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Welcome to this article dedicated to Western Steampunk, or Cattlepunk. Is it a rival or a separate genre? It's hard to say, as many steampunk genres are influenced by each other. But do you already know the codes and the aesthetics of these universes?
The style, which officially appeared in 1987, generally combines the reflection of the world of the past with contradictory elements of the future. Steam technology is often omnipresent, it replaces all other technologies and overpowers them all. A real futuristic trend that develops in many worlds and fields, such as music, literary art, fashion and cinema. Steampunk has also contributed to bring a modern touch to the western genre by infusing a dystopia. A kind of alternative worlds that merge and blend the two influences.
The western is a well known cinematographic genre through various works such as classic movies, books, paintings, comics, or TV shows. The western style is easily recognizable thanks to the singular design that revolves around cowboys or the location of the action such as Colorado or Nevada among others. Usually, the western style takes place in western America, a particular style of the 19th century.
In the same way, the western style is composed of various themes rather decorative as the Wild West, cowboys, cavalry, Indians or even the railroad or steam trains. We can say that the style is very close to the steampunk genre, which means steam punk or steam future.
Steampunk is a combination of elements from Victorian England and industrial revolution. Its punk side is manifested by dystopia, outrageousness and overblown science fiction. This is easily linked with the cinematic genre of the western. You have to imagine the world of cowboys revisited with improbable gadgets and punk or Victorian outfits. As steampunk becomes more and more trendy and developed, it is hard to miss this cultural evolution that has brought a futuristic, fantastic and impressive touch to the visual art of the western.
With a more concrete vision, we recognize the steampunk touch thanks to the connections between the past and the future composed of the modern technology evolutions. Very similar to science fiction, we can say that Western Steampunk or Cattlepunk reshapes the universe of the great American west by bringing implausible, even extravagant elements, making the scenarios much more interesting.
The western and the punk are thus two parallel contexts offering a more sensational and subtle rendering, enough to attract the spectators' attention.
The steampunk western genre is easily recognized by the specific style of dress worn by the characters. Whether for women or men, steampunk fashion is undoubtedly distinguished through original accessories and faithful to the cowboy look. There are for example the corsets for women or the gusset watches that perfectly illustrate the representation of the cattlepunk world. This kind of clothing evokes the type of costume worn during the western era, but better. In the same way, the boots of the cowboys or the stylized leather hats of the steampunk riders are also essential.
On the other hand, the gothic makeup that brings the mysterious and bewitching touch, is also part of the steampunk style. These are particular signs that allow us to distinguish the steampunk genre among so many others, whether in the stories written, the drawings, or the classic works revolving around the western.
Generally, the steampunk western film is distinguished by its typical horn, taken from a futuristic Far West version. It is usually a western town in the West or North America, with the typical horn of the 19th century. On the other hand, steampunk is often supplemented by crazy and impressive elements, weapons or gadgets, which come out of nowhere, but are far too advanced for their time. We can mention for example robots that are at the mercy of humans, literally serving as puppets, or extraterrestrials that travel in supernatural spaceships, or steam trains where technology is in contradiction with its epoch. To distinguish a classic western from a steampunk western, one can also rely on the many specific elements that embody the universe of science fiction in the Wild West, or the supernatural, fantastic and extraordinary facts. For example, there are creations or inventions with complex technology or sophisticated devices that seem too advanced for the Wild West.
Among the best movies in the western and steampunk theme, we can mention some examples like Wild Wild West, Back to the Future III, Cowboys and Invader or Jonah Hex.
In the same way, there is also the space western, which evokes a similar lifestyle to the cowboys but with a much more futuristic, over-the-top and sensationalist setting such as space. All the typical western elements are present but it is a bit like being transported to another galaxy. It is quite impressive and original at the same time.
A Barry Sonnenfeld film, Wild Wild West is clearly a western and action film that is largely un-received. It is indeed an adaptation of the cult series that the film is too far from. Without being brilliant, the film remains interesting because of its ideas and a strong steampunk aesthetic.
It is an adventure led by two special agents in the Wild West. The story focuses on the plight of James West and Artemus Gordon, who find themselves in an incredible world of action and fantasy.
The two cowboys find themselves on the run from a mad doctor, Dr. Arliss Loveless, who is a Southerner with dark ideas. He uses his scientific skills to create a formidable weapon combining power and modern technology, an extremely advanced invention for his time. Wild Wild West symbolizes the distinct blend of the western and steampunk genres.
Westworld is an American sci-fi thriller written by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, a story that embodies the western and the science fiction to perfection. Indeed, the series tells the story of the conflicts between humans and robots in a kind of Wild West amusement park, but with a futuristic design, all illustrated by high-tech and sophisticated elements. The whole thing skillfully mixes the plot around the classic theme of the human / android relationship and the human part of each. A scenario that will surprise you with its mystery and depth.
