Saturday, April 30, 2016

Team Building.

It was a curious coincidence that I was on the treadmill at my local gym, training for this summer's John H. Watson Society Annual Treasure Hunt -- among other things in life that require complete exertion -- when I started up the latest episode of the podcast This Tangled Skein.

Early on in the 'cast, intrepid reporter Beth/Selena/@plexippa reported that the Treasure Hunt's quizmistress, Margie Deck, suggested she bolster her weakness on the seventh question by joining Team Nunn/Keefauver for this year's event. Beth also mentioned that Ashley Polasek had put forth a name for the team "Two Guys, a Girl, and a Doubleday." Since Ashley is, as far as I know, unaware of my weakness for Ryan Reynolds vehicles, this was a second curious coincidence.


Sorry. Lost my train of thought for a moment. OH!! ANNA FERRIS AS MARY MORSTAN! NO! WATSON! THE BIG SCREEN REBOOT OF ELEMENTARY! YES!! (This is one of those places where people think I'm being tongue-in-cheek. But, no, this is true Keefauverian train of thought.)

Okay, back to that John H. Watson Society Treasure Hunt, which doesn't start until August.

Last August, I had just lost two co-workers, was being called out of town to help with a consuming crisis, and unable to devote my full attention to the problems involved for weeks at a stretch. Rob had his own distractions, as well, and we lost our third team member early in the competition. This year, we're definitely hungry to show our full powers of Sherlockian trivial deduction and rise above our Order of Valiant Effort from this year. Adding a librarian of remarkable energy to the team could be our "bringing Apollo Creed in to train Rocky" moment -- the extra angle that puts us over.

And . . . wait a second . . . if Beth joins us, we would still have two potentially open slots for an Aquaman and a Green Lantern. (Oops, slipped into "forming the Justice League" mode. I was Flash, by the way.)

This is why I'm training, of course: Focus. Stay on Sherlock Holmes trivia. Stay off movies and comics. Stay on Sherlock Holmes trivia. Only a few more months . . .

Someone else's time with Sherlock Holmes.

Making yet another attempt to clean the Sherlock room this week, I came across an an old box made of sturdy brown cardboard that I hadn't really looked at before. Finding something in your own house that you don't know a lot about may seem strange, but it comes from a part of the Sherlockian life that you never expect, nor ever want to happen, really.

There are the collectables that you search the internet and old bookshops for, and delight in finding . . . those are your collection, a gathering of happy moments in solid form. Even if you just had a link pop up on someone's Twitter feed, went "Wow, I want that!" and followed the link to Amazon for a one-click purchase, there was a discovery and an acquisition that were completely your own.

And then there are things like the sturdy brown box . . .

It's not my sturdy brown box, you see. It's Bob Burr's sturdy brown box.

Even though it resides in my home, it will never be mine. I'm just the caretaker of the box at this point. What's in the box?

Another Sherlockian's time.

I've known friends over the years who have come into another Sherlockian's time with Sherlock Holmes, one such notable case was Newt William's re-annotated Baring-Gould Annotated, which I saw after it passed into Bill Cochran's hands. William S. Baring-Gould's book The Annotated Sherlock Holmes has a lot of white space in its margins, and Newt had filled that white space with additional footnotes from his own readings about Holmes. A lifetime of learning went into those margins, and it was a wonder to see. The Annotated, still being a two volume set of books, of course, still fits inconspicuously and neatly on a shelf with other books. But it was still a container for another Sherlockian's time.

This sturdy brown box is interesting in that it doesn't represent a lifetime of my old friend Bob's time with Sherlock Holmes, just an early period of it.

It's full of large file cards that look to me like some artifacts of my own creation, the results of a single pass through the sixty stories where one notes everything of particular interest one finds along the way.  "Booze," "Food," and "Concerts" were some of Bob's favorites, I know, due to articles and scion meeting presentations that came after these cards. 

The cards represent a time before Sherlockians with names like Harrington, Goodrich, and Clarkson published their own more massive labors of this sort in concordances keyed to the Doubleday Complete, and definitely before searchable texts like the much beloved Mr. Moon's Moonfind Search Engine. Since these cards were hand-written, many a Sherlockian has also published monographs or books containing such collections of data. (Many of which are hard-to-find collectables now, of course.) It was also a time before personal computers and digital files . . . which now seems like it might as well be Abraham-Lincoln-reading-by-candlelight times, since we've had that tech so long.

But even though the times change, even though other Sherlockians' work on such things have been published and collected, I'm sure some Sherlockians will still re-read the Canon and make their own notes in years to come. Conan Doyle's reluctance to spend all his time writing about Sherlock Holmes blessed us with a manageable-sized Canon, that one can read all the way through in less than a year, even taking time to make notes along the way. It's a marvelous source for original research. And some of those Sherlockians are probably still going to make notes on legal pads and other solid media.

That sort of paper media, and the scribblings upon it, may someday look like Sherlockian minor historical artifacts to some cool, objective pairs of eyes, but to me such things will always be monuments to those Sherlockians' time, happily spent with Sherlock Holmes. Countless hours in the company of Dr. Watson, with his steady narrating voice filling their mental ears. And the love and caring of a fan who took the time to write down their notes of that time.

Such remnants are magical things -- they can even make you feel a little less alone in the universe on a cold and rainy day. But like all magical things, however, their caretaker then has to figure out what to do with them . . . after getting lost in the nostalgia for a while.

Another Sherlockian's time can time up some of your own.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Because Sherlock Holmes will always disappoint you . . .

I've been contemplating those poor souls whose faith in the BBC Sherlock tells them that eventually Sherlock and John are going to have that Big Moment Kiss and finally admit their feelings toward each other. They, like all of the rest of us, are . . . and I really do hate to say this . . . doomed to disappointment.

I mean, suppose they're not much different from those happy souls who, in July of 1891, discovered a brand new short story character called Sherlock Holmes in The Strand Magazine. A couple happy years and "AYEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" -- off Sherlock goes over Reichenbach Falls. Killed off by his incredibly mean author, never to return. You want to talk disappointment? They had it.

"Oh," you may say, "but they got him back ten years later?"

But did they? Many's the Sherlockian who has theorized Holmes wasn't the same after that return, and have you read "The Mazarin Stone?" And eventually comes "The Retired Colourman," and, most assuredly, there comes old friend disappointment again, even if you were enjoying that last crop, which was not without its issues.

Come 1939, Basil Rathbone stars in a pair of lovely Victorian Sherlock Holmes movies. Eventually, he's driving around America, hunting Nazis with a curly hair-do. Fans might have been a little disappointed there.

The year 1949 rolls around, and someone discovers a brand new Sherlock Holmes story from the original author titled "The Man Who Was Wanted." Sherlock Holmes was actually the man who was really wanted, wanted enough for everyone involved to overlook a few problematic details for long enough to publish the thing, then eventually . . . eventually . . . the disappointment came in learning it was pure fanfic.

Conan Doyle's son writes some stories with and without a popular mystery writer of the day in 1954 . . . hopes rise for a bit. And fall. Halfway through the volume, if they stuck around that long.

Going to a theater in 1970, you might have gotten to see a wonderful Billy Wilder film called "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" and thoroughly enjoyed it. No disappointment there, right? None whatsoever . . . well, until you find out that there was at least an hour more of content that got cut under studio demands, much of which was lost forever. A little disappointing, that.

A 1974 Sherlock Holmes novel hits the best-seller list  . . . HOORAH! You go to read it and find a pretty drug-addled Sherlock in need of celebrity intervention. Boooo . . .

In 1984, Jeremy Brett took the Sherlockian world by stormy petrel in a almost Canon-faithful series of hour-long adaptations. Until they became two-hour, somewhat less faithful tales and Mycroft Holmes developed X-ray vision.

1989 . . . well, we won't talk about 1989.

Yes, all of these things had their fans who will deny any disappointment in them whatsoever. But each of them did disappoint some lover of Holmes somewhere, and probably much more than one. Because Sherlock Holmes will always disappoint you eventually. The only way not to have that happen is to stop after you read or watched the BEST Sherlock Holmes thing you ever encountered, which would make you a rare human indeed, and truly, not much of a fan. Or to just go totally, absolutely true-believer whacko and live in a state where it all actually pleases you . . . in which case you are even more rare and probably not able to function in society without a caretaker.

Because Sherlock Holmes will always disappoint you . . .

. . . until he doesn't.

Because you know what? If you live long enough, Sherlock Holmes will spring back to his best form all over again. Unlike us, the ravages of age never take him for long, he gets to reincarnate constantly and non-consecutively, and he has all of humanity trying to help him be at his best.

It's we who have to deal with the disappointment, own it as our own, and keep the faith that our friend will be back to visit us again, as true friends do.

I think he got that from Watson. Onward.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Setlock, spoiling the party for some more than others.

Spoiler alert: I'm going to mention a Canonical detail in reference to the currently filming Sherlock season. And another logical following detail from last season's events. Both were seen in a street scene from said filming. Flee now if two such things violate your pre-season protocols.

