Thursday, March 31, 2016

221B Con countdown and Watson is making me nervous.

Less than twenty-four hours before 221B Con, and I am sorely troubled.

It's Watson, you see.

Selena Buttons, the head of the John H. Watson Society, has tweeted a picture of the "Watsonian" badge ribbons she'll be carrying into the con, showing her society's Watson pride. And I'm making sure of a few Canonical facts for the panel I'll be on Sunday to talk about Watson's marital lives. Yes, "lives."

And Watson is troubling me. Back when we were all letting Nigel Bruce sway our thoughts about Watson, as well as Doyle's famous film quote that he was "a rather stupid fellow," it was easy to let the conflicting dates in Watson's case records slide. If the good doctor was a little bit of a doofus, those willy-nilly dates were no big deal. But times have changed.

These days, we understand that Watson was no dummy. He was a pretty bright guy. So when he goes to the trouble to specify a particular year and a particular month in a case, we now have to assume he knows what he's talking about. That he was either telling us these things because they were true, or because he wanted us to believe that they were true. And if those dates are anything close to true, John H. Watson had wives, plural. And not just a couple.

Like Selena Buttons and the stalwarts of her society, the Sherlockians of old were big fans of Watson. Thought he was a virtuous, monogamous chap and all that. But when you look at those case dates and the married/not married on-off switch that seems to be Watson's marital status, one starts to become suspicious of just how good a guy he was.

I mean, that wife in "The Man with the Twisted Lip" . . . the one who called him "James." We can say she was having an affair with Moriarty (because he was so cute, right?) or that his middle initial "H" was from the Scottish version of James, "Hamish," and his wife decided to pet-name him the translated-to-English version of it (Huh?), but that all seems like we're doing crazy justification gymnastics just to ignore the most obvious reason for it: "James" was what his wife thought his name truly was, as it was the name he used with her from day one.

Yes, I'm saying John H. Watson might have married at least one wife under an assumed name. Ever wonder why he was so excited to write a whole second novelette about Mormon bigamy in his first published work? Like maybe he was really fascinated by that possibility, to the point of trying it himself? Man, what kind of scoundrel would that guy be? Who would even have him for a room-mate, unless it was somebody who said things like "Women are never to be entirely trusted?" Dark rumors start to swirl around a guy like that. Dark rumors indeed.

What if Watson wasn't entirely a good guy with this whole wives thing? And I could potentially be discussing this in front of people with "WATSONIAN" ribbons proudly displayed on their con badges? This could turn as riotous as a Donald Trump rally! Where's my Secret Service protection!

High noon on Sunday, Sherlockians, Watsonians, and Morstanians. Oh, no. I had forgotten about the Morstanians. I am in so much trouble . . . .

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

And so it begins . . .

Of course, I'm not ready.

Well, 221B Con spring break is finally here. Is anybody ever actually completely ready for such things?

Nope. But they come anyway. Hopefully, you'll be hearing some happy reports on things soon.

The cultural timestamp called TJLC.

Catching up on podcasts in preparation for 221B Con, I came upon Three Patch Podcast's very in-depth discussion of that passionately discussed topic called "TJLC." I had heard of "The Johnlock Conspiracy" before, but not being a hardcore Sherlock fan, even though I had felt rumblings in the Force when that topic came up, I hadn't really understood how deep that fandom rabbit hole went.

Yes, over-50 white heterosexual male here. There's a lot I don't see until I look hard. (Have to go back to Holmes's Hound quote from this week's Grimm: "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.") I can be horribly stupid in a lot of areas, so proceed with care. (In other words, don't hurt me. I'm a nice person. Really.)

From the moment the Three Patch discussion started out with the words, "TJLC can be a sensitive subject," my Sherlock-senses soon started tingling out their warning that this was not a topic to be approached lightly by anyone . . . I even had a memory of it being a hot button at the last 221B Con wrap-up session, even though I had no idea what it was. But here's the thing: the reason it's a hot button is because it's actually a very important cultural marker, both within Sherlockiana and without.

Ten years ago it wasn't a thing. Ten years from now it might not be a thing. But right now? It is most definitely a thing. Why?

Because Sherlock Holmes isn't always about Sherlock Holmes. Most times, he's about us.

"My Sherlock Holmes is . . . " Fill in your own blank here. He's your Sherlock Holmes. He touches something deep inside you and has been mentally customized to fit the inside of your head. You may think he's Basil Rathbone or Benedict Cumberbatch or a Sidney Paget drawing or Jonny Lee Miller, but that's just the coat of paint that covers the mix of personality traits that makes Sherlock Holmes meaningful to you. It could be the cool logic. It could be the bonds of friendship. It could be a tendency for addiction. Sliding scales of each of those and more can vary widely between what's behind your Cumberbatch coating and my Cumberbatch coating. But the key part of all that is this: Sherlock Holmes (or John H. Watson, if that's your key, and it is to some) is us.

And that's what one has to consider when observing the debates behind the Johnlock Conspiracy.

The Johnlock Conspiracy, as I understand it, is the deeply held and backed-up-by-all-sorts-of-evidence belief that BBC Sherlock's overarching tale is one of two same-sex lovers who will eventually find that in each other. And that the producers are secretly (or maybe not so secretly) writing it that way. It's more than just a theory to those who hold it most dear, it's a believed truth.

And one can see why they want it to be so. Gay couples in modern television are very hard to find. Lately a lot of them who come together on shows like CW's The 100 immediately have one of the pair get killed the minute they acknowledge their same-sex relationship. Just as society is struggling to accept that things aren't the same-old, same-old, our media story-telling is, too. And here come Sherlock and John, with such a chemistry between them, and such an obvious love as well.

Now, they could be like Xena, Warrior Princess and toy with the thought of a gay relationship for the entire show, never quite seem to get there, and come back in a rebooted version (as Xena seems to be doing) with it fully realized. Xena is a twenty-year-old show . . . for Sherlock and John to follow the same path seems a bit . . . old fashioned? And yet, if that was never truly the intent of the showrunners, one couldn't blame them for keeping Sherlock asexual and John hetero . . . unless you were blaming them for teasing something they never intended to do.

Very complex and murky waters indeed, when you bring intent of the writers and what meaning viewers pull out of a story up for comparision. My old high school English teacher used to go on about Hemingway's "theme of blood," and I always wondered if that was Hemingway's intent or just what my teacher and her academic class of folk wanted to see there. But those on the side of the Johnlock Conspiracy don't seem to just be pontificating English teachers. It sounds like they've done some pretty intense research to back up their theories . . . research on the BBC Sherlock Canon that hits a level of detail that the old school hits with the original Doyle Canon. And they hit the original Canon in their search as well. (The Criterion was a gay bar? To the Victorian Snopes site!)

At the core of The Johnlock Conspiracy, no matter how you slice it, is how our culture, our media, and our stories are dealing with non-traditional relationships. Right here. Right now. We've come a goodly way to even be able to have this discussion at this point, and we have a ways to go before it becomes something that doesn't need to be discussed. Like I said, Sherlock Holmes is about us.

You get to have your Holmes. I get to have mine. As individuals, these things may be just our personal opinions, as a culture, however, they show us what's happening in the world around us, even if we only want to talk about that guy named Sherlock Holmes.

Looking forward to 221B Con all the more after listening to Three Patch's latest. (I don't count, or listen to Spoilercasts, for the obvious reason. Hmm, why does the word "Spoilers!" always ring out in my head in Alex Kingston's voice?) I never come away from that weekend without learning quite at bit about Sherlock Holmes I never knew going in.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Calling upon Mrs. Watson again to see if she looks the same.

Just over fourteen years ago, I presented a paper at the Holmes/Doyle symposium in Dayton on the multiple wives of John H. Watson. At that time, I counted openings for six Mrs. Watsons by looking at the gaps in Watson's married life, when he was single and back at Baker Street. At that time, I based my conclusions entirely upon circumstantial evidence, and pulled my six Mrs. Watsons from whoever happened to be close at hand during Watson's bachelor period.

They were interesting choices, but were they definitive? Hardly.

