Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 6, 2013


The Science-Fictional Sherlock Holmes, edited by The Council of Four (1960)

O, Sherlock!  Your singular mannerisms and hyperlogical mind have, from the very beginning, stormed the gates of our consciousness and have conquered our collective heart and mind and psyche.  Is it no wonder that you have become a part of that pantheon of fictional creations which is recognizable in every section of the world?  That you stand tall and aloof alongside other notables such as Tarzan and Mickey Mouse? And -- dare I say it? -- that you have spawned more imitators than any of the others in that exalted pantheon?

Which brings us to the book in question, which (I believe) is the first anthology to deal with the Great Detective in purely science fictional terms.  Arthur Conan Doyle, while no slouch at science fiction and fantasy, sternly avoided such (for the most part) in his recounting the tales of Sherlock Holmes, leaving to the readers' imaginations about the real meanings of the Giant Rat of Sumatra, the Remarkable Worm, the vanishing of Mr. James Phillimore, and other such cases that have gone unrecorded.  Doyle's character has been the object of pastiche and parody almost from the day he first saw print in the Strand.  Is it no wonder that some of these efforts would border on the literary fantastic, and that some would charge headlong across that border to invade that strange territory?

In Ellery Queen's excellent anthology The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes (1944), the editor included a number of fantastic and science fictional stories among the more pedestrian pastiches and parodies, but -- as I said -- it wasn't until 1960 that this book became the first anthology, brief though it may be, to concentrate on the more fantastic side of Sherlockania.  And who, or what, is "The Council of Four"?  The Baker Street Irregulars, that world-wide organization of Sherlock aficionados, has many local chapters; the one in Denver is The Council of Four, so-named because it began with only four members.  In 1960, the group's six members responsible for The Science-Fictional Sherlock Holmes were Chuck Hanson (Recording Angel), Roy Hunt (Chief Prophet), Norm Metcalf (Archangel-in-Exile), Ellis Mills (plain member), Bob Peterson (Mammon), and Tom Walker(Archangel).  They self-published the book from 2845 South Gilpin Street, Denver 10, Colorado;  Donald M. Grant's Grandon, Publishers printed the book for The Council of Four.  Robert Peterson copyrighted both the book and Anthony Boucher's introduction.

The contents:
  • "Sherlock Holmes and Science Fiction" - an introduction by Anthony Boucher
  • "The Martian Crown Jewels" - Poul Anderson
  • "Half A Hoka -- Poul Anderson" - an appreciation of Anderson by Gordon R. Dickson
  • "The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound" - Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson
  • "The Anomaly of the Empty Man" - Anthony Boucher
  • "The Greatest Tertian" - Anthony Boucher
  • "The Adventure of the Stitch in Time" - Mack Reynolds and August Derleth
  • "The Adventure of the Ball of Nostradamus" - Mack Reynolds and August Derleth
  • "The Return" - H. Beam Piper and John McGuire
To today's reader of both mystery and science fiction, almost all of these stories will be familiar.  For the reader of strictly science fiction or of strictly mystery fiction, a number of the stories will be familiar.  All but "Half an Hoka" and Boucher's introduction have been widely reprinted.  Among the contents are one (and a half) Hoka and two Solar Pons tales -- worth the price of admission by themselves.  Throw in Anderson's deduction, Boucher's erudition, and Piper/McGuire's adventure and you have a superb anthology.  My only quibble:  not enough stories; the book is only 137 pages.  O, well...that deficit has been made up by the numerous SF Sherlockanian  anthologies published after this book led the way.

[By the way, Dickson's appreciation of Anderson, taken from the program booklet of the 17th World Science Fiction Convention, qualifies for this anthology by having a giant extraterrestrial Holmes deduce Anderson's personal and literary qualities.]


  1. I read the Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space anthology about a billion years ago. I recall Anderson having a story in that one. It was an enjoyable collection, but I'm a Holmes purist at heart.

  2. Never picked this one up - thanks Jerry, nothing like some ersatz Sherlock to spice up one's TBR!

  3. Actually the Council of Four did not last very long. The current BSI scion (since 1974) is Dr. Watson's Neglected Patients. Bob Peterson has long been a member of DWNP and Chuck Hanson once was. I am not sure about the rest.

    Darlene Cypser
    Chief Surgeon
    Dr. Watson's Neglected Patients