"What is it that we love about Sherlock Holmes?" the classic fandom question goes, and our answers are many. The mysteries to solve, the Baker Street base, the wit, the friendship . . . so many answers. And yet, at his core, Sherlock Holmes has one quality that is what makes us love him best: Sherlock Holmes is who we imagine him to be.
Conan Doyle laid the tracks for our mental train of thought to run Sherlock Holmes along, this is true. But adaptations, favorite ships, actor portayals, the never-ending supply of new Sherlock Holmes stories -- all of these tell us a different story. While Conan Doyle laid the tracks, we're all running entirely different trains down those tracks.
Some of us may agree on similarities between our mental Sherlock-trains enough to think they're the same at times, but are any two mental Holmeses exactly alike? Not at all.
Sherlock Holmes is who we imagine him to be, each and every one of us. And that's why we love him best.
Lovers can turn out not to be who we imagined. Presidents can turn out not to be who people imagine they are. Even our fellow Sherlockians, or a Sherlockian institution like the Baker Street Irregulars, can turn out to be not what we imagined they were. That's reality. That's real people.
Sherlock Holmes, however, never proves to be anything different from what we imagine him to be.
Even if your Sherlock Holmes came to you somewhere other than Conan Doyles literary railway tracks and you never go near those lines, Sherlock Holmes will remain a happy constant, unless you decide to let him be otherwise. No one can force that choice upon you, either. No cult brainwashing or attitude adjustment camps for Sherlockian re-education exist, other than the little bumps of cultural influence.
However we came to Sherlock Holmes, the detective stays faithful to who we thought he was. Always.
When you come right down to it, I think that is what we really love best about Sherlock Holmes. He's there for us, being who we need when we need it. Inspiration, entertainment, and . . . just . . . well, Sherlock freakin' Holmes.
Long may he run.