Over the last fourteen years, I've had time to consider Watson's married life, and my thoughts have evolved a bit . . . heck, Sherlockiana itself has evolved a whole lot since I wrote that paper. At one point, I even came up with a sequel paper to that one for a visit to the Scintillation of Scions that didn't work out, and that one is still a work for which the world is not yet prepared (which is a very strange thing to say these days when the world seems to conjure up just about anything). But that train of thought goes down an entirely different path and not the subject at hand for this year's panel at 221B Con in Atlanta.

This time it's back to Watson's wives. And I really need to stop saying "Watson's wives" like he was the most important one. "Women willing to take John H. Watson as a husband" might be a better phrase. It wasn't like he was just plucking them out of a Canonical woman tree.

What sort of woman would want John H. Watson, doctor, writer (of various states of reknown at various times), ex-military man, adventurer, etc.?  Easy for a fan to say "Any woman!" but would Irene Adler have given him the time of day? Was she similar enough to Sherlock Holmes in mindset to find Watson an admirable enough companion for matrimony?

These are the sort of questions that need answering.

There are a veritable village of eligible candidates in the original Canon. Since we're talking legal marriage in the Victorian era, I am limiting the choices to females, but even that becomes something to consider . . . what if a "beard" was the sort of wife Watson needed? How does that affect the equation?

'Tis a bit more open-minded world that that of 2002, and one needs to open a mind up wind whenever contemplating the mystery that is John H. Watson.

High noon this Sunday, in the Jackson room at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center, the discussion of just who would wind up married to such a man will take place in earnest at 221B Con, and I will eventually report the results back here.

Mrs. Watson. Hmmm.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The March of the Hound takes a Grimm turn.

You have to love the new on-demand phase of our television access.

Hear about a show you missed last week? All you have to do is hit a few menus and there it is.

Today I learned of a second non-Sherlockian show to have an episode inspired by The Hound of the Baskervilles this month: NBC's Grimm.

After a little bit of continued continuity (ahhhhh . . .), Grimm began its tale with a perfectly ominous quote settling on the screen with enough time for its words to sink in:

"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes."

I don't remember those words from Sherlock Holmes ever sounding so spooky before, but they are.

And then a car and driver, forests, rain, and a cell phone conversation that starts with: "Yeah, and go ahead and call Stapleton, let him know that I gave him him til start of business on Monday to counter our offer on the Baker Street property . . ."

Turns out the guys name is Doyle Bask, and after blowing a tire, something bad happens, he winds up messed up and bloody on the road, but alive, claiming he was attacked by a large dog.

Past that, the story goes off on kind of a basic werewolf-hunters tale, with a lot of Grimm mythos mixed in. Not being that familiar with the show, there was a lot I was working a bit of that out as it went, but it seemed to be moving their story along pretty well.

No Sherlock Holmes in Grimm world, but that's only the way things should be.

Still, nice to see a nod to a horror classic that Sherlock Holmes happens to be a part of, even he can't exactly show up to fix it, in that very non-supernatural way he's famous for.

(Thanks to @plexippa for the heads-up Tweet on this one.)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

And the choosing begins . . .

The best thing about 221B Con, the absolute best thing, is that you rarely have to be bored for any given hour of the con. With usually four or five choices of programming going on at any moment, it's hard to find one's self without something of interest going on. And that's also the worst thing about 221B Con.

The schedule for the con has come out, so con-goers can start planning their days (and finding out if the panel they signed up to be on is at the very same time as the other panel they wanted to see). This year, as I only put in for one panel ("Old School Shipping: The Many Wives of Classic Watson"), I'll have to miss choosing between writing dilemmas, fanfiction, costuming on a budget, and trivia. Costuming would have been my go-to if I was free, and writing dilemmas sounded like fun, too. But then, as experience has shown, any panel at 221B Con is ripe with possibilities. The panel names are often quite . . . understated?

Not sure if that's the word I want (a writing dilemma), but that's the thing about looking over the con schedule. A lot of it looks like the map of Silver Dollar City I saw when I was thirteen . . . being a little humble in showing the wild rides that awaited at each location.

This year, my goal is to attend some things that are outside my bubble, maybe not go for too many repeats of last year's favorites, and try to expand my Sherlockian universe a little bit more, as every 221B Con has done for me. The web series showings are hard to pass up, as are the podcast recordings . . . even though they are the one part of the con you can get to later. Fortunately the con never does too much counter-programming against the podcasts. The David Nellist session is also probably a must-see, with only "Con Etiquette" and a craft session going against it. (Nellist fans, I'm assuming, must be considered well behaved folks by the con organizers.)

But even with a rough guideline in mind, there are a lot of hard choices ahead. From the very first session, "AU and Crossover" versus "Watson's Colleagues: Doctors in the Canon" versus "Mary Watson nee Morstan," I can see I'm going to be missing something. Luckily, I'm taking the good Carter with me this year, so in some cases we can cover double the territory and I can at least get first-hand reports on some of what I miss.

It would be interesting to someday see an actual consortium of web-reporters coordinate to do write-ups of every single panel at a 221B Con. Perhaps I'm betraying a writer's bias here, but recordings of the whole thing will always be problematic, as not everyone wants to have their words, vocal reactions, and occasional slips locked in for posterity. But a simple report of the more interesting points out of each session, collected together? Might be a worthwhile reference.

So many great thoughts and ideas pop up at these conventions that it's impossible to catch them all, of course, just as it's impossible to get to even great session that will happen next weekend. But as Sherlock Holmes once said in his Stan Lee moment:

"Excellent, Watson! Compound of the Busy Bee and Excelsior. We can but try -- the motto of the firm."

And it doesn't get more "Busy Bee and Excelsior" than rolling through a 221B Con.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A solid 800.

My Sherlockian library has a few books in it with the word "encyclopedia" in the title. It lends a certain authority to the work, and they come in handy now and then . . . some moreso than others, of course . . . but useful all the same. Each of them represents a good amount of work on the part of the author, and I've always appreciated those willing to do that work.

Christopher Redmond's new book Lives Beyond Baker Street does not have that word, "encyclopedia," in the title. It has a different word in its subtitle, "A Biographical Dictionary of Sherlock Holmes's Contemporaries." But whatever word best for this excellent reference work, it belongs on every Sherlockian's shelf next to all of those others.

If you arranged the contents of Lives Beyond Baker Street in columns next to the text of the original Sherlock Holmes Canon, it would make a fine annotated of sorts. If you pulled random folks out of its pages, you could create Holmes-and-historical-figure crossover pastiches for the rest of your life. And if all you want is to get a first look at some name you've seen in Doyle's original works or otherwise connected to Sherlock Holmes from his own period, well, check the index . . . they are surely in here.

The key points of eight hundred lives are compiled in Lives Beyond Baker Street all tied in some way to our friend Sherlock Holmes. Eight hundred, all from over a hundred years ago. It's a fascinating thing, and the sort of book you can dive into at any point in its pages and find someone you'll want to find out more about. As Chris Redmond writes in his introduction, the eight hundred capsule lives of his book are just starting points for future reading.

But these aren't just vanilla little summary bios. I've already learned several new facts about some of my favorites from Chris's write-ups of these folk. This is plainly a work that wasn't just conceived and compiled in the last year or so on a whim. And Sherlockiana will be all the better for it.

No matter what direction your Sherlockian path will eventually take you, I think Chris Redmond's Lives Beyond Baker Street is a book you might want to have on your bookshelf.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Seeing Sherlock everywhere is just a matter of focus.

Mycroft Holmes's most famous line goes something like this: "I hear of Sherlock everywhere since you became his chronicler."

This week, it seems like I'm not hearing of Sherlock everywhere, but seeing him everywhere. In 80's television. In current big screen blockbusters. In other iconic British heroes. Not because there are deerstalkers or calabash pipes there. Not because the name "Sherlock" is heard somewhere there. But because of who he is . . . and those incredible and admirable qualities that we want to see in our heroes. And that get written into them time after time.

If was almost like a clog had been removed from the drain and the old mind-sink was getting fresh fill-ups, swishing around, then draining out and letting fresh flow come in.

