SpaceWesterns.com invited the writers who submitted original fiction in our first year to answer these 5 questions. — ed, N.E. Lilly

The first year at SpaceWesterns.com was a very good year. We received a wide variety of submissions from a wide variety of writers. From speaking with other fiction editors it seems that we receive a relatively small percentage of unpublishable material. So SpaceWesterns.com and it’s editor would like to thank the very talented and dedicated writers who have appeared here in SpaceWesterns.com’s first year. Surely they’re writing for the love of Space Westerns.

Ben Jonjak

Ben Jonjak Ben Jonjak split the country and went to live in Lima, Peru after getting a degree in Literature from the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. He currently resides there and keeps in touch with the writing community through the internet on sites such as www.editred.com. His writing has appeared in various print and electronic media.

1. When did you begin writing?
I had my first story published when I was a Sophomore in high school. I went on to get a degree in literature. I didn’t start getting paid to write until two or three years after I graduated from college.

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
I was always a big science fiction fan. I enjoyed reading stuff by Asimov, Bradbury, etc. When it comes to writing, Science Fiction easily has the biggest market, so it’s a convenient genre to like.

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
SpaceWesterns.com

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
Well, space is just a setting. Western lets you know that the stories deal with hard men and women who are ready to do anything it takes to survive.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
Escapism, adventure, and just good writing.

David B. Riley

David B. RileyDavid B. Riley lives in Vail, Colorado. He’s been writing for “Too many” years. In addition to numberous short stories, he has published two novels, including The Two Devils, a weird western novel. He’s also edited a number of non-fiction projects and anthologies.

1. When did you begin writing?
About 25 years ago. I started out with poetry, and then got bored with it. My first fiction sale was a story called “The Orb” that was picked up by a small magazine called Virgin Meat.

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
I think I’ve always been reading science fiction. I grew up on Heinlein.

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
A long time ago I read a book whose title is long forgotten that I thought was a regular western from the title. It wasn’t. Wow westerns with space ships, how cool is that.

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
I don’t know. “Westerns in space” is too simplistic. I don’t really have a good definition.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
It lets you push the envelope a bit.

Jens Rushing

Jens RushingJens Rushing is a writer from North Texas. Jens plays the banjo, very poorly. His wife is extraordinarily beautiful and patient. Jens is too young to have so many books.

1. When did you begin writing?
In grade school I had a teacher who let me scribble silly stories instead of doing actual work, and my folks encouraged me. I kept it up in high school, slacked off in college, and began writing seriously, with a regular schedule and quotas and the ideas of “developing a voice” and “learning the art of the narrative” about a year and half ago.

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
I always loved genre fiction, but, as an English major, was taught to scorn it. I wrote some mainstream or “literary” fiction in college, and it was pretentious, rotten, amateur bunk. Soon after I discovered that my stories improved dramatically if I included aliens, bears, murder, spaceships, dragons, Cthulhu, space-Aztecs, robots, or Crocodopoli. Many of my favorite authors (Dickens, Sinclair Lewis, W. Somerset Maugham) wrote non-speculative fiction, but from my own experience, I wonder how people ever write stories without one of the aforementioned elements. And genre fiction has unparalleled potential for storytelling and allegory. The symbolic power of a three-eyed Jacobite mutant fending off the zombified corpses of the US Presidents and mecha-Jesus with a raygun powered on crushed stars should be obvious.

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
Like almost everyone else, through Firefly and Cowboy Bebop. Of course I loved Star Wars as a kid without ever suspecting that it’s a western in space. Although I hear it is also an opera in space. I also enjoyed the John Carter books - the planetary romance (or “sword and planet”) sub-genre shares a good bit of territory with the space western.

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
The personal scale versus the political or epic, I think, much like the difference between conventional Westerns and historical fiction that happens to be set in the West. Westerns are the story of a single person, or a few people (or even large groups of people - as long as the focus is on the personal). They can be and often are plot-driven, but character is more important, I think, than in conventional scifi; this works so well with the big archetype of Westerns, the Loner, the Man with a Past. Also, the science is pushed to the background and becomes more of a plot device than the plot itself. It’s less important how the spaceship works; what’s important is that it does badass chases through twisting canyons while pursuing or being pursued. There are other ways to answer this; this is a big question!

