Space Western  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Space Western is a subgenre of science fiction, primarily grounded in film and television programming, that transposes themes of American Western (ie. cowboys) books and film to a backdrop of futuristic space frontiers; it is the complement of the science fiction Western, which transposes science fiction themes onto an American Western setting.


"The Final Frontier" as a backdrop

This term supposes that the future of space exploration will be much like the taming of the old west of America. In some cases this may quite literally include frontier towns, train heists, and horses.


This "frontier stories" view of the future is only one of many ways to look at space exploration, and not one embraced by all science fiction writers.

The Turkey City Lexicon, a document produced by the Turkey City science fiction writers' workshop, condemns the space Western as "The most pernicious suite of 'Used Furniture' [that is, use of a pre-established background instead of a freshly created world]."

Galaxy Science Fiction ran an advertisement on its back cover, "You'll never see it in Galaxy," which gave the beginnings of make-believe parallel Western and SF stories featuring a character named Bat Durston. The genre of space Westerns has been informally—and often derisively—known as "Bat Durston" stories since.

Notable examples

George Lucas attributes the character of Boba Fett to the Man with No Name in the DVD commentary on The Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo's original costume and charming rogue gunslinger mannerisms also reflects the Western's influence on Star Wars.

The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers is a cartoon example of the Space Western theme. The opening trailer shows Texas Rangers-like heroes riding across a prairie landscape on robotic horses. Spaceships and sixguns both figure prominently throughout.

In the Bravestarr universe, the culture and landscape of the colony world where the series is set bears a remarkable resemblance to the culture of the American Old West.

A notable hybrid of Westerns and science fiction is the television series Firefly and its cinematic follow-up Serenity. This series not only used Western ideas such as the lawless frontier and the spiritually wounded veteran, but also included Western elements in costuming, design and dialogue (such as the Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B). The back-story of Firefly has been called a deliberate echo of the post-American-Civil-War setting of many Westerns, with a hero who fought for the losing side. Director Joss Whedon remarks in the audio commentary about the various Westerns which influenced him and which techniques–from dialogue to camerawork–he tried to capture.

Another notable space western is the anime series Cowboy Bebop, which precedes and is similar to Firefly and Serenity in some respects. Another notable example is the anime/manga Trigun, which differs from most space westerns by taking place entirely on one planet, that planet just happening not to be Earth.

The film Outland is often referred to as "High Noon in space". In both films, the new marshal is abandoned by the town when word spreads of his inevitable confrontation with a group of assassins coming to kill him.


Short stories





  • Defiance (TV series) -An American science fiction television series developed for television by Rockne S. O'Bannon, Kevin Murphy, and Michael Taylor.
  • The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers - Syndicated 80s cartoon about interplanetary law enforcers with wild West aesthetics
  • BraveStarr - Syndicated 80s cartoon about high-tech action on a wild West-style colony planet
  • Firefly - A series set in the year 2517 where outlying settlements resemble the wild west.
  • Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs
  • Silverhawks - Animated science fiction series that included a guitar-playing cyborg cowboy named Bluegrass.
  • Space Rangers - Short run series about maintaining law and order in the frontier of space in the year 2104

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Space Western" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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