Fellow writer Wyatt McLaren has kicked off a new series of short stories in what has been termed the “space western,” a sub-genre of science fiction. The first two stories in the “Buck Johnson” series are now available as Kindle ebooks at Amazon. They are “Buck Johnson, Dragon Wrangler” and “Buck Johnson: The Dragon Drive?”
And, so far, these stories seem to be pretty compelling reads – fun, fast paced, with plenty of adventure and cowboy/western elements. There’s also just a big enough admixture of science fiction to make them interesting in a curious way that flows from the understated incongruity of it all. The emphasis, obviously, is on the “fiction” (fun western adventure) rather than on the “science.”
In simplest (and so slightly misleading) terms, a space western is a western set in space, somewhere beyond earth. Really, though, there’s a lot more to it than that. And McLaren seems to have captured that “more.”
Here’s something to help you get a handle on this. The story goes that when Gene Roddenberry was pitching Star Trek to the networks, he called it “Wagon Train to the Stars.” Captain Kirk, after all, was a little like a John Wayne flung into space (though maybe a little more conflicted much of the time).
A successful story in this science fiction sub-genre has to have all the essential elements of the western in place. In addition, the “space” setting must be believably consistent (with the always crucial verisimilitude), and must be the kind of frontier-like setting where a western can actually play out.
The main character, of course, should be a rugged, self-reliant individual(ist) (and two-dimensional will work if the character is drawn well enough) who faces and overcomes obstacles and often has to deal with a moral dilemma. And the setting has to be wild enough to accommodate the individualism and to provide a believable backdrop for the main character’s task(s). And, usually, there needs to be a handful of minor supporting characters who elicit both the best and the worst in the main character and who (often) border on the mildly comic.
McLaren describes his stories like this in the blurb:
Colorful characters, other-worldly settings, fast-paced plots, and a big dollop of adventurous fun – that’s what you get in the Buck Johnson stories. Think of Star Trek, The Rounders, and a little Lonesome Dove all shaken together and poured out, and you’ll have some idea of what you’re about to taste when you step into Buck Johnson’s life. It’s a wild mix of Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Western, and Science Fiction.
What seems to be unique about McLaren’s stories is that even though they involve dragons and korths (the favored mount of the characters – when they aren’t riding or breaking dragons – something like a cross between a scaly ox and a horse), they still feel like westerns. And there’s just enough “other-worldliness” in the settings to make them curiously intriguing. It’s all great fun, really.
So if you like cowboys (who ride korths), wranglers (who break dragons), and trail drives (with dragons instead of longhorns), you’ll likely find the Buck Johnson stories fun reads and worth the time invested. Check out the first two stories in this series – “Buck Johnson, Dragon Wrangler” and “Buck Johnson: The Dragon Drive?”
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