I can hear you now saying, “Kit, now you are just making up subgenres.” Am I? Am I?
Possibly, but let’s face it. Science fiction and westerns go together like mint and chocolate. Peanut butter and jelly. Cream soda and Red Vines. (Mmmm.) Whatever combination you like. They were meant to be.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at examples. Star Trek. Cowboy Bebop. And, to be frightfully obvious – Firefly.
A straight western tends to take place in the American West – the frontier. Settlements are spread-out, occasionally lawless, and in between there lurks numerous dangers – Indians, snakes, extreme weather, etc. You see where I’m going. Space – the final frontier. People leaving their home planets and colonizing others, beating harsh worlds into submission or at least getting by.
Science fiction and westerns already share many conventions, so it’s easy to combine the two.
While we’re at it, let’s also discuss the science fiction western, which is slightly different. Space westerns transpose aspects of the western into a science fiction environment; science fiction westerns transpose aspects of science fiction onto a western environment, ala the movie coming out next week, Cowboys and Aliens. (I am extremely excited.) Stephen King’s Dark Tower series can also be considered to fall into this subgenre (though it can be considered fantasy – once again demonstrating the eternal fuzzy line between scifi and fantasy).
Science fiction westerns can occasionally blend with steampunk because both subgenres tend to involve technology that is much more advanced than actually existed in that time period.
How do you feel about space and/or science fiction westerns, Squiders? Any books you recommend?