Wild West, Paul Gauguin and the Raoke Gang - Alex Valdiers

18 Jan 2024

Before you read this, ask yourself this question: did you ever truly feel free? Like tomorrow didn’t matter? You didn’t need to call someone or answer a text? You didn’t have to save up to pay your electric bill? Wake up at a set time to get to work?

I felt free. Once. I was 18. I had traveled to Australia on my own to be there for a year. I landed in Sydney and after a week I took a bus to get to Barbera, South Australia. The 18 hours of this bus ride was perhaps the only time in my life I truly felt free. And I was. For a time. Soon, money brought me back to the civilized world. I had to get a job in the vineyards. I woke up early, worked, and a night drank with the fellow travelers at the hostel. Most of them for there for two things: money and get their visa extended by working in the fields. They were there because civilization and its rules commended them to be there.

I wasn’t. As a result, I didn’t work very hard and spent most of my money on beer. I had a great time, and then I had to go back to the big cities and rejoin civilization. That city was Adelaide. I hated it because I felt my wings were being taken off of me. In a way, I was right. I just didn’t know it. I only understood my thirst for freedom many years later when studying about Paul Gauguin, the painter. Yes, before you say anything, I know Gauguin is a difficult subject today, but I’m not talking about the nature of his painting but about a life choice he made.

Gauguin was a prominent French painter who lived the highs of what we know call ‘La Belle Epoque’: Paris in the late 19th Century. To this day, many people feel romantic and idealize La Belle Epoque. Yet, Gauguin left it for an island on the other side of the world in French Polynesia. He had almost everything going for him. He was part of a close group of artists whom are almost all legends today: Cezanne, Zola, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Van Gogh and more. He had money, lived off his art, and if the art critics did not yet recognize his work, he was mildly famous amongst Parisians. Yet, he left it all behind him to go live in the wild.


The Choice of Weapons is a novella by Alex Valdiers, SFINCS semifinalist

Historians suspect he couldn’t handle the oppression of living in Paris. The constant search for recognition. The friends to entertain. The family to answer to. The rules of society. At the same time of his departure from France in 1890, the Wild West, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, was living its most glorious days. Gunslingers roamed the American West in search of fortune, freedom or both. Like Gauguin, many gunslingers were Europeans disenchanted with the rules of society who crossed the Ocean for a new chance at life. A hat, a horse and a gun was pretty much all they needed to get a good start at their new life. They didn’t need to follow in their parents’ footsteps, work a debilitating job in a British factory, pay rent, got to church religiously, and follow the rules of society where everything was so firmly establish. The rich was rich and feasted on the poor.

In the wild west, no civilization was yet established. Corrupted businessmen could be toppled, new cities were being built every day, new land discovered. If you had an argument who someone truly despicable, you could try to take justice in your own hands without fearing an army of lawyers hunting you for the rest of your life. Of course, the opposite was also true. You had to watch out for your hide. If you had a farm, it could get ransacked at any moment, whatever fortune you owned could be lost in a hot minute. But at least, you were free. You could go where you wanted without being expected to return. You didn’t owe anything to anyone. You had a choice. And the choice you made mattered; it made a difference.

In today’s society, so much of our freedom is taken away from us. We need to get up and go to work every day otherwise we can’t pay our rent, our bills, our mortgage. Our industrialization is hurting the planet beyond repair. Most politics and great corporations are corrupted to the bone and there is nothing we can do about it. They’ve become so big they are now intangible. They make the rules for us and we follow. They cannot be toppled and they are getting more powerful every day. Alas, unlike Gauguin and those gunslingers of the Wild West, we don’t have the choice anymore to return to the wild.

A Wolf in Space is the debut novel of Alex Valdiers

That’s why I write Space Western Fantasy. It’s not the gruesome reality of the Wild West or the constant violence that interest me, it’s the idea of the Wild West. The idea of being free, with a gun and a good horse for only worry. The green open space before me. A place where human industrialization isn’t hurting the planet. A place that provides food and fresh water and a cozy place to sleep. And if I don’t like it, I can always ride away. I am free to make that choice. That’s what I like about the Wild West. That’s what attracts me. Freedom. Harmless freedom.

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About Alex Valdiers


Alex Valdiers is a French indie Space Western Fantasy author of Laotian descent who currently lives in the South of England. The lack of a suitable platform and market for French Fantasy prompted Valdiers to move to the UK in 2012. After years of practice, his debut novella The Choice of Weapons, the first Raoke Gang novella, was released in August 2023 and reached the SFINCS Semi-Finals.

His debut novel, A Wolf in Space, the first Raoke Gang novel, comes out on January 23rd. Valdiers has over 40 novels planned for the Raoke Gang series.