Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
Yeah, for all of these comments, but in terms of pitching a work to an agent, would anybody call The Gunslinger a category "Western" genre novel? Now, I know it was Stephen King, who didn't need any longer to worry about such stuff, but how does an unpublished writer characterize something like that?

What actually constitutes a "Western" novel these days? Is anything simply set in, say, the latter half of the 19th century and involving rural western America automatically a "Western", from an agent's or publisher's viewpoint?

caw
This is necro-posting but...
This strikes me as a good hook to hang a discussion on. It's an old one with no final answer, but it sure is handy for stirring up the brain cells.

I don't do King. I don't do horror, so King doesn't... nevermind. I did take a look at Gunslinger and simply didn't get it. It stayed jumbled in my thinking, so I gave it up. Star Wars as Western? Hell, yeah. But...

IMHO, if there's no solid terra firma (accent on Terra) underfoot, it ain't really a Western. What about "Cowboys and Aliens"? Lots of terra firma. Maybe, but all the Indians, swinging doors, and false front buildings on this planet won't save the movie (or graphic novel) from being Sci Fi in an odd setting.

L'Amour's "Crossfire Trail" has action at sea, but still very much qualifies as a western.

So. Gotta be on Earth, and not a flying machine, or flying saucer in sight.

Late 19 C.? Pretty much all of the tropes (cattle, bad guys, injuns with bad intent, sod busters, etc.) start to come apart as 20 C. takes over. Early 19 C. - is it the remainder of late 18 C.? Mountain men, yes. Trappers and the like, yes. But all of the pieces aren't there yet.

Gotta be late 19 C.

Rural western America... that's the hard one. Anything towards the Mississippi and east is something other than Western. Sacketts, Josie Wales, scores of others "go west" from "Kaintuck" and near any place that doesn't have cactus and coyotes. But as a full time setting? Nah. Even river boats may figure in a story, but never leave the river? Nah.

Here's a side point to consider. Depending on who's writing the list, it's plausible to argue Florida(!) has the most "cowboys". Originally, they were called "crackers" from using bullwhips a lot (and dogs) to move cattle around. As best I can find out, it isn't until maybe 1890+, but more in the early 20 C. lassos, riattas, whatever show up. But for shear number of people working cattle, Florida isn't so off the wall. And they even had false front stores!

So. A vote for western US.

Think about Quigley Down Under. Wrong voices, wrong first people, wrong architecture, wrong lots of things, but the story's about right as it gets (IMHO). Australia has the drover tradition, and it mirrors the US west in many ways.

So. A vote maybe doesn't have to even be North America (sorry, forgot about cowboyin' north of the 48th Parallel).

Jump ball! Game on!