Tag Archives: Hopeless

Hopeless Mechanics

What is the relationship between Hopeless Maine and the rest of reality? It’s a question I’ve been asking on and off for about fourteen years, and neither Tom nor I has known the answer…. until now!

It came to us as we were discussing the stories Keith Errington has written for the island, and how his 19th century is so very different from the 19th century Martin Pearson depicts in his Squid and Teapot tales. At this point, the question of what gets to be ‘canon’ and what isn’t becomes really important. There are a lot of people playing with the island in different ways. Some of these explorations will be published, some will start to look more official than others.

Generally, when people get themselves and their stories to the island, it’s all fine. Hopeless talks to them – we’ve had to steer Martin away from important plot points he’d found without any input from us. Keith’s adventures took him into a space that no one has seen yet but that we’d already depicted for the next graphic novel. This happens a lot, and is why we’ve never felt much need to steer people around what they can and can’t do on the island. The island itself takes care of all that.

What’s tricky is where people launch from – their off-island reality. There’s no two ways about it, you don’t all come to Hopeless, Maine from the same time and place. The answer, clearly is to accept that and run with it.

My other fiction is full of unstable and shifting realities. I have decided they are all compatible, and the result goes like this…

Hopeless, Maine is a rare fixed point of stability in an unstable and shifting multiverse. It is thus easier to get in than get out, because if you try to get back and don’t connect with where you came from, there is resistance. Hopeless is, in its own funny way, pretty stable and there is consensus about what happens to new arrivals. And there is no consensus about where and when they came from and how historically accurate, or steampunk or other their starting point was, because they’ve all come from different points in that unstable and shifting universe.

It amuses me greatly to think of Hopeless as something solid and reliable.

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Hopeless Books

In the beginning, we were going to call the series ‘Hopeless’. While we were with Archaia, (who first published 2 titles, now re-published in one volume as The Gathering) they decided it would be better for the marketing if we were Hopeless, Maine. I can see how this works, but it means that something is lost, and I want to share that lost thing with you.

It’s what happens to the titles themselves. Had we not got ‘Maine’ in there, every title would read slightly differently. The first title does it least well, because I hadn’t figured out the possibilities right at the beginning…

Hopeless Personal Demons

Hopeless Inheritance

(Now combined as The Gathering, which fails to do the things)

Hopeless Sinners

Hopeless Victims

The working title for the next one is Hopeless Optimists – but that might change

The final volume is almost certainly going to be Hopeless Survivors.

So now you know!

Breaking the moon

As far as I know, this is the first picture Tom ever did of Salamandra breaking the moon. It’s about ten years old. I don’t think at this point we knew why she was breaking the moon, either.

Those of you who have read either Inheritance as a standalone book, or as the second half of The Gathering, will know that Sal breaks the moon at the end of that book. Or appears to. Whether it is illusion, she never says. Is she really strong enough to split the moon in half and then put it back together later when no longer in a fit of pique? If she is strong enough, why is she hanging about on a small, grim island? Why hasn’t she taken over the world?

As the story unfolds, the questions of who and what Salamandra really is, what she can do, and what her limits are, remains pertinent. Obviously I’m not going to give you any spoilers for future books at this point!

In the meantime though, here are some things to ponder. What are the limits of your powers? How do you know? Why are you living the life you are living and not rushing off to do something far more dramatic and important? What are the limiting factors on your ability to change the world?

Miss Calder

If you’ve read The Gathering, you will have encountered Miss Calder- it is she who opens the door when Annamarie Nightshade brings Salamandra to Pallid Rock Orphanage. Things do not go well for Miss Calder (spoiler alert) as a direct consequence of young Sal’s night wanderings.

If you haven’t read The Gathering and don’t want to know about the details yet, step away from this blog post now!

During The Gathering, Miss Calder dies. In that book, she comes back as a ghost, and from then on simply continues to work in the orphanage, comforting traumatised children with stories about vampire feasts, the martyrdom of saints and what happens when you die. Her memory is patchy on this score, but she’s not squeamish.

As a ghost, Miss Calder does not age. As Owen Davies has grown closer to her in age, she’s developed something of a crush on him. She’s a little embarrassed about this because she’s known him ever since he was a snotty, dribbling toddler. Also, her skull shows sometimes when she isn’t concentrating, and Owen isn’t good for her concentration, which is awkward.

