06/01/1854: Happy Birthday, Sherlock Holmes

by Diane Duane
Holmes among his Cushions


Happy birthday, old friend.

Your creator was the first person I consciously took as a tutor in the art of structuring fiction. I didn’t do it because I loved him. I did it because I loved you… and because the way he handled you made you more real than a lot of the (allegedly) real things in my world.

You were the first fictional person to really change my life, and I’ve never forgotten it. Your incisive-yet-benevolent presence has been hanging over my work for a long, long time. I have repeatedly taken your name “in vain” both covertly and in the clear while writing for some of the world’s larger fictional franchises, and (because there’s no way I can keep you out of other things I love) in worlds of my own. And I doubt this is likely to stop.

I think it was Jorge Luis Borges who said some years back that there are only three fictional characters who’re universally known. Of the three he cites, Tarzan has slipped a lot of late, and even Superman has been struggling a bit. But you just keep going from strength to strength, adding dimension with every new iteration. That’s a tough row to hoe, with fiction being the essentially ephemeral art form it is. So few stories, regardless of the passion poured into their creation, will last more than a few handfuls of generations. An Iliad here, a Nibelungenlied there, and precious few more, survive to be retold repeatedly in every century after they manifest themselves. But your story, though young yet as such things go, is showing signs of real staying power. It’ll be interesting to see where you are in a few centuries more.

Meanwhile, I raise a glass to you today, old friend — and inevitably also to the companion who’s always by your side, without whom you wouldn’t be who you are — and think of the streets of the great Metropolis where the two of you can always be found walking together: unstoppable Reason and unshakeable Fidelity, inseparable in search of Truth and (if sometimes only secondarily) in defense of the Right. This is a better world with the two of you in it, even if only in the realms of the imagination — for they inevitably spill over into what passes for the Real, to all our benefit.

So… many happy returns of the day, my dear Holmes. Many.

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