Thursday, September 29, 2016

One more look at young Trevor.

With all the work going into turning male friendships into love affairs these days, the original facts can, perhaps, become a bit hazy if too long is spent away from the original source material.

So when the subject of Victor Trevor of "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" came up recently, I felt a definite need to go back and re-read the tale just to see if I had missed any obvious clues to a gay relationship Sherlock Holmes had during his college days.

The tale starts simply enough, with Holmes teasing Watson with some papers from a past case.

"This is the message which struck Justice of the Peace Trevor dead with horror when he read it."

He and Watson speak quite a bit about Justice of the Peace Trevor's death before the fact that the man had a son comes up. No "this is the note that struck Victor Trevor's father dead with horror." It isn't until Holmes settles in to tell the full tale, end-to-end, that the younger Trevor comes up, and even then it's more as just a device to get to the focus of the case more than a focus of Holmes's attention.

In fact, once Holmes gets from Trevor junior to Trevor senior, Sherlock is all about the judge with the interesting past: "The father interested me extremely." The fact that the elder Trevor had gained so much education from non-traditional sources, and was in the occupation of trying and sentencing criminal cases . . . there was a lot for Sherlock Holmes to gain from the father, enough that one has to wonder if J.P. Trevor was the reason Holmes accepted the invitation to begin with.

Like many another client from his cases, Holmes seems to be done with Victor Trevor once the mystery is solved and his college friend heartbroken at the hidden criminal past that put him at the station in life he was at. Trevor seemed to not really care to go back to London and carry on his friendship with Holmes after the business of his father's death was done, either.

One can play double-entendre games with "Gloria Scott" all day.

"Why should I study this case?" "Because it was the first in which I was ever engaged."

(Some have tried to engage Holmes to Victor Trevor's diptheria-victim sister.)

Victor "was a hearty, full-blooded fellow, full of spirits . . ."

(Another college boy drinks his way through higher education.)

"You remember my case . . . you remember something queer about it?"

(Perhaps not the first thing you want to hear the giant criminal in the next cell whispering to you.)

But in the end, the details of "Gloria Scott" don't seem to raise any special nostalgia in Sherlock Holmes, in the original Victorian account. What happened with Victor Trevor and the Sherlock Holmes who lived next to Speedy's Cafe in modern Britain, however, well, that is a tale that has a little more room for extrapolation, interpretation, and general modern fanfic myth-making.

Which seems to be happening quite a bit since 2010, enough to make one start having the occasional doubts about the originals. One more excuse to go back for another read, though, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

We're not Canon any more . . . well, that Canon.

There's a scene at the end of "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson encounter celebrities of their day.

"By Jove, Watson! I've got it!" Holmes cries excitedly and gets Watson to rush out of 221B with him. Watson records it like this:

"He hurried at his top speed down Baker Street and along Oxford Street, until we had almost reached Regent Circus. Here on the left hand there stands a shop window filled with photographs of celebrities and beauties of the day. Holmes eyes fixed themselves upon one of them . . . ."

This was apparently what one did if one wanted to see celebrities in the Victorian era, apart from buying a ticket to their show. Go to see a photograph in a shop window.

Sure, if a celebrity attained enough prominence, and one had the spare cash, a print could be obtained, as Watson did with his portraits of Henry Ward Beecher and General Gordon in "Cardboard Box." And there were always little renderings in magazines like The Strand which one could cherish.

But as I see this weekend's Twitter feed rolling out photos of celebrities posing with fans from London's "SHERLOCKED: The Official Convention" this morning, it seems like we've come such a long way from celebrity photos in a shop window as Holmes and Watson ran to see after the Milverton case.

And the fact that the greatest celebrity photo catch of all is the face of Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, or that the Cumberbatch parents have now added to their celebrity for parenting a Sherlock . . . and thus become photo-worthy . . . well, it's all quite a mind-boggler in context.

When the original Sherlock Holmes fans started organizing and celebrating the great detective back in the 1930s (the ones we have documented, not the anecdotal fans of the 1890s), part of their love of the Holmes stories was their own ties to those details from an era in which they once lived.

Now that Twitter is our shop window, and we can see dozens of individual fans posing right next to someone like our latest Lestrade, Rupert Graves (who seems to be a champion of celebrity photo interactions), those details of the original Canon seem so very far away. But seeing the face of Lestrade smushed up against the face of someone we might know or have seen at a con makes the new BBC Sherlock Canon seem so much closer to us.

And one final side note: Looking at those pictures and imagining it's Sherlock, Mycroft, Lestrade, etc., actually doing photo ops is kind of hysterical. It would be a great creative writing exercise to have people do fan fiction based on the thought that it's the character and not the actor in a single fan photo and explain the events therein.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Redeeming Sherlock Holmes.

Let's talk about true Sherlockian love for a moment.

We all know Watson put some really wonderful stories to paper when he wrote about his friend Sherlock Holmes. Classics. Stories that have lived through the centuries. (Yes, "centuries" . . . though it's not been 200 years yet, the 1800s, 1900s, and 2000s count!) Really, really good stories. For the most part . . . .

Mmm, yessss, there are those other stories.

I mean, we can all go on about "The Red-Headed League" or The Hound of the Baskervilles. A Study in Scarlet has that second part we don't care about, but, oh, that first part and our first chance to meet Sherlock Holmes. We have favorites. We have Irene Adler. And the words come so easy when we get to talk about those cases.

But anyone who's made it past Reichenbach knows also that there are some not-so-great stories. If you've made it through the entire Canon, you definitely have at least one stinker that comes to mind. And that's where Sherlockian love gets interesting.

Which is what's going to make Christopher Redmond's latest effort, About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story Is The Best, something that should be fun to read.

Chris gathered together sixty Sherlockian writers from all over the map to each write an essay about one of the sixty original Sherlock Holmes stories and explain exactly why it is the best of the bunch. Every single one of them. Even that one you really, really think is the worst.

It's one thing to do an appreciation of a story, even one of lower quality. But to try to make a case for it being the absolute best? That means every one of those sixty writers is going to be trying extra hard to find merit in stories normally dismissed with a casual wave. The good ones will be there, too, of course. And those really long sort-of boring ones that fall somewhere in between.