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
See above. The things that make the subgenre unique make it compelling. There’s less baggage than in conventional scifi or space operas, too. I think the subgenre has more fun than the others. Also, people like seeing horses in space. Seriously! A horse, or a plain wooden table like in Firefly, or a six-shooter or cowboy hat or whatever, they’re links to our familiar existence and our pop-culture canon and history. While the future presented by Star Trek and its ilk is sterile to the point of antiseptia, the space western offers something refreshingly scruffy and familiar.

Jason Andew

Jason AndrewJason Andrew lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Lisa. By day, he works as a mild-mannered technical writer. By night, he writes stories of the fantastic and occasionally fights crime. As a child, Jason spent his Saturdays watching the Creature Feature classics and furiously scribbling down stories; his first short story, written at age six, titled “The Wolfman Eats Perry Mason” was rejected and caused his grandmother to watch him very closely for a few year

1. When did you begin writing?
I’ve been dabbling with words all of all of my life. I used to write all manner of different little stories growing up. Some of them now would be termed fanfiction. I went to college wanting to be a writer. I wrote a really bad novel in college and gave up. In my mind, I was seeking greatness and if I couldn’t have it, I didn’t want to try. I didn’t realize that every story you write helps build muscles that improves the next story. In 2005, my wife encouraged me to give writing a serious time. I started with short stories and finally worked my way up to novels. My short stories are selling and hopefully so will my novels with time.

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
I suspect it was the Saturday Morning Creature Theater that started my interest. My world growing up was pretty drab, almost black and white. I think the first time I saw The Day the Earth Stood Still that I actually saw it in full color vision. Sure, I know it was made in black and white, but I was so into it that I knew right then and there what I wanted to do with my life. It aroused enough of an interest that I started exploring in the library and found Asimov and Heinlein.

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
I think Han Solo from Star Wars is the modern archetype for the Space Western hero. Sure, there was Flash Gordon and a dozen others before then. Solo was the character that really attracted my attention. And after that, I started reading whatever space adventures I could like Have Space Suit—Will Travel. I think the problem is that I grew up in the 80s and the hope for Space Exploration kind of died in the real world after the Challenger incident. I think the brief Cyberpunk movement was somewhat of a reflection on that. Ironically, I think technology kind of killed the Cyberpunk movement. I have a phone that is as fast as the computers described in Neuromancer by William Gibson. I think that the interest in Space Westerns have regenerated because the interest in exploring space has increased. Private corporations are on the verge of getting in on the action. How much longer will it be before the private citizen gets his chance?

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
Westerns are at their core about the conquering of nature by humans. The conflicts are all about taming the wild and introducing civilization. At first, it was large corporations or government sponsored explorers that settled the area. However, it was the pioneers that truly claimed the West for their own. I think Space Westerns are about bringing human civilization into the wild of space.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
I think we want to be pioneers again. We want to go to space and make our mark. The technology isn’t there yet, but we’re getting closer. And, I think instinctually as a species, we all sense that we need to expand off this planet if we truly want humanity to continue to live. This planet is overpopulated and we’re all starting to feel the burn of overextended resources. We won’t really start exploring space until there’s a proper economic motivation such as collecting resources.

John Whalen

John M. WhalenJohn M. Whalen grew up in Philadelphia watching Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials on his mom and dad’s old black and white Stromberg-Carlson TV. It had a big round picture tube like a goldfish bowl and there was a button you could push that made the picture bigger. It also had a big 10-inch loudspeaker, and he will never get over hearing Franz Lizt’s Les Preludes on it at the opening of every chapter of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. It explains everything.

1. When did you begin writing?
I think I was ten years old when I turned out a long story called “The Chain.” It was about a character who had a chain at the end of his right arm instead of a hand. He was like a trouble-shooting private eye who went around bashing bad guys with his chain-hand. Sometimes he’d use it to swing from one place to another. Gregory Gemnon—The Chain. I was fascinated with the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Sax Rohmer. And The Chain’s adventures were a mixture of elements from both of those writers. I discovered Burroughs in a hard cover edition of The Return of Tarzan in a local library in Bucks County, PA. I’d seen Tarzan movies and comic books, but the novel was a revelation. Here was a character who killed lions with a knife, hunted for food in the jungle, slept in the crotch of trees, and talked to apes. And he was also a character who traveled on ships, dressed and talked well, and was such a noble guy he takes a bullet in a duel and refuses to shoot his adversary because of a point of honor. I think reading that book made be want to be a writer.

