The irony of a three-day Sherlock convention called "Elementary" being held over in the UK this weekend makes me smile a bit. It also makes me smile for a lot of other reasons.
It's a strange new Sherlockian world now, thanks to Sherlock. There are now Sherlock Holmes conventions out there, a fact which last year's 221B Con suddenly brought miraculously to life. And for an entity in the convention business like Starfury Conventions to go, "Hey, there's a market for a Sherlock convention!" and then bring in Benedict Cumberbatch, Lars Mikkelsen, and company to entertain the fans . . . well, that's something we've never seen before.
Watching the Sherlock boom's effect on the old school Sherlockian world has been interesting.
It's a little like if Sherlockians lived in a sleepy little hamlet we were all comfortable in, and a huge, bigger-than-the-town-itself modern housing development, complete with big-box stores, got dropped right on its outskirts. There were those bored locals who immediately drove over to the new development to see what it had to offer. And there were also, of course, those townies so invested in our little town as it was that they went about their daily habits as if nothing had happened . . . and maybe grousing a bit about the johnny-come-latelys wandering into old town from the new part.
Most residents of our little Sherlockian town fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. We're all curious as to what the census signs are going to read in ten years. But man, is this a cool time to be a Sherlockian. Seeing a young face with a mop of curly hair attached to the name "Sherlock Holmes" all over the place is something none of us would have predicted ten years prior to now, but none of us could have predicted the effect the internet was going to have on us in 1990, either. Sure, you can still write a letter and put it in a mailbox if you want to ignore the societal shift, but most of us don't see the world as a letters-and-mailbox place anymore.
And I think that's the thing that really puts a mad spin on the rise of Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch is the first Sherlock Holmes of the internet age, and reaping all the benefits of our new technology. The influence of our last great Sherlock, Jeremy Brett, cannot even be compared to the Cumberbatch, because Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, etc., didn't exist back then. I have no doubt that if there had been the internet of today in the 1980s, Starfury Conventions would have been doing Granada Holmes cons. Heck, if we'd have had the internet in Rathbone's day, he'd have been crazy huge on the convention circuit.
Gillette had a popular stage-play. Rathbone had radios and black and white movies. Brett had color television and VHS tapes. and now we have Cumberbatch and YouTube and Netflix streaming. Each successive Sherlock Holmes has gotten a more powerful medium and reached more people, and each has brought in new Sherlock Holmes fans to the core community. Thirty year from now, a new actor may be taking advantage of some pipe-it-directly-into-your-brain technology and be an even bigger Sherlock sensation still.
And our little Sherlockian town will never be the same. But it never has been, really.