Category Archives: Regender

The Regender Project: A Study In Scarlet

As promised, here is the first novel I chose to regender, A Study in Scarlet. It’ll be available for free for a short time, so grab it while you can. The original novel marked the first appearance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Ever since I started developing The Regender Project, one of the images that’s been stuck in my mind was the famous detective being portrayed as a woman. I had no doubt one of his stories would feature as my first regendered work.

Even being the first novel, I found the experience of regendering it wildly different from what I’d expected. While the process may seem straight forward, and in so many ways it was, there were plenty of little quirks and quibbles that gave me pause. Most of the regular ones I’ve talked about in the Regendered Project: Method page, but each novel seems to have its own unique set of challenges.

I’ve decided to include an author’s note with each novel where I talk about these issues and choices I made with that particular work. I’d originally planned to place it at the front of the novel, serving as an introduction, but realised there were quite a few spoilers in them. While I know the original version of these novels are over a hundred years old, I figured there’d be plenty of people who might not have read them or didn’t remember them clearly, so I’ve placed them at the end.

I’ll also include the notes when I introduce each novel on this blog, so you can get an idea of what it might be like after the regending. They’re hidden behind the spoiler tag below, so you’ll need to click to read them, but do so at your own risk!

Author’s Note:

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A Study in Scarlet was the first novel I chose to regender, and as such is probably a little rougher in the methods I used to do it. What appealed to be about this novel was how iconic the central character is, with Sherlock appearing in dozens, if not hundreds, of various adaptations. Even with all the small changes arising from different interpretations, we’re so used to seeing Sherlock portrayed in a certain way, and almost always male, that I felt it was the perfect way to showcase what I was trying to achieve with the Regender Project.

Similarly, the transformation of Victorian era London from a patriarchal society, where men held all the positions of authority and importance, to a more matriarchal one was just as enlightening.
The biggest transformation was in the second half of the novel, set amongst a Mormon community. Suddenly, it was women who kept a brood of husbands, along with having their choice of which ones to add. It also created a challenge in how I would regender historical characters within a story. One of the guidelines I decided to use was leaving historical figured unchanged, so as not to create an alternate version of history. I hadn’t thought about what to do with historical figures who appeared as characters, as Bringham Young does in this novel. While it might have been interesting to present him as having multiple husbands as well, that didn’t quite fit with what I was trying to do with regendering. Fortunately, there weren’t any references to his wives in the novel, which would become husbands after regendering, so I was able to leave his character male without creating too much of a disconnect. It does present an interesting situation where, within my regendered version of the novel, he’s helped found a society that’s effectively ruled and controlled by women. While not precisely the scenario I am trying to create, it provides just as much thought and discussion on the issue.

Overall, I found regendering A Study in Scarlet to be even more fascinating than I thought it’d be. So much so, I’ll probably regender more Sherlock Holmes stories in the future.

Introducing: The Regender Project

While I briefly introduced Regender Project in my earlier post,  I thought I might take a moment to introduce it properly and explain what it’s all about.


The Regender Project stems from my growing awareness of how unbalanced the genders are represented in nearly all forms of fiction. It’s most obvious in the case of movies, where all the main protagonists are male. So too the antagonists. Supporting cast as well. Even the minor characters are generally played by men. In fact, only 31% of named characters and 30% of speaking roles are given to women.

It’s also rare for these roles to be as substantial as the ones given to their male counterparts. All to often, women are relegated to being the love interest or just defined by their relationships to men. American cartoonist Alison Bechdel perfectly illustrated this with her Bechdel-Wallace test, which in order to pass, a movie must have: two women in it, who talk to each other about something besides a man. It’s pretty sad how many films fail such a simple test.

And literature is not much better either. In fact, it’s worse since so much more of it has been written over the centuries.


I grew up believing this was normal, without really questioning it or seeing it as a problem. If anything, it just made sense for movies and books to show more men in the most prominent positions since that just mirrored the real world; most politicians, senior officials, senior managements and just prestigious jobs were filled predominantly by men.

Of course, that begs the question: Are women underrepresented in fiction because that’s what it’s like in the real world? Or is the real world predominantly male because women are underrepresented in fiction? If people are told from an early age, in multiple different forms of narratives, that only men can fill such roles or perform those tasks, is it any wonder that girls and boys accept this in the real world?


Thankfully things are changing. There’s a growing awareness of this issue and many people are taking steps to address it and hopefully correct it. As a writer, I vowed to do my best to ensure my own writing represented the genders in a balanced way, but I couldn’t help thinking I could do more. After all, there were centuries upon centuries of literature to overcome.

It was while thinking about that mountain of existing work I had the seed of an idea.

  • What if those novels could be rewritten so they were balanced in how they represented the genders?
  • How much differently would they read and what sort of view of the world would they portray?

As interesting as that would be, I decided it wasn’t enough. I wanted to show just how unbalanced the representations of the genders had become by showing the complete opposite. The only way to do that would be to rewrite them with all the male characters becoming female and all the male characters becoming female. I dubbed the process, Regendering.


So, taking classic works that had entered the public domain, I started to rewrite them, following a loose set of guidelines I had developed. It’s still very much a work in progress as I adapt and learn more, but so far the results have been illuminating. So far I’ve completed a number of regendered novels which are available here, and my goal is to release two new ones a month. I’ll introduce each of them when they’re ready so you can learn more about that particular novel and what experience I had regendering it. Check back here for the first of those to appear later this week, and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter so I can keep you up to date as I release more books!