Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

May 19, 2017

In Which That Escalated Quickly

I’ve said before that I enjoy collaboration. I am not a cabin-in-the-woods writer (unless that cabin has five bedrooms and a huge kitchen, for parties) – I write better with company, with a sounding board, with exchange. I really found my feet as a writer when I joined a local writing group, because even chatting for two hours about writing once a month was enough to open my brain up. I find collaborating energizing.

Which is all very well for me, one of the rare “extroverted writers” of the world, but I worry about my collaborators. Sometimes, I wonder if they regret what they’ve gotten themselves into.

Let me give an example. Let me talk about The Archipelago.

Last year, Andrew Leon Hudson contacted me and asked if I would be interested in collaborating on a Patreon account. By pooling our audiences, multiple authors would reach more readers than just one, he reasoned. And readers, they’d get three stories for the price of one! We’d just have to commit to producing regular material over a long period of time.

Sounds good, right? Sharing, my favourite thing! This should have been an easy ask.

Sure, I replied. But instead of just releasing, you know, ANY OLD WRITING, why don’t we collaborate on the world instead? We could release serial novels in a shared world.

Andrew hesitated, but agreed. He had been burned by a shared world project in the past, but maybe if we were more diligent…

BUT WAIT, I no doubt ploughed right over his concerns. WHAT IF our shared world was COMPETITIVE? People could pick a faction/writer to support, and we could write our stories tactically, like a role playing game!

To his credit, Andrew rose to the occasion, and the Archipelago was born. But our ambition didn’t stop there.

We had soon brainstormed the beginnings of our world and recruited Kurt Hunt to the cause. “This should be easy,” we thought. “A chapter a month, a few thousand words… I can do this in my spare time.”

Ha ha ha.

Then we decided to create a three whole side-plots, for readers who wanted to “declare fealty” to one faction.

Then we decided to properly brand ourselves, and invest in art and design.

Then we decided to allow audience interaction.

Then we decided to launch with a Kickstarter campaign.

Pretty soon, we were committed to at least 5k words of fiction a month, much of it written on the fly, maintaining a Wiki, publishing ebooks, commissioning artists, writing world guides, and more. “Spare time,” indeed.


Do I have any regrets?

Absolutely none.

Here’s the thing about Archipelago: every time I mentioned to someone what I was working on, their eyes went wide. Every time I sent a draft to a reader, they returned it covered in exclamation marks. My cousin started writing Archipelago fan-fiction before we had even finalized a chapter.  Something about the world, about the project, just sings to me. I have had more fun writing over the last six months than I had in the preceding two years. I’m buried in it, but happily. There is treasure here.

Today, BlackGate.com are kind enough to host my first Archipelago story, “The Ur-Ring.” This is an introduction to my Nation, Al’Tahj, but also a stand-alone story in its own right. Kurt called it “our banteriest story yet,” and it is, indeed, very banter-y, but also marvelous and mysterious, I hope. You can read it here.

I hope you’ll read along. Starting June 1st, subscribers to our Patreon will receive three Archipelago stories per month. You can subscribe for as little as $1/month! You could also support us at our Kickstarter campaign this month for bonus material and an early chance to have a character, ship or even an island named after you.

Obviously, it serves me entirely to say this story is going to be great, but I’m sincere as well. It’s going to be great. It already is. I am so glad Andrew talked me into it. I hope he and Kurt forgive me for taking them into so much more!

Follow The Archipelago on Twitter and/or Facebook for updates!

May 2, 2017

“Sigrid Under the Mountain” is now a Podcast!

It’s new publication day! Are podcasts publications? I’m new enough to this technology that I don’t know the terminology yet – I must be getting old. :/

Sigrid is also old, but, like me, she is too cranky to know it, and wouldn’t care even if she did. I love her, you will love her – I hope you’ll give it a listen.

“Sigrid Under the Mountain” read by Nina Niskanen @ PodCastle.

June 29, 2015

Every day I’m publishin’

June 2015: I have to remember this month. It has been a serious banner month for me as a writer, and I’m only just beginning to really digest it all!

I’ve had two stories published!

The first, “Sigrid Under the Mountain,” is in the Summer 2015 issue of The Sockdolager. This is a light and funny story about a feisty and rather cranky woman just trying to live an ordinary life in a world filled with magic, monsters, heroes and villains. “What’s the point of marrying a great, celebrated hero if he won’t even keep kobolds from harrying your cow?” Indeed.

The second, “The Posthuman Condition,” is in the Summer 2015 issue of Kaleidotrope. This is the story of Jesse, an unpaid intern at a transhumanist nightclub, having the worst night of her life. It lands somewhere between splatter horror and cyberpunk with a dose of myth thrown in. TW: suicides. “The God of Post-Man: Who Chooses the Posthuman Condition? A Folly by Jesse Bauman. And Friends.

I’ve also sold three short stories this month!

I have sold my alt-history Revolutionary-era Quebec novelette, “More Heat Than Light,” to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. This will be my second appearance in F&SF and I’m OVER THE MOON about it. Publication date unconfirmed, but possibly early 2016.

I sold another alt-history, “Eleusinian Mysteries,” to Luna Station Quarterly.This is the story of a Javanese-Dutch mapmaker who discovers a map of a city on the moon, and a secret Dutch East India Company plan to travel there. Publication date September 2015.

The third sale is still a secret, but I hope the TOC will be announced soon! I like having announcements. This is a thing I could serious get used to…

November 20, 2014

My 5 Canada Reads Picks!

Canada Reads has not been interesting to me for several years, in large part because the crowd-sourcing of recommendations has led to a lot of predictable, already-lauded frontlist books being chosen to represent the year’s theme, no matter what it was. For anyone who follows CanLit, the lists for the last three Canada Reads have been deeply boring. Deserving, sure; but dull.

