The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is one of the most enduring tales of the American West, having been the subject of countless depictions across various media. The story has even been given the genre treatment, adding magic or science fiction elements in works such as the excellentTerritory by Emma Bull. In Mike Resnick’s novel The Buntline Special, the story gets the full on steampunk treatment in what is a light, fun, rollicking read.
Resnick sets his tale in 1881, in an alternate reality in which the U.S. expansion never went west past the Mississippi and in which a young Thomas Edison teamed up with Ned Buntline in Tombstone, Arizona to revolutionize modern science. Together, the two create a number of new inventions, including electricity and artificial limbs.
[Read the rest on Tor.com’s Steampunk Week!]
Note from Ay-leen: This is part 2 of Noah Meernaum’s essay about minority representations in Weird West. Part 1 can be read here. For those interested in the Works Cited resource information for the full essay, please contact me.
7. Occidental Outlines – Asian defacement in American popular periodicals, run from the story papers and bound ‘yellow-backs’, to the periled portrayals wrapped in America pulp. 1
For even as the Occident regards the Far East, so does the Far East regard the Occident, – only with this difference: that what each most esteems in itself is least likely to be esteemed by the other.–Lafcadio Hearn/ Koizumi Yakumo, Kokoro 2
The stereotyped imprint of Chinese immigrants was initially contentedly rendered in the pictured accounts in mid-nineteenth century America through publications such as Harper’s New Monthly in the 1850’s that showed the distinctive pig-tail and conical basin hat of “John Chinaman’” and this picturesque “Celestial” was a widespread Western rendition in American periodicals, drawn from imparted occidental accounts of the “mystical men of the Orient”. 3 With the increased influx of Chinese people entering the American west, specifically within California, in search of golden prospects, promises of abundant land, and industrious opportunity their expanding population was leading to unsettling the sedate Western imprint of removed mysticism shown of oriental representation as the advancing closeness of Chinese residents were informing fearful features upon its distantly complacent cast.
Filed under Essays, History
Note from Ay-leen: This is the first of a two-part essay from Noah Meernaum of the Steampunk Empire about minority representations in Weird West. Part Two of this essay will be posted next Sunday.
Wounded Range: A backtracking survey into the outlandishly penned or set trail of the Weird Western in American popular culture proposed to readdress its multicultural representations, taking in its past shadowed forms cast of lone two gun heroes, (or antiheroes), curious carriages, disfigured renderings, dying curses, sundered souls, vengeful spirits, and other unnatural varmints sifted from lost lore to the ragged pages of dime novels, pulps, and other two bit books. A notorious twisted trail turned inward with an outlook toward its past and present course.
Filed under Essays, History
I admit, I kick the old adage in the face when it comes to book covers: I don’t hesitate to judge and judge fiercely. That being said, if a book cover intrigues me, I will pounce on it like a kitten goes to capnip. When the book-world blogosphere was reeling over the whitewashing Liar controversy, which was then followed by the Magic Under Glass fiasco – instances where the main protagonist of color was portrayed as white and light-haired – Orbit did a cover launch for THE GASLIGHT DOGS featuring this lovely example of Covers Done Awesome:
The Gaslight Dogs
But it would be months until I got get my hands on the physical book, and was quite pleased when I finally did. Karin Lowachee’s publishing career began when she was won a first novel contest judged by Tim Powers (yes, fellow steampunks, *that* Tim Powers, author of The Anubis Gates) and had her book WARCHILD published in 2002. WARCHILD was the first of a trilogy that continued with BURNDIVE and CAGEBIRD, and both WARCHILD and BURNDIVE were nominated as finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award.
But enough singing of praises for her previous work. THE GASLIGHT DOGS, a fantasy set on the wild borderlands of the frozen North where, in the epic words of the back cover: “an ancient nomadic tribe faces a new enemy – an empire fueled by technology and war.” Sjenn, a young spiritwalker from the Aniw tribe, is taken prisoner for murder by the Victorian-esque Ciracusans settlers and meets Captain Jarrett, a brash soldier with daddy issues and a terrible gift. The two of them and the steadfast Whishishian native guide Keeley must work together to master a deadly power or else everyone – both colonialist and native – will suffer dire consequences.
I devoured this book in two days after getting it, and was able to get in touch with Karin for an interview about writing THE GASLIGHT DOGS.
I had the chance to get an advanced copy for Dan Simmons’ latest book Black Hills, which pubs this month, a book that easily falls into several bins: historical fiction, supernatural suspense, and Weird West. In fact, Dan Simmons is one of those writers who has spanned multiple genres in his career, leaping easily from sci-fi to horror to historical to crime thrillers and even blending them all at once. Much of his success lies in his clever inspirational play between classical forms and fantastical content. After all, he’s best known for the Hyperion Cantos, a four-book space opera that’s structured after Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, and his sci-fi epic Illium/Olympos draws from Homer’s Iliad. Recently, the settings for his latest novels have roamed throughout the nineteenth century. The Terror, which landed Simmons on the New York Times list and gave his publishers an excuse to market him as “speculative fiction”, is about the ill-fated lost voyage of Sir John Franklin’s expedition to find passageway through the Arctic in 1847. His next book, Drood, is a Victorian gothic mystery thriller narrated by Wilkie Collins as he tries to puzzle out the mental stability of his friend Charles Dickens, who had taken a turn for the worst after surviving a horrific train accident. Now in his latest book, Black Hills, Simmons continues his fascination with the nineteenth century, but this time, he writes about the heartwrenching life and times of Paha Sapa, a Sioux Native American who lived through the bloody days of the American West.
Image courtesy of Kory Lynn Hubbell
One of the interesting challenges non-Eurocentric steampunk faces is how technology can be re-imagined for peoples that did not develop industrialized technology during the nineteenth century. Case in point this week: First Nation peoples. There has also been the assumption that First Nation peoples “lack” technology, and so therefore what role can they play in any science fiction genre, nevermind steampunk?
Notwithstanding the imaginative block (and racist subtext) implied by those who say FN peoples didn’t have technology—which is argued against by Kay Marie Porterfield in her article Ten Lies About Indigenous Science – How to Talk Back —concepts like time travel, tech, and alternative histories aren’t confined to any particular culture. This week is a linkspam featuring discussions concerning First Nation peoples in sci-fi and reading suggestions to get those mental gears turning.
For research resources, I have included a selection of articles concerning FN sci-fi, history, and technology at hand; for reading suggestions, I’ve listed examples that can also be considered under general sci-fi, alternative history, or Weird West.
UPDATED 15 February 2010: I’ve updated this post with the most relevant suggestions given by readers included below. Enjoy!
Read more below the cut