Well, I thought I was avoiding all the amateur paparazzi photos from the filming of the upcoming BBC Sherlocks. No such luck. Both Twitter and my random Tumblr follows seemed to be diving at those preview scraps like a drone targeting a top-five terrorist. And in at least one spot, that seemed to be the tone of the person posting the photo.

What did I see?

Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, an infant child, Mary Morstan Watson, and a dog.

Now, to a dedicated believer in the Johnlock Conspiracy, this scene of apparent domestic bliss in the Watson household might seem quite horrific. Mommy, daddy, baby, and dog, all out for a walk with their old bachelor friend. The anti-thesis of the Sherlock/John romance.

But to believers in the Doylock Conspiracy -- that Moffat and Gatiss are intent on infusing Sherlock with as much original Canon while creating new tales as they can -- the dog was a very exciting development.

Because he wasn't just a dog, he was a bloodhound. And a bloodhound in a story with Mary Morstan?


While we saw a Sholto and a "The Sign of Three" last season, we never really saw Mary Morstan's tale played out: treasure, wooden-legged ex-convicts, pygmies, river chases . . . or "The Sign of Four."

Or the bloodhound Toby.

If Sherlock, John, and Mary made up "The Sign of Three," it would appear baby makes "Four," a fact many a Sherlockian stumbling across these setlock photos has already deduced.

Which doesn't really make it all that much of a spoiler, for the Sign of the Four fans among us. More like a natural development. But if the tremors that have erupted over that same little detail on Tumblr are any sign, we're in for a very interesting season ahead.

Especially if that infant turns out to be the new little person in the story . . . and Mary Morstan Watson thought "Tonga" would be a cool name for a baby.

Yikes! Get thee behind me, setlock!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Maybe you knew this already, but out there somewhere in our human-proud world, you can actually buy lion meat. Lion stew meat, lion rib eye, lion porterhouse . . . well, when it's in stock.

And as a Sherlockian, I immediately thought of Sahara King.

Not that Sahara King didn't deserve to be eaten, especially by one Eugenia Ronder, but because he was, once all is said and done, a lion. And in the Canon.

We love our Sherlockian Canon. It's just so . . . tasty?

I've met plenty of people who like to sample the wines mentioned within the cases of Sherlock Holmes. And I've met those who sample the tobaccos, as well as, those who dine on meals as served up by Mrs. Hudson, Simpson's, and the odd inn. But the one Sherlockian I have yet to meet is the Canonivore:  A Sherlockian who was attempting to eat their way through the entire Canon.

It doesn't mean they're not out there, of course.

Perhaps there is a truly obsessed fan who has tasted the likes of a Sahara King. Or one who found the restaurant that prepares cyanea capillata. A fan who long ago finished with trout, yams, pate de foie gras, carbuncle-stuffed goose, and all the other normal exotic foods of the Canon . . . who has moved on to everything else at all edible found within the pages of the sixty stories. One can easily envision them creating an "Eat the Canon!" checklist, looking something like:

___  Aniseed
___  Bird
___  Cinnamon
___  Coconut
___  Cow
___  Deer
___  Duck
. . . etc.

And if there aren't any active Canonivores out there currently, this is the perfect niche for that aspiring Sherlockian blogger or podcaster looking to carve out a niche for themselves, documenting their experiences in tracking and eating the entire Canon.

We're used to consuming literature through our eyes and even our ears, so why not take that next step?

Eat the Canon. Even the vegan version of that would be an accomplishment.

Monday, April 25, 2016

"Setlock feels" exist. Cool.

One of my favorite things is to roll back the clock, reach back in time, and pull myself from the past forward to feel his wonderment at the world in which I now find myself.

I have a lovely time with that little trick of the mind. And tonight, after a long evening next to a bonfire, looking up at the stars and clouds together in a perfect spring sky, I came home feeling very good about the world. And then I saw the phrase "setlock feels."

And it got a little better.

The me from ten years ago would have been baffled by those words -- "setlock feels." He was busy trying to tie a local WWE Smackdown taping to something Sherlockian just for his weekly blog content. In his late forties, that version of me was still one of the younger people at many a Sherlockian event, which was a tad worrisome. And there were no "setlock feels."

Why? You know why.

There was no set. No Sherlockian productions of major note were being filmed in 2006, much less one exciting enough to get a Sherlock Holmes fan to track down where they were filming.

We had Porlock, yes, but that was just another Canonical character.  Nobody was mashing up other words with "Sherlock" yet. No Johnlock, no Tunalock, and, again, no setlock.

And we definitely didn't have "feels" back in 2006. "Feels" is that kind of slang that evokes Clockwork Orange or street urchins or those kids from the classic Star Trek episode "Miri." That kind of slang that young people come up with. Young people. Because in 2006, we didn't have enough of those to rub two together and get slang.

Not a big fan of following setlock myself, as I'd rather wait and be surprised. (Though I'm sure playing the "puzzle out what's coming from visual clues" thing is some fun detectivework, and I kind of wish I had a separate brain to partake.)  But, you know what?

Still a big fan of the fact that setlock is out there, and "setlock feels" is a thing. Even if it also makes me feel slightly like an old geezer who'll never fully get these kids today and their rappin' Hamilton. (Though I do get that -- the bits I've heard are pretty good.) Old geezers still get to be proud of the grandkids and happy to see them playing, even if they can't keep up any more.

And boy, is it hard to keep up these days!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Okay, internet, here's your prince stuff.

Apparently there is a requirement on the web this week to write about things princely, and as I have gotten my official notification from the Web Authors Total Sherlockian Obligation Network that I must comply or lose my blogging license. So let's get this over with.

There was this time when Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were following a barrel down Prince's Street in The Sign of the Four. Watson got engaged after that. I don't know what kind of neighborhood Prince's Street was in, but Princetown? A whole town? Well, murderer's seem to escape from there, as Selden did in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Barrel's will lead you into bad places. Don't follow barrels.

There was a Crown Prince in "A Scandal in Bohemia," and he wore a mask and a deep blue cloak like a superhero, looking for a woman who had a picture of what was apparently his secret identity. One has to wonder if Crown Prince ever battled Prince of Calonna, or Shoscombe Prince whose super power seemed to be to turn into a horse, but maybe Prince's Skating Club was a place where they could all come together, skate, and work out their issues with women who had pictures of their secret identities since even Sherlock Holmes couldn't really help with that.

Anyway, they must have paid Sherlock Holmes well even though he couldn't help, because he often refers to getting "princely" money later on.

Don't follow barrels.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Random finger point Canonical study.

One of my favorite things about the Canon of Sherlock Holmes is the pure detail density of the thing.

Flip a book open, stab your finger at a page, and you get a nice catch, more often than not. So many interesting details, so many jumping off points for a ramble in the world of the great detective.

This morning, my finger stab harpooned this line:

"My name is Doctor Percy Trevelyan," said our visitor, "and I live at 403 Brook Street."

Seems pretty plain. A simple introduction. But it's who he's introducing himself to that gets interesting. John H. Watson.

"Are you not the author of a monograph upon obscure nervous lesions?" I asked.

Trevelyan is the author of a very specialized, very poor-selling work that very few people read. Yet Watson did.

Nervous lesions is basically damage to the nerves, either through disease or injury. It's a very broad category, when you come right down to it, but the questions we come to quickly are "Why was Watson reading it?" and "Why was it so memorable to him?"

The immediate thought is that someone very close to Watson had a nervous lesion problem. And who might that have been? Following his conversation with Percy Trevelyan a little further, one finds:

"You are yourself, I presume, a medical man."

"A retired army surgeon."

They quickly switch topics to Trevelyan's case, but the glimpse we get of Watson's here is interesting. He retired as an army surgeon after taking some damage in Afghanistan. Damage to his shoulder from a Jezail bullet -- the sort of thing that definitely could cause nerve damage. And retire a man from being a surgeon.

Which brings me back to a talk Marilynne McKay gave at 221B Con, about the difference between doctors and surgeons in Watson's time, and the way, for example, and the way Dr. Mortimer insisted that he, as a surgeon, was a "Mister" and not a "Doctor" as was the way of things at that time.

Could it be, during that hazy time in the middle 1880s, when Watson was hanging about Baker Street and not participating in case-work so much, he continued his studies (including looking into his own nerve issues) and became a "Doctor" after already having been a retired "Mister."

In any case, that simple meeting between two medical men before the case written up as "The Resident Patient" starts is an intriguing thing.

Which the Canon of Sherlock Holmes is always good for . . . finding intriguing things at the mere poke of a finger.

Friday, April 22, 2016

When will they? When *did* they?

There are certain topics one senses as dangerous ground upon which to tread these days. To those of us bookish writer sorts who don't indulge in any actual danger for our thrill-seeking, the tightrope walk to honestly speak of such things can definitely make life a little more interesting. So let us dive into the breech once more and talk of the Johnlock Conspiracy.

