Horror is scary. Romance is steamy. Westerns are manly. And sci-fi/fantasy is imaginative. But why not slip a little western swagger into that epic fantasy, just to spice things up a bit? Or set the fear of god into some sci-fi fans, by giving your aliens a Lovecraftian twist? Of course, the answers are yes, please and you can; and many have, to great success.
Genres are fickle things. We tend to talk about them as though they were physical enough to be transcended, but genres are far from immutable. They’re really just the shorthand used to help readers find new books they might like. And to that end, it works! But this doesn’t mean that genre should tie the hands of writers looking to tell an amazing story that doesn't quite fit in a genre box. Many of my favorite books take their complex flavors from multiple genres, mixing them together with enough alchemy and skill to turn their words into pure gold.
Crossing genres expands the stories you can tell, as well as the themes you can tackle. It can also lend a freshness to a story it might not otherwise attain, were it to cling too fiercely to the expectations of the genre. Because of this, the very best authors are often those who read widely, and read with open minds. Even if a genre isn’t to your taste, who knows? You might pick up a few tricks. To that end, here are a few tips to get you started.
Western: Rugged Underdogs for Frontier Justice… IN SPACE
Westerns are sexy and enduring. It often centers on the lone vigilante who wanders the rugged edge of the world, bound only by honor and unable to turn his back on those need. The vigilante’s adventures often start in a saloon filled with all manner of dangerous, manly, uncivilized things, which the hero is good at but takes no pride in. From here, the hero usually takes the side of the idealistic underdogs against more organized, almost imperialistic forces in a battle with well-drawn lines between good and evil. Some even take it a step further and deal in moral ambiguity—like the film Unforgiven, or the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, taking into question the kind of man who would take on such a life.