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.