Monday, April 24, 2017

That New York question.

It's not even May, and I've already had the question a few times already:

"Will you be in New York next year?"

The question doesn't need any more detail to anyone familiar with more traditional Sherlockian venues. It's practically a traditional Sherlockian farewell -- yes, we're parting, but there's always that great big gathering in New York that happens about the time of Sherlock Holmes's birthday every year. It's a simple, happy tradition, a universal statement of Sherlockian friendship and happy hopes for the future, right?

Except, maybe not so universal and maybe even . . . troubling?

No, don't be silly! It's all good! Sherlockians are the best people, and any chance to be in that grand company is mandatory fun!

Yes . . . of course . . . except . . . .

So many great Sherlockians to see! New York City itself! The annual BSI dinner! Cocktail parties! That special speaker thing! Book shopping!

Well . . . I . . .

The whole family will be there! Auntie Violet will want to see you! It may be her last Christmas, you know!

Hey, wait . . . when did this . . .

And you don't want to make Uncle Mike sore. You heard what he did to cousin Jon!

I'm not . . .

There are people making it all the way from France! Japan! Australia! You don't have to go nearly that far!

But I don't live that . . .

You went to 221B Con!

Yes, it's more cost-effec . . .

Sorry, got to go! Will you be in New York next year?

Sigh.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

When Sebastian Moran was born, American-style.

When if comes to the doings of Sherlock Holmes and his folk, we like to focus on London, that great city with such a rich history. In 1840, for example, Professor Moriarty's lieutenant Sebastian Moran was born there, London was the largest city in the world then, having not-all-that-recently taken the title away from Beijing, which held it for about a century after taking it away from Istanbul. Moran was born a big city boy.

This evening, however, for completely non-Sherlockian reasons, I was exploring a less urbanized area of the world and what things were like there about the time Sebastian Moran was getting slapped on the bottom for the first time. (Of course, Watson left out the part of "The Adventure of the Empty House" when Holmes slapped Moran on the butt as Lestrade and company dragged him off to jail. How do I know this? Well, you have your tin dispatch box, and I have mine . . .)

So while the son of Sir Augustus Moran was being welcomed into the world, here's what was going on over here in Peoria-land. Peoria was here, with just under 1500 people, about a third the size of Chicago, which was only number 92 in America's largest cities. (New York City, first. Baltimore, second. New Orleans, third.) And why not? The Mississipi river above St. Louis marked the edge of the frontier. Only ten years before, Black Hawk and his Sauk warriors were trying to reclaim parts of Northern Illinois, coming back from the Iowa Territory.

With twenty-six states in the U.S., Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana were are far as U.S. civilization went. The American map on Sebastian Moran's date of birth is something to see.

Joseph Smith was still alive and in Nauvoo, Illinois when Moran was born (though they only named it "Nauvoo" in April of that year, having just bought the town the year before when it was still "Commerce, Illinois," and the Jefferson Hopes of St. Louis were all still in St. Louis, probably still gabbing about the Missouri Mormon War not long before, and Joseph Smith going to talk to U.S. President Martin Van Buren after getting kicked out of Missouri, in hopes the president would intercede and force Missouri to take Smith's 20,00 settlers back.

Pa Doran, father to Hatty Doran, was surely a child somewhere east of the Mississippi River, but where or how old, it's hard to say. Doran families were scattered all over the U.S. in 1840, with plenty even in Indiana, where the Clients were not nearly as Illustrious in those days.

It's hard to say, too, whether or not Elias Openshaw had come to the Florida Territory to seek his fortunes by 1840. The guerilla war that the Seminoles had undertaken against settlers was pretty well over by then, so if Openshaw hadn't arrived, he had probably heard that the territory was a little less dangerous. (Which is truly ironic, given how later dangers of the area would follow him back to England.)

For all the fancy credits on Colonel Sebastian Moran's resume, it should surprise no one that a man born in 1840 still had so much of a wilderness hunter in him. There were still frontiers to be explored, especially for those born in the big city of London.

And to a modern American, some of those were right in our own backyard.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A visit from one of that wandering Sherlockian tribe.

I was reminded today of what Sherlockian life was like when I got out a little more, when travel was a bit more easily done, and work responsibilities didn't get quite in the way as much. Monica Schmidt and her husband Bill stopped by a local pub on their way to the city where I first found other Sherlockians and we had a nice leisurely lunch that could have well gone on to Morley's "Three Hours For Lunch Club" length with just a little more disrespect for the workday and places to be.

One of the multitude of Sherlockian topics that came up was a great Sherlockian named Joe Moran and how one tended to see him at so many events . . . a true Baker Street Irregular by Sherlock Holmes's own definition that "They can go everywhere . . ."  There have always been certain Sherlockians that you tended to see at all sorts of events, in all sorts of places. They were like an unofficial club all their own, a sort of gypsy Sherlockian society that could never be delimited or defined lest it loose its special magic.

I'm sure that nameless society wanders from Sherlockian gathering to Sherlockian gathering still, and Monica is surely becoming a part of it. I mean, I saw her in Atlanta just a week and a half ago, and she showed up in Peoria today . . . and we average about one out-of-town Sherlockian a year of late, so it's a rare imaginary stamp to have on your virtual passport. But things are looking up.

A chance to hear another Sherlockian's stories is always a wonderful way to spend a meal, and I especially enjoyed discovering another soul whose initial youthful contact with Holmes was a movie they didn't get to see when they wanted to . . . the sort of dangled Holmes bait that makes you prize something all the more as you wait to get at it. And then there are the compared notes on all those rare and fascinating folk one meets along the Sherlockian road, which brings me back to that unofficial wandering gypsy society of Sherlockians that's out there, even now.

It doesn't require an invitation. Just keeping your eyes open, keeping a few weekends free, and finding a little extra traveling cash for the occasional hotel room . . . depending upon your area of the country, of course. It may be a little easier when you call a major city home, yes, but if one listens carefully enough to the Sherlockian grapevines, opportunities arise all the time.

What will 2017 bring, now that spring has sprung and people are moving about . . . maybe even myself? Well, we see what that distant gypsy call beckons us to. It was great to have a visiting reminder of all that today, for as much as I enjoy this blogging bit in the late quiet of the evening, Sherlockians in person are always better. (Thanks, Monica!)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Three numbers and a letter.

221B.

Three numbers, one letter. Four characters that signify . . . what?

An address . . . no, more than that. Poems aren't written and conventions aren't concocted based on a location. When we well remember a site, it's usually because something significant happened there. Troy. Waterloo. Gettysburg. Or it's a place of power. 10 Downing Street. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 30 Rockefeller Plaza. But most lists of famous addresses contain 221B Baker Street as well.

Site of a significant event? Place of power?

You could make a case for either, but those things are not what "221B" evokes.

The most important events in the detective career of Sherlock Holmes, with few exceptions, just didn't happen there. Clients telling their stories were key, of course, but not the sort of climactic moment that sticks with you.

"221B" is almost binary in its makeup, and that's where you start getting to the heart of things. Since "B" is the second letter of the alphabet, it's really all twos and a one instead of ones and zeroes. The one is the odd character in there, almost standing alone to make itself more significant. Because you need that, now and then, to really show how important two of something can be. "222B" just never would have done it, really.

It's pretty obvious that 221B has come to signify a partnership that brought us some of the greatest detective stories of all time. Maybe the one stands for the first and foremost consulting detective the world has ever known. Maybe the "B" stands for his . . . best friend? Analyzing the make-up of "221B" as a symbol for partnership is just two weirdly simple. Yet there it is.

221B Baker Street is less of an address and more of a period of time. Whoever lived there before Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson is irrelevant. Whoever came after, equally so. The seventeen years that Sherlock Holmes operated out of Baker Street with John H. Watson at his side align perfectly with the seventeen steps that led up to that flat, and that period is the location in space and time that 221B will always represent, even without the "Baker Street."

There's something very special about that. Cold numbers and a single letter of the alphabet evoking a bond between two men living lives of discovery, adventure, and justice-dealing. And so much more, so much that we have spent over a century in study of it, and will surely spent a great many years more. Of all the words written by the creator who gave us those amazing records, none will probably ever have the full power of "221B," unless it's that very unique first name of the very unique figure who first thought to rent the place.

A better sigil no tribe could hope to have, and we are that lucky tribe.

Three numbers, one letter. 221B.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bro Grimesby.


Though he died way back in 1883, I was thinking today how happy Dr. Grimesby Roylott would be on the internet. And I mean troll happy.

Here's an older white guy who feels righteously robbed of his dominant place in society by his gambling forebears. He lives in relative isolation, treats women as resources just there to feed his needs (talking financial here, but you go where you need to), loves dangerous pets that make him look more manly, and when he feels threatened?

First, the ad hominem attack to discredit any input Sherlock Holmes might have:

"I know you, scoundrel! I have heard of your before. You are Holmes the meddler."

And he goes on.

"Holmes the busybody!"

And then . . .

"Holmes, the Scotland Yard jack-in-office."

If you look of the definition of that last one, it would appear that Roylott things Sherlock is somehow a part of the official police force, which is the line that . . . unbeknownst to ol' Grimesby . . . is the bit that really tweaks Holmes, if he wasn't already laughing at this cartoon character of testosterone.

Grimesby Roylott's second act, of course, is physical threat via showing his arm strength, bending the fireplace poker in lieu of punching someone. We tend to focus on Sherlock Holmes's unstraightening of the poker in the aftermath of the scene and not the fact that Watson surely would have put a bullet in the man had he moved on Sherlock Holmes in any manner that actually seemed to endanger the detective. People tend to forget about John Watson when louder personalities are engaging around him.

Watson is the man more interesting to compare to Roylott than his oft-showboating room-mate. Quiet, effective, and always ready to do the right thing, even at risk of his own health.

But the good Watson distracts me from the actual subject at hand here, Dr. Grimesby Roylott, the perfect Canonical candidate for modern internet troll. The name-calling, the stalking of a poor woman just looking out for her own safety, the threats toward any who might suggest he's doing something foul . . . which he most certainly is.

