- 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". Outlawsthrive 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 Planetswould 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.
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.
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] ] Tatooineis the quintessential frontier world in the Star Warsuniverse and the Mos Eisley Cantinais reminiscent of the saloonsin 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 Skywalkerand 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 Fettcan all be viewed as gunslingersin the Star Wars universe. In Westerns, bounty huntersare commonly depicted as romantic figures, such as the so-called Man with No Nameplayed by Clint Eastwood. George Lucasattributes 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 Whedonremarks in the audio commentary about the various Westerns which influenced him and which techniques -- from dialogue to camerawork -- he tried to capture.
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
Earthman's Burden" sequence by Poul Andersonand Gordon R. Dickson
*"On The High Frontier" by
Michael F. Flynn, "Analog", April 1992
Death Hawk" by Mark Ellis, Adam Hughesand Rik Levins.
Jonah Hex", a Western comics hero, was for a time transported to a post-apocalyptic21st century.
Star Rangers" by Mark Ellisand Jim Mooney
The American Astronaut"
Battle Beyond the Stars", a pasticheof The Magnificent Sevenin space
Ghosts of Mars"
Moon Zero Two"
*"Serenity" - The movie sequel of the short-lived "Firefly" series.
*"" - the scenes on
Nimbus IIIare heavily influenced by Westerns
Space Rage" - A movie set in a near-future timeline on a penal colony planet features several references to the "Old West" style.
Wild Arms series"
The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers" - Syndicated 80s cartoon about interplanetary law enforcers with wild West aesthetics
*" 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
*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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