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.
Read on to see how science fiction, fantasy and horror have co-opted Sherlock Holmes....
The Holmes-Dracula File and Seance for a Vampire by Fred Saberhagen
Two novel-length speculative stories to feature Sherlock Holmes, like many of them, are mash-ups. Fred Saberhagen's book The Holmes-Dracula File (first published in 1978 and reprinted as recently as 2010) pits the English detective against the mysterious Transylvanian nobleman whose recent trip to London coincides with a rash of mysterious deaths attributed to a murderer who leaves his victims drained of blood. Also on the detective's plate: a ring of criminals who unleash thousands of plague-infected rats into the streets. In Saberhagen's Seance for a Vampire (first published in 1994 also reprinted in 2010), Sherlock Holmes goes missing when a séance goes horribly wrong, leaving Holmes' erstwhile assistant, Dr. Watson, with no choice but to summon Prince Dracula for help.
Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh
By 1984, there were many speculative short fiction stories featuring Sherlock Holmes printed in various magazines and other venues. Along came Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space—an anthology edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh—that collected these reprints and added accompanying artwork to boot. This collection included stories written between 1910 (Doyle's own "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot") and 1983. Contributors included Philip José Farmer, Sharon N. Farber, Mack Reynolds, Fred Saberhagen, Poul Anderson, Gene Wolfe and Isaac Asimov, among others.Sherlock Holmes in Orbit edited by Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg
1995's Sherlock Holmes in Orbit is the first unabashed anthology of original Sherlock Holmes speculative fiction stories. Editors Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg gave the authors a simple task: Write a Sherlock Holmes story in which (1) the plot contained a science fiction or fantasy element, and (2) Sherlock Holmes remained recognizably as the Holmes everyone knew and loved. The result was a great selection of stories about Holmes in the past, present, future and even after death. Contributors include Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Robert J. Sawyer, Vonda N. McIntyre, George Alec Effinger.
The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures edited by Mike Ashley
The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures is an anthology of all-new stories that first appeared in 1997. (It was also reprinted in 2009.) Although not explicitly marketed as a science fiction anthology, it is nonetheless of interest in the realm of science fiction, fantasy and horror not only because of the editor, Mike Ashley, whose is an experienced speculative fiction editor, but also because of the list on speculative fiction writers he assembled as contributors. They include Michael Moorcock, Stephen Baxter, John Gregory Betancourt, Eric Brown, David Langford, Robert Weinberg and Lois H. Gresh, Peter Crowther and more. The stories here are meant to fill in the gaps of Holmes’ life not otherwise recorded in the official Doyle canon.
Shadows over Baker Street edited by John Pelan & Michael Reaves
By 2003, the world was ready for another anthology of original fiction featuring Sherlock Holmes and the fantastic. Shadows over Baker Street, edited by John Pelan & Michael Reaves, serves that purpose quite nicely with brand new stories by 20 authors, including Elizabeth Bear, Poppy Z. Brite, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Tim Lebbon, and Richard A. Lupoff. The theme of the anthology is to mix the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes with the evil forces behind the macabre tales of H. P. Lovecraft.
Not satisfied, Sherlockians? The game is afoot! There's more to come in Part 2! Stay tuned....
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.