Tag Archives: steampunk

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.

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Cover art reveal

Hello, people (and others)!

Sorry we’ve been a bit quiet. I’ve been working diligently on the page art for the next graphic novel volume and Nimue is doing roughly twelve thousand* things all at once.

*rough estimate, she is a blur, so it’s tricky to count.

Hopefully, this will make up for it, a bit. Here is the cover art for VICTIMS (Volume three of Hopeless, Maine) I gave a bit of background about the decision process on the subject matter when we posted the cover art at drawing stage, so I won’t get into that here. I *will* say, that this is the best, strangest, most touching, funniest script so far. You know when you are watching an anime series and the first season is all pretty straightforward and largely what you would expect and then the following seasons drops you into the deep end and play with all of your expectations and turn up the emotions and conflict? Yes, that. That’s pretty much what’s going on with the rest of the series.

Here is a thing wot I wrote to go to the distributor for the listing of Victims-

“Welcome back to the fog-shrouded island of Hopeless, Maine- an island cut off from the world and lost in time. It’s been busy here since you’ve been away! We all knew that werewolves would show up on the island eventually. I mean, there are vampires (that cough), ghosts and all manner of things that go bump in the night (and occasionally around noon, for no particular reason) well, they’re here now. Salamandra and Owen do their best to cope with this new danger to island residents while investigating a new rash of disappearances. Masked, cowled cultists have begun to make themselves known, and the vampires are about as much help as usual. Salamandra struggles with the disembodied presence that surrounds the island and continues to speak to her alone. Owen receives a new position (which he definitely does not want) and Drury the undead dog cavorts across the island. This is the most eventful volume yet, with greater insight into the main characters, and a generous helping of dark humor.”

Pretty good, huh?

So here, without further ado, is the cover art, hand coloured by Nimue. The text is a temporary version, our publisher will make the design all shiny and put the Sloth Logo on and such. Also-look closely and see if you can find the key in the image. That’s a thing that showed up in The Gathering, and we will have more to say about that soon… Hope you like!

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.

 

The Journey of Faith

You may have heard of the disappearance of the explorer Lady Alison Tiffany Hempton Addleby Pettigrew and the subsequent rescue expedition organised by her nephew, Jason Hercules Pettigrew Johnson. At the time the papers reported it a great success – a wonderful story of a family reunited. But the few that knew the truth, were aware that it was anything but.

Auntie Ally, as she was known to her devoted nephew, had launched an audacious subaquatic expedition to observe new species and explore ancient wrecks around a mythical island. But she had returned from her ill-fated expedition little more than a husk of a human being. Despite her nephew’s best efforts, as the months passed, that truth eventually came out and poor Auntie Ally’s fate was news again. She was even described in the parlance of one of the more fanciful penny dreadfuls ‘reporting’ the story as a revenant or zombie-like creature – albeit one that did not shuffle, threaten, or hanker after the meat of humankind.

It seemed a sad tale, and soon the public started to lose interest in even reading about the more sensational, and let me say, entirely fictional versions of the story. So poor Auntie Ally eventually moved from being a passing concern to a forgotten tragedy. But there was one person who never gave up hope, never lost his faith in an eventual solution to Aunt Ally’s lamentable condition; her devoted nephew, Jason.

Jason had grown up into a determined young man – a man who, by virtue of a series of circumstances, had essentially inherited a considerable fortune and a number of residences. Since Aunt Ally’s return, he had become obsessed with returning to the spot where her submersible was found, to investigate, and to find some way of returning Aunt Ally to normality. Let me point out dear reader, right here, right now, that although he was obsessed with his Auntie, it was an entirely innocent obsession; this is not one of those stories.

Jason had few friends, but one, in particular, seemed to put up with his single-mindedness and adored him for his pureness of heart. Homily Williams was a singular young woman who had known Jason from his college days. They had met at an evening science lecture on the talking cure and had long discussions over coffee afterwards. She was an intelligent and pragmatic lady and had remained a faithful friend when his fixation with his aunt took hold. Although when she learnt of his plan to return to the seas and dive in that fateful craft, she urged him to reconsider. After all, she argued, one soul had been lost to those hopeless waters, why lose another? And particularly why lose his, she thought to herself.

But Jason was not to be swayed, he spent time, money and a great deal of thought on planning a new expedition using The Prospect of Joy – Lady Allison’s revolutionary underwater craft. He had made sure the finest English mechanics and engineers had checked the entire vessel more than once for faults or possible weaknesses in construction or design. But the famous French marine designer had done his job well, and Jason was reassured on that score. He did, however, add some new elements – he fitted bigger, stronger windows, five, lead-shielded compasses, added a more powerful periscope, several inches of armour, multiple torpedo tubes, and mounted a waterproofed machine gun of radical design to the front deck. He even fitted a device based on Tesla coils that would pass an electrical current of great magnitude through the outer hull at the throwing of a knife blade switch. As originally conceived, The Prospect of Joy was purely an exploratory vessel, the product of an inquiring, innocent, peaceful mind. But in Jason’s determined hands it was turned into a most potent weapon of war. To transport it, the expedition utilised as it’s floating base an old steam cruiser retrofitted to suit Jason’s more single-minded requirements and renamed: The Journey of Faith.