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
As a kid in Philadelphia, I became addicted to Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon serials. They were shown on TV in the afternoon, and every day after school, I’d sit there in front of my folks’ Stromberg-Carlson black and white TV, and watch Flash battle the Sacred Orangapoid of Mongo (which was just a guy in a gorilla suit [Ray Crash Corrigan] with a horn glued on its head). I watched everday, as Flash fought the shark-men, clashed with the Hawk-Men, became an ally of the Clay People, and rescued the son of the King of the Rock People. It was heady stuff. Then I grew, and after college, I never followed up on my childhood interest in fiction writing and became a journalist instead, working out of Washington, D.C. But the impulse toward creative writing never really leaves you. I started writing some freelance articles on film and TV, for the Washington Post, including a piece on the Creature from the Black Lagoon that ran on a Sunday before Halloween. I aslo wrote an article for the Washington Times on Tarzana, Calif., where Edgar Rice Burroughs lived and died. I found that practically none of the people living there ever heard of Tarzan or Burroughs. Finally, I began writing fiction in 2005 and recently decided to retire from the nine-to-five routine and work full time at something I really love.

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
Frankly I never heard that term until somebody wrote a bad critique of one of my Jack Brand stories for RayGunRevival.com, calling it a space western, “where you have heroes toting ray guns instead of six shooters.” But I guess he was right in a way. I actually wrote the first Brand story for the Latta brothers great e-zine pulpanddagger.com. The late Jeffrey Blair Latta liked it a lot and wrote some very encouraging words about it. The Brand stories are soon to come out in paperback, I’m happy to announce. I was surprised to learn I had actually written an episodic novel with a beginning, middle and end.

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
I hate definitions. They’re just a way of trying to pigeonhole a writer into a certain category. And I don’t think it’s healthy for a writer to be put in a box that way. It’s mostly because of the whole marketing concepts of commercial fiction. It makes it easier to sell, when you can tell potential book buyers this is the kind of book this is. The trouble is that readers come to expect the work to follow a certain paradigm, certain conventions. And what happens is that writers find themselves trapped into following those predictable conventions. Where is the creativity in that?
It starts to become writing by numbers. It’s a trap.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
For me personally, the attraction to space westerns, however you define it, is that it still seems to be a relatively new label. I’m surprised at how few people, writers included, even know what a space western is. I’m constantly being asked to describe it. So there may be room in it to do something different. Something creative. I’ve been surprised to see that some of the more dramatic elements of my tales are being accepted by editors— elements that frankly belong more in mainstream novels or dramatic films. But what I hope to be able to do is create an original body of work. Something that builds on what has gone before and moves on into realms not yet discovered or explored. At the core of my stories is the essential humanity of the characters. That’s what I’m interested in writing about. The emotional scars, the demons they live with, the things that make them still want to get up in the morning and put their space boots on. The giant flying insects, the underwater creatures, the blue-skinned swordsmen, they’re all incidentals. It’s got to be about the character searching for his identity. Because his story is really everyone’s story. And it’s endlessly fascinating.

Vonnie Winslow Crist

Vonnie Winslow CristVonnie Winslow Crist is author-illustrator of two collections of award-winning poetry, Essential Fables and River of Stars, and a children’s book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales. She’s also editor of the science-fiction and fantasy anthologies, Lower Than The Angels and Through A Glass Darkly.

1. When did you begin writing?
I was an avid reader as a child, and enjoyed writing stories and poems. As I got a little older, I was “distracted” by illustration. When I was in my mid-twenties, I fell back in love with the written word, and began to write poetry. By age 30, I realized I wanted to write fiction, too. Of course, I’ve never given up my art!

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
I’d always read science fiction and fantasy (and watched it on television), but didn’t realize it was my calling as a writer until I attended a “traditional” poetry workshop. The workshop leader read my poems for critique, and commented, “These are science fiction. I don’t know anyone else who’s writing this kind of poetry.” And a stick of dynamite went off in my head. Yes, I was writing science fiction poetry, and the genre fit me like a leather cattleman’s glove!

