For The Only One in the World Jason Franks shares "Sharakau Homura and the Heart of Iron." Jason talked with us about his story set in Japan and South Africa, and what he loved about writing it.
What is the most unexpected tidbit you learned while researching your story?
Something specific that I picked up researching this specific story was about the music popular in South Africa in the 1970s. I started out trying to learn whether Jimi Hendrix had much of a following there, and that led me down a bit of a rabbit hole about South African musicians of the era. That's how I discovered the brilliant horn player Hugh Masekala. I named a character after him.
What was your favourite thing about writing a story for The Only One in the World?
The interaction between Homura and Wiznitz – Holmes and Watson – was easily the most fun part of this story. The backdrop is pretty grim, and I didn't want to change history for the sake of drama, so that was the main space I had to play in.
I also really enjoyed winding in references to some of Doyle's supporting cast: Mycroft Holmes, Irene Adler, Moriarty, and Martha (Mrs Hudson), to show how they are changed in this version. Only Martha appears on screen but I think you can feel the presence of the others in the story.
What is quintessentially Japanese/South African about your Holmes or Watson?
You might have seen someone on my twitter feed reply to the story announcement positing that the story would be full of katana and matzo balls. I have done my best to avoid Western stereotypes of Japanese men when writing Homura. You know what I mean: if there's a Japanese character he's obsessed with honour and etiquette and is almost certainly some kind of martial arts expert.
Homura does have two characteristics that I think are quite common in Japanese culture, however: he is a devoted fan of a popular music idol (Jimi Hendrix), and he works obsessively hard at being the best in the world at his profession. Holmes is a very popular figure in Japanese media and I think that's because the things that make him exceptional to Westerners make him relatable for Japanese people.
For Wiznitz I have also tried to avoid the stereotypes. Who really wants to see a wisecracking, neurotic dweeb assisting the Great Detective?
Making him a doctor maybe plays into the stereotype a little, but I think he's closer to Doyle's Watson than he is to, say, Joel Fleischman. Jewish culture is a lot more diverse than the New York New York version we usually see. Wiznitz is specifically a South African Jew from a generation that had to do mandatory military service. A man with a medical degree would go into the army as an officer, and that is an important part of his story.
Also, a large proportion of the white anti-apartheid activists in South Africa were Jewish, and I wanted to recognise that as well.
More about Jason:
Along with his story for The Only One in the World, Jason Franks is the author of the novels Bloody Waters, Faerie Apocalypse, and Shadowmancy, as well as the Sixsmiths graphic novel series. Most of his work, in prose and comics, falls into some combination of the horror, fantasy, science fiction or comedy genres – if you like to think of things that way. He has been the editor of the Kagemono horror comics anthologies. Franks’ books have variously been shortlisted for Aurealis, Ledger and Ditmar awards. He lives in Melbourne, Australia. Find out more at jasonfranks.com.