Weird Westerns


Weird Westerns

Race, Gender, Genre

Edited by Kerry Fine, Michael K. Johnson, Rebecca M. Lush, and Sara L. Spurgeon

Postwestern Horizons Series

462 pages


August 2020


$70.00 Pre-order

August 2020


$35.00 Pre-order

About the Book

Weird Westerns is an exploration of the hybrid Western genre—an increasingly popular and visible form that mixes Western themes, iconography, settings, and conventions with elements drawn from other genres, like science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Despite frequent declarations of the Western’s death, the genre is now defined in part by its zombie-like ability to survive in American popular culture in weird, reanimated, and reassembled forms.

The essays in Weird Westerns analyze a wide range of texts, including those by Native American authors Stephen Graham Jones (Blackfeet) and William Sanders (Cherokee), the cult television series Firefly and The Walking Dead, mainstream feature films such as Suicide Squad and Django Unchained, the avant-garde and bizarre fiction of Joe R. Lansdale, the tabletop role-playing game Deadlands: The Weird West, and comics such as Wynonna Earp. The essays explore how these weird Westerns challenge conventional representations by destabilizing or subverting the centrality of the heterosexual, white, male hero but also often surprisingly reinforce existing paradigms in their inability to imagine an existence outside of colonial frameworks.

Author Bio

Kerry Fine is an instructor in the department of English at Arizona State University. Michael K. Johnson is a professor of English at University of Maine–Farmington. Rebecca M. Lush is an associate professor at California State University, San Marcos. Sara L. Spurgeon is a professor at Texas Tech University.


Weird Westerns is a contemplative and compelling foray into the colorful and broad ideological vistas of the Western. This compendium of smart, theoretically diverse, and intellectually insurgent essays engages the fantasy construction of the American frontier across multiple mediums of popular consumption and reads as an open-ended challenge to (re)situate and (re)imagine the Western regarding race and gender.”—Adilifu Nama, author of Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes, winner of the American Book Award

“This tantalizing collection addresses a wide variety of print, television, and film Westerns that incorporate steampunk, zombies, time travel, alternate history, science fiction, and many more influences. Weird Westerns proves that the Western continues to be a relevant genre in American popular culture.”—Victoria Lamont, author of Westerns: A Women’s History

“This comprehensive and fascinating journey through the unique landscape of the Weird West analyzes texts from a fresh perspective that resonate with social issues of the present day. From Native American and African American representation to sexual and racial identity, this book will inspire further research and discussion.”—Paul Green, author of Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns

“This wide-ranging interdisciplinary collection stretches the genre boundaries of the Western into the speculative and the weird and in so doing enables us to think differently and better—uncannily—about its deep history and its often unquestioned ideological assumptions.”—Neil Campbell, author of The Rhizomatic West: Representing the American West in a Transnational, Global, Media Age

Weird Westerns is brave, original, and timely. The editors have compiled an assortment of rich, insightful, and daring scholarship that applies multiple theoretical approaches to the shifting landscapes of the (Weird) Western.”—Monica Montelongo Flores, assistant professor of English at California State University, Stanislaus

“This exciting volume showed me how ‘weird’ the complex Western genre has always been: thankfully never living up to what so many pretend it is. With essays by established scholars and illuminating newcomers to the field, we see how the Western has always played, indeed depended, upon questions of race and gender to make sense of itself and of the cultures we live in. It will be a go-to book in the thriving field of western U.S. literary and cultural studies.”—William R. Handley, coeditor of True West: Authenticity and the American West

Table of Contents

Introduction “West World(s): Race and Gender in the Weird Western” (Michael K. Johnson, Rebecca M. Lush, and Sara L. Spurgeon)
Section 1: The Weird West Past and Present
  1. Attack of the Monstrous Vegetable: Bret Harte’s Pioneer Nightmare and Miscegenation Dream (Tara Penry, Boise State Univ)
  2. “Strange Country”: Sexuality and the Feminine in Robert Coover’s Ghost Town (Eric Meljac and Alex Hunt, West Texas A&M)
  1. A Selective History: Identity and Identification in Deadlands: The Weird West (Nicholas William Moll, Federation University Australia)
Section 2: Native Reclamations and Representations
  1. Mongrel Transmotion: The Werewolf and the Were/Wear/Where-West in Stephen Graham Jones’s Mongrels (Joshua T. Anderson, University of Saint Joseph, Conneticut)
  2. Indianizing the Western: Semiotic Tricksterism in William Sanders’ Journey to Fusang (Sara L. Spurgeon, Texas Tech University)
  3. Magnificence and Metas in Professional Westerns (Domino Renee Perez, University of Texas at Austin)
Section 3: Surrogate indians and Other Indigenous Metaphors
  1. Defamiliarizing the Western on the Extraterrestrial Frontier: Jonathan Lethem’s Girl in Landscape (Johannes Fehrle)
  2. “Shining the Light of Civilization”: The Savage Other of the Frontier in Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity (Meredith Harvey)
  3. Racial Metaphors and Vanishing indians in Wynonna Earp, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Emma Bull’s Territory (Rebecca M. Lush, California State University San Marcos)
Section 4: African American Presence in the Weird Western
  1. The Mad Black Woman in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (Jacob Burg, Brandeis University)
  2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin showdown: Stowe, Tarantino, and the Minstrelsy of the Weird West (Joshua D. Smith, Biola University)
  1. Race and Gender in the Time Travel Western (Michael K. Johnson, University of Maine Farmington)
Section 5: The Undead in the Weird Western
  1. Go West, Old Man: or, Buffalo Bill and the “Yellow Peril” in Zeppelins West (Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper)
  2. AMC’s The Walking Dead and the Redistribution of Gender Performance on the Neo-Frontier (Scott Pearce)
Afterward by Stephen Graham Jones

Also of Interest