One type of story that is as American as the flag is the western. It has been popular for nearly two centuries and has been blended with other genres. There are adventure stories, romances, war stories, biographies, history stories, and even science fiction. A few years ago the movie “Cowboys and Aliens” came out that starred Harrison Ford. I’m surprised there aren’t more stories about aliens and Indians since they were familiar with extraterrestrials. Even today there are people in the American Southwest that deal with aliens as if they were their neighbors.
There are different eras of western stories. If you want to write a western story that takes place before 1800 you need to feature Spanish characters along with Russians if you write about Alaska and the region between there and Northern California. The British were also interested in the area between Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. One of the reasons why Lewis and Clark went to the Pacific was to claim the region for America before England could.
I have written a few chapters of a future book that happens out west starting in 1880. It is titled “The Phantom of the Union Pacific.” It will be about a man from Newgate, New York who travels to Denver to work as a security expert for the Union Pacific. I will rewrite the chapters I have already written to expand them and make them more interesting.
The main character teleports to Kansas City from Newgate so he can take the train to Denver. He has many advantages over typical security agents. He has two electromagnetic discharge revolvers that can fire steel projectiles at upwards to 10 miles per second. A small injection reactor in the handle provides the energy for the chamber magnetizer that magnetizes the steel slugs, the electromagnetic discharger, and the magnetic barrel. He also has a personal force field that is better than a bullet-proof vest because it can vaporize slugs. It also has an air filtration system that looks like a big belt buckle that will come in handy when some bad guys on both the silver and gold coin delivery trains coming from the Denver mint use knock-out gas to put the passengers to sleep. The man from Newgate is spared the nap and prevents the robbery of the coins. Since a man that was supposed to remove the gold coins sees the agent on both trains thanks to his ability to teleport from the gold coin delivery train to the silver coin delivery train, he asks him if he is a phantom. He says he is and he would haunt him for the rest of his miserable life.
Since the book is supposed to happen starting in 1880, there are many famous people I will write about. The main character has a friend in Denver who came from Newgate so he has a food replicator, a small reactor to provide heat, power, and air conditioning decades before it’s invented by Willis Carrier in 1911. His friend marries a Chinese woman whose father used accupuncture to treat his painful back. During the fall of 1880 when the citizens of Denver go to war against the Chinese, the main character’s friend steps in to prevent needless deaths. The main character in one of the chapters will rescue a woman from being killed by cavalry officers that attack an Indian village. She is white and was raised by Indians since she was a baby since her mother and father abandoned her or might have been killed. I haven’t written it yet, so I’m eager to find out what happens. The main character marries the woman by a justice of the peace after midnight since no preacher would think of marrying a man from New York and a woman raised by Indians. The two couples eat alone during church picnics.
Some of the historical figures I will write about will be Jay Gould who hires the main character after he stops a train robbery on the way out, D. L. Moody and Ira Sanky who he meets in Saint Louis after delivering the silver and gold coins to the banks in that city, Buffalo Bill, Teddy Roosevelt, and other real and fictional characters. And since the man is from Newgate, one of the chapters will feature demon wolves that attack a train that is stopped by an avalanche in the Sierra Nevadas and he has to help the passengers survive.
As I mentioned, there are different eras that need to be considered. Before 1800 there are mainly Spanish characters besides the Indians. Between 1800 and 1840 there are mountain men, explorers, settlers, missionaries, and soldiers since we went to war against the Mexicans during that era. Between 1840 and 1860 there are gold and silver miners, settlers, soldiers, missionaries, and revolutionaries that fought either for slavery or against it. Between 1860 and 1880 there are Civil War vets, farmers, railroad workers, plenty of famous Indians, ranchers, cowboys, robbers, lawmen, gamblers, prostitutes, and average people. Between 1880 and 1900 there are the same type of people that would be written about in the 1860 to 1880 era. But since technology is changing and needs to be taken into consideration, there will be telephone people, professional hunters, and people driving steam vehicles and early gas-powered vehicles. The era from 1900 to 1920 is the last era of westerns since by then, movie cowboys were replacing real cowboys. Organized crime was going out to the West to get a piece of the action. I would have loved for one last Gunsmoke movie to take place during that period. Marshal Dillon would travel to Colorado to help out his good friend Chester who in 1902 would have a ranch where both gold and oil are discovered. Some wiseguys from the East try to steal the land from Chester. But after sending a telegram to Dillon asking for his help, Matt goes out to help him along with some deputies including an Indian that rallies local Indians to help keep the land from being stolen from Chester which will be tough since Chester might be considered a land thief too. The movie would have pitted 19th century law enforcement against 20th century criminality.
Don’t make your western story like the thousands of other western stories because even though it might be popular, it will be a retelling of the same old story your grandfather or great-grandfather grew up reading. But don’t make it too outrageous. My phantom is on the border of science fiction and westerns. From a distance he looks no different than a typical railroad agent. But his advanced technology will give him a big edge over his opponents. But as long as he doesn’t use a power ray or travel in a flying saucer (Granville Scout Craft) he won’t seem out of place. He might eat food made by a food replicator. But since it will be a first generation replicator, the food will look artificial even though it will taste like real food.
Don’t try to rewrite history like having Custer win the Battle of Little Big Horn because you would have to speculate what might happen if that happens. Custer might have gone onto Washington, DC to win the Presidency. The Indians might have been exterminated if President Custer decided it was desirable. Write speculative western stories if you want. I have. But I never tried to publish any of them. I might stick with “The Phantom of the Union Pacific” though. I love to write about demon wolves.
Some writers are famous for their western books so you would be compared to them. Good luck. But if you are successful, great. I like to compose classical music and I know it won’t make me rich. But I like doing it. If you like writing western stories, do it. You might not get rich. But there is more to life than money.