Miss Calder’s mother was a member of the Penobscot tribe, local to the area. She assumes her father was a man called Calder, but knows nothing about him. She came to the island voluntarily in her late teens, fascinated by the name, and the stories. Her mother called it ‘that place we go to when we are young and stupid and have something to prove.’ Miss Calder’s mother had clearly made the journey and survived to tell all manner of tales. However, by the time Miss Calder made her own attempt on the island, getting out had become impossible. Even in death, it is notoriously difficult to leave.

Miss Calder has taken to death very well. She feels deeply motivated to prepare her young charges for the harsh realities of life, and death and to set them a good example. Having set out to learn about the mysteries of Hopeless, Maine she is quite at ease with having become one of them.

She does have a first name, but it is a private matter and she has never felt moved to share it with anyone else on the island.

In which we make a book cover

Hello, people! (and others)

Rather a lot has been going on behind the scenes here, and this will no doubt lead to rather a lot more things and we shall be busy, and will hopefully keep you entertained. My focus at the moment is the art for the NEXT VOLUME OF HOPELESS MAINE (pardon the shouting. Bit excited.) The next book will be called Victims (this is because originally the series was to be called “Hopeless” rather than “Hopeless, Maine” so the titles were all playing on that. So, the next book would have been called Hopeless Victims, but our old publisher insisted on Hopeless, Maine and now all of our clever plans lie in ruins on the floor. (not really, just going for sympathy there)

Normally. I draw the cover art before we start the page art at all, but we thought we’d try something different this time and get a better sense of the book and then do the cover. All of the covers feature Salamandra doing some sort of magic (the keen-eyed among you will have noticed) So, as Nimue and I were walking and discussing possibilities, Nimue said: “I have an idea, but it’s a bit silly”. I knew we were onto a winner at that point. We have not shown Sal doing fire yet really, so Sal looking epic while heating a kettle for tea was the perfect solution. This means we get to include magic, devices, Sal and perhaps most importantly, tea. Here we are at the pencil stage.

Nimue has just started on the hand colouring and we will be passing the finished thing to our lovely publisher (Sloth!) before long. All being well, Victims will be in your hands, claws or tentacles late spring/early summer. I’m greatly enjoying drawing the page art and being more collaborative with Nimue on the art as well as the story is an absolute pleasure!

Until next time, I hope this finds you all well, inspired and thriving.

 

In which Cliff Cumber is amazing

Hello people! (and others)

It is long past time we dedicated a whole piece to an amazing member of the Hopeless, Maine creative tribe-Cliff Cumber.

We met Cliff on Twitter a while back, and were lucky enough to lure him to the island. He did much of the art for Tales From the Squid and Teapot (some of the very best of it, I would say) He created the art for the Hopeless, Maine tourist bureau (which we still proudly display at events) and then…when we asked him to contribute art to the Hopeless, Maine tabletop RPG- Travels in Hopeless, he bravely stepped forward. Much of the art in the bestiary section is his. (and I got to colour some of it also! ) His Gnii illustration is one of my favourite pieces of HM art at all-ever. Oh! Yes. AND he has a pin up in Sinners! (Two fantastic Sal drawings) Look here, and you will see some selected highlights from his work for Travels in Hopeless.

Mr Cumber was originally from the UK and moved to the US to marry (exact mirror of my own journey) and now does art for comics and several projects for our great friend Professor Elemental!

Go and visit him on twitter and tell him we sent you!

Hopeless, Maine-The Town That Never Was?

 

The Eldritch Hobbits have left the shire once again. This time in the company of the rather brilliant Keith Healing. We all journeyed to Blists Hill to the steampunk event- The Town That Never Was. This was the best imaginable setting for a steampunk weekend, being reconstructed Victorian town at a site that was important to the industrial revolution in England. The timing was perfect for us, as we had both a new volume of Hopeless, Maine to inflict on an unsuspecting world, and Travels in Hopeless (the Hopeless, Maine RPG) to show off and see what a collection of steampunks might think of it (Spoiler- There was much cooing and general excitement)

Copies of the latest volume of Hopeless, Maine (Sinners) came from our publisher (Sloth Comics) just in time, and happily on Nimue’s birthday! As we got to set up in the Boys Brigade Hut, we were able to bring lots of art and artifacts from the island and set up a bit of an exhibit. The people who put on the event, and the people attending, were all perfectly lovely and really the whole experience was pretty much all that one could possibly ask for. We may have also encountered the Cthullhu’s Witnesses who are clearly fellow travelers!

