I am an avid reader of science fiction, but that's not the only thing I read. I do like to read the occasional mystery story. I'm a big fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe character and his wise-cracking sidekick, Archie Goodwin. I am also fond of Agatha Christie mysteries. But the sleuth that got me started down the road of mystery calls himself Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes is the creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who introduced the consulting detective in 1887 in the story “A Study in Scarlet.” Doyle wrote a total of 60 Sherlock Holmes stories (four novels and 56 short stories) that were hugely popular, even to the point that when Doyle wanted to retire the character by killing him off (in "The Final Problem") so he could focus on historical novels, public outcry to bring the character back prompted Sherlock's return after an eight-year hiatus. An even more everlasting testament to his popularity (aside from recent film and television incarnations) is how written Sherlock Holmes stories and tributes are still being published today. It's evident across all genres, but of particular interest to this reader is speculative fiction's love affair with Sherlock Holmes.
Start with Part 1, then continue here to see how science fiction, fantasy and horror have co-opted Sherlock Holmes....
The Gaslight Anthology Series edited by J. R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec
J. R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec edited no less than three Sherlock Holmes anthologies in recent years. First was 2008's Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes, which collected 11 fantastical tales involving the famous detective by Barbara Hambly, Kim Newman, Chris Roberson & more. Next was 2009's Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes, which contained 13 tales of deduction by the likes of Stephen Volk and Barbara Roden. Finally, there was 2011's Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes, featuring another dozen stories from Kim Newman, Paul Kane, Fred Saberhagan and more. The focus of the series is not so much straightforward science fiction, fantasy and horror as it favors stories that tend to the weird side of the speculative literary spectrum.Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of Eternity by Brian Stableford
Brian Stableford's 2009 novel Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of Eternity is actually a fix-up novel of three related novellas. In a mash-up of epic proportions—combining elements of Sherlock Holmes, Count Dracula, William Hope Hodgson's Nightlands, as well as meta-fictional elements like H.G. Wells and Oscar Wilde—this story involves travel to the far-future that serves as the backdrop for a war between humanity and the descendants of vampires. Admittedly, the focus here is less Sherlock Holmes and more an homage to British science fiction, but nevertheless it shouldn't be overlooked.
The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by John Joseph Adams
The publication of Sherlock's speculative fiction adventures continues in various venues so that by 2009 they could be collected once more. The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by John Joseph Adams collects wonderful stories from the previous 30 years (and also one new story: "Commonplaces" by Naomi Novik) by more modern voices like Stephen King, Anne Perry, Anthony Burgess, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Baxter, Tanith Lee and Michael Moorcock. Holmes cases here include such elements as ghosts, aliens, dinosaurs, shape-shifters and evil gods. As always, Holmes approaches the supernatural with the belief that there is a rational explanation.
Encounters of Sherlock Holmes edited by George Mann
If you need proof that Sherlock Holmes still exists in the minds of writers, look no further than a new anthology of original fiction released just this year: Encounters of Sherlock Holmes, edited by George Mann. It features 14 brand new Sherlock Holmes stories from a host of wonderful speculative authors, including Mark Hodder, Nick Kyme, Paul Magrs, Eric Brown, Kelly Hale and James Lovegrove. The stories in this anthology see Holmes encountering strange patchwork men, meeting Sir Richard Francis Burton and H.G. Wells, and solving a mystery on the utterly strange Necropolis express. Even Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson get to have their own adventures.
There are other stories out there that merit mentions, too. War of the Worlds by Manly Wade Wellman and his son Wade Wellman is, as you might expect, about Sherlock Holmes (as well as Dr. Watson and Professor Challenger from Doyle's Lost Word novel) encountering aliens. Philip Jose Farmer wrote a book called The Adventure of the Peerless Peer in which Sherlock Holmes meets Tarzan, the literary creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Author Loren D. Estleman was also a fan of mashing up Sherlock through short fantastical novels like Sherlock Vs. Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes. Finally, while not directly a Sherlock Holmes story, the homage in Matthew Hughes Henghis Hapthorn stories is unmistakable. Through these stories and novels, Hapthorn, the self-described "world's foremost discriminator," seeks to make sense of the strangeness he encounters as the world slowly slides from one based in science to one based in outright fantasy. Start with Majestrum (2006) and see how Hughes' Holmes pastiche not only captures the flavor of Doyle's stories perfectly, but adds a healthy dose of wry humor as well.
John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. He also like bagels. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal. Or not. See what he cares.