of course, ‘living’, as opposed to dying or being dead, and this is exactly what the patrons of ‘The Squid and Teapot’ were doing this evening – celebrating the very fact of being alive.
No one who was present on that particular New Year’s Eve can say with any certainty that they can remember when the tall, elegant stranger first came into the inn. He must have been there for some while, for it was about eleven-thirty when he was spotted pushing back the small table, rising from his chair and making his way across the bar to the far corner of the room.
When he put his hand on the shoulder of young Ambrose Pinfarthing and whispered a few words into the lad’s ear, you could be forgiven for assuming that the two had been friends for years . In response the young man gave him a slightly drink-fuddled and puzzled look; he shrugged and raised his eyebrows as he watched the stranger return to his seat, having no idea what had just happened.
Ambrose was sitting with a small party of friends, all of his age, who had been noisy but by no means troublesome, allowing themselves to become mildly inebriated as the evening progressed. With the minute hand creeping towards midnight, however, the group became increasingly vocal, blatantly ignoring Bartholomew’s more than tolerant request,
“Keep it down, lads, it’s getting a bit rowdy over there.
It soon became apparent that their general mood was becoming worryingly ugly. As voices became louder, tempers began to fray. Bartholomew tried to calm things down but to no avail. The innkeeper knew that he was losing control when bickering broke out on other tables and what was, only minutes before, a good-natured gathering, descended into a seething and hostile environment. It was as if an unaccountable madness had gripped every patron of the inn– or nearly every patron. Sitting quietly in his corner was a lone and enigmatic figure, who appeared to be totally untouched by the chaos breaking out around him. He smiled to himself and sipped his ale, seemingly oblivious to the carnage. Fists flew and tankards were thrown, glasses shattered and tables upturned, and all of the time the stranger sat unruffled in his own little oasis of calm.
Bartholomew could only watch in horror as furniture and furnishings, fixtures and fittings, plates and drinking vessels succumbed to the quite insane behaviour that had overtaken his customers. The normally feisty Philomena Bucket and Bartholomew’s wife, Ariadne, wasted no time and hid, trembling, in the privy. Even the prospect of sharing the cramped space with its resident ghost, Lady Margaret D’Avening, The Headless Lady, was preferable to braving the turmoil that rocked the public bar. As if in response to some invisible signal, at the stroke of midnight the elegant stranger arose, left some money on the counter, and strode towards the door. As he passed each brawling customer they stopped fighting and, in a daze, looked around as if waking from a terrible dream. The room grew suddenly and weirdly quiet; the only noise was the sound of shattered pottery and glass being crunched beneath a pair of highly polished leather boots.
“There’s something not right about him,” muttered Bartholomew to himself. “Did he say something to start all this?”
With a degree of bravery that surprised even himself, Bartholomew sprinted towards the door just as it was closing. Catching it by the handle, he threw the door wide open. A fierce and icy blast shook the few curtains that still hung tenuously in place. Bartholomew shuddered, drew his arms close around his body and looked out on to the inky darkness that heralded another new year on Hopeless, Maine.
The night before him was cold and totally empty. A light dusting of snow had been falling steadily for an hour or more, leaving a pure white carpet to grace the front yard of the inn. It was indeed beautiful – and not a single footprint was there to disturb its pristine surface.
It has, in recent years, become traditional for a few of the residents of Hopeless to come together in order to arrange some manner of Christmas entertainment, basking in the vague hope of igniting a small spark of festive joy in the hearts of their fellow islanders. The crucial words here are, of course, ‘to arrange’; on Hopeless it is seldom that an arrangement of any description pans out as planned. This said, however, the dubiously named ‘Christmas Extravaganza Committee’ gathered in a small back-room of The Squid and Teapot and allowed hope to prevail over experience.
“We could do a Nativity play”, suggested Philomena Bucket. Doc Willoughby, who was only there on sufferance and the off-chance that there might be a free drink or three coming his way, raised an eyebrow.
“Not on Hopeless,” he said. “You’d be lucky to find three wise men and a virgin around here.”