To round off the first day, we had a visit from  Genevieve Tudor and Allan Price! Genevive is pictured at the back of Sinners playing a Punked Hurdy-Gurdy (Which Gen may be learning to play in real life soon, partly because of this drawing. A normal Hurdy-Gurdy that is) This art is also for the impending Hopeless, Maine tarot deck which is in the works. Genevieve will be the Queen of Flames in this instance. We do not get to see the two of them nearly as often as we would like. (though we are making plans to address this!) I *think* it was their first steampunk event and I expect that it will not be their last. If you are one of the seven or eight people who do not yet know this, Gen is the host of the entirely excellent radio show – Genevive Tudor’s Sunday Folk on BBC Radio Shropshire. If it is not a regular part of your week (as it is ours) this can be addressed! You can listen anywhere in the world by clicking on this here link right….here.

 

Oh! Yes. And if you would like a copy of the latest Hopeless Maine, you could go here– (Or from your local comics shop if you are in the UK)

 

Until next time, I hope this finds you all well, inspired, and thriving.

 

 

Mrs Beaten and the giant oceanic gnii

Mrs Beaten is strangely quiet. She hasn’t put up a single judgmental poster in more than a week. Has she fallen ill? Was she kidnapped? Or does it have something to do with the giant oceanic gnii?

Has she been silenced in favour of more exciting news? Would you be perfectly happy if that were true?

Back when Hopeless, Maine had an economy, and seaweed was not the primary content of everyone’s diets, the wealth of the island was due to giant oceanic gnii. Hopeless was on the migratory route of these amazing creatures. As a consequence traps were laid and a refinery built, and the oil and the money rolled in.

The giant oceanic gnii stopped coming after a while. Some thought they had become extinct, others that the clever beasties had simply learned to avoid the nets. Either way, no one has seen a giant gnii in a long time.

And yet this image is clear evidence that one has been by – there’s no other way of getting that sort of a view, and the tentacles and lamps are highly suggestive.

If you’ve seen the giant oceanic gnii and want to send in a report, please do!

The Necromancer

There are some who maintain that Hopeless, Maine, has not always been as fog-bound as it is today. It is thought that there have been odd, brief periods in its history, when the island has enjoyed a reasonable climate and played host to all manner of flora and fauna. It was, presumably, in one of those gentler times that the Vikings settled here.
Many of these early settlers became adept at gathering the eggs of the gulls that lived and bred, in their thousands, in colonies on the cliffs. In the tale ‘The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow’, it was revealed how one settler, a spoon-whittler named Lars Pedersen, was driven to madness and death by the spoonwalkers who stole, not only his spoons but also his precious horde of eggs. As a result his wraith, locally referred to as The Woeful Dane, was frequently seen roaming the area searching for the pilfered eggs.
All that we know of Lars’ demise and subsequent haunting is thanks to young Ophelia Chevin, a child of one of the founding families, who had been blessed with the dubious gift of ‘The Sight.’ Ophelia faithfully recorded the information in her journal, having had several amiable conversations with the ghost.
Prior to these revelations, those who witnessed this apparition roaming the island had no idea that he was merely looking for eggs. Over the years various theories evolved regarding the reason for The Woeful Dane’s ceaseless quest and unsurprisingly, favourite among these theories was that he was looking for a lost horde of Viking silver that he had buried somewhere, carelessly omitting to mark the spot.
Four long centuries had passed since Lars had died and the legend of lost Viking silver was firmly established as fact. Many a brave – and some would say foolhardy – adventurer perished looking for it. Life on this island is hazardous enough without wandering around at all hours, digging in vain for something which has never existed. Despite the high casualty rate, people continued to risk life and limb, seduced by the promise of untold riches. T’Abram Spitch was one such person.

