|In Sherlock's Season 3 first episode, writer Mark Gatiss|
|explores the Holmes phenomenon--why people responded|
|as they did to Conan Doyle's "murder" of his own character.|
Yuval Noah Harari believes that this ability to imagine, specifically to imagine the future, is what sets humans apart from animals. Pierre Bayard believes that this ability to imagine and invest accounts for people mourning the "death" of Sherlock Holmes (when Conan Doyle--tired of his creation--tried desperately to kill off Holmes in 1893).
What I find even more astonishing than believing in the future of an imaginary character is the human capacity to believe in an imaginary character who has only ever been referenced.
|Maris is so real that when Niles shows up with his|
|whippet, everybody, including the audience, knows|
|it's a substitution for his estranged wife.|
Along the same lines, a character can be so real and present and important that the readers or viewers will become invested to the point of believing the character is more omnipresent than he or she actually is. I often have to remind myself that actors and actresses see their jobs in terms of lines or time on the screen. In his initial seasons, Castiel on Supernatural is so omnipresent in concept, I have to remind myself that Misha Collins was only getting paid by appearance, not by how often people thought about him.
Likewise, I have elsewhere praised the Stargate writers for referencing Daniel so often in Season 6 (the season he was technically absent, guest-starring in three or four episodes), he might as well have been "there," simply hanging out in the infirmary or guest-lecturing on Atlantis.
This is the point where some people get cynical about human beings' gullibility, yadda yadda yadda. I think it is rather sweet: humans have this impressive ability to care absolutely totally unrelentingly passionately about the real and about the imagined.