Perhaps it was getting a bit more exercise . . . finding 2.21 miles on the pedometer built into my phone after a day's activity may be Sherlockian, but it's not the healthiest number to show up there.

Perhaps is was diving deep into some Daredevil binge-watching on Netflix. Sometimes taking one's focus off of a particular subject and pushing it elsewhere lets us getting a little new light in.

And perhaps it was the fact that certain changes in the world have removed a non-Sherlockian irritant from the later, less-hectic part of the week. I might just enjoy that new status quo.

But most of all, it could be that 221B Con is coming.

Anticipating a big dose of the freshest Sherlockian goodness can be its own medicine. It's been a good week, and hopefully, next week will be even better.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

No ghosts need apply here, either.

Sometimes an insight comes to us that we should have seen all along, and embarassingly realize that everybody else had probably already figured out. One such moment came to me this morning as I was listening to the latest Longbox Heroes podcast as Todd was explaining Dr. Who to Leonard.

Like many fans of both Dr. Who and Sherlock Holmes, I have always felt a kinship between the two, but outside of sharing a writer on two of their more recent runs on British television, it was hard to put that kinship into words.

About forty-two minutes into their latest episode, the discussion is on a recent comic book featuring the Tom Baker incarnation, who is mentioned as wearing his "Sherlock Holmes hat" from the Dr. Who episode "The Talons of Weng Chiang." But that silly hat is just superficial Sherlock. The thing I really connect to Sherlock Holmes with was Todd's statement of a Dr. Who tradition:

"It's never magic. Or anything like that. It's always an alien, and scientifically explained," he begins, going on to explain that point at length.

"The Doctor is always like, 'There's no such thing as magic, there's no such thing as this, these things happen, and there's always a scientific explanation for it . . . it's going to be a garbage scientific reason, like gobbledeegook, but it'll be that, if that makes any sense.'"

And it does make sense, especially if you've ever watched a show like Star Trek: The Next Generation, which lives and breathes on pseudo-science concepts like "Heisenberg compensators." Once you cross a certain line, you either have to make up fake future science or just allow the supernatural . . . even Conan Doyle pulled it once or twice with Sherlock Holmes.

But the point is, that Dr. Who, like Sherlock Holmes, even upon actually seeing what surely has to be a ghost, goes "No ghosts need apply!" and looks for what is looking so ghost-like. And keeps looking until he finds what that thing is. Both have dealt with ghosts, vampires, and demons . . . and found no ghosts, vampires, or demons. Just residents of their own particular universe.

I had never really stopped to think about Dr. Who in those particular Sherlockian terms until today, and a late epiphany is, at least, better than none. It also explains why a certain writer has shown such a deft hand with both Holmes and Who.

A pity about those poor jobless ghosts, though. I guess they'll always have their believers out there.

Just not in a Tardis. And not in 221B Baker Street.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sherlock v Watson: Don't of Just-not.

Just don't do it.

Today's blog is a plea to all future pasticheurs, network executives, movie producers, and other content creators whose lazy methods of idea generation will take in the new movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and somehow decide to pit Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson against each other in a full-out battle royale.

See how bad the poster would even look? (Poster shabbily based on current Batman v Superman poster. No actual future graphic predictions implied.)

"But Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson are the best of friends," one might protest. "Why would they go all-out against each other?"  Well, Batman and Superman were great friends, too. For decades. And somebody decided having them fight would sell tickets, as silly an idea as it is.

I mean, Superman barely has to think about beating Batman, kind of like one would expect from a Sherlock versus Watson match. Watson, like Batman, would have to plan, prepare, and stage the confrontation to get every advantage he could before Sherlock knew he was coming. Because once Sherlock knows you're coming . . . even that sniper thing doesn't work so well. Ask Sebastian Moran.

Sherlock and Watson don't need to go to war against each other to entertain us.

They don't even have to go to war against each other for the occasional head-butt or punch in the face, as we've seen in the last decade . . .sometimes even the best of friends have a little bit of a blow-up (as when one of them is out-of-his mind on drugs in one particular pastiche or another, though that hardly counts as a true mano-a-mano). But nothing worth building an entire book or movie about.

So just don't do it, future chroniclers of neo-Canons to be, no matter how it works out with the Bat and the Super.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"There are unexplored possibilities about you."

"Where on Baker Street was 221B located?"
"How do you put the sixty cases in correct chronological order?"
"What part of the body Watson got penetrated by an Afghan bullet?"

Once upon a time, those were the big Sherlockian questions. But that was in a different age, and now in 2016, our biggest question to puzzle out is this:

"How do we relate to each other as Sherlockians?"

It used to be a no-brainer. You like those sixty stories. I like those sixty stories. We talk about those sixty stories. No conflict there. Times have changed.

Sherlockiana isn't a magical island, isolated from the rest of humanity. With the rise of mindset factions supported by their network of choice (Fox News, Comedy Central, etc.), political groups to whom the word "compromise" doesn't exist, and our newfound ability to screen our social networks to only those people we find agreeable to our own opinions . . , well, we're changing as people, Sherlockians or not. As open-minded and accepting as one might like to consider one's self, these days there are definitely some Sherlockians out there whose point of view one doesn't completely understand. And whose point of view it actually takes effort to understand.

Having said all of that, I found myself especially intrigued with an essay by Leah Guinn called "On Friendship and Possibilities" posted on I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere. I've read it several times already, and it's both brave and thoughtful. There are a few lines in it that, while surely inspired by one aspect of Sherlockiana, have surely applied to other aspect of Sherlockiana in my life.

Leah was listing to a podcast about the time twenty-five years back when the Baker Street Irregulars of New York finally let women come to their dinner as full members, and she puts her reaction very well: "It struck me that, any time we dismiss others for not being quite what we think they should be, we not only deny them a chance to become far more, we miss out on all the good they have to offer."

Her statement touched me very directly, because just as the B.S.I. leadership was dismissive of the opposite sex when I first encountered the group, I was also dismissive of them . . . for not being what I expected them to be. At my first B.S.I. dinner, I encountered a raging alcoholic, a petty thief, an entitled old grump, a guest who had no interest in Holmes whatsoever, and some fellows overly proud of being able to invade a ladies room when the time came to relieve themselves. Dismissiveness flows all directions. And we're so much better at it these days than we were back then.

One of the great challenges of our time, that you see in Sherlockiana and elsewhere, is that as we move toward true equality for all genders, cultures, and any other way you want to categorize people, it isn't just that we're allowing them equality in the culture of yesteryear created by European males. We're allowing all of those folks equal shares in creating the culture itself. What's popular isn't determined entirely by that same-old, same-old demographic, and with so many gatekeepers gone, we're seeing points of view we never knew existed coming out of their various closets. And many times, the first reaction you see to those new points of view are attempts to dismiss them. To say they don't matter. To say they don't belong in the club, even now.

And, oh, those haters. Not trolls. Haters. Those people we dismiss under that name because they have a negative reaction to our work or something we like. Slap a "hater" tag on them and we don't have to think about them any more. Dis-missed. Even "haters" have a personal journey that led them to that point different from you own. Maybe their sciatica was acting up when they first saw Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes. Maybe their head was plugged up from a bad flight to that grand Sherlockian event. Maybe . . . well, maybe a lot of things. People have lives.

Were they in our local club, where we'd see them each month and become familiar with their quirks and good points, the same Sherlockian we'd tag as a hater on the internet would just be the local color. One of those people we come to appreciate despite a certain cat-box odor clinging to their suit or some weird uses of a dinner fork. Things you would dismiss somebody for if you weren't forced to deal with them on a regular basis.

But don't just let me keep rambling on, go to I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere and read Leah Guinn's essay if you haven't already. She makes her points much better than I, and we need such thoughts now and then as we move Sherlockiana forward into a future none of us can foresee.

Such possibilities . . . .

Monday, March 21, 2016

Moriartys for the movie-minded.

There's a trope you might recognize, if you've seen enough superhero movies.

