My vision of fantasy-western (or, if you prefer, western fantasy) and how and why I got the idea to mash up the two genres. (This is based on two different but similar posts I wrote for Derek Alan Siddoway's blog and the Speculative Fiction Showcase. Since other people's blogs can come and go, I decided it's best to have something this important on my own blog as well. Also be sure to check out the other versions on those sites!)
Out of the dusty desert hills he rides into town, the nameless stranger astride a horse as toughened with hard experience as he is. The wide brim of his hat conceals his eyes and unshaven face in shade; his long brown coat, much patched and mended, blows open just enough to reveal the six-shooter holstered at his hip. He seems to be just another wandering gunfighter, but that gun can do things no regular gun can do, and, on a silver chain hidden beneath his shirt, a ring set with a blue stone glows with the strength of his magical power.
This is no ordinary gunslinger.
Meet Silas Vendine, the hero of my fantasy-western series Daughter of the Wildings. The fantasy half comes from high fantasy, which I define (and I know everyone has their own definition) as fantasy set in another world, with a heroic storyline, where magic is an essential element of the story.
The western part of fantasy-western comes from the traditions of the classic pulp westerns: the wide-open, lawless frontier, confrontations between good and evil, self-reliance, individual freedom and responsibility, the struggle to survive, and characters who are trying to make a new start in life or find justice, revenge, redemption, or just a ton of riches.
To me, fantasy and western were made to go together. There are so many places where the traditional elements of the two genres can come together to enrich and expand each other. Desolate and mystical landscapes; the struggle between good and evil; characters who don’t fit into ordinary society, epic journeys where simply surviving is a victory – you’ll find all of these elements and more in both fantasy and westerns. Silas Vendine, the gunslinger who is also a mage, fits into a long tradition of both fantasy and western heroes: the mysterious man with extraordinary skills and strengths, a loner, who has his own mission in life and his own moral code that doesn’t necessarily fit with the accepted conventions.
And it isn’t just the similarites between the two genres that inspired me to combine them. The contrast between the down and dirty struggle for survival that was life in the Old West and the otherworldly wonder of magic, and between the rough technology of the late 1800s and the traditions of magic and fantasy, are ripe with storytelling possibilities. In Daughter of the Wildings, I wanted to put the familiar western elements into a world that isn’t ours, where magic is pervasive and well-known. Gamblers play cards in the saloons – but the cards have names like Moon Mage and Star Dragon. The A’ayimat, the indigenous people of the Wildings, have blue-toned skin and golden eyes, and can understand any language that is spoken to them. Clocks with numbered hours, eyeglasses, and guns are the products of foreign science and are forbidden in the civilized, mage-dominated land of Granadaia. Cowboys herd cattle out on the open range while man-eating groviks – think furry alligators with rabbit-ears – roam the mountains. And on the night of the dark of the moon, when the eight gods hide their faces from the world, that mournful howling you hear could just as easily be a coyote, a demon, or lost and lonely spirit.
The landscapes of the West are another inspiration. I was born and raised in the West, and still live there. I love to set my favorite genre, fantasy, in the wide-open landscapes I grew up with, the snow-covered peaks, evergreen forests, grassy rangelands, and rugged desert hills and dry riverbeds. Mountains and deserts especially play an important role in my writing. Mountains are places where the earth and the heavens meet in a mystical joining, while in the desert, things are hidden, buried, waiting to be revealed by an angle of the light, a rainstorm, or fortuitous digging in the right place. Both mountains and deserts hold deep secrets and power and history, and demand the utmost in skill and courage of those who journey or live there.
Come join Silas Vendine and Lainie Banfrey on an exciting western adventure set in a world of fantasy and magic – or an epic fantasy adventure in a world of cowboys and gunslingers.
For availability and more information about the books, go to the Daughter of the Wildings series page.
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