Tag Archives: new england gothic

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.

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)

Michelle Souliere has perhaps melted away

By Frampton Jones

No one quite knows where she came from or how and when she arrived. When did you first become aware of her? For me it began on an unusually bright spring morning outside the library, when I approached a pair I believed to be the Ephemerys, only to find them staring at each other in bemusement. “Why are you here?” he asked. “Why would I not be?” she replied. Then another long silence followed, during which I deduced that something odd had happened. How odd – I did not begin to imagine.

Such scenes played out many times, especially in the day. Those of us who know Mrs Ephemery well know that she no longer goes out in the daylight. This also took a while to establish, as for a long time many of us thought we were seeing her around town. We were not. Anyone we have seen outside in the last few years was very likely Michelle Souliere.

It is an uncanny phenomena I cannot begin to explain. I believe I have scrutinised both of them most carefully. It wasn’t until my scrutiny lead to the question, “Do I know you, sir?” that I realised just how odd things might be. Mrs Ephemery and I have been acquainted our whole lives. I wondered if she had some kind of temporary memory loss, or other affliction. She identified herself to me as Michelle Souliere and told me she was lost and touch confused by how everyone was treating her. I took her to The Crow, and we established beyond any shadow of a doubt that there are indeed two of them.

I have never been able to tell them apart by looking, although they were discernibly different in voice and manner. I am not entirely sure when our strange visitor left us, and she was never able, or willing to tell me how she came to be on our island or what her purpose was. Has she simply stepped back into the mist and returned from whence she came? Did we dream her into being and are we now waking from that dream? We will never know. But, there have been no sightings of her in more than a month, and that is usually my cue to suggest that a person may be lost to us, and that henceforth we must think of them as dead.

I admit to finding it difficult thinking of dead a woman whose whole person I see fairly regularly. It has been a most peculiar business and I am at a loss to explain what happened.

 

Michelle Souliere kindly loaned us her face for the Hopeless Maine character Mrs Ephemery. You can see her in the New England Gothic art remix in Sinners, and also here –

This declaration of probable death was brought to you by the Hopeless Maine kickstarter – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

New England Gothic

Hello people! (and others)

Many years ago, when Nimue and I started this whole Hopeless, Maine thing, Nimue wrote two books that went along with the timeline of The Gathering.  The first of these two books was New England Gothic, which takes place before book one and gives a lot of background on Annamarie and her earlier life (Yes. Those of you who have read Sinners will be having feels at this point) NEG is a bloody wonderful strange tale and we thought we’d bring it and the other prose book out along with the graphic novels, lavishly illustrated, of course. Well, this was before we learned a lot of things about the publishing industry (some of which we would rather not know, but that’s a long story for another time) We do plan to release both of these books in PDF form in the near future on the same Etsy site that the game is on. Then, hopefully, later there will be the fully illustrated print version. In the meantime, you can get New England Gothic in installments by pledging to Nimue’s Patreon!

Hoping, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.