Given the roughly two-hour time limit to tell a story, and wanting to contain all the details of that story in a single package, movie makers often roll the villain's origin story into that of the hero. Villains who weren't around at all when the hero came to be suddenly are right there, getting hit with cosmic rays alongside the hero, shooting his parents, traveling along from a planet he was supposed to be the lone survivor of . . . at least for a little while. Hollywood is almost past its "gotta have an origin story" phase, so maybe this trope shall pass. But not before it got its hooks in Sherlock Holmes.

As with many things, Holmes was a bit ahead of the crowd. The most well-known tale of him getting his powers from the same incident that created his "arch-nemesis" was The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. Nicholas Meyer, being a book guy and a movie guy, rolled his Moriarty, Holmes's drive to solve crime, and the drug addiction into one tidy little package, in book and film. Given his plot, it seemed kind of natural.

But then we move on to Barry Levinson's Young Sherlock Holmes. Not satisfied with merely bringing Holmes and Watson together at a much earlier age, the Chris Columbus screenplay dragged Moriarty in as their school math instructor. And thus, all their origins happened together.

The biggest of the 221B Baker Street films, Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, dodged that bullet and had Moriarty sneaking out of the London woodwork like he's supposed to, but the Asylum film of the same title, affectionately known as "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs" doubled down on the idea.

Forget Moriarty, forget Mycroft Holmes, forget any Scotland Yarders who were not as smart as Sherlock . . . mash all of those ideas together and you get Asylum's Thorpe Holmes . . . an arch-enemy for Sherlock Holmes who came from the same birth canal as the great detective, combining Moriarty, Mycroft, and Scotland Yard with a robotics genius.

Is Sherlock Holmes a superhero, whose origin needs to create an arch-villain of equal or greater power? Well, we do speak of his "powers." And he is a substantial level above the "mere mortals" of the police force and his room-mate, so one could see why some might put him in that category.

But when you come right down to it, Sherlock Holmes was a detective, James Moriarty was a criminal, and neither of those requires a rare and fantastic lightning strike of an origin to explain mere genius. We know genius happens, in all sorts of professions. Why not in detection and crime?

But sometimes, well, you know Sherlock . . . he has to do everything once.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

MacGyvering an occupation.

Sherlockians like to draw parallels between current pop culture and Sherlock Holmes wherever possible. So if it were 1986 and I was about to write what I'm about to relate, it might make sense. This being 2016, however, the fact that I'm going to write a Sherlock Holmes blog post centered on the main character of the TV show MacGyver might seem a little dated. But was you cross a certain age line, these things probably happen.

And who knows, I could even just be channelling a synopsis of some Sherlockian newsletter article I read from three decades ago . . .

Anyway, it struck me this morning that government agent Angus MacGyver was never a character we would think of as "a Sherlock Holmes," Sherlock Holmes was definitely something of "a MacGyver."

MacGyver was famous for cobbling together whatever tools or tech he needed from whatever random parts were on hand . . . the one I remember best was the time he made a welding torch out of the components found in a bicycle. Whether it was turning a cargo net into a rappel line and harness or making explosives out of kitchen cleaning supplies, MacGyver took ordinary items and made extraordinary use out of them.

Sherlock Holmes was familiar with local dirt.

Sherlock Holmes knew what plants were poison, and their effects.

Sherlock Holmes had a working knowledge of British law.

Sherlock Holmes was up on his anatomy, and effects of damage to said anatomy.

Sherlock Holmes was a skilled fighter.

That's just taking things from a list Watson made early on, but it shows several things that, taken by themselves, where "good to know" sorts of things, but nothing that impressively out of the ordinary for someone to know. It's what Sherlock Holmes did with them, by putting those ordinary skills together in the right combination that made his use of them extraordinary.

Sherlock Holmes was a sort of MacGyver of knowledge and skillsets, taking all those pieces and parts and making a career all his own out of them. And he was doing it about a hundred years before we even knew what "MacGyvering" was.

Good old Sherlock. Always finding ways to impress, even when you flip him around to look from another angle.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Two steps closer to 221B Con

The organizers of 221B Con have been sending out the panel assignments this week, and a lot of panelists I'm looking forward to seeing have popped up on the Twitter feed. As for me? Given my rather unsatisfactory (to me) performance on panels at the first 221B Con a few years back, I decided to limit myself to a single panel and just do that one as well as possible. That panel?

Old School Shipping: The Many Wives of Classic Watson - Before John's relationship with Sherlock could be fully explored, fans had to content themselves with pairing the doctor up with the Original Canon bachelorettes. Who were they and why would they work as Watson's dream date before or after Mary?

Very familiar ground there, and something I can come to fully loaded . . . in the two weeks remaining.

Where the two weeks becomes interesting, however, is in the realm of cosplay. I finally came up with an idea I'm dying to put together, and my very talented costumer friend is on board to help, but two weeks is a very short turnaround time to work out all the details. We shall see what happens. What's the costume?

Let's just say a mash-up that I would be drawing if I was a capable artist. Based on BBC Sherlock. If it works, there will be pictures here eventually. And if it works, it could be my new favorite cosplay. (My old favorite was Snake Plissken for FanExpo in Toronto some time ago.)

Other little details are starting to come in as the excitement ramps up, some good, like the additions of burlesque and S(her)lock, and some not so good, like the absence of Lyndsay Faye, who'll be off on a book tour that weekend.

In the meantime, the preparations are moving into high gear, and if you have any favorite candidates for a non-Mary wife of classic Canon Watson, let me know. I'm always looking to collect a few more, and like I said . . . just working on the one panel and I want to make it good.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Canonical presidential candidate validation.

Well, as the American presidential race wanders its way through primaries, caucuses, delegates, conventions and all that the overly-ardent Sherlockian must make at least one consideration of the political scene via the Canonical significance of the field.

Sometimes, that quest is easier than others. When Sherlock Holmes ran for president in 2000, his campaign speech could speak directly about George Bush, because Holmes had mentioned Bush (or at least "bush") in the Canon. In that particular race, even Al Gore's last name could be found in "surely not gored by a bull" in "Priory School." It was the perfect Sherlockian presidential race. No non-Canonical Obamas, Romney, or McCains.

T'were this season's race come down to something like 2000's Canonical chase, the primaries would have to give us Trump versus Sanders.

Bernie Sanders is, of course, the most completely Canonical, having that outside chance of being some distance cousin to Ikey Sanders of "Mazarin Stone."

Donald Trump, however, in a suitably Trump fashion, has a whole Canonical village dedicated to his line . . . Trumpington from "Missing Three-Quarter."

In 2000, the candidate with the best Canonical quote relevance actually won the presidency. Could there be some prophetic value to Doyle's words, giving Bernie Sanders one more ray of hope in his campaign?

If you go back to Jimmy Carter versus Gerald Ford in 1976, you could attribute Carter's victory to the fact that his name tied to a Canonical accountant and not a car, as his opponent's did. Before that, it's hard to find a pair of presidential candidates who both have Canonical reference ties without going before Doyle's time . . . which makes it a little less prophetic.

And really, given the absence of Canonical folk with names like Clinton, Reagan, or Dukakis, we can probably rule out Doyle having foretelling tips from the spirit world or somesuch.

But you know the Sherlockian spirit. We have to try to handicap horse races based on the cases of Sherlock Holmes, pick Oscar winners, and . . . occasionally . . . see what politics has in store for those familiar names and places.

Something to do on a Wednesday night, in any case.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Those OTHER Sherlock Holmes quotes.

We all know that Sherlock Holmes didn't really say, "Elementary, my dear Watson . . ."

. . . except that he did.

Maybe not in the original Doyle stories, but since then? Sherlock Holmes really said "Elementary, my dear Watson!" all over the frickin' place. I've heard him say it. You have, too. Sherlock Holmes says a whole lot of things outside of the original sixty tales. And somewhere along the line, "Elementary, my dear Watson!" became the most popular Sherlock Holmes quote.

And it wasn't written by Conan Doyle.

There are a lot of good quotes from Sherlock Holmes out there that weren't written by Conan Doyle. I stumbled across one as a Twitter meme the other day and had to backtrack it a bit to find it was in BBC Sherlock's "A Scandal in Belgravia."

