Space Western

Space Western is a subgenre of science fiction which uses the themes and tropes of Westerns within science fiction stories. Subtle influences may include exploration of new, lawless frontiers, while more overt influences may feature literal cowboys in outer space who use ray guns and ride robotic horses. Although initially popular, a strong backlash against perceived hack writing caused the genre to become a more-subtle influence until the 1980s, when it regained popularity. A further critical reappraisal occurred in the 2000s with Firefly.

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Early space Western print media

Setting

A space Western may emphasize space exploration as "the final frontier". These Western themes may be explicit, such as cowboys in outer space, or they can be a more subtle influence in space opera.[1]:3–4 Gene Roddenberry described Star Trek: The Original Series as a space Western.[2] Firefly and its cinematic follow-up Serenity literalized the Western aspects of the genre popularized by Star Trek: it used frontier towns, horses, and the styling of classic John Ford Westerns.[3][4] Worlds that have been terraformed may be depicted as presenting similar challenges as that of a frontier settlement in a classic Western.[5] Six-shooters and horses may be replaced by ray guns and rockets.[6]

History

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Rear cover of first issue of Galaxy

Westerns influenced early science fiction pulp magazines. Writers would submit stories in both genres,[7] and science fiction magazines sometimes mimicked Western cover art to showcase parallels.[1] In the 1930s, C. L. Moore created one of the first space Western heroes, Northwest Smith.[1] Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were also early influences.[6] After superhero comics declined in popularity in 1940s America, Western comics and horror comics replaced them. When horror comics became untenable with the Comics Code Authority in the mid-1950s, science fiction themes and space Westerns grew more popular.[1]:10 By the mid-1960s, classic Western films fell out of favor, and Revisionist Westerns supplanted them. Science fiction, such as Lost in Space,[8] Star Trek, presented a new frontier to be explored, and films like Westworld rejuvenated Westerns by updating them with science fiction themes. Peter Hyams, director of Outland, said that studio heads in the 1980s were unwilling to finance a Western, so he made a space Western instead. Space operas such as the Star Wars film series also took strong cues from Westerns; Boba Fett, Han Solo and the Mos Eisley cantina, in particular, were based on Western themes. These science fiction films and television series offered the themes and morals that Westerns previously did.[9]

This frontier view of the future is only one of many ways to look at space exploration, and not one embraced by all science fiction writers. The Turkey City Lexicon, a document produced by the Turkey City science fiction writers' workshop, condemns the space Western as the "most pernicious" form of a pre-established background that avoids the necessity of creating a fresh world.[10] Galaxy Science Fiction ran an advertisement on its back cover, "You'll never see it in Galaxy", which gave the beginnings of make-believe parallel Western and science fiction stories featuring a character named Bat Durston.[11] Such scathing attacks on the subgenre, along with further attacks on space operas, caused a perception that all space Westerns were by definition hack writing and not "true" science fiction.[6] Although the underlying themes remained influential, this bias persisted until the 1980s, when the release of Outland and children's cartoons, such as Bravestarr and The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, repopularized explicit themes of cowboys in space. In the 1990s, anime series, such as Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, and Trigun became prime examples of the genre. In the 2000s, Firefly won critical acclaim, further causing a critical reassessment of space Westerns.[6] Games such as StarCraft[12][13] and the Borderlands series have also popularized the space Western theme.[14]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Green, Paul (2009). Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns. McFarland Publishing. ISBN 9780786458004.
  2. ^ "A First Showing for 'Star Trek' Pilot". The New York Times. 1986-07-22. Retrieved 2014-03-13.
  3. ^ Murray, Noel; Bowman, Donna (2012-06-01). "Firefly: "Serenity"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2014-03-13.
  4. ^ Franich, Darren (2013-09-24). "The Simultaneous Deconstruction and Reconstruction of Clichés". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2014-03-13.
  5. ^ Sawyer, Andy (2009). Bould, Mark; Butler, Andrew; Roberts, Adam; et al. (eds.). The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. Routledge. p. 508. ISBN 9781135228361.
  6. ^ a b c d Lilly, Nathan E. (2009-11-30). "The Emancipation of Bat Durston". Strange Horizons. Archived from the original on 2014-03-14. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  7. ^ Westfahl, Gary, ed. (2005). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 888. ISBN 9780313329524.
  8. ^ Abbott, Jon (2006). Irwin Allen Television Productions, 1964-1970: A Critical History of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland Publishing. p. 131. ISBN 0786486627.
  9. ^ Steinberg, Don (2011-07-22). "Hollywood Frontiers: Outer Space and the Wild West". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2014-03-15.
  10. ^ Sterling, Bruce (2009-06-18). Shiner, Lewis (ed.). "A Primer for SF Workshops". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  11. ^ "You'll Never See It in Galaxy". Galaxy Science Fiction. 1 (1). October 1950.
  12. ^ N.E. Lilly. "10 Most Influential Space Westerns". SpaceWesterns.com.
  13. ^ Nick Cowen (2013-01-23). "Battle.net Championship wows the masses as gamers play to the crowds | Technology". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
  14. ^ "Borderlands 2: the cult hit space western game returns". The Week. 2012-09-18. Retrieved 2014-10-22.

