Weird Western recommendations
September 8, 2020 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend me some stories in the Weird West genre. Mild specifications below the cut

1) I am open to basically any media - books, short stories, movies, tv, audio drama, whatever you've got
2) I love horror and don't mind violence or gore but would prefer to avoid sexual violence if possible
3) I am not interested in stories without any sort of fantastical element at this time.
4) I have read the Dark Tower series and have just started Gemma Files' Hexslinger trilogy, so I am already aware of those.

Thank you!
posted by darchildre to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Joe R Lansdale, who you may know from Bubba Ho-Tep or Hap and Leonard, does weird western among many other dark subgenres. You might try Dead in the West as a novel, or have a skim through the descriptions of his short story collections. Western stuff is sprinkled in amidst southern gothic, utter gonzo, psychological thrillers and such.
posted by mumkin at 3:07 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]

Whenever people ask for comic recommendations I always say East of West. It's about Death of the four horsemen of the apocalypse in a future alternate-history America where among other things the west was never won.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:15 PM on September 8

Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man is great, and it's got an improvised Neil Young soundtrack to boot.
Rango is one of the few non-Pixar CGI films to win an Oscar for best animated film and it's a great hybrid of Chinatown and a western.
posted by furtive at 3:47 PM on September 8 [6 favorites]

China Mieville's Iron Council might fit your requirements. It's thoroughly New Weird and is centred around railway building in the frontier and revolution.

I'm afraid I can't recall whether there is sexual violence in this book, but there is in some of his other work.
posted by knapah at 3:49 PM on September 8

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. -- 27 45-minute episodes.
posted by Fukiyama at 3:58 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]

Felix Gilman's The Half-Made World is one of my favorites, with a literal battle for the nature of an unformed frontier between two supernatural forces that are more complex than "chaos and individualism vs order and brutal bureaucracy" but roughly correspond to those.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:08 PM on September 8

Felix Gilman's The Half-Made World

Crooked Timber had one of their seminars for this and its sequel (The Rise of Ransom City), spoilers abound.
posted by kingless at 4:30 PM on September 8

Bone Tomahawk. Content note: I’m a horror movie head, very rarely react much to any kind of violence or gore, but there’s one scene near the end even I had a little trouble with. It’s not sexual violence though.
posted by holborne at 4:37 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]

Two graphic novels that might fit the bill. I have read and enjoyed both series:
Copperhead is a sci-fi/western mash up about a sheriff on an alien planet. Going for Old West but with technology.
Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick has a very Gothic horror/western vibe. I remember thinking it felt a bit like the first Dark Tower book (the only one I read) with "gunslinger running from weird unknown enemy" vibes.

Disclaimer: I don't remember any sexual violence in these, but I did read them quite sometime ago and may have forgotten/blanked it from my memory.
posted by nothing as something as one at 4:46 PM on September 8

Listen, I'm not gonna say it's a great movie or an unproblematic movie, but 14-year-old me would be very disappointed if I didn't say Wild Wild West.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:54 PM on September 8

You need the Golgotha series by RS Belcher. It is Lovecraftian in its weirdness and it is a pretty darn good read, if a trifle uneven, and ticks all your boxes.

The first book is Six Gun Tarot and can be read as a standalone novel. Belcher has written three books in the series and a fourth is coming so this should keep you in material for a while.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:56 PM on September 8

Tears of the Black Tiger and Ravenous. Two very different Westerns.
posted by chrisulonic at 5:13 PM on September 8

Laura Anne Gilman has the Devil's West series (three books, a novella, and short stories) set in the Territory, west of the Mississippi, which is controlled by the Devil. Isobel, the heroine, makes a deal with him on her sixteenth birthday and becomes the Devil's Left Hand and sets out on the road to find out what that means.
posted by mogget at 5:16 PM on September 8

Jonathan Lethem's Girl in Landscape is explicitly an SF western, with humans moving (from Brooklyn, of course) to another planet. I don't recall any sexual violence but I haven't read it in years.

Ian McDonald's Desolation Road plays with lots of western tropes--saloons, loners, blood feuds, crop dusters, the urgent need for water in the desert, rugged frontier folk versus the corporations and religions that follow in their wake--but its tone is giddy & maximalist rather than parched & lean. It's about the growth of a town on Mars and it's great fun.
posted by miles per flower at 5:26 PM on September 8

I really have enjoyed the series Wynnona Earp. I was all set not to like it, but I found it smart and fun.
posted by frumiousb at 5:57 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]

Two movies of their time:
El Topo.