"Sentiment is a chemical defect found in the losing side."

The scene that surrounds it is a lovely bit of writing by Steven Moffat, one of legions of writers to take on Holmes in the last century or so. And a lot of them have come up with some lovely original words for Holmes to utter, as in character as if Conan Doyle himself had penned them. We've seen many a quote book of Sherlock Holmes quotes written by Doyle, but those are easy to gather up. Gathering up all those other quotes from tens of thousands of other sources? That might take a little work, and be a job few have the determination to pull off. But the quotes are out there.

"I have a weakness for dawdling, the better to observe." (Gillette, 1916)

"Whatever Watson has found out, you'll know inevitably. I have unbounded confidence in his lack of discretion." (Blum/Drake, 1939)

"Well, Iscariot, you have delivered me into the hands of my enemies." (Meyer, 1974)

"You cannot help being a female, and I should be something of a fool were I to discount your talents merely because of their housing." (King, 1994)

"Indeed, as closing acts go, I'll allow the scenery is more than adequate." (Moore, 2000)

"My given name is Robert Sherlock Holmes. But who would ever remember a detective called Robert Holmes?" (Bales, 2010)

"Madame, this is a glorious hedgehog goulash." (Mulroney, 2011)

So many of them have unique qualities to the stories that surround them, to the talents of the writers behind them. But so many lovely quotes out there. Perhaps no one has gathered them up yet . . . such a thing takes time . . . and perhaps they have . . . and are ready to spring it on us at any moment.

In the meantime, it seems like occasionally wandering into the garden of Sherlocks to pick a few flowers could be kind of fun. Let me know if you gather up any good ones.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The map back to Sherlockian calm.

O' witness ye of Sherlock Holmes and heed the ancient tome!

Occasionally of late, heading back into the original Doyle makes one want to just turn crazy street-preacher and start monologuing in faux 1600s rants.

Heed this book, brothers and sisters, and let its truths guide your scrivening hand!

I think putting on a sack-cloth robe and wearing a long gray beard while waving around a copy of the Doubleday Complete would complete the effect nicely and might even be some fun cosplay for a con . . . t'were it not for the fear some might take it as a real thing. Those of us who aren't the most skilled of writers depend upon occasional contact with real humans so we have those who can vouch we're not mad hermits. (If you regularly attend Sherlock Holmes society meetings, you can be crazy as Hell and Sherlockians will eventually just go, "Oh, that's just old so-and-so, our local color!")

But I do wonder sometimes, where the cult(s) of Sherlock are headed, now that we have so many fans that aren't dependent upon the original Doyle for their fix. Now that we actually have derivative Sherlocks that are derived of derivative Sherlocks (or based entirely on doing a derivative Sherlock of a derivative Sherlock while avoiding being sued by that first derivative Sherlock, as in the case of a particular pastiche I shall not name). Our world has gotten very, very big, and the day when you could just subscribe to a few journals and feel you had a handle on the entire hobby seem long gone.

But still, at the center of it all, is that kernel of Sherlockian truth we call the Canon (now, often, the Original Canon) for those minds bright and curious enough to follow the trails back to.

"Here dwell together still two men of note," Vincent Starrett wrote in that most famous of Sherlockian poems, 221B, a statement that doesn't fit many a current Sherlock story on one or two points. But Starrett wasn't writing about all Sherlockiana, just those original Conan Doyle tales. 

At 55 years old, when he wrote the poem, Vincent Starrett was already feeling the world had gone "all awry," as those passing into their later years often do. But it wasn't just "old man talk" with Starrett, he had actually seen the Great Depression rob everyone he knew of their former lifestyles and make day-to-day survival a harder thing. He wasn't just dealing with a fandom grown wild and untamed, he was dealing with a real world that even makes the current Trump silliness look like nothing worth all that attention being lavished upon it.

And amid all that, Vincent Starrett wrote words that didn't go "crazy street preacher" in the slightest:

"But still the game's afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears --
Only those things the heart believes are true."

Next to Conan Doyle's own words, those of Starrett's poem are probably the single most treasured in all of the Sherlockian world. And rightly so.

Because no matter where we're headed, no matter what kind of wild off-shoots the legend of the Master Detective produces in the decades ahead, those calm and steady words are like a treasure map leading back to that source material we sometimes fear will be left behind and forgotten amid all the sensationalism.

Perhaps I should think of just cosplaying Vincent Starrett and quietly hand out poems. Only that would involve wearing a tie, which might be one sacrifice too many . . . fake sack-cloth could be a lot more comfortable.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Binge-watch Sherlock.

It's one in the morning, and I'm watching the new season of House of Cards while fiddling around on the computer. Why? Because I can. And because there's no stopping place in this story.

We've had a lot of different dramatic incarnations of Sherlock Holmes at this point. He's moved into the modern day. He's had that British TV invention, the Christmas episode. He's had big screen blockbusters and small screen couch potato fodder. He's had silent movies and YouTube videos and cartoons in space and B movies with robots. But what hasn't Sherlock Holmes had yet?

A binge-watch TV show.

Now, a fan of BBC's Sherlock or CBS's Elementary might say, no, you can sit down with a DVD set or Netflix and watch season after season of their favorite show. And technically, you can. But are large numbers of viewers going to roll through every single episode as the one show they watch the very minute those seasons come out? Was either of those shows built to be watched as one on-going story arc that flows seamlessly from one episode to the next?

Not really. We haven't had our true binge-watch Sherlock yet.

Can you imagine a twelve-hour Sherlock Holmes series that none of us could see until we all suddenly had it dropped in our laps?

How many Sherlockians would forego sleep the moment it became available, be it midnight or six AM, to plow through a twelve hour series?

And what manner of tale would give Sherlock Holmes a mystery worth taking twelve hours to unravel without diminishing his charm or level of skill?

Not a straight adaptation of the longest of the original tales. Not the oft-told, but never quite satisfying, Holmes-versus-Jack-the-Ripper business. Not even Holmes actually solving that silly Dracula business in his no-ghosts-need-apply world. Twelve hours is a long bit of story-time to fill.

Maybe one of those options would work, in the hands of a skilled writer and show-runner. Or maybe we'd see something completely new. Who knows?

But one of the great things about seeing these new ways we're consuming video drama these days is that there's a good chance we'll one day see Sherlock Holmes in whatever newly developed form comes next, including the binge-watchable show.

And that will always be something great to look forward to.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Another fifty years, and Elementary will have the whole Canon done.

Lucy Liu has always had sort of a timeless look. Jonny Lee Miller, not so much.

But I'm kind of hoping they're both immortal vampires or Highlanders at this point, so they can complete their adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's sixty Sherlock Holmes stories at the pace CBS is allowing it currently. It could take a while.

Now that Elementary has gotten its version of The Hound of the Baskervilles under its belt, what do we have to look forward to in their future Canon-based exploits, if tonight's episode was any guide to what's to come?

Well, an odd bit of that disjointed thing that suffices for continuity in place of the cozy Baker Street scene with Holmes and Watson.

And then a death scene that culminates in a visual of a recognizable Canonical name after a very low-budget, kinda-sorta Canonical scene.

An immediate drop into a murder investigation with no local speculation, no color, and . . .  oddly for Elementary . . . no police presence, but perhaps a mention of another current-continuity character who doesn't appear.

An American setting that could have been filmed about anywhere, even in Peoria.

And then Watson left alone to work the case because her partner is actually doing something with nothing to do with crime or investigation. (Have to thread that random "continuity" subplot through the main story . . . must be a mandatory CBS thing.)

An almost pathological avoidance of Canon-based dialogue. (For example, "a giant glowing wolf!" The word "hound" seems word-ana non grata.)

A tie to some controversial modern social issue, and then a quick reveal of the maguffin from the original story about fifteen minutes in.

More names from the mind of Conan Doyle than the average episode.

A second currently controversial issue.

A veer into beyond Casebook-era elements of the cheese fantastic, like Professor Presbury.

A third controversial current issue.