Grimesby, of course, was a long ways pre-internet. Had he had access to such a thing, he might not have only been doing some heavy duty trolling -- if his eventual end was any indicator, he would probably have also been the start of a YouTube video that qualified him for a Darwin Award: "No, I'm putting the swamp adder in the air vent . . . watch this now . . .  there he goes . . . what? No, not this wa . . . OUCH! SON OF A . . . wha . . . whoa . . . sitting down now . . . gblhh . . ."

Humankind hasn't evolved past producing Grimesby Roylotts, sadly. How are we doing on our Sherlock Holmes quotient? Hard to say, as you know how he was about letting Scotland Yard take the credit before Watson started working his magic. We can hope, though.

But I'm really glad Grimesby himself didn't have the internet. THAT guy. Sheesh.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sherlock, Sherlocker, Sherlockest . . .

When it comes to words, there are two definite ends to the spectrum.

On one side, language is a thing of rules and proper construction. On the other, a palette of verbal paints to be blended and applied in whatever way conveys the proper message to the reader.

Words can be taken as a science, or an art, or a bit of both. And as a result of the latest Hansom Cab Clock Club newsletter, e-mailed out by Don Hobbs, a bit of discussion ensued following Don's use of "Sherlock" as a verb. He was subsequently accused of verbal misdemeanor by Mark McGovern, and I found myself forced to plead Don's case in the court of "Reply All."

Citing evidence that Don had been using "Sherlocking" since at least 2003 in blog posts, and that he had been "beshillinged" into the Baker Street Irregulars after at least nine years of publicly doing so, I suggested that using "Sherlock" as a verb seemed to be approved by that highest Sherlockian authority in the U.S., if we are to imagine such a thing exists. And therein always comes the bone of contention between word scientists and word artists. Do we accept a voice of authority or let the chaos of the verbal marketplace run rampant?

"Holmes" and "Watson" are what our heroes are called in Doyle Canon, but "Sherlock" and "John" have become a popular usage since the Sherlock Canon, even for the originals. "Johnlock" is a shipping term for Holmes/Watson romance, while "Tunalock" is the identifier for an alternate universe where Sherlock Holmes is a fish and not just human Holmes in love with a tuna. One can plant one's feet in the dirt on a particular usage, but variations on "Sherlock" seem to be coming from every direction of late.

If I say you have a Sherlock brain, and someone else has a Sherlocker brain than you, it's definitely less confusing that saying you have a Sherlockian brain and they a more Sherlockian brain, if you mean said brain is like Sherlock's. Would "Sherlockish" be less confusing and more the proper adjective?  Can the mad zealots among us undertake to start using "Sherlock" as every part of the English language, not just noun and verb, but adjective, adverb, preposition, etc.? Will happy anarchy prevail as "Sherlock Sherlock Sherlocked Sherlockly Sherlocker Sherlock Sherlock Sherlock!" becomes our cultural dialect?

Pishlock poshlock! We can't have too much Sherlock Holmes!

Okay, I know, five seasons of a certain "Sherlock Holmes" makes me a liar with that last statement. But I'm just having fun here. Sherlock Holmes has been around long enough that there are serious scholars doing serious work on our friend with serious words. They need to be a little less silly with the verbiage.

Some of us, however, are probably always just going to be screwlocking around.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Sherlockian of note.

It was kind of a big deal when Kareem Abdul Jabbar co-wrote a book featuring Mycroft Holmes, revealed a love of Sherlock Holmes, and appeared at the annual Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend in New York. Bigger to some than others, of course, as some of us could give a flying fig about basketball. What was a much bigger deal to me, personally, was when I first saw Curtis Armstrong in the lobby of the host hotel for a Sherlock Holmes conference in Minneapolis, and Don Hobbs said, "Let's go say 'hi' to Curtis."

Over the course of that weekend, I quickly came to realize that an actor I'd been mentally tracking in movies and TV shows since he first went from Revenge of the Nerds to Moonlighting was an honest-to-God lifelong Sherlockian as much as you or I.  The kind of person who thought of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes as a favorite Holmes movie. The kind of person to whom acquiring a copy of the Baring-Gould Annotated Sherlock Holmes was a life-changing event.

Those touch-stones may not be the Sherlockian keys to everyone, as every generation has their own. But when you hear certain experiences being shared, you always know one of your own.

Soon after I had the chance to talk with Curtis this past weekend at 221B Con, I had to admit to him that I was mentally separating the actor from the Sherlockian just to keep my cool. I'm from Peoria -- we don't get many folks from the big or small screen walking into our world, so it's a little too exciting sometimes. Sherlockians, however, are people I get somewhat excited about every single day, rare and special folk that they are, and am quite accustomed to dealing with through that little thrill. So Curtis Armstrong, the Sherlockian who'd been in Susan Rice's Michigan scion society in his youth, was not just in my wheelhouse, he's a guy you'd hang out with at a con even if he was an accountant. (Even one named Herbert Viola.)

If you'd like to get a feel for the guy you'd meet at a Sherlockian weekend like 221B Con, take a listen to Geek Versus Week 's episode #127  -- an interview with Curtis at 221B Con. Late in the interview he addresses the difference between Sherlockians of our generation and older who enjoy the new fan-ways, and those who find the newer, more nerd-culture ways of doing Sherlockiana too much change to tolerate. Curtis expresses it much better than I can, being, quite naturally, a talented speaker and not having picked up that bit of bitterness that assails me on occasion.

So, in celebration of that particular Sherlockian of note -- one of many I got to see this weekend -- I decided to watch his favorite episode of Supernatural tonight, as I'd only made it through the earlier part of that season. The parts Curtis is in could stand alone, most of the episode, really, as a great little two-man show about God writing his memoirs as Metatron critiques. (Season 11, episode 20, "Don't Call Me Shurley" -- on Netflix as we speak). Very good stuff.

Plainly, I'm still winding down from this weekend, even on Thursday night after a day back at the salt mines of system configuration. And not minding those after-effects at all.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Explorer versus missionary.

Arriving at the first 221B Con happened four years ago, I remember feeling like Professor Challenger discovering the Lost Continent, full of something you didn't think existed. (Here's my original post.) Sherlockiana, like many a small church or social organization, had seemed to be literally dying of old age, as the amount of younger fans who had been coming to the hobby was nowhere close to replacing those who moved on, either from death or disinterest.  Pre-Cumberbatch (and Downey) even "new" fans had a strong tendency to be retirees. But what I, and a handful of other Sherlockians discovered at that first con, wasn't dinosaurs. It was exactly the opposite.

It was youth, energy, and a fresh start. Here was something Sherlockian that had come about separately from all of the scion societies and way-we'd-always-done-it. Here was a different model of fan event happening for a new breed of Sherlockian, and a fresh canvas for creative energies to pour into. It wasn't something any old school Sherlockian came up with to accompany or compete existing Holmes events. 221B Con was, and is, its own thing.

As old school Sherlockians encounter the con, however, certain things tend to happen. First, there will be those so rigidly locked into their view of what Sherlockiana is that they'll reject it whole-heartedly. Happily, those folks don't tend to make the trip to begin with. Or make the trip once, go "Not for me!" and back away. Again, free choice, and a good thing. The greatest challenge for an old school Sherlockian, however, can come from to of us that get excited about it, those of us that do go back . . . and want to help.

Because once you've led a lifetime of doing Sherlockian events a certain way, your first thoughts of helping out are helping people do things the old way. "Hey, these people don't even stop to eat! We should organize a good old-fashioned Sherlockian banquet!" While banquets are nice for those who have built up some disposable income, paying a hundred dollars for a dinner with a few toasts and a speaker isn't something a twenty-something with plenty of enthusiasm and limited income is going to get their money's worth out of. In the three hours it takes to get even a decent plated meal, they could have been to three different hours of content from a dozen panelists, each with as many ideas as that single banquet speaker.

Trust me on this, I've been a banquet speaker quite a few times. And eaten a lot of mediocre banquet meals. This year, I missed a lot of meals. And I . . . DO NOT . . . miss meals. All just because I was enjoying 221B Con being 221B Con that much. But I've sort of gone native at the con at this point, which is why this is the point I'm making here:

Coming from the Sherlockian old school to 221B Con, one has to come more as explorer than missionary. Nobody needs to show the new kids "how it's done." Four years in, "how it's done" is how they do it, and do it quite successfully at that. There are still venues for doing things the old way -- plenty of them. And the con has its own ways to add your ideas to the mix.

Suggesting a session topic when the call comes out around October. Applying to be on a panel on that topic, or others, in January. And then sitting on that panel come the time of the con and letting people benefit from what's in your head as it mixes with what's in the heads of some other panelists. And, man, are there getting to be some smart panelists at 221B Con. Do not come in expecting to be the smartest person in the room, no matter the topic.

What I had the most fun with this year, however, was going to the panels I knew the least about. When the schedule comes out a few weeks ahead of time, you can do a little research online and find out what this or that alien phrase means, see if you're intrigued by the topic, and then go listen to why a particular branch of our Sherlockian tree enjoys that thing so much. You might find that you enjoy it a bit, too.

Sherlockiana doesn't seem to be dying anymore, but it is evolving. And those new parts of Sherlock Holmes fandom you'll find at an event like 221B Con are probably going to be an entrenched part of the culture as a whole in twenty years, just as other generations of fans have left their marks on Sherlock's legend over the decades. So much new stuff to explore. Be an explorer.

And that missionary position? Well, if you favor it, you might want to spice things up a bit.

Just sayin'.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Post 221B Con 2017: A few thoughts before hitting the road.

Sunday night at the hotel is always a weird time after 221B Con ends at five. People have been leaving throughout the day, as a lot of people have to work on Monday, and non-Sherlockians start checking into the hotel. The magical environment that has surrounded you for three days slowly dissipates, and reality begins to set in . . . except this was your reality for three great days, so that's not even correct. More exact to say "all the cares and obligations of every day life set in." It's been a good escape from those.

