Thursday, March 28, 2013

A jack-knife into correspondence.

On my way to this blog, I walked past my wicker basket of unopened correspondence and had a "What happened?" moment.

Not because there were weeks and weeks of mail that hadn't been opened, including a journal or two that I didn't even realize had arrived. That happens these days. It was the flash of memory that accompanied the sight as I remembered scrapping with my fellow lodger, the good Carter, on many a day, just to see who could get out the door and to the mailbox to see what had arrived. I remembered the joy of seeing multiple Sherlockian publications piled inside with letters from my regular and irregular correspondents, some of whom I'd write answers to that very night and post them the very next day.

But at some point we crossed an internet line, and there was no going back.  E-mail came, and then the step no one saw coming, the text message. As Steven Moffat said in an old interview I recently got back to, the text message is one of the most Sherlock Holmes-ish of modern inventions, the telegram re-invented. Terse, efficient . . . the minute Holmes first appeared in Sherlock via text, I knew the creators had a feel for the trick. Text messages make one's existence much more Holmes-ish than smoking a pipe ever did. The pipe was a superficial trait. The text/telegram is a method.

But I digress. Correspondence was the subject.

See, it's even hard to talk about "snail" mail these days. What used to be the life's blood of non-local Sherlockiana and a touchstone to the world of Sherlock Holmes himself, where a single letter was a revelation in all sorts of ways, is a thing of a prior period in history. Along with pipes and male headwear, we've moved out of an era where even the modern Basil Rathbone still could share so much with his Victorian original.

And yet . . .

Just as the text message serves for the telegram in Sherlock, for me this blog serves where letters once did. True, I don't usually start them with "Dear Wally," or "Dear Tina," as I did in my early days, but a whole lot of these blogs are written as if to a particular friend and I'm just sharing our fun with the rest of the world. The stuff you read here is the stuff I once wrote in letters . . . though I did tend to jump topics a lot more back then.

Things change, and yet, since human beings have a certain slowness to evolve, some things don't. Sherlockians are Sherlockians yet, and though the world explode . . . well, if the world explodes that's pretty much it . . . though the world change dramatically, certain correspondences remain.

Yeah, I'm not really fond of that last line either, but it's late, so there you go.

Yours truly,

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oh, joy. Really. Joy. Yes.

It's just starting to sink in. Elementary has been renewed.

The news coming in through various channels today wasn't really a surprise. It's been doing consistent enough ratings to hold it over, and the mere fact CBS used it as their Super Bowl go-to indicated a belief in the show by the network. So I didn't really react right away.

But slowly, the full weight of the announcement started to sink in.

Elementary gets another season. It doesn't go out with its fans going, "Too soon! Too soon!" It doesn't quietly fade into the New York grate steam. No, like most American TV shows, it's going to take its ratings success and grind away until its inevitable failure.

As a lone blogging voice, I don't have nearly the powers of persuasion to convince its devoted followers of its failure as a Sherlock Holmes adaptation. But a network television show is a much more powerful voice, and what is that voice going to do in the year(s) ahead?

Prove my point for me.

Mark my words, gentle readers. Elementary will fail. And it will fail slowly, sadly, possibly ugly. Those who now call themselves fans of the show are very liable to  quit watching it before I do. Why? Because, a.) That's the way television shows usually work, more often than not, and b.) I'm looking at this like a marathon. Sure, it may be a little painful here, a little dull there, but eventually I'll be able to look back and go, "Wow, I made it through that!"  It's the Sherlockian version of Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me experiment, being documented in html instead of film.

As the announcement of another season of Mr. Elementary, once it had time to fully sink in, did not elicit any wailing or gnashing of teeth in the subterranean lair where Sherlock Peoria houses it's secret blog machineries . . . no . . . no . . . no. Just the gentle stroking of a cat, and the slight turn of what might be a smile. And if you pullled back, receding into the distance outside the walls of said lair, you might have heard the beginnings of a muffled "Bwah-ha-hah . . ."

With that, I'll leave you with the rare link posted to this blog, a little reminder of the last pretender to the Sherlock Holmes deerstalker whom I completely disagreed with. Enjoy.

All Sherlock, all the time.

Ah, that bright and chipper refrain "We can never have enough Sherlock Holmes!"

It pops up all over the place these days, usually in defense of some particularly shabby corner of the Sherlock Holmes universe, and while I'll excuse it in the young, innocent, and energetic, to hear it from Sherlockians past a certain tenure in the hobby always sounds quite delusional.

Because we can, indeed, have too much Sherlock Holmes. From deerstalkered chotchkies to vinyl record albums of radio shows, from Bantam paperbacks to comic books of Muppets dressed as Sherlock, eventually there will come a point when the sheer mass of it all is physically too much to deal with. Unless you're hiring an in-house curator, it can start to impinge on your actual living space. And that's just on the personal, collecting side of things.

Culturally, we can also have too much Sherlock Holmes. Suppose I decided to get my name legally changed to "Sherlock Holmes." And you do too. And your sibling. And my postman. And that woman at Walmart wearing the inappropriate garment that gets her photo on the web. Sure, each of us might have as much in common with Sherlock Holmes as a certain CBS TV character, but is it really a happy thing for all of us to be running around named "Sherlock Holmes?"