With no "how did he survive the fall?" to occupy the minds of Sherlock fans this hiatus, I'm seeing a lot more "when will they kiss?" as the big question aimed at season four of the show. And yes, that's "when will John and Sherlock kiss?" for those of you who have remained innocent of that side of fandom somehow. Having watched a lot of Xena, Warrior Princess back in the day, I can easily see how a TV show might toy with such a theme, so I'm not one to quickly write those fans off as "the moon landing wasn't real" sorts.

But as so much of the Sherlock study during the show's hiati often digs into ye old Canon Doyle for inspiration and possibilities, I'm still looking for the piece that digs into the original sixty, looks over the entire Watsonian chronicle and deduces "Here! Here is the point where they originally kissed."

Now, a staunch conservative Sherlockian would go, "They never kissed in the Canon! All the evidence there says . . ." blah, blah, blah.  But that's the thing: All the evidence in the Canon says a lot of things. Holmes is a machine. Then Holmes laughs. Holmes is not attracted toward women. Then he writes about how attractive Maud Bellamy is. Like a certain other Canon, you can pretty much find something in the Sacred Sixty to make you feel good about whatever theory you have on Sherlock Holmes.

And that is how the Game is played.

And why there even is a Game. That moment of doubt or possibility on so many subjects that Conan Doyle left us with.

Did Canonical Sherlock and John ever have that big romantic comedy moment when they realized they were more than best of friends and collided in a big, wet smooch?

Well, someone will -- or already has, I'm sure -- find evidence in there somewhere. We had to move on from Watson's wound at some point. (Oooo . . . maybe "Watson's wound" was his in-the-closet secret . . . see how the Canon plays you?) And some day we'll move on from this question as well, to the next one. Everybody gets to have their favorite at some point.

Sherlock Holmes doesn't just solve mysteries. He is a mystery to his fans.

And probably always will be.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Study in Charlotte.

Well, after all of the other little bits of the past week and yesterday's mildly controversial suggestion that our next Sherlock Holmes should be a woman, it seemed only fitting that I sit down tonight with the last half of Brittany Cavallaro's A Study in Charlotte. So I did, finished it off, and what follows is the obligatory review.

I liked A Study in Charlotte a lot.

Not because Charlotte Holmes is a "Sherlock Holmes," or that Jamie Watson is a "John H. Watson" . .  . no, because these are a Holmes and a Watson who exist in a very fleshed out version of the real Sherlock Holmes's world a century later. Because it's a "Young Adult" novel, it has to take place at a YA sort of location . . . a school called, oh, so perfectly, Sherringford . . . but it has some pretty adult topics in the course of its plot: Murder, of course. Rape. Drug abuse. (Why murder seems the one of those three that seems more commonly suitable for kids . . . whom we would call "kids" in any other setting than bookstore marketing, where they become "young adults" . . . is one of those odd little bits of modern life.)  Otherwise, it almost seems like a Sherlockian Harry Potter.

Instead of a world of magic, we get a world where Sherlock Holmes was very real, very famous, and his family has been living with his legacy for generations. As have the Watsons. And, naturally, the Moriartys.

Brittany Cavallaro pulls this Holmes universe thing off very well, even though the "someone is staging murders based on the Canon" business is a something an elder Sherlockian like myself has seen many a time before, the characterization of Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson is well done enough and comfortably familiar enough to make up for that. (And in a universe where Holmes lived, it does make a little more sense than in our own.) I'm very interested to see where she goes next with her world and characters, now that they'll be moving on to some non-Sherlockian based crime. Something supernatural like a hound from Hell that needs undone? Something with a little travel involved? Plenty of places for her to go in this world Cavallaro has built, and I'm hoping she doesn't play the Moriarty card too hard with such a big wide world to play in.

With the Doyle Estate reined in a bit and a certain phenomenal Holmes and Watson out there to inspire writers as well, I expect we'll be seeing more and more quality celebrations of Sherlock Holmes rising to the professional ranks like this one. just because there's more room to play. There's always going to be a certain proportionate amount of bad Holmes to go with any good Holmes we get during such an influx, but I definitely think we can put Charlotte in the category of "Good Holmes."

(Did I just rec a fic? Well, since it's pro, I probably just recommended a novel, but I'll get cool like that one of these days. Maybe . . .)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why Sherlock Holmes needs to be a woman now.

It's been a very interesting month to consider that other legendary character whose name begins with "S," and he's been shedding some light upon our friend Sherlock Holmes's place in our culture as well, if one is looking in that direction.

Both Superman and Sherlock Holmes were born representing a sort of excellence. Sherlock, evolving along with industry and science, Superman, rising with nuclear power and space flight. Both are symbols in their way for paradigm shift. And both, unfortunately, also have a tinge of white European male dominance that makes them a little less easy to sell unadulterated these days.

This is most obvious in the case of Superman, once a symbol of hope, truth, justice, and the American way. In recent movies, creators trying oh-so-hard to make him relevant and get a little of the Batman mojo, have made him a super illegal alien and a symbol of our fears. Fear of those from somewhere else, fear of big government, fear of . . . .

Well, it is a little interesting that the nuclear age gave Japan its Godzilla and us our Superman -- only in recent films Superman is more like Godzilla, destroying his America's Tokyo, Metropolis, in his battles.

But here's the thing: While Superman seems to be an unfilmable character as he has existed for so long, Supergirl is doing just fine sticking to the original Super-style on television. In modern culture, we don't have room for a superior white male lording his powers over everyone. But an empowered woman? Something else entirely. It works fine.

Sherlock Holmes gets a little bit of a hedge that Superman doesn't, even though he's the superior white male, at least in America, because he has an English accent. Whether it's James Bond or Lucifer, America definitely has a trope that an Englishman can be a little bit better than us just because of that accent. And yet, even with Sherlock, we can see alterations happening to make him more palatable to a modern audience as a dominant white male figure.

In the case of America's TV version on Elementary, the drug addiction as well as the Big Bang Theory sort of wacky nerdiness is played up. "You know how those screwy smart people are!" And with BBC Sherlock, a more interesting thing is happening . . . Johnlock.

Yes, there are touches of "Let's diagnose him with some mental condition!" in Sherlock, but a major way of viewing the show in fandom that makes him palatable to many who would not accept a dominant white male hero is the part where it's easy to see he and John as a gay couple. If Sherlock Holmes is gay, he's not part of that old culture any more. He's someone we can get behind as an underdog despite his superior abilities and talent for dominating a crime scene. (And making him a submissive, as many a fic does, totally counteracts any issues there.)

Taking all this in, it almost seems that, like Superman, in order to get our purest Sherlock Holmes in a culture that is still struggling to make things equal for all, it's well past time for him to be a woman. Smaller productions like S(her)lock and Baker Street: The Web Series have already done this, and showed it can work well. I still feel like the biggest mistake CBS's Elementary made from day one was making Watson, and not Holmes, the gender-bent character -- they really missed an excellent opportunity to get ahead of the curve.

But with Jonny Lee Miller, Benedict Cumberbatch, and even a seems-to-be-returning Robert Downey Jr. filling up screens, it may be a while before there's room for any new major Sherlock Holmes. When it does happen, however, I hope the creators give full consideration to what gender, race, and orientation will make for the best Sherlock Holmes at that time. Because we're certainly going to be open to that version by then, and probably more than ready for it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sherlock Holmes or Professor Presbury?

Well, we've talked about the Sherlockian ladies a bit here lately, so it seems only fair to discuss the boys for a bit, one of which I happen to be. Testosterone and the internet are a very bad combination.

Sure, internet, the communication paradigm shift that has done so much for so many. Education, entertainment, community . . . many a good thing. Especially for the fans, it would seem.

Well, until you bring the testosterone in. Once that comes in, a fan who likes said thing a little too much to hold on to their sense of humor decides, as the hill-folk used to say, "Them's fightin' words!"

And so we get  . . . well, I'm not going to say. They don't deserve the clicks with their straight-to-the-ad-hominum arguments against . . . um, yeah, not saying that either. Were I of a similar mind, I might start to wonder about this male person's obsessive-compulsive tendencies, lack of a sense of humor, or choice of a much-flawed work to champion (not tbat much-flawed work -- I'm behaving). But I'm not . . . well, I guess I just did. See what happens when the testosterone comes into play?

Angry fanboys with no Fight Club to exhaust their scrappin' urges rampage all over the internet, as many a female of the species has observed. We boys don't usually stop to call it out so much, because basically we just want to go in and punch back, and many do, without regard to the fact that there's another human being at the end of the fiber optic cables and wi-fi connections.

Where it gets interesting with Sherlock Holmes is that many of us come to Sherlock because we relate to him as the outsider who is just a bit smarter than those around him. And for some, that's a fair estimation of their situation. For others, there might be a little wishful thinking involved. But when you add a touch of superiority complex to a healthy dose of fannish self-righteous anger and the in-the-moment ability to instantly put one's feelings out to the world . . .  yikes. Sherlock-loving fanboys can be the worst. (Well, maybe not the worst worst. Sheesh, but there's some stuff out there.)

But it's all just monkey stuff, really.