The hotel bar and a few room gatherings keep the torch burning for a little while longer, as people decompress and share thoughts on what just went down, as well as cons past. I got to spend a couple lovely hours in the bar with some of the best Sherlockians you'd ever care to meet, but I'm not going to name names as, you know, it's not a competition for "best Sherlockians" because we happily have so damn many of them. But every person there deserves all the rewards that Sherlock heaven can give.

I had to leave that happy venue a little earlier than I might otherwise have, because I wanted to give the good Carter a call and apprise her of the last forty-eight hours since we spoke last, and that call wound up going on for a very long and enjoyable time. When you've been together thirty-five years, you do occasionally run out of things to talk about, and since she couldn't come this year, I had a whole lot of things to tell her about . . . and even just telling someone about 221B Con for an hour or so can be a fabulous thing.

Time to get dressed and load the car, but I'm going to leave this post open for a little while longer . . . leaving is hard.

Two trips to the car down, one to go. Good to take home less than I brought, somehow turning a bunch of Sherlockian items I didn't care so much about into a few new ones that I'm really happy to have. I got to say hello to Lyndsay and Elinor one last time in my travels, and any morning with writers in it is a good morning. Beautiful weather out there to hit the road with, and I hope all the air travelers have easier journeys today than they've had of late. But I guess that means it's finally time to hit the road . . . .

I'm definitely not done writing about subjects, ideas, and other residual effects of this weekend . . . definitely my favorite 221B Con yet, which is saying something considering the open-mouthed sheer amazement I had over the very first one. The con has evolved and matured, just as Sherlockiana itself evolves, even though it's been so well-run and high-functioning from the start. Yeah, there's a hiccup now and then, but even those can lead to better things. (Though I have to say, for me . . . not really seeing the hiccups so much.)

Thank you, everybody. And I do mean everybody involved or participating in 221B Con and those who wish they could have been. I don't really drink . . . I literally had one rum and Coke the entire weekend . . . but I'm definitely feeling the "I love you, man!" of an over-affectionate drunk at the moment. It was soooo good. And I'm actually getting a tear or two of pure gratitude as I write this. But what's done is done, and it's time to head for the future . . . which means next year's 221B Con and the whole Sherlockian year that comes before it!

Onward and upward. To the Bradmobile!


Sunday, April 9, 2017

221B Con 2017: The Sunday final.

Okay, just in from a fine establishment called "The Greater Good BBQ" where a few of us were recovering from a long hungry day of 221B Con over ribs, brisket, banana pudding, and other locally made cuisine. (Recommended, if you're in Atlanta, though I'm not experience enough to know if the wonderful food we ate was the high bar or the low bar here. In Peoria, it would be a high bar.) It has been a good day.

I dragged my aching body down to the pavilion, the con's biggest venue, for Curtis Armstrong's Q&A at 10 AM, and Curtis is just a treat. His long career in TV and movies has given him a lot of stories, but he's not shy about sharing a few from the not-so-famous days of high school bullies in a way that makes you recognize a fellow veteran of the nerdy trenches. His upcoming book Revenge of the Nerd . . . The Singular Adventures of the Man Who Would Be Booger is something to look forward to, given the taste we got at the con. (It's coming in July, but pre-orders are VERY important to authors these days, so don't wait until it comes out.)

Since sitting on hotel chairs all day isn't good for the back, I made myself walk the perimeter of the Perimeter Marriott between each session and the day was the most beautiful we've had all week. So when I made it to the next panel, the Baker Street Babes interview of writer Martin Powell, who has down Sherlock Holmes comic books among his many other credits, I was in a good frame of mind . . . not that it was needed.

The Baker Street Babes did their usual excellent job with Martin, drawing out stories of his own approach to Holmes and his conversations with Conan Doyle's daughter Dame Jean and Ray Bradbury. His reports on those taught us that maybe Doyle didn't hate Sherlock so much and Bradbury's main lesson in writing fiction is "Start as close to the end as you possibly can." The session went fast, and I'm sure you'll be able to find it on the Babes' podcast very soon.

Another walk, another panel . . . "Fanfiction."

Six panelists spoke on their paths into and through the world of fan fiction, and as happens so often at the con, this was a group of folks whom I might see on the street and go "not my age, not my gender, don't seem to like exactly what I like" . . . and that is where so many long-time Sherlockians can go awry with the new generation coming in. If you listen to their stories, where they come from, you'll often hear echoes from your own story, your own path, that you may have forgotten or hadn't reconsidered in a while. You can learn a lot from your fellow con attendees, even about yourself if you're a mild narcissist like me, and especially if you stick with your fellow writers if you're a writer, artists if you're an artist, etc.

"The only way to write wrong is not to write," someone said, and nowhere is that tenet more true than fan fiction. Without commercial considerations, it's an area with wide open possibilities, some of which librarians are still trying to figure out, a question Tim Johnson raised . . . which led handily into the next panel I went to on "Fandom Studies," which Tim was on.

Now, if there's anyone out there that still thinks 221B Con with all the shipping, burlesque, costumes, and other fun, I would point them to the "Fandom Studies" panel for a learned discussion full of fascinating material from very smart people. (And it was hardly the only one here.) Sherlockiana is one fan "religion" among many, and with so many finding their way into mainstream culture, serious work is being done. You can hear statement you've heard all your life like "You're not a real Sherlockian if you don't . . . " referred to as "normative statements," and bits like that, as well as see how the overlap between fans as scholars and scholars as fans is pretty widespread. (And harder to get objective studies with, as a result.)

A quick trip to the room had me excitedly showing off a Crobabies pic on my phone to my fellow con-goers in the elevator: "It looks like the present I gave them is strapped to the back of their little car as they drove away from the hotel!!" It's good for a man approaching sixty to still squee now and then.

And then, on to the "The Rarest of the Rare: Fandom and the Rare Pair."

I tend to like "rare pair" fanfic writers a bit more than the average fanfic scribes, as they walk the path less travelled in their genre. The see two people no one else could see as a couple and go "Why? Because it's there!" Panelists talked about doing it for the "What if?" factor, the "uncharted territory" factor, the "no rules or tropes here already" factor, and just what two completely different types of people can bring out in one another. "Rare pair" panels can get very creative and inspire all sorts of ideas in writers (well, I guess most good panels do that), and I even get blog post ideas from such a free-flowing environment. (Just wait.)

My favorite line of the panel was "That's no moon!" in considering the bulk of Johnlock fanfic next to all other relationships portrayed in fan fiction. Even John Watson and Mary Morstan seem like a rare pairing next to John and Sherlock.

My final session choice was "How to Podcast," which might make you think something is eventually in the offing. And there is a Blue Yeti mike on my desk of late. But don't hold your breath on that.

The very last panel at every 221B Con is "Our Last Bow," at which our hosts, who have quietly kept the great machine running all weekend without ever jumping out on a stage and going "HELLO 221B CON! WE'RE YOUR HOSTS!" all sit down with everybody who gathers in the largest venue available to hear how their experience went. The folks that run this con are brave, brave people to do that, let me tell you, because you know how it is . . . we all know how to improve everything . . . and there are always a few folks with definite ideas. But there are always more than a few folks with "thank you"s and a general appreciation and applause to the opportunity we're all given here each year.

This year was an important one, in my view, as the reaction to season four of BBC Sherlock was a rough go with a lot of people. And if this con was all about silly-billy fad-followers, as some dumb-ass old white dudes occasionally seem to think it is, season four would have been the end for 221B Con. But what the organizers have built here in the last four years has been a community, as surely as Sherlock's birthday weekend in New York is a community, as surely as that travelling band of Sherlockian gypsies who hit symposium after symposium is a community . . . and as surely as Sherlockiana itself is a community.

Given the relatively tender ages of the organizers, it's a community with the potential to go on for quite a while, too, with it's more sci-fi con model and "big, but not too big" size. And, wow, does that make me happy. It's a very nice community to live in for a weekend, and like many who discovered it for the first time this weekend, I'll be back again.


221B Con: Prepping for Sunday's Last Ride.

It's Sunday. Just woke up, reviewed the #221BCon thread on Twitter to see what I might have missed in the night, and then reviewed the panel list from yesterday to see what I missed during the day.

Reviewing one's own ability to take in all of 221B Con that one can has to be a forgiving process. I missed the Three Patch Podcast, though I'll get to hear it later once they drop it to the web. I missed "World Building for Writers" and I'd liked to have heard "OMG Check Please" just to confirm it was about what I thought it was about. (They give you a beautiful program book that describes every panel, but did I take time to read it, in the heat of 221B Con? Nope.) I missed Martin Powell's time, the second ABO panel, the Atlanta Radio Theater Company, Elementary . . . wait, I missed Elementary? I missed "Ele-frickin'-mentary?" Okay, I'm high on con now. If I had Hermione Granger's time-turner, I would loop back and see every single session at this con, including the unofficial ones, including the suite stuff, and the video room -- oh, yeah, I missed the Russian Holmes! -- there are LITERALLY hundreds of hours of programming at this con.

Of those hundreds of hours, six opportunities are left. SIX.

Less time than it took to drive here.

So bittersweet. Only one thing to do.

Start playin' "Stayin' Alive" on the iPhone and get ready to roll.

221B Con 2017: Saturday Night's Alright For F . . . Everything!

Okay, where was I . . .  starting to get worn out here at 221B Con, but to paraphrase an old Letterman line, it's a good kind of worn out.

Costume exhibition! That's it. Not a contest, just a totally for fun, let a celebrity guest introduce you and walk on stage, get cheered, and walk off. Costumes range from classic Sherlock, to fan art given life, to anime characters, to . . . well, a "fancy gentleman" going to the annual meeting of the Amateur Mendicants in the story "The Adventure of the Beggar's Feast" by Lyndsay Faye in her book The Whole Art of Detection, complete with his curio cabinet receipt in pocket. (Buy the book, read the story.)