Further reading

External links

Alan Tudyk

Alan Wray Tudyk ( TEW-dik; born March 16, 1971) is an American actor and voice actor known for his roles as Hoban "Wash" Washburne in the space western series Firefly and the film Serenity and Tucker McGee in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. He has also appeared in the films DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story; I, Robot; A Knight's Tale; 42; Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and Rogue One. He has voiced characters in every Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film since Wreck-It Ralph in 2012 and is set to voice Iago in the 2019 remake of Aladdin.

Tudyk appeared on the ABC sitcom Suburgatory (2011–14) and has had guest roles on many other series. Earlier in his career, he appeared frequently in Broadway plays as well. He wrote, directed and starred in the comedy web series Con Man (2015–17) about a struggling actor whose career is still defined by a successful science fiction TV show he was once on, loosely based on Tudyk's own experience having been on Firefly. The series aired on Syfy in 2017 and earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.

In 2019, Tudyk plays the main antagonist, Mr. Nobody, in the DC universe series Doom Patrol.

BraveStarr

BraveStarr is an American space western animated series. The original episodes aired from September 1987 to February 1988 in syndication. It was created simultaneously with a collection of action figures. BraveStarr was the last animated series produced by Filmation and Group W Productions to be broadcast before Filmation shut down in 1989. Bravo!, a spin-off series (originally called Quest of the Prairie People) was in production along with Bugzburg when the studio closed down. Reruns of the show aired on Qubo Night Owl from 2010 to 2013, and on the Retro Television Network from 2010 to 2015.

Captain Ken

Captain Ken (キャプテン・ケン, Kyaputen Ken) is a manga series by Osamu Tezuka that was serialized in Shogakukan's Weekly Shōnen Sunday December 18, 1960 to August 20, 1961. The published chapters were collected in two volumes.

Christina Hendricks

Christina Rene Hendricks (born May 3, 1975) is an American actress and model. She is best known for her starring role as Joan Holloway on the AMC period drama series Mad Men (2007–2015) and as Beth Boland in the NBC crime drama series Good Girls (2018–present).

Hendricks has also appeared as Saffron in the Fox space western series Firefly (2002–03), Celine/"Chair" in the Comedy Central period sitcom Another Period (2015–16), and as Trudy in the SundanceTV drama series Hap and Leonard (2016). Her notable film credits include Drive (2011), God's Pocket (2014), Lost River (2014), The Neon Demon (2016), Fist Fight (2017), and The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018).

A poll of female readers taken by Esquire magazine named Hendricks "the sexiest woman in the world". In 2010, she was voted Best Looking Woman in America by Esquire magazine.

Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop (カウボーイビバップ, Kaubōi Bibappu) is a Japanese animated science-fiction television series animated by Sunrise featuring a production team led by director Shinichirō Watanabe, screenwriter Keiko Nobumoto, character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto, mechanical designer Kimitoshi Yamane, and composer Yoko Kanno. The twenty-six episodes ("sessions") of the series are set in the year 2071, and follow the lives of a bounty hunter crew traveling in their spaceship called the Bebop. Although it covers a wide range of genres throughout its run, Cowboy Bebop draws most heavily from science fiction, western and noir films, and its most recurring thematic focal points include adult existential ennui, loneliness and the difficulties of trying to escape one's past.

