I’m creating a (scenario? setting?) that’s best termed as a “Mars Western”, because you know I love Mars.
I think the Western presents story tropes that have value (albeit critically). Man WIth No Name, the Deputy, the Eastern Dandy, etc. I don’t think the Western is exclusively and entirely the stories of the, well, genocide and war that happened at that time. [I might be just an apologist here that needs to get with the program. That’d be a fair criticism.]
I used to think that porting the Western tropes to a fantastic/alt-historical setting is a way to have the tropes without the horrors. (And I’ve totally made this argument back at the Forge circa 2004, lol.) However, I’m coming to like this idea less and less. Even if we jettison the tropes that are tied to racist/imperialist attitudes, to create a Western without the Indian Wars may in fact be erasing the Indian experience from existence, so ultimately going even further than said wars.
And then again, I think back to Shadowrun, which (if I recall) had a plot element of “duuuude the american indians came back isn’t that awesome go shamans”. I have taken this to be a fundamental game design lesson of how to be embarrassingly tokenizing. I also don’t want to specifically make a plot point in alt-history that specifically recreates those crimes. I feel stupid of dragging POC into the future just to do more bad shit. That’s dumb.
Here’s a recent idea I had for my “Mars Western”: It’s 20X6, and the colonization effort on Mars has been largely transnational. However, there’s a dead colony out in the Hellas basin (“Colony One”) that was the most populous hub and that was largely autonomous of the trade corporations that set up most of the later Mars colonies. Some refugees/exiles of Colony One survive still.
The point of the above: I’m not revisiting specific atrocities, but I am still tying this setting to an underlying current of horror and turmoil. If you’re want the narrative of the frontier, you need to taste the blood in your mouth; you need to hear the crash of a war machine to which you are implicitly tied. Our demons follow us to new worlds without compromise.
So… does this work? Or is this another case of misery tourism, or erasing history, or worse?
ETA: Here’s the writeup I had, for more context.
It’s 2062, and it’s a wild mess out on the Martian frontier. The “Free Mars” crowd is raising a ruckus, while the scientists are tweakin’ the weather with a ferocity. (And the fate of Colony One? A subject you’d best avoid.) But this doesn’t concern a ‘slinger such as yourself: you just need to recover a shipment of H2O from some of the most unsavory warlords on Mars. Greed, revenge, redemption and death await on the red dunes.