And if I graduate from the Sherlock Holmes academy, get a job at 221B World amusement park as Sherlock Holmes running the Sherlock Holmes Reichenbach Bungee to pay off the mortgage on my house at 221B Baker Street in the Sherlock Holmes subdivision ("Where every street is Baker Street!"), where I live with my wife Sherlockina and our three kids . . . do you have to ask their names? To say nothing of Sherlock soda pop, my Sherlockmobile, president Sherlock Hussein Holmes, Gap for Sherlocks, Sherlock Air, HolMart, Sherlock Holmes Idol, the Sherlock Bowl being held at the Sherlock Dome with Sherlock Holmes as the half-time entertainment . . . .

Maybe you're currently not getting enough Sherlock in your life. That happens. In fact, if I was getting enough Sherlock this week, I might have something else to blog about besides "too much Sherlock." But remember the tale of "The Monkey's Paw" and every other genie story the next time you find yourself starting to say, "We can never have enough Sherlock Holmes."

Because someday you might learn to regret those words. And if you already know it to be true, and are completely with me on this point?

Congratulations! You, my friend, are a Sherlockian who had pushed that envelope and seen the outer limits of this little hobby. (And, hopefully, made it back . . . .)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Planning my 221Bcon schedule.

Well, the fine folks at 221Bcon have released a tentative schedule at their site, just to give us all some time to plan our weekend in Atlanta a few short weeks from now. It's all subject to change, of course, but it's a handy thing to be able to get some idea of what's coming.

The schedule runs from 10 AM to midnight on Saturday, and 10 AM until 4 PM on Sunday, and I can see right away that feeding one's self is going to require missing some programming . . . and since I know there will be Sherlockians there well worth a long dinner with, I fear I might miss more than a bit of it. But let's look to the details. Here's where I see myself heading.

Saturday begins with sessions competing on the next BBC Sherlock run, Brett and Rathbone, original Canon, and a scavenger hunt meeting. Now, having done Brett, Rathbone, and Canon a whoooole lot at Sherlockian functions past, I'm going to lean heavily toward Sherlock at the con, and I have a feeling I won't be the only one. No question where I'll be when the con panels start, as well as into the second hour as a Moffat panel comes up.

The next two hours have authors featured, one Tracy Revels panel and one with Lyndsay Faye, and I always love hearing writers talk writing, so I'll definitely hit those, even though I'll be getting hungry during Lyndsay's hour. She's as safe a bet for stimulating the mind over the stomach as any, though, so I'm not too worried about that one. Come two o'clock, however, I will have to offer my apologies to all the panelists and find sustenance.

If I'm back from lunch by three, I'll probably be leaving Sherlock behind for an hour to catch what I can of the Doctor Who panel before the costume contest. Most likely won't be entering it, as my costumes never seem to be of anyone or anything in particular on some occasions, and I have a feeling this is going to be one of those times. "General steampunk?" We shall see.

After that, I may just go by whims, or look to see who the panelists are . . . though "Wear Sherlock" at six is rather interesting. The Atlanta Radio Theater company has two hours from seven to eight blocked off across the board, so that choice is made, unless I get lured away by nefarious sorts, as been known to happen when Sherlock Holmes fans congregate. Cosplay and fanfiction roundtables will definitely be worth winding up the night, unless . . . as before . . . I get distracted by some convivial room party.

The real problem spot in all of 221Bcon comes on Sunday morning at 10 AM. The con organizers cleared panels across the board for the Atlanta Radio Theater Company, but they didn't do the same for the Baker Street Babes podcast, which is very unfortunate. In my book, the live Babes podcast is the biggest drawing card of the whole con, and is liable to have everyone playing hooky from the three panels scheduled at that time. (Except maybe the "Elementary Revisited" panel. Those fans are just stubborn, as their comments on this blog tend to show. How else could one explain their refusal to be swayed by my attempts to deprogram them, week after week?)

The Sunday panels tend to be full of choices I'm not looking forward to making, though that BSI, ASH and societies panel is one nobody will want to miss. Rumor is that they may have at least one panel member with contrary opinions to certain party lines. The con's "Last Bow" at four is a pleasantly solo choice, so the diehards will all wind up in one place. Will I be one of them? I certainly hope so . . . if I haven't gotten caught up in the programming and forgotten to eat all weekend.

Naw, there would probably be an impromptu "Sherlock and the Donner Party" panel before that happened. (Kidding! Just kidding! Haven't met any cannibal Sherlockians . . . yet.)

As the 221Bcon folks say, this is all subject to change. But it's sure fun to start thinking about it all.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sleep tight, kiddies. I will.


Are you ready for a Thursday night story?

This is the story of Sir Sherlock-He's-Not.

Sir Sherlock-He's-Not was silliest and talkiest hobo on Skid Row.

But soon all the other hobos began to realize they could cook beans and hop trains without him.

And so they began to wonder.

Why were they putting up with Sir Sherlock-He's-Not?

Oh, yes.

So one of the hobos went to Lucy Liu and said, "You could do Sir Sherlock-He's-Not's job.

"Why don't you start training?"

And then Lucy Liu started training.

But that wasn't the end of Sir Sherlock-He's-Not.


He got a two hour season finale on May 16.

But he probably won't die then, because that would be copying all the real Sherlocks, which Sir Sherlock-He's-Not very much hates to do.

