East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Sherlock will never die


The other day, on my post about the Japanese series, Miss Sherlock, Joe commented

Sherlock will NEVER die!

And I had to agree, of course.
Sherlock Holmes is one of the great characters of popular culture, together with Dracula and Tarzan1, and through infinite version and editions and adaptations, it has reached every corner of the world and every social stratum.
Sherlock Holmes is everywhere, and he is not going away.


And I was reminded, reading Joe’s comment, of a thing I caught somewhere and I’ve been unable to trace, that is, Harlan Ellison suggesting the Canon as the basis of a reasonable education.
Because Sherlock Holmes, according to Ellison, could teach you that by paying attention and using your brain, you can make sense of reality.
Indeed, Holmes’ method is often a young person’s first introduction to rational thinking and the strict application of logic and observation.
And really, what often peeves me about modern adaptation is that they make it look like magic. Holmes listens to the witnesses, observes the scene of the crime, and then, hey presto!, here’s the solution.
This is not the case, and Holmes made it very clear when discussing his cases with Doctor Watson, that there was nothing magic or supernatural – not in his methods, not in the cases he solved.

Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

Harlan Ellison was right. It’s a good education.
I sometimes wonder if the widespread success of crackpot theories in our culture, in these last few years, is the effect of younger people no longer reading Sherlock Holmes.
I blame Harry Potter, but it’s a well known fact that I never could suffer the little know-it-all and his frigging magic wand, so my judgment is biased.

And interestingly enough I got two books, as part of my Holmesian book haul for this autumn, about Holmes’ methods and approach to investigation.
We’ll need to talk about them, as soon as I’ve gone through them.

In the meantime, I hope not only that Holmes will never die, but also that he will come back with his sharp reasoning and his scientific approach to dispel the shadows of magical thinking from the young minds of the future generations.

  1. even if the Lord of the Jungle got a lot of bad press recently, mostly by people that never read the books. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Sherlock will never die

  1. Twists on the time setting, gender, ethnicity, whatever. The underlying basis of the character can always be updated to fit into the current culture.
    There is an writer named Terence Faherty who does a comical pastiche of old Sherlock stories every year in the January issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It’s their yearly ‘Sherlock Edition’
    Sherlock is apparently in the public domain so he writes the stories using the actual characters in late 19th century London. He’s done 6 stories over the past 6 years and I have all the copies of the EQMM editions and personally, I can’t wait for the yearly Sherlock edition to come out.

    Good entertaining fun.


    • Yes, Holmes should be in the public domain, now, after much legal tossing and turning from the Conan Doyle estate – and in fact there’s an awful lot of pastiches and apocrypha being published.
      And the character remains unsinkable.
      I did not know about Faherty’s stories – thanks for the pointer!


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