Saving Undershaw: Holmes Fans Unite

The period photo shows Undershaw, the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, circa 1900; three of Conan Doyle's children play in the foreground.

by Becky Mezzanotte

What do you get when you cross a historical building in need of saving and a worldwide group of fans about a particular Victorian novel? If you guessed a book of fan-written stories about Sherlock Holmes with proceeds to save Undershaw (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s house) you would be correct.

When I saw this article from Radio Times flutter across my Twitter feed, I just knew I’d be moved to write about this topic.

MX Publishing, a large publisher of Sherlock Holmes books, has teamed up with one of the biggest fan sites of the BBC series Sherlock, a site called Sherlockology, to produce Sherlock’s Home: The Empty House. The challenge is simple. Write a story about Sherlock Holmes. It doesn’t matter what era the famous detective is in, what case he’s solving or even what gender the famous detective or any of the other characters are, and  submit the story to the collection. The only stipulation in the contest is that original characters from other Sherlock adaptations cannot be used. The idea is for fans to be as creative as possible with the detective to help raise awareness about Undershaw.

Using fans to help save something historical isn’t a particularly new concept. But there are two things that make this idea so amazing and different from other efforts. One is that Sherlockology and MX Publishing are truly harnessing the global fan base for this cause. It’s not that you have to be from the U.K. to submit your work. You can be from anywhere. Sherlock Holmes is a worldwide name, and this book is going to show that people from all over the world support the idea of saving Undershaw.

The other thing that makes this effort so amazing and different is that these fans who usually only write stories for the eyes of other fans will finally be seen in public. It’s a big step in taking fan culture and turning it from something done online usually anonymously to something visible with a large impact. And that’s incredible.

The only downside I find to this otherwise brilliant way to help save Undershaw is the looming deadline of May 1, 2012 for submissions and that only up to 20 stories will be chosen. It’s sure to leave a lot of talent out of print either due to publishing constraints or time constraints on the authors. But, this book is sure to be exciting when it is released.

(The photo is in the public domain and is circulated by the Undershaw Preservation Trust.)

About Directed By Bex

Becky Blizard (or Becky Mezz as she is often called) cannot be defined in any sort of neatly packaged way. Becky is a beauty pageant contestant turned ballerina turned musician turned actor turned filmmaker/photographer turned adult figure skater and hockey player. A Baltimore native, she has lived in Prague, the Czech Republic, Cairo, Egypt and Washington, DC. In her free time, Becky can be found obsessing over Korean and British TV shows, learning new jumps on the ice, or yelling at a hockey game like a disappointed mother. Follow her on Instagram (@asdirectedbybecky) or Twitter (@DirectedByBecky).
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