Animal territorial growling masked by a decent vocabulary.

And sometimes, we have reason to growl, something that needs set right. But some other times, if we're perfectly honest with ourselves, we're just reacting emotionally . . . very much like our hero Sherlock Holmes would not do. One of the reasons we like him so much.

Some days, a fanboy has to choose between emulating Sherlock Holmes or giving into the monkey biology like Professor Presbury. It's a choice.

And if said fanboy has to write a long rambling blogpost to talk the monkey off the Empire State Building, well, whatever works.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

221Boo . . . Ah-HA!!!

After last Thursday's online disparagement of best-selling author and all-around admirable Sherlockian Lyndsay Faye and the Twitter uprising of support that followed, I somehow managed to write what quickly became one of my most-read blog posts to date. It was so well read that it now threatens to surpass the number of blog-hits of my expose on Clyde the turtle's terrible Canonical secret. And as could be understood, I'm sure many of my regular readers found themselves a little bit disoriented by what might have seemed calm, measured, and rational thoughts appearing in last week's blog.

Well, worry no more, my friends, for as I sat on the floor in a moment of exhaustion tonight, my eyes came upon that portion of my bookshelf dedicated to artists of the 1700s, and as it had been a while, I pulled a book or two off the shelf to have a look. And what shocking fact did I discover?

No, nothing about Clyde the turtle this time.

No, this time, I was struck by a vision the equivalent of Jim Moriarty showing up on every TV screen in Great Britain, going "Miss me?"  Because what did we see last Thursday and Friday, all over Sherlockian Twitter?


Yes, the hashtags #Canontits and #221Boobs noting photo after photo of young women's plunging necklines, just like the pictures above.

"BUT WAIT!" you might protest. "The women in these photos are not holding copies of the Sherlockian Canon to their chests! They are completely different!"

Yes, I would reply, and do you know why they don't have the works of Arthur Conan Doyle held close to their bosom in a display of their devotion and well-read minds?

Because Conan Doyle hadn't written the Sherlock Holmes stories yet when these pictures were made!

"But, Brad!" you might now protest. "What the hell are you trying to tell us? The female form is classic? We know that, you doofus!"

Oh . . . I now start to stammer excitedly . . . oh, no! That's not it at all. Last Thursday we saw a sudden upsurge in the display of cleavage in connection to Sherlock Holmes, sending what seemed like an obvious message. Yet sometimes, as many an undercover operative knows, a second message can be hidden beneath the surface message.

Because you know who else liked to put cleavage on display, much as we saw last Thursday?

Jean Baptiste Greuze.

The guy who painted all of those pictures above. 

The guy whose work was singled out by a certain professor to adorn his office, hang behind him and represent him in the memory of all who visited that office. 

Yes, Jean Baptiste Greuze, the favorite artist of one James Moriarty.  

And while I haven't worked out what exactly all this means just yet, or let anyone have the list of ingestables leading to this "Ah-HA!" moment, I am certain -- CERTAIN -- that it was not just an excuse to put fine art or women's cleavage on my blog post. That would just be too much of a coincidence.

Moriarty is never far from our thoughts, especially with Andrew Scott posing with Louise Brealey so cutely on Twitter these days. Posing with golf clubs, nonetheless. Golf clubs! Obliquity of the ecliptic, first cousin to dynamics of an asteroid, and all that! And now this Greuze connection? It has to mean something, doesn't it?

Or maybe, I do just miss you, Jim. Maybe I do.

My own personal Stamford returns.

From John H. Watson on, we've all had someone who introduced us to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

For Watson, it was Stamford, a fact celebrated at this year's 221B Con with actor David Nellist, who has handled that role so well for BBC's Sherlock, in both modern and Victorian settings.

For me, it was Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.

As I grew into the "tween" years, I developed a fascination with all things Fortean, extra-terrestrial, and crypto-zoological, acquiring quite a little paperback library of books upon those subject at the local newstand. One of the superstars of that world of bigfoots, yetis, and Roswell aliens was, of course, the Loch Ness Monster.

Whether surviving dinosaur, sea serpent, or some deep sea oddity, Nessie was especially fascinating because we all knew exactly where she was . . . Loch Ness in Scotland . . . yet somehow, she continued to elude everyone. No one could catch her, nor discover her secrets. No one!

About that time, I was also taking in all sorts of movies at the local Strand Theater, where both evening first-runs and Saturday afternoon matinees of Hammer Dracula films, Godzilla movies, and the like were our steady diet. And before all that was always the previews, introduced with that psychedelic preview opener that Quentin Tarantino brought back for his neo-grindhouse fare. And among those previews?

The trailer for Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes . . . the man who would solve the Loch Ness Monster.

Billy Wilder really had Holmes down, perhaps better than any other movie maker in history. He wasn't just aping the Canon. He was going, "Okay, Loch Ness monster! No supernatural stuff in Holmes's world, how does he solve it?" the way many a pasticheur has failed to do with other mysterious creatures like Dracula.

Seeing Nessie charge Holmes and Watson's boat in that preview set my young spine to tingling, and the thought that Sherlock Holmes solved it (as well as did things like find naked ladies in his apartment) had me hooked. It was five or more years before I finally saw the film, and several more before I saw it complete (major networks edited out homosexuality references back then), but the film did not disappoint. And after that, Sherlock Holmes was locked in as my number one guy.

So when news came this week that the original full-sized Loch Ness monster prop from The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes had been found in Loch Ness, it was like hearing from a long-lost old friend. Like the Titanic, and many another legendary aquatic wreck, Nessie's worn and disintegrating hulk is destined to stay at the bottom of the Loch until she is consumed by the local geography. But that's how it should be with such great legends of the misty past.

And who knows, maybe the real Nessie will show up some day, and the real Sherlock Holmes will step out of anonymity and deal with her as well, as he must, and reveal the secret government plot that created her.

Until then, she has my thanks, and I hope she rests in well-earned peace at the bottom of Loch Ness.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Morstan and Moran in the Mor-ning.

So I'm letting my mind wander freely as a nice, hot shower works its magic this morning, and this sudden conviction appears unbidden: Mary Morstan just has to be Moran in the BBC Sherlock universe.

Moran, who only shows up in the Canon after Moriarty is gone. Just like Mary did.

Moran, who waits patiently for Sherlock Holmes's return so he can shoot him. Just like Mary did?

Moran, who . . . well, of course, I immediately Google this thought to see what fandom has come up with on the subject and no sooner do I type "Is Mary Morstan . . ." than Google supplies "Sebastian Moran." This is ground that has already been well covered, of course. There's even that coloring book theory that came up a while back.

She's definitely not the Mary Morstan we know from Conan Doyle. Her A.G.R.A. is not the fort a stolen treasure came from. She doesn't meet John during one of Sherlock's cases. And based on Reichenbach timelines, she fits rather perfectly into that Moran-shaped hole the Sherlock Canon left open. And those initials . . . "Air-Gunned Ronald Adair?" Makes more sense than "Alice Grace Rucastle Abernetty."

But we've seen the shocking-twist Canonical character fusion of Irene Adler and Professor Moriarty in CBS's Elementary. It seems doubtful that Sherlock will play that somewhat heavy-handed card with it having been used so recently by the show's American counterpart. And why waste Sebastian Moran as a part of a character we already have?

Thinking about Mary Morstan's place in BBC Sherlock's Holmes mythos, she (and her child) seem more likely to go on to be "my own sad bereavement" to John Watson (found in "The Adventure of the Empty House," just as Moran was), not because her past holds the role of Sebastian Moran, but more likely because it holds some leverage or obligations that will tear her permanently away from her marriage to Watson. Her past was not just contained on a thumb drive or in Magnussen's mind palace . . . there is still surely enough of it out there that a true Moran could use it to heartbreaking effect.

We're seen nor heard nothing, as yet, of one Captain Arthur Morstan, Mary's father. He was a a pretty life-altering figure in the Doyle Canon, and his appearance on the BBC show could hold some . . . wait a minute . . . they didn't do The Sign of Four, even though Mary has appeared, did they?


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Future non-issues . . . I hope . . . and what happened today.

Today was a good day for considering what women mean to Sherlock Holmes.

First I ran into where a Sherlockian of the old school was asking that now-ridiculous question: "How much of this new bunch of female fans are going to stick around when the show [Sherlock] comes to an end?"

That one I can answer: More than the total number of Sherlockians in the world before Sherlock went on the air. A lot more. How do I know this? I mean, really know this?

a.) I've seen them. Listened to them. This idea that we got a bunch of teeny-boppers fawning over their Teen Beat fold-out posters of Benedict Cumberbatch is nonsense. As much thought and research can go into Johnlock (or whichever) fanfic as an article in any Sherlockian journal you'd care to name. There are Sherlockian lifestyle choices being made that match anything you saw thirty years ago, and I mean life and style. Those habits that stay with you the rest of your life. So much tea.

b.) Sherlock has actually come to an end. Multiple times. The Sherlockians that came to us via Sherlock know how to get by for years without a new episode. Years. The same way readers of the Doyle Canon get by without new Doyle . . . using imagination, camaraderie, and fun. They've been trained in a boot camp that makes them natural lifetime Sherlockians.

