Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Myth of America

The Myth of America: that simple, honest men, born of her great plains and woods and skies have made a nation of her, and will prove worthy of her when the time is right. Under harsh light, it is false. But a good myth to live up to, all the same.- Garth Ennis, Preacher

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Louis L'Amour Killed the Western

When you go to a book store and look for the western section, you find two things: first, there are hardly any westerns there.  Second, they are at least half Louis L’Amour books.  I can’t help but think that the two are related.  The sci-fi and fantasy sections are not big, but they are lively and always changing.  Tolkien and Howard only wrote a handful of books between them, and at the pace he’s going George R.R.R.R Martin isn’t going to take up a whole bookshelf of Game of Thrones volumes any time soon.  The shelves have gone from being full of military sci-fi, to paranormal romance, extra-planar horror, and now sexy steampunk volumes.  Sci-fi and fantasy keep changing.

The western section, by comparison, tends to be dominated by a single author- L’Amour.  Take a look at the two (that’s right, only two) shelves of westerns that I found recently at a fairly large used book store in New Hampshire.  L’Amour’s books are all of the paperbacks and most of the hardbacks.  Hugely success, yes, but by dominating the western market for so long did he in fact narrow it and crowd out new and exciting directions for the genre?

I have gone from being an elitist snob about L’Amour to really enjoying his writing.  I’ve been listening to a collection of full cast production Chick Bowdrie short stories from Audible, and love them.  L’Amour isn’t as sentimental as I’d suspected (frankly no western authors have, to my surprise as I noted in this post).  Some of the dialogue from Jubal Sacket, in fact, stayed with me as I went into and out of heart surgery last year. 

So I have grown to enjoy L’Amour, but also regret his place in the genre.  With 89 novels and 14 short story collections taking up the shelves, there isn’t room for much more, and fewer new finds to entice readers.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Leggy Victorians and the Quandary of Steampunk Fashions

If one is an astute observer of history, particularly historical costume (which I confess to being), one notices that the key statement made by Victorian fashions is a complete rejection that any part of the body below the neckline exists.  Coverage is key, and although fashions are fitted, they are rarely close fitted.  The legendary Prince Albert piercing, for example, was said to exist solely to keep a man from spoiling the lines of his pants.  Women’s fashions, in particular, seemed to deny the existence of the leg.  To show one’s ankles was scandalous; American merchants on the Santa Fe Trail were shocked to find ankle length skirts on Mexican women, skirts that rose up to the calf while dancing.  The horror, the horror.  With that in mind, I always find it interesting that today’s steampunk fashions so clearly display the women’s legs.  We celebrate both the buttoned up Victorian fashions and a fetish approach to lingerie with seemingly no contradiction- quite a feat.

And with that, here are some leggy steampunks.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Looking for a Cowboy with a White Hat

I’ve been in the mood lately to read a sentimental, good hearted western.  You know, the kind where the hero wears a white hat, you can tell who the bad guys are, and you can get through the story believing that the lead didn’t pick up syphilis.  Not necessarily a simple story, but one where the moral compass of the hero guides him or her through difficult decisions and sees right and justice done at sundown.  You know, the kind of story the people think of when they make fun of westerns.

The problem is I can’t seem to find one.

The closest that I get are parodies of this kind of western: the modern Rawhide Kid comics, maybe the unsung film Rustler’s Rhapsody.  Fun, but I'm hoping for a novel, and the genuine article rather than a parody.  Whatever happened to that classic morality tale that makes up the stereotypical western?  Am I looking in the wrong place?  Advice, please, I could use some recommendations for a new book.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gearhearts Steampunk Glamour Revue

I keep telling myself that I am getting too old to buy crappy comic books just because of a well drawn woman on the cover.  None the less, I still toss comics with a pinup flavor on the stack once in a while.  This one was actually a lot of fun, since it had a strong wild west flair to its steampunk pinups.  I think it came out in 2011, but you can probably find it on a shelf somewhere.  Below are some images from Chase Sheridan, a star of the book, and steampunk bounty hunter cosplayer.  Enjoy.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

First Look at the New Lone Ranger

I have been a bit obsessed with the Lone Ranger lately, so I was glad to see that the Gore Verbinski’s film, with Johnny Depp as Tonto, is back on track.  Now that I’ve seen the first screenshot I’m not so sure. The look for Tonto is cool, but the Ranger looks a little too clean and orderly for my taste.  See more at