A week before the scheduled start of the expedition, the Admiralty caught wind of the submersible and its militant new capabilities. This forced Jason’s hand, and he slipped port in the dead of night having checked that Auntie Ally was being looked after, but without the chance to say goodbye to faithful Homily.

The journey to the area of sea where Lady Allison had met with her singular fate was largely uneventful. It is true that when they left port, they were hastily followed by navy ships, mustered as quickly as they could manage, but Jason’s expedition had a decent head start and soon outdistanced them.

Arriving at the most likely spot to start their search for… well, to be honest, Jason wasn’t sure. Alison had written of an island – but she had never seen it, it wasn’t on any charts and there was simply no evidence of it. What he had seen with his own eyes was a wall of mist, beyond which human vision could not penetrate, but which seemed to have a definite influence on the psyche. If there was an island in the mist, he was determined to press ahead and find it, for he was sure that there he would find the means by which to save his aunt.

It took them several days to locate the mist – and to be honest, Jason had been prepared for this, sending out no less than six steam launches in a complex, scientifically developed search pattern that would cover an enormous area of ocean in a short space of time.

Once located, they recalled the launches and sailed to the relevant spot. Jason viewed the swirling mist ahead of him and remembered the last time he had witnessed it. Lady Alison was always very fond of quoting literature, but all Jason could think of at that moment was Dickens: “There are strings in the human heart that had better not be vibrated.” He pulled his jacket tighter against the slight chill that had crept up on him.

“Well”, he said out loud to himself, grabbing at another quote:

“Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero”.

“What’s that?” asked the captain of The Journey who had quietly pulled up alongside Jason on the ship’s rail.

“Oh, sorry – it means to pluck the day, time for action. Launch stations Captain if you please.”

“Aye, aye sir!”

Jason felt a strangeness as he lowered himself into The Prospect of Joy – he must be experiencing some of the same emotions and sensations that Lady Alison had felt as she set off on that fateful undersea voyage. He had left strict instructions for The Journey of Faith to withdraw at least twenty leagues from this spot – he did not want them becoming yet another disappearing victim of the mist.

Unlike his cautious Auntie, Jason set his teeth together, strapped himself in, and set a course directly for the water under the mist. As he advanced, he could see the water getting darker, seemingly heavier, and the pace slowed. Almost immediately he noticed strange sea creatures in the murk around him and the vague shapes of masts and funnels of wrecked ships beneath.

Despite the upgraded engines, he was making slow progress, and weird, dark, twisted, shapes that resolved into loathsome, many-eyed creatures began to investigate this mechanical interloper. Small creatures, but threatening nonetheless, Jason detected a maliciousness in the way they twisted and turned around the craft. Suddenly one darted forward in a flash of fins and teeth. At the last moment, it was propelled unnaturally sideways as one of its brothers snared it between hugely out of proportion jaws – picking its moment to strike against it’s distracted shoal mate.

Jason shivered, and checked all the weapons systems again, although truthfully, these small creatures would be no match for the submersible’s thick iron hull. And almost as he thought that Jason noticed a darker shape off to his right, just too far into the gloom to make out its proper form. After observing it for a minute or so, it became obvious it was of a magnitude larger than of the other aquatic beasts in these dark waters. Indeed, Jason realised that there were no other creatures near it – as if they feared to be in its very presence. At the back of his mind, Jason felt an unnatural fear – a strange contradictory wave of emotions urging him on and yet at the same time compelling him to leave. Driven by his fondness for his Auntie, Jason’s will was resolute. He quelled the rising feelings and pushed on.

The submersible swayed for a moment as something tugged against it and Jason took a moment to swing the vessel around. Swirling purple tendrils were writhing up from the sea bottom – the monstrous fronds of some huge marine flora. Trimming The Prospect of Joy to rise to a higher level, Jason resumed his course.

Something ahead and in the distance caught his eye. A slight iridescence in the gloom. It was getting closer, and brighter. To Jason’s eyes, it was like an underwater waterfall – somehow catching the light as it tumbled down to the depths below. But this was a waterfall that was moving. And not composed of water. And… Jason realised at the last minute that the iridescence was caused by some sort of electrical discharge and that he was witnessing the lower part of what could only be described as some sort of gigantic electric jellyfish. Or more like a Portuguese man ‘o’ war of unparalleled size and literally stunning beauty. Jason slammed the controls hard to port as he broke the spell of the creature’s dangerously enticing glamor.

The Prospect of Joy was a fine example of the best of French marine knowledge and English engineering and manufacturing. It responded fast to helm control and it’s powerful engines and streamlined shape helped it speed through the water at an unprecedented rate and with fine manoeuvrability. It was designed to cope and excel in all waters known to man. These waters, however, were not known to man. And here, alas, The Prospect was a little slower, a little less powerful, a little less manoeuvrable, and in this case, found a little wanting. Jason had almost got away with it, but at the last possible moment a single, smallest tentacle lightly caressed his iron craft.

