Monday, January 23, 2017

Short Fiction Month: Faster Gun - Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear's interest in the old American West did clearly not begin with her novel Karen Memory (2015). The novelette Faster Gun appeared in 2012 on and can still be found there. In it, she describes events around Tombstone, Arizona in the fall of 1880. As is usual with Bear's writing, it is a mix of genres. Apart from the obvious western setting, there's a science fictional element as well.

Doc Holiday owes Jonny Ringo money and he can't pay. Against his better judgement, he agrees to take a party consisting of four women and a man to the crashed metal monstrosity that lies just outside of town. It turns out to be more than a sightseeing trip.

What always amazes me about Bear's work is how she seemingly effortlessly adapts her vocabulary to the story she is writing. This story is told from Holiday's  point of view and it all fits. The lingo on horses, guns and tuberculosis, told in a voice that reflects a bit of the education he enjoyed.

AlthoughFaster Gun is an alternative history, there are quite a few historical references in the story. Holiday's story is, as far as witness accounts from the time can be reliable, well documented. The timing is right, Ringo is also a historical figure. Holiday was once accused of murdering him although in all likelihood he didn't. Like she would do in Karen Memory, Bear takes a historical character and gives them just a little twist.

The science fiction element in the story revolves around the crashed ship. The party Holiday accompanies wants more than to have a look around. Once they arrive, the story takes an almost surreal bend. Bear builds the tension like in a spaghetti western, but uses elements that warp the story into something unexpected. Faster Gun is a very enjoyable read if you don't mind a blend of genres.

Story Details
Title: Faster Gun
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Language: English
Originally published:, August 8th. 2012
Read on:
Story length: Novelette, approximately 9,700 words
Awards: None
Available online:

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