Are Westerns classed as historical?

Discussion in 'Historical Fiction' started by biodroid, Jul 4, 2011.

  1. Connavar

    Connavar Well-Known Member

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    That is not always true there is several westerns i have read who are like Deadwood tv show. Books that are like other historical fiction. They look for historical realism and try to tone down the mythical old west. Write the characters as they would have been in those times.

    Also there is Roman historical fiction books that have no historical accuracy because the writers doesnt want to focus on that. There is Ceasar series by Iggulden for example where he changed the history for characters like Marc Anthony,Brutus,Octavian.

    Westerns isnt always like hollywood blockbuster. Its like most fiction, some are more accuracy,realism and some dont care.


    Also there is many realistic civil war,american late 1800s books that are no different than westerns. Daniel Woodrell of Winter's Bone for example have a famous one.
     
  2. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    I'd also say that wasn't strictly true. I can think of A Man Called Horse, Last of the Mohicans and Dances With Wolves as stories that respect the Native Americans as being much more than "faceless fiends".

    Where Ace may have a point is that those stories could be classed as historical fiction instead because they do have a regard for history, and the kind of 'pulp' Western that fills public library shelves does not. It is no different with Science Fiction where the 'worthies' would rather their stories were classed as Speculative Fiction so that it is not associated with something like 'Lesbian Vampire Killers from Outer Space.'
     
  3. paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    Although not a novel , Little Big Man is for me a perfect view of the 'Wild West'.
     
  4. JustPassingThrough

    JustPassingThrough Well-Known Member

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    I am assuming that someone has already suggested or you have already read Hondo.

    I think if someone took advantage of thinking of Westerns in the class of Historical, and had a wicked good idea, some romance one could see Westerns make a comeback. (I mean, they're still there, but the last time I was in a book store there was this little, one panel self that said Westerns. It was sad, lonely and I thought I heard the shelf weeping gently to itself.)
     
  5. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    Or more importantly, was she murdered and who was the actual murder? Leone's complex situation offeres no simple explanation. I knew Mortimer and girl were brother and sister but never thought about a plausible "Detective Western hybrid" connection. Good one.
     
  6. Bealtaine88

    Bealtaine88 Member

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    Well they're not contemporary so I guess~shrugs~
     
  7. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    They could be contemporary. Excuse me, because I haven't read many 'Westerns' but I have seen the films and Junior Bonner would easily fit 'contemporary western'.

    Do 'Westerns' have to have Cowboys (and or Native Americans?) Is Of Mice and Men a 'western' (Californian agricultural workers in depression.)
     
  8. paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    Question: Is a contemporary novel written 100 years ago now historical?
     
  9. Connavar

    Connavar Well-Known Member

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    Historical is when someone writes about a time before theirs. I write a book about 1945 its historical fiction. But if i write a book about issues of today its a contemporary novel.

    Otherwise would all literature now and forever would be historical as soon it gets 10-100 years old.

    Shakespeare writing about Caesar is historical story but Shakespeare writing about a Merchant in his own times isnt.
     
  10. The Ace

    The Ace Scottish Roman.

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    Don't blame me, I voted, "Yes."
    And Shakespeare writing about a Scottish King is a travesty.:rolleyes:
     
  11. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    Where's the cut off point? How far into the past can you go before comtemporary becomes historical?
     
  12. Connavar

    Connavar Well-Known Member

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    Usually its easy to see because people arent interested about reading things they remember from 10-20 years ago. They want important times from a century or a 1000 years ago. World War II is becoming almost ancient news since people from the war are dying of old age. WWII is also interesting. Napoleaon era is huge in historical fiction genre because of the 20 years war, a man who wants to conquer whole europe.

    Technicly a book about 9/11 or about Iraq war in 2003 written today is historical fiction.
     
  13. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    It must surely be in the eye of the beholder. The Second World War is history to me, but it isn't to my wife's father. On the other hand, the Iraq War is history to my children.

    As regards 'Westerns', the wild lawless west is long gone, and I expect ranching is very different today, so no one is alive who can remember that. However, the point I was trying to make earlier with 'Of Mice and Men' was does it have to involve cowboys and lawlessness to be a 'Western'?
     
  14. Vladd67

    Vladd67 Stake Holder

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    Another thing is spy novels, anything pre the wall coming down seems historical now.
     
  15. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    I've justed watched the film No Country For Old Men which is based upon the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. It is most definitely a Western and is certainly contemporary. Therefore, QED Westerns do not have to be historical.
     
  16. D_Davis

    D_Davis Well-Known Member

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    That's right - the western genre is more than just a setting. Another film set in modern times that is also a "western" is Way of the Gun.
     
  17. Connavar

    Connavar Well-Known Member

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    Western homage, vibe does not make it a western or historical fiction.

    Firefly has also western type hero, outfits, feel but it is mostly SF ?

    Old Men is more of noir, heist story.
     
  18. soulsinging

    soulsinging the dude abides

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    On the topic of hybrids, the Garth Ennis graphic novel series Preacher is a pretty fantastic hybrid of western/speculative/modern. Well worth a look/read.
     
  19. sabolich

    sabolich Well-Known Member

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    Uh, yes, I'd class Westerns as historical novels, especially when you are talking about the likes of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtrey, which I believe won a Pulitzer for best novel. Weird Westerns are starting to emerge as a blend of history and fantasy, but the old classic westerns written by Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour did stick to a fairly formulaic presentation. Zane Grey was pretty first in the genre, writing in the early 1900s, so he experienced at least the tail end of the authentic Old West to underpin his stories. There is no reason you can't write a really good Western as historical fiction, and I would say there is probably a pretty good market out there, especially among all us old fogies who grew up watching Saturday morning westerns as kids. There is also a certain nostalgia for what seems like more straightforward times, when the dangers were clear-cut and the solutions were (supposedly) equally clear. Bang! No more bad guy. It was never that simple, but we'd like to believe it was.

    Long ago I read a terrific book called "Dead Warrior" by John Myers Myers, which was the story of a western boom town from the accidental discovery of gold to its evolution into respectability. It was excellent and I highly recommend it if you can find it.
     
  20. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Years and years and years ago (back before the dinosaurs, even), during my days as a typesetter working for a firm which did a lot of work for university presses, I got the privilege of working on a rather extensive book covering what is considered by scholars in the field to belong to the genre "westerns"... and believe me, the definition of that term is BROAD. So no, a western doesn't have to be historical at all, though it can be, and often is. it can even be very much a book which goes against the conventions of the genre, or which uses them for satirical purposes to satirize the genre (in a self-reflexive way or otherwise); it can be quite modern and contemporary (after all, a great deal of western stories from the earlier part of the twentieth century were about things, settings, people, and concerns which were modern to them). I would say that, to be a "western", a story must take place in such a setting (or at least a goodly portion of it must, though it may begin or end elsewhere), and it must evoke a sense of the mythic nature of what is associated with the genre: the pioneering spirit, the lawlessness, the raw, edgy frontiersman psychology, the clash between the various cultures (Native American and pioneers, or even differing sets of pioneers or colonialists) in such a setting, etc.
     
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