All the lights in the cabin went out and there was a sudden silence. Jason – to his credit – did not panic and scrambled over to the wall on his left and a huge bar attached to a rotary switch. He grabbed the bar and wrenched it counterclockwise for a count of three, then clockwise for a count of three… nothing. As the submersible sank slowly lower, he tried again: left, one…two…three…, right, one…two…three… This time there was a loud buzz of electricity and a massive clunk as the engines started up again and systems returned. Lights came back on and Jason threw himself back in the chair. He had regained control. Nervously checking the windows all around him, he could see nothing.

Would this reassure you? It did not reassure Jason. After witnessing an ocean teeming with deadly ravenous life, the absence of it seemed to him to be by far the most frightening outcome.

It was not long before those irrational fears proved entirely legitimate. Shapes in the dark distance. Movements in the murk. Darker water now moved around The Prospect of Joy, and the feeble light that was fighting its way down to the depths was fading.

If Jason could see above him, he would have found the surface roiling with violent waves, rocks awash with huge spumes of spray, and a mere few hundred yards away – the cliffs and chines of Shipwreck Bay, the most notoriously treacherous feature of all those that made up the hazardous coastline of Hopeless, Maine.

At the surprising depths below the bay, all was calmer, well, current-wise anyway. This was of absolutely no comfort to Jason however, who now found himself surrounded by a veritable menagerie of misshapen aquatic beasts, monstrous miscreations of teeth and spines and eyes and claws and tentacles and… unidentifiable vicious appendages. Jason did not suffer from nightmares, nor did he read ‘gothic’ fiction, but here was the very embodiment of the most exaggerated form of night horror, or ghastly, obscene, bestiary become life.

He could feel them somehow calling to him like he had ants crawling through his mind. He ran his fingers through his hair, scraping his skin sharply with his nails as he sought to get a grip on his sensibilities. Oddly, it seemed to help and he gained a moment to assess his predicament.

Jason could hear their freakish forms grinding against the outer hull, teeth scraping on metal, tentacles trying to find gaps to worm their way insidiously into. The submersible was not moving forward now and Jason could see a wall of rock ahead of him, so even if he could proceed, there was simply nowhere to go. Jason considered his options as The Prospect of Joy was rocked by unseen brutish forces.

There was really no point in the torpedoes – there was simply too many creatures and only one was conveniently lined up with a firing tube. And hitting it point blank was likely to cause an explosion that might do as much damage to the submersible as to the creature. The Tesla shocker came to mind, but Jason wondered if it would still work after the earlier encounter with the electric behemoth. He reached for the switch, paused a moment, and threw it. There was an extremely satisfying arc of wild blue electricity around the craft, an intense crackling, buzzing sound, a boiling of water and a nauseous burning smell which was so intense, Jason could feel it assaulting his nostrils even through several inches of iron, however improbable that might seem.

The end result, however, was not nearly so satisfying – it merely seemed to drive the creatures outside mad with rage and they buffeted Jason’s vessel with renewed vigour – some even swam directly away and then back again at high speed to ram the sides, the bottom or the top of the submersible. Jason was thrown out of the chair and anything not tied down was to be found rolling around on the floor. The Tesla shocker was effectively a one-shot deterrent – it would be a while before it had built up enough charge to use again. Several more times the iron ship was buffeted. Every time Jason managed to stagger to his feet, he was thrown down again and new bruises were added to his pain-wracked body. All throughout this time, the ants in his head were also getting worse – they felt more like small mammals now – noisy rats talking to him, murmuring, muttering, seemingly urging him to leave the safety of the craft.

Just as he felt he would surely be pummelled to a pulp, the pounding stopped, and things went dark again. But it was not the cabin lights that had failed, they were soldiering on; although much dimmer, they were still illuminating the small metal cabin – no, this was darkness from outside. Two or three huge forms were enveloping The Prospect of Joy. There was a sudden brighter shape in the forward window – Jason made out the shape of a mighty tooth the size of a man – and a tall man at that. It was vaguely ivory in colour, but with much green mould around its edges and a yellowy red vein running randomly across its side. That was all Jason could discern before it was gone.

But then, seconds later, there was an ominous grinding noise. And Jason was no longer sure that the armoured iron would be enough. Should he try to swim to shore? How deep was he? Would he survive the swim to the surface? He could feel the island calling to him.

–– •◊• ––

Out of the three, it was Gertrude who was inevitably the most observant, so whilst Ludmilla and Mildred were often wrapped up in the latest gossip, Gertrude still managed to keep one of her three eyes trained upon the seas around the island.

The three were called the Agents of Change, or The Ocular Ones. Those that had perhaps encountered their influence in some way, or knew them better, called them The Aunties – a name they rather liked. But whatever you named them, they had been around since – well, let’s just say it’s a very long time.

“Look,” Gertrude said, “Stop your fussing for a moment, there is some sort of commotion over there.”

“Oh yes,” said Ludmilla, “the pets are getting obstreperous again.”

