Saturday, May 15, 2021

The pastiche experiment fails

 "It's not you, it's me."

There's a reason that break-up line became a bit of a trope years ago. While one person has tried their best to make a relationship work, the person that wants out of the relationship knows full well why it isn't working, but doesn't want to cause any more damage than they have to on their way out the door.

So, when it comes to new Sherlock Holmes stories, which are coming out by the seeming millions of late, I have to say it:

It's not you, it's me.

After avoiding Sherlock Holmes pastiches for a long time, I tried to go back, picking a popular book that seemed well-regarded among my fellow Sherlockians. I tried reading, losing myself to the narrative, riding along with Holmes and Watson for the adventure presented. But I kept getting kicked off the train.

I know the original characters and their sixty-story universe too well at this point. And I know Doyle's skills, and the things he could do that another author might be awkward at pulling off. Add to that mix forty years of headcanon -- everything that evolved in my own brain after repeated exposure to the original Canon. I just can't read a book where the little cartoon angel and little cartoon devil on my shoulders are both screaming "FAKE! FAKE!"

Fic based on TV shows doesn't bother me. AUs don't bother me. But anything that tries to adhere to the original universe and starts dropping in modern attitudes, obvious historical research, or take a character to a very weird place . . . WAH-HAH! Off the narrative train I get kicked. (Not sure who the metaphoric conductor doing the kicking is, but he probably looks a bit like me.)

At this point, those who still enjoy pastiches are a bit like my friends who enjoy beer. 

"Try this one," they'd say, "you'll surely like it!" I can't tell you how many dozens and dozens of craft beers I tasted before realizing it was just the hops and grain taste -- beer was just not my thing, and I needed to stick to ciders, meads, or other non-grain based beverages. At some point, you just have to accept your state.

I'm a little jealous of my friends who get to enjoy new Sherlock Holmes stories, just as I'm jealous of any person younger than me, getting to experience those things in life only fresh eyes can enjoy and having first-times the like of which cannot be repeated. But on the good side, Sherlockiana is a broad enough hobby that there is always some aspect of it that you ignored previously that still waits for you to enjoy at a later date.

My pastiche years were great years, and a good part of the reason I love Sherlock Holmes so much now. For a modern reader, they often act as a gateway drug to Doyle's prose which was written for readers that weren't living in 2021. I know they helped me enjoy his work more. But, sadly, I think those days are done.

So, as I leave pastiche behind again for a while, and lose myself in the work of a modern author and the non-221B world they have created, I just have to sigh and go, "not you, me," and dive back into Sherlockian chronology . . . which few Sherlockian chronologists even enjoy reading.

Life is weird, isn't it?


  1. Oh I feel this. I still enjoy fanfiction set in the ACD verse, and a tiny few of the pastiche writers, but there is so much, and it is so very hard to really emulate ACD. On the other hand, I really enjoy the chronology stuff! I try to explain it with fic, but I truly appreciate the folks who carefully look at the evidence and present their conclusions.