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
Some of the stories I read when I was younger had the space-opera/adventure feel to them. I was also a great fan of westerns. When I saw the Firefly series on television, I realized there was a whole niche in science fiction that combined two of my favorite genres.

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
For me, space westerns are science fiction adventures set in a frontier environment using standard western characters and themes. Of course the science fiction aspect gives the writer the opportunity to tweak and mutate the traditional western.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
They’re fun! And when well-crafted, they can be thought-provoking, imaginative, and downright inspiring.

Cheryl McCreary

Cheryl McCreary educates the masses as a college instructor of biology. She’s lived in a variety of places, Oklahoma, Ohio, New York, Virginia, and currently South Carolina. She fell in love with the West while doing her dissertation research. Her work has been published in Alienskin and Amazing Journeys Magazine.

1. When did you begin writing?
I believe I started trying to write and publish serious science fiction in 2003. Actually the “Hidden Answers” story that Space Westerns published was one of the first stories I wrote. It then was revised several times to become what finally made a good finished story.

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
I’ve always been a fan of SF. Was into the episode 4-6 Star Wars movies as a child. My mother was a Star Trek fan, so I saw all The Original Series movies. When I started to write I felt like using possibly worlds of the future and my background in science allowed for more freedom than mainstream fiction.

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
I looked over the webzine after finding it listed on Ralan’s market list. Being a fan of Firefly and liking combinations of westerns and science fiction it’s a a place with a collection on things I enjoy reading.

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
I likely have a rather broad definition of the term. Anything set in the future, and especially in space, with a western feel would be included. That feel could be about the frontier, the beauty and danger of another world that we may never fully tame. Or it could be about characters; the sheriff that’s not as good as he seems, the villain with morals, the young man bent on ruining his future, and the gunslinger with a past.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
I’ve always loved both Westerns and Science Fiction so why wouldn’t something that combines the two not be fun.

Robert Collins

Robert CollinsRobert Collins has had stories and articles appear in periodicals such as Tales of the Talisman; Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine; The Fifth Di...; Wild West; Model Railroader; and the Wichita Eagle. He’s sold two biographies to Pelican Publishing, and six railroad books to South Platte Press. His first SF novel, Expert Assistance, has just been published by Asylett Press.

1. When did you begin writing?
I started writing in the eighth grade, but I started writing professionally in 1987.

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
By seeing Star Wars, then Star Trek, and then by reading “Asimov on Science Fiction.”

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
Honestly, I didn’t know there was such a subgenre until I submitted my first story here and began to poke around the website. I think I now get why some publications didn’t want some of my short stories. The funny thing is, I was writing these sorts of stories before I knew there was a name for them. It was all just SF or F.

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
The best definition I’ve heard is, a SF story with elements of the traditional Western: takes place on a “frontier”; solitary hero or anti-hero; a Western-style plot; and so on.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
For me as a writer, the attraction is that I can take what I discover in my nonfiction work and apply it to fiction. But I can’t just fictionalize the material; I’ve found that I’m not interested in writing a story unless it’s SF/F. It’s another tool I have to tell good stories. I can’t say as a reader. Personally, genre or subgenre doesn’t matter; either I like what I read or I don’t.

Camille Alexa

Camille AlexaCamille Alexa is a full member of Broad Universe and writes for The Green Man Review. Her fiction is forthcoming in Ruins (Hadley-Rille books), Black Box (Brimstone Press), Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic (Raven Electrick Ink), and the Machine of Death anthology. Her poetry will be appearing in the March 2008 Humor issue of Star*Line.

1. When did you begin writing?
My boyfriend bought me a laptop for my birthday in 2006. I’d never written anything before, and I didn’t plan to. I’ve no idea why I began to type fiction a few weeks later (novels, flash, poetry, short stories), but the phenomenon seems to have continued with intermittent urgency and success. I think of it almost like an embarrassing medical problem which doesn’t seem to be going away. Perhaps there’s an ointment for this?

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
I’ve been reading spec fic all my life, starting with the first ‘grownup’ book I read on my own when I was about eight: Richard Adams’s Watership Down. My mother then lent me a few books which are still among favorites: A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr; Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End; Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn and A Fine and Private Place. When I was in the fourth grade my grandmother came to Texas to live with us, bringing her enormous SF&F collection with her: Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robert A. Heinlein, Tanith Lee, Ray Bradbury, Patricia McKillip, LeGuin and Lovecraft and Asimov. For the most part I didn’t watch television as a child. It left me with some serious gaps in my pop culture repertoire, but made for an awful lot of time to read SF & F. An awful, awful lot of time.

