Mixing up the chaos of western and apocalypse
When I tell people my Legends of the Duskwalker series is a post-apocalyptic western (with cyberpunk!), sometimes they get a look in their eye that suggests those are things that should never go together, kind of like chocolate and bleach. But there’s a fairly long-standing tradition of mixing the two genres, and playing with both gave me some interesting ways to explore the story I wanted to tell.
For one thing, using a post-apocalyptic setting let me include a lot of advanced technology while still maintaining the sort of frontier feeling I wanted to explore. At the same time, having my characters navigating a dead cityscape brought a nice texture to the world that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve had I gone with a more typical Western-style setting, like a newly-settled planet. Rather than having vast expanses of wasteland separating small outposts, I liked having a world where the characters were constantly aware of how much had been lost.
Another benefit of combining the two genres was the types of challenges it enabled me to put in front of my characters. Whether resources are scarce because civilization has collapsed, or because we’re beyond its current borders, those limitations provide good opportunities for everything to matter. Stories don’t have to be about Saving The Entire World when you’re not even sure your characters can survive long enough to make it to the next town on the water they’ve got left. The decision to pull the trigger means a lot more when you’ve only got one round left, especially if you don’t know when you might find another.
Along those same lines, the moral choices characters have to make have greater significance when the only law is the one they make for themselves. Adding the strong survival element from the apocalyptic side to the general lawlessness of the Western frontier made for some interesting character dilemmas along the way. When you remove even the social pressure from the concept of what’s truly right or wrong, it says a great deal about your characters when you see what they’re willing to sacrifice for or what they’ll let themselves walk away from.
And finally, mixing the two let me add greater depth to the characters themselves. With Three, I knew I’d wanted to play with the lone gunslinger trope, but I didn’t want to stick too closely to just the usual elements. And with the sequel Morningside Fall, having that post-apocalyptic side left me a lot of room to explore other kinds of characters that wouldn’t seem quite as at home in a purely Western tale.
Overall I found it both fun and effective to be able to draw from both traditions. They mix well together, but each brings certain textures to the world that the other lacks. Adding the cyberpunk elements into the mix brought another interesting angle that rounded out the experience I wanted to create with the series, but without the foundation of the chaos of the Western and the post-apocalyptic the Legends of the Duskwalker series just wouldn’t be the same.
About Jay -
A contributing author to the book Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing, Jay has lectured at conferences, colleges, and universities, on topics ranging from basic creative writing skills to advanced material specific to the video game industry.
He has been described as “fascinating”, “insightful”, “highly entertaining”, “extremely handsome”, and “one of the most dynamic speakers in the Posey household” by parties who may or may not have been biased or himself.
You can learn more about him on his site & follow him on Twitter at @HiJayPosey
About Morningside Fall -
The lone gunman Three is gone, and Wren is the new governor of the devastated settlement of Morningside, but there is turmoil in the city. When his life is put in danger, Wren is forced to flee Morningside until he and his retinue can determine who can be trusted.
They arrive at the border outpost, Ninestory, only to find it has been infested with Weir in greater numbers than anyone has ever seen. These lost, dangerous creatures are harbouring a terrible secret – one that will have consequences not just for Wren and his comrades, but for the future of what remains of the world.
The book will be released on 29th April 2014.