The series premiered in Japan on TV Tokyo from April 3 until June 26, 1998, broadcasting only twelve episodes and a special due to its controversial adult-themed content. The entire twenty-six episodes of the series were later broadcast on WOWOW from October 24 until April 24, 1999. The anime was adapted into two manga series which were serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's Asuka Fantasy DX. A film was later released to theaters worldwide.

The anime series was dubbed in the English language by Animaze and ZRO Limit Productions, and was licensed by Bandai Entertainment in North America and is now licensed by Funimation. In Britain, it was licensed by Beez Entertainment and is currently licensed by Anime Limited. Madman Entertainment has licensed it for releases in Australia and New Zealand. In 2001, Cowboy Bebop became the first anime title to be broadcast on Adult Swim in the United States.

Cowboy Bebop became a critical and commercial success both in Japanese and international markets (most notably in the United States), garnered several major anime and science fiction awards upon its release, and received wide acclaim for its style, characters, story, voice acting, animation, and soundtrack. In the years since its release, critics have hailed Cowboy Bebop as a masterpiece and frequently cite it as one of the greatest anime titles of all time. Credited with helping to introduce anime to a new wave of Western viewers in the early 2000s, Cowboy Bebop has also been labelled a gateway series for the medium as a whole.

Firefly (TV series)

Firefly is an American space Western drama television series which ran from 2002–2003, created by writer and director Joss Whedon, under his Mutant Enemy Productions label. Whedon served as an executive producer, along with Tim Minear. The series is set in the year 2517, after the arrival of humans in a new star system and follows the adventures of the renegade crew of Serenity, a "Firefly-class" spaceship. The ensemble cast portrays the nine characters who live on Serenity. Whedon pitched the show as "nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things".The show explores the lives of a group of people, some of whom fought on the losing side of a civil war, who make a living on the fringes of society as part of the pioneer culture of their star system. In this future, the only two surviving superpowers, the United States and China, fused to form the central federal government, called the Alliance, resulting in the fusion of the two cultures. According to Whedon's vision, "nothing will change in the future: technology will advance, but we will still have the same political, moral, and ethical problems as today".Firefly premiered in the U.S. on the Fox network on September 20, 2002. By mid-December, Firefly had averaged 4.7 million viewers per episode and was 98th in Nielsen ratings. It was canceled after eleven of the fourteen produced episodes were aired. Despite the relatively short life span of the series, it received strong sales when it was released on DVD and has large fan support campaigns. It won a Primetime Emmy Award in 2003 for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series. TV Guide ranked the series at No. 5 on their 2013 list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon".The post-airing success of the show led Whedon and Universal Pictures to produce Serenity, a 2005 film which continues from the story of the series, and the Firefly franchise expanded to other media, including comics and a role-playing game.

Mutant Enemy Productions

Mutant Enemy Productions is a production company that was created in 1996 by Joss Whedon to produce Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The company also produced the Buffy spin-off, Angel, and his two short-lived science fiction series, the space western Firefly and his high-concept Dollhouse, produced by 20th Century Fox Television. Mutant Enemy also produced the internet series Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and the film The Cabin in the Woods. Mutant Enemy is currently producing the superhero series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. along with ABC Studios and Marvel Television.Its offices (made out of glass bricks) were on the lot of 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles, previously the home of Chris Carter's Ten Thirteen Productions. According to March 2006's issue of UK magazine The Word, the offices were closed not long after Angel was cancelled.

Outland (film)

Outland is a 1981 British science fiction thriller film written and directed by Peter Hyams and starring Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, and Frances Sternhagen.

Set on Jupiter's moon Io, it has been described as a space Western, and bears thematic resemblances to the 1952 film High Noon.

