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Calling All Space Cowboys

Space Cowboy

See you, space cowboy! Photo by Arlys Endres

The Western genre, so popular in my youth, has fallen out of favor in recent years. It survives mainly in “shoot ’em up” video games like Red Dead Redemption. Yet it has a lasting influence on other genres, especially science fiction. Though despised by sci-fi purists, so-called space westerns have attracted legions of fans.

When you look beyond the disparity in settings, sci-fi and westerns have a lot in common. The two genres are dominated by American writers and publishers. Both feature characters and plots which espouse the American themes of individualism, self-reliance, and justice. Both have an element of the frontier, with its central conflict of man against nature. There is a strong element of escapism in the two genres.

The purists are free to continue to judge space westerns harshly. If so, they are missing out on some very creative and original work.

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