T’Abram  found himself on the shores of Hopeless following a shipwreck. Anyone who knows anything about the island will recognise that this is by no means unusual. The ever-present fog that clings to Hopeless like a cold, damp mantle has claimed, over the years, many a good ship and an untold number of lives. On the plus side it has served to bestow a reasonable supply of salvageable goods and some occasionally interesting castaways. T’Abram Spitch was nothing, if not interesting. I have no idea where, exactly, in the world he came from but what I do know is that he claimed to be a magician. I am not talking about someone pulling a spoonwalker out of a hat or inviting you to pick a card. T’Abram Spitch was a fully-paid up, practising necromancer who had fled his native shores to avoid persecution and a toe-curlingly unpleasant death.
It must be remembered that even those with saintly ambitions, lofty aspersions, devilish plans for world domination or the power to invoke the spirits of the dead are all subject to human failings; strange, unbidden thoughts; annoying tunes popping into the head and the occasional urge to speak in silly voices. It is what makes us who we are. And T’Abram Spitch, despite his billowing robes, flowing beard and sigil-carved staff was no different from the rest of us. T’Abram had, besides an ample supply of annoying tunes and silly voices at his disposal, a host of secret desires. Chief among these was a lust for great riches.

The necromancer had been on Hopeless for just a few weeks when the rumour of a long-lost Viking horde came to his notice. Since his being shipwrecked he had looked bedraggled and despondent, a shadow of his former self. It was as though the words ‘Treasure’ and ‘Silver’ immediately cast a glamour over him and the veil of despair slipped away at their mere mention. His eyes glittered like stars as he visualized himself unearthing such wealth. Though many had searched for centuries to no avail, T’Abram was certain that he, above all others, was destined to find the Viking silver. His ability to conjure and command the spirits of the dead would surely be the key to his success.

In those days it was even rarer for people to wander abroad during the hours of darkness than it is now. There was no Night Soil Man patrolling the headland, standing downwind and keeping a benevolent eye on the unwary traveller. The only inn on the island, The Sweaty Tapster, would bar its doors and pull down the shutters to keep out unwelcome night-walkers. This is why no one was there on that moonless night to see T’Abram Spitch on the bleak headland, robes wildly flapping in the wind, as he prepared to conjure the spirit of Lars Pedersen, the legendary Woeful Dane.

Those who have read the tale ‘Ghosts’ will be aware that Lars Pedersen, the ghost and Lars Pedersen, the tenant of his own private Valhalla, were two very different entities. When he stepped into our dimension Lars was the gaunt, mad-eyed wraith who had struck fear into the hearts of so many. Lars, at home, as it were, was far removed from that. He was enjoying an eternity of wine, women, song and sunshine. This version of Lars was young, strong, handsome and as full of life as someone who has been dead for centuries can be. He would pick his hours of haunting with care, especially avoiding Valpurgis (May-eve) and Midsumarblot (the 21st of June). These were especially popular events in the spirit calendar and tended to attract more ghosts than Lars wanted to associate with. There were also other occasions that The Woeful Dane made a point of staying in his feasting-hall; these were the nights of the dark of the moon, when the waning moon has vanished and the new moon is yet to appear. These two or three days in the lunar calendar always attracts the worst kind of wraith. These are the ones who tear through the night, screaming and wailing. They frighten children, tear at the flesh and make fun of other spirits who, for example, might be going about their legitimate business searching for lost eggs. These were certainly not the type that a gentle ghost, such as Lars, would wish to encounter. No, Lars Pedersen stayed at home during the dark of the moon. Or, at least, that was his intention.
There can be few things more annoying than being pulled by some unseen force from one’s feasting-hall just as the party is getting started. This is exactly what happened to Lars. One minute he was happily swilling back mead, with a wench on either arm and a roasted boar on the table. The next, he was whisked away to some dark, chilly rock and suddenly transformed into the gaunt madman of legend, The Woeful Dane. To say that he was miffed would be an understatement.

