"And still, poor soul, I had this morbid hankering for inventing clubs."
I remember a day when I, like Christopher Morley, had such a hankering, and I'm sure many a Sherlockian of seasons past has felt that way as well. The swell of Sherlockiana in the late seventies and early eighties were a boom time for club-starters and reinvigorators alike. Many of those societies have fallen away since then, but some still hold on to proud records of decade after decade of existence.
So now that we stand in the midst of one of the greatest high tides of Sherlock fancy in our history, I find myself occasionally wondering: Where are the clubs?
Sure, the old guard is still out there. But new fans like to start new clubs, even in cities that have established groups. And perhaps I'm out of touch . . . well, yes, I am rather out of touch . . . but I still think the internet would have showed some sort of clubbishness on the rise. Sure, you can cite the Baker Street Babes, but they're a podcast cast when you come right down to it. And they're kind of unique.
Now, as I'm gaining a reputation for being the anti-everything Sherlockian with this blog, I have to phrase this carefully so as not to seem to be coming out against clubs. But here's the thing . . . could we be entering an era where the club no longer serves the purpose it once did?
Clubs were always connecting points, places we'd go to meet other Sherlockians. Now, thanks to the internet, you can find other Sherlockians in your area and arrange a meet-up without having name nor banner to fly overhead. Networks of friends can be built to your individual tastes on the web, and your Sherlockian pals can be completely different form those of the Sherlockian who lives next door. Geography no longer limits us.
And while clubs have historically served as great organizers of larger events, this year's 221B Con rose up without involving any local scion. It's not the first Sherlockian event to come about in such a way, but as the first Sherlockian con of size, it's worth noting.
We're not the only clubland affected by the modern day, which you may hear of if you talk to any Elks, Jaycees, Odd Fellows, Eagles, Moose, Kiwanis, etc., etc. Service clubs that were once key parts of local communities have felt a shift of late, and even though Sherlockian societies would seem to be an entirely different animal, history brings change to everything at some point.
I'm certain existing groups will carry their banners on into the future. Retro-chic clubs will inevitably form now and again. But what used to be the standard way of doing things might be changing. Will we one day come to look at the 1980s as the era not just more Sherlockian newsletters and journals than any other, but a rare peak of the traditional Sherlockian society as well?
I suspect that we're just going through a major shift of the way we interact as we merge with our new technologies, and that on the other side some charming soul get a hankering to gather some folks together for lunch just like Morley once did (poor soul), and the cycle of new groups will begin again. Despite the listserver groups, I don't feel like the internet has yet produced a true, fully-functioning web based society that takes advantage of all that our advances in tech have to offer (unless the Babes actually are the new model). And I definitely don't think we've all adjusted to seeing as much of each other as the web makes it possible to do. (That, perhaps, is a blog for another time.)
The Sherlockian community is stronger than ever, despite my perception of a blip in the new club radar. And most of our surprises lately have been happy ones. The new kids on the block have come up with some impressive stuff so far, though. I can't wait to see what they'll surprise me with next. Will it be a new model of club? We shall see.