The Symposium Goes Weird West

Posted on Posted in Featured, Symposium Update

For March 27th to 29th, 2020, the Steampunk Symposium is going Weird West . . . a subgenre that combines elements of the Western with another genre, usually horror, occult, fantasy or science fiction . . when supernatural menaces of horror fiction are injected into a Western setting, it creates the horror Western.

Writer G. W. Thomas has described how the two combine: “Unlike many other cross-genre tales, the weird Western uses both elements but with very little loss of distinction. The Western setting is decidedly ‘Western’ and the horror elements are obviously ‘horror.'”

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The term is of recent coinage, but the idea of crossing genres goes back to at least the heyday of pulp magazines. There was at least one series character who could be classified as a Weird West character. Lee Winters was a deputy whose adventures often involved ghosts, sorcery and creatures from Greek mythology. The Winters stories were written by Lon Williams and published in the 1950s. Around that same time, one of the oddest of all Western characters, Six-Gun Gorilla, appeared. This was an actual gorilla who strapped on a pair of Colts to avenge the death of the kindly prospector who had raised him. His adventures appeared in the British story paper The Wizard.

There have also been various Weird West novels including Joe R. Lansdale’s Dead in the West. In this book an unjustly lynched Indian shaman curses the town of Mud Creek, Texas. After dark the dead rise and not even the Reverend Jebediah Mercer can save the inhabitants.

  • “The Horror from the Mound” (by Robert E. Howard, in Weird Tales, 1932)
  • “Old Garfield’s Heart” (by Robert E. Howard, in Weird Tales, 1933)
  • The Circus of Dr. Lao (by Charles G. Finney, 1935)
  • “The Dead Remember” (by Robert E. Howard, in Argosy, 1936)
  • “The Mound” ghostwritten by H.P. Lovecraft for Zealia Bishop in abridged form in Weird Tales, 1940, and in full in 1989.
  • Outer Dark (by Cormac McCarthy, 1968)
  • Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (by Ishmael Reed, 1969, ISBN 1-56478-238-7)
  • The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western (by Richard Brautigan, 1974)
  • Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga (1982–2004)
  • The Place of Dead Roads (by William S. Burroughs, 1983, ISBN 0-03-070416-2)
  • Dead in the West (by Joe R. Lansdale, 1986, ISBN 0-917053-04-4, 1994, ISBN 1-892300-00-1, 2005, ISBN 1-59780-014-7)
  • Wolf in Shadow (by David Gemmell, 1987)
  • The Haunted Mesa (by Louis L’Amour, 1987, ISBN 0-553-05182-2)
  • Stinger (by Robert R. McCammon, 1988, ISBN 978-0727817167)
  • Razored Saddles (anthology, edited by Joe R. Lansdale & Pat Lobrutto, 1989, ISBN 978-0380711680)
  • The Last Guardian (by David Gemmell, 1989)
  • Bloodstone (by David Gemmell, 1994)
  • Walking Wolf: A Weird Western (by Nancy A. Collins, 1995, ISBN 0-929480-42-2)
  • Mad Amos (by Alan Dean Foster, 1996, ISBN 0-345-39362-7)
  • A Fist Full O’ Dead Guys (anthology, edited by Shane Lacy Hensley, Pinnacle Entertainment, 1999, ISBN 1-889546-65-8)
  • For a Few Dead Guys More (anthology, edited by Shane Lacy Hensley, foreword by Joe R. Lansdale, Pinnacle Entertainment, 1999, ISBN 1-889546-66-6)
  • The “Ned the Seal” trilogy (by Joe R. Lansdale, 2001)
  • The Sundowners series (by James Swallow, 2001)
  • Dead Man’s Hand: Five Tales of the Weird West (by Nancy A. Collins, foreword by Joe R. Lansdale, Two Wolf Press, 2004, ISBN 1-58846-875-5)
  • The Crossings (by Jack Ketchum, Cemetery Dance Publications, 2004, ISBN 1-58767-067-4)
  • The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl (by Tim Pratt, 2005, ISBN 0-553-38338-8)
  • Territory (by Emma Bull, 2007, ISBN 0-312-85735-7)
  • Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter (by Edward M. Erdelac, 2009, ISBN 978-1615720606)
  • Me’ma and the Great Mountain (by Lorin Morgan-Richards, with foreword by Corine Fairbanks, 2012, ISBN 0985044799)
  • Jack the Bastard: A Novella (by Micah Nathan, One Peace Books, 2012, ISBN 1935548220)
  • The Arrivals (by Melissa Marr, William Morrow, 2013)
  • Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West (Edited by John Joseph Adams, Titan Books, 2014, ISBN 1781164509)
  • Deadlands: Ghostwalkers (by Jonathan Maberry, 2015)
  • Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising (by Jeff Mariotte, 2016)
  • Deadlands: Boneyard (by Seanan McGuire, 2017)
  • Straight Outta Tombstone (Edited by David Boop, Baen Publishing, 2017, ISBN 1481483498)
  • The Massacre at Yellow Hill (by C.S. Humble, 2018, ISBN 1684330165)
  • Reno Nevada Rides to Hell (by Flash Rivers, 2018, ISBN 978-1520741994)

Television Series

In the 1960s, the television series The Wild Wild West brought elements of pulp espionage and science fiction to its Old West setting, and the cartoon adventures of the Lone Ranger followed suit by pitting the famous Western hero against mad scientists and other villains not often found in the Western genre. Additionally, Rod Serling’s supernatural anthology series The Twilight Zone featured a handful of Western episodes such as “Showdown with Rance McGrew” and “Mr. Denton on Doomsday.”

Other examples include:

  • Bonanza: “Hoss and the Leprechauns” (1963)
  • Black Noon (1971)
  • The Hanged Man (1974 Telefilm)
  • Cliffhangers: “The Secret Empire” (1979)
  • Into the Badlands (1991)
  • Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa (1992–1994)
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993–1994)
  • Legend (1995)
  • The Lazarus Man (1996)
  • Dead Man’s Gun (1997–1999)
  • The Outer Limits: “Heart’s Desire” (1995)
  • Purgatory (1999)
  • Firefly mix Scifi and western
  • Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004)
  • Justice League Unlimited: “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1: Weird Western Tales” (2005)
  • Supernatural: “Frontierland” (2011)
  • Wynonna Earp (2016)
  • Westworld (2016)