The economies of being a fan have a wider spread than ever these days.
On one hand, we have some amazing things out there for those with either deep pockets or a fanatical enough devotion to live on macaroni and cheese for as long as it takes to pay off the bill for a $2300 Belstaff coat or a first edition from eBay. On the other, we have the masses of reading, video, art, and education upon Sherlock Holmes one can get via the internet for absolutely nothing.
One can do one's Sherlockian socializing via social networks and discussion groups, or one can spend a couple of thousand on flights and hotel for attending a Sherlockian event in some major city. Sherlockiana has been an international hobby almost has long as it's been a hobby, and one with a healthy credit status could always do some serious Sherlockian social travel, but the options have even exploded on that front . . . mainly due to the explosion of Sherlockian connections on the no-cost front.
And while it hasn't fully hit Sherlockiana as hard as other fandoms, thanks to our world being as much books as other media, the amount of businesses marketing to fans has grown immensely, adding potential costs that didn't exist years ago. Suddenly I feel like I grew up in the depression when I hear myself saying, "I remember a day when a celebrity would give you an autograph for free." The current convention model for actor autographs (and photos with said actors) can range from thirty to eighty bucks for the signatures and twice that for the photos.
I'm not sure if it's a sad or happy thing that writers and artists are still signing stuff for free or not. (Happy for the fans, yet showing a disproportionate skewing of the culture toward looking good over actual brains.)
It fascinated me that at a convention debacle attended by a number of Sherlockians this past weekend, the organizers made an attempt to get attendees to come up with nearly twenty-thousand dollars in an hour to keep the con going. While it wasn't clear if they raised their full amount, the convention did keep going, which led one to wonder, how many fans had that kind of ready cash to kick in and did? And what is in the fannish mindset to set aside critical thinking and spontaeously dump money into an emotional moment?
Actually, when you come right down to it, that's what is at the core of the economies of fandom, and has been for a very long time: The sudden choice to pour a ton of money into an emotional moment. For as much as we Sherlockians pride ourselves on our Sherlock-like powers of reasoning, nobody ever spent a few hundred dollars on a single book for purely intellectual purposes. There are other, better investments out there if you want to make money. Nobody ever spent a couple of thousand hard-earned dollars or more on a winter-time vacation in New York City just because it's such a great place to be in January. It's the emotional ties to Sherlock and Sherlockians that get them there.
One could probably even chart the level of emotion-to-income necessary for fan-based decisions. A wealthy fan can collect on a whim, but a pauper fan can do impressive things based on passion alone. And most of us fall somewhere in the middle, making out choices one day at a time, and hopefully not regretting them later.
What I'm curious about these days, looking at the things money is being spent on, is this: Do we have more money than we used to, or more fannish passion?
Guessing the latter, but as with free writer autographs, I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad about that.