“I don’t know why you call those nasty creatures that,” responded Mildred “and stop using silly long words – you know it irks me.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing, just some simple shipwreck I’m sure. Their ship will break up and the silly humans will die. That’s that.” responded Ludmilla.

“Oh don’t be so trite Ludmilla. This is different – it seems to be happening underneath the waves” pointed out Gertrude.

“Oh yes, why there is some sort of tin can with some poor dear stuck inside” observed Mildred.

“Well, they will soon open that and he’ll be pet food for sure!” Exclaimed Ludmilla.

“Stop it with the pets again. Can’t we help him – I sense he has come a long way in search of something… or someone” reasoned Gertrude.

This statement piqued their curiosity and they all turned their many and varied senses towards the trapped submersible.

“Oh – he’s searching for that nice young lady that arrived here a while ago – she was in a tin can too. Most interesting – not at all like the others” said Mildred.

“Oh yes, she was a lot more ethereal – a strange one that. Still, she’s lost like the rest” stated Ludmilla off-handedly.

“I think we should help him to find her” decided Gertrude. “He is resolute and determined to find that lady – he is devoted to her.”

“Oh, not another tale of lost love, how pathetic,” said Ludmilla petulantly.

“No – it’s not that sort of love – she’s family. And family is important.” Gertrude said firmly.

And despite her general reluctance to agree Ludmilla nodded – as did Mildred, family was important.

“Besides, we have to help” affirmed Gertrude.

“Why?” asked both Ludmilla and Mildred in unison.

“Because, dear ladies, she is an Auntie, just like us!”

This piece from Keith Errington (sometimes known as the Keith of Mystery) continues the tale started in The Prospect of Joy (which can be read by clicking on the highlighted text)  We were lucky enough to hear Keith read this aloud at the Vendetta Live at Asylum Steampunk festival this year.

Art by Tom Brown

Arcane Armoury – Hopeless, Maine Branch

Hello people! (and others)

When we started all of this, years and years ago, we had a lot of visions of what it all might, one day, look like. We imagined music and comics, books, a creative tribe, and other artists and craftspeople coming and playing and co-creating with us. No plastic tatt but individual things made with care by human(?) hands. Well, another part of that original dream is becoming manifest, and I take this opportunity to introduce you to one of the most skilled/creative makers of things I have had the pleasure of meeting, and welcome him to the island. There are several new Hopeless, Maine inspired artifacts being planned and one that is already in process. We’re silly amounts of excited!

HM-Welcome to the Island Matt! I assume you’ve been warned about your chances of getting to leave at all-ever) Would you like to introduce yourself to the townspeople here assembled? There are rumors that your powers of invention rival even those of Balthazar Lemon (but involve less fish)

M-Greetings!I should like to introduce myself to all gathered here, as some of you may have heard I am Matt Inkel sole artisan Arcane Armoury.

As for my skills in regard to Mr. Lemon, I couldn’t possibly comment ..lest to say I would like to meet said gentleman and discuss our crafts further…

HM-What (in heaven’s name!) attracted you to the island? (Hoping you were not lured by those mermaids that Doc Willoughby nearly fell prey to)

M-What drew me here, you ask?

Well, like many it was never my intention to wash up on this sombre little Isle ..but it seems fate has a curious sense of humour and an even more curious plan for us all… Alas I am not at home on the sea at the best of times and following an evening stroll around the mist laden deck a mixture of unsure footing and gravity decided that the icy water would be my bed for the night .. I tried in vain to alert the crew but the thick fog obscured me and all I could do was watch helplessly as the light of the crows nest fled into the shadows of the night… For a brief moment the waters were calm and silent …and then ripples came.. surfacing around me like tremors in the water, from the stillness below the pressure of something large rising…looking down I saw nothing but my own distorted reflection in the black glass of the ocean….Now..priding myself as logical fellow I quickly decided that “away” was the best place to be and set off towards a glow in the mist…. after maybe 20mins and being brushed past by nameless things in the deep I dragged myself ashore to the east of what I now know to be the lighthouse and so here I am.

HM-Would you like to show us some of your work, and tell us about it at all? Anything that would be good for holding unspeakable things at bay? (asking for a friend)

M- I have long been a maker of things from models for architects and stage to devices for exhibition, moving pictures and conventions .. I take commissions to build the weird and wonderful and will gladly turn my hand to anything I feel I can execute to with suitable degree of success. And I take great joy in learning new skills to bring to the table.

As yet I have not found the need to build anything to hold the unspeakable things of which you..er.. speak!.. But surely in my time upon this island and especially after my brush with whatever dwells beneath the waterline ..I suspect it will not be long before a device of containment is required with some urgency… as to the length of my stay? With the hazards of the water, I feel some form of airship may be my best route of this perplexing place you call home.

Id, like to thank you all for your kind hospitality to this stranger among you and rest, assured I shall attempt to repay it as best suits my means, I look forward to working with you all.

HM- Thank you Matt, and welcome to the island! We’ll have to go to the Squid and Teapot for a pint and discuss various plans and schemes.

You can see more of Matt’s (bloody amazing) work-here.