The first one is viewable on youtube in reasonably clean 240p.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:22 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]

Hmm. I think of weird west as occult horror in an Old West setting, but Wikipedia extends it to western scifi mashups. If you are equally catholic, you might like Elizabeth Bear's steampunky Karen Memory and Stone Mad. Maybe, too, Sarah Gailey's visionary American Hippo.
posted by mumkin at 6:41 PM on September 8

These books all skew more in the fantasy line ... Midori Snyder wrote The Flight of Michael McBride. Patricia Wrede wrote her Frontier Magic trilogy, which I thought was ok but has gotten some criticism - a review.
Devil’s Tower and Devil’s Engine by Mark Sumner might work.

It's set in contemporary times, but the movie Tremors comes to mind.

It has a Western "feel" to me, though it is SF and set on another planet (it was filmed in New Mexico) - the one season series Earth 2.
posted by gudrun at 7:25 PM on September 8

I recently read Vermillion by Molly Tanzer (link goes to Goodreads page) and loved it. The main character, Lou, is a half-Chinese gender nonconforming woman who makes her living as a psychopomp (read: ghostbuster) in late 19th century Weird San Francisco, but ventures out to a creepy sanatorium in middle-of-nowhere Colorado because her mother hears that young Chinese men are being lured there for work and never coming back. Features grumpy ghosts, talking bears, vampires, a BDSM hotel, elaborate psychopomp rituals, probably several things I've forgotten. It really goes full weird in a way that feels really unrestrained and that I found refreshing.
posted by capricorn at 7:38 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]

2004’s Blueberry, released as “Renegade” in the US, is pretty trippy and weird. It’s long enough since I’ve seen it that while I don’t recall any sexual violence, I can’t swear there isn’t any.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:48 PM on September 8

And Slipstream is Westernish, in that postapocalyptic sort of way, and definitely weird.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:08 PM on September 8

Well...if you want to go old school, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian is horrifying in its brutality, and fantastical like...the prose is like...beautifully shot, large format, kodacolor, high depth-of-field, well-lit still photography of war crimes.

But, like no wizards or magic or whatever.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:15 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]

Some of Seanan McGuire's stuff is set in something like the Old West, is extremely good and is available for free at her website.

Oliver La Farge's A Pause in the Desert is a few generations old by now, full of magic, and unlike anything I've read before or since. I read the Spud and Cochise section as a standalone short story in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction a long time ago, and still think they hardly published anything better, and never anything more exotic.

Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series is billed as urban fantasy, but is set in rural Washington (Kennewick) and feels very Old West to me. I'd bet anything you would enjoy it.
posted by jamjam at 12:33 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in to make absolutely sure you see Bone Tomahawk. It's full of surprises and humour, and is generally fantastic. Kurt Russell for the win.

I also really enjoyed Meek's Cutoff. A Western that focuses in on women's perspective of the frontier/'pioneer spirit'.
posted by 0bvious at 5:12 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]

American Elsewhere has a real Bradbury-meets-Lovecraft-in-NM vibe. I don't recall there being any on-screen sexual violence, though there may be some implied.
posted by snerson at 7:06 AM on September 9

The podcast Thrilling Adventure Hour (sadly, no longer being produced) had a recurring story "Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars" which might scratch the itch.
If nothing else it has a crackin' good theme song.
posted by Eddie Mars at 8:17 AM on September 9

Via my daughter, seconding the Seanan McGuire recommendation above:
Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series is modern-day urban fantasy, but her Jonathan & Frances short stories, many of which are available for free on her website, are Weird West. I’m not sure how well they work as stand-alones, but as tie-ins they’re pretty incredible. McGuire is a wonderful writer.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:48 PM on September 9

You need Bacurau, an "ultraviolent freakout in Brazil's outback"... not really fantasy, but "it is a really strange film, beginning in a kind of ethno-anthropology and documentary style, becoming a poisoned-herd parable or fever dream and then a Jacobean-style bloodbath. It is an utterly distinctive film-making, executed with ruthless clarity and force."
posted by Tom-B at 8:34 PM on September 9

I came here to suggest the classic "noodle western" Tampopo but it's the wrong kind of weird and lacks fantastic elements. But since I'm here: I assume you've seen Cowboys & Aliens?
posted by fedward at 9:32 AM on September 10

Olivia’s Table by Alyssa Wong might fit the bill. I read it in The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 13 from Solaris.
posted by Kreiger at 5:38 PM on September 11

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