A lot of people have followed Conan Doyle's lead and made a list of their favorite Sherlock Holmes stories, but this book, About Sixty, is the first really great point in your Sherlockian life to reset that list. As you read the sixty essays, you can track your favorites and come up with a new list: the ten best cases made for a story being the best. And then, looking at that list next to your old top ten, you might even find one or two changes . . . don't be stubborn now . . . a couple of the essays Chris Redmond has gathered might just be that good.

Will the essay I did for the book be one of those? (Yes, I somehow managed to get some words published somewhere other than this blog.) Personally, I'm thinking my odds are pretty long. I got a story that definitely doesn't usually make anyone's top ten,  But I gave it my best, as I'm sure the other writers in the collection did as well. Which story? Well, I'll leave that as a mystery for the moment. I'm sure this won't be the last time that About Sixty gets a mention here.

Pre-order information from the publisher can be found here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fandom extends its shadowy reach.

You might have seen a headline or two like "Sherlock Wins TV Movie Award In Upset" this week. The basic story behind it is simple: Sherlock: The Abominable Bride was the unexpected Emmy award winner in its category. But there's a larger story behind it that's worth thinking about, as it reflects an ongoing shift in our society.

Just two years ago, the TV Emmy awards were selected by panels of judges. Last year, it changed to a more democratic ballot system, and this year that system was tweaked even further. As a result, the winners of this year's Emmy awards seemed to reflect a more fannish perspective. Not just shows that put out high-quality work, but also shows that got people excited. No longer did it seem like an exercise in serious old men consciously making serious choices about what we should all consider serious television.

No, Sherlock, Tatlana Maslany for Orphan Black, Kate McKinnon for Saturday Night Live, Patton Oswald, Louis Anderson in drag . . . and of course, Game of Thrones. Some of these may have won under the old system, but there was a fresher tone to the Emmy awards this year that seemed to reflect works that generate fans. Because even though the voters for the awards are members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, a whole lot of them are still fans, too. More every year.

In a world where Star Trek fans have gotten to grow up and work on Star Trek movies, and where a couple of self-described Sherlock Holmes fan-boys got to create a modern-day Sherlock TV show, there are fans throughout the industry that created those fans. If it didn't make absolute sense, it would almost seem like a shadow conspiracy invasion.

It would be lovely to see the Emmys movie counterpart loosen up in the same manner. Or maybe another aged institution or two, but who knows? As the shadowy tentacles of fandom slowly wind their weaving way into our culture, the Emmys is definitely not the last place we'll see change taking place.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Jemmy Night 2016.

With what looked like an empty Sunday evening ahead, I stumbled into the fact that the Emmy Awards were going to be on TV tonight, which meant the first name of Sherlock Holmes was sure to be mentioned a couple of times. As with its predecessors, this year's BBC Sherlock offering is again in the nominees list -- six total. And of those six, only a couple are going to come up on the big show, which makes for a lot of waiting for the Sherlockian who doesn't care that Benedict Cumberbatch isn't even going to be sitting in the audience.

Of course, this year . . . pause to see Stephen Moffat holding up the Emmy for "Abominable Bride" and let the happy wash over me . . . .

Okay, screw what I was originally going to write, that was worth an hour and forty minutes of sitting through the rest of the Emmys. (And I did enjoy seeing Kate MacKinnon be only the fourth SNL actor to get one for that show.)

BBC Sherlock always looks like such a labor of love, it's nice to see that love rewarded.

But here's what I started to wonder, back when I was waiting forever for that moment to happen: Why don't we have a "Jemmy Awards" for Sherlockian entertainments? I mean, a "Monsieur Oscar Meunier Awards" works Canonically, too, but is both too long and too similar in that key part to a certain other award.

I suppose it's because we don't have an Academy of Sherlockian Arts & Sciences. We have arts. We have sciences. But I guess we're missing the academy. Do those big award shows actually have academies where people study and train? I dunno. Maybe that isn't a requirement. But that would be so very cool . . . even if it only existed for one weekend a year, like a con. "Going to the Sherlockian academy this year to polish my Sherlockian skills!"

Of course, Sherlockiana would probably need to make the sort of money every year as the television or movie industries to be able to hire a lot of it done, and at the present moment we're all still writing our own material when it comes to toasts and talks. (At least I think most of us are . . . ) Living up to that "Academy" title can't be cheap.

But enough rambling for one awards night. Big congrats to all the folks that make Sherlock happen for us, and all those fans who make it so much bigger than the Emmy folks even know. That's probably the real award out there.

Sherlock Holmes and the East End Nightmare

I was a bit surprised to find an Amazon package sitting on my chair after returning from the odd Saturday of work yesterday. I didn't think Lyndsay Faye's upcoming collection was out yet, and that was the only pre-order I recalled currently having with the online behemoth. And yet, there it was.

Opening the package, I found a book the size of a comic book trade paperback entitled Pulp Adventures #22.

"Ah, a pulp magazine!" I thought, and started running down all of my previous connections with pulp fiction to see if any link made sense for this showing up at my desk, and found none. As I was overdue for dinner, a quick flip through it was all I had time for, and still found no reason that I would receive such a gift. Could the mighty Amazon have made an error?

It wasn't until late last night that I returned to this little mystery and gave the book a more careful perusal. The opening editorial gave no clues, and I began paging through the stories, one by one. Ane eventually I found my answer on page 88:

"Whitechapel shared a collective tremble when the first note arrived at H division: 'From Hell . . .'

"Jack the Ripper terrorized London in 1888, and his true identity eluded the authorities. Naturally they turned to Sherlock Holmes, soon-to-be legendary for his astounding reasoning and deductive powers. Aided by his inscrutable raconteur, Dr. John Watson, the detective follows a bloody trail through the alleyways of London's red-light district."