The crowd at the costume exhibition has more participants than non-participants, but everybody there seemed to have ramped up their cheering and clapping at the previous night's burlesque show and they were a wonderful audience. Curtis Armstrong introduced each costume with his usual flair, and since I've had to miss too many of his sessions already, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow morning's Q & A. But back to the costumes . . .

. . . okay, now it's 1:39 A.M. and it's a little hard to get back to costumes, but they were cool and my old top hat is much coveted. ("Scott & Co., Hatters to the King and the Royal Family, 1 Old Bond Street, Piccadilly W. Made for Saks-Fifth Avenue, New York" -- that "King" part dates it.) I wore it at the first 221B Con, so it was a return engagement. But why am I wasting time writing about my hat? (It's late and I'm punchy, that's why.)

I wore my costume to sit on the "Fannish Estate Planning" panel, where Tim Johnson was probably our star player, though Diana Williams carried the ball on organizing and moderating, and David McAllister had some solid input. The key to fannish estate planning? Do some research, there's a lot to know. A lot of data flowed in that one, and one felt it was still just the tip of the ice berg.

I then had an hour to get out of my costume, relax, and prepare for "Arthur 'Continuity' Doyle," which had about forty-four people in it. How do I know? Because I hand-stitched fifty text-booklets for the participants and had six left. (The old Baker Street Digressions format, for those collectors out there who remember those rarities.) They basically laid out Watson's primary continuity error quotes in a timeline by years so we could all refer to the original text as we spun our theories on just what the heck was going on with Watson's first name, his wives, his wound, the Billys, the landladies, the Moriartys, etc. Lots of fun there, with Amy Thomas, special guest Martin Powell, and Lyndsay Faye as the forty-four helped us work out just how such things were happening in the Canon.

On my way down the hall after that panel, Marilynne McKay yanked Steve Mason and I on to her next panel, "Canon Book Club: Jewels of the Crown," where we got into five of the classic stories, the basics and random thoughts on things like who was the true villain of "Golden Pince-nez."

Next stop was to drop by the Three Patch Podcast suite for the Crobabies wedding reception. A crocheted couple of fellows named Sherlock and John who were familiar to many a con-goer got married this weekend, and some beautiful photos of that event were taken. Sherlock Peoria's longtime lead actors,  Action Sherlock and Stout Fellow John Watson, wanted me to carry a wedding present down as a token of their esteem, and the happy couple was seated at their head table at the reception while guests buzzed with excitement. I felt myself fading, so I didn't wait for the wedding toasts, as much as I would have liked to hear those, and headed for one last tour of the con before bed.

Having never seen 221B Con karaoke in person, I had to stop in at the pavillion for a moment to check it out and wound up staying for about ten or twelve songs. Why? And what does karaoke have to do with Sherlock Holmes, as Howard asked me earlier in the evening? Well, answers: Unlike every karaoke bar in Peoria where somebody has to sing the song about keying her cheating husbands car and that song about the horse and the cherry tree EVERY FREAKIN' NIGHT, 221B Con Karaoke tended to be mostly upbeat dance tunes. A few unfamiliar ones at first, but then they got down to laying down the classics, including a rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" that had everyone dancing. (Except an old, tired blogger who just was rocking his non-rocking chair and bobbing his top hat head -- did I mention I put my hat and vest back on for the wedding reception?)

At one point, someone got up to sing and prefaced their tune with "I don't sing karaoke anywhere else, because this is where I am most comfortable." It made perfect sense because 221B Con has a definite feeling of community, and I realized that what what karaoke had to do with Sherlock Holmes: It's just another part of the community building between Sherlockian friends. You can't talk about Sherlock Holmes all the time, so why not sing and dance together into the night? And the young and the young at heart, they do love to sing and dance.

There was also somebody named Betty, who everybody wanted to be their girlfriend. Go, Betty!

After the DJ had to reset the tunes at one point and started playing "Bye-bye-bye" as an interlude, I took that as an omen to finally head for some needed rest. Buuuuuutttttt . . . then I poked my head in the bar and decided to say "hi" to Crystal Noll, con goddess, which led to a lovely conversation on the con, blogging, and the Sherlockian world in general. Well worth losing a little more sleep!

But remember when I wrote about that singlestick demo I went to earlier? Well, apparently I was supposed to be on a "Sherlockian Societies" panel, which had somehow evolved from the ASH panel that I had originally been accepted for but the name change didn't lock into my head, and before I could leave the bar, Monica Schmidt had to put on my top hat and admonish me properly for my truancy. Which is the fancy way of describing . . . well, anyway, once a purdy lady in a bar tells ya yer a worthless polecat, it's time to head for the old bunkhouse, amigo.

And when I'm so tired I'm palaverin' in cowboy lingo, it is definitely time to get some shut-eye.

G'nite, pardners. Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

221B Con 2017: Saturday morning and afternoon.

Maybe it's my impulsive nature, but I tend not to stay on the rails very long sometimes at 221B Con.

And first rule of 221B Con: You're always going to miss something.

My first destination for Saturday morning was supposed to be the Three Patch podcast. But then Howard Ostrom went and sold every single thing on his dealer's table yesterday, and I had this box full of Sherlockiana I wanted to get rid of, and Howard had one more item he wanted to try to sell, so for the first two hours of the con, I became a dealer in the dealer's room.

My homemade "Baker Street Dollar Store" sign went up, spun off a similar dealer's table idea I'd run at symposiums many years ago. Sometimes, as a Sherlockian, you may not care about your profit from getting rid of an item so much as just seeing it move on to a good Sherlockian home. And that is where the Sherlockian dollar store comes in. But being a dealer for the short term at 221B Con can be a reward in itself.

The con takes good care of its dealers, with a volunteer concierge coming around with bottle water and snacks, as well as offering to watch your table if you need to run to your room. And, if I haven't mentioned this enough already, con attendees here are friendly and fun to talk you. From a seat behind a dealer's table, you can chat about costumes, see old friends you might have missed had you stayed mobile, visit with your fellow vendors . . . oh, and spend any money you made selling things.

I was sitting staring directly across at Fox Estacado's booth, where I immediately bought one of her "I want to break free" Moriarty shirts, but then as I looked over her art for the next hour, I also decided I had to have a print of her "A Study in AU! Sherlock," with its dozen alternate Sherlocks. As noon neared, and I wanted to get to the singlestick demo, I put the dollar store in clearance mode and started giving things away to interested shoppers, which is, quite frankly, a sign of the shockingly bad businessman I am.

And then, for the second time, at con this year, I wandered into a near-empty room because I was an hour early for the event I wanted to go to. I blame Eastern time, but it's mainly a new disability I've discovered where I apparently can't follow a horizontal row across a grid. Going to have to start carrying a ruler.

So I visited the front lobby. First came the "Baker Street Elementary" table where all things Dallas Sherlockian were out, including a custom comic created just for 221B Con by Joe Fay, Rusty and Steve Mason. Sherlockian.net, now being maintained at Michigan State, had stickers, cards, and a Beta version of a coming upgrade to the handy website created by Chris Redmond for people to try out. I gave it a run through my typical Sherlockian.net paths and came away satisfied with the results.

Then, of course, I had to get my copy of The Whole Art of Detection autographed by Lyndsay Faye, whose autograph I still have from my first visit to 221B Con, and, well, she's Lyndsay. She autographed my Sherlockian heart with her very being long ago. (I've already had text conversations with friends back home on how emotional Con Brad is, weeping at engagements, hollering at dancers, and doing an internal squee because "Ron Weasely" talked to me before the burlesque show . . . so take this in stride.)

AND THE MORIARTY'S WEB PEOPLE ARE HERE!!! A chance to buy that well-reviewed new game for a mere thirty bucks? HELL'S YEAH!!!  (See, I'm a maniac now. Still, Lyndsay . . . sigh. Hey, the lady can write!)

Finally, it was time for that singlestick and Bartitsu demo that I was an hour early to an hour before. Ashley Polasek and Tim Greer, with the occassional aid of Curtis Armstrong, took advantage of the stage area in the pavilion to demo Victorian Sherlock Holmes's styles of hand-to-hand combat, single-stick fighting, and even a little sword and whip play. (Be-have!) Some good fun there, and then off to lunch!

One hearty chicken marengo later and I'm back at this keyboard, which I must now depart to dress for the cosplay strut. What am I dressing up as?

Tune in later tonight! Same Brad-time, same Brad-channel!

221B Con: Second Friday Night Update

Driving down to Atlanta, I heard someone on a podcast refer to a lyric from the band "Yes" that went "Don't surround yourself with yourself." And while we always think of cons as a place we go to find like-minded people, one of the things I love dearly about 221B Con is all the people here who don't think like me. Because I've seen all of my thoughts, and I want to learn something new. And our friend Sherlock Holmes has always been a one man portal to learning something new.

So when we last left our hero, he was headed down to a panel called "ABO 1 (+18)" . . . abbreviation to be explained shortly. Of course, my Central Time senses had me an hour off, so I wound up heading into the bar with an hour to kill and found inimitable Sherlockian sword-wielder, Ashley Polasek who will be a vital part of the singlestick demo tomorrow, with no chairs at her table. A couple of chairs were found by the waitress, to accommodate myself and the imminent arrival of Curtis Armstrong, after which followed some great stories of starstruck encounters and awkward proms, the arrival of three Baker Street Babes (Amy, Sara, and Lyndsay), and eventually the walking entertainment that is Tim Greer. Chairs were discovered and/or stolen for all, chairs being in short supply in the Perimeter Marriott bar with so many people inviting new and old friends to their tables.

Now, there was no reason to leave such a table that one is lucky to find one's self at, but I had determined to hit that "ABO" panel and a handy Tweet told me the time had come. Mistake, right? That was a great table! But, no! Let me explain "ABO" to you.

"ABO" stands for "Alpha Beta Omega" as in Omegaverse, a particular brand of sci-fi/fantasy fanfic that evolved from someone pondering werewolf sex. I had looked into it after last year's con and read a particularly lovely fic called "The Gilded Cage" by Beautiful Fiction. The thing that makes Omegaverse more interesting to me than normal Johnlock fanfic is that it tends to inspire some real thought in its writers as they try to figure out the social dynamics of humans who have a completely different biology than us. It can be very smart.