Which brings me to to said female-oriented issue that came up today: That somehow cleavage nullfies Sherlockian status. A very sex-negative, Shreffler-quoting slut-shamer actually called a Sherlockian writer a whore in a Facebook post for not being as uptight as she. Yep, this actually happened in our lovely, friendly Sherlockian world: One supposed Sherlockian called another a whore in a public venue, then had the gall to call that person out for not having "grace of expression" a sentence later.

We've had "class-hole" Sherlockians for quite a little while now, those who believe fervently that they're better than the Sherlockian rabble, and I tend to think this person has been hanging with that bunch. This isn't just about women. This is about Sherlockians not behaving as this person thinks Sherlockians should behave, and using their own gender to try to spank them for it, which makes it just that much worse. We're in the midst of a culture shift, in case you hadn't noticed, and there's a big chunk of gender-work going on right in the middle of it.

Some might say there's no place for social justice discussion within the borders of a relaxing, get-away-from-it-all hobby like Sherlockiana, that is should be our safe space . . . and it is, within the confines of your sanctum sanctorum, you can arrange your 221B room to your liking, put what books you like on the shelves, watch what movies you like. That's the safe space. Keep your headcanon as you would like. But if you're going to venture out into the world of other Sherlockians . . . other people . . . whether online, at a con, or at a local club meeting, it's then you have to start thinking of how this world works best for all of us.

And that's not easy. You can look back through these blogs and find me guilty of all sorts of mind-crimes against my fellow Sherlockians and a few verbal assaults as well. I can be not only wrong, but a little mean when the spirit takes me. But I'm trying. Trying to keep the mind open and the spirit kindly. Some folks are doing quite a bit better, like @Mazarin221b did today on Twitter.

After the little whore-calling incident came out, she came up with the hashtag #Canontits (and later #221Boobs came along) to show support for her sister in Sherlock Holmes. Suddenly, Sherlockians with the appropriate anatomies started pairing up their Canons and their decolletage to stand up for a woman's right to be a woman and a Sherlockian. It was a very cool thing. Not because I'm thirteen and am just hypnotized by such displays ("I've seen a few nekkid ladies in my day, sonny!"), but because I'm a Sherlockian and it makes me proud to see the way our camaraderie should work . . . rallying around a fellow fan even if it's doing something you might normally be a bit timid about.

But the babes (said with real respect and a lower case "B" to differentiate from the podcast crew) who leaped into the fray today don't need my pride in them, my approval, or even me blogging on their side. It looks like they have matters well in hand. I'm proud of them anyway.

And that kind of folks are a.) Some we want in Sherlockiana, and b.) People who aren't going away any time soon.

And with that, he put on his S(her)lock t-shirt in honor of them, and went out to mow the lawn, satisfied that the Sherlockian world is in good hands.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sherlock's time-travelling, case-solving, mind-palace-expanding list.

In their "Body Bag" segment of the latest Three Patch Podcast, the Three Patch crew asked for listeners to come up with their own theories as to what drugs were on the list that Mycroft demanded from Sherlock in BBC Sherlock's "The Abominable Bride." The drugs on this particular list were the ones Sherlock supposedly took to induce a time-travelling investigatory hallucination to consider how an unsolved historical suicide-murder was done.

Which was one of the really odd issues of that episode -- combining drugs to manufacture a particular mental scenario seems more fantasy than a possible occurrence in reality. But given the fantastical nature of the effects Sherlock sought to produce from a combination of pharmaceuticals, I would think it only natural that we follow that line of thought . . . and find some fantastic pharmaceuticals for the list.

So where do we shop for fantastic pharmaceuticals? A few places.

First stop: A refined derivative of Radix Pedis Diaboli.

Coming from "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot," Holmes surely made his own refinements upon that powerful African hallucinogenic drug once he learned of it. And his time-travel investigation was nothing if not hallucinatory. But it also needed brain-power, and so . . . .

Next stop: NZT-24.

If we're going with fantastic drugs, we might as well throw in a little NZT-48, the intelligence super-booster from the movie and TV series Limitless. Of course, since NZT-48 kind of makes Sherlock's own mental abilities moot, perhaps he was only able to get a less-powerful precursor, something like an "NZT-24," with enough dangerous side effects to keep it from being used very often.

And then: Tincture of opium.

The classics are classics for a reason, and the natural tranquilizing qualities of opium in a measured amount could take the edge off the sharper aspects of the other two drugs.

And why not: Cordrazine.

A powerful stimulant seen in both Mission: Impossible and every Star Trek series that has been known to cause hallucinations and madness in the wrong dosage.

And then perhaps: Nepenthe.

Going back to Greek mythology, Nepenthe induces forgetfulness, and in order to "time travel" and turn his mind palace into Victorian London, Sherlock would have had to forget who he currently was and what time he currently lived.

Just to make sure: Prozium. 

An emotional suppressant that showed up in the future chronicled in the movie Equilibrium. No letting those nasty emotions get in the way, eh?

And only Sherlock knows why: Tricholoromethylene.

Used by a certain fraternity in Revenge of the Nerds to counteract the effects of alcohol. Probably used to tone down the effects of some of the other drugs in this mess.

And finally: Extract of Kingsfoil.

One has to have something with a bit of a healing property to get through all of the above, so this herb from Lord of the Rings will fit nicely. Probably grows somewhere in Africa near the Devil's Foot root.

So there's the list as I see it:

1. A refined derivative of Radix Pedis Diaboli
2. NZT-24
3. Tincture of opium
4. Cordrazine
5. Nepenthe
6. Prozium
7. Tricholoromethylene
8. Extract of Kingsfoil

Of course, one of those pills offered by Morpheus in The Matrix might just take care of the whole business. And I would hate to see the side effects disclaimer for that lot, but there was a reason Mycroft wanted his brother to keep a list, after all.

And I forgot one . . . the obvious one. Those nicotine patches.

A little less fantastical than the rest, but the one we actual have witnessed Sherlock using.

But as the old-timer in Con Air once said, "Oh, no! Drugs'll end you son."

Stay off the drugs, kids. Fantastical or otherwise. You, too, Sherlock.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What if Watson had gotten Pegged?

Adding Tumblr to my social media rotation has been a bit like adding a new window to a house in Peoria that for some odd reason looks out on Hong Kong -- it's a different world out there. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, I started my "following" list based entirely on cards I picked up at 221B Con, which gives it a certain . . . well, not randomness, as it is based entirely on the sort of personality that wants to promote their bits at the con . . . "taking my own thoughts out of the process."

Which is a very helpful way to get out of one's normal head.

So this morning I was treated to a Twitter exchange between Simon Pegg and Amanda Abbington and immediately went . . . "What if Sherlock had been cast with Benedict Cumberbatch and Simon Pegg instead of B.C. and Martin Freeman?"

Well, for starters, it would be a completely different show -- we'd have probably gotten more comedy from the outset, rather than not diving in quite as heavily until Holmes returned from the dead. Pegg's war veteran Watson would probably be dealing with his issues a little differently than Freeman's. And for some reason, I'd think the Johnlock conspiracy might have been less the conspiracy and more likely a sure thing, though less fans would demand it. (For some reason, I just don't see Simon being the sex symbol that Martin has been taken up as, but who knows?)

But all that aside, I would have paid good money to see a Cumberbatch-Pegg version of Holmes and Watson, now that the coupling has been put in my head. Still would, actually, with no slight to Martin Freeman's perfection in the role. I'm just a big Simon Pegg fan, and now that he's been in Star Trek, seeing him in a Sherlock Holmes movie would just be a very good thing.

Since we can't break up Cumberbatch and Freeman at this point, however, if a Simon Pegg Watson was going to be in a new movie incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, who would his Sherlock even be? Cumberbatches don't come along every day, as Guy Ritchie and Rob Dougherty are surely well aware.

I think I'm going to have to let that puzzle hang out there for a bit. Let me know if you have any good candidates who'd pair well with a Pegg-ed Watson, as I will be wondering about it on my brain back-burner. (Some of us can't get a whole palace going.)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The mess.

Here's a new way of not doing work: You walk into a room. You see a mess. You take a picture of that mess. Then you blog about the mess.

This particular sort of mess means I must have attempted cleaning or organizing said room at one point, came upon a bunch of unrelated things, and was not quite sure how to sort them into the currently sorted things. Which is very odd, because some of these things have been with me quite a long time, and you would think they had found a place in the sorted Sherlockiana by now.

The mess never ends.

Somewhere out there is a Sherlockian with perfectly organized, shelved, and filed ephemera. Somewhere out there is a Sherlockian who came in late enough to the Game that they've gone paperless, and keep everything neatly out on a server somewhere. And somewhere out there is a Sherlockian who has passed from this mortal coil and left their executor to deal with their version of this mess . . . the untidiest way of all to get out from under one's mess.

