Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Fist Full of Nonfiction

Here are some nonfiction recommendations I’ve rustled up from my collection with an eye toward the Western genre. Given the broad influence of Western tropes, though, there’s some ammunition here for your post-apocalyptic, space opera and even traditional fantasy games, too.

The Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns lets loose with both barrels on that very genre-blending tendency. It catalogs instances of science fiction and fantasy elements showing up in Westerns in all media--and vice versa. This means it terms “Western” pretty broadly, so the rational for including some of the entries is tenuous at best. The other downside is it is the entries are pretty short; it’s a catalog not an in-depth discussion. Still, having all this esoterica in one place makes for easy idea mining.

Staying on the encyclopedia trail, around the next bend we find another McFarland & Co. offering, Spaghetti Westerns: the Good, the Bad And the Violent. This bills itself as a “comprehensive filmography”--though some Amazon reviews have noted it to be plagued by quite a few errors. Still, for the casual browser (particularly one looking for game inspiration) its brief descriptions and discussions of a whole lot of films--including lists of series characters like Django and Sartana--is pretty cool.

Once all the hard riding’s done, we can sit at the saloon and let director (and spaghetti western enthusiast) Alex Cox regal us with 10,000 Ways to Die--which is not only a cool title, but an interesting work of criticism on the genre. Cox gives his insights and research on several films, some of which are on the more obscure side. He also offers up a lot of criticism of Clint Eastwood, and some grousing about Sergio Leone, but that’s the sort of thing one get when you get one (rather opinionated) guy’s take on things.

In a similar vein, Christopher Frayling’s Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone, is another interesting overview, but its even more “film class” in style and so probably less useful as inspiration. Frayling’s axes ground are different than Cox’s--he’s got little good to say about American Westerns inspired by Spaghetti Westerns, and a whole lot of good things to say about Segio Leone.


Aaron E. Steele said...

The Weird Westerns Encycl. sounds interesting. I like the Western tropes, and love to see them in other genres (Sci-fi, fantasy, etc.)

Unknown said...

Of the two, EWw interests me more.

netherwerks said...

Wow--both of these look like essential reading. Gonna add them to the list. Thanks for the recommendation.

Clovis Cithog said...


old west + space drama = way cool

show was killed by a bad time slot
(Friday evening)

Desdichado said...

Speaking of weird obscure "westerns" made by Europeans, have you ever heard of (or watched) an ostern? In the late years of the Soviet Union, there briefly flourished a movie genre that was kinda like Eastern westerns; except set in Central Asia with Cossacks and Turks in the roles of cowboys and indians... but which looked like Westerns, had the same themes as westerns, and were in almost every way extremely similar to Westerns.

They seem pretty obscure, though. I've had a hard time tracking down some of the titles.

Trey said...

@Clovis - It's in the book. ;)

@Joshua - I have never seen an Ostern, but I've heard of them---Frayling mentions them, I believe, in his book. Though not coming out of the same tradition, the Korean film The Good, The Bad, and the Weird has some elements of that, maybe.