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
I’m a terrible anti-genre-ist. A campaigner, in fact; a dreaded soap-boxer, even. I want my fiction good. If you can write a tale as exciting as those by Robert Heinlein, Jane Austen, Louis L’Amour, Fritz Leiber, or Georgette Heyer, I want to read it.

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
I recently read an excellent essay in George R. R. Martin’s two-volume Dreamsongs (reviewed in The Green Man Review) called “The Heart in Conflict.” He begins by quoting the (in)famous Bat Durston passages from the backflap of the original Galaxy magazine: “Hoofs drumming, Bat Durston came galloping down through the pass at Eagle Gulch, a tiny gold colony 400 miles north of Tombstone...”; and the other: “Jets Blasting, Bat Durston came screeching down through the atmosphere of Bbllzznaj, a tiny planet seven billion light-years from Sol...” And then he adds his own: “Armor clinking, Lord Durston rode toward the crumbling old castle, hard by the waters of the Dire Lake, a drear land a thousand leagues beyond the realm of men...” “Stories of the human heart in conflict with itself,” says Mr. Martin, “transcend time, place, and setting. So long as love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice are present, it matters not a whit whether that tall, lean stranger has a proton pistol or a six-shooter in his hand.” Gimme, baby. Gimme gimme gimme. Gimme it all.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
I like my fiction to be allowed to soar beyond the ordinary. A pirate’s cove or an asteroid belt or High Society in Regency England all have the potential, in the hands of a talented storyteller, to soar far beyond the ordinary. There’s a certain freedom, a generousness, to the Space Western tradition in particular which has more latitude than many others. I think many readers have become a little disillusioned with the literary snobbery and infighting that seems to have been rampant in spec genres recently; everyone seems to be jockeying for position, genre-wise, each sub-sub-sub genre picking on the next. I like that Space Westerns fans are permitted come to these stories with no more agenda than the desire to be entertained. There’s a certain unapologetic joie de vivre apparent in Space Westerns which currently seems lacking from other branches of fiction. I appreciate what SpaceWesterns.com has tried to do by seeking to be particularly inclusive of all types of writers and readers and characters. Long live Bat Durston, in all her guises. Hah!

Amanda Spikol

Amanda Spikol works in the telecom industry and is also a bookseller. When she’s not doing those things, she’s a writer from Upper Darby, PA where she lives with two diva cats. Her work has been featured on apocalypsefiction.com and in LifeStyle Montgomery County and LifeStyle Philadelphia Magazines.

1. When did you begin writing?
I began writing in kindergarten, when we had a parent volunteer who came in with a typewriter and transcribed little stories we told her. Mine was called “Aliens in the Shopping Mall,” and was about little green aliens that lived in the ominous-looking black globes (security cameras) I saw on the ceiling at the mall.

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
Visually, it was the Star Wars movies when I was very young. For the written word, it was a beaten-up paperback copy of I, Robot I found on my parents’ bookshelves in 4th grade, it changed everything for me.

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
The part of Star Wars where the Luke Skywalker and his family are introduced; there was something wondrous about another planet where there were spaceships, but also ranches and rough saloons. It blossomed in my little 1st grade mind.

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
Anything that combines the common themes of science fiction and the traditional American western; it can be an equal split, or more skewed towards one genre or the other.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
Because it’s possible to bring so much into stories set in the genre, it reaches a wider audience. The cult success of the Firefly series and Serenity spin-off movie have done an excellent job of bringing the genre back into pop-culture.

Filamena Young

Filamena YoungFilamena Young is a twenty-something working writer and mother of one, both full time jobs in their own right. She writes in most genres and is very interested in the cutting edge of writing and publishing from Big House publishing to PoD and everything in between.