Sherlockiana is just not a neat and tidy hobby. There are always so much more interesting things to do than clean, sort, and organize. But this morning, still fresh from the vacation break of a certain convention, I seem to have an opening . . .

And now that I've taken a picture of it, and blogged about it, perhaps it's time to start cleaning it up.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Three years behind in my Tumblring.

Three years ago, I came home from the first 221B Con having realized that Tumblr was apparently a wicked-powerful force in Sherlockian fandom and created an account. Then I made one post.

And as with so many little goals in life, I just wandered off. For some idiotically stubborn reason, I felt like I had to watch a certain somewhat-irrelevant television show and document its . . . well . . . whatever. That chore, of documenting the whatever, really seemed to be pretty well accomplished at some point in the last few months, so I returned from the most recent 221B Con with a fresh slate.

And there was Tumblr again.

This time, on my way out the door of the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center, I picked up a handful of "business" cards in the lobby . . . all of which had Tumblr names listed upon them. So this time -- THIS time -- I had a direction. I cranked up the Tumblr-machine and started following every single person whose card I found in the hotel lobby. Added to the "Follows" I made in my first attempt (Baker Street Babes, 221B Con, and a few other basics from back then), I now am following a perfectly Canonical-step-based seventeen blogs.

At least I think they're called "blogs" on Tumblr. I still have a ways to go.

I remember back in 2001, Chris Redmond saying something about Sherlockians needing a new Game. I agreed with him, and tried out a few ideas in a role-playing sort of situation, and it wasn't a bad little go (David McAllister, a member of that Dark Lantern League, mentioned it fondly last weekend at the con, even), but the truly new Game that Sherlockians were to discover wasn't going to come about until the BBC decided to throw a Mycroft-sized cannonball into our little Sherlockian pool. And while it's very, very hard to get one's arms completely around that new Game, one has to avail one's self of every available social network these days to do the proper Holmes-like diligence to work it all out.

Hopefully, there's not a Professor Moriarty lurking at the center of this great spider's web.

But, in any case, perhaps this will ready me a bit more for next year's 221B Con.

It's only a year away.

Sherlockian storytelling evolves.

Now that many days have passed since the many discussions that fill 221B Con each year, I'm finding that certain topics keep coming back to me, certain moments, certain ideas. One of those areas was definitely the discussion during Sunday's "Popularity of the Pastiche" panel with Elinor Gray, Amy Thomas, and Ashley Polasek.

Up front in the session what the question of what defines pastiche, what defines fanfic, and where the lines of demarcation lie.  Is one done for pay, the other for love? How close to Doyle does the former actually have to come? There were a lot of different opinions given, but among all of them, I noticed one thing: no hard lines.

Having come up in a male-dominated Sherlockian culture, I had to smile at that. How many articles had I read over the years in Sherlockian newsletter where someone who didn't write fiction attempted to lay out their rules for writing a pastiche? How many lists of pet peeves had been laid out as cases against pastichery in general? Pastiches, even the best of them, were sensed to have a certain scent of "failed Doyle" to them, and not just to those with perpetually turned-up noses. But that was then.

In these less Doyle-reverent times, it appears that calling one's work "pastiche" over "fanfic" is often a claim of distinction. Which seems a bit silly, because with the advent of a successful modern-day Sherlock making his mark upon the culture, the need to match Doylean prose to capture the spirits of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson seems much less of a priority. The creative cauldron that is the world of fanfic has been dishing up all manner of alternate universes for a while now, and commercial fiction is hot on its heels. Really good non-Doylish works are already beginning to spring up on a regular basis.

Part of this comes from the fact that we are not just a populace of readers any more. Yes, we do read. But Sherlockians who are solely readers and not aficionados of some video Holmes or another are becoming more rare all the time. And the number of new Sherlockians who came to the original Canon via a TV show or movie has grown with every decade. Not only are we not just a populace of readers . . . we are becoming more and more a populace of writers as well. We can't all make television shows or movies -- yes, we have video capabilities on phones, but casting, editing, etc. take a crew -- writing is still the way a lone person can expression their vision best, and there are now so many visions of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson out there.

As the grumbly gatekeepers of pastiche perfection lose ground to the rise of role-play bloggers, fanfic novelists, short story initiates, and all those folk who are happily trying out their words in con writing exercises, our opportunities for more great Sherlock Holmes tales increase. Yes, there will be some awful, awful things. But there have always been some awful, awful things. But we also have more channels for hearing about the good things than we have ever had before. So we will hear about good things, when they come about . . . as they most certainly will.

At the core, however, will always be the original Canon. A bit dated, a bit lacking in certain details we'd really like to see, but a firm starting point, nonetheless. I had a very good discussion with a Sherlockian film-maker this weekend whose web-series, S(her)lock, takes some great liberties with the familiar characters, yet stays close to the actual stories of the Canon as its touchstone. And it works. Changing the stories and keeping Holmes and Watson as familiar as can be works well, too. But if a writer doesn't keep some tether to the original stories, the work strays off and becomes something else entirely . . . heck, Miss Marple could be called "Sherlock Holmes" if you can leave both character and story behind.

These days, however, that happens as the great Sherlockian expansion continues. No one is safe, not even Conan Doyle himself, as Fox TV is about to show America. But the cream will rise to the top, and we hopefully won't have to scoop up from the bottom of the barrel unless we choose to . . . because sometimes that can be fun, too.

But I ramble too much, take it away, Shocked Conan Doyle!

(He just read some more fanfic.)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The secret fangirl of Baker Street.

It was "a wild morning in October."

Sherlock Holmes is sitting at the breakfast table "with that somewhat sinister cheerfulness which was characteristic of his lighter moments." All this takes place in the opening of "The Problem of Thor Bridge."

But Holmes is uncharacteristically not telling Watson about that case. Watson even has to ask him about the case, and when he does, Holmes makes Watson wait a full fifteen minutes while John eats two hard-boiled eggs.

And what is so important that Sherlock Holmes is delaying working on a case? Not only delaying, but taking a certain glee in holding back discussing it?

The eggs.

"Their condition may not be unconnected with the copy of the Family Herald which I observed yesterday upon the hall-table. Even so trivial a matter as cooking an egg demands an attention which is conscious of the passage of time, and incompatible with the love romance in that excellent periodical."

Soooooo, we have a new cook at Baker Street, and she loves reading stories in magazines.

And it's only about six years since John H. Watson made Sherlock Holmes the most famous detective in England with his stories in The Strand Magazine. Do we think that the new cook doesn't know who she's cooking hard-boiled eggs for?

And Sherlock is taking some merry delight in telling John that she's in a romantic mood. So much delight that he's putting off discussing a case for fifteen minutes that John Watson would have us believe were spent in silence. "A quarter of an hour later the table had been cleared and we were face to face," Watson writes.

Face to face? An interesting phrase, especially after a table-clearing event. Could it be that the fifteen minute conversation got a little bit heated? A bit of a table-clearing tussle ending with John's face in Sherlock's, telling him to back off?

The case we know as "Thor Bridge" took place in that time in the early 1900s of which Holmes wrote, "The good Watson had at that time deserted me for a wife, the only selfish action which I can recall in our association." I once theorized that Watson finally had realized his affection for Mrs. Hudson and stolen Holmes's landlady away from him, but when one looks at this new cook, who is already messing up eggs with her romantic ideas, and the way Holmes is needling Watson about it . . .  well, one has to wonder if the cooking didn't get better, reaching a level Holmes was really enjoying at about the time Watson decided to monopolize said cook's time with his own romantic notions.

It was a "wild morning" on Baker Street, indeed, that October.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sherlock Holmes . . . over one billion cases solved!

Seeing an interview with a guy who wrote a Sherlock Holmes story today, still on my way home from a convention full of people, most of whom write Sherlock Holmes stories, and then thinking about a recent collection or two where people who hadn't written Sherlock Holmes stories were encouraged to write Sherlock Holmes stories . . . well, I started realizing that Mr. Sherlock Holmes has solved a whole lot of mysteries at this point.

Sherlock Holmes has solved more mysteries than any other detective in history, I'd think it is safe to say. Novels, short stories, comic books, TV shows, movies, cartoons, advertisements . . . even 140 character tweets . . . Sherlock Holmes has solved mysteries in every single one of those formats, and not the same sixty mysteries every time, either. Little mysteries, big mysteries, minor mysteries that are a part of major mysteries. Kid mysteries, adult mysteries, famous people mysteries, animal mysteries . . . he is the guy who solves mysteries. The veritable god of mystery solving.

At this point, given the internet's wealth of tales, I think we've crossed the line past which it's even possible to count how many mysteries that Sherlock Holmes has solved. Just counting actors who have played Holmes has turned into a ridiculously epic quest for Howard Ostrom. Trying to count the number of mysteries Sherlock Holmes has solved across all mediums? That would take a fully staffed think tank with all manner of research assistants, one would think.