And if you think fiction derived from werewolf sex sounds ridiculous, well, the writers and readers of Omegaverse fic tend to also know just how silly it all can sound. Which makes their panel discussions some of the most hysterically funny stuff you'll hear at the con. (Or maybe this was just a really good team of panelists.) There's also a lot of sense to it, as they talked about how Omegaverse fic allows writers to explore power dynamics without all the baggage that comes with the standard genders, extend sexual tension beyond the first sexual encounter (Oh, how Moonlighting once needed this!), and the way it allows for much more uninhibited expressions of pure passion.

And how do you end a really good panel in a way that tops every other panel in the weekend? Have one of the panelists ask another to marry her. Seriously. Had me in tears, too, which was not what I expected from "ABO" hour.

From there I had to take a quick break to hit the restroom before a panel I was sitting on began immediately in the same room, "Fandom Generations." Of course, the restrooms in the place I was familiar with now had some marvelously gender-friendly signs on them that I wasn't able to decipher on the fly and at a con of predominantly female attendance, I was hesitant to rush into either. So, nine stories up to my hotel room, nine stories back down to the panel, and I make a comically late run-in. This will soon be paired with a comically early run-out from the same panel as I try to get to the burlesque show on time, but in between it was a pretty good panel.

Nea Dodson, Lynne Stephens, Diana Williams, and myself were those who made it to the con out of our scheduled six, and we each opened with a bit on what we thought the biggest generational shift in fandom had been. Being a bit of a goof as explained earlier, I'd missed the earliest thoughts on the matter, but there were a lot to come. Big topics were the shift from using actual names to internet aliases, the way porny fanfic was once a much more underground, in-the-closet activity, and the quirks and benefits of getting your fiction published in a physical 'zine.

Lynne brought an old (things from the nineties are "old" now . . . weird) copy of 221B Baker Street that she and I both had stories printed in, and I started having flashbacks to MediaWest*Con of years ago, which Nea also had spoken of, a part of Sherlockiana that often didn't interact with the old school scion societies even then, being more a part of the general fandom community. It's very had to make generalizations about our Sherlockian past, because we all have different stories from the road to today. I get a lot wrong that way, as regular readers of this blog will sometimes call me on, but that's why I'm here at 221B Con yet again.

Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson are being celebrated here with mighty exuberance. It might not all make sense to a given Sherlockian, and there are a lot of other fandoms poking their way into the mix, as well as random bits like the ball pit which require a certain in-joke background, but learning about every little odd thing and how it has connected itself to Sherlock and John is part of the fun.

I've always loved exploring an environment full of wonderful new things, and 221B Con provides.

It also has a burlesque show with Sherlock Holmes in it. And one fabulous young lady who was every incarnation of Dr. Who and wound up being a Tardis. And Ron Weasley discovering Hermione was a bit of a dominatrix. But that's all I'm saying about that in a blog, except that the proceeds go to the Beacon Society, which just makes it all the cooler.

And that, I think, is enough for one night. Saturday is coming.

Friday, April 7, 2017

221B Con: First Friday Night Update

Okay, half hour before the Omegaverse panel, so here's the rundown of my adventures so far:

My morning constitutional took me over to Perimeter Mall where a California Avocado Salad was eaten in honor of Francis Hay Moulton and Hattie Doran at Cheesecake Factory. Halfway through the salad, the phone rings and Howard Ostrom tells me that he and David McAllister are about to roll into town, so I finish up and hoof it back, arriving just in time to help them unload two heaping luggage cart loads of framed Holmes and Watson actor autographs like Howard sold last year. We spend a good amount of time setting up Howard's dealers table, which he'll be manning solo this year, and I've offered to babysit it for him now and again. I wish you could've seen all his stuff, but if you live in Texas, you might . . . that story comes later.

That task done, I drive the boys to Shake Shack for their first lunch and my second, get back to the hotel in time to don tonight's con apparel (deerstalker and vest full of flair, with lanyard ready to receive my con badge), then head down to register. A family gets in line behind me in the registration line and are asking me if it's always so long, and I say, "Yeah, at first, but it dies down," then eventually we figure out that they're here to check in to the hotel and not 221B Con. They seemed happy to be here, though.

So, once registered, I hit the dealer's room and spend half my ready cash on some really great stuff. There's some lovely Disney-esque Johnlock art by anotherwellkeptsecret -- the first is just ethereally nice and the second relates to a moment in BBC Sherlock which I like the story of. And since I've already broken my Johnlock art virginity, down the aisle there's a piece by purrlock holmes of Sherlock and John sleepily at the bathroom mirror that's really lovely. I get a Mycroft Holmes marshmallow across the aisle (chocolate and double ginger), then round the corner to see a very attractive comic book called "the foldings" by Faye Simms and Joann Dominic. Being a comic book fan, that's an easy purchase, and I'm wondering if I'm going to be able to afford to go back to the steampunk dealer's excellent selection of wares when the Mocha Memoirs Press ladies ask me what kind of books I like . . . and of course, they have a vampire book . . . and a Sherlock book, so there goes more money.

Fox Estacado's booth isn't together yet, as she apparently hit the travel delays that have cost us a few con-goers this time out, so I make a note to save some money for that one. She has a Moriarty shirt I regretted not ordering earlier, and . . . well, on to that later. Drop stuff in room, back down to "Sherlock in YA Lit" panel which yields a lot of notes for future research as well as a tip for a librarian friend and an idea for a current project of mine that may now involve an escape room.

And when I get out of that panel, pause to have a few words with Beth about the John H. Watson Society, and get back to the dealer's room, I find Howard's entire two-table booth of autographs has been sold off to some fancy Texan who shall remain nameless for this blog entry and  Howard is roaming free.

Of course, I'm leaving out a pic with Mrs. Hudson (Marilynnne McKay) that made it to Twitter, a little chat with an author and a director about season four aftermaths and con discussions, and getting to see this person or that, including, of course, con special guest Curtis Armstrong. More name dropping to come soon, but I need to get back to things after a handful of nut mix and a little tea to keep my strength up.

I've already missed so much!  (Story of the con, every durn time!)

BC versus RDJ in retrospect.

Contemplating this evening's 221B Con panel on "Fandom Generation" and the impact that BBC Sherlock has had on our hobby, I suddenly remembered the movies Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.

Very popular movies featuring major movie stars, and at the time, they seemed to be part of inspiring a major boom of Sherlock Holmes in popular culture. But a mere seven years later, is anyone still talking about Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson? Not if you look at the panel list for 221B Con.

And, looking back, even at the height of the Downey movies' popularity, were they inspiring events like 221B Con, causing new Sherlockians to join old societies, causing anyone to go "Robert Downey Jr. is MY Sherlock Holmes!"?

Nope.

Now that the director of those movies has moved on to King Arthur movies, and you can see a similar pattern of Big Action Movie adaptation happening, and now that Season Four of Sherlock ended with some crazy action movie stuff that fans were not entirely thrilled with, it's pretty easy to see what elements made those two movies less "sticky" with Sherlockians than BBC Sherlock or even the Granada TV series.

Once you were done with the roller coaster ride of a big screen action movie, the momentary thrill of exploding trees or collapsing ship construction, there was nowhere else to go. Sure, they had Mycroft and Irene and Moriarty, but beyond the names they didn't give you any reason to go back to the original stories for more details. I think, at this point, I have probably spent as much time considering Asylum Films' Sherlock Holmes (or "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs") as the RDJ pair of movies.

Saw the movies. Enjoyed them. But not coming to 221B Con because of anything that happened in their aftermath. The RDJ movies might have even got a little more fan attention over the last few years because of BBC Sherlock.  (As has Sherlock's American step-brother from CBS TV.) It's more than a little ironic that Sherlock's fourth season finale had action movie elements of the sort that brought the RDJ movies big box office and little fan endurance.

On with the weekend!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The road to 221B Con 2017.

Well, when to get an Egg McMuffin one morning and your total cost is $2.21, then the next day, you get a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit with a drink . . . which has to be more than $2.21 . . . but your ticket comes out with order 221 printed on it, and you're on your way to 221B Con . . .

I'm not sure what that means.

But when your tire pressure light comes on crossing the river from Illinois to Kentucky and you roll into Paducah just before it goes irreparably flat, well, I suppose those odd occurrences were just the universe's way of telling you to do what you gotta do to get to the Perimeter Marriott in Atlanta.

Not that you wouldn't want to do that anyway.

Unfortunately, "James Sanders Drive" where I spent to night in Paducah wasn't "James Saunders Drive" like I first thought it was, which would have been appropriate, since the first Sherlockian I eventually saw upon arriving was a member of the Sir James Saunders Society for Sherlockian dermatologists. And the pair of new tires I had to get to resume my trip weren't Dunlop or Palmer, but then I'm not driving a Ford. (All of which makes you wonder if there is a Sherlockian out there SO devout they purchase Canonical brands wherever possible.

But the rest of the trip went quickly, even if passing "Patti's 1880s Settlement" is always tough. (Their website doesn't evoke Sherlock Holmes's London, unfortunately, so too big of a regret. Let me know if you know better on that.)

Three or four hours in the hotel bar with a table full of Sherlockians and you know you're definitely at 221B Con, even though things don't officially start until tomorrow afternoon. Which is good, because I definitely need some rest . . .

Monday, April 3, 2017

The 221B Con plan.

The phrase "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy," is Helmuth Von Moltke's contribution to popular culture, and with 221B Con coming on, it's hard not to be reminded of Helmuth's words. Not that the con, or its legion of attendees, are the enemy, nor is it in any way a battle -- past experience just counsels that outside of hitting certain must-do marks, it's best to let the con take you where it will.

Between 5:00 PM Friday and 5:00 PM Sunday, there are: Six session locations running up to five different panels/demos/events during any given hour. A viewing room running an amazing variety of video the whole time. Unofficial events going on in places like the Three Patch suite. Random friends turning up in the hotel bar. Dealer's room shopping available for any open spots. And the unexpected. Always the unexpected.

