Westerns and Sci Fi

I have a confession:

I love westerns.

A lot.

Sometimes, I sit and watch them for hours on the Encore Western Channel.

It may be a condition.

And what’s funny is that I like westerns more for the characters than the story. As I’ve written before, I’m much more about writing a good story than I am a “good” character. But it’s the strong characters in Westerns that draw me to them. From John Wayne playing John Wayne in all of his movies, to Val Kilmer and Kurt Russel in ‘Tombstone’, Robert Taylor in ‘Lomgmire’, and Emily Blunt in ‘Looper’ (ok kind of a stretch, but she was talking in a drawl and carried a shotgun…) this is what draws me to them.

And while Sci Fi tends to lean more heavily on story than character, at least the sci fi I like the most, the two are very similar. Let’s look at some comparisons to further connect my two favorite genres.

Frontier

The frontier of the American West is romanticized to no end in westerns. Sprawling open range with mountains in the distance, the threat of natives attacking the invading settlers or vice versa, and the quest to tame the wild ground found in the throws of exploration.

Or to put it another way,

“To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

When Gene Rodenberry pitched Star Trek to executives back in the 60’s, he billed the show as ‘a wagon train to the stars’. Because of this, James T. Kirk is your classic frontiersman, albeit with a space ship and laser guns instead of a covered wagon and a .45. This genius set up by one of the 20th century’s best creative minds has forever cemented Star Trek in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.

Frontiersman

As stated about Kirk above, many Sci Fi characters share traits with the heroes of westerns. Mal and Zoe from Firefly come to mind. Han Solo and Chewbacca. The list can go on and on. All of these characters have a strong sense of themselves, and hardly waiver on anything. They know that their road is one seldom traveled and rarely conquered. But they do it anyway.

Guns Blazing

Everyone like a good shootout. Therefore Sci Fi Westerns have gun fights. Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, Cowboys and Aliens, shoot even that one episode of Dr. Who was a western mash up with gun fights, fancy hats, and horses. The two genres are intertwined with enough mystery and romance regarding firearms as anything.

Breathtaking Scenery

There are two things I will never tire of:

Mountains and Space.

I runaway to the mountains every summer, and I love looking at new pictures from NASA and other space agencies that like to take pictures. In fact I’ve made several graphics from pics anyone can download from the JPL.

Infograph3

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Westerns and Sci Fi love to take advantage of beautiful scenery. ‘Longmire’ has quickly become one of my favorite shows because of the awesome mountain views, and Walt Longmire’s love of one liners and lever action rifles. Nothing consumes me more than stars and their dust the mountains are made of.

So go watch or read a western. I know you watch and read science fiction. If you like Native American culture and mysticism, then ‘Longmire’ is a good way to break into the Western Genre. Plus it’s set in the present so you don’t have to wade through an hour of how the settlement came to be before the action starts. It’s exclusively on Netflix now, so have fun watching ALL THE EPISODES!

Peace

Have you checked out the latest from The Silly Robot?

Uncanny Divide

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Pantsing your way to a story

“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all the gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.”

Stephen King – “On Writing”

There are tons of articles about plotting and pantsing. It’s a little absurd. And I really do get why plotters do what they do. I think it’s probably more of a personality preference than a successful writing strategy. I, however, despise outlines and will probably never use one when I write other than to keep track of what I have already written. Here are three reasons why i don’t use outlines, at least anymore, and why it’s a good thing.

My Characters suffer

When writing a story, characters seem to pop out of nowhere in my head, and then I find interesting things for them to do. I simply can not do this if I outline. I tend to have a main character who finds a bunch of cardboard NPC’s if I do this. It just isn’t a good thing.

But if i go in and just tell the story that’s in my head, this resolves itself. I may only have one to three characters in a story, but they will be far more interesting than the scallywag who happened to tell my main character where to find some jewel on a side quest.

plot points are not a story

When I relay the events of my life by telling a story, I do not order them out on a sheet of paper or in Scrivener before I tell my friends. Sure I have an idea of how it went down, but that doesn’t mean the events are perfectly ordered, or even that my story suffers from them being slightly out of order. Drawing from the quote at the top, if you found the fossil’s head next to its foot, would you say that it wasn’t a T-Rex? Or that you found it in an interesting way?

what if something changes

So you’re writing at full steam, hitting all of your plot points, and then it happens. You notice that one of your points down the line won’t jive with the story as it is being written. And if that point doesn’t flow, then several others are rendered moot. All of a sudden your outline is useless and needs to be -almost- completely redone. Well that’s a lot more time wasted. I did this a couple of times and I almost broke my computer. Maybe I’m just a bad outliner and that’s why that happened.

Oh well!

If you need to outline, I get it. Not everyone can sit down and just write a story. In fact, some writers believe outlining is how to beat writer’s block. If that’s you, more power for it. If not, I hope i gave you some insight into why I ditched my outlines, and maybe you should too.

Have you checked out the latest release?

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Get it on Kindle

Uncanny Divide:Six Tales of Artificial Intelligence

Here it is folks, the new Short Story anthology from Turtleshell Press and Happy Pants Books:

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It features myself, and two other great authors you should check out. These six stories feature some thought provoking fiction on the subject of artificial intelligence, and will keep you engaged until the end.

Plus they’re short, so they read quickly and leave you wanting more!

Please check it out, buy a copy, leave a review, and help support this little endeavor. We all would appreciate it and the more we get funded, the more we can do what we love, which is write stories for all of you to enjoy.

Click the link, and begin the journey!

Uncanny Divide: Six Tales of Artificial Intelligence

It’s been summer

Summer this year was full of many activities and lots of travels!

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The reason I haven’t been blogging as much (or at all really…) is because I was asked to submit two stories for an upcoming anthology of AI shorts. It’s dropping pretty soon and I will definitely keep everyone updated.

Secondarily, I have been in the developmental stages of The Silly Robots Podcast, that will be co-hosted by myself and the Nerdcore Theologian.

We will begin recording episodes within the next month, and hopefully start uploading them in the same timeframe.

Stay tuned!