The End.

(Thank you, Kickstarter, for a certain project that got funding today!)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Justified criticism.

From the start, CBS's Elementary has failed my expectations of a Sherlock-related production with its writers inability to portray intelligence and mastery of one's profession. Pulling random cards out of a Trivial Pursuit game and working them into the plot or having the main character spout them for no reason just does not convert to "Sherlock Holmes" in any mental translation I can make. Your mileage may vary, of course.

And it isn't that Mr. Elementary just fails next to other fellows who have successfully taken the mantle of Sherlock Holmes in the past. He fails next to other investigators currently on television, who definitely aren't Sherlock Holmes, but come closer to the mark than he does.

Take Raylan Givens, for example. The main character of FX's series Justified.

Raylan is a good ol' boy from Kentucky, a deputy U.S. Marshall who returned to his home state after practicing his vocation in Miami until a "justified" quick-draw shooting. Now, to the casual observer, Raylan Givens is definitely not Sherlock Holmes.

But Raylan comes up with some impressively clever ways of dealing with the criminal element on Justified. His powers of observation may be a little more specialized than Sherlock's, but they're there, honed for searching out that right moment to pull his gun from its holster. He has a Moriarty of his own in the equally clever Boyd Crowder, who definitely has the Moriarty forehead. Raylan's Watson is a little harder to pick out, but after this week, I'd go for Constable Bob, who would do Nigel Bruce proud in being both goofy and stalwart.

I'd match Raylan Givens and Constable Bob against Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson in the brains department any day. In fact, I'd love to see Raylan give Mr. Elementary a wry sideways glance and a bemused grin as the delusional Brit tried to show off his idea of smarts. Of course, each of the investigators would get to bring his writers to the duel. Justified appears to have some decent ones.

I often get the question, "Why don't you stop watching Elementary if you dislike it so much?" Well, the answer should be obvious. I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan, and that shows creators decided to associate it with that name. You take a name like Sherlock with a goodly fan base, and you get that fan base for better or worse. Especially if you're going to take up a prominent spot on a network schedule and play the peacock (even though that's another network's mascot).

If anybody asks me why I watch Justified, they might get a different answer.  Because there's still good TV out there. Especially when you line it up beside a certain other hour of melodrama.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The old wheel turns.

I don't think the word "pastiche" gets used more by any other group of human beings than Sherlock Holmes fans. What's kind of amusing to me is that unlike the "elite devotee," pastiche commentators are usually use their very fine word to describe something they find of lesser quality. It's also kind of curious to me that one of my more (to my eyes) mundane blogs a couple of days ago got a few more eyes for being on that topic.

It's one of those topics that never becomes less controversial. Heck, I'd even argue with myself on that topic. When I was between 18 and 35, I read a ton of pastiche, both fan written and professional. Even wrote a bit myself. It's what an enthusiastic freshman Sherlockian does. Later, between ages 40 and 55, they just became very had to read . . . or maybe there just wasn't a writer taking to the keyboard who could quite excite my more jaded tastes. Nothing is ever quite so good as every single thing that occurs when we're young. Or so it seems sometimes.

But just because we might become old and jaded doesn't mean we're untouchable. Discovering BBC Sherlock was like that first read of the first Harry Potter for me, one of those moments when you know something special just occurred, when you feel little switches getting flipped in your very soul that don't often turn over. I know for certain that particular Holmes pastiche didn't do it for everyone. I can think of a few folks who didn't make it through the first episode. But I'm sure those fans have their triggers as well . . . heck, CBS's accursed Elementary might be their cola of choice. If you've ever been a fan of Holmes, there are some triggers in there somewhere, just waiting for the right finger to pull them.

Because we all started somewhere. And as much as we might rally around the Canon, the original sixty stories, as the source of all the Sherlock goodness, I would bet that most Sherlockians out there have gotten more hours of enjoyment out of Sherlock Holmes as presented by persons other than Conan Doyle, if the totals were added up and put into a pretty graph.

There is just so much Sherlock out there. And lots of fun to be had. Which is why pastiches are such a hot button issue with Sherlockians. We roll the dice every time we look into a new Sherlock Holmes. We might hit the jackpot, but most times we just lose our bet. Over time, a lot of us become bitter and leave the game rather than place another losing bet on another Sherlock.

These days there are so many more amateur productions easily available, thanks to Amazon and the like, books that often see less peer review before publishing than an old-school fanzine, the game can seem more like a state lottery than a spin of the roulette wheel. So many chances to lose your money on a bad guess. And yet, there's always the chance that somewhere in the million monkeys we're going to get a Shakespeare of Sherlock. So fans keep writing, and fans keep reading.

And when that Shakespeare of Sherlock does come along, you can bet that there's going to be at least one fan out there ready to say his work sucks, royally. Because fans are going to keep getting old and jaded in the process as well.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Making the man, making the world.

The world of Sherlockiana is a very different place these days.

It isn't just the movies and television shows. It isn't just the various flavors of social media. It isn't just publish-on-demand, e-books, and the ability to get any piece of writing, art, or music out to more fellow fans than ever before. It isn't even seeing the "Sherlock Shake" being done by Dutch Sherlockians not all that long after they performed it.

