Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Resurgance of the Western

This was sent out in response to someone that was commenting to me about the number of Westerns and Space Westerns that are comming out. 

Westerns will always be popular to a degree. Space opera is generally just a western in a different landscape. The western is generally about mankind striving to make it on the frontier. The frontier will usually be lawless or corrupt and the sense of justice of one man, that defies all odds of being killed, leads that man on a crusade to end that corruption. This is always done with a gun and lots of blood.

If Bruce Wayne was born in the 18th to 19th century, he would have moved west and been a gunslinger. The heroes are almost always vigilantes that have their own moral code and set out to defend the weak.

Even some of the villains were noble. Some would be the Robin Hoods of their time, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. They challenged men to fair fights. A lot of these villains integrated themselves into the native societies and learned the languages and customs; something the hero counterpart seldom does. Others were stark raving mad and had to be put down like a rabid dog. Both archetypes create interesting stories.

One of the biggest draws for the western are its basis in reality. The OK corral really happened. Billy the Kid did exist. So did Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. Sure their stories have been doctored and exaggerated, but people actually did some of those things and they definitely had those motivations. It is really a study on how humanity will act when they are separated from the enforcers of common courtesy and civilized laws. It shows how a person can pick up and leave everything he knows behind and not only survive, but create something. Maybe a town, maybe just a small farm, or maybe a name, but that person can have nothing and build themselves up. The western is, in essence, the American Dream.

All of the above applies to space and space opera. Space is our next frontier. Space has the advantage that it is completely unknown and our imaginations can go wild with different creatures and strange civilizations. We still get to see a character make something of himself. We get to see how humanity will act, not just separated from other humanity, but surrounded by an alien civilization and we get to do it a hundred times over, sometimes in the same story.


Ellie said...

Great post! There are a few Western Anthologies coming out next year if anyone is interested in writing speculative or sci-fi western ficiton:

How the West Was Wicked

Another Wild West

Dead Rush

Budd said...

Thanks for the links Ellie. time to pull out my writing pens.

Nick said...

Good points. Every nation or region tends to have its eras when its cultural myths are the strongest. Older societies seem to have their primary mythic era prior to the invention of the gun, but America being a young nation and culture has really focused on the Wild West as our most vivid era of historical mythic fiction.

PS - Let's not forget the Coen Bros version of True Grit. I'll be renting the original John Wayne version first before I see what the Coens did.