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Interview: Charlotte Ashley on “More Heat Than Light”

Tell us a bit about “More Heat Than Light.”

It’s a bit of historical fantasy that asks what might have happened if the French Revolution had been taken up in New France (Canada), complicated by the fact that my version of the Québec wilderness is a good deal wilder than the real one. While enthusiastic young revolutionaries are trying to fight for equality and change, monsters are circling the city just waiting for the blood to start spilling. And, of course, in the aftermath of a revolution, there will be a lot of blood spilt.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I actually wrote it for an anthology call about “revolutions” that never happened. But I suspect the story would have come out of me eventually regardless. I’m fascinated by revolutions, the French one in particular. That period right at the start, when everyone is still so idealistic and enthusiastic, can be downright wacky. Revolutionaries want it all, but after the dust has settled, they often only end up having achieved some of it. I wanted to look more closely at the kinds of characters who stand to gain a lot by their revolutionary ideals, and who will lose even more if the revolution doesn’t succeed the way they need it to. And, as always, I wanted a lush setting for a Dumas-ian swashbuckling romp.


What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

I read a lot about the real French Revolution, though most of what I learned just informed the story’s backdrop. The next stage was to research what Québec City was like in the late 18th century. I looked especially at what the politics of the time were like – which First Nations were involved, what relations with the English and the Americans looked like, who else might have been in the city at the time. I wanted my wilderness wilder to protect, to some extent, the nations that had been there before Europeans showed up, so I read a lot about early-contact Anishinaabe. Most of this didn’t make it into the story either, but I wanted to be mindful anyway.


Anything else you’d like to add?

I have another story out this month in an anthology called Clockwork Canada (ed. Dominik Parisien, Exile Editions) that I feel is a sort of sister story to this one. “La Clochemar” takes some of the themes – giant monsters in the Canadian wilderness, strong indigenous cultures, adventures – and pushes them even further. “More Heat Than Light” is the grown-up version about honour and politics – “La Clochemar” has a lot more monsters and running away.

As ever, links to all my work, long with my thoughts on all things bookish, can be found at

“More Heat Than Light” appears in the May/June 2016 issue of F&SF.

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