And then a totally ridiculous twist that leaves the source material far behind and goes from mystery into sci-fi. Did I say Casebook cheese? Let's try Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs turf.

Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs without the fun.

Another Canonical name used, with any secrets or guises stripped away.

More of the previous elements, just repeated.

A sudden yo-yo back to the original tale's plot, only with a stand-in for the original villain, as using that same name would just be too obvious. So, similar conclusion, different name. ("Ah-ha! We have you now, Wilford Brimley Roylott!")

As always, with Elementary, it is attaching the names to whatever characters the writers throw in that will be the key.

A little return to the continuity thread that takes the place of the cozy Baker Street scene, another minor character seems to ride off into the sunset where the show won't have to keep him or her on the payroll, and that future Elementary "version" of a Canonical tale will be over, as tonight's was.

If Elementary stays on long enough to adapt the complete Canonical sixty, I really hope they just complete their dipping-a-toe-in-the-water dive into Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs territory. They've teased it once before with a robot mosquito, so you know they'd really enjoy just cutting loose and going for it. It might ease the pain of at least one viewer.

While I'll never be one to agree that "all Sherlock is good Sherlock," because, man, can there be some bad Sherlock, I'm totally on board with this statement: "All Sherlock Holmes references are Sherlock Holmes references." And when people actually refer to the original Sherlock Holmes . . . well, they've referred to something I like.

And I look forward to more references to that thing that I like. Even if it hurts now and then.

Side note: In the preview of next week, Mr. Elementary states he got his powers of deduction because "I was bitten by a radioactive detective." Explains a lot!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Cards and Sherlock Holmes, always with us.

Sherlock Holmes was always more of a card player than a chess player. As much as the chess fanciers among us might like to think otherwise, Moriarty was the chess player. Holmes's words and actions on the subject reveal him to be more of a card man. So when the first Sherlock Holmes card game came out in 1904, a couple of decades before Conan Doyle was even done writing . . . well, it was only fitting.

It's a pretty simple game, and when you own a card game from 1904, you don't really play it too much. Oddly, no one has made a playable facsimile yet . . . don't know if patents/rights/copyrights run out on games as fast as literature, so perhaps Parker Brothers is still sitting on that one.

In any case, there are still a load of cards to play with that have to do with Sherlock Holmes if you don't want to handle that one too much. I think I have a a few versions of the standard 52-card deck done Holmes-style . . . .

Turns out I have at least five. I used a couple as raffle tickets at the first 221B Con, because . . . well . . . . they just seem like a plentiful commodity.

Sherlock finds his way into other card games, like that Superfight! card I mentioned in an earlier blog, and last year's 221B Con, when I got to play Nea Dodson's custom BBC Sherlock Fluxx.

What has started to intrigue me now are Sherlock Holmes card games where the decks are designed to play a particularly Sherlock-y game. There's apparently a 1991 Sherlock Holmes: The Card Game where unmasking villains is the goal. And there's a 2013 award-winning game called "I Say, Holmes!" that's gone into a couple of editions. Both are a bit pricey for card games, and you could probably find a copy of the old Sleuth card game that featured Holmes's profile without his actual name in an antique store for cheaper. And it's been around a while. But someday I'll pick them up and see what fun awaits therein.

Because I love card games. They're easy to carry around, don't have the massive rule books of so many of today's board games (as often, anyway). And cards are just fun to deal, fun to hold, fun to slap down on the table when you make your move.

Before I get around to getting one of those, though, I'm starting to think I'm going to come up with my own Sherlock Holmes card game. I've got the basics of a game mechanic in my head, and am going to develop it a little further once I get some time. It's a little counter-intuitive to the usual way one might approach a Sherlock Holmes game, so I don't think it'll have been done before. When it gets going, however, you'll be the first to know.

In fact . . . I wonder if I could get to the point of Beta testing by next 221B Con? Hmmm, I do like a goal.

In any case, invoking Sherlock Holmes via playing cards is probably one of our most Canonical ways of summoning up his spirit. Few of us will ever investigate a murder. And having a roast beef sandwich on the go, like he stuck in his pocket in "Beryl Coronet" is just too easy. (It makes the Arby's drive-thru Sherlockian . . . sort of.) But playing cards, as Holmes hoped to do in that "Red-Headed League" stake-out in the bank vault, is a nice way to touch the spiritual hem of the Master's dressing gown now and then, so to speak.

And cards are going to be with us for a very long time to come.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A tired recap of the evening's thoughts on the future.

Standing next to a certain twelve-year-old I know who was Facetiming her friend about Zootopia shipping tonight, I suddenly felt a connection to our Sherlockian future. As much as a few of the elder curmudgeons of our sect would like to think all these ding-dang new-fangled ways of enjoying Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson are passing fads, it was truly apparent that the new cultural tools of fans of all sorts are going to be around for a while.

A little later, I also had a phone call from an old friend, who had been inducted into the oldest Sherlock Holmes club in Illinois, the Hounds of the Baskervilles (sic) established in 1943, since I saw him last, and we talked about some of the old times and a little historical project he was working on. It seems our past as Sherlockians will be around for a while as well.

Energies flow this direction and that, some parts surging in popularity, others being held in place by determined diehards, but the cult of Sherlock Holmes with ramble along into the future in ways we never quite expect. We are not a purebred, carefully groomed show-dog of a fandom, and have never been that. We're a gangly mutt whose parentage runs far and wide across the species. As my friend and I reminisced tonight, some of our best times were in the company of the most diverse, mixed crew of sometimes far-too-eccentric ladies and gentlemen one could imagine.

Still looking forward to 221B Con and all its panels and unexpected enlightenments, still considering the Minneapolis symposium and its single-thread curriculum of individual learned speakers, and thinking how much Sherlockiana so happily needs both.

But the future makes one very tired, apparently . . . . off to bed. Tomorrow usually starts from there.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Sherlollory is not tomfoolery.

Once we saw that BBC Sherlock's Sherlock Holmes can time-travel into his mind palace to investigate a non-current case, a Pandora's box was opened that even previous AU fanfic could never have envisioned, though it possibly did. EVERYTHING became potentially Canonical, Sherlock-speaking. And, oh, it is all so tempting . . . .

Ah, but fanfic is a leisure time luxury that my own resources of hours do not allow. (Else I'd probably have done a novel-length work about the beautiful robot Anesidora Ivory from "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs.") But that doesn't mean the ideas don't come, and they aren't oh-so tempting.

I mean, tonight, for example, a single mention of Sherlolly fanfic set my brain a-whirling with a strange new mind-palace tale of Molly Hooper. But not regular Molly Hooper -- moustached, Victorian man-Molly from "The Abominable Bride." And here's how I think it would have went:

Victorian man-Molly is catching a train at Waterloo station to head off for some business requiring train travel at time that coincides with Victorian John and Mary Watson boarding a train to leave for their honeymoon. A series of mishaps brings her into conflict with a rather homely woman trying to board the same train as John and Mary, and Hooper, as we know her in Sherlock's Victorian era mind-palace, eventually winds up forced to share the same compartment with the woman for the trip.

The woman is, of course, Sherlock following John and Mary to protect them, because for some reason Sherlock's mind palace is trying to solve Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

The drugs, you know. The drugs just do some very weird things.

Anyway, man-Molly and lady-Sherlock find themselves strangely attracted to one another, and bow chicka wow wow . . . fanfic stuff happens. Er, beautiful relationship-building plot development, that is. Two souls on a voyage of self-discovery. You know, that stuff.

Then in the end, Sherlock wakes up in modern Baker Street and realizes the obvious conclusions of his reverie. That's the thing about this whole new potential genre of fan fiction . . . Sherlock can always come out of his mind palace adventures with some enlightening new self-awareness. It's kind of like those lessons explained at the end of cartoons like Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. (Yes, irony.)

Will all the possible fanfic have been written by the time I retire or otherwise gain enough hours in the day to start adding to that vast ocean of alternate Sherlock Holmes adventures? Will all the possible combinations of BBC Sherlock, Downey Jr. movie Sherlock, and robot dinosaur Sherlock tales all be told? OH MY LORD! Sherlock Holmes, Molly Hooper, and Anesidora Ivory! Be still my heart! "Sherlollory" is my new favorite tri-ship, and it doesn't even exist yet.

