Friday, June 4, 2010
Sherlock Holmes and Slash (in progress)
In fact Sherlock Holmes is one of the most commonly cited predecessors of fanfiction, followed by the works of Lewis Carroll and Jane Austin (e.g. Viires, 2005). These works are considered old enough, and distinctive enough, for derivative works to be consiered literary "pastiche" (Youssef, 2004). However there is a quality of Sherlock Holmes pastiche that creates a bridge from earnest literary efforts to the riot of possibilities now found on line. As Michael Chabon (2009) writes: "the Sherlockian Game anticipated, and helped to invent, the contemporary fandom that has become indistibguishable from contemporary popular art; it was the Web avant le lettre." (pg. 44)
Sherlock Holmes also holds doggedly to respectability and famed and respectable authors do not hesitate to embroider upon Doyle's canon. Simultaneously Sherlock Holmes fiction is also written, with different intent and outcomes, fully within the pop art/fanfic/slash tradition, so it is worth taking some time to consider the characteristics typically associated with modern "slash" culture in both the zine and internet eras. But what exactly is "slash"?
Slash does not have a universally agree definition but generally for fiction to be slash it should be: 1) based on an existing work of fiction (e.g. novel, television series or movie), and 2) Include a homosexual relationship between to characters that is typically not canonical. Cress, at the Sacrilege website, summarised this as "fanfiction written about romantic or sexual relationships occurring between two same-gender characters, usually male. The characters used in the fiction are denoted by X/Y, where X and Y are the characters' initials or names."
Slash is a concept that become popular during the 1980s, and especially when fanfiction migrated from predominately being found in zines to more of an internet phenomenon. Not all (or even most) homoerotic fiction is written as part of, or even with the knowledge, of slash. However I would argue that is the dominant discourse of gay Sherlock Holmes representation created after 1979 and I tend to see works as being slash unless they explicitly exist in another context.