The old West was a weird place — but clearly not weird enough for Denver author and editor David Boop, who rounded up a posse of fantasy/sci-fi writers for a new Western-horror anthology, Straight Outta Tombstone. In its first week of release, the book shot up to #1 on Amazon's horror-fantasy anthology list, and now Boop and many of his writers will be at the Barnes & Noble in Glendale on Friday, August 18, for Straight Outta Tombstone: The Weird Western Showdown.
Boop, who graduated summa cum laude from the University of Colorado Denver's Creative Writing program in 2015, has been writing in the weird Western genre for years. After seeing his own work published in over a dozen books, he started wondering what taking the reins of his own anthology might be like. So he asked a friend of his — Jim Butcher, author of the popular Dresden Files series — if any of his characters might have been around in the old West. When Butcher said yes and signed on to the project, Boop knew it was a go. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by amazing mentors, peers and friends," he says. "They bought into my madness and agreed to give me stories. I mean, c’mon! Alan Dean Foster wrote me an original Mad Amos story! Me!”
Boop’s enthusiasm for his subject was contagious, and several other notable writers soon signed on to join Butcher and Foster, many of them also New York Times bestselling authors: Kevin J. Anderson and Michael Stackpole (with bestsellers in both fiction and gaming, perhaps most notably stories set in the Star Wars universe), Phil Foglio (Girl Genius) and Larry Correia, whose Monster Hunters International series has its roots in the old West.
And it’s the old West that takes center stage in this anthology — though this isn’t anything you’d find in the work of Zane Gray. These are stories where the Western takes on the flavors of everything from fantasy to science fiction to ten-gallon-hat-raising horror. These are stories where the bad guy isn’t just in a black hat — he’s also potentially a zombie, an alien, a monster. (And sometimes the good guys are, too.)
Although the weird Western genre was dormant for a while, but it’s been around for some time, from the 1960s TV series The Wild, Wild West to the '70s DC comic Weird Western Tales to the 1987 Louis L’Amour book The Haunted Mesa to the 2011 movie Cowboys vs. Aliens. And then there's Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, which has enjoyed massive success as a long-running series of novels, and is currently on the big screen in wide release.
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Why bring the genre-bending form back right now? “The Western in its truest form is about exploring the unknown, defying conventional thinking, and rising to the challenge,” Boop says. “The West was hard enough as it was in reality. Add to that an increased challenge of zombies, and then you’ve got a story to tell around the campfire, all right. We overcame the challenge of westward expansion, and we’ll overcome the challenges ahead of us.”
The signing will feature nine authors from the book: David Boop, Jim Butcher, Kevin J. Anderson, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, David Lee Summers, Naomi Brett Rourke, and three Colorado writers: Peter J. Wacks, Sam Knight and Sarah A. Hoyt. The 5280Geek podcast will be there covering the event, and for every book sold, a donation will be made to Reading Partners, an organization supporting literacy in children in kindergarten and first grades.
The Weird Western Showdown starts at 7 p.m. Friday, August 18, at the Barnes & Noble at 960 South Colorado Boulevard. For more information, call 303-691-2998; you can rsvp at facebook.com/events/251489345342065/.