Here's my current must-do plan:

"Fandom Generations" panel 9:00 PM Friday.

Fandom burlesque at 10 PM Friday.

The costume exhibition at 5 PM Saturday.

"Fannish Estate Planning" panel 6:00 PM Saturday.

"Arthur Continuity Doyle" panel 8:00 PM Saturday.

The panels are the one's I'm sitting on. The costume exhibition is fun to watch, aaand maybe also participate in this year. And the fandom burlesque show? Just in the audience for that one -- it was amazing last time out, and my own burlesque talents are nowhere near anyone in that company! (Editor's note: As far as anyone knows.)

And then there's the part of the plan that's taking up a lot of time this week that you'll have to show up at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center's Tyler room at 8 PM Saturday to find out. It'll get a mention here after that, I'm sure, but why wait later than eight on Saturday?

Onward!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

"What does it mean? Why did you say that name?"

And now, a Sherlockian moment from the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:
Superman: You're letting them kill Martha . . .
Batman: What does that mean? Why did you say that name?
Superman: Find him . . . Save Martha . . .
Batman: Why did you say that name? Martha? Why did you say that name? WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?
Lois Lane: It's his mother's name! It's his mother's name!
Yes, in a scene that will go down in movie infamy, Lois Lane points out something that many a comic book fan has missed over the years: Batman's murdered mother and Superman's adoptive mother have the same name.

But what if little known Sherlockian scholar Lois Lane was actually just having a "Eureka!" moment of her own, and had gotten distracted by a discovery about her own recent Canonical reading of "His Last Bow" at that moment. And it was just coincidence that caused her words to end the fight?

Hey, it makes as much sense as anything else in that movie!

"There is no one in the house except old Martha, who has played her part to admiration. I got her the situation here when first I took the matter up," Sherlock Holmes explains to Watson after his capture of German spy Von Bork.

Many a Sherlockian has whimsically thought of this Martha as "Martha Hudson," over the years, Sherlock and John's old landlady, stepping in to help the British cause. But this "pleasant old lady" that Sherlock Holmes has put into a very dangerous situation "playing her part," would probably need more experience at duplicity and spywork than the average English landlady, who, though she could be called upon to rotate wax sniper targets by crawling into the room, was probably not up to leaving Baker Street for years on end, even for her favorite lodger.

What, however, if Lois Lane's Sherlockian theory was correct, and not only Batman and Superman had mothers named "Martha," but Sherlock Holmes as well? Who else would have the skills to spend two years in counter-espionage but an unmentioned mother of both Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes?

Makes more sense than Mrs. Hudson, I'd say.

And what if that Martha Holmes was an immortal mother of heroes, who did things like fake her death in Gotham when it was time to raise a boy in Kansas, well over a century after she produced two heroes named Holmes in the Victorian era? And what if Lois Lane put that all together in that moment of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?

Well, like I said, it makes as much sense as anything else in that movie.

Happy April Fool's Day from a blogger that's not fooling you at all with this one. It is Watson's birthday after all . . . but that's another story.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dining with women still an issue?

It's not often that a national news story strikes a particular nerve in my Sherlockian past, but today was one of those days. It was revealed that the vice-president of the United States, a position one would think would be held by the sort of person who had his act together, will not eat a meal with a woman other than his wife, unchaperoned.

At this point, it's been over twenty-five years since the Baker Street Irregulars of New York decided they could start dining with women without their wives being present. And even though some of us would have had happier Sherlockian lives had that happened a few decades earlier, the last twenty-five years have been good ones. We're making progress, not just as Sherlockians, but as humans.

So it's a little astounding to me that there are still those out there who are afraid of co-ed dining. It makes a certain statement about one's feelings about half the human race . . . which half, I'm not sure . . . that they are, as a certain figure once put it, "not to be trusted." (These days, it's probably more applicable to the men, given all the weasels of my gender we've seen of late.) And sometimes those who have the biggest trust issues are the ones you least want to trust. We do tend to predict other people's reactions based on our own inner workings, after all.

Where does that leave us?

Well, the 221B Con schedule came out today, and as any regular attendee has discovered, the abundance of attractive programming often leaves one with no time for dining . . . even if one eats alone. So I suppose 221B Con would be an attractive Sherlockian venue for those who still have issues dining with the opposite sex, since you can handily find an excuse not to eat at all. Though I'd suspect those folk wouldn't be attending the burlesque show or the late-night fic writing workshops . . . one wouldn't want to be seen as a libertine! Heavens!

The world continues to change, despite the fearful, despite the selfish, and change for the better. The chance to attend something like 221B Con the last few years has been pure and solid evidence of that fact to me, even in a hobby as old as Sherlockiana. A handful of brave souls who wouldn't have been allowed an invitation to the biggest Sherlockian event of the year three decades ago stepped up and created what has now become the biggest Sherlockian event of the year to many of us.

The world doesn't change for everybody, as that little news tidbit that started this post shows. But it is a-changing. It surely is. And I'm glad for that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Real-time cosplay "Eureka!" moment.

I think I've read "A Fangirl's Guide To Last Minute Sherlockian Cosplay" about six times since it first appeared. It's a quite encouraging article, despite the fact I'm more fanboy than fangirl, and yet . . . and yet . . . .

I mean, my main problem is that too much of the original Holmes Canon is open to a mildly overweight middle-aged male. There's a lot of Victorian fellows one can be. Or generic Victorian fellow. Or . . . .

And then, it came to me.

Right now. I mean, as I typed that "Or . . . ."

I mean, I have a costume. In my closet. And it's perfect. And it solves a second question I was having.

This is going to sound really stupid, but I was sitting down to blog about all the issues/excuses I have for not being satisfied with my options for Sherlockian cosplay . . . and then, BAM, just like that. The perfect costume for the spring of 2017. All I need to come up with is a proper piece of paper, and everything else suddenly works.

And yes, I'm going to be a bit of a shit and not tell you what it is until 221B Con. So stay tuned . . .

One more week until 221B Con. Lovely.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

On a first name basis.

One of the great innovations of BBC Sherlock, next to bringing the detective to the modern day (in a fashion that not only stuck, but was immediately imitated), was getting us used to a more modern form of address between the two men: "John" and "Sherlock," instead of "Watson" and "Holmes."

And yet, there was another time when Watson referred to Holmes as "Sherlock" back in the 1800s.

Of course, it took the person we all know called him "Sherlock" the most to cause that to happen. And it begins with the words:

"Mycroft Holmes was a much larger and stouter man than Sherlock."

In the little observational contest that soon follows, it's interesting to see how Watson writes the exchange in "The Greek Interpreter."

". . . said Sherlock."

". . . remarked the brother."

". . . said Sherlock."

John Watson is obviously showing some favoritism in his narration, definitely more familiar with "Sherlock" than "the brother." Yes, John does refer to Mycroft by his first name in a few spots, just to differentiate between the two. But the familiarity when he talks about "Sherlock" is . . . well . . .

Dr. Watson does begin the story with "During my long and intimate acquaintance with Mr. Sherlock Holmes . . . ."  And yet, soon we're reading the words: "His eyes, which were of a peculiarly light watery gray, seemed to always retain that far-away, introspective look which I had only observed in Sherlock's when he was exerting his full powers."

John Watson may be using eyes to describe that what Sherlock has when he really works at it is what Mycroft has all the time, but . . . wait a minute . . . if one starts to look at that passage as one of much familiarity . . . like John is talking eyes because he "likes likes" Sherlock . . . then it's almost like John Watson is actually more attracted to Mycroft . . . which then validates one of CBS Elementary's weirdest bits of continuity.

Okay, now I'm completely off course in this little meander on John Watson using Sherlock Holmes's first name, so I think I'll end it here. But there was a time . . . .

Sunday, March 26, 2017

It's a bard . . . it's a plain . . . it's Superfan!

Every now and then some media outlet does a feature on something they call "superfans." I don't know that I've ever met such a creature, despite having spent decades around Sherlockians, Trekkies, and comic book lovers. It seems to be a creation of those outside a given fandom to express the feeling that someone has just gone too far, whether it be about Twilight or the Green Bay Packers.

Why do I suspect it's a term mainly used by outsiders?

Because I don't know if a real fan of something thinks you can go too far, if it doesn't involve crime or harm to others.

Spend years building a room in your house as a replica of 221B Baker Street? That's not too far, that's a life goal!

Dress in Victorian costume and make a pilgrimage to a particular waterfall in Switzerland? Who wouldn't want to do that?

Collect everything and anything to do with Sherlock Holmes to the limits of your storage spaces and available funding allow? Who hasn't done that?

"Fan" is short for "fanatic," and once you've gone fanatic, there seems no need to add "super."

Okay, okay, I know, you're not one of those people. Some Sherlockians don't like to be called "fans," even when there entire life history might have every appearance of a total fandom immersion. And we're into self-identification now, so that's cool. But does anyone out there self-identify as a superfan? Is there any perceived status to be had there?

I have heard fellow Sherlockians discuss whether or not they were functioning at the level of a "good Sherlockian." And a non-Sherlockian friend might want to designate you "a Sherlock Holmes expert," whether you're feeling it or not. You can be a top collector, a  rare specialist in some aspect of film, art, or an important figure in the history of Holmes. But to use those designations, you actually have to be interested enough in someone's specialty to actually know what they're about.

"Superfan" seems like a generalization from those who don't really want to acknowledge accomplishment. Anyone who knew the Sherlockian turf would look at an accomplished writer, collector, or creator and admire the skill or work that person put into their hobby. If they're a superfan? Well, that's just some weird brain thing they were born with.

Maybe I'm thinking too hard about this one, but I know it never feels good to see someone I know referred to as a "superfan" in a newspaper headline. And I like superheroes. A Sherlockian with actual super-powers would be the coolest thing ever.

But "superfans?" No, thank you.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fandom gender-ations.

