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The island of Hopeless, Maine, has been known to native peoples of the area ever since they started messing about in boats. Its several names in their languages translate roughly as ‘The place we go to only when we are young, stupid and trying to prove something.’
In the 13th century, exiled Irish monks who had set out to build an abbey on a Scottish island went hopelessly adrift, crossed the Atlantic, and found themselves cast ashore in this inhospitable spot. Not even aware of the serious navigational mistake, or the existence of the Americas, they set about their intended work, building their abbey and distillery on the island, ruins of which survive to this day. A small number of the sailors on their ship turned out to be women in disguise, enabling this early colony to survive for several generations. Never once did they notice that they were not in Scotland, none of them having travelled that far previously.
In the fifteenth century, Chinese merchant adventurers were shipwrecked on Hopeless, and despite efforts to rebuild their ships, were unable to leave. They did not leave any significant buildings, and it was only with the discovery of their burials that later residents gained some awareness of these predecessors.
In the early nineteenth century, the Founding Fathers arrived at Hopeless. Despite the evidence of previous occupation, they claim a special place in island history, having named it for an initial assessment of its resources, and come in sufficient numbers to make a viable community. The Founding Families were The Jones clan, the Chevins, The Frogs and the O’Stoats. Other families have later come to Hopeless, including the Davieses. Few arrive voluntarily, most are the survivors of shipwrecks.
For about a decade the island thrived thanks to the market for oceanic gnii oil. Oceanic gnii are far larger than their island cousins, and migrate along the coast from pole to pole at regular intervals. They were caught and pressed for their oil, and the silk of their balloons was used extensively. A proper explanation of the gnii has not been written yet, but you see the small ones glowing and afloat in many of the comics’ pages. As the oeanic gnii died out, Hopeless’s brief period of affluence came to an end. Most of the more elaborate buildings date from around this period.
During the intervening periods, there have always been odd shipwrecks, occasional inhabitants, and escapees. Many of them have not lasted long – Hopeless does not offer a great deal of naturally occurring edible flora or fauna, so until deliberate settlement occurred, arrivals either subsisted on aquatic life and seaweed, or starved to death. Attempts at procuring aquatic life to eat would frequently result in individuals instead being eaten by said aquatic life. The waters around Hopeless are densely populated with life forms that are both hostile and unusual.