Sherlock and All-Human AUs

Sep 07, 2010 23:06

It occurs to me that, in broader entertainment culture, the equivalent of the all-human AU not only gets written once in a while, but turns out to be pretty darn good. I would not have said that Sherlock Holmes was a character that needed a present-day AU, but I was wrong.

In which I like Sherlock and dislike non-canon AUs )

tv: sherlock, entry: long thoughts

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Comments 23

bobthemole September 8 2010, 09:32:45 UTC
The X-files fandom has a few extremely good historical-AU fics.

A Moment in the Sun reimagines Mulder and Scully as Joe DiMaggio and an unwed mother in the pre-Roe-vs-Wade era.

Paracelsus is set in Georgia at the end of the Civil War.

Hiraeth is set in 13th century North Wales.

The stories are melodramatic, but the historic detail is rich and the writing is good.

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snickfic September 8 2010, 20:24:14 UTC
I... might have to check those out, actually. However, I'd have the same situation with XF that I do with Sherlock Holmes - I've only seen a handful of XF eps across a bunch of seasons, in no kind of order. I know Scully and Mulder more as a collection of attributes than as characters participating in a particular set of events. This may mean I like the AUs better, though!

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elisi September 8 2010, 10:10:45 UTC
I think the main difference is that the updated Sherlock keeps the main characters intact - Sherlock is still a detective, Watson is a doctor etc. It's the world and the methods that's changed, not the characters as such.

Whereas an all-human Buffyverse AU must, by definition, strip the characters of their defining characteristics: Buffy can't be a Slayer, Spike can't be a vampire, Dawn can't be a Key - and of course the worlds stays pretty much the same, except without magic.

And that's why it so rarely works.

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diamondtook862 September 8 2010, 11:17:52 UTC
I think it could work, but people are often more interested in exploring romance than the dynamics of slayer/vampire when they are human (tall order).

I think this is my the best AU's are a different take on the Slayer/Vampire thing. At Your Service for example. Both characters are beautifully in-character and I think it's because they still have that role and power even if it means something different in their world.

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penny_lane_42 September 8 2010, 16:28:17 UTC
Good point.

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snickfic September 8 2010, 20:27:19 UTC
Whereas an all-human Buffyverse AU must, by definition, strip the characters of their defining characteristics: Buffy can't be a Slayer, Spike can't be a vampire, Dawn can't be a Key

Right. Buffy as a cop and Spike as a (misunderstood!) murderer is by no means an exact mapping.

I think in terms of distance from the source material, House is probably a better analogue to the all-human AU. This is where my weak memory of the original Holmes canon is letting me down - I wish I could make more specific comparisons here.

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diamondtook862 September 8 2010, 11:26:46 UTC
I've read a very good AU or two (not many in my taste-range), but the characters never feel quite like themselves. Changing worlds is different from changing time periods, maybe. Also, I think many AU's are superficial imports with character names and biographical details, but without the actual hearts of the characters.

Moffat managed to have the characters be the same (Watson was still a doctor, still had his war history, etc), and maybe that's because they actually have less backstory in the original. They are developed in the context of the cases. Also, I think you're right about us loving Spike and Buffy and Dawn (and the others) more and in more details. Broad brush strokes aren't enough for us.

Sometimes I read AU Spuffy when I'm sick of reading warped characterization in the Buffyverse and want to read it where at least it's supposed to be warped... (this is when I run out of fic recs and troll on my own).

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snickfic September 8 2010, 20:33:17 UTC
Changing worlds is different from changing time periods, maybe.

I suppose it depends on the time period, but it seems to me that there's the potential for equally radical differences either way. (In fact, I think that's where a lot of historical mainstream fiction - especially the 'genre' stuff, like mysteries and romances - often fail. The authors don't seem to realize that there's more to writing historically accurate characters than just dressing them in corsets or top hats.)

Actually, now I'd be rather interested to see an AU that keeps the Slayer/Vampire dynamic, but in some other time period. Hmm.

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penny_lane_42 September 8 2010, 16:30:25 UTC
I like this post. And agree with it. I sometimes enjoy AU All Human stuff, but I enjoy it the way I would an original fic--it never feels like the actual characters to me.

Thanks for the link, too; there's a lot of good food for thought there.

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snickfic September 8 2010, 20:34:30 UTC
You're welcome. Abigail Nussbaum is my single favorite movie/TV/lit critic. A person could spend days reading through her archives.

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penny_lane_42 September 8 2010, 20:54:57 UTC
And by "a person could" you really mean "Lauren now will." Clearly.

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snickfic September 8 2010, 21:08:33 UTC
Why, whatever do you mean? I never said any such thing.

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brutti_ma_buoni September 8 2010, 17:23:22 UTC
I think there's also the factor the Holmes and Watson are so iconic, so chewed-over and multiply portrayed, that they have grown beyond the original canon. Having an AU is therefore a bit like having a 'modern day Oedipus story' or some other reuse of characters from established myth, where we know the character outlines but the detail has long since lapsed. That way, having them play with elements from (distant) canon is added fun, rather than tinkering with the 'sacred' text.

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snickfic September 8 2010, 20:35:47 UTC
I think you're right. In fact, that's the level at which I know Sherlock Holmes because it's been so long since I actually read any of the works. I just have a very vague memory of the stuff and then all these cultural associations.

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ladyofthelog September 9 2010, 08:05:55 UTC
This, exactly.

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ladyofthelog September 9 2010, 08:09:10 UTC
On a more personal note, I grew up watching both the Granada series with Jeremy Brett and the 1940s films with Basil Rathbone (which were adapted to a contemporary setting). The modern setting doesn't feel AU to me in the least, but this is, after all, #4 in the series of adaptations I've watched.

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