I went shopping for clothes Sunday morning. Victorian clothes. "Sherlock wear," one might say.
After looking around at the various online shops and consulting with an experienced friend, I settled on the Gentleman's Emporium. Found a shirt that was pretty close to an old favorite of mine, a pair of trousers that suited me, and suspenders to hold them up. It took me a little bit, because there were actually choices. If my work dress code allowed it, I could see building an entire daily wardrobe from another time and just adopting that as my fashion of choice. (Choice is not usually something we get much of in men's fashions.)

The new clothes are not for some costume party. They aren't for dressing up as Sherlock, John, Mycroft, or some other denizen of Canonical London. They're just because clothes out of time are cool.

And it's also about altering reality just a little bit. Sherlockians have been doing that as long as there have been Sherlockians, taking history and finding a place in it to call Holmes's. It's all about finding the right puzzle pieces and tilting them just enough to put them in place. And thanks to our little paradigm shift in technology over the last twenty years, we've now got some fun new puzzle pieces, easy to get your hands on.

Our hobby is full of wildly huge possibilities these days, and the cutting edge of Holmes fandom, way ahead of me, is starting to open up some of them. Good times ahead.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Scylla and Charybdis of pastiche.

Two very different current novels of Sherlock Holmes have been filling the cracks in my reading time of late, and the natural comparison of the two has brought me to a couple insights on the dangers of writing pastiche.

Why do most non-professionals write their own Sherlock Holmes stories?

Well, obviously, because they like Sherlock Holmes. They like Sherlock Holmes so much that they want to write a story about him. And they know Sherlock very well.

Wherein lies the problem. If you like Sherlock Holmes as much as the average fan, you're very apt to center your story around him . . . to the detriment of the other characters in the piece. And since both you and a lot of your readers know Holmes so well, there is also a tendency not to flesh him out as one would a totally original character. So if the other characters aren't being written fully formed as Sherlock takes center stage, and even Sherlock is getting shorthanded . . . well, there aren't going to be too many truly deep and interesting folk in the story.

We have to care about the other people in the story to give Sherlock something to do that matters. Conan Doyle had a great hand at populating London with colorful, memorable folk, and their tales were what made Sherlock famous as much as the detective himself.

Of course, there are those writers who like something else as much as Sherlock Holmes and wind up using Holmes and Watson as framing devices to write about their other passion. A classic example of that sort of bad pastiche was Sherlock Holmes in Dallas, a novel in which Holmes and Watson came forward in time to try to solve the Kennedy assassination, only to be mired in historical detail without actually interacting with it. They wind up as mouthpieces for the author to regurgitate facts that one could read in a Kennedy assassination book without them.

Both books I'm reading have moments that might have been quite inspired had the writers built just a bit more fictional reality around them. But the fact that I'm handily switching back and forth between the two says something about their ability to draw me in.

It's a problem that goes back nearly as far as Sherlock Holmes himself.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hansoms 2.0 begins.

I remember these nights. Very tired after an evening spent with fellow Holmes fans, yet sitting down to the computer to do a write-up of the evening that just occurred. It has been a while.

Peoria's Hansoms of John Clayton met tonight. It took a little digging to find out the last time that happened (this century's Hansom record keeper is not quite as detail-oriented as last century's), but it turns out that a true gathering of the Hansoms hasn't happened since March of 2004 . . . nine years ago.

One's first reaction to a nine year hiatus is to think, "Oh, all those years we missed!" But in preparing for this little gathering, I had to take myself back in time to what the Hansom meetings were like nine years ago. There was no new Sherlock coming in from any major media -- books, movies, or television -- to fuel the fire in our less obsessed members. Doing research for a presentation that would only be heard by three other people was dispiriting for those who made the effort. And the thing that we probably didn't even realize at the time -- our meetings had a strict routine that was almost like a church service, a ritual sequence we had followed dutifully for more than twenty-five years.

Clayton ritual. Welcome. Toasts. Announcements. Presentation. Quiz. Reading of 221B. Refreshments.  Yes, you had to wait until everything else was done to get your cheese and crackers. (Though to be fair, our wonderful hosts provided what was usually a small supper at that point.) We had a podium with our logo on it, and whoever was running the meeting stood behind that podium. And sometimes blew a bobby's whistle to make people be quiet.

Now, I'm not complaining. That system served us well for decades. But upon reflection, while ritual is always comforting to some, it's also a little restrictive to some and laziness-inducing to others, like myself. And in considering what a new Hansom meeting was going to look like, I knew we couldn't just go back to that. So I put the podium up on the dining room table behind where we were going to sit, as more of a decoration than a meeting focus, and we gathered in a big comfortable circle and just started talking. With ten people present, that seemed to work just right.

We did do the Clayton Ritual, of couse, just for its connection to our past and to give the meeting an official Hansom start. But after that, it was a free-wheeling discussion, starting with a bit of reminiscence and catch-up for the veteran Hansoms present, introduction for the new Hansoms present, and on to our story for the evening, "The Adventure of the Empty House." We'd get off-topic, but wander back, and there was just soooo much to talk about. Old friends. Downey. Cumberbatch. Lucy Liu.

At one point, Faith Wallis brought up Sherlockian Mythbusters on YouTube, and since the DVD of that Illustrious Clients production was only three feet away from me, I popped it in and we watched Don Curtis practice thumb-chopping. With our mix of new and old Hansoms, there were so many bits of appropriate Sherlockiana that I found myself wanting to pull out, but kept stopping myself . . . it very quickly started to seem like there would be time for that at later gatherings. (And dragging some Hansoms down to see our Indiana cousins at some point!)

