Question of the Day

"Space Western" is a genre within science fiction in which futuristic or extraterrestrial stories feature narrative elements from the iconography of the American Old West. Cowboys and the frontier have loomed large in the minds of science fiction writers, especially American sci fi creators. Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas, for example, have both claimed inspiration by the Western tradition in their own popular works.

Other writers have addressed the subgenre directly. The DC Comics superhero Jonah Hex, is a prominent example. Hex, who is currently the focus of a movie currently in theaters, is a 19th Century Confederate soldier and gunslinger. In the canonical timeline, he returns from the dead in the 21st Century to carry on his personal war.

Traditional novelists have also tried their hand at the genre. Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future by Mike Resnick is a popular space western in print. It tells the tale of a bounty hunter who pursues a viscious killer among the sparsely-settled and quite lawless outer colonies of humanity. A passage from the introduction:

And in this postal station, there is a wall that is covered by the names and holographs of criminals who are currently thought to be on the Inner Frontier, which tends to make the station very popular with bounty hunters. There are always twenty outlaws displayed, never more, never less, and next to each name is a price. Some of these names remain in place for a week, some for a month, and a handful for a year.

Only three names have ever been displayed more than five years. Two of them are no longer there.

The third is Santiago, and there is no holograph of him.

In the television medium, the space western attracted prominence through the short-lived Joss Whedon series Firefly. Though it lasted for only fourteen episodes and one movie, the franchise has maintained a strong and enduring fanbase. In fact, there's a well-funded fan film coming out soon entitled Browncoats: Redemption.

What is your favorite space western?

Images: DC Comics, Macmillan Publishing, and Fox, respectively.

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