Those words introduced a story entitled "Sherlock Holmes and the East End Nightmare," and I realized that someone had made a horrible, horrible mistake. As any Elementary fan knows, there's a reason I don't do reviews very often here in Sherlock Peoria. I've seen too much at this point, and my eye no longer has the freshness required for a proper review of a Sherlock Holmes story that is in any way similar to the thousand other Holmes stories I've read. And Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper? While that case may have been missing from the original Canon, Holmes's fans have made up for that absence in spades. I would guess that Sherlock Holmes has fought the Ripper in print nearly as much as he's fought Moriarty . . . and the results are never completely satisfying.

My personal problem with Holmes and the Ripper stories is that, unless you're new to the game, you know the Ripper case far too well. The same cycle of victims. The fact he was never caught. The way real-life events do not follow the everything-toward-the-goal construction of good fiction. And that is the mindset of the person who started reading "Sherlock Holmes and the East End Nightmare" by Adam Beau McFarlane.

The tale fits a pulp adventure perfectly. Doing the Ripper murders as a short story helped move things along at a pace that didn't lose me, as some novel-length versions have. (Like I said, been there, done that with the victim list and their various atrocities.) The story's one "Why would Holmes . . . ?" actually contributes to its conclusion, so I was satisfied enough with that. And it does give Holmes and Watson a solid reason to solve the case and keep quiet about it, even keeping the illogic of a Ripper-type killer in place.

Those who collect Holmes/Ripper battles will want to add this one to their collections, I'm sure, as it possesses distinctive features that completists look for. As Holmes pastiches go, well, it's a Holmes pastiche, and I will leave other judgments to you, along with the choice of paying $12.95 for a single Holmes story in a collection. (Haven't read the others yet, so no comment there.)

Hmm, now I'm wondering if there is Holmes/Ripper porn out there in fanfic land . . . not that I want to read it, mind you, just wondering if we've actually gone that far into AUs now. ("Even though the Ripper had killed many a prostitute, John could not resist inviting Jack into the bed he and Sherlock shared . . .") Ah, well.

On pastiches go . . . .

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Conan Doyle's ending shortcuts.

It's a pretty well known thing that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wasn't tremendously fond of the guy that made him famous. We also know what Doyle did to Sherlock Holmes after he'd plowed through a couple of dozen short stories at a rate of one a month: The death story.

Doyle didn't seem to want to spend any more time with Sherlock Holmes than he had to, and you can plainly see that in the hiatus between the early 1890s and the 1900s. But have you ever stopped to think about how Conan Doyle bailed out of stories before they finished on a regular basis?

Take "The Five Orange Pips," for example. A man comes to Sherlock Holmes fearing for his life.

Sherlock Holmes listens to John Openshaw's tale of a mysterious threat, does a little detectivework, and figures out where the threat is actually coming from and exactly who is behind it. John Openshaw is suddenly murdered in the course of things, and in a proper story, Sherlock Holmes would then proceed to catch the killer he has identified . . . if there was more story-time for him to do it in. But how does the tale end?

"Walp, I guess the killer got away. Oh, wait! A storm at sea sank his ship, so it's all okay and we didn't really need to do anything."

There's a whole chunk of "The Five Orange Pips" that should exist, but doesn't. Instead of Sherlock Holmes tracking down a killer and apprehending him, we get "oh, yeah, a storm finally got him." I suppose that's better than "We eventually learned that Captain Calhoun died of old age on his ranch in Texas. Go, Justice!" but not by much.

And "Five Orange Pips" isn't the rare exception. Doyle decides to shortcut endings right and left.

Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes together both fail to see the villains captured in "The Greek Interpreter." Holmes and Watson eventually get a newspaper story where two guys got stabbed in Budapest and we're left to assume that was the bad guys getting their just desserts. It's not like Sherlock Holmes didn't go to Europe on occasion for a case. It's not like he didn't have contacts in the police departments of European countries.

"The Engineer's Thumb" is even worse. "Well, those guys got away. No rumors of them dying mysteriously later or anything. Yep, just got away."

But maybe expecting a Sherlock Holmes investigation to continue until a criminal is actually caught may be to much to expect. I mean, he's there to solve the mystery, right? Mystery solved, his job is done. Sure, maybe a snake or dog or some quicksand might take out the criminal, but I can't help but feel like someone was taking the rest of the day off.

Was it Holmes's actual style of case-ending, Watson getting bored with the writing part, or the literary agent who was trimming down Watson's accounts?  I don't know, and I suppose I could look into this further, but I think I'm going to take the rest of the day off . . .

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Return of the Most Canonical Man in the Canon.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today's blog is provided by Don Murillo, the Tiger of San Pedro, at his own request. Don Murillo has been hired by Sherlock Peoria to begin weekly appearances starting in October, but he just could not wait to get his bonafides before the readership. His views on "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge" are, at least, somewhat . . . interesting.

They call me "the most Canonical man in the Canon," which I am to understand inspired those who advertise the Three X brewery company many years later. But you knew this!

It is I, Don Murillo, the Tiger of San Pedro! Hallo! The hero of "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge!"

Many of you readers of the Sherlock Holmes stories have been confused by Don Murillo in the past. This is not surprising! For I am the man who met Sherlock Holmes in 1892 . . . and caused him so much consternation that he did not resume his career in detection until 1894! Most assume it was that poor drunken card playing Moran that Mr. Sherlock Holmes avoided London for . . . have you ever seen the man? Without his professor, he was no match for even the likes of Aloysius Garcia, much less Sherlock Holmes!

For how did Sherlock Holmes describe his encounter with me?

"The most singular of them all." 

Yes, roll that around in your little heads, my friends. "The most singular of them all." And he did not stop there!

"Strong, active . . . the step of a deer and the air of an emperor -- a fierce, masterful man, with a red-hot spirit!"

Oh, and pay heed to that particular statement from Mr. Sherlock Holmes: "I managed to see him on a plausible pretext, but I seemed to read in his dark, deep-set, brooding eyes that he was perfectly aware of my true business."

It was 1892! I had read "The Speckled Band" in The Strand Magazine, not a week before and the likenesses by the artist Paget were quite accurate.

Mr. Sherlock Holmes from the latest Strand

What a thrill it is to defeat assassins and then be visited by England's greatest defeater of assassins in the same week! Of course, we who defeat assassins are a private society, and must not acknowledge each other aloud, but I am sure Mr. Sherlock Holmes understood exactly what my knowing wink passed between us!