And there would be later gatherings. Before everyone started wearing out, I collected contact info and we set a date and place for out next meeting. And the site of the one after that.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Gentleman Sherlockian's Elementary Watch

"Don't miss a new episode of Elementary -- CBS next!"

Hallo, gentleman Sherlockian here, watching Elementary for all of you Sherlock Holmes fans who would rather not do so! I would endeavor to give a spoiler alert here, but spoiler alerts are for those occasions when you might spoil someone's enjoyment of a quality entertainment that they are going to delight in later. Since this is the gentleman Sherlockian's Elementary watch service you are indulging in, we will assume you understand that isn't a possibility, and are leaving the chore to me.

Mr. Elementary's AA sponsor is back in this episode, this time showing Joan Watson how to steal cars. He's a lovely character, and a real loss to the show since his single episode appearance some months ago. Before that, we had a six month's ago flashback of a woman getting pushed in front of a subway train and a look at Joan getting the call to go work with Mr. Elementary. But the flashback is over without being interesting, the sponsor's scene gets over too quickly . . . blah, blah, blah, Mr. Elementary insults a client for no reason other than he's a proper ass.

And Mr. Elementary's quote of the week: "The human face, Watson, is like a penis."

Yes, he actually said that. An excrement joke about lawyers earlier, and now he's saying "penis." Somewhere those lads Beevis and Butthead are having a grand old time, chortling away like clubmen at an elite devotee supper.

Joan Watson has a female friend, by the way, who is extremely ordinary and uninteresting, but keeps turning up for minor relationship scenes to show she's Joan Watson's friend. If she isn't going to die, she really doesn't belong in the episode. I suspect she's going to die.

Allow me to introduce Boffin, my gentleman's gentleman, who is going to sit in for me and watch this week's episode for a bit. Say "hullo," Boffin, and take the wheel . . .


. . .

Boffin! Oh, the help these days! Joan Watson is getting caught trying to steal a car, and Boffin was watching . . . what was that? Law and Order? Forgive me readers, it seems that this simple service I am trying to provide does come with some obstacles. Oh, look, David Letterman has Gerard Butler this evening.

Well, dear Joan got arrested while investigating her own case. Mr. Elementary is apparently going to help her, and I have cut out several fine photographs of Victorian London from a 2006 calendar. The latter fact has . . . oh, my, Mr. Elementary really should consider a more clean-shaven look. The heavy stubble emphasizes his cretinish qualities, making the bare flesh of his forehead more prominent, and . . . well, to put it bluntly, less frontal development than one might expect.

Ah! The conclusion! Mr. Elementary uses the phrase "a modicum of success" about Watson's case, paying homage to Roger Moore, Mr. Sherlock Holmes in New York, who liked to use the word "modicum" as well. Well done, Mr. Elementary! Roger Moore is among the seven greatest James Bonds of the cinema!

And that ends tonight's Elementary watch, for those of you who would rather not watch Elementary. Remember the gentleman Sherlockian's Elementary watch guarantee: Leave the watching to me, and you won't miss a thing! Truly. Not a thing.

Goodnight, everyone!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Time to wash some dishes, Sherlock.

Sherlock Holmes had me taking a broken record cabinet out to the curb with the trash tonight.

It's a small fact, probably not worth a whole blog, but when you're a fan, there's this argument people like to use whenever they want to kill a debate without losing. Kind of like that awful "let's just agree to disagree" tripe. (And just for the record, I will never agree to disagree. I will only agree that you don't currently agree with me, but the clock is ticking.) The argument that attempts to quell heated fan debates is simply a downgrading of fandom itself to a less important status. It's the "fandom is just goddamned hobby" philosophy.

Enjoying Sherlock Holmes is not a matter of life and death, one might say. Enjoying Sherlock Holmes has nothing to do with our making a living, putting food on the table, caring about our loved ones, etc., etc., etc. It's just a silly little hobby we use to escape our workaday stresses. All banquets and amusing pastiches and pseudo-scholarship and laughing and toasting and having fun with our friends.

Ah, but there's the rub: having fun with our friends. The key element to any fandom is the relationships it brings between people who might not otherwise have met. And when people become involved with other people . . . well, it isn't all a silly fun place where we can just make light of things when the going gets rough.

Sherlock Holmes is a part of our lives as fans, and I don't know about you, but I consider my life a serious thing (for the most part). I suppose fandom could be just a hobby if you kept all your Sherlockian activities to yourself, and didn't interact with people, true. And while I've used the "it's just a silly hobby" argument myself on occasion, I also know I've treated people shabbily other times as well, roused anger, hurt feelings, and done several other things I seriously feel less than proud of. If I were to just write it all off, simply because it all has some connection to Sherlock Holmes . . . well, I'd hate to be that person. Sherlock Holmes fandom brings us connections with other people that, like it or not, change our lives.

Sherlock Holmes is the reason I live in the house I'm writing this blog from.

Sherlock Holmes was a great part of how I got the job I work at these days.

Sherlock Holmes has gotten me drunk, gotten me kissed, and, thankfully, kept me out of a lot of the troubles that such things can lead to.