1. When did you begin writing?
I actually know the first essay I wrote. It was a bit of autobiographical fiction with horror undertones. I wrote it on October 8th in the year I turned nine years old. (Year withheld to protect my age. HA!) I fictionalized the death of my cat Muffin the weekend before. My teacher sniffed and told me I needed to work on my spelling. That hasn’t happened yet. I’ve been writing ever since and have a long line of (mostly useless) awards for writing under my belt. I also spent a lot of time being told that I ‘shouldn’t have my mother write for me.’ That was always a fun filled trip to the principal’s office. I loved explaining to them that it was actually my writing and that, yes, I was precocious, and then I’d write something for them on demand to get out of undeserved detention. I wonder if that’s where I developed my love for writing under a strict deadline, hmmm.

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
My mother raised me on Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines and Asimov. There was always a stack of them in the bathroom and the living room just begging for me to read them. I’m sure I’ve spent the last decade or so reading the best of the best science fiction has to offer, but mostly I can remember the illustrations. Strange pictures of strange people or things on alien planets. Sometimes those images were so strong that I’d have to get my mother to explain to me what ever they had to do with the short story attached. A great deal of it went over my head, of course, and so the need for understanding compelled me to read on and on. I’m sure there are much worse ways to waste a childhood.

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
I know I’ve read a lot of stories with that feel. Often I remember them happening on Mars. Mars fascinates me as a result. I think, as a young adult, the first time I could identify the genre specifically was watching Firefly when it first came out. Good show and fun movie, but I think for me, the potential for my own creative juices far out weighed the stories themselves. That is, I liked watching the show, but I LOVED the way it made me think.

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
There are definitely genres that need explanation and background. I think one of my favorite things about space westerns is that it is so straight forward. If you know what a western is, and you know what science fiction is, you get it. If you don’t know what either of those things are, you should probably be reading something else anyway. It’s tradition and traditional story telling with new themes and new feelings. It’s new tech and new shinny settings with real people you can get your hands on because they’re usually dirty and foul mouthed just like most of the rest of us.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
For me, at least, it’s the dreaming it inspires. I can imagine the turn of the century bored housewife who reads her penny novels about all the rugged adventure and danger of the Brand New West. The cowboys and stage coaches, the Indians and bandits. The exotic and exciting. At that time, westerns were sexy, they were the coming thing, and so they inspired that house wife in her cramped New York hovel to dream about wide open spaces, dangerous men without shirts on, and of course romance. The west is won, in my time, and so in order to fill my head with dreams like that, the frontier has to shift. Instead of dreaming about Montana and a log cabin my husband and I build from nothing, now I need to fill my mind with being the first of a crazy group of people to homestead on the Moon, or Mars, or where and how far space travel can take us.

Shauna Roberts

Shauna RobertsShauna Roberts is a multi-award-winning medical writer and editor who specializes in diabetes and related subjects. She also writes fantasy and science fiction stories and novels and is a recent transplant to Southern California.

1. When did you begin writing?
I started writing stories when I was a child. But I only got serious in 2000, prompted in part by my mother’s unexpected death. I realized that I wasn’t getting any younger and if I were going to become a fiction writer, it was time to buckle down.

2. How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
I’ve read science fiction since I was in elementary school. When I decided to write fiction, it seemed best to choose a genre that I read frequently and am familiar with, so I chose speculative fiction.

3. What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
I first became aware of the genre as a separate entity when I watched the wonderful TV show “Firefly.”

4. How would you define “Space Western”?
The facile answer is “a Western set in space.” But I think that’s too limited a definition. Traditional Westerns must use real history as their underpinning. Thus, Westerns of necessity deal directly or obliquely with sexism, racism, genocide, and destruction of our natural resources. There’s an underlying sadness in reading a Western because we know how things turned out—the beautiful hot spring is turned into a tourist trap, the Indians get shipped off to reservations to die, women and blacks lose their new freedom as the outside society encroaches and imposes its mores, etc.

A Space Western can feature the same types of protagonists and antagonists we love in Westerns—the Loner, the Wanderer, the Dreamer, the Adventurer, the Prostitute with a Heart of Gold, the Woman Disguised as a Man, the Opportunist, the Town Bully, the Mean Henchmen—but with a note of optimism, if desired. The eventual outcome is not predetermined. The writer can write the story as she wishes, and the reader doesn’t know what that story will be.

5. What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?

N.E. Lilly N.E. Lilly is the editor of SpaceWesterns.com. When he isn’t reading submissions or indulging his love of the Space Western sub-genre, he’s developing websites for Science Fiction professionals and organizations through GreenTentacles.

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