I spoke to my eldest daughter Isadora, then thirteen, that he might make a fine father for assassin-defeating children, but she was, at that time, so fond of golden syrup that she was determined to marry a sugar magnate before her fourteenth birthday. We Murillos have such power in our blood that we blossom early, and she was as strong-willed at thirteen as I at fifty.

But let us not talk of Isadora's misadventures, or those of her sister . . . oh, do not speak to me of that girl! . . . we are here to renew our acquaintance, as unnecessary as that surely seems. I am Don Murillo, after all, the most Canonical man in the Canon!

How many other men or women of my era were both a part of Sherlock Holmes's investigation in one year, and then had their papers . . . just their papers! . . . as the heart of a Sherlock Holmes investigation two years later?

Was it two? Was it three? No! just one, and his name is Don Murillo!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Lukewarm is no good."

A Roald Dahl quote rolled through my social media feed this morning that so clearly stated thoughts I was having about Sherlockiana this weekend that I had to bring it to the blog:

"I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be."

It's a little disappointing sometimes to see Sherlockians who are restraining their passion. You know they have it, because they'll occasionally let some little snark slip out like a fart they just can't hold in, but on the whole, they keep a very measured, very even demeanor, never offending, never bursting out with any of those ridiculous things we say in a moment of excitement. There's a politic sensibility to it, as if Sherlockiana were a campaign where there was some office to be won.

And, honestly, there is an office to be won in one part of Sherlockiana . . . the Baker Street Irregular shilling. An invitation to the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York, and an eventual membership therein. You have to get on the good side of at least one member to get nominated and on the good side of somebody higher up to get in. So one could see why a Holmes fan might hold back a little bit of their true enthusiasm, a certain politic holding-back in Sherlockian dealings by those who seek to rise in that particular rank in the old system.

And we must also deal with the other side of the coin . . . the fact that Sherlockiana isn't just all old white guys any more. Freely ranting from a white male point of view isn't really cool these days. And if you find yourself holding back for those reasons too often, it might just be time to explore a few different points of view. Try to wrap your head around how others see the world . . . a serious attempt at that will never leave you without some meaningful improvements. You might even get cooler.

But when all these things have been considered, and the topic of Sherlock Holmes comes up . . . when you feel the blood rising in your chest and your heart is about to explode with emotions about this hobby we deeply, deeply love (else why would I be writing this stuff every week, or you reading it) . . . find a way to explode it into the universe.

No one, not even Olympic athletes, runs without the occasional fall. Sure, you could walk everywhere at a careful pace. But if you never cut loose, if you never find a place to let go of the bright and shiney Sherlockian that's inside of you, well, that can be a slower ache than the sharp pain of the occasional fall.

Sherlock Holmes burned white hot. How can his fans not take his cue?

Thank you to every one of you who's there already. And a raised glass and a "Here's hoping!" to any that are left.

The game is afoot, you know.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Web of Spiderlock

There is a trend in the words of Sherlock Holmes that might be worth notice: his webs.

Yes, Sherlock Holmes has webs. Like a spider-man. Figuratively? Probably. But attend.

Inspector Athelney Jones is the first person in the Canon of Holmes to spin, in The Sign of the Four:

"You see that I am weaving my web round Thaddeus. The net begins to close up on him."

Holmes eventually cuts Thaddeus free from Jones's web, but then it not above spinning one of his own, in "The Five Orange Pips:"

"I think that we may gain that by means of the law: but we have our web to weave, while theirs is already woven."

And later: "No; I shall be my own police. When I have spun the web they may take the flies, but not before."

Looking at the probable dates of the tales, Holmes was surely spinning his web before Jones. (Fi on thee, single-spouse chronologists!) And how does that web-spinning go?

Not well for Sherlock Holmes. Not well at all. His client dies and he must depend upon Mother Nature's whims to dispense justice. Almost as if Mother Nature was telling him to stick with compounding the spirit of the busy bee and stay out of spider territory.

For after "The Five Orange Pips," Sherlock Holmes does not play the spider again. But Moriarty . . . ah, Moriarty is always Holmes's spider. The Valley of Fear, "The Final Problem," and even a memorial moment in "The Norwood Builder."

After Sherlock's web was first brought to my attention by the Sherlockian sages of St. Louis this weekend, I had dreams of discovering a Sherlock whose chemical experiments led to him being bitten by a radium-affected spider, but following his webs . . . or just the appearance of that word . . . leads just where we always thought it did, to where that "poisonous motionless creature is lurking."

Holmes was told by Inspector MacDonald that "you have a wee bit of a bee in your bonnet over this Professor." Interestingly, before MacDonald's comment, I don't think we have any evidence of Holmes studying bees. And what happens when a bee goes after a spider?

The same thing Watson recorded happening at Reichenbach falls. Both die.

Maybe not the best strategy for dealing with spiders, but it gets the job done. Especially, if, like Sherlock Holmes, you're not really a bee . .  . but a wasp.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Did Mrs. Watson live on Baker Street?

My recent consultation with the Sherlockian sages of St. Louis brought a curious thesis into my head. We were discussing "The Five Orange Pips" and the story's point in the Holmes-Watson relationship, about which Watson writes:

"My wife was on a visit to her aunt's, and for a few days, I was a dweller once more in my old quarters in Baker Street."

The general assumption about that line has always been "Watson is married and living somewhere other than Baker Street." (The general question, of course, is "How is his wife on a visit to her aunt's when Mary Morstan had no living relatives?")

Later in the story, Watson also writes: "Sherlock Holmes was already at breakfast when I came down."

That word "down" set off a train of thought that would not be stopped . . . those who re-create the Baker Street rooms take this to mean Watson's bedroom is on the third floor of the building . . . but wouldn't that third floor be 221C Baker Street?

Let's go back to that first line again. Watson says "I was a dweller in my old quarters." We always take that to mean "living in my old quarters" rather than "hanging out in the old sitting room with Sherlock," which it could also be interpreted as. But at the end of the day of hanging out with his old pal, since he had no wife to spend time with, Dr. Watson goes back upstairs to his own apartment to sleep at 221C Baker Street.

