January’s fandom might be the oldest fandom there is. Arthur Conan Doyle, a British physician, writer, and historian, published his first Sherlock Holmes mystery in 1887–before the rise of fantasy and sci-fi as we know them, and long before the Internet was invented or the word “fandom” was coined. The story was called A Study in Scarlet, and it introduced one of the most famous fictional characters in history.
Doyle didn’t mean for Holmes to become famous. He wanted to be remembered for his serious historical writings and research into spiritualism, not for some fluffy detective stories he wrote for extra cash. In fact, he got so sick of his consulting detective that in 1893 he killed him off in “The Final Problem.” But after reading that story, fans in England were so upset that some of them wore mourning bands on their arms in protest, and Sir Doyle eventually had to resurrect Holmes due to popular demand. Not much has changed. Sherlock Holmes never dies; he’s constantly being re-imagined and thrown into new adventures, and his fan base is as loyal now as they were over a century ago.
There have been countless plays, movies, TV shows, and novels featuring Sherlock Holmes. More actors have played him than the Doctor, James Bond, or almost any other fictional character. Most recently, Robert Downey, Jr. starred in the movies Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Benedict Cumberbatch on the BBC show Sherlock, and Jonny Lee Miller on the American version of Sherlock, which is called Elementary.
Why He’s Cool:
I’ve read all the original Sherlock Holmes stories, and to be honest, I don’t think the mysteries are all that great. They all sound the same after a while, and the crimes are often very improbable. But the mystery isn’t the point: it’s how Holmes solves the mystery. We read the stories to find out what tiny detail he’ll use to deduce the next clue, what dry put-down he’ll use on Watson or the bumbling policemen who don’t notice it, or what new eccentricities and secrets we’ll learn about him. What we do know about Holmes is fascinating and always entertaining: he’s a brilliant detective who can tell everything about you just by looking at you, yet doesn’t know basic facts about the solar system; who spends his free time shooting pistols indoors and injecting himself with cocaine, yet is feared by every criminal in the world; and who appears to live only by cold logic, yet is outwitted by a pretty woman and does everything to protect his only friend.
However, some of the things the original stories don’t reveal about him are just as fascinating. Why does he want to solve crimes in the first place? Why, exactly, is he so attached to Watson (and why does Watson put up with him so easily)? How did he first cross paths with Moriarty, and why is Moriarty out to get him? It’s questions like these that keep Sherlock fans coming back to the stories and inventing new ones. He’s such a complex, well-realized character that he almost seems alive.
Coming up this month: quotes, art, movie reviews–and lots and lots of stuff about BBC’s Sherlock. Because it’s my favourite. Namarie!