Considered one of the greatest stories of western and science fiction, the movie Cowboys and Invaders combines in itself two completely different worlds, but which seem to work for this fantastic adventure. It is about the utopian existence of the aliens who have decided to intermingle with the other; to intermingle their fate with the population of a small town in the Wild West. The invaders, or aliens, have set out to kidnap the humans of this community of white men and thus trigger an exceptional clash. Obviously the inhabitants decide to protect their town, the film is full of action, adventure and supernatural facts.
We find fantastic sets and quite singular gadgets such as luminous spaceships, creatures and aliens, or rather impressive weapons for the circumstances. In short, the whole story reflects the distinctive features of steampunk where we are swimming in elements belonging to science fiction. A whole program that illustrates perfectly the connection between the western and the concept of the life in the space.
A film that takes place in a city of the Far West that is drawn from a series of steampunk comics. It tells the story of a soldier named Jonah Hex, who is the victim of an attack led by his machiavellian and cruel superior, who murders all his family in front of him and mutilates him until he is left for dead. Jonah is then rescued by a friendly Doctor or charmer.
The events unfold and we find a Jonah character with superhuman strength. He seems to have a kind of power that makes him almost immortal, when he intends to take revenge on a certain general Quentin. The latter has stolen a very powerful weapon, consisting of a rotating cannon, to carry out an attack against the United States. The film displays a surprising mixture of adventures of a Wild West outlaw with steampunk elements.
Another western film that perfectly embodies the cattlepunk style is also the standard Back to the Future III, the one that ends the trilogy about the adventures of Doc Brown and Marty.
Thanks to their ability to travel in time, Doc Brown is projected into the past, and lands in a typical Wild West town that is none other than Hill Valley. With Marty, the two characters find themselves in the Wild West to correct their temporal errors and return to their past. The film is also full of impressive and futuristic inventions in the futuristic genre. A well advanced technology with a heart and a beautiful environment of the American West that makes you happy.
A fantastic movie that is full of high-tech accessories without looking like it. The film talks about electronic chips, fusion generators, a time convector and a whole range of gadgets as unlikely as chemical. The whole is highlighted with a perfect harmony to the classic feature of the western genre as the steam train for example. Back to the Future III is probably the most famous of the cinematographic realisation in the genre.
Just like the cinema, steampunk is also very present in the literary works around the western. Incredible stories that combine fantasy, magic, science fiction, western and punk, we can cite some references such as The alloy of justice, Games of masks, the meaning of life, the damnation affair ... Unlike the cinema which emphasizes steampunk through gadgets, weapons and machines coming from the future, the genre is rather characterized by supernatural and phantasmagorical facts in these books.
A fantasy novel that perfectly relates to the theme of the steampunk western, The Alliance of Justice is the sequel to Brandon Sanderson's Sons of the Mist trilogy. The book is about the adventures of Wax and Wayne, two friends and lawmen who find themselves in a mythical city of the Wild West, with the famous railroad typical of the 19ème siècle, but which is rather in décalage with skyscrapers or even lectricité. The story also includes magic with allomancy and chemistry, ancient powers that bring more fantasy to the book.
A classic novel belonging to the steampunk and western theme, The Meaning of Life is a book written by Sylvain Lumar. The story is composed of supernatural facts that link the western to an extraordinary world of another dimension. To read urgently.
Vermilion by Molly Tanzer is the first book that tells the adventures of Lou Merriwther. A literary work that combines fantasy adventure with punk and fiction, the story is composed of strange facts, magic and witchcraft. An incredible adventure in the Colorado Rocks, it embodies perfectly the typical mix of the western with the steampunk style.
Finally, one of the best books about the steampunk western, Cold Copper. An amazing story about science fiction, steampunk, western and magic. It describes a Wild West town in the heart of America during the times of the steam train and the bounty hunters. However, the appearance of steel creatures, monsters or even weapons with modern and powerful techniques are all in contrast with the cowboy era during which the story takes place.
It's clearly not a separate genre from steampunk fantasy, or other genres that use the Wild West. Applying the word "punk" to many genres seems to have limitations. Cattlepunk seems to lack the punk spirit and other stylistic elements that are important to major genres. Some works are just science fiction tales set in the Wild West and that's fine. Moreover, steampunk often incorporates the Wild West, which is finally set in the same era as Victorian England.
To conclude, the steampunk culture fits perfectly into the Western film genre. We can say that it brings more charm and magic to the adventures of the cowboys of the Wild West. If you are not yet charmed by the fantastic and extraordinary universe surrounding steampunk, don't hesitate to check out the western movies or books above to learn more.
Thank you for reading and see you soon for a new article on the intoxicating world of steampunk.