Literary Archaeology: “Cemetery Games”

Because Pro Se Productions’ collection Rat-A-Tat: Short Blasts of Pulp has just come off a free weekend, you might have arrived here in a fugue state. You’re dazed. You’re lost. And all the words you can possibly find are “James Bojaciuk did this to me.”

That’s all right. Settle in and take up a cigar. It’ll all make sense in a tick.

Rat-A-Tat Short Blasts of Pulp

One of the things you’ll realize, should you met me (aside from what sexy hair and does he own anything except jeans?) is that I like Sherlock Holmes. That’s a lie. I’m obsessed with him. A Study in Scarlet was the first book I ever read, not in a messy matter of chronology but the first book that opened up reading to me. The first book that mattered. The first book that was more than what most say, “the first book that was my own,” but something all the more vital–it was the first book that could have been life itself.

When Pro Se announced guidelines for short fiction, only one thing occurred to me. Sherlock was around and gaining steam, Elementary was either just starting, or had begun a massive ad campaign, and all around writers were striking up stakes on reinvented Holmeses and new-age Watsons. It was the hit literary fad, for awhile. Some great (Elementary, Locked), others less so.

But they all missed the point.

They made a fatal mistake.

They assumed a Sherlock Holmes could arise in our age: an age of inescapable social conventions, standardized tests which coddle from crib to grave, and an ever-present government. Holmes would have only two options, to attain even a fraction of the power he so readily had in his native age: find himself drafted into a higher power (which Elementary and Sherlock have both played with), or drop-out deadbeat into the criminal classes.

Thus we have Lel. The result of a wasted intellect, and constantly called lower into the dregs.

Paget_Holmes and the Gasogene

Watson would fare better, if reborn into this age. There’s any number of hipsters and millennial (a class I unfortunately belong to) who get by simply on the idea of writing. That Watson would actually write, and write memoirs of his own life, would make him a god among his class the way the true Holmes was among his. But that was altogether too easy, and too cute. Thus we’ve not taken his silver-tongue writing, but we have made it unintelligible. He’s eastern European (probably) and so uncertain in his new tongue that there’s no hope he’ll ever set down a record of his adventures.

Thus we have Kiprianov. The result of a displaced person, but still brave and honorable and military-trained.

And, calling back to A Study in Scarlet, their very first story involves a man named Stamford bringing them together. Of course, he’s dead; but a shovel and some sweat can certainly bring him back up to the surface…

Is it my greatest story? Not by a long shot.

But dang if I didn’t have the time of my life writing it.


You can buy Rat-A-Tat: Short Blasts of Pulp right here.

Note for Crossover Fanatics: Kiprianov and Lel do not take the place of Holmes and Watson in a given shared universe; the habitant of the grave they dig up, Stamford, is intended to be the grandson of the Stamford who brought Holmes and Watson together; the serial killer with a thing for left hands is an invention of M.H. Norris, though he has yet to appear in print (but goes to show she has a thing for serial killers); daring readers may choose to interpret the gravestone marked Zalgo as a Great Old One’s toe-hold on our reality.