 

 

 

 

The Prospect of Joy

 

Lady Alison Tiffany Hempton Addleby Pettigrew had a very long name, very long head of hair, two very long legs, and came from a very long line of somewhat eccentric English explorers and adventurers. Her grandfather, Allan Tiffany Addleby Pettigrew, had crossed the artic by balloon, and one of her distant ancestors, one Wilfred Addleby Pettigrew, had discovered the fabled Isle of Black. (Which subsequently disappeared in a rupture of the ocean floor sometime in the Sixteenth Century.) And although Alison shared her surname with her illustrious, intrepid and inspired ancestors, there was one important aspect about her that was thoroughly different – her sex. She was the first of the Tiffany Hempton Addleby Pettigrew women to take up exploring. She was a very determined young lady, and despite it being unfashionable and ill-advised, she was heroically determined to outdo all her masculine predecessors, or at the very least, equal their dauntingly impressive list of achievements.

To this end, she spent her formative years pursuing all those pursuits that admirable, well- prepared, professional explorers should. She learnt about geography, astronomy, navigation, survival, baritsu, fencing, horse riding, negotiation and more. She mastered several languages from both European and Eastern cultures, and a number of classical writing systems. She also kept herself physically fit, through hill-walking, cycling and workouts with dumbbells, medicine balls and a fitness instructor named Henry. (She always smiled when she mentioned him – I’m still not sure why).

As you might imagine, all this was wildly unusual for a lady in society, and it was regularly remarked upon with tuts being muttered almost constantly when she occasionally mingled with the country’s social set. Partly because of this, but mostly because she had little time for her fellows, she withdrew early on and kept herself to herself. This was easy enough to accomplish, given that she lived in a large mansion in the English countryside surrounded by servants, landscaped grounds and a certain air of mystery.

As I was her nephew and perpetually intrigued by this “mad” and possibly dangerous lady, I would visit her often. I found her neither mad nor unfriendly; she insisted I called her Auntie Ally, which amused her – probably because she considered herself far too young to be an auntie. (Her brother – my father – was considerably older than she and had married, and then fathered, young).

She liked to tell me of all the activities she had planned, the trips she had been on, the strange people she had encountered and the effective use of a garotte. I was captivated by her.

One hot June day, she told me of the strange rumours she had heard of a mysterious island. No-one was quite sure where it was, but the few scattered accounts she had managed to put together had indicated three things. Firstly, that it was always surrounded by a strange mist. Secondly, it seemed that there were a handful of tales of people and ships disappearing near the Island – but remarkedly – not one of anyone actually returning. Thirdly, a solitary scrap of parchment from a fifteenth-century, fire-damaged collection of

books briefly mentioned a mist-covered island and then one other discernible word had been shakily scrawled in the margin; “Hopeless”.

Whether this was a comment on the search for the Island, the chances of returning from it, or more poetically perhaps, the name of the Island, Auntie Ally really didn’t know. But she became irrevocably intrigued by the possibility of its actual, physical existence.

She was planning an expedition she told me. “Can I come?” I asked.
“No” was the simple, but firm reply.

And that was that.

I was at college by this time and at a crucial stage of my education. So, most unfortunately, it was quite a while before I could find the time to visit again, and by that time Auntie Ally’s disappearance was in all the newsheets.

The following are the collected accounts from her personal papers, recovered from her exploratory vessel. I have omitted the more routine entries and those of a personal nature.

–– •◊• ––

I, Alison Tiffany Hempton Addleby Pettigrew, depart now, on a great adventure. I do so in the spirit of my many illustrious forefathers and the greats of exploration; Columbus, Polo, da Gama and others of their ilk. I would be modest – but modesty has no part in a great exploration; I have studied them all and I know that only through a steadfast will and an iron determination did they manage to succeed in their endeavours.

And so I set off now, my quest fixed firmly in my mind. I was fortunate that a relative owned a number of merchant ships, and a suitable vessel was hired for the conveyance of my very own transport of delight – the submersible, The Prospect of Joy. It had taken three years to build and was designed by the finest submarine builder in Europe – monsieur “Eau” Cousteau. Whilst I had supervised its construction at Chatham and had insisted on some modifications of my own, I cannot claim responsibility for its magnificence. And although it was a one-woman vessel, it was quite large – for I had ensured that plenty of fuel and food could be stored on board. It incorporated a number of truly revolutionary devices – the most impressive of which, was the atmosphere recycling unit – this patented and highly secret apparatus cleaned the air and allowed the submarine to stay in its natural environment under the water for weeks at a time. I am looking forward to seeing if it’s endurance would be matched by its captain. For in maritime tradition I was now Captain Pettigrew – yes, that has a certain ring to it – almost heroic I think!

–– •◊• ––

We have been asea for many days now – I have finally become accustomed to the roll of the ship and the nature of the changing seas. The Captain tells me we are about halfway. Of

course, he doesn’t know exactly what we are halfway to – he only has a longitude and a latitude to work with. Indeed, there may well be nothing there, but the clues I have pieced together point to that spot if they point anywhere at all.

