Weird Westerns + Traditional Westerns: Themes

The following two lists is largely for myself. As a writer I find it often useful to research the genre or subgenre I am writing about. In this case I am researching the themes commonly found in both Weird Westerns and Traditional Westerns (literature, not necessarily films).

Lately I have been writing Weird Western short fiction and my instincts as a writer are to combine the traditional themes found in normal Westerns with those found in Weird Westerns. Why? Because that's how I roll...

Rollin' rollin' rollin'...


Themes found in Weird Westerns

Weird Westerns are a unique subgenre that combines elements of traditional Westerns with elements of supernatural, horror, fantasy, or science fiction. These stories often take place in the American Old West but incorporate strange or fantastical elements. Here are some common themes found in Weird Westerns:

    Supernatural Elements: Weird Westerns often feature supernatural or paranormal elements such as ghosts, zombies, vampires, werewolves, witches, or mythical creatures. These elements blur the line between reality and the supernatural world.

    Magic and Witchcraft: Magic and witchcraft play significant roles in many Weird Westerns. Characters may possess mystical abilities, wield enchanted objects, or engage in rituals and spells.

    Steampunk Technology: Some Weird Westerns incorporate steampunk elements, blending advanced technology with the aesthetics of the Wild West. This can include steam-powered machinery, clockwork devices, and futuristic inventions within a historical setting.

    Cursed Objects or Artifacts: Strange and cursed objects or artifacts are often central to the plot of Weird Westerns. These items may possess supernatural powers or bring about unexpected consequences for those who possess or use them.

    Outlaws and Lawmen: The classic conflict between outlaws and lawmen is a recurring theme in Weird Westerns. However, in this subgenre, both sides may possess supernatural abilities or be influenced by otherworldly forces, adding an extra layer of complexity to their confrontations.

    Native American Mythology: Weird Westerns often incorporate Native American mythology and folklore, drawing on their rich traditions and legends. Native American spirits, gods, or shamans may play significant roles in the story.

    Cosmic Horror: Some Weird Westerns introduce elements of cosmic horror, where characters encounter ancient, unknowable entities or face the existential dread of vast cosmic forces beyond human comprehension.

    Frontier Justice: The concept of frontier justice, where individuals take the law into their own hands, is a recurring theme in Weird Westerns. However, in this subgenre, justice may be meted out by supernatural beings or influenced by magical or otherworldly forces.

    Mysterious Locations: Weird Westerns often feature mysterious and dangerous locations such as haunted towns, cursed mines, desolate plains, or ancient burial grounds. These settings create an atmosphere of mystery and foreboding.

    Moral Ambiguity: Weird Westerns often explore moral ambiguity, with characters who are neither wholly good nor evil. The line between hero and villain may be blurred, and protagonists may be forced to make difficult choices in a morally complex world.

Themes found in Traditional Westerns

Westerns are a popular genre that typically revolve around stories set in the American Old West, typically during the 19th century. Here are some common themes found in Westerns:

    Frontier Life: Westerns often explore the challenges and hardships faced by individuals living on the frontier. This includes themes of survival, self-reliance, and the struggle to carve out a new life in untamed territory.

    Justice and Lawlessness: Westerns frequently delve into themes of justice and lawlessness. They explore the conflict between outlaws and lawmen, and often depict the efforts to establish order in lawless towns and territories.

    Honor and Codes of Conduct: Many Westerns emphasize themes of honor, integrity, and personal codes of conduct. Characters are often guided by a sense of morality and principles that shape their actions and decisions.

    Revenge and Redemption: Revenge is a recurring theme in Westerns, where characters seek vengeance for past wrongs. This theme is often intertwined with the concept of redemption, as characters grapple with their past actions and seek a chance at redemption.

    Conflict with Native Americans: Westerns frequently depict the conflicts between settlers and Native American tribes. These stories explore the clash of cultures, land disputes, and the impact of westward expansion on indigenous peoples.

    Individualism and Freedom: Westerns often celebrate the rugged individualism and pursuit of personal freedom. Characters in Westerns are often portrayed as independent, self-reliant individuals who value their liberty and are willing to fight for it.

    Nature and the Environment: Westerns often showcase the vast and untamed landscapes of the West. Nature plays a significant role, emphasizing the beauty, dangers, and challenges of the wilderness, from arid deserts to towering mountains.

    Myth of the Old West: Westerns frequently incorporate elements of the myth and legend surrounding the Old West. They draw on the archetypes of the cowboy, the gunslinger, and the outlaw, creating iconic and larger-than-life characters.

    Exploration of Masculinity: Westerns often explore different facets of masculinity, ranging from stoic and morally upright heroes to complex and morally ambiguous anti-heroes. They examine ideas of masculinity, honor, and masculinity's relationship with violence.

    End of an Era: Many Westerns explore the idea of the West as a fading frontier. They capture the sense of nostalgia for a bygone era and the changes brought by the arrival of civilization and modernity.

For anyone interested in my stories, please check out the following:

A Dark Road in Louisiana

Folly of the Forlorn

Both stories are from my Alt-Earth series and feature "The Man from Salem" as the main character, who is a wandering monster hunter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments containing links will be marked as spam and not approved.

Publishing a fantasy book? Make sure you get a professional fantasy book editor.

Study Archery in Toronto

So you want to study archery, but you are having difficulty finding an archery instructor who is local. However there is a solution. If you are willing to travel you can take a crash course in archery in Toronto, Canada. 10 lessons over a two week period will take you from archery novice to an experienced and capable archer.

Popular Posts