“Weird West is Weird”
I had no idea weird West was even a genre (or sub-genre, or genre affiliate, or whatever) until after I’d completed the manuscript for The Dead of Winter. The idea of putting monsters in a tale of six guns and outlaws seemed perfectly natural, one that had surely been done many times before. We’ve been putting monsters, magic, and machina into interesting time periods and calling it historical sci-fi/fantasy for a good while now. The Old West is an interesting time period; surely it’s been given its share of monsters. The resulting books go right next to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, probably. If a book is decent, it will find a place on bookstore shelves.
Oh, the naïve arrogance of innocence.
I first realized that weird West might not be as big a cup of tea as I originally thought when I started shopping around for agents. Marketed as “a blend of fantasy, horror, and thriller set in the American Old West,” the manuscript had a difficult time dodging the various “we do not represent” criteria listed on agency websites. Fantasy, horror, no Westerns. Historical fantasy, yes; horror, no. Hours of reading slush pile rejection stories deterred me from dropping a label because I didn’t want to be one of those aspiring authors who didn’t read the submission guidelines. Form rejections and non-responders piled up, leaving me sullen, bitter, and ready to move on to greener pastures. Had Angry Robot not thrown open its doors to unagented authors in March 2011, Cora Oglesby might never have stumbled through the saloon’s batwing doors into the light of day.
Once I finally learned what The Dead of Winter should be called, I read through the Wikipedia article on weird West with a growing sense of confusion. The list of related works was short and featured far more movies than novels. Why could the infinite fandom knowledge of the Internet only come up with a score of books that fell into this genre? Aren’t the rich mythologies of American Indian tribes every bit as worthy of exploration as the legend of King Arthur or the wardrobe preferences of 19th-century England? Weird West is as open and endless as the prairie, as cold and foreboding as the Rocky Mountains, as merciless and deadly as the Great Salt Flats. Stories lie beneath its rugged surface, waiting to be mined and smelted into fantastic new shapes.
Yet these riches remain largely untouched, and I can’t fathom why. Have the legions of Spaghetti Westerns marched the setting of the Old West into a farcical grave? Do the arid landscapes of Arizona and New Mexico clash with traditional ideas of faeries, elves, and nature-infused magic? Whatever the reason, I challenge new and established authors alike to take a second, serious look at this criminally-underexplored sub-genre. The Dead of Winter is just one of thousands of stories that could flourish in the Great American Desert. I know I had a fantastic time exploring those frigid peaks and dusty streets, searching for ancient beasts and nuggets of culture and lore. There’s plenty for everybody, so cinch up your saddlebags, strap on your six gun, and see what magicks and monsters await you in that untamed frontier.
All this from a guy who is planning to set his next series in Soviet Russia.
About The Dead of Winter
The Dead of Winter
Angry Robot, October 30, 2012 (US/Can)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook
November 1, 2012 (UK)
Cora and her husband hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist.
When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious deaths, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible. But if Cora is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, she must first confront her own tragic past as well as her present.
A stunning supernatural novel that will be quickly joined by a very welcome sequel, She Returns From War, in February 2013.
File Under: Dark Fantasy [ Winter Chill | Small Town Blues | Dead Reckoning | Sharp Shooter ]
Lee’s short fiction has appeared in Ensorcelled and Morpheus Tales, the latter of which awarded him second place in a flash fiction contest. In 2009, a friend challenged him to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and the resulting manuscript became his debut novel, The Dead of Winter. It will be published in 2012, and the sequel She Returns From War arrives in 2013.
In his spare minutes between writing and shepherding graduate students at his day job, Lee still indulges in his oldest passions: books and video games. He and his girlfriend live in Colorado with their imaginary corgi Fubsy Bumble. You can track him down online via Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.