The Adventure of the Field Theorems: Sample

Book cover for The Adventure of the Field Theorems by Vonda N. McIntyreA Sherlock Holmes Scientific Romance
by Vonda N. McIntyre

Holmes laughed like a Bedlam escapee.

Considerably startled by his outburst, I lowered my Times, where I had been engrossed in an article about a new geometrical pattern discovered in the fields of Surrey. I had not yet decided whether to bring it to Holmes’s attention.

“What amuses you so, Holmes?”

No interesting case had challenged Holmes of late, and I wondered, fearfully, if boredom had led him to take up, once again, the habit of cocaine.

Holmes’ laughter died, and an expression of thoughtful distress replaced the levity. His eyes revealed none of the languorous excitement of the drug.

“I am amused by the delusions of our species, Watson,” Holmes said. “Amusing on the surface, but, on reflection, distressing.”

I waited for his explanation.

“Can you not discern the reason for my amusement, Watson — and my distress? I should think it perfectly obvious.”

I considered. Should he encounter an article written particularly for its humorous content, he would pass straight over it, finding it as useless to him as the orbits of the planets. The description of some brutal crime surely would not amuse him. A trace of Moriarty would raise him to anger or plunge him into despair.

“Ah,” I said, certain I had divined the truth. “You have read an account of a crime, I beg your pardon, the resolution of a crime, and you have seen the failings in the analysis. But,” I pointed out, somewhat disturbed by my friend’s indifference to the deeper ramifications, “that would indicate the arrest of an innocent victim, Holmes. Surely you should have some other reaction than laughter.”

“Surely I should,” Holmes said, “if that were the explanation. It is not.” He shook the paper. “Here is a comment by Conan Doyle on Houdini’s recent performance.”

“Quite impressive it was, too,” I said. “Thrilling, I would say. Did Sir Arthur find the performance compelling?”

“Conan Doyle,” Holmes said with saturnine animosity, “attributes Houdini’s achievements to — ” Holmes sneered — ”‘mediumistic powers’.”

“His achievements do strain credulity,” I said mildly.

“Pah!” Holmes said. “That is the point, Watson, the entire and complete point! Would you pay good money to see him fail to escape from a sealed coffin?”

“I suppose that I would not,” I admitted.

“Were Houdini to tell you his methods, you would reply, ‘But that is so simple! Anyone could achieve the same effect — using your methods!’“

As Holmes often heard the same remark after explaining his methods, I began to understand his outburst.

“I would say nothing of the sort,” I said mildly. “I should say, instead, that he had brought the technique of stage magicianship to as near an exact science as it ever will be brought in this world.”

Holmes recognized my comment with a brief smile, for I had often said as much to him about his practice of detection.

“But it is true, Watson,” Holmes said, serious once more. “Anyone could achieve the same effect — were they willing to dedicate their lives to developing the methods, to studying the methods, to perfecting the methods! Then it is ‘so simple’.”

When Holmes deigned to lead an amazed observer through his deductive reasoning, the observer’s reaction was invariably the same: His methods were “perfectly obvious”; anyone, including the observer, could duplicate them with ease.

“Conan Doyle claims friendship with Houdini,” Holmes said in disgust, “and yet he insults his friend. He dismisses Houdini’s hard work and ingenuity. Despite Houdini’s denials, Conan Doyle attributes Houdini’s success to the supernatural. As if Houdini himself had very little to do with it! What a great fool, this Conan Doyle.”

“Easy on,” I said. “Sir Arthur is an intelligent man, a brave man. An inspired man! His imagination is every bit as exalted as that of Wells! His Professor Challenger stories compare favorably to War of the Worlds — !”

“I never read fiction,” Holmes said. “A failing for which you berate me continually. If I did read fiction, I would not doubly waste my time with the scientific romances you find so compelling. Nor am I interested in the mad fantasies of a spiritualist.” Holmes scowled through a dense cloud of pipe smoke. “The man photographs fairies in his garden.”


The Adventure of the Field Theorems by Vonda N. McIntyre A Sherlock Holmes Scientific Romance
by Vonda N. McIntyre
$2.99 (Novella) ISBN 978-1-61138-086-6

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