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Literary Scene: The good, the bad and the aliens

A stranger walks into the Happy Time Saloon during an intense encounter in 1887.

That sounds like the opening of countless Western stories. But here, the stranger is an alien, and this is an alternate history version of the Old West.

“Dawkin: A Tall Tale” (397 pages; $19.99 paperback; $1.99 digital, New Degree Press, 2020) by Massimo Marchiano takes a story set in the American West and mixes in science fiction elements.

Dawkin is an alien who was raised by humans. After losing his parents and adoptive father, he finds that the love of his life has been kidnapped.

“I was inspired by a lot of movies, by John Wayne, and William Shatner in ‘Star Trek’,” says Marchiano, 25, during an interview at Tony’s Pizza, Coopersburg, which is owned and operated by his family.

The book’s mix of genres is “a little more Western than science fiction,” Marchiano says.

He looked for originality in the merging of genres. “So many things now are reboots and remakes. I thought it would be cool to have something different.”

He says Westerns are appealing because “on the frontier you are able to live your own life the way you want to live it. People have control over their own fate. They can shape it as they wish.”

Science fiction has a sense of the infinite. “It takes us beyond the stars. There are a lot of things we have yet to discover.

“The book is targeted towards people who like action. It is a page-turner where people will be caught up with the situations the characters go through.” Struggles with villains, fights and gunplay fill the book.

It is also about friendship. Dawkin is helped by human Abraham Greene, an inventor and saloon owner. “He is doing one thing but wants to do another. He is at a standstill. People can relate to that.”

In a YouTube promotion for the book, Marchiano says, “The ultimate theme of the book is about need. A main thing the people in the story realize is how much they need either someone or something. We do need help and there is nothing wrong with that.”

Dawkin was based on Brian Dawkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, while many of the other characters are based on actual historical figures from the Wild West.

“The alternate history universe came along as I wrote it. It makes a lot of things in the book make sense. It’s a tall tale like Paul Bunyan in a modern way. There are a lot of strange things in the story that were never seen in our world.”

The universe of “Dawkin” is described in the book’s introduction. In this world there is a lot of oil but less arable land. In 1871, a spaceship lands, filled with hundreds of creatures called the Void. Most of them are later killed in an accident.

These tall creatures wear gas masks to help them survive in Earth’s atmosphere. There is a lot of mystery about the Void. Although “Dawkin” is a stand-alone book, parts of the mystery might be explained in a sequel.

Dawkin has a sidekick like many Western heroes, but in this case it is a dog named Brutus. The book is dedicated to Marchiano’s own Bullmastiff called Diesel, who died in 2016 and helped inspire him to write the book.

The real life dog was less inclined to adventure. “Brutus is more energetic. My dog didn’t understand a lot,” Marchiano says.

It took Marchiano three years to write the book after coming up with the idea in 2013. His writing was supported by a crowdfunding appeal on a website.

Marchiano, who lives in Quakertown, is a writer and storyboard artist for gaming company Lux Skill. He also does voice-over acting. He graduated from Temple University in 2020, majoring in Media Studies and Production.

“Literary Scene” is a column about authors, books and publishing. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

Massimo Marchiano