Sunday, January 24, 2016
Wild West Novels Have Suddenly Gotten A Whole New Exciting Lease on Life
by Charlie Jane Anders
Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory combines steampunk, fantasy and Westerns, for a story about a sex worker who gets tangled up with a Jack-the-Ripper-esque serial killer and a man who has a machine that can control anyone’s actions.
Lately, the Western novel has been getting really fun again. Most of us probably think of Louis L’Amour’s, or maybe Joe Lansdale’s classic Weird West stories. But there’s a slew of new Westerns, featuring diverse characters and bracing new storylines. We talked to four authors about the new wave of Westerns.
In Gemma Files’ Hexslinger series, a Pinkerton agent named Ed Morrow infiltrates a gang of outlaws that’s led by a rogue “hexslinger” named Asher Rook and his lover, Chess Pargeter. The Hexslinger books have won lots of praise for their protrayal of LGBT characters and themes.
In Lila Bowen’s Wake of Vultures, a mixed-race girl named Nettie Lonesome kills a vampire and suddenly she can see supernatural creatures everywhere. She steals the vampire’s clothes, passes as a man, and becomes first a cattle rustler and then a Texas Ranger. But her sexuality turns out to be more complicated than killing monsters.
And Laura Ann Gilman’s Silver on the Road follows a saloon girl named Isabel who volunteers to be the Devil’s Left Hand, helping the man who’s believed to be Satan to control his vast territory West of the Mississippi. But a rash of supernatural attacks tests Isobel’s control over her new power.
These are just four of the more interesting novels that have come along recently and play with Western themes. We talked to all four authors about why now is the perfect time for a wild new West.