And it's not just me, any longtime fan will have stories to tell of the impact being a fan of Sherlock Holmes has had on their lives. Because it brings us together with other people, for better or worse. And if we just think of it as a silly hobby, it becomes too easy not to take responsibility for those relationships.

Tonight, Sherlock Holmes had me carrying a broken record cabinet to the curb for the morning's trash. It was one of the last things I carried out of a certain late Sherlockian's house before I signed the papers to sell it today.

Sometimes being a Sherlockian doesn't feel like being a part of a silly hobby. Sometimes it feels like being a part of the human race, with all the serious baggage, good and bad, that comes with that role.

And I'm really okay with that. I hope to be a bit more responsible about it in the future, but as a very wise man once said, "We can but try."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sherlock saves the chili cook-off!

Well, I guess it's not only pastiche authors who try to force Sherlock Holmes into places he doesn't quite fit.

With a weekend full of re-shelving, trying to disappear two major musical instruments, I found that I really didn't have the time or imagination to spend on my entry to Saturday night's chili cook-off. And where does a Sherlockian go when he has no other ideas: Sherlock Holmes.

If you need to decorate a chili booth, and you just happen to have a six foot Sidney Paget drawing of Sherlock Holmes in your basement, that's where you start. An old lace tablecloth, some of those Victorian artifacts from your Sherlock room, a book of cooking hints from the appropriate time period, a deerstalker and magnifying glass, and you've got a decor scheme. All that remains at that point is the actual chili.

Now think about this for a moment . . . Sherlock Holmes and chili.

Sure, a San Antionio outfit had started spreading the word about chili in 1893, but can you imagine actual chili appearing anywhere at all in Sherlock's Victorian Britain? I can't.

So I titled my recipe "Sherlock Holmes's Properly Victorian Chili" and started to work backwards from there.

Beef. Beef was Sherlockian, so I cut up some round steak. England was well known for its navy, and men of the sea populate the Holmes cases, so I also wanted navy beans . . . but the local store didn't seem to stock big cans of navy beans, so I went with another white bean, the great Northern.

Given the nature of the Victorian era, a red chili just seemed too ostentatious for Victoria, so I decided to go with a "white" chili . . . but then, chili powder itself seemed a bit too flashy for the time as well. So I sauteed onions with my beef in a cheap sherry, added garlic as protection against Dracula, and . . . because I was seriously out of time, added three cans of cream soup from a soup company that has existed since 1869: celery, chicken, and mushroom. One last touch was a secret bit of seasoning that came from my dear auntie. Victorians had the utmost respect for their aunties. (Well, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

The result, the taste of which you can but imagine, actually won the "Most Creative" category of the chili cook-off. Of course, since the same category was won two years ago by an entry that used a pun to enter cookies and ice cream as its chili, I am not getting too big a head about my culinary skills.

Suffice it to say that when you're in trouble, when time is running out, Sherlock Holmes is always there for you, even at chili cook-off time. He's just that kind of guy.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A fan and his panties.

I was reminded of John Bennett Shaw today.

John Bennett Shaw, for those newer to the field, was one of the greatest Sherlockians of the last century. A Sherlockian's Sherlockian, an inspiration to every latter day Sherlockian who met him, and a helluva fun guy. And here's the thing about John Bennett Shaw: he was a Sherlock Holmes fan.

I was reminded of this today because someone send me a link to one of those captioned photos on Facebook that people use to make points without having to write a whole paragraph or two. The image contained two photos, one that read "Are you a Fan?" and showed Sherlock panties, and the other that read "Or a Devotee?" and showed a photo of Conan Doyle and some issues of Strand Magazine.

The point of this completely assinine little photo essay is that there are apparently fans of BBC Sherlock out there who only like panties with Benedict Cumberbatch on them and wouldn't care a whit if one of those original Strands fell right in their panty-wearing laps. To which I must reply, "Show me that person." It's really sad that there are some aging "devotees" out there whose egos are still so in need of puffing at this point that they have to pretend that newer female fans are lesser creatures.

Which is why I thought of John Bennett Shaw. The Sherlockian's Sherlockian. And you know what? If Shaw were alive today, he would own a pair of those Benedict Cumberbatch panties.

Just like the chocolate Easter Bunnies in deerstalkers in his freezer. Just like the industrial floor mats with a Sherlock Holmes cartoon and the caption "The Customer Is Our Final Inspector." Just like all those Snoopys dressed as Sherlock Holmes. And just like all those issues of The Strand Magazine.

Shaw was a fan, and fans like all kinds of crap relating to their hero. It validates us somehow. Eventually our houses fill up and we come to our senses, but "fan" is short for "fanatic" and that's what we are about our chosen fandom. Fanatical. You don't do the stuff we do if you're merely "devoted" to something, like a dogged follower of some ritual observance. You don't do the stuff we do because you're one of the "elite." (And seriously, who the hell calls themselves "elite?" Anyone who isn't a narcissist?)  You do what we do because you're a fan. And ya gotta love a fan.

Especially one that owns Sherlock panties. I mean really, guys, are you trying to kill the chances that we might get a Baker Street Journal panty issue, like Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit offering? (Sorry, ladies, for the sexist turn, but some of us are fans of things other than Sherlock Holmes, even if we don't write Irene Adler/Martha Hudson slash fiction.)

