Gunsmoke and Dragonfire – A Fantasy Western Anthology

I picked this book up because it’s editor was one of my regional liaison people for the Nanowrimo event last year – to be perfectly honest, when I got it, I had tempered expectations – as I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of fantasy, and while I’m happy with the concept of cross-genre fantasy westerns and weird westerns and so forth, I don’t generally go seeking these kinds of stories out on my own.

But I figured hey, let’s support a local writer, they’re doing good things for the local writing community, what could go too wrong?

Now it’s November again. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to reviewing this book here.

For under $7 Canadian, you can buy the e-book version of this collection. (There is also a paperback edition.) It is a fairly lengthy collection, with over twenty short stories and novelettes included, written by an international cast of writers. I would say it’s a good deal if you’re looking for somewhat different western-ish stories and fun, and you may want to re-read a few of the stories.

It does do the ‘blurb about the writers at the front of a story’ thing that I find annoying – I took to skipping past the write-ups about the authors, because I didn’t want to be influenced by their biographies before reading their stories. I did find a handful of typos and a couple of consistency problems, but over hundreds of pages I can’t really complain.

(Oh, but just one particular note, I’ve seen this in westerns before and it’s a typo/spelling error that sort of makes me laugh – horses don’t generally have reigns, they wear reins.)

Now, I do have to say a few of the stories in this collection didn’t seem particularly western at all to me, and I wasn’t sure why they were included, but most did definitely have a cross western vibe – a couple were a bit grisly, a couple had a fair smattering of obscenities, but I think that it would probably be okay to recommend this collection to most teenagers and adults.

A few stories have LGBTQ+ characters, some have Black and Asian characters, a number of them have female leads, several are set in cold and snow, one is very explicitly set on the Canadian prairies.

It’s become a bit of a me-joke to note how often this happens, so here we go: One of these stories includes an Earp name drop, and there’s one that might have winked towards Doc Holiday.

Another quite unexpectedly gave a shout out to Edward G. Robinson.

A few stories didn’t really do much for me, I couldn’t say that any one was particularly amazing, but the vast majority I found quite enjoyable, many have a sense of humour, and even some that I didn’t really like had a few interesting bits inside. Most are, as you’d expect, fantasy cross stories, there are a few sci-fi crosses, a couple I would call mostly horror, and one that was really just your standard time-travelling private eye story. There’s a Don Quixote re-telling in here, and Fenians captaining airships. One of my favourites in the collection is a tale about the last of the Vikings in North America.

Most of the stories are reprints of fairly recent first publication, there is one that dates from the earlier half of the 20th century.

This was a neat collection.

I’m still not converted to the idea that reading about dragons and fairies and magical potions in a ‘weird west’ is the way I personally want to go every day, but I do hope that there is a second Gunsmoke and Dragonfire anthology some time, because I would certainly be willing to give another one a read through.

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