Can a Western also be Historical Fiction?


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Thread: Can a Western also be Historical Fiction?

  1. #1

    Can a Western also be Historical Fiction?

    Hi there, new to the community. As mentioned in the subject heading, can a Western also be Historical Fiction? Has this been done before? Thanks!

  2. #2
    What do you mean by historical fiction since history and fiction are two different things to a degree?

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by mojicanpuertorican View Post
    Hi there, new to the community. As mentioned in the subject heading, can a Western also be Historical Fiction? Has this been done before? Thanks!
    Of course it can. There's even sci-fi novels written that were staged in the old west. Most of what we have of that era is fiction - even those authored by people that lived it.

  4. #4
    Think of the film 'Little big man', they had him at Custer's last stand, only not on Custer's side

    Personally I would say a Western that was historically accurate would be far preferable to one that was merely an excuse for violent fantasy.
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  5. #5
    If you're talking about the traditional late 19th century western, it's by definition historical fiction, isn't it?

    So yes, it's been done before in every western written after that era.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    Of course it can. There's even sci-fi novels written that were staged in the old west. Most of what we have of that era is fiction - even those authored by people that lived it.
    Probably especially by people who lived it. LOL

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    What do you mean by historical fiction since history and fiction are two different things to a degree?
    Taken from the Dictionary, historical fiction is the genre of literature, film, etc., comprising narratives that take place in the past and are characterized chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages.

  8. #8
    Oh okay thanks, I thought that's what the OP meant, but wasn't certain. Well in that case, almost all Westerns are historical fiction, aren't they?

  9. #9
    Any genre can be combined with any other genre in fiction. There are murder mysteries set on spaceships, military romances, etc.

    The question is a little vague, though. Can a western be considered historical fiction? Sure, maybe, if it's 'historical' enough. Movies like Tombstone
    are reasonably close to historical fiction. Probably the best 'historical western' in recent-ish years would be something like HBO's 'Deadwood'.

    But "Western" is a genre and therefore is identified according to its audience's perceptions. These tropes, like most tropes, conflict with historical accuracy more often than not. For example, gunfights are an integral part of the Western genre but were actually quite rare in the Old West and certainly did not resemble the frequency or violence of the Western genre. The most famous 'historical' gunfight, the OK Corral, consisted of six 'cowboys' and resulted in a not-all-that-incredible three people being shot...and that was considered a big brawl. Contrast something like that with your typical Western, where O.K Corral-style gunfights happen more or less constantly, and you can see how removed from history most Westerns really are.

    So, yes you can do historical westerns, you just probably can't make them seem both historically accurate AND satisfyingly 'western-ish'. The audiences of Westerns (which is pretty tiny these days, by the way) don't tend to enjoy Westerns for their historical authenticity...and the audiences of historical fiction don't necessarily care about, and in many cases may actually be very put off by, aspects that Westerns typically feature prominently. The end result is likely to be a story that is either mostly just one genre with lip service to the other, or something else entirely. Maybe that 'something else' is a good thing, maybe it isn't.

    For an example of this, consider Twilight - yes, the Stephanie Meyer book. What genre is it?

    You can sort of tell Meyer's goal was to write a 'romance-that-was-also-a-horror' and the end result is a story that isn't completely convincing as a romance and certainly isn't very effective as horror. So it becomes this lightweight mishmash. There are a lot of stories like that, which is how all these sub-genres are formed, and again - that's OK, so long as it finds its market.

    The only thing that matters is to select your genre not based on the kind of story you want it to be but the kind of story your reader will expect when making a buying decision. Genre is solely about marketing, nothing else.

  10. #10
    Also in Westerns you see that dueling is often a way to settle matters, where as in the real west, it was highly illegal and there seemed to be very rare cases of it, from what I could find. However, dueling to solve problems is the most fun in Western fiction.

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