Your presentation of the city of Seattle in 1899 feels very authentic. How much did your research on the real Madam Damnable influence the development of this story?

Hah! It’s not authentic at all. And the real Madame Damnable—who was very little like the woman whom I named after her—was long dead by 1899. Basically, the city I’m presenting is an amalgam of northwestern port cities in the late 1800s, with some completely invented bits thrown in. There are elements of San Francisco and Portland as well as Seattle. So I’m glad they integrated well! Continue reading ›


What is the appeal of “weird west” fiction? Why do writers—or you yourself—write about it? What do you think readers like about it?

I’ve always been drawn to genre mash-ups I think because they’re a way to honor traditional tropes and yet cast them in a new light, to essentially play tropes off against one another. For me, the western has always been one of the most adaptable—it works well with fantasy, horror or even science fiction. For me personally, there’s just something about many of those western tropes that appeals to me and evokes an instant sensory reaction. Continue reading ›


What is the appeal of “weird west” fiction? Why do writers—or you yourself—write about it? What do you think readers like about it?

There are a lot of parallels between the settlement of the American west and established themes in science fiction. Here is life on the frontier, the sense of exploration, but then those same lands had already been settled, hadn’t they? The treatment of Native Americans reflects warnings found in colonization stories within science fiction. And there’s the adventure of being at the forefront, of new technologies like the railroad, the telegraph, machined parts, rifles, the promise of riches and wide open spaces. Anyone who enjoys a good western could find something to like in the genre of science fiction. And vice versa. Continue reading ›

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Alastair Reynolds

How did the story of “Wrecking Party” come into fruition?

I’d committed to writing a story for the anthology, and I didn’t think it would be terribly difficult as I’m a big fan of westerns. But as the deadline rolled around I found inspiration lacking! Fortunately something came up out of the blue. I read a magazine article about these incredible staged steam train wrecks that were done in the 1890s or thereabouts as a kind of insane mass spectator sport. It’s no surprise that people got killed! I can’t remember the exact train of events (get it?) but that article led me into the story, with its mixture of Western elements and science fiction, artificial intelligence stuff. Often my own creative thought processes are a bit opaque after the event. Continue reading ›


The historical details in “The Man With No Heart” are cleverly woven and add authenticity to the story. The pistol, its caliber bullets, the war. How much research did you do before writing? Or did you write first, fact-check later?

Growing up, my father instilled a love of American history in me. Family vacations were trips to Civil War and Revolutionary battlefields, camping on road trips Out West, exploring Native American ruins. My past has come up in a lot of my stories in surprising ways—I based the new planet in my third novel, Shades of Earth, on the Mesa Verde ruins, my experiences with roughing it have helped me develop a fantasy novel, etc. It was really refreshing to be able to write a story based directly on my experiences and the stuff I learned growing up without translating it into a whole new world! Continue reading ›


What was the process in writing this tale in the universe of Mad Amos Malone and how much consideration to previous stories — or autonomy — did you come into the narrative with?

I prefer that each Mad Amos story stand alone, so that a reader coming to the character and situation can read any of the stories without having to have read any of the others.  This one came about, as many of the Mad Amos stories have, from my encountering a real piece of the Old West.  Many of the Mad Amos tales utilize actual occurrences from American history.  It’s up to the reader to discover what is real and what is invented.  This is true of “Holy Jingle”. Continue reading ›


Can you tell us something of the origin of this story? With its awareness of genre tropes, it feels more like a descendant of John Barth (and Mel Brooks) than Zane Gray (and Robert E. Howard). How did you come to write this story?

Barth meets Brooks—I love that. The western is such a deep, rich genre, with so many conventions and tropes that starting to write a story you can almost feel an embarrassment of riches. As a reader, you bring that richness with you as you start a story, you’re not just reading a western, you’re aware of the western-ness of that western. I wanted it to feel like a TV set, like the storefront was a cardboard facade, the characters from central casting, the guns from the prop department. The characters feel like characters, but they’re no less real for all of that. Continue reading ›


With the theme of “weird west,” could you say that “Stingers and Strangers” started off in this vein of science fiction? What image or line would you say started to fully form this story in your mind?

The story definitely started off in that vein, because it was written for an anthology of weird west stories.  It wouldn’t have worked very well if it had been in any other vein.  I don’t really work with single images or lines.  I knew what I wanted going in. Continue reading ›


What was the inspiration for “The Hell-Bound Stagecoach”?

The title, of course, comes from Bob Bloch’s Hugo-winning “The Hell-Bound Train”. The notion was just to write a pleasant feel-good story about characters — the devil and Western desperados — who are not usually associated with such stories. “Writing against the grain”, I call it. Continue reading ›


In “Hellfire on the High Frontier,” we meet a lawman named Morgan Gray who’s a bit down on his luck as he tracks a skinwalker and gets caught up in a mission from a stranger. Did the character or Morgan come to you first, or did you develop him after you knew the story?

This came to me in bits and pieces.  I was a big fan of Zane Grey as a teen (hence the name Morgan Gray), along with Louis L’Amour, but I’m also a fan of Magic Realism.  I live in Utah, and at first I thought about setting this in Southern Utah, but I had written a historical novel set in 1856 back in Wyoming, and I’d done a bit of hiking along the Platte River for it, visited the forts nearby, and so on.  So part of this came from that, too. Continue reading ›

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