Listening to the "Back Row Super Show" podcast this morning, as the topic was last weekend's 221B Con. It's not a Sherlock Holmes based podcast, and that's what makes it a really fascinating listen: Non-Sherlockians getting to brush up against the Sherlockian world.
The first critique that most Sherlockians of a traditional bent have of 221B Con is that the con is not 100% Sherlock Holmes, or that the part that is 100% Sherlock Holmes is not 100% Conan Doyle. And the guys from Back Row Super Show, not being Sherlockians, picked the "Stephen Universe" panel for their first official hour of the con. (It's a cartoon about a boy who lives with magical beings, if you're wondering.) So they make excellent "test subjects" for looking at non-Sherlockians wandering into my favorite Sherlockian event. And a lot of non-Sherlockians wander into 221B Con, as Atlanta is a great place to sample cons.
As a person who has sampled cons for fandoms I'm not a part of, I recommend the practice. You discover that it isn't just Sherlockians who are at their best when they're in their element, and there's always something fun and fascinating to learn from taking such a plunge with an open mind.
The second panel the Back Row Super Show boys wandered into was the mysterious "ABO" panel, which they wander into blind, as I have in the past, and they actually find out what "Johnlock" is for the first time. Their reaction is kind of wonderful, as they are definitely not the demographic that ABO tends to go for. (In other words, they're boys.) But just as I did, they recognize a warm and welcoming group who enjoys explaining their Sherlockian specialty to others.
The 221B Con experiences of the Back Row Super Show guys provides a nice "alternate universe of attendance" for me, for as I've previously written, no single human can experience all of 221B Con's "five tracks at a time" programming. I wouldn't recommend their chat it to a hardcore Doyle Sherlockian, as they do like to pick the non-Sherlockian options in the schedule to discuss along with the Sherlockian, but they do really capture the feeling of the con.
A "Wakanda Forever" panel one hour, then a "Sherlock Holmes in Anime" panel next, and you get to hear how two non-Sherlockians enjoy Sherlockian content that intersects with their own interests.
One of them wanders into the "Drug Use During The Victorian Era" panel, as I did, and gets very into the topic on the podcast, talking about what he learned listening to Lyndsay Faye and Chris Zordan talk about Sherlock Holmes and drug use. It winds up being his favorite panel of the con, and the mix of education and entertainment that Lyndsay and Chris put together gets great reviews.
Playing the game "Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty's Web," eating out by the food truck and falling into conversation with strangers, "Watsons Through Time," the costume exhibition, Potterlock, Flavortown, karaoke with con familiars . . . it's a long podcast, but they cover a goodly chunk of the con.
As I listened to Back Row Super Show's episode on 221B Con, I couldn't help but think of that silly little argument on "who is a Sherlockian" that hit social media just before the con weekend. Trying to define who is a Sherlockian is a very selfish game if you think about it -- "Does this person know enough about Sherlock to be of interest to me?" It's a very defensive, gate-keeper position to me, one that says we have to keep the non-Sherlockians out lest they spoil our Sherlockian paradise. Here is definitely proof of the opposite happening.
The guys from Back Row Super Show might not have come to a strictly "all Doyle's Sherlock all day long" symposium day, as a lot of 221B Con attendees might not. But they didn't ruin 221B Con for anyone, not having read the full Canon, and their enthusiasm at hearing some Sherlockian subjects for the first time is indicative of one of the energizing aspects of the con for me. It's not only open to everyone, it allows attendees to help fill the program with subjects they love, even if it's not always Sherlock Holmes. Creating that atmosphere of enthusiasm actually adds energy to the panels that are about Sherlock Holmes, which are most of them, of course. And getting to listen in on a couple of non-Sherlockians in that atmosphere definitely proves the point.
There is a joy in seeing a non-Sherlockian become a Sherlockian, if even for an only hour or two.
Every Sherlockian event can't be 221B Con. It's a special weekend in a town that knows its fan cons. But it definitely shows the value of opening a Sherlockian door to the rest of the world, and loosening up our boundaries now and then.
Back Row Super Show rated 221B Con as an excellent con, and called out a lot of the joyous supportive nature and warm, inclusive, positive atmosphere of the con . . . and as with so many other first-time 221B Con attendees, they're coming back next year.