Why a submarine I hear you ask? After all, it would surely be easier to discover an island in a boat? Well, the tales I read spoke of many shipwrecks, some quite ancient, and I wanted to see if I could find these and use the submarine’s equipment to recover whatever treasure was still extant. And the number of shipwrecks suggested treacherous waters for a surface vessel, and likely hostile natives – it was a matter of record that savages in war canoes had caused the fateful end of many a sea-going expedition. I shiver now, even to think of it – tall, strong, muscular, dark-skinned natives attacking the ships and dragging the helpless passengers into their canoes and then doing who knows what to them, whilst fires rage, native drums beat and strange substances are inhaled. I often lie awake at night thinking of it…

A submarine, on the other hand, may well be able to investigate the seas around the island whilst remaining undetected by local miscreants. And there was yet another reason – the sketchy accounts I had read spoke of strange sea creatures like none seen anywhere else on God’s Earth. Perhaps I could become the first to discover a new species – to document them and classify them. I must admit, the prospect filled me with an almost sensual feeling of anticipation. But the final reason I chose a submarine was simply childish fun – travelling under the water like Verne’s Captain Nemo would be immensely exciting!

–– •◊• ––

Finally, oh finally, we are here. As much as an empty patch of ocean can be a here. There is nothing on the Captain’s charts. I am suddenly reminded of Melville’s Moby Dick; “It is not down on any map; true places never are.” But, there is a curtain of mist in front of us – halfway to the horizon. The Captain has become quite agitated and is insisting we turn back. “There is nothing here!” he protests – but I assure him, the mist is the sign that I have been seeking. He refuses to lower the submersible into the water citing my womanly frailty and delicate beauty – why, I do believe he is sweet on me! I remind him of his contract, the money accorded to his account and afford him a kiss on the cheek and with that he orders his men to do the work whilst hiding his blushing cheeks from them.

–– •◊• ––

At last, it is time and I climb down, through the hatch and into my new temporary home, waving cheerily to the assorted sailors watching bemusedly from the rail. I reduce the buoyancy, throw the lever to disconnect the cradle and drift off into the unknown – free of all restraint and feeling a truly unique freedom to explore.

–– •◊• ––

It’s the end of the first day – a routine day. I have been spending most of it ensuring I was fully familiar with all the submarine’s systems, equipment, layout and living arrangements. It goes without saying that I had trained for this – I am not a foolish person, and proper planning was a topic close to my heart, but truly nothing can prepare you for an actual expedition – no matter the circumstance or mode of transport. I surfaced to signal to the ship that had so recently been my home and that I had now left a short distance behind – letting the captain know I was fine and everything was as expected. I took the opportunity to prepare a simple meal and sat carefully on the deck of the Prospect to eat it under the darkening sky. Later, I submerged, anchored the vessel in the currently placid depths and repaired to my cosy berth.

–– •◊• ––

Today, I had planned to skirt the mist covered area – looking for any signs on the ocean floor or in the undersea fauna and maritime life that the environment was changing and an island might be nearby. I rose early and manoeuvred my craft to run parallel with the edge of the mist. And here was my first surprise, the water in the distance was noticeably darker than that I was currently travelling through. Whilst ahead of me the visibility was good – here a shoal of small fish, there a solitary squid, below some modest coral; to my right side – starboard if you will – there was only an inky black greenness with occasional swirls of lighter grey-green water. The difference was striking.

–– •◊• ––

I had travelled around the misty area for three days, and I hadn’t been able to discern a shape to my path. By always keeping the mist on my right, I imagined I would circumnavigate the area in two days at most – given the lack of any landmass on the charts of the area, any island would surely have to be correspondingly small.

–– •◊• ––

It is now the fourth day of my trip around the island – for I am now convinced that an island does indeed lie at the centre of the mist, although, truth be told, I cannot place a finger on why I feel that so strongly. Navigation has proved difficult. At first, I thought only to circle the area of mist – feeling sure that I would return to the start and find the ship waiting for me. And although I have steadfastly kept the mist on my right, I have not returned to the ship’s position, or if I have, then the ship is no longer there. Perhaps an emergency has compelled them to return to the nearest port. I was not worried, the ship’s captain was beguiled enough to return for me, I had plenty of supplies, and if I was in real trouble, there was always the Island…

–– •◊• ––

Waking up this morning I found to my astonishment that the misty area was now to my left. I checked my instruments, but there were no signs that my little underwater ship had been turned around in the night. (My compass had long since proved useless – which would help to explain why so many vessels ran aground in this area). I resolved to surface that evening and check the stars.

I had been inching closer to the edge of the darker waters and occasionally I would catch a glimpse of a mast or a fragment of broken hull. Indeed as I am writing this, I can espy a piece of rudder just visible in the murk. It seems I would have to leave the safety of the clearer waters and venture beyond if I wanted to seek out ancient treasure. I would not be long – just a quick dip in. But I probably shouldn’t, something there is not quite right.

