Sunday, December 7, 2008

Did the canon fire its last shot? The demise of the Western Fiction genre

Does anyone read Zane Grey anymore? And who is writing in that genre? "Western Fiction" seems to have gone pretty much to Boot Hill, a very few notable movies excepted. Although there are the usual disparities in definition (Wiki and the well-known literary website Economic Expert, for example), the horses, trail-dust, and other commonalities are independent of the location.

Notably though, in Australia they should have been called "Easterns" or possibly "Northerns"; a Western here would involve a hell of a lot of water. (Western Australians should now feel free to write to your local newspaper editors and complain about bias and Geographism.)

To be honest, I didn't see any evidence in the library of The Western crawling away to die alone in a remote desert cave. The sad truth hit me during a scrap-booking expedition to find a background for an equestrian-themed page. There wasn't one piece of horsey wrapping paper to be had in any of the major retailers or dime stores; not one birthday card, not so much as a set of kids' stickers.

When did kids stop being obsessed with horses? Now that I think about it, even the Animal Stories shelves have accumulated more than the average amount of dust. Maybe it's just me, having grounded my youth around The Loan Ranger, Zorro, and later in life Bonanza and other things with horses in it, but now I wonder if the problems of contemporary youth have a foundation in a lack of equine contact and/or interest? As Will Rogers is credited with saying "The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse".


  1. "...The Loan Ranger..." This is a great typo you have here; or is it very subtle librarian humour ?

    Anywho, I totally agree with you here, the decline of the western style is depressing, yet understandable since I doubt the young ones can identify with macho men with guns on horses. I think Science-fiction will get more and more attention with the increased speed of technological breakthrough...

  2. At my library, Sci-Fi doesn't "move" as much as Fantasy. I'm guessing that's because nothing seems to be impossible any more in regard to science ... but Modern Mankind has yet to clone a troll, capture a fairy in real time and space, etc. Could Fantasy be the last refuge for the jaded?