Friday, November 18, 2016

Those whom the Wiggins deems worthy.

"Most, or all, Irregulars can be adjudged somewhat eccentric by virtue of our worship of a person who never lived, and yet who, in our eyes and many others worldwide, will live forever. However, some people are just not a good fit for this society. Perhaps it’s a matter of habitually putting themselves first (narcissistic, highly entitled), or unfortunately having limited funds with which to participate in BSI events."
  -- From this year's recommendation guideline for suggesting invitees
to the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York

For the most part, I try to leave the Baker Street Irregulars alone in these pages. But if one is writing on Sherlock Holmes fandom in America, that topic has to come around occasionally, and the exclusive country club nature of our oldest Holmes fan club cannot go overlooked.

What combination of being centered in New York City and bestowing Irregular shillings like knighthoods eventually led America's first Holmes fandom to this place is hard to say. The slow shift of Irregular menswear from suit-and-tie to tuxedo was an indicator, and one can't help but see a focus that tended to gaze overlong on the club itself rather than Sherlock Holmes at times entering into the equation. And becoming a bucket-list destination for the Sherlock Holmes fans of the Baby Boom definitely brought the laws of supply and demand into play.

Such is life, one might say, and you don't get a selfie with Benedict Cumberbatch without paying the convention corporation's price. Money talks.

But it was rather unsettling to see that factor placed into the guidelines for suggesting who gets invited to the annual dinner. How would you feel if an Irregular took that note, and deemed you too poor to suggest to the B.S.I.'s doorman when an invitation might have motivated you to come up with the cash for the trip? (Admittedly, you're not going to get enough warning to save up for more than a month . . . but still, heroic efforts can be made.) Fandom folk tend to be highly motivated to get to events that attract them, and do get there, more often than not.

There are plenty of more affordable options for Sherlock Holmes fans out there these days, from the Scintillation of Scions to 221B Con, so one can live a very happy Sherlockian life without ever setting foot inside the annual Irregular dinner. And that's pretty cool.

But this ongoing tone of selecting star-bellied sneetches for the Caddyshack country club of Sherlockiana . . . maybe the B.S.I. should check into a public relations guy. So not cool.

The annual written lecture from the B.S.I.'s Wiggins on who is appropriate and who is not appropriate (and, heaven forbid, NO CAMPAIGNS!) to show up to his "private" dinner party is going to be an interesting piece of current Sherlockian culture for some future historian to peruse in the B.S.I.'s Harvard archives, especially as one watches it evolve over the years. They might even enjoy speculating on what incident or person inspired each new specific suggestion. (Let's name names on the narcissistic and highly entitled! Yeah, I know . . . .) But each year, I get these letters, and each year I find myself less motivated to gather up my own travel budget and choose New York in January over some more welcoming climate.

Perhaps eventually that Baby Boom demand is going to peter out and perhaps the next head of the Irregulars will decide to try being a little sweeter in his invitation to participate, just to get a few more folks to come. Or just build a wall around the dinner . . . that is apparently a popular option these days, too.

Time will tell.


  1. "Before recommending someone for membership in this group named after a bunch of homeless children, please consider their amount of disposable income."