Professor examines modern takes of Sherlock in new book

The University of Iowa Press Fandom & Culture series, edited by Paul Booth and Katherine Larsen, is dedicated to innovative explorations of fandom, including the development of fan communities and the creation of world-extending works by fans. The newest entry in the series, “Sherlock’s World: Fan Fiction and the Reimagining of BBC’s ‘Sherlock,’” is a deep dive into the conventions, disruptions, and motivations of nonauthorized — but extremely passionate — writers.

Ann McClellan, a professor of English and department chair at Plymouth State University, delineates the differences between and intersections of “canon” and “fanon” in regard to the modernized Sherlock Holmes adventures starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson, respectively. She argues that fan fiction must be canon compliant in key ways before it can begin to stray from structures and characterizations established by the show’s creators. So even when imagining the lead characters as a gay couple, for example, writers of fan fiction must convincingly represent the settings, dialogue conventions, and more to firmly establish their work in the broadly defined “world” of “Sherlock.”

One potential danger of fan studies, it might be argued, is that a scholarly examination of fan enthusiasm and behavior could underplay the importance of enjoyment as a motivating factor — especially if the tone of the scholarship is particularly dry. McClellan avoids this trap, however, writing respectfully and engagingly about the experience of fandom and about the work fans create. Her analysis is cogent and accessible to the general reader, offering insights for all Sherlockians — whether they consider themselves fans, scholars, or both.

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