Saturday, October 24, 2015

When the bar goes up on your pastiche tolerance . . . .

Eventually, a bunch of words with the name "Sherlock Holmes" somewhere in the middle just isn't enough.

As I struggle to make myself care enough to continue reading that popular novel "co-written" by the former sport star, I can't help but think back to my college days, and the delight I had reading anything and everything Sherlock back then. It was the 1970s, of course, and publishing houses still served as gatekeepers to the world of fiction, and the authors and I tended to have a certain gender perspective in common, but still . . . I enjoyed it all.

These days, however, it's a real Holy Grail quest just to find a Holmes novel that will hold my attention, end-to-end. I don't blame the fiction. Magic tricks are great the first time you see them, but there can be only one first time. Eventually, you've seen all the tricks and it takes a real talent to make the familiar all fresh and exciting. Sometimes you need the higher grade Baker-street drugs. (Yes, I've done Omegaverse fic. But I'm not addicted to it. Not at all.)

And then there's always that constant comparison of everything to your first time at anything, from romance to your favorite movie. Eventually our fresh, young Sherlock fans of today become the crusty old Star Wars fans of yesteryear, so enamored of their first love in the field that no later installments will ever measure up. You see it in every fandom, from Dr. Who fans who can't get past that one favorite Doctor, James Bond movie fans who say no one will ever be as good as that hairy Scottish bloke, or even . . . already . . . Sherlock fans who hate season three for not being season one or two.

The problem is, some later incarnations of things are actually of a much lesser quality than their earlier installments. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back can be measured against Star Wars: Episode One. Goldfinger can be used to see how bad Octopussy is. (Yes, Virginia, that really was an actual James Bond movie.) And sometimes things actually do improve with time (looking at you, Dr. Who), if you can step back and look at them objectively.

But as one grows older and ages as a fan, it becomes very hard to judge that middle ground . . . the mediocre can be passable sustenance when you're young and enthusiastic for it. But as time passes and you find so many other joys in life to vie for your time, mediocre just doesn't cut it any more. It's a very natural, very normal process. Becoming a cranky old fan is almost inevitable.

The trick, as with most mental illnesses, I suppose, is being aware that one has a touch of the cranky. In my mind, matching memory to current intake, I may actually feel that Austin and Utechin's Hellbirds is a better Sherlock Holmes novel than Cullin's A Slight Trick of the Mind, but realizing that a very heavy nostalgia factor is entering into that equation, I'm not going to write a passionate blog post tearing down Cullin's work for not being that earlier experience.

Yet sometimes you have to let it out. Sometimes, you just have to rage against someone's nutty decision to make their main character Darth Vader as a little boy with a durpy sidekick. You've got some real emotion behind it, and you just need to vent. As with so many other things in life, it's a matter of picking your battles. Is it just worth a momentary gripe or two to your nearby pals? Or a series of feverous blog posts that continue over time?

It's your choice. And you could even just decide to write a rambling analysis of your changing feelings on Holmes novels instead of critiquing the currently popular one. Like this.


  1. Over the past year, I've had a sinking sensation when it comes to pastiche. Thank you for putting this feeling into words. So many stories either feel like a retread or nonsense to me lately. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one out there whose crankiness is influencing their Sherlockian readings.

  2. When you are sick of pastiche ... go back to the canon.

  3. One doesn't need Goldfinger to measure the craptitude of Octopussy. That's what A View to a Kill is for.

    And do try to finish Mycroft Holmes. It's worth it.

  4. I enjoyed Boonie MacBird's Art in the Blood. It is even better if you read the notes on her website. She annotated her own book.
    But Brad, you do understand that on the one hand you are critical of the printed pastiche but praise fan-fiction online. I again challenge you to point out some online item that is as good as Mycroft.
    I do get your point about the nostalgia for things past. Did the old timers in 1970 complain about the new crap being published?

  5. I'm on board the ship now, braving the foul weather, with Mycroft and Douglas, and so far it's been mostly boring. Can't wrap my head around the ruffians daring to attack gentlemen all over the place and Mycroft making highly inappropriate comments to elderly ladies. Suspension of disbelief getting harder and harder.