We know that Watson eventually bought a practice in the Paddington district following his marriage to Mary Morstan, thanks to details in "The Stockbroker's Clerk." But we also know that Mary didn't have an aunt to visit. So if John Watson had a wife before Mary, then it only follows that he had a different residence as well. And if he married said previous wife at a time when he was more actively involved with Holmes's cases and not yet interested in starting a practice, as 1887 seems to have been, well, is it unreasonable to wonder if Watson just moved with his new bride to some other part of 221 Baker Street, where the landlady and the lay of the land were familiar and agreeable?

And Watson was then just upstairs and at the ready, so when his partner in criminal investigation needed him, he could be right there. Recall, too, that Christmas 1887 marked the publication of A Study in Scarlet, so Watson probably saw himself as having a budding career as an author . . . something that plainly didn't work with either this wife distracting him or Holmes being critical of his work. His later works come after he seems to have given up on that plan and returned to medical practice for his regular income, first writing up Mary Morstan's tale for her pleasure, then resuming writing of his cases with Holmes after Holmes "dies" at Reichenbach Falls.

But in 1887, the time of "Five Orange Pips," all these things had yet to come to pass. Watson was still very close to Holmes, and quite possibly, Mrs. Watson might have been living very close to the detective as well . . . at 221C Baker Street.

What was it that Holmes always said? "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Well, I don't think a Mrs. Watson living with John at 221C Baker Street is either impossible or eliminated just yet . . . .

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A visit to the Parallel Cases of St. Louis.

I don't think I've ever been to a Sherlockian meet-up in the early afternoon before, and that's a pity.

Sure, there are those all day affairs, when one listens to speakers or panels, but to show up at 2 P.M. on a Saturday and talk Sherlock for an hour or two? I really don't think I've done that. And it was amazing how well that format works.

With that unusual thing called "a free Saturday" this week, I drove down to St. Louis where I had lunch with Rob Nunn and the founder of the Parallel Cases of St. Louis, Mr. Joseph J. Eckrich (I'm not usually so formal in speaking about Joe, but his founder role seemed to call for it.) and then headed down the street to the library for the group's September meeting on "The Five Orange Pips."

As long as I can remember, Sherlockian society meetings have always been in the evening. Sometimes involving dinner, many times not, and filling the evening like any other social gathering . . . which is probably why the topic of conversation at so many of them often runs away from the subject of Sherlock Holmes. It's in the evening, you're gathering with friends, people bring non-Sherlockian dates or spouses, conversation wanders. It's only natural.

But in the afternoon, in a library meeting room, where every single person has gathered for no other purpose than to talk Sherlock? Well, you talk Sherlock!

And with a right-sized group ranging diversely in age and backgrounds, there was good Sherlock talk to be had. The enthusiasm of my fellow attendees for the story of Sherlock Holmes and those five orange pips gave a freshness to the tale that I haven't felt in years, remembering what it was like to consider the stormy atmosphere and suspenseful nature of the mystery Holmes is called upon to solve . . . only to fail.

Details came up that sparked ideas for later consideration . . . not without comment to the Parallel Cases, of course . . . but I typed several notes into my phone for future expansion as time allows. (Most of which will show up here.) And I was inspired to bring a bit of St. Louis's spirit back to Peoria for future endeavors here.

It was good to see that Sherlockian spirit still going on in St. Louis, a city with some really great Sherlockian moments in its past. Riverboats, Jeremy Brett, and a "Holmes Under The Arch" convention that never really took place under the St. Louis Arch (for which I hope the truth-in-advertising police have finally forgiven us), and I hope to get back again one day soon.

Sherlock Holmes is people. (And people is plural.)

There is a movie that no one ever needs to watch again for the simple reason that it's a couple hours of a guy figuring out that the new kind of crackers are made from people. If you ever have heard or read any reference to that film at this point, it's pretty much been spoiled for you, because the movie's only worthwhile quote is the main character's "CRACKERS ARE PEOPLE!" shout at the end of the movie. I thought of that movie this morning, as I came to the very "duh" realization that . . . .


Not in the way that Arthur Conan Doyle ground people up and processed their nutrients to make Sherlock Holmes, although I suppose one could make a metaphoric case for it. But in the way that everything we have of Sherlock Holmes comes from multiple people and the connections between them. Sure, one guy wrote a book, but like that fabled tree in the forest, is a book truly a book if no one ever reads it? The whole point of a book is to pass thoughts from one person to at least one other person. And as soon as more than one person enters the picture, you immediately have . . .


Which is why, no matter how much any one of us would like to define, regulate, or quantify just what is or is not Sherlock Holmes, or what is or is not a Sherlockian, or what is or is not a Baker Street Irregular, that effort will fail. And fail again. And fail again.

Because Sherlock Holmes is people. And different people all the time.

It isn't just actors taking the role for a time, followed by other actors. It's fans, taking up the love of Holmes for a time, followed by other fans. It's writers, penning stories or articles for a time, followed by other writers. It's artists, and poets, and musicians, and people who don't create anything more than their own viewpoint of Sherlock Holmes. People. So many people.

No matter how important we might think a single person was to the history of Sherlock Holmes, no one person is the history of Sherlock Holmes . . . that much is easy to see. When we look to the future of Sherlock Holmes, however, that ever-shifting legion of people who literally are Sherlock Holmes is much harder to see, as it always is with the future.

There is a tendency among certain Sherlockian personalities to want to try to set the patterns for the future of Sherlock Holmes: This is what a Sherlock Holmes story is. This is who a true Sherlock Holmes fan is.  Without the words "for me" attached, such statements always seem vain attempts to lock down the past, to freeze it in carbonite in an attempt to make it last into the future, when the future might require something completely different. Because there will be different people in the future. And people are Sherlock Holmes.

