Holmesian Crossovers

The other day, a Sherlockian friend asked me a question that got me thinking about a slice of the Holmesian world that I don’t concentrate on all that often: Namely, pastiches that are literary crossovers with other fictional universes.

When I wrote The Detective and The Woman, I treated Holmes as real, and I included my own dream meeting of Holmes and Thomas Edison. Other authors have done similar things. Laure R. King, for instance, has Holmes meet Dashiell Hammett in one of her books.

Some authors, though, take Homes further into the world of imagination instead of placing him in the real world, crossing him with Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, and more.

My friend’s question to me was which crossover I’d pick if I was coming up with one, and my answer was Flavia de Luce, the pre-teen detective heroine of the wickedly hilarious mysteries by Alan Bradley. Though separated by time periods and decades of age, Holmes and Flavia are actually quite similar in character in some ways, and I’d love to see what they would make of each other.

Now it’s your turn. If the sky was the limit, which fictional character or universe would you cross with Sherlock Holmes?

Holiday season is upon us! The Detective and the Woman is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo. Grab it now before the sequel launches February 13th, 2013!

Canon Thursday: The Land of Holmes

So, it all started before the BBC “Sherlock” series even aired, but now, post-CBS “Elementary,” it’s gone wild, viral among Sherlock Holmes fans. What am I talking about? I’m talking about That Conversation, the one in which Mr. or Ms. So-and-So says, “I don’t like ___, It’s just not really Sherlock Holmes.”

The funny thing about it is, you could replace that blank line with virtually anything that isn’t part of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. One totally purist fan might replace it with classic pastiche The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer (with anything further from the original not even warranting notice), while another doesn’t feel like the line has been crossed until we get to “Elementary,” the new CBS series. I have met both types of Holmesian, along with most everything in between.

I’m not immune to this (nor do I think anyone needs to be, really). I enjoy a very wide variety of Holmes-related media, including the Robert Downey Junior films and Professor Tracy Revels’s fantasy-based pastiches, but I draw the line at “Elementary” because it just doesn’t ring true for me as a Holmes-based story.

On both sides of my line, I find other Sherlockians. Some feel that the BBC series is too modern and out of context. Others think more Holmes is always good Holmes and feel that “Elementary” is great fun.

Who’s right? Well, that’s a funny thing. It’s easy to parrot the acceptable answer, which is that we’re all right because it’s a matter of taste. Do we really feel that way, though? I strongly believe “Elementary” misses some important marks; other Sherlockians feel that the Robert Downey Junior films are beyond the pale because of their tendency toward parody. Additional possibilities of this sort are practically endless.

So, yes, it is a matter of taste, but it’s more than that. It’s also about why we watch or read or listen. Someone who enjoys “Elementary” is clearly enjoying it for a reason that doesn’t show up on my radar. I get a kick out of “Game of Shadows” for reasons that don’t tickle a great many of my fellow Holmes fans. My point is, it’s not as if we all sit down to watch with the same idea of the Sherlock Holmes canon in our minds and the same desire for what we’ll see, and then come out with wildly different opinions. It starts way before that, with our life experiences, what we enjoy in media, and how the original stories filter through our consciousness.

As a BA in professional communication, I studied at length about the concept of mental maps. In this case, Sherlock Holmes is a territory. What you or I see and feel when we read about him is what is known as our own mental map, which is in no way identical to the actual territory. It’s colored in all sorts of ways by our individual ways of thinking.

Are we ever going to agree on who is “right” about what is and isn’t “Sherlock Holmesy” enough? No, we’re not, because the black line on my mental map that demarcates the land called “Sherlock Holmes” is no doubt different from yours. And that’s ok.

Holiday season is upon us! The Detective and the Woman is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

Canon Thursday: Why Pastiche?

Yesterday marked a milestone for me, the conclusion of the first draft of my second novel starring Sherlock Holmes and the indomitable Irene Adler. MX Publishing has given me the greenlight, and I’ll be getting it ready for publication.

Possibly as a result of this, I’ve been thinking for the past few days about why it is that we write Sherlock Holmes pastiche. (For the purposes of this post, a pastiche is any work that stars Sherlock Holmes that was not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

The canon itself is not exactly short. Conan Doyle was prolific, and fans have fifty-six short stories and four novels to sink their teeth into. And yet, people have been writing Holmes pastiche ever since the detective was created, and in today’s Internet-focused world, we see more and more fanfiction, or pastiche that is published for entertainment rather than profit. (Yes, I believe that in many cases, this is one of the only major differences between fanfiction and pastiche.)

Pastiche, of course, is not only a Holmesian phenomenon. Numerous sequels to Pride and Prejudice exist, and Scartlett, the fan-written sequel to Gone with the Wind is regarded by some as a modern classic, to name a couple of examples. In these cases and others, however, readers seem to be responding to the brevity of the source material. Margaret Mitchell only gave us one book about Scarlett O’Hara, and Jane Austen only wrote about Mr. Darcy one time. Holmes, on the other hand, stars in story after story.

In my view, it’s not so different. Sir Arthur gave us many stories about Holmes, but told us very little about the private man. What we learn, we glean between and around and under the lines, trying to grasp whatever morsels we can find. The short story format, in particular, facilitated this, each tale providing just enough room for a case, with personal details wedged in here and there.

Though ACD wrote much more extensively about Holmes than Jane Austen did about Elizabeth Bennett, there’s still such a lot we don’t know about him. It seems, as we read, that our minds are always wanting to move outward, to know more about the personal side of the detective and his world and more about the tantalizing details the author only wafted in front of us, such as the immense intrigue of Mycroft Holmes, a character so fascinating in his brief canonical appearances that entire books have been written about him.

The reason I write about Sherlock Holmes, which I believe I share with others, is the need to know more about him, whether about his work or his character or his world. ACD revealed just enough to keep us hooked, but never quite enough to make some us feel satisfied with the amount of Holmes we have. That’s why I pastiche.

How about you?

The Detective and The Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available through Amazon, Amazon UK, and The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).