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.

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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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What Moves You?

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I’m having somewhat of a weird week.

I was supposed to go to New Mexico and hang out with my bros for a week. But I gave in to my wife’s begging and stayed home. (In her defense, and possibly my demise, she’s real pregnant. Not due for over a month, but still.)

So I’m stuck at home doing yard work and various other chores that are lame. I’ve also been doing some rewrites and lots of other personal things over the past few weeks.

But I really wanted to go on this trip.

Let me tell you why:

I Love Mountains

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Mountains speak to me. I don’t know why, they just give me a sense of awe and wonder. I always feel refreshed after visiting mountains. It’s probably because I live in a desert with no mountains that’s also so close to the ocean that the humidity is awful. Worse than that run on sentence.

But I digress.

Everyone has someplace that they love to be. Many people live where they love to be, others like to visit those places to keep the magic. As a writer, we often talk about muses. I don’t know if we actually have things that spark our creative juices, but I definitely feel more relaxed after a trip to the mountains. I took a trip last year to Colorado Springs to see this guy, and had a blast. This is me at the Garden of the Gods park:

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I spent a week bumming around Colorado with my wife, and it was really fun. When we got home, I wrote quite a few stories because I was refreshed and ready to get back to reality. Not quite a muse, but definitely a relaxing vacation. Kind of like going fishing.

I Like Trips With Nerdy Stuff

Have you ever seen the movie ‘Contact‘ with Jodie Foster? If you haven’t you should. There’s lots of science talk and giant radio telescope dishes. LIKE THESE:

VLA

This is the Very Large Array near Socorro, NM. It is a radio telescope used by NASA and other research groups. If you look closely at the base of the structure, you can see my wife with her arms stretched wide. Those things are big. They’re also full of technical components and have a visitor’s center that explains a lot of their technology and achievements. Lots of fodder for stories. On this particular trip we also visited Roswell, which is ripe with aliens of all kinds. We also visited the Space Museum in Alamogordo. Every one of those places was really fun to visit, and jam packed with material.

Have You Been On A Sci Fi Inspired Trip Yet?

The mountains and valleys of New Mexico are where I like to go to get my sci fi trip on. But there are many more places to visit. Why don’t you find one near you and take a trip? A little inspiration can go a long way.

But anyway, that’s me sulking about not getting to go on my trip…