Today I stopped in at the latest online meeting of the Praed Street Irregulars, the society dedicated to Solar Pons in the way the Baker Street Irregulars are dedicated to Sherlock Holmes. And there's a reason for that parallel, of course -- when Wisconsin writer August Derleth wrote to Conan Doyle and got a "no," he created a detective who decided to be the next Sherlock Holmes. His own Irregulars, his own "B" address, his own doctor companion, his own landlady whose name ended in "son," the whole kit and caboodle.
When I told a friend about the meeting, and its familiar Sherlockian speakers Peter Blau and Max Magee, they were a bit surprised that Peter was interested in Solar Pons. And then it hit me . . . to a Sherlockian who wasn't in the hobby decades ago, Solar Pons doesn't make much sense. Why would anyone need a detective who copies Sherlock Holmes when we have so much Sherlock Holmes?
I read all of the Solar Pons books back in the 1980s. In an era when the Holmes fan fiction was not coming hot and heavy and published pastiches were months apart, Solar Pons was the thing that got you by, not Sherlock Holmes but close enough and written well enough to do the job. We all read the Pons Canon back in the day. The whole Pons Canon even came in a boxed set of paperbacks.
Solar Pons has had a very loyal following for a long time. The Praed Street Irregulars who first organized in 1966. New stories have been written about him, new books are still coming out starring Pons. But like other ancillary Sherlock Holmes subfandoms, its numbers are a but a fraction of the main man's hordes. Yet they persist, despite never having a movie, TV show, or cartoon. (A character on Twin Peaks did get last-named after Pons, but that's as close as he got.)
Would a CBS series starring some good-looking Brit as Solar Pons power him up to the next level? Could Pons survive a modern-day adaptation? How would a gender-bent Solar Pons work? Could he be in love with Dr. Parker? And could Solar Pons have his own Solar Pons, like a 1960s detective named Spellman Nonce with a partner named Dr. Halston living at 45B Cable Street?
With Sherlock Holmes free of his copyright chains and able to now morph into a thousand other versions of Sherlock Holmes named "Sherlock Holmes," Solar Pons remains more of a fixed point in a changing age than even Watson can now claim to be. Pons's copyrights are still in force with the August Derleth estate. It makes him unique.
And as today's meeting of the Praed Street Irregulars demonstrated, Solar Pons isn't done yet.