There's been much talk of  "the elephant in the room" in Sherlock fandom over the last few years. And following the trail of that particular elephant can lead one, especially one who has a certain gender identity beginning with "m," to an even larger elephant.

Contemplating the topic of "Fandom Generations" for the panel of that name at 221B Con this year, that larger elephant gets pretty hard to ignore, and yet, like all such beasts, must be delicately dealt with. Because looking over the decades at what as gone on with Sherlockiana as a whole, we're not just looking at generational changes due to age and influences of a particular decade. We're looking at major shifts due to gender as well.

When the model for Sherlockian societies was built back in 1934, it was a boys club. Yes, female Sherlockians existed, and some good ones at that, but like most of society at the time, soooo male-dominated. And with it taking until 1991 for America's flagship Sherlock group to let women participate as full members, it's safe to say it was male-dominated for a very long time. Waves of enthusiasm came and went, Rathbone, Meyer, Brett, each helping bring surges of new fans, but the culture remained very much based around that 1930s model.

Enter the Cumber-"batch." And a new model of Sherlockiana started to arise. It wasn't new to planet Earth, just new to Sherlockiana . . . this model that has no problem calling itself "fandom." Star Trek fans were there well ahead of us, being a more progressive, and for whatever reason, more predominately female. This new wave of Sherlockiana was just as active, just as savvy, just as enthused as any generation before, but with new technologies and numbers previously unseen in Sherlockian culture. And predominately a girls club.

While the 1900s belonged to the boys, the 2000s are looking to be headed an entirely different direction. When you think of major Sherlockian events, the less ancient ones are run by women. When you think of the most popular new Sherlockian professional fiction, it tends to be written by women. And when you get to fanfic . . . well, they've owned that realm since long before it came to Holmes.

But when you come to gender, the differences can be felt so deep they might as well be in our very bones. Take season four of Sherlock, for example. Made by a couple of male show-runners for a mass-market audience, the boys did some basic boy things: Fast cars. Explosions. Pirates. Icky sister trouble. One can argue whether or not such things belong in a Sherlock Holmes story, but the numerous editions of the very gender-specifically titled Conan Doyle's Stories for Boys from a bygone era make one think they just might, from a certain point of view. When hearing Johnlock fans' utter shock at season four's finale, it's easy to think of the fable of the scorpion and the frog. In the end, the boys creating Sherlock could not help being boys.

The same goes for fan fiction and its dominantly relationship-based themes. A man can disdain the quality of it all he wants, but in reality he's probably not spending much time looking for the really good stuff, because he isn't into the subject matter. It can be hard for an old boy, grown up in that old world dominated by male writers to try to digest fiction created by and for women. Great fiction transcends things like gender, yes, but so many times we write for our own, even without purposefully doing so. Girls will be girls, just as boys will be boys, and sometimes a guy has to just accept that certain things were not written for him.

The trick, of course, is to step back and take the long view. Taking each new wrinkle to an evolving hobby as a personal afront does no one any good, whatever gender you are. Sherlockiana has had its "new Ghostbusters are ruining my childhood" types, but in my experience, they're the outliers. Most of us, male and female, are good folks . . . it's a part of how we came together under this banner of Sherlock Holmes. It's what female Sherlockians held on to when they were still barred from certain male venues. And it's what many a male Sherlockian must remember as they venture into more Sherlockian venues that come from a non-male place.

So . . . this elephant . . . how do we discuss generational changes in Sherlockian that could be related to gender without treading on the toes of our fellow Sherlockians of different ages or genders?

Well, the first thing I'd guess is to let each tell their own tale.

Perhaps follow a particular method of Sherlock Holmes and ask our questions without theorizing in advance of the facts, then listen carefully to the answers. We all spend a lot of time alone, even when we feel like we're with our fellows typing words into the internet, and in the absence of the actual present human being, it's very easy to develop our theories of what people are about before we actually meet them (or sometimes after we've already met them and forgotten parts).

But as Sherlock Holmes said, "It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts."

And, yes, the man was Sherlock Holmes. But even that paragon of intellect made some statements about the opposite sex that were pretty bone-headed on occasion. And we forgive him for those, for the most part. There is always a little patience required in dealing with any human being, even ourselves, especially when the elephants come into the room.

As Sherlock also said, "We can but try."

Friday, March 24, 2017

"J.H. is in Europe."

Since I wrote about John H. Watson appearing in only a handful of stories by that name, I remembered another curious detail. In A Study in Scarlet, the first of the few John H. stories, we find a telegram in one murder victim's pocket that reads "J.H. is in Europe."

Stranger still, the first two initials "J.H." figure in three other cases as well.

True, one is the Scowrer bodymaster of Chicago in 1875, J.H. Scott.

And one is the "J.H." monogram on Joseph Harrison's locket. Why does Joseph Harrison seem to carry a locket with his own initials on it? Hmm.

Lastly, of course, is a "drab-coloured notebook" with the initials "J.H.N." and the date "1883" on the very first page. Hmm again.

The year 1883 is of interest as it's the year of the first case Watson undertakes with Holmes outside of A Study in Scarlet, and we don't hear of another case mentioned specifically by year until 1887. A notebook that starts with the year 1883 immediately puts on in mind of Dr. Watson's own notes, which probably started at that time. (A Study in Scarlet's case being such a surprise to the doctor that he couldn't have been prepared to take notes.)

What makes the phrase "J.H. is in Europe" so interesting is that among Watson's literary agent's papers was found a certain account of John Watson and Jefferson Hope in San Francisco. One of them gets the girl and the other one dies, and the villains of the piece are the very ones who meet their end in A Study in Scarlet.

Having said that Watson wasn't taking notes at the time of A Study in Scarlet leads one to conjecture that he might have "improvised" certain facts in the case. And once on that trail, Pandora's Box opens up to a curious Sherlockian mind.

What if the "J.H." who was in Europe was not a live Jefferson Hope, but the spectre of a man who died in San Francisco haunting those who contributed to his demise? A spectre who was embodied by a living man whose very name took on the spirit of vengeance he carried with him? 

A man named "John Hope Watson," perhaps?

Reconciling the manuscript entitled "Angels of Darkness" with the published record A Study in Scarlet has always been a challenge for Watsonian scholars, even if John H. Watson was an innocent participant in all of the events documented. But if he was not so innocent, and his first case with Sherlock Holmes was one where the detective lured his prey to Baker Street, not by calling a cab, but by looking for a room-mate . . . well, things really get interesting.

This is all mad conspiracy theorizing off a few slender threads of coincidence, of course. Nothing to see here, right? We can all move along in our love of . . . that guy BBC Sherlock had murdering someone in the very first episode . . . did Moffat and Gatiss know something we don't and were hinting at a conspiracy much deeper than Johnlock?

Hmmm, again . . .




Thursday, March 23, 2017

Saving Mary Sutherland.

One of the joys of a good Sherlock Holmes discussion group, as met at the North Branch of the Peoria Library tonight, is the perspectives you get from other Sherlockians that can actually improve a story for you. Tonight we were discussing "A Case of Identity," a minor light as mysteries go, but a tale ripe-to-bursting with delicious Doylean detail.

"A Case of Identity," you will recall, is that weird little tale of step-daughter Mary Sutherland who is conned by her step-father . . . and her actual mother, her selfish cougar of a mother . . . into staying single by breaking her heart so they can keep her income coming into the household.

It's a plot we see play out a few times in the cases Holmes takes -- men trying to control the inheritance of young ladies, who were not so far out of Jane Austen times that they had much power over their own destinies without a husband. And the ending to Miss Mary Sutherland's case is especially unsatisfying that way.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson get to feel all manly and good for chasing the step-father out of 221B and watching him flee down Baker Street, but you know when he gets home, James Windibank and his wife, Mary's mother, can just go back to living the lie they built to keep Mary and her income willingly trapped in their greedy little household.

Sherlock isn't going to tell her about the con job that was pulled on her, saying she wouldn't believe him anyway. And he's got ten or twelve other problems at hand, one of which involved identifying bisulphate of baryta, which seemed to be more in the forefront of his mind that Mary Sutherland's case. But if you go back a few pages to a paragraph before Sherlock Holmes solves the case, you find a rather interesting letter "s."

"It is just as well that we should do business with the male relatives," he tells Watson. And yet by the end of Watson's narrative, he has only dealt with "male relative" singular. Who else was Holmes planning to deal with? Mary had no other male relatives, right?

Posing this question to the discussion group, an answer came 'round quickly in Mary's own words: ". . . we went, mother and I, with Mr. Hardy, who used to be our foreman, and it was there I met Mr. Hosmer Angel."

While not a true family member by blood, Mr. Hardy was a part of the Sutherland business family and plainly a loyal friend of Mary's father who was familiar enough to take the widow and daughter of his old boss to the gasfitter's ball. Since Mary's mother had sold the Sutherland plumbing business entirely, she had no power over Mr. Hardy,  and a foreman who managed working men was not the sort of guy who was going to put up with a little weasel like young Windibank's scheming.

As Watson's following of this case was based on social calls, he was probably not around when Sherlock Holmes went to talk to Mr. Hardy, the one man who could be trusted to straighten out Mary Sutherland's bogus fiancee issues and give her the facts. So it makes sense that part might not make it into the published account. But that one line from Holmes, "do business with the male relatives," makes it clear that Windibank wasn't the only man he planned to talk to before he considered this case wrapped up.

Coming to that conclusion made tonight's discussion of "A Case of Identity," which had a lot of great and fascinating points in it, one of the most valuable talks I've participated in on that matter. Despite Mary Sutherland's rather ridiculous plight, I now have a good feeling that someone was looking out for her, and that the case had a much more satisfying end that I got from previous readings.

While we can't consult with Mr. Sherlock Holmes on these cases, sometimes consulting with his followers can do a pretty good job of it as well. Pretty darn good.

The next meeting of Peoria's "Sherlock Holmes Story Society" will be April 27th, and I can't wait to see what we get from "Boscombe Valley."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sherlock Holmes explains writing mysteries.