There is something about this year that has roused my optimism, however. “One book to break barriers,” they want. Surely this theme, of all themes, lends itself to new, unexpected, barrier-breaking nominees? They want challenging books. They want – now, don’t get cynical here on me. We’re still in the honeymoon phase – to upset the status quo.

In the wake of the Ghomeshi scandal, Wab Kinew is not the ideal Canada Reads host. Don’t get me wrong – I love Kinew to pieces and think he will do a brilliant job. But given all that we have learned about institutionalized sexism and cultures of harassment over the last weeks, Canada Reads – and Q – really needed a woman at the podium.

But Canada Reads isn’t about the host. It is about the books, and there is absolutely no reason this year cannot be a slate of fresh, challenging, smart, and feminist Canadian books.

While we’re breaking barriers, let’s break a few more. It’s high time Canada Reads had more of our incredible range of literary speculative fiction on its slate. It’s time for our outstanding Young Adult authors to have a place. Sadly, they are not inviting short story collections this year – fie – but non-fiction is welcome at the table.

I have a few ides.

vN by Madeline Ashby (Angry Robot Books)

Toronto’s Ashby writes science fiction which deftly goes out of its way to do exactly what science fiction does best: turn societal norms inside out to show us how messed up things are here and now. Her struggling android protagonists expose smart truths about race, gender, and power without losing sight of the tight, thriller-like plot.

The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet (ChiZine)

Sweet’s debut novel is a dark fantasy filled with magic and monsters, but at its heart is the story of a vulnerable young woman who finds herself under the power of an abusive teacher. Sweet uses fantasy to explore the complexities of how powerful (and charismatic) man can trap and harm even the most talented women. Topical? Yes.

 Above by Leah Bobet (Scholastic)

Bobet’s debut young adult novel is rich not only in wonderful, poetic language, but in what it has to say about identity and belonging. Her “Freaks” live deep beneath a city that does not love them, a sort-of-Toronto every bit as problematic as the one we have here. Despite jacket copy tat makes it sound like a boilerplate YA paranormal romance, Above is philosophically nuanced and emotionally demanding of its readers.

Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)

Jo Walton’s “science fiction with a fantasy problem” novel is another example of rich language layered on enchanting worldbuilding and exciting plot with a painful story of a young woman who has lost so much at its core. It is also funny, touching, whimsical and a delight to read – but the biggest barrier it pushes is in how this is very much a story about women, and only women. Witches and fairies, yes, but mothers and daughters and sisters and aunts.

Chorus of Mushrooms by Hiromi Goto (NeWest Press)

Hiromi Goto’s 1994 classic about three generations of Japanese-Canadian women is so much weirder, more wonderful, and more experimental than I had expected. Another story of “identity and belonging”, Canada’s favourite subject, this one is infused with Japanese folklore in a distinctly postmodern sort of way. Stories are couched within stories, blurring the lines between whose story if being told and whether anything being told is a story. In addition – this is an older classic of Asian-Canadian literature from a small Canadian press. Just the sort of thing Canada Reads is meant to help readers discover!

So, from now until November 30th 2014, Tweet, Facebook or email your suggestions to the CBC! I won’t tell you what I’m going to put forth, but spoiler: it’s on this list. I hope you’ll follow my lead!

February 5, 2014

Under Construction!

After nearly a year on hiatus  I am almost ready to relaunch the blog! What have I been up to? Writing, mostly. While I’m rebuilding, I hope you’ll follow me on Twitter @CharlotteAshley! You can also read my short story review column, Clavis Aurea, at ChiZine.com.

See you soon!

February 23, 2012

Today in literary mashups…

(Courtesy of my friend Steve Tassie, who I hope is hard at work writing this literary masterpiece! Steve is a comedian, game designer, pirate and sometimes even a teacher! He can be found in comedy clubs and board game cafes around Toronto, from time to time.))

December 1, 2010


“”Romance” is most often used in literary studies to allude to forms conveying literary pleasure the critic thinks readers would be better off without.” – Margaret Doody, The True Story of a Novel

November 14, 2010

Please Excuse the Mess…

… I’m renovating.  I needed a WordPress theme with a wider text column, and so now we’re working out the nitty-gritty of all these other customizables.  Apologies!

April 22, 2010

The Culmination of a Long-ish Search

A while ago I made a rather un-grammatically-titled post on the subject of pretty books, which you can find here.  In the year since then I’ve been visiting these artists’ websites religiously, waiting patiently for the volume destined to be mine.  Almost one year to the day after my search began, it has ended.

Meet my new fancy-purse. The volume is, in case you can’t make out the spine, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas,  under the imprint of the “International Collector’s Library”, from Doubleday.  The original book was  one of those cheap reprints designed to look good if you don’t look too closely; apparently the interiors were quite cheap.  But no fear – the interiors here have been stripped and replaced with a vintage Liberty of London print.

Needless to say it will be accompanying me to all my fancy-dress parties from now on.  I now owe a huge debt of gratitude (my huge financial debt being paid) to Caitlin Phillips at Rebound Designs for making me the coolest book nerd on the block.

April 13, 2009

Some Egg-Related Fun For Today…

The Easter Bunny visited our house and left nothing, but stole all of my free time.  So in place of a post today, I offer you a diversion.  In honour of National Library Week (in the USA), Oxford University Press is offering free access to their massive online reference collection, the Oxford Reference Online (ORO) database.  And to kick it off, they’re hosting a scavenger hunt!

Hunting information beats hunting eggs 9/10, 10/10 if you already have chocolate at home.