And then to categorize them. Oh, he's probably more into murder solving across the board than he was in the original Canon, thanks to the sensationalism of that particular crime, but how many times has he solved an almost-Red-Headed-League case? How many times has he solved a not-quite-but-sorta-Hound-of-the-Baskervilles thing? And how many different solutions to the Jack the Ripper business has he come up with over the years?

So many mysteries solved! But he's Sherlock Holmes, of course. He's not stopping now. Like McDonald's and hamburgers, his ongoing march to "one billion served" seems to have become an inevitability.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Post-221B Con 2016: Can't stop the posting!

Live from a hotel room on James Saunders Boulevard, somewhere between 221B Con and home! (And having dined with a member of the Sir James Saunders Society this weekend, that little Canonical co-inkey-dink is very appropriate.)

The long drive home from 221B Con is always a thoughtful time for me. I replay the weekend before in my head, compare it to Sherlockian weekends I've been to over the last 33 years, see what the new generations of Sherlockians are bringing to the hobby, and see what Sherlockiana can be like now that we've hit convention numbers and folks are actually willing to put cons together. (Not that a couple of past weekend organizers haven't come close -- there have been some great things done in weekend-symposium mode.)

After four years of this, 221B Con just keeps getting better and better. This isn't where you come for scholarly illumination (though there's a lot to educate anyone willing to pay attention), this is where you come to celebrate Sherlock Holmes and just see how everybody else is celebrating Sherlock these days. You celebrate an actor like David Nellist and what his Stamford means to the current iteration of BBC's Sherlock Holmes. You celebrate that Sherlock Holmes can be one sexy guy. (Whether in prose or in person as a burlesque dancer.) You celebrate the diversity of style, tastes, expressions, and joy that exists in our Sherlockian biosphere. And you celebrate what everybody celebrates at every Sherlockian event -- the bonds that connect us.

One thing I noticed this year at 221B Con: familiar faces. That may seem a little silly to say, but when you go to a conventnion that runs between six hundred and a thousand attendees, you don't know who most of the other attendees are, but you start to know their faces. One face might evoke the memory of a late night writing workshop that threw groups of strangers together for a writing exercise. Another face might give a flashback to a panel discussion you particularly liked about Moriarty. And some faces are just folks you may have gotten a quiet smile from in the elevator because you both knew, "Hey, you're a Sherlockian, too!"

But here's the thing about me and 221B Con: I don't think I've ever been ready for it.

The first year? Complete and total surprise. No one, not even the organizers, really knew what was coming.

The second year? Well, I missed it, even though I'd bought a membership. Seriously not ready.

The third year? Just coming off a few months of family crisis mode and it was a last-minute respite.

This, the fourth year? Just had my mind in a lot of places, especially at work, and didn't start thinking about it until the week or two before.

Next year, 221B Con's fifth year, I think it's time to go all out. As in, start the planning for it NOW. Start letting those panel ideas simmer. Get that one great cosplay idea for the costume exhibition night, and start gathering/making pieces for it. Start researching all those corners of fandom that had me scratching my head this year.(The acronyms! Oh, the acronyms!) See if I can . . . well, let's not get too crazy just yet.

But I'm not doing con-drop this year. I'm doing con-anticipation start.

221B Con FIVE already. Can you imagine? And if we get a season four Sherlock earlier in 2017 in the run-up to it?

Oh, it's on. It . . . is . . . on.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

221B Con 2016: The Last 221B Con Story . . . yeah, right.

Even as the good Carter and I came back from our morning stroll through the empty streets of Atlanta today, the first signs of departing Sherlockians became apparent. Even though 221B Con still runs until 5:00 PM, it's Sunday, and the work week is beckoning far too many with it's skeletal finger of . . . well, those things I'm not thinking about just yet. Because there is one panel left to go.

I could be in the "How to Podcast" panel right now, but having determined I need a partner or two to go down that road, it's not on my immediate to-do list. And also, saving the convention-chair tolerance up for that one last session.

Today began, for me, with a lively little panel on Sebastian Moran, where much consideration was made as to how one would adapt Doyle's original Moran to the modern BBC Sherlock version, since he has yet to appear. Moran's absence there makes for a fanfic character completely open for play, and a whole lot of people have tried a hand at it. Kim Newman's The Hound of the D'Urbervilles came up for the first time today, as it would again -- Sherlockian gatherings are always good for making you realize you had missed something, and picking that one up is on my to-do list for when I get home. (Yes, I could order from Amazon from here, but first things first.)

All the discussion of tiger hunting at the Moran panel made me wonder if the colonel ever hired out to stalk "tigers" like "the Tiger of San Pedro," Don Murillo from "Wisteria Lodge." But during the discussion, some had him rescuing tiger cubs, some had him dealing with addiction, and so many other thoughts swirled about him that I decided to save that thought for later. Good panel.

From there it was on to the Baker Street Babes interviewing David Nellist about playing Stamford and so many other things, like his kids' fear of the Abominable Bride, but as with Three Patch, you can hear all that online, so I won't get into it here. David Nellist continued to be quite the charming con guest, I will say that!

After that bigger session, I headed for my own little panel session, 'Old School Shipping: The Many Wives of John H. Watson," and I think it was the first room I was ever in all con that had more males in it than females. And given the scarcity of males at the con, that kind of shows how non-packed the house was. Still, we managed to have a pretty good time, wandered through theories old and new (The secret fangirl of the Canon! Replaceable Watsons!), and generally covered just how problematic Watson's love life is when you try to keep him hetero. (Johnlock solves so, so much.)

Shift change on the Jackson room came and the "Popularity of the Pastiche" panel rolled in -- Ashley Polasek, Amy Thomas, and Elinor Gray. (Two writers of pastiche, one reader, in reverse order.) A nice little intro on what differentiates "pastiche" from "fanfic" got the ball rolling, the definition of "pastiche" being something we apparently all have our own take on. (And the appearance of tenacles equals "no pastiche," according Ashley, in case you weren't clear on the tentacle thing.) Before they got to talking about good pastiche recommendations, however, they had to take a small detour into the wasteland of bad pastiche.

Apologetically, of course, because we live in a less pastiche-shaming culture than back in the 1980s.  Is it because we have more writers among us than ever before? Is it kindlier feminine influences on what was once a masculine-dominated hobby? I dunno, but when one of the three panelists gave an honest opinion of a certain over-rated 1970s blockbuster, she immediately gained a Twitter follower. (And may have inadvertently caused a new Sherlockian society called "The 93% Problem" to be born.) Anyway, good pastiches, bad pastiches, good panel.

After that, I had to get to a group photo of the members of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes at 221B Con. Two of us were boy Adventuresses, of course, because that's how we roll these days. And that segued into a sort of mini-A.S.H. luncheon in the bar, while a much larger event was going on in New York today. I finally had a "Scarlet Claw" cocktail, made by the con's bartending superstar, Josh, along with a Perimeter Burger and sweet potato fries. The Perimeter Marriott here does a nice job of a lot of things, including bar lunch.

But I digress. Winding down is taking place. Brain closing down.

The "Our Last Bow" panel is always well attended, because it's the only one during the last session, nobody wants to quite give up the ghost yet, and it's a good chance to show some appreciation to the organizers. A whole lot of positive comments this year, along with a truly wizard suggestion or two, and a sneak-in cameo by David Nellist (who is possibly, and according to IMDB, the only person ever to play Stamford). And then a great big ol' con selfie.

And then, done. Sigh.

I'm three out of four for 221B Cons, and I don't think I've ever gotten quite enough of the thing. I've always loved a good Sherlockian weekend, as well as a good fan-run convention. There's something organic to these cons, where one-of-a-kind moments can spring up out of nowhere. No year is the same as the year before, and next year will be different again. The 221B Con team may tighten up a few loose ends, do a little fine tuning, but it's a great environment to be a Sherlockian in. Hard to describe, even with the creative juices that get flowing on these weekends. But every time, I have to try . . . and never quite get it.

But, with any luck, I'll try again next year. Big thanks to everyone who organized, ran, volunteered, brought their talents, or just came to 221B Con this year. Good times.

221B Con 2016: Deep into Saturday night.

You can look at an event like 221B Con and see costumes. All day and all night costumes.

Within the hotel terrarium environment that is a con, fashion goes into R&D mode, even outside of the costume exhibition. It's beyond just Sherlock and John outfits. It's even beyond costumes. Within the bubble of an accepting populace, people just get to wear fun stuff for a change. I wore a deerstalker most of the day Saturday, and I never do that. (The complete headcanon behind my Saturday clothes were sort of "over-sized Victorian street urchin who stole a deerstalker from Sherlock Holmes and got some glasses from the next century from the Doctor.")

But when the proper costume exhibition comes on Saturday night, you get to see the really fun stuff. Sailor John and mermaid Sherlock. Severed head in the refrigerator. Watson's Victorian moustache walking around with a human host. (Said moustache being so big it actually bumped me in the elevator. That thing had presence!) All sorts of things, from all sorts of periods, from all sorts of universes. Were I more adept at getting photos from photo to Chromebook, I might put a few of them here, but, sadly, I can only apologize for leaving it to your imagination.