There is a very meta conversation in the opening of 1891's "A Case of Identity." On the surface, it seems as though Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are discussing crime. Holmes is arguing that reality, with all "the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations," would "make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable."

Watson does not agree. "We have in our police reports realism pushed to its extreme limits, and yet the result is . . . neither fascinating nor artistic."

"A certain selection and discretion must be used in producing a realistic effect," Holmes replies. "This is wanting in the police report, where more stress is laid perhaps upon the platitudes of the magistrate than the details . . . ."

In other words, isn't of showing you what happened, the magistrate is telling you what happened. And "Show, don't tell!" is an old writing dictum said to go back as far as Anton Chekov.

Holmes is defending his statement that basically, truth is stranger than fiction -- a line Mark Twain would write about six years later: "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." And, interestingly, Sherlock Holmes is saying that the police reports don't produce "a realistic effect" in their writing . . . which is odd, since they are about reality.

What Sherlock actually seems to be doing here is giving the fledgling writer Watson some tips. The discussion occurs a few weeks after the two dealt with "A Scandal in Bohemia," the first short story Watson ever published, so that thought may well have some merit. Watson does not chronicle what conversation was going on between them when Holmes first states that "life is infinitely stranger than anything the mind of man could invent." Was Sherlock trying to talk John out of writing up "Scandal," as it wasn't that interesting?

The opening of "A Case of Identity" is very interesting in that it isn't a discussion about crime, it's a discussion about writing. And one with some great advice contained within.

For those in or near Peoria, the discussion of "A Case of Identity" continues this Thursday night at the North Branch library at 6:30. Join us if you're in the neighborhood!

The silo versus the whole farm.

In contemplating the possibilities for the "Fandom Generations" panel at 221B Con, one starts noticing some very pronounced differences in the way Sherlockian fandom as a whole is discussed.

The first way is that oldest sense of Sherlockiana, one that comes from entering Sherlock Holmes love as a first fandom. Before Trekkies, before comic cons, before most, there was Sherlockiana. And to many a first-fandom Sherlockian, being a fan of Sherlock Holmes seems as unique now as it was then.

The second way is that of a Sherlockian who may have migrated into Holmes world from another fandom, with a strong awareness of the fan universe that Sherlockiana exists within. Sherlock Holmes exists in a personal fan pantheon . . . a "fantheon" of favorites . . . and even though he may be atop it all, the knowledge of those with similar passion for other characters cannot be denied.

It's not a binary system of course. There have been Sherlockian Trekkies, Sherlockian comic book fans, Sherlockian Trekkie comic book fans . . . but a few decades back, side fandoms were not nearly as much in  the foreground as now. The thought of a Sherlock Holmes weekend like 221B Con having an hour devoted to Hannibal or British quiz shows in the programming was unheard of . . . programming time was limited, so the focus had to be entirely on the guy who brought us all to the party.

To say a being a Sherlockian in 2017 is the same as being a Sherlockian in 1977, even for those of us who existed as Sherlockians in both years, is, to steal a term from data management, to silo Sherlockiana. Siloing Sherlockiana away from other fandoms, isolating it in its own private fan sector, was a lot easier for someone coming into the hobby in 1977. In 2017, Sherlockian doings happening at something like Comic-Con in San Diego make one very aware that it exists in a much greater fan world these days.

That's not to say the followers of Holmes don't have their own special spin on things. But the tools we use, the methods to our madness, the resources we use, all can oft be shared with other fandoms, giving us bleed over in both directions. Much like Sherlock Holmes gathering his detective tools from every discipline he came in contact with, the modern fan has a goodly array of potential ways to express their fandom, which makes for more enabled Sherlockians. One might argue that it waters down "pure Sherlockiana" slightly, but everything has a price.

Sherlockiana has been around a very long time now, and has been touched by every era in which it has existed, which is part of its allure. What comes into it from the current generation is something well worth discussing . . . even if it can be hard to wrap one's head around, as this wandering little essay might show.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Let's talk about the Watsons.

It's time we had a little honest talk about the Watsons.

What follows may come as a shock to the membership of the John H. Watson Society, whose numbers might descend upon me with righteous furor after this, but it has to be discussed. A simple fact that affects Watsonians, Elementary haters, monogamous Watson defenders . . . really, the entire Sherlockian world, when you come right down to it. And that fact is this:

John H. Watson, M. D., was only involved in three of the sixty known records of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

The seminal A Study in Scarlet. The potentially spurious "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge." And the classic "The Problem of Thor Bridge." How the John H. Watson Society will be able to go on, knowing their entire enterprise is based upon only those three records, I do not know.

But those are the only three stories where John H. Watson is specifically mentioned.

"Don't be silly!" you might protest. "John Watson is mentioned all over the Canon!"

"Nope," I would reply, standing fast. "'Watson' is mentioned. 'Dr. Watson' is mentioned. But 'John,' in reference to Sherlock Holmes's friend Watson? That's it."

So if you consider the preponderance of evidence, fifty-six stories to four . . . Elementary's Joan Watson is practically as Canonical as that guy in BBC Sherlock who goes by "John."

You might notice I said "four" in that last bit instead of "three," because there is that notorious case where Watson has a completely different first name: "James" in "The Man with the Twisted Lip."

So we have a James Watson. We have a John Watson. We have thirty three cases in which Watson is specifically noted as being a doctor. And then we have a whole lot of records where the guy hanging out with Sherlock Holmes is just a "Watson."

She could have been Joan. He could have been the elder brother whom we only know by his initial, H. They could have had a lot of other first names. They could have included a married Watson visiting Baker Street one month, and an unmarried Watson living there the next. They could have included the Watson wounded in the shoulder, and the Watson wounded in the leg.

One could even drift into that dangerous territory of thinking that Sherlock Holmes just called whoever his latest companion was "Watson," in memory of the original John H. Watson who died early on. In that case, even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could have been a Watson . . . not a literary agent after all, just the Watson who wrote up the cases from the notes of Holmes and the other Watsons.

But all this is merely conjecture at this point, left to the researchers who diligently follow the path of the great scholar Backnecke from the early 1900s when he theorized about a proto-Watson and a deutero-Watson. How many Watsons might one find in that one thick volume called The Complete Sherlock Holmes? Only those willing to dig deep will be able to tell us.

As a mere blogger, resigned to scraping the surface of things Sherlockian, I doubt I will be one of those brave Jacques Cousteaus in the ocean of Sherlockian scholarship. But I wish them well, and hope they are greeted as the heroes they truly are when their work is done.

Because this "Watson" thing . . . when you realize facts like that he was called "James" out loud more often than he was "John," well, who knows what other accepted truths about Sherlock's best pal might also be in doubt?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Kitty and Porky together again?

"Hell, London, gets me every time. Same address for Porky Shinwell. We're old mates, Porky, you and I."
-- Kitty Winter, "The Illustrious Client"

It's been a while since CBS's Elementary crossed my television threshold, but this March, with word on the streets that Kitty Winter was returning, it seemed a good time to catch up with that old debatable. It had plainly been a while, as Mr. Elementary himself had taken on a new look, with a suit and his hair clippered down to the stubble, making him look more like a Jason Statham character than his typical . . . well, his typical Mr. Elementary look.

"She's a detective now, Watson, so she's one of us," Mr. Elementary tells Joan Watson, regarding Kitty, and Kitty Winter is detecting all over the place as she joins her old crew from a couple seasons ago to solve a string of murders that may place herself and Mr. E. as upcoming victims.

Joan and Mr. Elementary's new friend, Shinwell Johnson, whose name comes from the same original Sherlock Holmes story as Kitty Winter, didn't seem to be in the first part of this story, March 5's "Wrong Side of the Road," even though he was very much present in the previous episode. Kitty's the one bringing a baby to Elementary, rather than John and Mary. Little Archie has a good Canonical name just like his mother, though unless his father is Watson's old pal Stamford, it's probably in first name alone.

The episode ends with that old cliche, the guy who can't tell you all the answers over the phone only to meet his end before the appointed rendezvous for revelations. But this is just part one of Kitty's return, so there's still one more chance to see Kitty Winter and Shinwell Johnson on screen together, just for some small tribute to the story that birthed them both.

The final moments of the show is shot in front of the awning of an Owens Funeral Home, so a little Google Earth detective work can show you the neighborhood where the "221B" of Elementary is located.

The March 12th Elementary episode, "Fidelity," starts with Mr. Elementary under arrest by some clandestine U.S. Defense intelligence agency, looking a bit old, tired, and haggard. Morland Holmes gets a mention, but as the show's budget seems to only afford one guest star at a time, Morland will have to continue to hang out off-stage like Shinwell Johnson seems to be. But Mt. Elementary is quickly freed and running to pee (Really.) so there's no time to dwell on that. Well, sort of . . .

Kitty Winter's return with baby Archie seems a lot like one episode's usual plot has been stretched to fill two weeks' episodes, and Kitty's presence seems to be just spending two hours getting around to telling Mr. Elementary about her baby and that Archie will be the cause of her retiring from detective work. That subplot even climaxes with a scene between Mr. Elementary and Kitty that is pure cheese, complete with the sort of soppy piano soundtrack that usually denotes cancer or another terminal diagnosis. The fact that Mr E. is giving Kitty grief for being another guest star who doesn't stay in touch is rather ironic, given the show's treatment of cast outside of the main four.

But, all in all, the show's very relaxing, and probably makes an effective sedative if one is having a stressful life. But for a Sherlockian hoping for something other than in-name-only references, Elementary continues to be an arid desert of New York scenery and chatting. (Yes, I know, Kitty Winter kicks a guy in the nuts to make him double over and not get shot by a machine gun, yet somehow Elementary even takes that in its sleepy stride.) Hopes of seeing Kitty Winter and Shinwell Johnson on screen together, even passing in a doorway, as a nod to the stories CBS supposedly based this series on fade quickly.

One does have to give the show credit for one thing, as the ratings dwindle in the latter half of its fifth season: Consistency.

Consistency, if not as the episode title says, "Fidelity."