Space Westerns: You May Already Be a Fan if…

serenitycrewSpace Westerns: it’s a genre. Not a beloved genre for those who hate and despise real Westerns (usually without reading any, or even seeing a quality Western movie or TV show), or hate gritty realism, but one which has influenced the science fiction universe. Are you already a fan of space westerns? You may be, if….

…you are a Firefly fan.

The Firefly television series was very plainly and openly based in part on themes from Western fiction. Heck, they even herded cows once! It was set in the aftermath of a big war, as many Westerns deal with the aftermath of the Civil War. The Western touch made Firefly more gritty and realistic than your typical antiseptic and intellectual-ivory-tower sci-fi tale.

… you are a fan of the original Star Trek.

Space— the final frontier…. These are the voyages…. Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, got his start in the television industry by writing scripts for Western TV shows. He pitched Star Trek as ‘Wagon Train to the Stars’. For younger readers, I must explain that ‘Wagon Train’ was an excellent Western television series, which had quite renowned actors and actresses as guest stars. It was also a very popular show.

Star Trek was set on the frontier of the Federation worlds. Sometimes they visited remote Federation colonies, and at other times they discovered new worlds. Since the series was aimed at a US television audience who mostly loved America and had fought for her in WW2 and Korea, using themes from the American frontier, often in a subtle way, was a natural.

…you like Star Wars.

I never really was a Star Wars fan. I watched the first movie when it first was on television and watched bits and pieces of the others. I did notice there were a few Western themes and images in that series, and I’m sure that’s part of the reason that it was a popular series.

…you enjoy actual Westerns.

It’s funny. People who despise Westerns often proclaim that the genre is dead. And yet, to this day in a used paperback store Western novels sell well. At flea markets some of the junk dealers offer a box or three of Western novels, and charge more than they would for similar used books in other genres. Western television shows, admittedly, are uncommon— perhaps because of the need to include loud proclamations of feminism/abortion rights and openly gay characters in every form of fictional television these days. It doesn’t work well in a genre anchored in a historical reality.

If you are a Western fan who likes one of the sci-fi television series mentioned above, perhaps the space Western is your genre. And if you haven’t read or viewed Westerns yet….

Discover Westerns: There is a cable television channel, Encore Westerns, which has a block of old Western TV series from about 1pm to 7pm. Most series are from around 1958 to 1962, with a few as late as 1968. They include Maverick, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, old half-hour Gunsmoke episodes, Cheyenne, Death Valley Days, and Wanted: Dead or Alive (starring Steve McQueen). In the past, they’ve had Have Gun, Will Travel, Lawman, Rawhide and Wagon Train in the lineup.

Western novels are not the brainless shoot-’em-ups of rumor. The best of them feature fine writing and extensive historical research. Try something by Elmer Kelton (Seven-time Spur Award Winner) or Louis L’Amour to discover what Westerns are really all about.

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