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Watson +‎ -ian. "In-universe" sense formed in reference to Dr. John Watson, the fictional author within the text of the Sherlock Holmes stories, in contrast to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as the real author of the stories. Started in Sherlock Holmes fandom before spreading to other fandoms. Possibly originating in the "Baker Street Irregulars" fan club and entering the science fiction fandom usage (fanspeak) via the Lois McMaster Bujold mailing list.


Watsonian (comparative more Watsonian, superlative most Watsonian)

  1. Resembling or characteristic of the character Dr. Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories.
  2. (fandom slang, narratology) From an in-universe perspective; of or relating to an explanation within the text; internal to the narrative.
    • 2000 October 6, Martin Bonham, “Banks was Re: Multi-culturalism in space?”, in rec.arts.sf.written[1] (Usenet), message-ID <970804830.406747@hermes>:
      I would accept that many of them behave like humans born on earth would, but that must be an artefact of poor translation or our poor understanding of their motives and objectives [Watsonian] or lack of vision on the writers part [Doylist - to borrow some terms from the Bujold mailing list - think 'as written by' Dr Watson or by Arthur Conan Doyle].
    • 2005 May 30, Del Cotter, “Re: The past as a foreign country”, in rec.arts.sf.written[2] (Usenet), message-ID <oZTd7a9563mCFw2X@branta.demon.co.uk>:
      IIRC, Wells specifically described the choice of Southern England as being as much about "bridgehead" as about "decapitation strike". I think he said something about settling in to the island and building up strength before spreading out to the continent and planet.¶ That's the Watsonian explanation of course, the Doyleist explanation is that he was writing an allegory of white men wiping about the Tasmanians, from the point of view of the Tasmanians. He needed to set it where his English readers would be horrified by the destruction, and the Martian invasion of Korea or Florida or Sri Lanka, or even Ireland, wouldn't have had as much of an impact.
    • 2012, Laurie Cubbison, “Russell T Davies, 'Nine Hysterical Women,' and the Death of Ianto Jones”, in New Media Literacies and Participatory Popular Culture Across Borders, →ISBN:
      While fans recognize and do engage in Doylist readings, they tend to find Watsonian readings more engaging. Fan fiction writers in particular engage with the text intradiegetically.
    • 2014 March 28, Michael Deutschmann, “Re: WhichDevTeam-enabled actions seem like cheating to you?”, in rec.games.roguelike.nethack[3] (Usenet), message-ID <%gcXNTpsfY@bagheera.talosis.ca>:
      I think the best Watsonian explanation is that shopkeepers aren't quite right in the head. They know that most players intend to rob them blind, but don't understand how the successful ones are doing it.