This time of year, I always get to see the QE2 sail by, with a welcoming blast of its deep, bass horn. I’ve taken pot shots at it from the beach with my BB gun, but they’ve mostly been for my benefit. The QE2 steams onward, its manifest loaded with captains of Sherlockian industry, artists of various media, and the odd Jack Dawson, be he male or female.
The yearly letter from the Mike Whelan came today, announcing both the accomplishments of the Baker Street Irregulars in the past year and the January weekend in New York to come. During Mike’s term as Wiggins, he has built the Baker Street Irregulars of New York into what is undeniably the Big Sherlockian Institution, well suited to Manhattan’s landscape of the venerable and the powerful. Venues like the Yale Club, a Harvard archive, and a seriously impressive and impressively serious annual slate of publishing, all form building blocks of what is practically a fandom empire.
The yearly letter also contains a request for membership suggestions, with some pointers on what the old club is looking for. This year’s call emphasizes that clubbability and Sherlockian knowledge are merely the first test of one’s resume as a Sherlock Holmes fan. Potential Irregulars are being sought for their ability to ensure the strength of the Irregulars’ future more than their past accomplishments.
Things were different when I got inducted into the club back in 1989, and I sometimes wonder if they’d even consider me these days. Of course, back in 1989 I have the benefit of being a thirty-one-year-old with a bright and shiny Sherlockian future. They’re probably a little leery of such green recruits these days, as sometimes piss and vinegar leads to a match or two involving the former. (One reason why I haven’t really been a help in building the BSI in the subsequent twenty-three years.) But who knows? We’ve got some really great, energetic younger Sherlockians these days.
The thing about younger Sherlockians is that they often have ideas that might not line up with the status quo. Or may even be beyond something an older mind can conceive as a workable option. And they don’t always kiss your ass or wait around for you to come around to their point of view.
I used the QE2 as a metaphor for the big and mighty ship that is the Baker Street Irregulars of New York instead of the Titanic, because I don’t see the BSI hitting an iceberg any time soon. Mike Whelan has done a great job of building up a the old girl. But like any cruise ship, its course is also well established, and hopeful passengers must honor its ports of call. And there will remain those of us who choose to sit on the beach and watch it go by, for whatever reason.
The seas of Sherlock Holmes are wide indeed.