The Old West in My New Sci-Fi

Western motifs in science fiction are common. But few SF stories have tried to capture the desolation and gritty realism of the American Western landscape. When I started writing my Space Western short stories I set them on a dessert moon that is a literal metaphor for the old west. I wanted to make sure my characters were battling the land as much as each other. In order to make the moon of Ocherva believable as a place, I had to world build just enough to make it come alive in the reader’s mind.

I created my own kind of scrub brush called ocha that has a sweet tasting root that can keep you hydrated. Characters chew on it like jerky and it hangs from the sides of their mouths like hand wrapped cigarettes. When they use ocha for kindling to start fires, the fumes cause hallucinations that let them see into the future. This is, after all, science fiction.

I talk about the fine, orange and red dust of Ocherva that gives the moon its name. How it seeps into your pores and tinges the color of  a lighter skinned person. I also talk about the twin suns that alternate in intensity throughout the day and sometimes make for incredibly dark and cold nights.

The residents of this moon are mostly miners, ranchers and folks who just don’t want to be found or bothered. Rugged individuals who know how to make a living on the barren land without letting it swallow them up. But it’s also a play ground for thieves, bandits and pirates. Unsavory characters who populate the arm pits of the galaxy and give lawmen something to answer for.

Speaking of lawmen, I have my own spin on the legendary Texas Rangers, called Stellar Rangers. Rugged men and women who enforce the law upon the lawless in the Outer Rim of the Federation where Ocherva lies. The Rangers on Ocherva are led by Devon Ardel, a hard drinking, tough fighting woman with an android companion. Devon is the protagonist of the prequel to Starstrikers that I’m currently writing. In Starforgers we get to learn why she became a Stellar Ranger and why she came to Ocherva.

I even created a horse equivalent called a lerra. Lerra’s look more like shaggy llamas than horses but they serve the same purpose. The technology on Ocherva is limited at best. Sure there are space ships and blasters and more than a few androids, but there are also wagons, lerras and low rent dwellings made from dirt.

I mentioned androids. Androids are featured in several stories. Silica mined on Ocherva possesses unique properties that allows special chips to be made that turn androids into Silicants. A Silicant is a self-aware android. These Silicants become major players in the stories set on Ocherva and beyond. In fact, I have plans for a novel down the line that will be primarily about Silicants and set on a world they have created.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, please check out my e-book anthology, Tales From Ocherva, Volume One.

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