Fan fiction too often gets dismissed as ephemeral fluff, but one writer's attempt to start a new fic this week brought out what a great analytical tool it can be.
Caroline's poll on Twitter, as she started to plot a new story, aimed to put Sherlock and John into a scenario based on cult favorite TV show Firefly. And finding a Firefly character who lined up with Sherlock Holmes quickly brought out two very different dramatically different ways we view Sherlock.
For those unfamiliar with Firefly, let me run down the two characters involved for you.
Inara is a worldly professional who sets herself apart from the rest of the cast in her separate vessel attached to the main spaceship from the start. She has insights into her fellow humans far beyond those of other characters, goes off to handle her own cases, and deals with folks from the highest ranks of society on occasion. Inara could be argued to be the best and wisest of the Firefly's passengers and crew.
River, on the other hand, is the ultimate outsider. No one ever knows what she's up to or why she's doing the weird things she does, though there usually winds up being a valid reason for it. She definitely has her own Dr. Watson in her brother Simon, also a doctor, who struggles to take care of this dangerously random individual, much like our John Watson did. River has mental abilities so far above her fellow humans that she seems like an alien being, and, like our Sherlock, will just suddenly go from aloof artist-type to kicking major ass.
As the check mark in the above screen shot shows, my natural reaction is to go for the latter view of Sherlock Holmes, but both are wonderfully valid takes on the man. And this is one of the things that those who dismiss fan fiction outright fail to understand: Writing fan fiction is the perfect tool for exploring aspects of personality in ways simple articles can't do. Putting characters in scenarios to play out what aspects of their personality will lead to are thought-experiments that can lead to better understanding of not just the character you're writing about, but yourself and others. And also passing that understanding on to others who are curious to read your experiments.
Which is kind of what fiction has always been about. Helping us understand differing points of view than our own and gaining empathy for people who aren't us.
Caroline's question revealing two great Sherlock Holmes characters in a single TV show really brought that out for me this morning, which, considering I'm a big fan of both Sherlock Holmes and Firefly, surprised me that I'd never considered before. I hope we never lose the spark to run such experiments, because they're another part of what makes Sherlockiana such a great place to be.