When I came across a call for submissions of alternate universe Sherlock Holmes tales for an upcoming anthology, I found the challenge intriguing, but knew it required extra attention. Taking on the task of including an iconic fictional character in a new work involves special care. The stakes are even higher when he is quite well known and a good many people believe he truly lived.
A recent survey in Britain found 20% of respondents identified Sherlock Holmes as an actual, historical figure. And had they been asked, in all likelihood, they would have described him as a rather stuffy, humorless middle-aged man who wore a deerstalker hat and had an even older, pot-bellied friend—far from the detective who appeared in the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, or even the more recent manifestations of the man as a “high-functioning sociopath.”
When he first appeared in A Study in Scarlet, he might have been eccentric (who keeps tobacco in the toe of a Persian slipper?), but was only in his twenties and wore a top hat and frock coat. The man’s ability to apply logic and science in solving mysteries, however, lay at the heart of his popularity.
Moving forward with this project, then, meant keeping true to the spirit of the original Holmes, but in a very different sort of world. For the alternate universe, I fell back on a particular fascination of mine: vampires. This would not be my first venture into this world (you can find a free download of my short story “Debate with a Vampire” on my Website), but the first involving a known literary figure. Immediately, I saw this world as suiting Sherlock. I’ve never viewed the vampire lifestyle as necessarily evil, but certainly melancholy. A life without sunshine would depress me—and I figured it would intensify Sherlock’s own despondency. In this universe, then, Sherlock might be a vampire, but not a happy one.
The one thing guaranteed to pull him out of a gloomy attitude was a puzzle or mystery to solve. Never interested in the commonplace problem, he was attracted to the case that stumped others. Given vampires’ immortality and powers of rejuvenation, the murder of one would provide the out-of-the-ordinary crime that would appeal to him.
Finally, I added some variations on well-known Sherlockian traits, but with a twist. Vampire Sherlock keeps rats instead of bees.
The resulting short story “The Case of the Tainted Blood” in the anthology Curious Incidents: More Improbable Adventures provides the twists needed to create the alternate universe, but still provides a recognizable detective ready to solve the improbable, but nevertheless possible, murder of a vampire.
What about you? How do you view the vampire world? Sexy (think Anne Rice), Evil (think the original Bram Stoker character), or more melancholy? Leave a comment for a chance for an ecopy of “The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes.”