This was the Doc’s annual joke – possibly the only one he knew – which he trotted out every Christmas with regularity. The others around the table laughed dutifully, probably in relief that the old chestnut had been aired and safely put to bed again until next year. Bartholomew Middlestreet, the landlord of the inn, looked thoughtful.
“Do you remember the actor guy who lived here, the one that some folks reckon was eaten by that sea-serpent, Aboo-dom-k’n? “Fromebridge somebody-or-other,” offered Norbert Gannicox, the local distiller.
“That’s the one,” said Bartholomew. “Well, he left behind a few bits and pieces, including a book on the history of acting. There was something in there about some ancient Christmas entertainment called… mummifying, I think.”
“Now that does sound entertaining,” observed the Doc, brightening visibly. “I can’t say that is something I’ve ever witnessed.”
“Well, as I recall, these various characters come on stage, they say who they are, then a couple of them have fight and one of them dies…” “Ah…and then he gets mummified?” asked the Doc.
“Could be,” said Bartholomew. “But somewhere along the line the doctor brings him back to life.”
Doc Willoughby rolled his eyes. “I think you’d better bring us the book,” he said, uneasily.
After the initial disappointment of discovering that, when mummers go out to mum, they rarely, if ever, have mummification on their minds, Doc Willoughby reluctantly agreed to take part in the entertainment, after making a mental note that the promised drinks tally had just doubled.
“Okay – so who are the characters, the dramatis personae?” he asked, always happy to drop in the odd Latin phrase, in hopes to impress.
“In this version there is Father Christmas, somebody called Room, Robin Hood, Beelzebub, Saint George, Bold Slasher, Mince Pie, a doctor and a Turkish Knight. That’s a lot of people!” replied Norbert, scratching his head.
“We’re going to have to cut a few parts out, as there are only four of us,” he added.
It was decided that Father Christmas, Saint George, the Turkish Knight and the doctor would have to do. Doc Willoughby was adamant that he was the only person qualified to play the doctor. After a certain amount of bickering the other parts were agreed; Bartholomew was to be Father Christmas, Philomena would be St. George and Norbert took on the role of the Turkish Knight.
Over the next week the troupe learned their not-too-demanding lines and Philomena, who doubled up as wardrobe mistress, trawled through the dusty attics of The Squid and Teapot in the hope of finding some vaguely credible costumes. By Christmas Eve the little band of thespians deemed themselves ready to meet their public.
Ariadne Middlestreet, wife of Bartholomew, was run off her feet behind the bar of The Squid and Teapot. The inn was full to bursting with the curious inhabitants of Hopeless (and some were certainly more curious than others). Beyond all hope, it seemed, they had gathered together on this cold Christmas Eve to witness the cultural highlight of the season. That, at least, is what the four actors told themselves. The truth was that most of the island was dying to see Doc Willoughby make a fool of himself.
Bartholomew, resplendent in a cherry-red dressing gown, matching woolly hat and cotton-wool beard, began the proceedings. “In comes I, old Father Christmas. Welcome in or welcome not, I hope old Father Christmas will never be forgot.. “
As the play unfolded the characters introduced themselves. Saint George appeared in a helmet made from a saucepan with a broken handle and grey knitted woollen ‘chain mail’, eliciting cheers and whoops from the audience. As to be expected, the emergence of the Turkish knight, whose turban looked suspiciously as though it was made of pink chiffon, was met with boos and catcalls. These reactions, however, were as nothing compared to the negative reception given to the doctor, an innocuous member of the cast who is usually received on stage with a chorus of polite cheers. It is fair to assume that this display of general antipathy was not so much directed towards the character as at the actor, who had made no effort whatsoever to don any form of fancy dress, loudly opining that he knew better than most what sort of clothes a doctor should wear.
There are many who will tell you that Christmas is a time of miracles and this little entertainment, put on for the people of Hopeless, Maine, is proof positive that this is, indeed, the case, for, miraculously, nothing went wrong. The Turkish knight slew St. George, the doctor brought him back to life again with his bottle of elecampane and, to huge cheers, St George gave the Turkish knight his comeuppance. Nobody fluffed their lines, there were no embarrassing costume catastrophes and, unusually on Hopeless, no one was abducted, eaten, or even seriously injured. The general concensus was that the night had gone swimmingly well.
