Sherlockian, also known as Sherlockiana and Doyle Pastiche, is a genre of derivative fiction based on the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes is a wildly popular character, capturing the imagination of readers like few others. Dracula may be the only rival to Sherlock’s claim as king of derivative fiction.
The Sherlockian genre has spawned numerous books, short stories, graphic novels, movies, TV series, and even musicals. Currently, the genre enjoys immense popularity as a movie franchise starring Robert Downey, Jr. and two TV series, BBC’s “Sherlock” and CBS’s “Elementary.”
Whether published professionally or uploaded to an amateur archive, Sherlockian is fan fiction. It is derived from another author’s work and written for an established fan base. Before you decide to jump in, keep in mind not all of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are public domain and his heirs are asserting their rights when applicable. This Economist article explains the situation in more detail.
What is it about Sherlock Holmes that is so appealing? Is it his cold, analytical personality balanced with an enjoyment of disguises and a Bohemian lifestyle that includes an unfortunate addiction to cocaine? Holmes is deeply brilliant, heroic and flawed, making him a larger-than-life character that can be hard for readers to relate to.
John Watson may be Doyle’s true stroke of genius. Watson’s ordinary intellect and heroic inclinations, combined with a loyal personality, allow the reader to place herself in the good doctor’s shoes, being alternately astonished and aggravated by the unconventional Holmes. Sherlock is the amazing friend who sweeps you off to an exciting adventure.
While much of the genre puts this winning combination to good use, there are many other novels and stories that do not. For example, in Laurie King’s Mary Russell series, Watson is mostly out of the picture as Holmes takes on a young female apprentice who later becomes his wife.
Other stories and novels put the focus on secondary, minor and fictional characters. These include:
- Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older brother
- Enola Holmes, Sherlock’s non-canonical younger sister
- Irene Adler, the Woman in “A Scandal in Bohemia”
- Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard
- Professor Moriarty, Sherlock’s great nemesis
The two links below will give you access to extensive lists of professional Sherlockian fiction.
If all this puts you in the mood for the real deal, you’re in luck. Many of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and stories are available to download for free, in a variety of formats, on the Project Gutenberg website. Click here to go to the Sherlock Holmes archive.
A special note of thanks goes to my good friend and Sherlock Holmes fan, Teacher Jennifer, who provided me with lots of helpful links and information.