SHERLOCK HOLMES VS THE COSMOS By Guest Blogger Tom Olbert
Today we’ve got another guest blogger to introduce! Tom Olbert is one of the contributors of the IMPROBABLE TRUTH anthology, one that pits that (in)famous sleuth against dark paranormal forces. The book was seriously cool, guys – definitely worth a look! In the meantime while you’re getting a copy (the buy link is at the bottom of the blog *wink wink nudge nudge* LOL), say hello to Tom, the author of “The Arendall Horror” (which was actually one of my faves of the anthology – though shush – don’t tell the other authors LOL)!
SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. THE COSMOS
I was thrilled when I learned there was an anthology in the works that would pit Sherlock Holmes against dark paranormal forces. A chance to do a Holmes story with slimy aliens slithering in the dark, misty shadows of Victorian London? Count me in!
Like other science fiction writers (the great Harlan Ellison for one) I’ve always liked the idea of depicting science fictional horror in the Victorian setting. The gas lighting, the murky fog, the grimy cobblestone streets where Jolly Jack did his grisly work…what better place to put some unearthly horror? I’d used a Victorian setting in a sci-fi horror story before, and what better vehicle by which to do another story in the same atmosphere than Holmes?
What is the enduring power of Sherlock Holmes, anyway? We’ve all grown up with him. His image endures. His cold, calculating mind, his keen eye for detail and dogged pursuit of truth and justice has made him the symbol of detection. He was the first fictional private sleuth, and through more than a century, as mystery writers on two continents have spawned generation after generation of private detectives in many forms, from campy 1920’s English cosmopolitan style to dark, cynical American urban noir, Holmes seems to remain the measure for all fictional detectives.
What’s his appeal? Not personality, that’s for sure. Not sex appeal. (Well, who can say? The unobtainable is the most attractive, after all.) He certainly is not a character with whom the general public can readily identify. He’s above us all, intellectually, and he knows it. He’s completely detached from the rest of humanity. His mission is consistent in his commitment to the safety of the public, but there is no easily visible core of compassion that drives him. Right and wrong, good and evil are, by all outward indications, strictly intellectual concepts to him, along with everything else. He remarked that he was a brain; that all else about him was mere appendage. But, unlike his brother Mycroft, he chose the life of the crusader rather than the erudite recluse. Trapped perhaps by the irritating limitations of human existence, Sherlock sometimes sought escape through cocaine. His faithful companion and chronicler Dr. Watson was his only link with humanity. (Perhaps the only reason he bothered to keep Watson around.)
Attempts have been made through the years to plumb the dark depths of Sherlock Holmes to find a tortured core of humanity at the heart of the dark, still void where only cold intellect seemed to reside. In the film “The 7% Solution,” Holmes was actually teamed up with Sigmund Freud, who used hypnosis to reach the long-buried secret of Holmes’ aversion to women, to humanity itself, coupled with his compulsion to seek justice.
Of course, the editors of this anthology held fast to the original Sherlock Holmes, with all his icy intellectual superiority firmly intact. Speaking for myself, I’ve always found the late Mr. Jeremy Brett’s interpretation of the Holmes character the most effective. The BBC series “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” was probably the closest and most faithful adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle novelettes. A few Moriarty-centered cross-overs notwithstanding, the dialog was nearly lifted word for word from Conan Doyle. I thought Jeremy Brett captured the aloof, intellectual side of Holmes while projecting a veiled light of humanity, like a sputtering candle flame struggling to hold on. His gaze was keen and penetrating, yet haunted and troubled, as though masking an almost child-like vulnerability. When I envisioned Holmes for this story, I confess I was picturing Jeremy Brett. I can’t remember the name of the actor who played Watson in the series (the second actor to play the role), but I had him in mind when writing Watson.
The mind of Sherlock Holmes seems to transcend the trivial concerns and obsessions of lesser humanity, seeking and finding truth where no one else thinks to look. What better character to take on the dark infinity of cosmic horror?
Excerpt from “The Arendall Horror” by Tom Olbert, featured in IMPROBABLE TRUTH
“Shouldn’t we summon the police?” I asked.
“And, tell them what, Dr. Watson?” Mrs. Arendall asked. “They would think me mad. And, they cannot help. This is a trial of the soul, not the flesh. And, it is one I must face alone.” Emily gently kissed the lady’s hand, as though in support.
“Yes…Miss Emily told us of this…this apparition that attacked her in your presence.” Holmes said pensively. “I should like very much to hear your account of the incident, Mrs. Arendall, in your own words.”
“Holmes, I would advise against it,” I cautioned. “Mrs. Arendall should avoid any undue…”
“No, it’s quite all right, Dr. Watson,” Mrs. Arendall said, pulling herself up in bed as Emily helped adjust her pillows. “It might help to talk about it. I realize what Emily must have told you must seem beyond the realm of sanity, Mr. Holmes, but I assure you, it happened. This…this abomination…this thing that could only have been spawned in the stygian pools below, a writhing, mutating mass of noxious slime and grotesquely disfigured limbs and orifices. It entered my bedroom and attacked Emily. It seized her arm in its terrible claw and forced her to the floor, its slithering limbs encircling her. I reflexively seized my mother’s crucifix. I knelt by Emily’s side, placing myself between her and that faceless monstrosity. I held the crucifix before me to ward it off, though I was too terrified even to pray. Then, it released Emily’s arm and pulled back, as though afraid. And…” She looked terribly distraught then and Emily drew closer, putting her arms around her. “As God is my witness, Mr. Holmes…I saw, out of that vile mass …a human visage form, its features slowly clarifying out of the smoldering pitch. As it solidified into human flesh...” She looked up, her green eyes wild with fear. “I recognized my husband’s face, Mr. Holmes! It was Walter, back from the grave. And, with all of Hell now a part of him!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tom Olbert lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard, MIT and wacky liberals concerned about the environment (of which Tom is one.) Tom’s been writing science fiction, dark paranormal fiction and horror pretty much his whole life, and has no intention of stopping. Tom’s short fiction has appeared in the Mocha Memoirs anthology “In The Bloodstream.” Tom has three other Mocha titles: “Hellshift”, “Along Came a Spider” and “Black Goddess” all dark journeys into the paranormal, and cosmic sci-fi horror.