On The Weird Wild West

by Bryan C.P. Steele

As we draw closer to the release of the Weird Wild West anthology, the team has asked us to give some thought about the project – and perhaps our respective stories involved. Who am I to ignore a request from such great people?

Where to start? Hmmm… so, westerns collectively were always my uncle’s forte and they only speak to me when they are really, really good. The droves and droves of John Wayne flicks and Eastwood forays never did much for me, but then in high school I came across a brilliant example of what westerns could be – Tombstone. Kurt Russel, Val Kilmer, Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn… it was the ensemble cast to beat ensemble casts, and it delivered. I saw what my uncle had always been telling me about what westerns could be, and I felt like I understood. There would end up being more examples of good westerns as time moved on, but nothing would ever leave a mark on me like Tombstone.

Even if I didn’t “get” all of the early westerns, their idea of a frontier world filled with danger and uncertainty where people had to work, hunt and sometimes kill to get by. I’m used to sinking my teeth into stories about different untamed wilderness, hostile savages, and survival instincts, which – in a sense – puts the ideals of westerns in dozens of different settings. The first time the idea of the “weird, wild west” was put in front of me, it was in the form of a roleplaying game (my primary industry) called Deadlands. From the undead, steampunk, mad science and magic of Deadlands, everything else mixed liberally into the western backdrop seemed absolutely normal by comparison.

With that in mind, when a writer colleague of mine pointed out the Kickstarter campaign moving forward to create a weird, wild west anthology, I jumped at it. Not only did I back it, but I immediately reached out and discovered that I might be able to throw a few thousand words their way and be part of it, too. So I did.

A week or two of inspirational movie watching and some keyboard time later and Via Con Diablo took shape on my screens. I knew I wanted to have a story with a more supernatural feel rather than aliens or super science, so that’s why I landed where I did. It needed to have a mysterious draw to it, where the reader and the narrator both are a little confused about what is going on, especially considering the story begins with a first hand look at what it might be like to be hanged – old west style.

I don’t want to give too much away about my story (I want you guys to get the book and read it for yourselves!), but I had a lot of fun writing it and I hope the readers have as much fun getting to see where my pro-antagonist’s strange, alien actions take him. He’s a strange one, he is, but when you guys see exactly why… you’ll know why I’m tap dancing around things. I hope you understand, or maybe you’ll just think I’m weird.

Which, I suppose, is the point after all.

TW3-COVER-REVAMPAn excerpt from Via Con Diablo
by Bryan C.P. Steele,
from The Weird Wild West, edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw

“…and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Those were the last words I heard before the floor dropped out from under me, the rope snapped tight, and the world went black. It wasn’t so bad, gettin’ hung, not really anyway. Yeah, there was a bright light, and I reckon it would’ve been nice to head on toward it, but that wasn’t in the cards for me. No, there ain’t no pearly gates for Johnny Hollow. That bright light lasted for a tick, then it was gone. Everything got real dark and real cold, real fast. I felt like I was drowning in ink. The world was black and I was treadin’ darkness.

I went and got myself dead.

Sure, I lived hard. Hard as a ten penny, and I probably earned that rope. My trigger put nails in quite a few men’s coffins, I bought half a dozen horses on stolen dollars, and I left my share of broken hearts around the frontier. My name was spat by every lawman within five days’ ride from Cripple Creek, and my ugly mug was charcoaled on more than a few posters. A lot of folk might say I am…I was…a bad man.

Yeah, I wasn’t goin’ out and gettin’ fit for a bright white hat or a nickel-slick badge, but I did what I had to. What I was good at. Bit of a welch, you know? A carpenter puts up a good house, a barman pours a good glass, a whore gives a good…smile, and an outlaw slings a good pistol. And I was one hell of an outlaw. I was just doin’ what the Lord put me on this Earth to do, and it got me killed.

Anyway, back to that day…or days…or weeks. Who knows how long I was floatin’ in that darkness. I felt nothin’, saw nothin’, heard nothin’. It was like that one old Greek fella once said, or somethin’ like it, I was becomin’ part of that darkness all around me. I was lost in it.

All of a sudden, like Momma’s Good Book said, there was light. Blindin’ light. Imagine that first stab of day hittin’ your lids on a rye whiskey and loose saloon gals hangover. Now turn that feelin’ up a few dozen times and stick hot hatpins in your face at the same time—that’s how this light felt when it blazed on. All around me was hot, bright, and hurtin’. I went from nothin’ to high noon in a flash.

The light was painful, but the voice was worse.


Born in northern Indiana just months after the original Star Wars, Bryan C.P. Steele grew up with a powerful imagination—something that has since fueled nearly two million published words, countless plotlines, game designs and more. He grew up with his nose in comics and roleplaying books, often turning the pages with an action figure or little lead miniature. Never reined by the banality of the world around us, Bryan defined himself through creativity.

Working on award-winning projects with a number of different publishers over the years, he has had input on several fan favorite games such as the Iron Kingdoms, Traveller, Shadowrun and RuneQuest. Bryan has also been fortunate enough to work with such fantastic settings as Conan, Babylon 5, Starship Troopers and Judge Dredd over the years. His work was even featured as a bonus in Lauren Beukes’ amazing Zoo City (English-speaking release).

Bryan is the proud father to his young son Conor and soon-to-be stepdaughter Nori, who will soon be playing some of daddy’s games and reading daddy’s stories. With his beautiful partner in crime, Natalie, at his side, Bryan wants to make the world a more enjoyable place one page turned at a time.

The Weird Wild West
edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw

The untamed frontier is a challenge, a test of character, a proving ground for the soul. It’s a place where pioneers rewrite their future, or end their days…for better or worse. In the spirit of Bret Maverick, Cat Ballou, Kwai Chang Caine, and James West, The Weird Wild West blends western grit with the magical and mysterious unknown that waits beyond the next horizon.

With thrilling stories by Jonathan Maberry, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, John Hartness, RS Belcher, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Misty Massey, James R. Tuck, Robert E. Waters, David Sherman, Tonia Brown, Liz Colter, Scott C. Hungerfold, Frances Rowat, Ken Schrader, Bryan C.P. Steele, Wendy N. Wagner, and a bonus story by New York Times bestselling-author Faith Hunter, you’ve hit the Mother Lode!

Now available on Amazon.

NetGalley (available here for review through the end of January):

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