–– •◊• ––

Night-time – I have surfaced, but the night sky is full of constellations I do not recognise. Admittedly, there are wisps of cloud – or is it mist? – obscuring parts of the sky. I tried to force the stars into shapes I knew – but they did not oblige. I could not explain this, and I was struggling with it, but then – The Plough! Yes – a constellation I recognised – the first I learnt as a child. I hung on to this, despite the lack of other signs, I let the familiarity of the Plough reassure me, and I retired to my berth and slept.

–– •◊• ––

In the morning I realised that I still did not know where I was exactly. It was strange – part of me found that disconcerting – almost frightening, and yet a part of me found it exciting, after all, I could always land on the island and gain directions. Hopefully it will not come to that.

–– •◊• ––

There were things moving in the dark. Curious things. Strange things. There would be a flash of serrated fin or a brief sighting of a split tail, and even now – a dark mass, which as it came closer, was revealed to be hundreds of small fish I think. Yes, fish. Let’s say fish. I was very close to the dark water now, and as the fish turned I saw a rippling glitter which I thought most beautiful. That was, until I realised that it was hundreds of sets of wildly angled teeth that caused the effect. I wanted to see more – to know more. They looked dangerous. But you must take a risk to learn, must you not? Surely the risk is too great? But science! I should venture in for science. No, no, I should be cautious, history tells us that many an expedition failed through rash decisions.

–– •◊• ––

I feel I must learn more, the tantalising impressions of wrecks and strange, odd, well, weird really, marine life seem to be exerting a strange pull on my intellectual self, my curious self. I was suddenly reminded of a cat one of the servants had, many years past. It was forever chasing and catching frogs, and one day it had decided to investigate the well in an exploration that did not end favourably for the poor cat. Yes, my feeling self is ill at ease in these waters. I sense a sadness, a foreboding, a dark presence. But that’s just nonsense. I must investigate – after all, I’ve come all this way…

–– •◊• ––

I realise I have lost all track of the days that have elapsed since I launched from the ship, I can’t even bring myself to surface to gauge the time of day. The Prospect of Joy is touching the darker waters now on the starboard side, creating weird little eddies in the murky wall of water. Water which even seems physically different, exerting a greater drag on that side of my craft, so I am having to compensate in the trim and the heading to keep the Prospect from spinning around. I am strangely torn – half wanting to end the suspense and sink into the velvet green black darkness, half wanting to run away. Although, there is precious little space in the submersible to get very far on foot.

–– •◊• ––

I have not slept well. Strange dreams have been visited upon me and haunt my waking hours too. I am not a religious person, but I found myself praying last night. Praying. Preying. Preying on my mind.

I need to pull my self together and be the great explorer that is my destiny… or leave. Yes, I must leave. I don’t want to be a cat. My mind feels so woolly – what is wrong with me?

Leave, immediately….
…Or soon at the very least…

…But not before I examine, capture, erm… take a sample of the water, it is in my head I think, therefore I am Ishmael. Sorry? Who said that?

Is it too late? Can I still go? In. Out. Where is my hat?
Onwards. Away. To the Island or to my home? Where was my home?

The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. I must anchor, go full speed, dive, surface. Swim, relax. Oh – I just don’t know anymore? So difficult to think. In two minds. To decide. Today. Too much. I must get a grip. A moment of clarity…

…So can I escape?

Or is it hopeless?

–– •◊• ––
That was the last entry in my Aunt Ally’s notebook.

At around the same time, I had received word she was missing, and immediately mobilised the family’s resources to find her. There was no trace of the boat that had given her submarine a ride, but by chance, they had encountered another ship the day before my aunt had launched into the sea, so we managed to determine a start point for our search.

After three days we found The Prospect of Joy. It was bobbing on the surface just in front of a wall of mist. I was a most superstitious person, and so arranged to have the vessel grappled from a distance and then reeled in. Once we had lifted it on board I wrenched open the hatch, expecting the worst. And the worst was what I found.

At this point, you may be forgiven for imagining that we found a ravaged body, some inhuman horror, or no body at all. But what we found was far worse.

Aunt Ally was lying in her berth – apparently asleep, the picture of peacefulness, not a mark upon her. We brought her out and laid her on the cot in the Captain’s cabin. It was a while, but eventually, she opened her eyes and I breathed a sigh of relief. That feeling quickly drained from me and became deep dismay as she turned to look at me. Her face was entirely blank, her eyes devoid of the normal human spark. She sat up and we fed her, but she said not a word.

It has been six months since that fateful rescue, and Alison’s condition hasn’t changed. She breathes, eats, sleeps – the basic movements of life, but there seems to be no-one there. I cannot look her in the eye – the emptiness chills my soul. Her body is physically present – but there is no Aunt Ally – she is simply not at home.

Having read her account and being close enough to that mist to feels it’s power, I have my own fanciful ideas of what has happened. I am no scientist, and I fear if I fully state my thoughts out loud I would be laughed at. But even so, I will say that I just have this feeling that Aunt Ally was left behind that day we rescued her. Where she is, I do not know. What form she now takes, I can only fantasise.

I am having The Prospect of Joy refitted to my own design – for I am resolved one day to return and search for her – no matter the personal cost.

But, whatever has happened to her, I just pray it’s not Hopeless.

