With all the happy Sherlockian events this week, it was great to get word that the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes website got a revamp. Monica Schmidt did a great job at catching it up, always a constant concern with standing sites. (Pieces of Sherlock Peoria are frozen in time, probably until that webspace one day dies.) Wandering the new site led me to a re-read of a great article by Heather Holloway and Taylor Blumenberg called "On the Care and Feeding of Millennials: Bringing a New Generation of Sherlockians into the Fold."
Heather and Taylor make some great points in their piece, And what fascinates me about it is the points they make that don't just apply to millennials, but many a Sherlockian outside the bubble of the traditional Sherlockian world. The world outside of Sherlockiana is constantly changing, and the slow-moving train that is the most traditional parts of the hobby is very slow to turn, especially with many of the passengers, in any given decade, going "Life is great inside this train! It can go on like this forever!"
But no moment lasts forever.
My parents, for example, retired in their early fifties, a good five years younger than I am now, not because they were wealthy, but because the world they lived in allowed that of certain middle-class jobs. They got to indulge their hobbies and grandchildren at that active age like few generations before and few after, just due to the moment they found themselves in. My wife and I came out of college debt-free, not because we were from wealthy families, but due to the world around us in that moment. That doesn't happen so much any more. Without getting too political about it, the robber barons at the top are finding ways to take a little more from everyone these days.
Which brings me to an admission I've resisted making, but seems appropriate this week in particular. When my household went from total D.I.N.K. (Double Income, No Kids) in the happy late nineties and early two-thousands to a O.R.I.O.F.L. (One Regular Income, One Free-Lancer.), our travel budget took a hit. Not only did the big trips, like New York in January, wind up on the cutting block, putting miles on the car for a decent sized road trip started being a serious consideration. And for a while, I went totally Spartan with it. I still had the web, after all. It wasn't like I was out of touch.
And yet, bit by bit, I was. Heather and Taylor cite three hurdles to Millennials slipping easily into traditional Sherlockian culture, and I began to notice them as well as I found myself slipping out. Traditional Sherlockiana can be pretty pricey. Just comparing the upcoming Minneapolis weekend symposium costs for two people to 221B Con's latest badge sale has me putting more weight on the price difference than I really care to in deciding which direction to head. But, hey, it's only money, right? If you're not rich, just be super-dedicated to the hobby and cut corners elsewhere. Fans have done it for years. But still . . . .
The second hurdle they mention is a social one, and again, I think they're hitting a point that doesn't just affect the younger generation of Sherlockians. I noticed a long time ago that there were some pretty great Sherlockians who seemed to disappear from the map once they fell out of step with the mainstream of the hobby. Still great fans of Sherlock Holmes, but once they quit being involved in the prescribed functions, "poof." Gone. As Sherlockiana has been a hobby of small numbers until this recent surge, one could see how that could happen. The one or two proprietors of any Sherlockian society had enough trouble keeping up with the business of meetings, etc., for those who showed up, so any sort of outreach wasn't really on the agenda for those whose view of the hobby wasn't pretty much in line. The big, open world of convention fandom just wasn't here yet, and habits took shape based on that older world.
The third barrier cited, the technological one, doesn't just affect Millennials either. As a tail-end member of the Baby Boom, I've come to detest writing checks in this Paypal world, and sometimes I've put off writing a check for something Sherlockian long enough that I just move on to something else. (Interesting note, given the start of this piece: My annual subscription to The Serpentine Muse has been the sole survivor of that long check-writing battle.) But it isn't just paying for things. Like newspapers, I don't think traditional Sherlockiana has found its "killer app" on the web even now. Sherlock fandom was born on the web and probably has enough content there already to put any major Sherlockian collection to shame. Sure, it's all digital. But it exists, all the same. We have yet to even fully comprehend is the impact of e-reading on Sherlockiana, though it's definitely having one.
The one thing it's easy to miss when considering these differences between new Sherlockians and old is that it's not just a binary system. We like black and white, good and evil, old and young. We like to think that Sherlockiana as we've known it will absorb all Holmes fans and continue as a single-threaded hobby. But it's very possible, as with music streams of the current era, that Sherlock Holmes may not just have one fandom celebrating him and carrying the love of the great detective into the future. We're already seeing a certain amount of behavior between fans of one Holmes or another than seem a lot like political or religious divides.
Or perhaps things will settle down eventually, back to the point where the surviving enthusiasts are just happy to see anyone that likes anything to do with Sherlock Holmes. That is the joy of an convention or long weekend of gathering like the luckier ones are seeing in NYC this week. In a great big world, finding a bunch of fans of your favorite thing in one place is always a remarkable experience, which is why it's kind of a shame when hurdles exist, whether you're a millennial or the last remaining person who bought a copy of The Strand Magazine at a newsstand.