Fan Fiction Recommendations by Elinor Gray

Fan Fiction: A Commentary by Elinor Gray

Fanfiction exists in the realm of “what if.” Like pastiche, it takes characters that are already familiar to the reader and places them in new situations, new arrangements, and presents them with new challenges. But unlike pastiche, fan fiction often dares to go where traditional print literature does not. Some writers take characters and places, more or less intact, into an Alternate Universe (an AU). Sometimes this AU is as subtle as changing one or two details, resulting in an alternative course of action (a “want of a nail” AU), and sometimes this AU can be as dramatic as placing Earth-bound characters in space, historical characters in the modern world, or swapping the characters’ genders.

Fan fiction is subversive in ways that only free media can be. Laurie Penny writes, specifically about Sherlock fanfiction, “What is significant about unofficial, extra-canonical fan fiction is that it often spins the kind of stories that showrunners” (and, perhaps, male, educated, middle-class Victorian authors) “wouldn't think to tell, because fanficcers often come from a different demographic.” For example, “women, people of colour, queer kids, horny teenagers, people who are not professional writers, [and] people who actually care about continuity (sorry)."

The fic side of fandom wants to welcome the traditionalist side with open arms. This is by no means the be-all-end-all list of what is “good” or “important” in the Sherlock Holmes multiverse fandom. To quantify fic that way would be impossible. I can't even say this is more than a sliver of a slice of the fan fiction that exists. However, what I have tried to do is provide a touchstone, a point of reference, which a reader new to fan fiction can use to engage with the online fandom.

I asked my corner of the fandom to recommend to me what they considered “important” or “influential” fanfiction. The list below is curated from a combination of the results of that poll as well as from other recommendation communities, groups, posts, bookmarks, and my own reading experience. Because of this, this list is a little (very) Sherlock Holmes/John Watson heavy, This is a weakness in the list. Links to recommendations from other Sherlockians, and the Sherlock Holmes categories from two well-known fanfiction sites, and, are listed below for you to explore all that is out there.

If you find something you like, don't forget to leave a comment! This is the only payment most fanfic authors get for the effort they put into their works.

Some links to external rec lists may contain adult content, please proceed with caution.

For more on the analysis of fan fiction

Recommendation lists from other Sherlockians

CBS' Elementary (TV) fanfics

Fanfics based on other adaptations

Explore For Yourself


At (AO3)

Elinor's fic picks based on the Canon

BBC's Sherlock (TV) fanfics

Guy Ritchie movie fanfics