Written by Keith Errington who has joined us on the island for the first time with this fine piece. (we hope he will return as soon as may be)

Art-Tom Brown

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.

 

 

Hopeless, Maine comes to Time Quake

Last weekend, we had a bit of an adventure and brought Hopeless, Maine to Manchester (UK) We are basically hobbits (Eldritch Hobbits, naturally) and can only be lured away from our shire for the most excellent adventures. This was one such. Time Quake was a bold experiment put together by the same people who bring you The Asylum Steampunk Festival.  (Which is the largest, and my opinion, best steampunk event in the world) Thier involvement meant that this experiment was bound to be a success (Spoiler- it was)

We set up as the Hopeless, Maine tourist information stand and prepared to educate the unwary about life on our strange little island off the coast of Maine. We were armed with creatures, books, strange bunting, oddities, and the lovely tourist info posters drawn by the esteemed Cliff Cumber. Also- we had leaflets on island history and a piece by the mysterious Eldrich Bunting, explaining why you should choose Hopeless, Maine as your next vacation destination.  Here are some images from the event. I will be back after, for some more saying things to you.

Hello! I’m back! Wasn’t that fun?

At long last, we got to meet Lou Pulford and her lovely family!She has written some of our favorite Vendetta pieces and has written for the Hopeless, Maine RPG as well and…we are just massive fans of her in general. She presented us the amazing mermaid puppet shown above.

One of the things that draws us to these events is the chance to meet new people, be inspired by their creativity and to see people that we do not get to have time with otherwise. Two of these people are shown above. Dr. Geof is an actual genius and one of the loveliest people in the world at all ever. If you are part of the steampunk community, you are almost certainly aware of him. If you are not aware of him, click that link and your life will be improved. Pictured at the end is Ian Crichton. (sometimes known as Herr Döktor)  Any event is greatly bettered for us by getting to spend time with him. Like Geof, he is a genius and a lynchpin of the steampunk community, also an almost frighteningly charming and engaging chap. He makes things that can barely be believed.

This ends part one of the Time Quake vendetta. We hope (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

A Message from the Hopeless, Maine tourist board

Hopeless, Maine: the holiday destination for the discerning traveller!

 

This allows us to talk about Timequake ! This is an event in Manchester in March 2018 which will have many steampunk (and similar) environments, events and oddities all under one roof. (I’ve not heard of or attended anything like this before) We are pleased to say we will be part of it *and* that we will be stationed at al actual Hopeless, Maine tourist information booth (next to the tea museum as I understand it) There are rumours of twelve foot tentacles. It would be a great understatement to say that we are excited about this. There will be photos, no doubt.

 

As always, we hope this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

The Asylum Vendetta

This edition of the Hopeless Vendetta classified ads section came out of a workshop at The Asylum. And by ‘The Asylum’ we mean that big steampunk gathering in Lincoln. Thank you, everyone who took part.

Help Wanted:

Scavenger for island wrecks. Must be able to carry heavy loads. Wings, experience and sanity optional.

 

Services offered:

Airship windows cleaned (tethered ships only) Polished portholes.

Tree herder. Any trees herded except pine.

Pine tree herder. No other trees herded.

Tentokil – Do you have a problem with cephalopods? Annoyed by octopi? Niggled by rising squid? Clean, neat and keen, Tentokil™ will be delighted to de-infest your domicile. Professional and discreet, you won’t know we have been. Contact by semaphore.

Wanted:

Wanted urgently, unclaimed soul. Delivery before the rising of the next new moon or not at all.

Wanted: Teaspoons as all of mine have gone missing. Please respond quickly as my need for tea is urgent. Contact Merriweather Jones, the Old Church House.

Wanted: Metal neck brace, preferably coated in garlic.

Wanted: Arm replacement for a human. Silver or any shiny metal would be best, please.

Wanted: gold paid for any information regarding the dark, malign entity that lurks in the depths beyond the shores of this isle. Contact the Captain on the Southern Sands.

Wanted: A bigger boat.

 

Lost and found:

Lost: Dead cat. Fond of mice, cheese. Tabby pattern. 3 lives left.

Lost: Missing arm. Taken by stranger who started licking the bloody end. Would like it back soon.

Lost: Pitchfork. Probably dropped near the old windmill during the last mob. Has arm stuck on prongs. I hadn’t finished eating it.

Found: Assorted body parts. Various states of decay. If any of these may be yours, please contact soon as some are unable to disintegrate.

Lost: Feathers, 3ft long, purple and green.

Found: Feathers, 4ft long red and blue.

Lost: My sister Mary, who is identical to myself, completely real and in no way fictitious.

Lost: 2 gallons of wine. It was here last night, before my house went sideways.

Found: Smaller boat.

Lonely hearts:

Wanted: beautiful, rich, young lady, 18-25, preferably who won’t try to murder me this time.

Real person who is not at all imaginary in any way seeks gentleman with the requisite number of fingers and toes for companionship and quiet contemplation. Must be prepared to meet alone.

Lonely spoon seeking other cutlery for a fun time. Will try any arrangement. Bring your own brasso. Sporks need not apply.