The past was people. The future will be other people. And all of them, you, me . . . him . . . are a part of what makes up Sherlock Holmes. At the end of that movie I mentioned at the start of this rather obvious thesis, the main character, also known for being pissed off at humanity at the end of another iconic film, shouts his desperate cry that the powers that be are tricking people to eat crackers made of people. With Sherlock Holmes, however, that shout of revelation isn't a desperate plea to spread a hidden truth, but more of a celebratory exclamation of something most knew all along:


Happy Sherlock Holmes People Saturday, people.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The "StarTrekking" of Sherlockiana.

During its fiftieth anniversary week, Star Trek is definitely predominating my thoughts, and the latest incursion of Trek into my Sherlockian brain is a lovely little article entitled "Women who love 'Star Trek' are the reason modern fandom exists."

My immediate reaction to that headline was "YES!" And I was immediately rocketed back to a time when William Shatner was hosting Saturday Night Live in 1986 and a Star Trek convention was being portrayed. The con was being shown as all male nerds who referred to the episodes by numerical abbreviations, a trope that any parody of fandom at the time just loved to repeat. Having been to many a Trek convention by that time, my immediate reaction was "Where are all the women?" because that was who tended to dominate the cons.

Sherlockiana in 1986 was another story. We did refer to the Sherlock Holmes stories by abbreviations and America's Sherlock Holmes fan flagship was a boys club with a virtual "No Girls Allowed" sign on its clubhouse. The Shatner skit on SNL was definitely showing the male side of fandom, but it wasn't showing the true face of Star Trek fandom.

Star Trek's first couple episodes are very female-dominant: a salt monster uses female form and its subsequent relationships with men to gain salt to survive, an adolescent with god-like powers has to be taught to respect women and that "no means no." Compare that to Sherlock Holmes, whose first two "episodes" are almost completely male-centered, even if a token woman with no part in the action inspires the action. It wasn't until the start of the short stories, where Irene Adler steps on stage in Holmes and Watson's true "first episode" that their series takes off. Is it any wonder that both of these series gathered female fans around them, when other male-created legends did not?

It would be hard to say that Star Trek would not have a fandom at all if its fans were only male, as Saturday Night Live depicted, but that fandom would plainly be smaller, less con-social, and have not nearly so much fan fiction in it . . . kind of like Sherlockiana was before BBC Sherlock added a whole new wing to the edifice. Yes, yes, Sherlockiana was fine before . . . except for that "boys only" club bullshit . . . but looking at what Star Trek fandom has given the world through its culture is a nice way to look at what that entire style of fanning is bringing to Sherlockian culture.

It is interesting to note that the term "Sherlockian" surely came from inside our little cult, while "Trekkie" came from outside theirs. Had we started in a larger 1960s TV-based movement, we would undoubtedly be called "Sherlockies" or something similarly dismissive. In fact, one of the first appearances of the word "Trekker" in 1970 almost sounds like something a Sherlockian might say in trying to differentiate themselves from what they see as a mere fan: ". . . when I start acting like a bubble-headed trekkie (rather than a sober, dignified -- albeit enthusiastic -- trekker.)"

As someone who could have fallen into Star Trek fandom just as fully as I fell into Sherlock Holmes fandom had the latter not existed, it has always been fascinating to me to compare and contrast the two, but more and more these days, I find them becoming closer than ever before, with Star Trek aging gracefully and Sherlock finding a youthful rejuvenation with BBC Sherlock.

And that's a very good thing.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Awkward conversation with a pair of Mormons.

Out for a walk tonight, heading down through the sidewalk cafes of Peoria Heights from the Heights Tower, I was just finishing up when I encountered a couple of young Morman gents.

They were out on their mission, as any pair of young men in ties on a Peoria street tend to be, and were eager to talk to me about their faith. Now, not being an extrovert by nature, getting into a conversation with a couple of strangers on the street at night can be awkward enough. But with all the backstory running through my head at the same time . . . it got a little hard to have an open conversation through all the background chatter.

Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson come quickly to mind, and I've been to Nauvoo, and even bought an old copy of A Study in Scarlet there, and I'm going to St. Louis this weekend where Jefferson Hope came from, and he killed a pair of Mormons in London, you know, but I don't think they were missionaries like the ones in The Book of Mormon . . . the musical, of course, and not the holy text, which I haven't read, but I did read One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church by Richard Abanes, a fascinating historical account of the evolution of the church, but a lot of bad things happened along that route, which makes it much more uncomfortable than Drebber and Stangerson, who merely got to take poison pills after a nice trip to London . . . .

Not that religion is all that easy to talk about on the spur of the moment in any case, but having a bunch of A Study in Scarlet mental bits at hand to spark an avalanche of Mormon trivia that comes with profanities and castrations (not the Study in Scarlet part) . . . well . . . anyone want to talk politics?

We weren't thirty feet from a large bust of Abraham Lincoln in the park, so I suppose there was that politician at hand.

Though, J. Neil Gibson looked like him and Gibson's suicidal wi . . . oh, spoilers . . . and I disagree with Zeisler's dating of that "Thor Bridge" anyway . . . and . . .

It's no wonder fans are so often portrayed as socially awkward.

Anyway, if you want a copy of The Book of Mormon, the number to call is 888-537-2200 . . . I can at least help those young gentlemen out that much, even if I wasn't a good conversationalist this evening.

Saeloc Holmes and Chom Omston.

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the first episode of TV's Star Trek today, I decided to go back and read a story from 1983 about a case one of Holmes's descendants investigated upon the Starship Enterprise. Why not watch Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, where Spock cites Sherlock Holmes as an ancestor, or one of those Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes where Data dresses up like Sherlock instead of reading this particular story?

Because the story, "The Case of the Scandalous Starship," came first, and because I am both quite fond of the author and the tale's original target audience . . . myself being the writer and the good Carter being its intended reader.

"The Case of the Scandalous Starship," which was published in Holmesian Federation 4, a very pretty little fanzine of the 1980s, of the sort where typesetting was done on typewriter and then decreased in size with a printer's camera to be able to be printed on half of an 8 and 1/2 by 11 inch sheet, then printed with actual ink on paper. (Rather than toner at Kinko's once things got easier to publish.)

The story itself is a light parody mystery in which Janice Rand dies from falling off the starship. It's full of the sort of inside jokes that only those who had watched a TV show over and over and over again would even get, but we were those people back in the 1980s. There was only one three season Star Trek show to watch, and we watched it over and over and over again, as local stations loved to fill late afternoon time slots with it.