Although he had called up a score of spirits during his career, T’Abram had never encountered one like Lars before. The Viking’s madness had struck after being caught in the malevolent gaze of a spoonwalker raiding party. As a result his dead eyes now bulged horribly and shone with a ghastly green light.
From Lars’ point of view, the necromancer cut an equally unsettling figure. If was plain to see that T’Abram had adopted the deranged wizard look with some enthusiasm. The pointed hat, star-spangled robe and long, bristling beard was almost comical in appearance. What was deadly serious, however, was the staff that he wielded. It was the source of all of his power. Everything else about him was pure theatre. It was this staff, carved with powerful sigils and now glowing with an unearthly light, that had drawn Lars from his feasting-hall and held him powerless before the necromancer.
In the tale ‘The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow’ I mentioned that, for ghosts, there exists no language barrier. They converse with each other and understand all human – and probably animal – speech. So when T’Abram commanded Lars to find and reveal his long-lost treasure the old Viking understood every word. Unfortunately, as the long-lost treasure did not actually exist, he had absolutely no idea what the necromancer wanted. This served to weaken the hold that the glowing staff held over him, allowing Lars to use a little bit of artistic licence in leading T’Abram to his heart’s desire. It also gave him the chance to get his own back for being rudely removed from, what had promised to be, an agreeably pleasant evening of Valhallic debauchery. Lars knew where something was buried. It was not treasure but it would do nicely.

This world of ours is old beyond our imagining; a thousand or more cultures may have risen and fell long before we began recording history. It would be arrogant in the extreme to believe that only within the sphere of our knowledge did anyone set foot on Hopeless. The Vikings were certainly not the first settlers on the island. Lars knew this; he knew that buried deep beneath the rocks was something that so offended some of the island’s very earliest inhabitants that they bound it with spells and cast it deep into the earth. It was something that really ought to stay buried.
T’Abram followed the wraith with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. They wound through the scrubby trees and rocks until, in a clearing, Lars stopped, and pointed to the ground. The necromancer immediately set to and started removing the stones and earth. Lars’ work, it seems, was done; he was dismissed. The ghost was relieved. He really did not want to be around when this particular ‘Treasure’ was finally unearthed.
The work was long and hard, even with the tools that T’Abram had slyly taken from the people who dwelt in the shadow of the Gydynap Hills. At last, after many days, his shovel hit something that was not made of rock. His heart missed a beat. Could this be it at last – the long-lost Viking horde?

To be continued…

Art by Tom Brown

Daphne and the Fallen Stars

Daphne was down at the sea shore again. She was staring out to the greenish-blue-grey wash of the unsteady sea. So many thoughts were being washed around her head. They were about her mother and father whose lives had been lost out there in that monstrous wild of water. They were on a ship that sank. Daphne knelt down in the tidal grit and began to find bits of flotsam and shells. She gathered them with ritual obsession and her hands worked with the flotsam and shells as if putting together a puzzle only she knew. She finally stopped and looked at what she’d done. It was a ship. Or rather The Ship which her parents and many others had gone down with when it sank before she has any clear memories; this ship was so much part of who she was Daphne could not think of herself as Daphne without knowing she was Daphne from the Ship.

But she heard somebody else walking on the shore and her mind went away from the Ship. He had a large shabby frock coat on with many stains and weathering that it’s original colour was obscured. A battered bicorn hat sagged on his head. The man was staring out to sea with the wind in his grey beard.

After a while she decided to go over to him.

‘Who are you?’ she asked.

‘Cuthbert Thorrock’ he replied with a throaty voice.

‘I’ve not seen you here before’

‘Have you been watching the stars? They’re falling out the sky’ he answered her as if swapping news on the weather.

‘When did you see that?’

‘It’s been happening more and more, the stars aren’t staying up there anymore and they’re coming down here, watch out young lady you might be crossing paths with one!’ he turned his eyes towards her and they were full of the sea waves and clouds. He coughed loudly and spat into the shore grit.

Cuthbert Thorrock said no more, and Daphne stood with him a little longer looking out to sea. His big frame hardened with the life he’d had felt oddly reassuring to have next to her, perhaps this was what a father was like: dependable and under a big old coat with a smell of the world.

‘What’s your name young lady?’ he said after the silence.

‘Daphne’

‘Ah’ he said, and then he shifted and began to walk away again. His steps crunched over the shore with weight.

She took herself back up the narrow path onto the land. There was a rock not far away where she saw somebody was sitting. As she walked closer she saw it was a woman in a long black dress with long black hair under a neat lace snood. Daphne thought perhaps she’d come from a funereal and was stopping at the morgue on the way back, like people did.

‘Good day young lady have you seen any of my sisters?’ the woman spoke before she’d even reached her. She turned and her face was pale and beautifully shaped as if glass. She smiled at Daphne and she knew she should not have gone over. Behind her the sea tides hissed. Stars were falling.–

Words by Robin Collins-Art by Tom Brown