Baker Street Irregulars discussion

General > Are we in danger of Holmesian overkill?

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message 1: by Joanna (new)

Joanna (foxwrapped) | 353 comments Holmesian overkill?

Matt over at Always1895 linked to a very interesting Barefoot on Baker Street blog entry. What do you feel about all this interest in Sherlock Holmes? Good? Bad? Does it make you overjoyed or wary?

Personally I feel it is the best thing ever. I think a smaller fanbase, though dedicated, sometimes has problems with possessiveness and control. And, because I do not often fit the mold of a "proper fan" (I'm a slasher fangirl, hello!) a bigger fandom has more opportunities for me to find other like-minded fans, and with them we can create our own little fandom niche where we can be happiest. Of course, a bigger fandom with bunches of people going, "Well I think this!" and "I'm gonna do this!" is bound to have some factions that just irritate the crap outta you because they are liking the show/book/movie WRONG, DAMMIT. And here on the internet they have actually found people who agree with them, ARRRGH. And you can read it because it is public, IS THERE NO END TO THEIR BLASPHEMY. And then you go and complain to the fandom niche that agrees with you. So there's lots of opportunity for drama... not that smaller fandoms don't have that, but... anyway.

I do remember that back in high school I didn't really understand this whole "sell out" concept, and this was high school, this was important, life-or-death stuff, right? I still don't get it. Somehow, by some sort of Sherlockian deduction, they knew where the line between creativity and profiteering lay and when an artist they had never met had crossed it. But it was like magic to me!

message 2: by J. (new)

J. Rubino (jrubino) | 165 comments This is what I think: Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes; I didn't. And there are few characters in fiction that have a more specific character outline, including the physical type. When writers deviate from what Conan Doyle set down, I think it risks becoming something other than Sherlock. I also think that the Canon offers 100+ interesting references to those "other cases" that are a gold mine for a Sherlockian writer.
I don't think that means you can't create a modern equivalent, as long as it retains the essence of the original. For example, I don't see the TV show "House" as derivative of Sherlock Holmes, because I don't see the roots of a Canonical Holmes in House. On the other hand, I think the Bollywood film "Bride and Prejudice" was a very good adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice."

message 3: by Ken B (new)

Ken B J. wrote: "This is what I think: Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes; I didn't. And there are few characters in fiction that have a more specific character outline, including the physical type. When writers d..."

Very well put!

message 4: by Joanna (new)

Joanna (foxwrapped) | 353 comments J. wrote: "This is what I think: Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes; I didn't. And there are few characters in fiction that have a more specific character outline, including the physical type. When writers d..."

I like that viewpoint (I think it is consistant and logical), and I respect it, but it is not how I find enjoyment in Sherlock fandom. All Sherlock Holmes work not by Watson are pastiches, and whether the pastiche comes close (or not) to canon is, when you get down to it, essentially subjective because our readings of the canon are essentially subjective. For me, instead of tolerating or accepting this (or pretending we all experience Sherlock Holmes in the same way--which can be a lot of fun!), I embrace--even indulge!--it. I will read or watch something and think, "How fascinating, this person/these people think these elements are the essence of Sherlock Holmes, and these other elements can be changed!" Not that I won't get irate if I think a pastiche is poorly executed. But you could argue that's basically subjective as well.

message 5: by J. (new)

J. Rubino (jrubino) | 165 comments I think there are elements in the Canon that are not subject to opinion. For example, Holmes' physical appearance, that he was English, the fact that he was a smoker, the fact that he had an older brother, that he lived at Baker Street, that he played the violin, and so on. These are "non-negotiables" and objective. The subjective element, IMHO, is derived from Watson's varying descriptions of Holmes' - that he could be curt, or a "chivalrous opponent", that he was an early riser except when he slept late, that he regarded women with detachment, or he could plead with Violet deMerville as though she were a daughter of his own. I think a pastiche writer could certainly choose to emphasize one quality over the other, because either would be Canonically justified.
As for work that is poorly executed, I think too often people confuse "I didn't like it", with "It's bad" - and ultimately it all comes down to whether there is an audience or readership that likes it, follows it and buys it.

message 6: by Joanna (new)

Joanna (foxwrapped) | 353 comments I agree with you that there are facts (...maybe? someone could argue Watson is an unreliable enough narrator to make anything work I guess) in the canon. But when I approach new Sherlock Holmes work I try not to concern myself with whether or not it adheres to my view of the canon but with whether it is internally consistent and entertaining. If someone gave me a Holmes (or Holmes substitute) that differed from the facts or my beliefs but despite it all convinced me of its world, its Holmes and its relevancy to the fandom (and to me!) I would be a happy fangirl. But I suppose anyone could say that! We are all looking for a Holmes that convinces us. I am just trying to define where that line between incredulity and acceptance is for me. I understand other fans desiring canonic justification, but I personally am so far away from purist it's funny. Like, I admit I might go beyond normal with my tolerance levels for this.

The subjectivity that I am referring to is in the decisions the writer makes about whether this thing or that is the "essence" of Holmes. Even if they took facts away, or changed them, is it still possible to convince the audience that this is Holmes? I think so. After all, I am the audience that likes playing around with canon! I am sitting here just dying to be convinced. In addition, the facts are, well... the boring bits to play with as a writer and a reader. Holmes smokes, plays the violin, lives at Baker Street. Yawn. What are his reactions towards women? What is the nature of his core personality? What would he do if confronted with something he never had to deal with in canon? It is in the spaces where there is question and subjectivity that I find interesting.

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