Tuesday, February 4, 2020

A Multiverse of Strand Magazines

This morning I bumped into another collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that I'll probably never get the chance to read. Doctor Watson has been very busy, it seems, and if we ever thought he might have gotten married far too many times, his tin dispatch box is starting to look like Doctor Who's TARDIS with a seeming infinite capacity to store items in a limited physical space. (Hmmm, "Doctor W." and "Doctor W." . . . coincidence?)

Sigh. This is going to be one of those mornings where I just can't stay on topic. Too much time spent on my non-Sherlock job this week, I suspect and the ideas are just spilling out. I mean, and I'm digressing here, in writing the above paragraph, I realized that Sherlock Holmes being John Watson's One True Love might just be the Universe's solution to patching the "Watson seems to have been married like six times!" problem in the Canon. Even following Paul Thomas Miller's credo of "Watson does not lie," his marriage details were certainly under-reported to the point of "maybe that wasn't everything we assume it was."

But back to all these pastiches . . . somebody needs to start doing censuses of the "untold" cases, because we're hitting the point where some of the ones Watson mentions in the original Canon have hit double digits in their post-Canon versions. Heck in the last five years we've had eighteen volumes of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, and some of those are the size of the original Canon itself. Where John Watson once had just one literary agent, he now has a legion of them, taking advantage of a free market in Sherlocks. Gone are the 1980s, when every Sherlockian with a bookstore nearby was reading the same Sherlock Holmes novel that had just been published.

Is there anyone out there who actually has a handle on all of the Sherlockiana published across all mediums in a given month? Even a collective of Sherlockians who has taken up the challenge of tracking all the new work coming at us? The Baker Street Journal hasn't been keeping up for some time, and even The Three Pipe Podcast has wandered on to other topics than Holmes fic. Sherlockians, like those of a certain end of the political spectrum, have so many passions that we don't often come together in an organized effort as much as we would like. Pouring out our own Watsonian creations seems to be what we're spending most of our energies on, and that is definitely an individual endeavor.

Had John H. Watson been a novelist and stayed strictly within that format, however weak or strong one considers his four attempts at it, I doubt we would be having the flood of new Watson works we're seeing today. The short story is a manageable goal that almost any writer can accomplish, and collecting short works is an easy way to put together a book. Conan Doyle might have figured that out first, as he was ahead of the pack on so many other things when it came to Sherlock Holmes, but in creating those tools, he really ensured his legacy would go on for a very long time . . . .

. . . even if he might be spinning in his grave at what he unintentionally accomplished. The name of our pastiche-appreciation society "Doyle's Rotary Coffin" did not come up for no reason. Where Sir Arthur once sat at home appreciating the income a series of short stories brought him from The Strand Magazine, he surely now sits in whatever afterlife he has earned, soaking in the multiverse of Strand-equivalents, bringing in whatever feelings they now bring up in him, be it eternal joy or unending torture.

Because the chief of whichever afterlife Doyle got has got to be continually going, "Hey, Arthur! Have you seen this one?" And that entity is probably the only one who's keeping up.

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