melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2010-01-05 09:14 pm

(no subject)

I feel like I want to talk about Sherlock Holmes now.

Sherlock Holmes was one of those stories I was into before I really knew what fandom was (which in my case means before I turned 11 and read "The World of Star Trek", so Holmes must have been around age nine. A very good year, nine.) I found some kids' paraphrase paperbacks in a library, and read them all, not realizing that they were actually paraphrase until I ran out of kids' paperbacks and turned to Mom's big hardcover anthology with the tissue-thin paper and six-point type in columns, and stumbled upon Holmes shooting up.

...that was also the first time I ever felt betrayed by a fandom.

Anyway I got over it pretty quick and read the whole anthology in one go, and have read it through several times since, and come back to favorite stories. I'm not the sort of fan who can tell you details of things that happened in CREE, but I know the classic stories pretty well.

And I've never been much for reading the fic, published or otherwise, but Holmes/Watson is one of those pairings (like Doctor/Master) that's just always *been* there for me: I can't recall a time when I didn't know about it, and know the stories and meta would be there for me when I looked for them. ...I have finally started seriously looking.

So I'm very much a bookverse girl, and generally Watsonian in outlook. (I've really been enjoying the fic I've found that extrapolates the published stories as a deliberate caricature of Holmes and really play with the "three-point characterization" idea - ignoring everything Watson tells us in exposition and rebuilding a Holmes based on what he does (and giving him believably extrapolated backstories as everything from sex-toy builder to professional violinist to rent-boy). But I've never been that interested in any of the filmed versions I've met in passing; they tend to be insufficiently cracky and melodramatic compared to the books, and Watson is not awesome enough. (On those grounds I suspect I will quite like the new movie.)

Anyway, all of that was building up to the fact that I've been reading Mary Russell fic, in hopes of being able to contribute to [personal profile] flourish's Mary Russell & Mary Marston & Madelyn Mack & Harriet Vane & Irene Adler & Nora Noraker & Miss Climpson's SUSSEX DOWNS LADIES’ SEWING CIRCLE, DETECTION DISCUSSION GROUP AND TERRORIST SOCIETY. I have two things to say about Mary Russell, now that I have at last been exposed to her beyond the barest of descriptions:

1. Okay, let me get this right: she has very little family and a mysterious past that would make any Mary Sue proud, and she has a preternatural ability to get 'round Holmes as if she's known him for years. Meanwhile, Watson's role is minimized, to the extent he even shows up at all. And Mary Russell has a *scar* on her shoulder and arm from an old injury and an intermittent limp. ...are we sure it isn't just that Watson got tired of waiting for Holmes to notice him and found a convenient genderswap-ex-machina? :D

2. I really don't like Holmes/Russell as a pairing. I like the idea of Russell and Holmes, I just really wish that / weren't in there (which is why I've never been that tempted to read the books.) I would have told you, before I started reading fic about the two of them, that it was because I have plenty of canon pairings for Holmes. Or it was because I'm really bothered by the "older man meets young girl in vulnerable circumstances, mentors her, as soon as she's just old enough to not be utterly squicky they get hitched." Don't get me wrong, if it's done well enough I can enjoy it - and there's a certain het teacher/student vibe that I gobble up like candy - but it's not that one. That one bothers me partly because of the power issues, partly because it's just so ubiquitous in certain genres, and partly because of the implication-through-repetition that a man and a woman can't have that sort of relationship without it turning romantic.

But I've realized, upon actually reading some Holmes/Russell that was set in such a way that I could ignore their backstory, that no, it is much simpler than all that. It is simply that a core pillar of my Holmes characterization is that he is completely uninterested in having sex with women - so while I'll happily buy Holmes, Demon-slayer or Holmes, Porn-star; in order to read Holmes the happy heterosexual I have to imagine him as being a completely different Holmes who is from an entirely different universe than Conan Doyle's Holmes. I am okay with Holmes the totally asexual, Holmes the celibate gay man, Holmes the gay man who goes out to "special clubs", Holmes the gay man in a committed relationship, Holmes the asexual in an epic platonic romance with The Woman, Holmes who shares Watson with Mary, even Holmes who got badly burned in relationships as an adolescent and has walled off that part of himself so firmly he's forgotten where he left the key (which seems to be Doyle's opinion). I would probably even be able to buy "Holmes meets a woman who is so awesome he is forced into a crisis of sexuality by way of her teaching him that bodies aren't important but they're still fun" but I don't get the impression that's how Holmes/Russell was done. (and if it is, given that Russell was forty years his junior when they met, eewww.) I'm usually fairly flexible on 'shipping, but I think I found Holmes at a point in my life where I *really* needed a story with non-heteronormativity at the forefront, and Holmes did that for me admirably.

So anyway. Yes. I continue to wish that the Mary Russell books were gen, in which case I would probably adore them beyond reason, and meanwhile, I will have to console myself by reading [personal profile] flourish's gen fic about Madelyn Mack (my evil plan, it is working), because Madelyn is who Mary might have been if *she* were immune to men.

All of which is by way of saying that "Silver Buttons" commentary is indefinitely postponed due to my realizing that I could say most of what I wanted to say in it by instead just writing the prequel story in which Holmes washes up on Madelyn's doorstep, mid-"His Last Bow", at the end of his tether, and there is a certain Jersey Girl contralto on the phonograph and a borrowed Stradivarius violin. :D

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