Space Western is a subgenre of science fiction, primarily grounded in film and television programming, that transposes themes of American Western books and film (e.g., cowboys) to a backdrop of futuristic space frontiers; it is the complement of the science fiction Western, which transposes science fiction themes onto an American Western setting.
"The Final Frontier" as a backdrop
This term supposes that the future of space exploration will be much like the taming of the old west of America. In some cases this may quite literally include frontier towns, train heists, and horses.
This "frontier stories" view of the future is only one of many ways to look at space exploration, and not one embraced by all science fiction writers.
The Turkey City Lexicon, a document produced by the Turkey City science fiction writers' workshop, condemns the space Western as "The most pernicious suite of 'Used Furniture' [that is, use of a pre-established background instead of a freshly created world]."
Galaxy Science Fiction ran an advertisement on its back cover, "You'll never see it in Galaxy," which gave the beginnings of make-believe parallel Western and SF stories featuring a character named Bat Durston. The genre of space Westerns has been informally—and often derisively—known as "Bat Durston" stories since.
George Lucas attributes the character of Boba Fett to the Man with No Name in the DVD commentary on The Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo's original costume and charming rogue gunslinger mannerisms also reflects the Western's influence on Star Wars.
The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers is a cartoon example of the Space Western theme. The opening trailer shows Texas Rangers-like heroes riding across a prairie landscape on robotic horses. Spaceships and sixguns both figure prominently throughout.
In the Bravestarr universe, the culture and landscape of the colony world where the series is set bears a remarkable resemblance to the culture of the American Old West.
A notable hybrid of Westerns and science fiction is the television series Firefly and its cinematic follow-up Serenity. This series not only used Western ideas such as the lawless frontier and the spiritually wounded veteran, but also included Western elements in costuming, design and dialogue (such as the Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B). The back-story of Firefly has been called a deliberate echo of the post-American-Civil-War setting of many Westerns, with a hero who fought for the losing side. Director Joss Whedon remarks in the audio commentary about the various Westerns which influenced him and which techniques–from dialogue to camerawork–he tried to capture.
Another notable space western is the anime series Cowboy Bebop, which precedes and is similar to Firefly and Serenity in some respects. Another notable example is the anime/manga Trigun, which differs from most space westerns by taking place entirely on one planet, that planet just happening not to be Earth.
The film Outland is often referred to as "High Noon in space". In both films, the new marshal is abandoned by the town when word spreads of his inevitable confrontation with a group of assassins coming to kill him.
- The Beast Master by Andre Norton
- Santiago: a Myth of the Far Future and The Return of Santiago by Mike Resnick
- Northwest of Earth by C.L. Moore (short story collection)
- Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
- Girl in Landscape by Jonathan Lethem
- Earthman's Burden sequence by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson
- A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- A Whisper in Space by David C. Drizzit
- Captain Harlock - Leiji Matsumoto combines elements from space opera, western, and samurai genres
- Combat Mecha Xabungle - Real robot anime set in a wild West-style far-future Earth type desert planet
- Cowboy Bebop
- Dragon Ball - Episode 15 introduces the character Launch who is a wanted criminal, a prominent side character in the series. She is introduced in a western-styled part of the Dragon Ball world.
- Galaxy Express 999
- Gun Frontier
- Gun X Sword
- Outlaw Star
- Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs
- Wild Arms
- The American Astronaut
- Battle Beyond the Stars, a pastiche of The Magnificent Seven in space
- BraveStarr: The Movie (released in Europe as Bravestarr: The Legend)
- Ghosts of Mars
- Moon Zero Two
- No Law 4000
- Serenity - The movie sequel of the Firefly series.
- Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - the scenes on Nimbus III are heavily influenced by Westerns
- Star Wars
- Stingray Sam
- Space Cowboys
- Wing Commander: Privateer
- Borderlands and Borderlands 2
- Gunman Chronicles
- Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter
- StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
- Wild Arms
- Frontier: Elite II
- Defiance (TV series) - An American science-fiction television series developed for television by Rockne S. O'Bannon, Kevin Murphy, and Michael Taylor.
- The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers - Syndicated 80s cartoon about interplanetary law enforcers with wild West aesthetics
- BraveStarr - Syndicated 80s cartoon about high-tech action on a wild West-style colony planet
- Firefly - A series set in the year 2517 where outlying settlements resemble the wild west.
- Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs
- Silverhawks - Animated science fiction series that included a guitar-playing cyborg cowboy named Bluegrass.
- Space Rangers - Short run series about maintaining law and order in the frontier of space in the year 2104
- Gunn, James (1995). "Teaching Science Fiction". Center for the Study of Science Fiction. University of Kansas. Retrieved 2006-01-15.
- Priestley, J. B. (December 5, 1953) "Thoughts in the Wilderness." New Statesman.
- Abbott, Carl, Frontiers Past and Future: Science Fiction and the American West, University Press of Kansas, 2006.
- Katerberg, William H., Future West: Utopia and Apocalypse in Frontier Science Fiction, University Press of Kansas, 2008.
- Mogen, David, Wilderness Visions: The Western Theme in Science Fiction Literature, Borgo Press, 1993.
- Westfahl, Gary, Space and Beyond: The Frontier Theme in Science Fiction, Greenwood Press, 2000.