By the time that midnight struck most folks were home and safely in bed. Christmas Eve is, however, the most haunted of nights and the ghosts of the island were wide awake and honouring tradition by manifesting for the occasion.
Down in Creepy Hollow old Lars Pedersen, whom time had rendered so faint as to be almost invisible, tramped through the night, seeking in vain for his precious missing eggs.
In the privy of the Squid and Teapot, Lady Margaret D’Avening, the Headless White Lady, had perched herself daintily on the lavatory seat, while her head, floating next to her, sang Christmas carols. Some distance away, on the other side of the island, her nemesis, Obadiah Hyde, the Mad Parson of Chapel Rock, was busily venting his joyless and protoplasmic spleen against the iniquities of Papists, adulterers and anyone guilty of enjoying a spot of Christmas debauchery, or indeed, anything at all.
Up on the headland the Little Drummer Boy marched proudly along, leading a rag-tag procession of shipwrecked wraiths inland. As it was Christmas Eve he had abandoned his usual ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ drumbeat for the more seasonal ‘pa rum pum pum-pum’
Meanwhile, high overhead, the phantom maiden-ladies of The Mild Hunt, mounted on flatulent mules, with their highly-strung spaniels forever yapping and getting in the way, had come to grief when they had become entangled with some flying reindeer. The somewhat overweight, white-bearded gentleman who seemed to be in charge, was desperately trying to turn his sleigh the right way up, while at the same time fiercely berating them. His face had become as red as the clothes he wore and, with no little venom, he concluded angrily (and quite correctly, as it happens) that they must be English, driving like that on the wrong side of the sky.
The only islander abroad that night was Rhys Cranham, the Night-Soil Man. Ghosts were familiar to Rhys and little surprised him anymore – but even he couldn’t believe his eyes as a not-particularly gentle rain of candy canes, sugar-mice and assorted toys fell noisily to earth.
Author’s note: The ghosts mentioned in ‘Another Hopeless Christmas’ can be encountered in several other tales, including: ‘The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow’; ‘The Headless Lady’; ‘Chapel Rock’; ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ and ‘Ghost Writers in the Sky’.
If you have been following the blog at all, you will know that there is a short Hopeless, Maine film in the works. Hopefully the first in a series. I’ve drawn the storyboards for a thirty second trailer which will require (among other things) the lighhouse that was built by Balthazar Lemon.
Claire Peacey has built the lighthouse for us in 3D, ready to be resin printed, painted and delivered to the studio (More on that process as it happens) To see more of Claire’s work please go here.
Hoping, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.
For your delight and delectation, we bring you… the Hopeless Maine Winter Doom Festival card.
We’ve stolen this name from Merry Debonnaire as it is clearly more suitable for Hopeless than ‘Christmas’.
There is a history to our making seasonal cards, and it is a story worth telling. We started doing them to participate in the Tea and Jeopardy Advent calendars on Emma Newman’s podcast. You can find that here – http://www.teaandjeopardy.com/
Emma is a wonderful author, I love her work. She’s well worth checking out. She’s also on hiatus at the moment having had a hard time of it recently. You can find her books here – http://www.enewman.co.uk/my-books – and you should!
As some of you will know, we are working on translating the Blind Fisherman (The prelude to Hopeless, Maine) to film. Towards this end, I’ve started sketching settings that will appear in the film to help me visualise the settings so that I can move on to storyboarding. Once the script is finalised, we’ll storyboard and go on from there. In order to help make all of this possible, I’ve begun studying producing and other aspects of filmmaking. We have a studio, cinematographer, production design and an art director. Our plan is to make this the first in a series of Hopeless, Maine set films.
In the words of our cinematographer, Gregg McNeil ” We’re making a strong statement with this first chapter of the Hopeless Maine Anthology and we hope to continue this with other filmmakers, directors and storytellers each weaving their own visual tale.”
We will keep you up to date on our progress!
Hoping this finds you well, inspired and thriving.