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'.


  1. Omg I'm dying, that was awesome. And so great to finally meet you in person! Live the analogy. (Would also make a great cosplay for next year)

  2. Yep. A Scintillation of Scions has been fortunate to have the Admins of 221B Con not only attend our event for years now, but they have also been presenters. One of them will be presenting this June, as will several others of of the newer fandom, which has been our own "tradition," if you will, since 2009's first RDJ film. Each time I've attended 221B Con I am even more impressed, amazed, and delighted with the creative and innovative ways people have of playing their own game.