I grew up reading Westerns. Mostly Louis L’Amour, but my great-grandparents had a full set of Zane Grey (in the iconic red-and-white covers) in their home on the Oregon coast. I collected a fair chunk of them, for nostalgia if nothing else, only to lose them to a flooded basement. I imprinted early on those stories of the West, the lonely riders, and windswept ranges. When I get out of the city here in Texas, I often have a wave of bittersweet familiarity sweep over me. Not just for those literary landscapes, but my childhood spent out west in Oregon and Alaska. Frontiers, of the last vestiges of them. To dream of the past…
Perhaps that is why we all love Western novels. A time when life seemed less complicated. When there were unknown places at the edge of the map, and a man could fork his horse and head off into the wild places.
Science fiction taps into that desire some of us have. The yearning to see what lies over the far blue hills, now translated from the shrinking globe to the distant stars. We know our world, and as we grow, like a child coming back to their home years later, it has inexplicably shrunk two sizes too small and it chafes when we squeeze ourself into it.
Humans need adventure. Exploration of the unknown. The lure of something over there… death walks in the shadow of the lone rider. The least injury is certain to feel his bony fingers on your shoulder, when you have left the map behind and have no way to get a letter from home. Still. No… because it is so hard, that makes it worth doing. Growth is painful. Muscles stretch, bones remodel, the body strains at every cell. Humanity needs frontiers, danger, and space overhead to ride into the sunset.
Perhaps this is why we still write about the Westward trails… remembering a time when there was hard-won hope.
Peter Grant’s latest, the first in his Annals of Ash, is such a book. Modeling how to grow up a Real Man to a generation that never knew a true frontier. Wood, Iron, Blood… the making of the West.
Buy it. Then buy another copy for a young person you know. Doesn’t matter if they are a boy or girl – I assure you, this girl loved Westerns and is a better person for them!