Space Western; an awesome genre!

As late as last week, I learned that Obsidian will be releasing a new game this year, called The Outer Worlds. I really enjoy playing RPGs in general and I absolutely love Obsidian’s earlier works, such as Fallout: New Vegas, so I honestly can’t understand how I’ve missed the news about their new game, until now! And judging from the trailer, I think it looks great! What I am especially hyped about, is that The Outer Worlds will have a space western setting, and space western is a genre that I really enjoy 🙂 So, I thought I would write a blog post about the genre and give a couple of examples of works of art, that it includes. Perhaps it can even inspire some of you to check them out, if you haven’t heard of them before 🙂

Space western is a sub genre to the science fiction genre, and basically means any work of fiction that takes place in space and incorporates elements from the western genre. Examples of such elements are the inclusion of more or less lawless characters, taking on the challenges that comes with a life on the frontier, i.e. lands close to or beyond the border to the unknown. The genre is very close to – or perhaps even crosses over to – space operas. The difference, roughly speaking, is that space operas often contain a larger element of politics.

spacecowboyWhat I especially like about the genre, is that things such as weapons, machines and buildings often are very advanced and futuristic but at the same time worn and shabby. (This is in a way something the space western genre have in common with the cyberpunk genre, another genre I absolutely love). The environment is often harsh, rough and hostile, which gives an extra element of excitement. At least one of the main characters, usually the protagonist, tend to have more or less anti-hero traits, which in my opinion makes him/her more interesting and easy to sympathize with.

Examples within this genre are:

  1. Borderlands – a series of first person shooter open world RPG:s, developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. The main story of the first one is of “treasure hunters”, where you get to play one of them, hunting for alien artefacts that in turn will lead them to a vault filled with extremely valuable alien technology. But things end with a surprise and thereby opens the door to a (or a couple of) sequel(s)…
  2. Firefly/SerenityFirefly was a tv-series created by writer and director Joss Whedon. The series takes place in a future where all of Earth’s recourses have been used and people are now struggling to survive by terraforming other planets. We follow a small crew of smugglers on board the spaceship Serenity as they travel the different part of the galaxy, struggling not only with successfully complete their different assignments, but also with avoiding to get involved with conflicting factions and the authorities. The tv-series only aired for one season and got cancelled because it didn’t live up to the expected amount of success. A movie sequel was made, called Serenity.
  3. Cowboy Bebop – An Anime series created by ShinichirĹŤ Watanabe, and like Fireyfly, Cowboy Bebop also takes place in a future where the Earth is no longer habitable and people have instead colonized different parts of the galaxy. We follow a small group of bounty hunters, as they catch and transport criminal fugitives across the galaxy to the police, in order to get food tickets.

cowboy bebop

Another huge name in this genre, that I doubt need further presentation, is of course Star Wars, where especially characters as Boba Fett and Han Solo carry much of western genre influence. One could however definitely argue that Star Wars have more elements of a space opera, where some parts have more of it than others. And the last example I will give you, are the brilliant Mad Max movies, although they are more of a sci-fi western (a sci-fi movie that doesn’t take place in space, but still have western themes). The earlier movies have reached somewhat of a cult status today and the latest produced, Mad Max: Fury Road by director George Miller, definitely deserves a watch, if you haven’t seen it already.

What is your favorite piece of art within this awesome genre?