Saeloc Holmes and his friend Chon Omston came from the planet Hagbard, which I immediately recognized as the influence of the Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illluminatus trilogy. Saeloc Holmes was an old school-mate of Spock's from the Vulcan Science Academy who liked to vex the Vulcan by shooting rubber bands at his nose. What vexed Spock even more was that even though he graduated highest in his class, he was merely the highest Vulcan in his class, falling second to Holmes.

The mystery itself revolves around the starship Enterprise's bowling alley, that odd part of the ship that didn't appear in the show, but showed up on the ship's blueprints which had been published and bought up by eager fans of the day. The idea of a bowling alley on a starship seemed pretty ridiculous to me at the time, which was part of the inspiration for the tale.

At this late date, one might almost think the tale's villain, Otto Bender, was a tribute to Futurama, but no, I'm not nearly that psychic (and Futurama Bender's last name turned out to be "Rodriguez"). Outside of Bender, the tale is populated with minor characters who did appear in in original show, along with a drunken Scotty and a slightly necrophiliac Dr. McCoy, all of whom Saeloc Holmes must deal with to solve the case.

If the fiftieth anniversary of a television show you remember the first episode isn't enough to make one feel the years, looking back on a Holmes parody one wrote in their twenties certainly will. Not because it's a bad little story, but just because it shows influences that have long ago ceased to dominate one's life.

And yet Sherlock Holmes remains. Decades later, Sherlock Holmes remains. As does Star Trek, as well.

And looking back at the revelations of the time in between, I now know that Saeloc Holmes vexed Mr. Spock all the more because they were distant cousins, part of what was apparently a prodigious progeny of our favorite great detective. Because we always knew Sherlock Holmes would carry on into the future, even that of the starship Enterprise. (Thought for a fanfic anthology -- a Holmes in all the various fictional futures, Mad Max, Bladerunner, Battlestar Galactica . . .)

So happy fiftieth anniversary to Star Trek, forever seventy-nine years behind Sherlock Holmes, but having a fandom that had crossed over into ours since at least 1970 on paper (With the publication of Priscilla Pollner's "Holmes Was A Vulcan"? Anything before that?) and surely before that in the minds of many a Sherlockian Trekkie. It's been a good fifty years.

Monday, September 5, 2016


'Tis the season.

I'm not sure if we blame Starbuck's for starting the pumpkin spice invasion of autumn, but I'm sure they had something to do with that flavor's initial incursion. Now that we're practically on the verge of renaming "autumn" to "pumpkin spice time," however, I think it may be time for Sherlockians to start forming their underground cells for the eventual revolution.


Not because I couldn't even finish a quarter of that package of pumpkin spice Oreos last year. That's my personal cross to bear. No, pumpkin spice is a bane for Sherlockians because . . . well, just look at how citizens of Watsonian lore referred to it in the Canon.

Here's the pumpkin: "I had sprung for the poker, and it was a fair fight between us. See here on my arm where the first blow fell. Then it was my turn, and I went through him as if he had been a rotten pumpkin." -- from "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange."

Yuck. But that's not the end of it. You won't find "spice" in the Canon, but you will find some of its individual ingredients. Take cloves for example: "They are for use of horses; but they are shaped below with a cloven foot of iron . . ." from "Priory School." Could we find a more demonically tainted use of "clove?" I think not.

And the spice of the Canon's pumpkin spice isn't even just demonic. It's racist.

Cinnamon. Where can we find our cinnamon?

"Silver Blaze" and it goes like this: "Mr. Heath Newton's The Negro (red cap, cinnamon jacket)."

Ick yuck poo.

For ginger you have to go to the big ginger moustache of Anderson the village constable from "Lion's Mane," and you know both the soul-less reputation of gingers and the unappetizing thought of moustache hairs in your latte.

Dr. Watson and friends were trying to subtly warn us about pumpkin spice. How it will ruin a man's brain, how it's demonic, racist, and just plain gross. And we, as Sherlockians, should heed him and take up the fight when the anti-pumpkin spice revolution comes!

Because, well, what less silly thing do you have to do . . . get involved with presidential politics?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sherlockians are certainly blessed with food.

With the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek this week and the good Carter's particular proclivities, I found myself putting together a social event on that side of things for last night, and after all of that, the simple act of making myself breakfast brought me Sherlockian joy for one simple reason:

Our food and drink.

I poured myself a nice tall glass of iced tea this morning and thought, with a bad Russian accent, "Women not his glass of tea." I have that thought most times I pour a glass of tea, thanks to the movie The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

In the same way, I always find Arby's the most Canonical fast food, as it evokes the line from "The Beryl Coronet" that describes when Sherlock Holmes "cut a slice of beef from the joint upon the sideboard, sandwiched it between two rounds of bread, and thrusting this rude meal into his pocket, he started off upon his expedition." The phrase "rude meal" is perfect for an Arby's drive-thru run.

My point in all this is, as a Sherlockian, the eating comes easy. And the drinking as well.

Trying to prepare a menu for a Star Trek function is pretty awful. Impossible liquors that nobody really wants to drink. Klingon live worm dishes. Something called "plomeek soup" which wouldn't be party food even if you could make it. There are no solid go-to menu items for Star Trek.

But for Sherlock Holmes?

Go to the liquor store, pick out a wine or three referred to in the Canon. Some may be a little trickier to find, but it can be done. Our list of staples includes enough things to make all sorts of edibles. Cheese, eggs, biscuits, butter, oranges, foie gras . . . even canned peaches fall within our Holmes range.

We've always had at least one restaurant in the world where you could eat where Sherlock Holmes ate, whether it was Simpson's or Speedy's. And even the American versions of British pubs can give a Sherlockian a little feeling of Holmes. Trekkers have had a few fabulous moments of dining glory, like that shining moment in history that was Quark's Bar in Las Vegas, but over all, the past is so much easier to mine for food than the future.

Want to start my day as Holmes and Watson did in "Priory School?" Cocoa is easy enough to prepare, even from scratch, and I do it often.