One of the things 221B Con does wonderfully is involve its guests in the proceedings, and David Nellist made an terrific host for the costume portion of the evening, a job which takes a good sense of humor and a ready-for-anything acceptance. His hosting really made the event all the more special for all involved, and we were all very grateful for it. The costume event was all-to-short, however, which left us time for more panels.

Panels go into the night on Saturday, though my sitting parts were about numb when nine o'clock rolled around, so I had to give it up. "Continuity Doyle" offered some discussion on familiar turf, and "Role-Playing 101" had insights into an area of fandom that has always intrigued me, yet never took off very well in Sherlockian generations prior to BBC Sherlock's.

As with Friday night, 221B Con revels continued into the night, in the karaoke pavilion, in the hotel bar, in the Three Patch suite, and the 24-hour con suite where the Tardis, the president, and the famous door to 221B hung out, but like I said earlier, my sitting-parts had reached their limit, so after a quick walking tour of the sites, I headed upstairs to continue contemplating the "Watson's wives" panel coming up on Sunday.

One more day . . .

Saturday, April 2, 2016

221B Con 2016, second report: This is where minds are blown.

"These youngsters go everywhere, and hear everything," Sherlock Holmes once said of his Baker Street irregulars. Of course, he was talking about the street urchins en masse, and not individually. Because if he was talking about them individually, I've going to become very upset for not getting in on their secret.

Halfway through 221B Con and I'm already missing things left and right. So many tracks going at once that you're always going to be forced to sacrifice one thing for another. A pleasant conversation at a dealer's table might cost you half a panel. Time is a dear currency here at 221B Con, and it slips through your fingers quicker than water.

Started the day with the Three Patch Podcast, recording live on shipping. So many good thoughts from both the panel and the audience, but what stood out for me was TPPer Caroline's description of her monogamous ship relationship with Johnlock and how she's not even sure why she loves the thought of Sherlock and John together. "It's like loving your mom and dad," she said, or something very much like it. It'll probably be coming out on their next podcast, so you can hear her real words their. There is both honesty and energy at these panels, and I tweeted something about feeling like I was at a 1930s party of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York -- so much, new, raw energy. Nobody going on about "the way it should be done" or how so-and-so did Sherlockiana way back when. Sherlock-love in its purest form, happening right here and right now.

From there, the dealer's room, where I missed half of the "Sherlock and the Kobayashi Maru" panel from pleasant conversation, as mentioned earlier. Crossing Sherlock over into other fandoms' classic situations is a great way to churn up the imagination, and that room for of Trekky (the adjective form) Sherlockians were full of great thoughts, even up to how Jeremy Brett's Holmes would handle the starship command no-win scenario. So much fun there.

When that panel got over, its door opened to find a mass of humanity flowing upstream in the hall outside -- the David Nellist Q&A had been relocated to the larger Pavillion area! We joined that throng headed to hear the BBC's own Stamford and the session came together very quickly, despite the move. A few microphone glitches were handled seamlessly, and David was very much enjoying answering questions from Crystal, who hosted the session (reminding me very much of a starship captain, after the Kobayashi Maru business) and the fans, who happily lined up with a goodly variety of inquiries. David Nellist was a wonderful guest and a great fit for 221B Con. (And we got to learn, among other things, the real reason he wasn't at Watson's wedding. I'm so sad for that!)

After that, another episode of S(her)lock: The Web Series, this time based on "A Case of Identity" -- S(her)lock being very good at bringing the old Canon into more modern times, then hunger struck and the Elementary panel in the hour after just wasn't going to work. But that was okay, because after fortifying myself with the good Carter's lunch leftovers, I headed down and got David Nellist's autograph in the lobby and talked with him a bit about a variety of subjects, such as America's penchant for giant portions in restaurants and our over-dependence upon cars in getting about. As I wrote on Twitter, a few more 221B Cons and I may yet get over my fear of celebrities (of both the acting and podcasting varieties!)

This just in from the good Carter -- David Nellist just did a cameo in the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company's play downstairs, as I type this -- one more bit I'm missing! (Definitely needing a blogger collective to cover this thing!)

After getting David's autograph, I picked up a copy of Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes by Elinor Gray, who seemed maybe a little surprised that vanilla-looking old male me would be buying a bit of porn-y gay dom-sub pastiche (yes, Holmes and Watson are hard at it in the first chapter, pun intended), but it's a big, big world out there and one has to look in on what everybody else is doing at some point, or what, really, is the point? After the first chapter, Compound a Felony certainly wasn't boring me, so I'm sure I'll continue. (Boredom is the crime by which most books lose my attention, moreso than anything else.) You get old enough, it seems like people are people and parts are parts, so one can almost pretend there are whatever gender you enjoy's bits in there somewhere.

And now I've got an autographed picture of Fred Grandy (of Love Boat fame) who played Sherlock once, as well as an Alfred Molina. My curious collection of Sherlock stars is growing, thanks to a certain collector who might have been mentioned before, who is letting his daughter liquidate some very fine things this weekend.

221B Con doesn't get boring, you can count on that if you keep moving. So back on the move I go . . . .

Friday, April 1, 2016

221B Con 2016: Return to the Heart of Sherlockness

It's a little trite, a little cliche, but I have to say it:

This isn't your grandpa's Sherlockiana any more.

It's 221B Con time again, bitches, and if you aren't open to having a little real Sherlockian fun, well, for one, you're probably not here. Not to say that you probably don't have a very good excuse, but, man, I don't see how people pass this thing up. I have to admit, it always scares me a little bit -- so much energy so very different from the Sherlockiana I came up with, at least on the surface. But then once you just step up and jump into the big ol' 221B Con pool, the water is really quite comfortable. And you might even start to swim.

Our long, and often detoured, drive down here got us to the Atlanta Perimeter Marriott just an hour before registration began and two hours before the programs started, and since we ran into Marilynne McKay early on and heard she was doing one of the first panels, on doctors in the Canon, we headed there and started the con with a dose of good solid Victorian medical expertise. Learned a few things, felt good about that, and then went for the entertainment.

S(her)lock, the web series, was back with new episodes, based on "Resident Patient" and "Devil's Foot." I enjoyed their very LGBTQIA-oriented take on Holmes, Watson, and Mrs. Hudson last year, and their new stuff showed both a lot of thought and a lot of talent, both behind the camera and in front of it. The case of Patricia Trevelyan added some 1990s era AIDS-related plotting to the original  -- S(her)lock takes place back in the 1990s -- to the tale of the resident patient and gave the story some real consequences, even for Sherlock. Helen Davies does a lovely job of putting Holmes's fire into a different body in a different era, and is a real treat to watch.

After that, the good Carter and I took a break for dinner with a fellow who knows more about Sherlockian actors than anyone else alive: Howard Ostrom. We didn't talk about that during dinner with Howard and his daughter Macy, because like so many other Sherlockians, he's got a lot of other colorful things going on in his life and the conversation ranged from pro wrestling to Rick Springfield to the obliquity of the ecliptic . . . well, we might have stopped before we got to that last one. After a good meal and a mandatory stop at Ali's Cookies (Any place with a cookie called "George Washington's Revenge" has got to be good, right? And it's even better.), we headed back to the Con.

I dove back into 221B Con with the tail end of "The Abominable Bride or Abominable special?" panel -- which was packed, as Sherlock-related content here tends to be. Make no mistake, the blazing energy that fires this con tends to be more BBC than Doubleday, but if you sit through any of these panels, you quickly come to understand that as much mental energy has gone into the study of the new Holmes as went into studying the old. It's a different thing, yes, but no less thoughtfully and intently undertaken. The new Sherlockiana cannot be dismissed as a passing fad these days by anyone who has paid real attention to it.

We followed that panel with that con-organizers' favorite, "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs," harkening back to the blaze of glory around the Asylum film that happened here last year. A twerking Tyrannosaurus Rex actually took over at one point, but, hey, it's Friday night, and the fun is just starting to crank up. And boy, was it cranking up this time.

At 10 PM came the "nerdlesque" burlesque show benefiting the Beacon Society, and . . . whoa. Just whoa. Hosted by a well-voiced faux-BBC-Sherlock, the Hysteria Machines, Atlanta's own nerdlesque troupe, took us through a pop culture tour of some amazing performances based on fan favorites from Penny Dreadful, Harry Potter, Kingsman, and more with an even mix of male and female performers. Sherlock Holmes giving in and doing his own striptease was something none of us ever thought we'd see done at this level of skill, and the show was the perfect climax to the first day of 221B Con. (Not to say there isn't still video, dancing, and other socializing still going on, even as I write this.)

I heard one first-timer passing by going on in amazement at "so many people like me in one place," and remembered that, yes, that is what these things are all about. (Burlesque Sherlock had a much better story about the mythical creation of 221B Con that ended with the words, "I want Tumblr to be real for three days," which is good, too, but still . . .)

But here's the other thing: sometimes you come to these things to remind yourself that yes, other people are like you, even if you seem very different on the surface.

On to day two . . .