Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Has a Western mash-up ever worked?

I’m not a purist. My own westerns are about miners instead of cowboys, my plots delve into the politics of the frontier, and my protagonist is a wealthy Easterner. I also liked the Lone Ranger, even though it went overboard on special effects and cuteness. I can go off the beaten track and even enjoy oddities like Cormac McCarthy’s weird punctuation. But mash-ups? Where did this fad come from? Mixing diametrically opposed genres is like fusion cuisine where the main course and dessert are lumped together in a stir-fried. It may be an interesting novelty, but it won’t change traditional menus.

I believe a fiction writer’s job is storytelling. It must be done well, with good characterization, but essentially the task at hand is telling a ripping good story. Effective storytelling takes people to another place and time. It can be the Wild West or Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A mash-up tries to take the audience to two different places at two different times. It’s jarring.  Besides, these writers seem more concerned with how clever they can blend the genres, rather than storytelling.

Many Western enthusiasts lament the lack of audience for Western literature and film. Unfortunately, there will be no resurgence by mashing up Westerns with the latest teen craze. It’s not that easy. Intriguing characters with a well-crafted story arc will draw readers to any genre. Just ask Larry McMurtry, Elmer Kelton, Louis L’Amour, Owen Wister, Jack Schaeffer, John Ford, or Clint Eastwood.

1 comment:

  1. If I may...

    The film Ravenous.

    Richard Matheson's Shadow on the Sun.

    Nearly any western comic with Tim Truman or Joe Lansdale as a contributor, particularly the Jonah Hex comics in the 1990's.

    The web comics Next Town Over and Guns of Shadow Valley.

    Peter Brandvold's Ghost Colts and Bad Wind Blowing.

    The all-ages comic Reed Gunther.