Dead Man’s Hand is an anthology collecting 23 short stories written by as many contemporary sci-fi authors. These tales are self-contained but they all belong to a specific literary subgenre: the “weird west”. The book is available on Amazon for £7.99 (paperback), £.9.92 (CD audiobook) or £8.92 (digital download audiobook).
Words by Marco Brunello
Weird west combines a traditional American western setting with supernatural, fantasy, sci-fi and horror elements. Mixing the several suggestions given by these different genres is something that existed since the far west era itself – with oral legends about Indian cemeteries, ghosts of the Civil War battlefields etc. – passing through 20th century’s pulp fiction and comics and finally coming to nowadays with bestsellers like The Dark Tower series or Hollywood flicks like Cowboys & Aliens.
This book places itself in this tradition, acknowledging since the very beginning the American far west as its central, starting point: the title of the book itself recalls the famous spread of Poker cards (apparently) held, at the moment of his assassination, by the famous gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok, which the book is also dedicated to; moreover every story is introduced with the precise location and year in which the events are set. Fantasy, sci-fi, horror etc. are present in different measure depending on each single tale, and every author gives his own interpretation of this subgenre favouring more or less some of these elements. Protagonists and antagonists of these tales are vampires, superhero-lookalike vigilantes, telepathic gunfighters, time travellers, aliens, clockwork soldiers etc.
Although not necessarily an exclusively steampunk product, Dead Man’s Hand has very good reasons to be read: big importance is consistently given to the accuracy of the North American 19th century historical setting, and the varied nature (and length) of the short stories provides a very entertaining reading experience. The editor of this anthology, John Joseph Adams, welcomes the reader with a very competent introduction in which he demonstrates his knowledge of this matter. So it is no surprise that he came up with the ideal collection of modern weird western tales, written by valid authors like Joe R. Lansdale or Charles Yu, which can be enjoyed by the novice of this subgenre and the experienced sci-fi reader in search for some variety as well.
Marco Brunello is an artist and publishes his own range of art and comics. You can visit his website here: Marco Brunello website
He’s also on Facebook, so go and give him a saucy like here: Marco Brunello Facebook page