Whoa . . . totally got away from John Bennett Shaw there. But I think he would understand. He understood quite a bit.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The greatest adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Wandering through my local Barnes & Noble today, I spotted one of those handsome hardcover reprints that B&N likes to put in the aisles, entitled The Greatest Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Curious as to just what were Sherlock's greatest adventures, I flipped the book open to the table of contents and quickly found out.

The greatest adventures of our favorite detective are, according to this book's publisher, all of the Sherlock Holmes stories except those found in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. In other words, all of the Holmes stories that are safely out of copyright. Does this make them the greatest?

Well, yes, they kind of are. Sherlockians have always tended to favor the earlier cases, with a few odd dissenters in the mix. If you leave out Casebook, you still get Holmes's first story, his last (chronologically) story, and every important tale in between. New readers of The Greatest Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are very liable to feel like they didn't miss a thing and there are no other stories.

What makes this particularly interesting is that that peculiar entity called "the Doyle estate," is using those kind of extraneous Casebook stories to claim rights to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson all together, that those last stories are a part of what shaped the characters. Les Klinger, who has filed the famed lawsuit this year, obviously disagrees, and after looking at Greatest Adventures, I realize that there is a definite point to be made.

The stories of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes have always felt a little bit like pastiches that just happened to be written by Conan Doyle. Stuff he had in the closet that didn't make the cut, a tale he withdrew from publication earlier because of its subject matter, and a quick adaptation of a short Sherlock Holmes play he did into a short story. Even looking at it from a "Watson was the author" point of view, I think a case can be made that these were cases published after Watson's death by his agent, and not a part of the true Watson-selected Canon.

Sherlock Holmes's greatest adventures were definitely behind him at the time of Casebook. Personally, I have a great fondness for those quirky final tales, after I was trapped in a Minnesota fishing cabin for a week one summer with naught to do but study the one paperback copy of the book I found on a spinning rack at a local grocery store. I even wrote a pastiche based on what I found inside, entitled "The Sussex Irregular." Little did I know at that time that if I had made my Sussex Irregular a girl, I could have made Laurie King money . . . but of course, since that pastiche actually did owe its existence to Casebook, the Doyle estate might have had cause to come after me, even if Les Klinger winds up winning his case. (Hmm . . . The Casebook of Les Klinger . . . kind of has a ring to it.)

But Holmes versus Moriarty? Holmes versus Irene Adler? Holmes versus the Hound of the Baskervilles? You aren't going to find those in Casebook. Inspector Gregson? Not in Casebook. Mycroft Holmes? Not in Casebook. 221B Baker Street? Not in Casebook.

Really, Holmes's street address is never mentioned. You can write wonderful Sherlock Holmes stories until the horses where cow footprint shoes come home and never touch on Casebook material . . . outside of the names "Sherlock Holmes" and "Dr. Watson." Hmm, there's another test for CBS's Elementary . . . if it's episodes were the stories in Casebook, could the Doyle estate make any kind of claim that the character of Sherlock Holmes was still theirs to control?

Now I'm really rambling. Time to leave Holmes's not-so-greatest adventures to more well-rested minds than mine.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cry "Havoc!" and loose the Hound of the moor!

Man, this is the year.

It was one thing for our friend Sherlock to be catapulted back into center stage with movies and television hits of the last couple of years, but now our fandom issues are making The New York Times?

The March 6 article by Jennifer Schuessler starts with the Les Klinger lawsuit story, which has been everywhere, but then it starts digging deeper. And familiar names start popping up, with no holds barred.

Christopher Roden calling an article by Philip Shreffler "bigoted and pigheaded" in The New York Times? Good lord, would my old pal Bob have enjoyed this! And Jon Lellenberg's squabbles with the B.S.I. leadership outed in a major newspaper? Betsy Rosenblatt stating that some Sherlockians are "pretty darn old people?" What's next? An expose of Elementary's fraudulent Holmes reported in Time magazine? No, wait, that's not fan-related. That's just me wishfully thinking.

The "Free Sherlock" lawsuit has taken our little fandom to a whole new level for its fifteen minutes. Sure, one of the people above was once kinda-sorta indirectly accused of Sherlockian murder by an article in The New Yorker, no names were mentioned (other than B.S.I. investitures, and those are a secret, right?). But an article in some very-limited run fan publication being cited as evidence of a plot to keep new fans in check? Oh, we're having some fun now.

In the small community that Sherlock Holmes fandom has traditionally been, asinine behavior by grumpy old farts was always just something we tolerated. What were you going to do, write a letter to the journal that comes out every four months to complain and get the geezer's buddies after you? But this is a new day, with new modes of communication, and the word of something particularly silly spreads fast and far. Shreffler's offending article probably had a larger readership than anything he wrote about Sherlock Holmes prior to this year.

It's a crazy year to be a Sherlockian. And this is just March.

Monday, March 4, 2013


This weekend, I found myself thinking of Sherlock while watching the best movie of the weekend in my favorite Peoria theater with some of my favorite friends. Not the sort of situation where my mind usually wanders, but there Sherlock was.

Flipping through my usual interweb haunts tonight, I found myself thinking a Supernatural/Scooby-Doo mash-up t-shirt on was Holmes and Watson from Sherlock, just drawn badly.

