Space Western

Space Western is a subgenre of science fiction, primarily grounded in film and television, that transposes themes of American Western books and film to a backdrop of futuristic space frontiers; it is the complement of the science fiction Western, which transposes science fiction "themes" onto an American Western "setting".

"The Final Frontier" as a backdrop

This term supposes that the future of space exploration will be much like the taming of the old west of America. In some cases this may quite literally include frontier towns, train heists, and horses. The short-lived television series "Firefly" (and subsequent sequel film, "Serenity") includes "core" worlds which consist of large high-tech cities and "border" worlds which are uncivilized and unindustrialized, violent, and often dusty. In other cases, only some places in the world have a Western feel, such as Planet Gunsmoke in "Trigun". Outlaws thrive in the unmonitored wilderness of the frontier in the conventional western genre, and the space western is no different; outlaws are often a consistent theme.

To some, Western frontier themes or "cowboyish" characters are enough to establish a story or setting as a space Western. "Star Trek" depicts space as "the Final Frontier". Indeed, the prequel series "" (2001-2005) shows a disorganized and untamed galaxy, from which the peaceful United Federation of Planets would later be established. The "StarCraft" world setting was designed to feel rough and frontier-like, but contains no obvious visual or thematic throwbacks to Westerns.

Criticisms

This "frontier stories" view of the future is only one of many ways to look at space exploration, and not one that is held in high regard by futurologists like Raymond Kurzweil, who assert that humans will evolve past the need for rocket ships in the near future.

The Turkey City Lexicon, [ [http://www.sfwa.org/writing/turkeycity.html A Primer for SF Workshops] ] a document produced by the Turkey City science fiction writers' workshop, condemns the space Western as "The most pernicious suite of 'Used Furniture' [that is, use of a pre-established background instead of a freshly created world] . The grizzled space captain swaggering into the spacer bar and slugging down a Jovian brandy, then laying down a few credits for a space hooker to give him a Galactic Rim Job."

Galaxy ran an ad on its back cover, "You won't find it in Galaxy", which gave the beginnings of make-believe parallel Western and SF stories featuring a character named Bat Durston. From this ad stemmed the derisive term "Bat Durston" to refer to the subgenre. A Bat Durston is always a derogatory term, indicating that the entire story could be transplanted to the West without more than cosmetic changes. If the story uses Western motifs but contains a speculative element that can not be removed without redoing the plot, it may be a space Western but not a Bat Durston.

Examples

The influence of Westerns on Gene Roddenberry's original concept for "" can be seen in the series' opening narration: "Space, the final frontier ...". Roddenberry pitched "Star Trek" to network executives as "Wagon Train" to the stars." [ [http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/news/editorials/article/3289.html Remembering Gene Roddenberry] ]

Tatooine is the quintessential frontier world in the Star Wars universe and the Mos Eisley Cantina is reminiscent of the saloons in old Westerns. In many Western films, the saloon is where alliances are established, and in Star Wars the cantina is the setting for the forging of an important alliance between Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Han Solo is depicted as cowboyish in both dress and attitude. He displays archetypical characteristics of the American movie cowboy — toughness, independence, and skill with a gun. Han Solo, Boba Fett, and Jango Fett can all be viewed as gunslingers in the Star Wars universe. In Westerns, bounty hunters are commonly depicted as romantic figures, such as the so-called Man with No Name played by Clint Eastwood. George Lucas attributes the character of Boba Fett to The Man with No Name in the DVD commentary on The Empire Strikes Back.

One recent hybrid of Westerns and science fiction is the television series "Firefly" and its cinematic follow-up "Serenity". This series not only used Western ideas such as the lawless frontier and the spiritually wounded veteran, but also included Western elements in costuming, design and dialogue (such as the Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B). The back-story of "Firefly" has been called a deliberate echo of the post-American-Civil-War setting of many Westerns, with a hero who fought for the losing side. Director Joss Whedon remarks in the audio commentary about the various Westerns which influenced him and which techniques -- from dialogue to camerawork -- he tried to capture.

Books

*"" by Mike Resnick
*"Northwest Smith" by C.L. Moore (short story collection)
*"Space Hawk" by Anthony Gilmore
*"The Time Mine" by D. E. Patterson
*"Time Enough For Love" by Robert A. Heinlein
*"Girl in Landscape" by Jonathan Lethem
*the "Earthman's Burden" sequence by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson

hort stories

*"On The High Frontier" by Michael F. Flynn, "Analog", April 1992

Comics

*"Death Hawk" by Mark Ellis, Adam Hughes and Rik Levins.
*"Jonah Hex", a Western comics hero, was for a time transported to a post-apocalyptic 21st century.
*"Star Rangers" by Mark Ellis and Jim Mooney
*"Trigun"

Film

*"The American Astronaut"
*"Battle Beyond the Stars", a pastiche of The Magnificent Seven in space
*""
*"Futureworld"
*"Galaxina"
*"Ghosts of Mars"
*"Moon Zero Two"
*"Oblivion"
*"Outland"
*"Serenity" - The movie sequel of the short-lived "Firefly" series.
*"" - the scenes on Nimbus III are heavily influenced by Westerns
*"Star Wars"
*"Space Rage" - A movie set in a near-future timeline on a penal colony planet features several references to the "Old West" style.
*"Titan AE"
*"Westworld"

Games

*"Gunman Chronicles"
*"StarCraft"
*"Wild Arms series"
*"Policenauts"
*""

Television

*"The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers" - Syndicated 80s cartoon about interplanetary law enforcers with wild West aesthetics
*"Beyond Westworld"
*" BraveStarr" - Syndicated 80s cartoon about high-tech action on a wild West-style colony planet
*"Cowboy Bebop" - anime
*"Firefly" - Short-lived series about captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew on the spacecraft "Serenity"
*"Gun X Sword" - anime
*"Outlaw Star" - anime
*"Trigun" - anime
*"Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs"
*"Silverhawks" - Animated sci-fi series that included a guitar-playing cyborg cowboy named Bluegrass.
*"Space Rangers (television)" - Short run series about maintaining law and order in the frontier of space in the year 2104
*"Wild Arms" - anime

ee also

*Cross-genre
*Steampunk
*Weird West

Footnotes

References

*cite web | author=Gunn, James | year=1995 | url=http://www.ku.edu/~sfcenter/teaching.htm | title=Teaching Science Fiction | work=Center for the Study of Science Fiction | publisher=University of Kansas | accessdate=2006-01-15
* Priestley, J. B. (December 5, 1953) "Thoughts in the Wilderness." "New Statesman", p. 712. Cited in Padlipsky, Michael A. (1960), " [http://www.lafn.org/~ba213/tt/0toc.html More Than Pulp(?): Science Fiction and the Problem of Literary Value] ", undergraduate thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. URL accessed on January 15, 2006.


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