Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Weird West FINALLY Comes Into Its Own!

Weird West has always been the rough and tumble cousin to Steampunk, or maybe its Steampunk's distinctly American brother. The two have been around for roughly the same amount of time, if you consider the Frank Reade Dime Novels as one of the earliest examples of American Steampunk....but Steampunk today tends to favor a more European aesthetic with the Pith Helmets and British officers uniforms, the Frankenstein-esque contraptions, leather Military goods; and Tea, lots and lots of Tea......because Coffee just doesn't cut it! The Victorian Age, as we think of it, was really a European and American East Coast convention....although Victorian Aesthetic did, quite successfully, find its way into the dress and designs of the Western United some Westerns tried their best to live within the splendor and elegance of the age among the dust and the heat and the rattlesnakes.

As an extreme fan of all things Steamy I will say that there have been MASTERFUL works of art created by Steampunks on BOTH sides of the "Pond", but the bottom line is, aesthetically, European Steampunk currently rules and the Weird West has partially been left in the dust, as it were...but no longer with the recent publication of Paul Green's Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns.

The product description on Amazon says this: From automatons to zombies, many fantastic elements have been cross-pollinated with the western genre. This A-to-Z encyclopedia of the Weird Western covers film, television, animation, dime novels, pulp fiction, comic books, novels, short stories and video and role-playing games.

Wow! This is number one on my Christmas list this year, What a resource! Of course Im always looking for new Weird West stuff, so this is a very exciting book.

Now I will say this, I did read a product review and I don't agree 100% with some of the things listed in the book. I don't consider Blood Meridian a Weird Western simply because its super duper violent....there are plenty of straight Westerns that have extreme violence. Usually, to me at least, a Weird Western has an element of the fantastic or the supernatural....which I don't believe Blood Meridian has. I also don't agree with the inclusion of the old David Carradine series Kung Fu. The idea of a Shaolin Monks traveling through the American Old West isn't all that strange, especially if he is a Shaolin Monk of the if he was from the future....But don't let this fool you, Mr. Green knows exactly what he is talking about in terms of Weird West, these disagreements might simply be a case of, what my friend Steve calls, opening the Umbrella too wide.

With that said, this book is a resource that any Weird Westerner, or fan of the Genre can not live without!

One more thing, while searching for reviews about this book, I came across Mr Green's Weird West blog site, which is very much in the vein of this one. Like his book, its called the Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns, and is something of a companion/addendum; you should check it out!

Its good too see interest in this Weird West stuff growing!


Paul Green said...

Thanks for the kind comments Mark. To answer your comment regarding my inclusion of "Kung Fu" please check out my latest blog entry which includes a segment from a "Kung Fu" episode with a Weird Western theme.

Many TV series included in my book only feature particular episodes, hence the confusion. As we all know, "The Time Tunnel" isn't a Weird Western series but features certain episodes set in the Old West. These are included in my book.

Regarding "Blood Meridian" I will discuss that book in another blog post.

I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have after reading my book. I'm certain you'll have quite a few. :))

Jack said...

Have you seen Tremors 4? Bugs v cowboys.
Did a review on
Latest piece might be of interest a novel called 'The Dark Riders'.

The Infernal Mr Adams said...

Paul - You've convinced me of Kung Fu's Weird West-ness. The review I read seemed to make a blanket statement about the show as a whole, but it makes perfect sense that certain episodes would fit into the genre....I'll be interested to see where MacGyver fits in :D

And thank you for writing this book! Ive been waiting for something like this for a long time. Its the reason I started this blog in the first place :D

Jack - I have seen Tremors 4, but it was a while ago, before I started the Weird West Emporium. Id need to watch it again before I did a review. And thanks again for the heads up on Dark Riders! I am definitely going to have to check it out. Speaking of which, have YOU seen from Dusk til Dawn 3? Cowboys vs. Vampires!

Cory Gross said...

I could see Kung Fu being a Weird Western anyways, just because of the otherwise odd juxtopositions in it. But I don't even, and haven't ever, watched the show anyways.

One thing I wish was weirder was the current Jonah Hex comic series. The movie is shaping up nicely, but besides a few mechanical men and some splatterhouse gore in a couple issues, it isn't quite enough like Two Gun Mojo darnit!

And on the Victorian... I dunno'... I've read a few references to "Western Victoriana" style, mostly in travelogues on nice little beds n' breakfasts (Red Garter, Williams, Arizona... if you're going to the Grand Canyon, I super highly recommend it!). Even in its rugged, Western, GIlded Age manifestation, I don't think it's too far off the 19th century model. Just sayin' ^_^

Anyways, I will certainly have to keep an eye out for this.

The Infernal Mr Adams said...

Cory - I understand what you mean concerning Kung Fu, my problem with calling it a Weird Western is that it isn't weird enough....and I hate to put it in those terms because it makes it seem like I'm trying to set down the boundaries for what is and isn't Weird West, and I'm not. Its like calling the Quick and the Dead a Weird Western because the main character is a Woman Gunslinger, it might not be typical, but it certainly isn't out of the ordinary.

I agree with you on Jonah Hex, although I love the character and will probably read anything he is in, It would be nice to see some "weirder" adventures once in a while. The Vertigo books went from Very Good to Very Bad...with Shadows West being just dumb, Tim Truman's art was sloppy and it seemed like him and Lansdale were tired of making Jonah comics. Its too bad, because Two-Gun Mojo was SO good! I hope they republish it before the movie comes out :D

I won't argue with you about the Western Victoriana, I certainly don't claim to be an expert. I'm simply commenting on what Ive seen, and the Victorian Age seemed to have its greatest influence on the Eastern side of the United States. But there is no doubt that that bled into the West...All I meant was that the West was maybe a freer, less constrained version of what was going on in the East, its actually an idea that I love..people trying to live elegant Victorian lives in mildly hostile conditions, that actually feels very Steampunk to me....Regardless, I guess no matter where you are you can't escape the current age :)

And I will certainly check out that Bed and Breakfast when I'm in the Grand Canyon area, thanks for the heads up! :D

Cory Gross said...

With Jonah Hex, the weirdest thing is that the not-that-weird version is actually closer to his original appearances in Weird Western Tales. I got through that whole "Showcase" TPB brick of Hex, with nary a zombie, voodoo cult or, well, anything actually weird going on. I admit it was a little disappointing!

No worries about the Western Victorian whatsit... It is interesting to see how different things pan out in their settings. The Western US version didn't have a lot of the same glosses as the stuff you were thinking of, but nevertheless, it was still full of paislies, brocades, tiled ceilings, ferns and the like. Then up here in Canada, we got a whole genre of Gothic Revivalism - Railway Gothic - out of it. Except there aren't nearly enough Weird Northerns...

The Red Garter is a great place... A former brothel and gambling hall, now a cafe and inn. The people who run it are fantastic, the decor is excellent... it's way better than the big, featureless Grand Canyon Railway hotel across the tracks, if you plan on taking the train to the canyon. Plus, a couple doors down from the Red Garter is the guy who does ghost tours of Williams. I imagine you'd be into that ^_^