My brain must be preparing itself for 221B Con, which is probably a good thing.

But Sherlollory fanfic? I am so going there some fine day.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Loving last post's Godzilla.

I do love Godzilla. I was lucky enough to receive one of his scales from a Sherlockian friend many years back. And I was lucky enough to get this on Twitter today:

If you can't quite make out what makes up Godzilla in this image, it's the Jay Finley Christ abbreviations for the sixty Sherlock Holmes cases of the original Canon, which spawned my previous blog post. When I posted the link on Facebook, I had commented, "Jay Finley Christ created a monster that was bigger than we ever realized. A virtual Godzilla," and @jankathecat was inspired to follow that thought with the above.

Like I said, I love Godzilla. And I love the JFC Canonical abbreviations too. Both have a scary side, but both have a cozy familiarity as well. While I've heard the JFC abbreviations described as confusing and daunting for the new-to-the-pond Sherlockian, to me they're like the first names I know old friends by. Once you're familiar with the story titles themselves, there is little confusion to be found their. SPEC makes you think "Speckled Band." CHAS makes you think "Charles Augustus Milverton." 3GAB and 3GAR may take a tad more intimacy, but eventually there's no mistaking "Three Gables" and "Three Garridebs." They're old friends that you know on a first name basis.

Some Sherlockian publications used to devote a page to those abbreviations in every issue, as a key for the uninitiated, and I thought that was a wonderful thing. It made our hobby's special terminology open and inviting -- "Here's the code key to our special language! Join us!" I never saw it used as an intimidating gatekeeper device, like some legal or technical terminologies. And every area of enthusiasm is going to have its special words. (Just look at all the shipping terms -- including "shipping" itself -- which can seem a little daunting to the outsider.)

The trick in wandering into unknown territories that I've found is to not consider the locals unfriendly until they let you know they're unfriendly. The residents of France didn't develop French just to keep the rest of us away. It's just a happy, sweet-sounding part of their lives. Just as the Jay Finley Christ abbreviations are to many of us.

And I really hope they don't go away, as the occasional institution like The Baker Street Journal bends over backwards to be welcoming to new readers. Being welcomed to a home isn't done by making that home look like a public venue. It's letting the visitors come to understand and enjoy the special customs of that particular home, which will only serve to sweeten their experience as time goes on. At which point they might like those customs to continue as well.

I think I may have just argued myself into accepting the idea of "Aunt Clara" being sung at the BSI dinner every single year in perpetuity, so I'd best stop writing now. But I really do have a particular affection for those silly four-letter words Jay Finley Christ added to our lexicon . . .

. . . as well as another that I will use, should they ever go away completely.

At least 456,722 left to go!

Okay, help me on the math on this. Twenty-six to the fourth power . . . the number of possible combinations of four-letter abbreviations we can make using the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.


Sixty of those four-letter abbreviations have been used as shorthand by many a Sherlockian ever since Jay Finley Christ came up with them way back when. They're a little bit handy when you're referring to the original sixty cases of Sherlock Holmes at a pace when typing full titles will just slow your train of thought to an urban freight train docking pace.

But we're only using sixty of them.

60 out of 456,976.

That leaves 456,916 of them open for other use.

At some point, Peter Ruber and Ronald De Waal created another seventy-two similar abbreviations for the Solar Pons stories, like PRAE for "Praed Streeet Irregulars," BROK for "Broken Chessman," etc. that appear in places like The Solar Pons Gazette.  Solar Pons is one of the few Sherlock imitators to ever get his own spin-off Holmes groups, so it's easy to add those seventy-two to the pile.

And that leaves 456, 844.

And when Mary Russell came along, some fans of Laurie King's Holmes-work came up with their own set, like BEEK for The Beekeeper's Apprentice, MREG for A Monstrous Regiment of Women, etc. Since Mary Russell has appeared thirteen times, we can add those to the list.

Leaving 456,831.

And then we come to BBC Sherlock, with all the recent talk of ABOM for "The Abominable Bride," among its other episodes. Ten of those so far, but let's add the coming series four in just to leave room -- thirteen in total, then.

Down to 456,818.

Now that we're thinking ahead for Sherlock's fourth full season, why not take it one more step and add in CBS's Elementary just for fun. PILO for "Pilot," SLEE for "While You Were Sleeping," CHIL for "Child Predator," etc. At the end of the current season, we'll have ninety-six of those bad boys in the dumpster, so let's throw those in.

And here we stand at 456,722.

It's been a long time since grade school, so my math may be pretty bad here (not to mention the fact I did not include digits in my calculations . . . oops!), but the point is that we've got a whole lot of open space for more Sherlock Holmes, even if some of us continue to use four letter abbreviations as shorthand in our discussions of whatever incarnation of a Sherlock figure we choose. We can be Jay-Finley-Christing it into the far, far, future . . . one can even envision Mr. Data on that later starship Enterprise using four-letter abbreviations to denote his holodeck adventures pretending to be Sherlock Holmes.

Boy, do we have a lot to look forward to!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Freeman-Cumberbatch Guarantee of Quality.

Some Sherlockians take a lot of shit for their love of a particular actor or two. But, man, you have to give them some credit for their choices.

A lot of us have been seeing a lot more movies with Martin Freeman or Benedict Cumberbatch since those two became this generation's favorite Watson and Holmes. Some of the movies, I'd see anyway, seeing as many as I do, but after a while, you start to see a pattern.

If you go see a movie that features either Benedict Cumberbatch or Martin Freeman, chances are you can expect it to be a pretty decent movie. Maybe not a perfect movie, but a movie above a certain bar in the quality range.

I stumbled into that again this morning seeing Tina Fey's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and it got me thinking of the upcoming summer Marvel movies, Captain America: Civil War and Dr. Strange, with Freemen and Cumberbatch, respectively. It's a good sign.

Maybe Martin Freeman won't sing a pop song like a-ha's "Take On Me," as he does in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, or be Scottish as in this one, but whatever the part, one can definitely have hopes. Those guys just bring that to a film.

Now I'm also wondering which Cumberbatch character will be romantically paired with Freeman's Ian MacKelpie from this movie, ala the Khan/Arthur Dent pairing and so many other in fanfic. Sure it's been done already, or is being done as we speak.

Onward! So much goodness ahead!

Friday, March 4, 2016

The best episode of CBS's "Elementary" ever.

It is now 10 P.M. C.S.T. on the first Friday night in March. And for the next five days and twenty-three hours, I can say for certain which episode of CBS's Elementary is the best episode in its entire run.

The episode's title is "Hounded" and the CBS press release describes it as follows:

"At the urging of Morland's wealthy associate, Henry Baskerville (Tom Everett Scott), Holmes and Watson look into the death of his brother and discover that a witness saw the man chased to his death by a large, glowing animal too fantastic to be real. Sherlock considers intervening when the trauma from the bombing at the morgue negatively impacts ME Hawes' work . . . Tom Everett Scott guest stars as Henry Baskerville in an episode inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel "The Hound of the Baskervilles."

Yes, gentle residents of that Dartmoor of the mind, Elementary is doing their adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Well, maybe not "adaptation" so much as "inspiredaptation," which is pretty much what its predecessor, BBC's Sherlock did in their Hound-inspired episode. To this viewer, Sherlock's "Hounds of Baskerville" was one of its weaker outings, so who knows? Maybe Elementary can one-up the master of modern Sherlocks this week?

For five days and twenty-two hours and forty-eight minutes, anything is possible. Hope springs eternal.

Many a screen Sherlock started their career with The Hound of the Baskervilles. Basil Rathbone. Peter Cushing. Ian Richardson. Matt Frewer. Others got around to Hound after settling into the role. Jeremy Brett. Benedict Cumberbatch. Vasily Livanov. And then there are the one-shots. Peter Cook. Stewart Granger. Richard Roxburgh. The list of screen Sherlocks in Hound adaptations is long and lovely, and now Jonny Lee Miller gets to enter that great club of actors to play a "Sherlock Holmes" in something spinning off the original Doyle novel.