I will admit that my Sherlockian view of the world does prejudice me a little bit. I have been known to count delivery pizza as Canonical just because in "Noble Bachelor" dinner shows up at Baker Street in "a very large flat box." But Sherlockian dinners have been a part of our culture since day one.

Everybody likes food, sure. It's food. And we use it to celebrate a lot of things. It just seems like Sherlock Holmes might make it a little easier for us than some fandoms.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Young marvels, Trekkies, and my Sherlockian non-retirement.

There was a point during the John H. Watson Society's annual Treasure Hunt quiz where I announced my retirement from Sherlockiana to my team-mates. One of our team's younger members, @plexippa Beth, had just answered a question with a fabulous show of Sherlockian genius that reminded me of all the times my friend Bob, at the age I am now, would marvel at something I just did and exclaim "How did you even think of that?"

I'm not retiring from Sherlockiana, of course, but definitely taking in the fact that the next generation has some marvels in it. Because after all that quiz business, I plugged in Beth's latest "This Tangled Skein" podcast in and she changed the entire definition of a Canonical phrase that I had thought I understood since I first read it. I have a feeling that some previous Sherlockian explained that to me in some perhaps dry-ish text in some journal at some point, but it must not have stuck or produced the "Ah-ha!" moment that her explanation did.

"This Tangled Skein," if you haven't heard it, is an excellent little podcast for something like making your cocoa in the morning . . . not so long that you can't digest it in one sitting, and being on Sherlock Holmes, tea, and yarn, not tending to be quite as over-stimulating as a rare-pair porn discussion.

In addition to that "Ah-ha!" moment, I rather enjoyed discovering that Beth is also a Sherlockian married to a Trekkie. Having spent the previous evening decorating the house with 50 years of Star Trek memorabilia for a celebration of that anniversary (and a certain other) tonight, that mention definitely resonated. (The Sherlock Peoria household does actually contain both a Sherlock room and a Trek room.) Sherlockians and Trekkies go together like . . . well, things that go together . . . and it's not uncommon to find one with a bit of the other, which is probably why such relationships work.

While I don't think I'll be retiring from Sherlockiana anytime soon, it does bring me great joy that we have such great Sherlockians appearing over the last decade that I can watch the hobby blaze on in the years ahead. It gives me something to do besides shake my fist at the TV whenever that Jonny Lee Miller comes on. (Even though technically, I did have to power the set on and scroll to that channel, so make of that what you will.)


P.S. Our Watsonian Treasure Hunt team did place third this year, once all the dust had settled. Here's a link to the full results.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Letting others have their pleasure.

"All Sherlock is good Sherlock."

Don't know if you hear that line as much as I have. It tends to come up as a mild defense of a less-than-spectacular pastiche or a general expression of enthusiasm for the hobby. And back in the olden times, the Sherlockian community was so small, the Holmes output so manageable, that one could attempt to take it all in, and it was always good to see Holmes stuff, so it was a very easy thing to say. These days, however, I really think we need to expand that line:

"All Sherlock is good Sherlock, to someone."

Because some of it, well, some of it may be nigh impossible for some of us to completely get.

I'm writing this as I listen to the latest Three Patch Podcast discussion on masturbating to Sherlock stuff. And somehow, I don't think this is a subject that Christopher Morley or Vincent Starrett ever . . . ever . . . discussed. I know in my own forty years as a Sherlockian, I don't think I've ever discussed that topic with any of my Sherlockian friends. Sexual exploration has found a place in Sherlockiana as the fandom is evolving, and to the older fan, it can be an interesting development to try to fit into your brain's pre-existing Sherlockian structures.

It is tempting, of course, to just head for the bunkers. Surround one's self with old-school, old friends and pretend things are like they were in 1975. Life can be good there, and one could certainly live out one's days there as surely as on Baker Street in 1895. Heck, I even know a Sherlockian or two who still avoids the internet. It can be done.

And even when one goes, "Hey, I'm open minded, I can deal with change. No problem!" and charges in, there are still apt to come moments when the immediate reactions are . . . well, not something positive. We're human. We come with baggage. And sometimes something in that baggage is going to get triggered by a sudden veer into some more adventurous Sherlocking. Things can get . . . interesting. (Which is a very mild way of describing the true train-wreck potential from the wrong sort of pontificating. Trust me on this. Lessons learned.)

We're in an era that challenges every single one of us to both accept and be accepted, to actually think about big picture things from all angles and also make solid choices about what it best and wisest for each of us, individually. We currently have adults who had radio entertainment in their youth and adults who had the full-on internet in their youth . . . and very different mindsets as well. We have to be both very honest and inquiring with ourselves and our fellow Sherlockians, which actually suits us perfectly.

Because even though one might be tempted to scream, "SHERLOCK HOLMES IS NOT ABOUT SEX!" Sherlock Holmes can completely be about sex for some of us. Or gender identity. Or social norms. All those things that have mysteries that every one of us has to solve for ourselves at some point. Because, as we all know, Sherlock Holmes was about solving mysteries.

For some of us these days, it's investigating just what the heck is going on with these whipper-snappers and their very different varieties of fan-wank. (But from a discrete distance, of course . . . one hates to interrupt.)

Maybe my favorite part of the latest Three Patch podcast was when the caster crew re-enact turning down a potential sponsor who might suggest they tone down the "fuck" level. (With a voice that sounded a little . . . . familiar? . . .) Because once you become a part of the "official" Force, it definitely becomes just that much harder to follow some leads, a fact Sherlock Holmes knew well.

So here's to a world where we're free enough for the latest Three Patch sexpisode to exist and explore what they do, where it always ends with that lovely Moriarty quote and a bit of "Stayin' Alive." What is is Moriarty says?

"I've given you a glimpse, Sherlock -- just a teensy glimpse -- of what I've got going on out there in the big bad world."

The quote that Three Patch doesn't use, that I find myself hearing after a podcast like their latest, is spoken to me from a completely different Canon:

"I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know you're afraid . . . afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules or controls, borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you."

To paraphrase Holmes, "There is as much sense in Keanu as Cumberbatch . . ." and I will leave it there.