Outlaw Star

Outlaw Star (星方武侠アウトロースター, Seihō Bukyō Autorō Sutā, lit. "Outlaw Star: Starward Warrior Knight") is a seinen manga series written and illustrated by Takehiko Itō and his affiliated Morning Star Studio. The series takes place in the "Toward Stars Era" universe in which spacecraft are capable of traveling faster than the speed of light. The plot follows protagonist Gene Starwind and his motley crew of an inherited ship dubbed the Outlaw Star, as they search for a legendary, outer space treasure trove called the "Galactic Leyline".

Outlaw Star was originally serialized in the monthly Shueisha magazine Ultra Jump between 1996 and 1999 for a total of 21 chapters. Three volumes of collected chapters were published in Japan between August 1997 and January 1999. Although no official English version of the manga exists, it has been published in Chinese, German, Italian, and Spanish. Sunrise Studios produced a 26-episode anime adaptation that was directed by Mitsuru Hongo and aired on the Japanese station TV Tokyo in early 1998. The animated series has since been translated and broadcast worldwide. This includes an English version from Bandai Entertainment that received an edited airing on the North American Cartoon Network blocks Toonami in early 2001 and later on Adult Swim in early 2002. Outlaw Star has been licensed for release in Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment and in Europe by Beez Entertainment. A few Japanese-exclusive audio CDs and light novels have been spawned since the start of the manga's publication.

Critical reception for Outlaw Star has been mostly positive. Many reviewers praised the anime series, particularly its animation style and its balance of dramatic and comedic elements. However, some found fault with the show's pacing, believing that the storyline quality begins to wane after the first few episodes. Sunrise produced a spin-off television series titled Angel Links (星方天使エンジェルリンクス, Seihō Tenshi Enjeru Rinkusu, lit. "Angel Links: Starward Angels"), which aired in Japan in 1999. Preliminary plans were made to create a direct sequel in the form of a single-episode (OVA) called Sword of Wind, but production never began.

Queen Emeraldas

Queen Emeraldas (Japanese: クィーン・エメラルダス, Hepburn: Kuīn Emerarudasu) is a manga written and illustrated by Leiji Matsumoto, later adapted into a four-episode anime OVA of the same name. Queen Emeraldas is the story of the pirate spaceship, Queen Emeraldas, which is captained by the mysterious and beautiful Emeraldas, a strong and powerful privateer. Sometimes, character Emereldas is referred to as Pirate Queen Emeraldas.

Serenity (2005 film)

Serenity is a 2005 American science fiction action film written and directed by Joss Whedon. It is a continuation of Whedon's short-lived 2002 Fox television series Firefly and stars the same cast, taking place after the events of the final episode. Set in 2517, Serenity is the story of the captain and crew of Serenity, a "Firefly-class" spaceship. The captain and first mate are veterans of the Unification War, having fought on the losing Independent side against the Alliance. Their lives of smuggling and cargo-running are interrupted by a psychic passenger who harbors a dangerous secret.

The film stars Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Chiwetel Ejiofor. It was released in North America on September 30, 2005 by Universal Pictures to generally positive reviews and several accolades, including the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, the Prometheus Special Award and the Nebula Award for Best Script, but underperformed at the box office.

The Ice Pirates

The Ice Pirates is a 1984 comic science fiction film directed by Stewart Raffill, who co-wrote the screenplay with Krull writer Stanford Sherman. The film stars Robert Urich, Mary Crosby and Michael D. Roberts; other notable featured actors are Anjelica Huston, Ron Perlman, Bruce Vilanch, John Carradine, and former football player John Matuszak.

Trigun

Trigun (Japanese: トライガン, Hepburn: Toraigan) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Yasuhiro Nightow. The manga was serialized in Tokuma Shoten's Shōnen Captain in 1995 with three collected volumes when the magazine was discontinued in 1997. The series continued in Shōnen Gahosha's Young King Ours magazine, under the title Trigun Maximum (トライガンマキシマム, Toraigan Makishimamu), where it remained until finishing in 2008.

Both manga were adapted into an anime television series in 1998. Madhouse animated the TV series which aired on TV Tokyo from April 1, 1998 to September 30, 1998, totaling 26 episodes. An animated feature film called Trigun: Badlands Rumble was released in April 2010.

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