The preview for the episode on YouTube actually blazes "Inspired by The Hound of the Baskervilles" across the screen and shows an actual fake copy of the novel. And a large share of the preview is taken up by the words "BUT YOU'VE NEVER . . . SEEN IT . . . LIKE THIS."

What are we going to see it like? Who knows! Not like anything we've seen before, they're telling us that much. We've seen Elementary do an episode inspired by "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton." We've seen Elementary do an episode inspired by "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client." And we've seen an episode whose title, "The Hound of the Cancer Cells," was inspired by The Hound of the Baskervilles. And now, after eighty-six episodes, Elementary goes to the Canon for a third time for that most classic adapted-for-the-screen of all Sherlock Holmes stories.

It's an episode of Elementary that all Sherlockians should look forward to, and tune in, and watch this coming Thursday.

Because for another five days, twenty-three hours, and twenty minutes, it might just be the best episode of Elementary ever.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Books ahoy! And . . . well . . . one other thing.

"But I missed London like an arm, or a leg . . ."

A few pages in and A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro has already hooked me, without its Holmes even showing up. Really excited about diving into the rest of it once my chores are done. It came promptly from Amazon in today's post after an impulse buy on Monday.

It's so easy to give yourself things to look forward to when you're into Sherlock Holmes. And Amazon's one-clicks just make it all the easier -- case in point, one book here, another one already in the queue.

Last night, I pre-ordered Chris Redmond's Lives Beyond Baker Street because A.) He's Chris Redmond, one of those rare living Sherlockians I've respected and admired for about 90% of my Sherlockian life, even when he's corrected me on a thing or two, and B.) It's about those real people in the Sherlock Holmes chronicles that there is actual historical documentation on. (There are a lot of real people, like Holmes himself, in the Canon that mysteriously aren't documented by history. I suspect Moriarty.) It comes out March 16, so I've got a couple weeks to plow through Charlotte, which seems like it might be quite easy.

And those are just what I've bought so far this month. As most hardcover fiction is a bit of a luxury, I've been flirting with Bonnie MacBird's Art in the Blood, looking it over on the bookstore shelves, and knowing I'll probably pick it up before 221B Con, since she's going to be there, but haven't pulled that particular trigger yet. There's still a bit of time there.

March is cranking up nicely on the Sherlockian front with such books along with the events coming soon . . . just checking the mileage to Dayton . . . hmm . . . a little more time there, too . . . and 2016 could be a very good Sherlockian year.

They've even remade that flawed classic Ghostbusters, which could be even better this time out. What does that have to do with Sherlock Holmes? Well, the basic theme of Ghostbusters is pitting science against ghosts, and what does Sherlock Holmes do on occasion? Pit reason against ghosts . . . only when you actually pit reason against ghosts, as Holmes does, guess what happens? Ghosts really and truly do get busted, or shot because they're not really ghosts, like a certain spectral hound. We all know "No ghosts need apply" in the really real world of Sherlock Holmes, but if they did, he'd surely bust them as scientifically as the Ghostbusters.

See what happens when I get too literary with three books all in one post? Ghost-BUSTERS!

Looking forward to it all, though!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Sherlock Holmes as a barometer of our progress.

Looking forward . . .

I was watching a favorite CBS show of mine this morning and contemplating its race-bending casting in a particularly iconic role. (This would be Supergirl and Jimmy Olsen, if you were thinking of a certain other show.) The difference between the characters of Superman and Jimmy Olsen made me consider race and nationality-bending as we've seen it with Holmes and Watson, and what I would really look forward to seeing one day in the casting of that pair of friends, much like Superman and Jimmy.

"Oh, but surely we've covered all the combinations there," one might think. We've seen African-Armerican Holmes and Watson in comics, we've see an Asian female Watson on TV, and we're seeing female Sherlocks popping up all over the place.

But have we seen a black Holmes with a white Watson . . . ?

A dominant, African-American male Sherlock Holmes with a mildly subservient white male Watson. Not a "he's an equal partner who solves as much of the case as Lucy Liu on Elementary" white Watson. No, an actual, "Gee whiz, isn't Sherlock the smartest guy ever!" admiring white Watson.

Because it isn't just having racial diversity present in our stories, whatever the medium. It's the roles as well. We're letting female Sherlocks dominate male Watsons now, because the female audience for Sherlock has become a target market writers can aim for and hope for success. But the day we can see a great black Sherlock Holmes with a ginger Watson and they're both guys without blinking an eye?

That day, I'd say we've come somewhere as a culture. Man, I wish that BBC or CBS would have tried that one for their modern Holmes and Watson, where Victorian historical issues don't get in the way.

Of course, it's had to think of such a thing without immediately screaming "IDRIS ELBA!!!" After his success as BBC's Luther and that tantalizing (and sadly, controversial) rumor that he could have been James Bond, his name immediately comes to mind. As with Benedict Cumberbatch, the best actor for a part is often the guy we never heard of before some brilliant casting director put him in the part.

There's an aspect of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson that is totally Superman and Jimmy Olsen -- the wonder hero and his admiring friend. And I think we'll see non-white actors take the role of Holmes long before we get to Superman, that whitest of the white guys even though he's not even from this planet. But until we get teleporter technology, we still have to make our journeys one step at a time, even with casting, and I think we'll get to Holmes first.  Because we're already on the way.

Still, I'm looking forward to when we get there.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

March to 221B Con: Running the AU scales.

Last night I had an epiphany and set about to make a blog resolution: With 221B Con on the horizon, I would do nothing in March but look forward. No looking back. Forward is where our optimism lies, where our hopes lie, and where 221B Con lies, at this point. So for one month, just one month, what if I was to only look forward?

And so it starts.

One thing I need to do for 221B Con is prepare myself for the rush of alternate Sherlocks. So many alternate universe versions of Sherlock and John turning up in cosplay, art, and discussion -- angels, fish, all sorts of things I never imagined. So to prepare, I thought I'd practices going through my scales, so to speak, a quick run through the alphabet of Sherlock AUs that might, or might not exist, A to Z. That ought to open up my brain a bit.

So here goes:

Airlock . . . 221B the space platform, naturally.
Brrrlock . . . Sherlock and John alone in Antartica.
Curlock . . . a Holmes milieu where all the good guys are now moustache-twirling blackguards!
Duhrlock . . . well, nobody's very bright in this one.
Earlock . . . Holmes, Watson, Lestrayd, etc., all a part of the peerage.
Furlock . . . yeah, been done, fur sure.
Girlock . . . Shirley and Joan when they were wee lasses.
Herlock . . . really, really done, and pretty well at that.
Irelock . . . leprechauns?
Jarlock . . . Sergeant Holmes and Private Watson of the U.S. Marines.
Kerrlock . . . okay, this one is based on one of my ancestry lines, so probably not written yet.
Lurelock . . . anglers detecting trout.
Murlock . . . nope, not mermen this time -- World of Warcraft murlocks! HAROWWWWWW!
Nerdlock . . . Big Bang Theory on Baker Street.
Orelock . . . Gold Rush prospector John and Sherlock staking claims!
Pearlock . . . yeah, clams.
Qwertlock . . . 1930s business school typist Sherlock and John.
Ruralock . . . American Gothic fan art is the centerpiece of this one.
Stirlock . . . Holmes and Watson in prison!
Turdlock . . . Mr. Hankey has a case for the boys!
Urolock . . . The world's greatest consulting urologist.
Virglock . . . well, we'll see how long they can stay in this genre.
Whirlock . . . John and Sherlock must battle as pieces in an old Battling Tops game.
Xerxlock . . . forget Moriarty, Leonidas is going down!
Yourlock . . . Sherlock reincarnated as Watson's Tamagotchi.
Zurlock . . . Sherlockian fanfic based entirely on a single "Magic: The Gathering" card.

Okay, that bit of exercise is done for the night!

Can't wait for tomorrow! Looking forward to it, actually, the motto of the firm. (This month!)