And then came a link to The Mary Sue pointing to a video of a guy named Eric Calderone performing a heavy metal version of the theme from Sherlock.  While serious metal isn't my usual musical selection of choice, I listened as enraptured as Sherlock Holmes at a Sarasate concert. Was I maybe even gently waving my fingers in time to the music? Maybe so.

A year has passed since the BBC series last graced us with its presence. And yet it remains a Sherlockian presence, and not merely out of expectation of a third series of episodes next year.

Sherlock has left its imprint upon me, to be sure.

And as I left my computer and began washing some dishes, I thought of my blog, and some other subject I used to write about when it was directly in front of my face. And then I realized that I had forgotten all about it . . . and it had only been a week and a half since its last new episode.

So I let it slip from my mind again and went back to Calderone-land, "where all is sweetness and delicacy, and harmony, and there are no red-headed clients to vex us with their conundrums."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sherlock and the beanstalk.

Sometimes you find your obsession filtering into experiences that have nothing to do with it . . . on the surface. Something as harmless as going to see a fairy tale fantasy movie like Jack the Giant Slayer, which I did today, suddenly takes a Sherlockian turn.

I enjoyed Nicholas Hoult's turn as a zombie in Warm Bodies, not all that long ago, but when he showed up de-zombied with an English accent in Jack the Giant Slayer, suddenly a new thought came to mind.

"This guy could play a great young Sherlock Holmes."

Looking a little like a mix of Benedict Cumberbatch and Merlin's Colin Morgan, Hoult has that certain cerebral look that winds up missing in a lot of wannabe Sherlocks. But that alone wouldn't make Jack the Giant Slayer blog-worthy -- here's what did:

Jack the Giant Slayer is a prequel to the BBC Sherlock.

I'm serious. If you see the movie, you'll understand. Not giving away any plot spoilers here, but at a certain wonderful point in the movie, I just stopped and went, "Holy crap, Moriarty was trying to . . . ."


"But, Brad!" you might protest. "Jack and the beanstalk is a whole fantasy thing. Sherlock is real world!"

Yeah, and Moriarty was more than a little bit crazy, too. So if you were on the fence about seeing Jack, just close enough that a little Sherlock cookie might help your decision . . . well, people have done crazier things in the name of Holmes.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Just Sherfocking around.

Okay, I was wrong.

A couple of days ago, I wrote that Sherlockians needed "a new Game," and that the energetic fans of BBC Sherlock were bringing it to us. In considering the comments that came after it, I realized that I was competely and utterly wrong. All the thought, energy, and fun being put into admiring and analyzing the adventures of Cumberbatch's Holmes and his friends isn't a new Game at all. It's just a re-energized take on what we've had all along.

What's the difference between Father Ronald Knox writing a funny talk for the folks at his college in 1912, John Bennett Shaw doing "To Shelve or Censor" in the 1960s, and the material we're looking forward to seeing in the One Fixed Point collection of the Baker Street Babes?

Nothing. People having fun with Sherlock Holmes.

One of the great problems with being in what might be the world's oldest ongoing fandom is that when something gets old, people start taking it a little too seriously. What started out as just a way of amusing one's friends, something like the B.S.I. Buy-laws or that "Aunt Clara" song, eventually becomes ritual. And once something becomes ritual, it will always be very serious business in the eyes of some. The jokes cease to be funny (or are laughed at mechanically), and are dragged onward through history with the persistence of a Roman church.

Usually this persistence isn't being promoted by the person who originally made the joke. They understood that they were just Sherfocking around. It's what we do.

It has always amused me when I spout some opinion about Sherlock Holmes and someone goes, "But Brad, back in 1984, you wrote the exact opposite!"  Consistency might be important for science, math, and the other disciplines that need rigid rules to work, but Sherlockian study is more of an art form . . . style is just as important (or moreso) than substance.

Actual literary scholarship about Conan Doyle is a serious business, of course, and I've always seen that as separate from Sherlockiana, for exactly that reason. Conan Doyle was real. But the minute you do anything based on the premise that Sherlock Holmes was real, you've crossed into the land of silliness, whether you want to admit it or not. Pooh-pooh the young and enthusiastic "Cumberbitches" all you want, but Ronald Know was engaging in the same silly fun as they are.

Building an exact replica of Sherlock's 1888 sitting room is no more valid than building a replica of Sherlock's 2012 sitting room. One came from the mind of Conan Doyle, sure, and the other was tweaked by Moffat and Gatiss, but you know what? They've both brought pleasure to millions of people and will continue to do so. Basil Rathbone is still a good time, with bits from his movies slipping into modern adaptations like Canonical lore -- good bits that have resonance will always stick with the legend of Sherlock Holmes and add to the lore. William Gillette gave us the calabash pipe. Martin Freeman has given us the psychosomatic war wound. The beat goes on.

Even my ongoing campaign against CBS's Elementary is me just having fun with Sherlock Holmes. You can always see a clearer definition of something by looking at something that is not that thing and comparing the two, and giving CBS's so blatantly mercenary effort a verbal smackdown every now and then, letting dramatic outrage flow on a subject that is truly of no real importance to our lives . . . that is just batting around a cat toy . . . fun.

Because at some point, we all enjoy Sherfocking around. Sherlockiana would not exist without it.