Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Formerly of the Canon, now of Twitter.

On of my favorite residents of the Twitterverse is a real character named Tween Hobo. I had always enjoyed the tweety frolics of such silly folk as "Drunk Hulk" and "KimJongNumberUn," but Tween Hobo always had a little more personality. So I was delighted to read Alena Smith's blog "It's Who You Don't Know: Fictional Characters on Twitter," and get a bit of the inside scoop on Tween. It's also a great article on how Twitter can serve as a new form of fiction, with characters living there and interacting like a giant roleplay that requires no costumes. What does this have to do with Sherlock Holmes, you ask?

Well, I don't follow Sherlock Holmes on Twitter, fictional or non. But if I wanted to, there are plenty of choices. Haven't really found the Sherlock Holmes to follow yet, but I wander through them every now and then, hoping that someday one will jump out and show himself as The One. (Yes, I'm the Morpheus of Twitter.)

But, interestingly enough, Irene Adler is an even more popular guise, and a veritable army of Irenes can be found living in the Twitterverse. Most of them seem quite charming, and you could fill up your entire feed with the women. Mycroft Holmes . . . no shortage. Professor Moriarty . . . tons.

We had rules about this, back in the day, when you used to pick a Canonical pseudonym after joining a Sherlock Holmes society. No Sherlocks. No Watsons. Some buffoon would always wander in and want to declare himself Sherlock Holmes . . . usually the last person you wanted to socialize with. And people went out of their way to pick fascinating characters in less-than-starring roles. Without the rules of those societies of old, everybody wants to be one of the big name characters -- for many folks, those are the only ones they know, having appeared in the popular films and television.

And that makes it very hard for any one of them to stand out from the pack.

So I started searching for lesser characters who have decided to take up residence upon Twitter.

There's just one Isadora Persano, who seems quite an interesting fellow even though he doesn't tweet much on dualism or what that remarkable worm was. The couple James Phillimores seem to like sports more than disappearing after going for their umbrellas. Looking up Violet Hunter gets me Dog the Bounty Hunter as my first listing (Curse you, Paid Tweets!), but none of the others seem to be the Violet Hunter we know as Holmes's client. Hugo Baskerville apparently likes to join Twitter over and over again and not tweet anything. And Jephro Rucastle isn't there at all.

It seems to me like the folk of the Sherlock Holmes stories are missing a bet by not taking up residence on Twitter like Tween Hobo has. Oh, wait . . . Dr. Grimesby Roylott seems to have made a . . . well, he had a heated run back in December for a few days, then cooled off. He should have paced himself a bit and patiently awaited his more than six followers.

Looking up Canonical characters on Twitter can get quite addicting. There's only one Garrideb (Bhupen Garrideb), sad to say for anyone looking to find a set of three. Mary Sutherland . . . well, apparently that's a popular name, but not the Mary we want in there. Hatty Doran . . . one, who signed up and never tweeted. On and on you can go. In fact, I just have to force myself to stop and actually finish this blog.

Like I said, the Twitterverse seems to have great potential for someone who wants to have fun exploring a Canonical characters thoughts and reactions to the world around us. It makes me even toy a bit with the possibilities for re-forming the Dark Lantern League, that hardy band of Canon escapees from the early 2000s, in a looser Twittery form. But that's down the road a bit. Moving from the Canon to Twitter is a journey that begins with a single tweet.

That said, it just might be that one more Canonical figure of note joined the Twitterverse last night, and has been trying out his or her Twitter-legs. If searching for Canonical characters on Twitter tempts you as much as it does me, I'll give you a few days to find him or her before identifying same. And let me know if you find anyone else from the sixty stories I need to be following, in any case.

There might be some fun to be had there.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Every . . . single . . . episode.

And in a shocking turn of events, I have been accused of not actually watching CBS's Elementary in a recent comment. Efforts have been made to discredit my bonafides for writing about Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson before, but to just start claiming that over half a year of pain and suffering did not actually take place? That's just going too far.

Oh, I have watched Elementary, my friends. I have watched every episode.

I may not have hung on every detail. I may have seen but not observed. I may have obscured my vision by wincing uncontrollably through many an early episode. But I have watched Elementary. 

My brain has tried not to dwell upon the experience, as I'd like to think kindly thoughts about those fans of the show in our little Sherlockian community. I have friends in that group, and I hope if I can just hold out until this thing is finally done, they'll free themselves of its influence and come back to the light. But, nooooooo, somebody has to go and accuse me of not watching Elementary, so I have to remember . . . .

But there are just four episodes left to go. CBS saved them up so they could run the entire month of May, the month Sherlock Holmes died . . . coincidence? Traditional Sherlockian wisdom is that Holmes is living as an ancient somewhere in Sussex now, barely kept alive by some exotic bee by-product. If that's true, is CBS trying to kill him a second time this May with its four-episode run climaxing in a rumored two-hour finale? Hopefully that poor old chap won't be watching this final five hours, but I will.

Yes, however grueling, this marathon must be finished.

And I may try to make the best of it. I may blog about the more positive aspects of the show. But to paraphrase the real modern Sherlock Holmes . . .

Oh, I may be on the side of the Elementary fans . . . every now and then . . . but don't think for one second that I am one of them.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The mind palace dumpster tilts forward, and . . .

Sometimes Twitter is too limited, Facebook is too busy, and you just need to dump some random thoughts on to the interwebs. So here goes:
  • I keep thinking Canada's Todd and the Book of Pure Evil is a metaphor for the dark side of being a modern Sherlockian. Unfortunately, I keep coming up as the role of evil guidance counselor with wolf flashbacks in that metaphor, so I don't think I'll explore it further.
  • Who has the world's largest collection of Baker Street Babes autographs? If you have more than five, it might be you. If not, it may be me. Time to get in on the ground floor, people, before their celebrity has any of them going all Amanda Bynes on us! Not that we would notice, among some of the truly wacky Sherlockians we've had in the past.
  • Somebody please tell me which episode of Elementary was based on "Thor Bridge." They somehow slipped that one by my keen attention to the scenes of Lucy Liu waking up in the morning. Oh, Joan Watson, I would come and sit in a chair by your bed and ramble each morning, too. (Maybe just to get that other guy out of there, but hey . . . a job with perks!)
  • Mowing my lawn on this beautiful spring day, I couldn't help but feel the absence of a certain Sherlockian over the fence who'd often be sitting on his patio with a highball glass of whiskey and make me stop my chore for a bit to catch up. He'd have a lot to chuckle about these days, and that does make me smile.
  • I have an old book of Sherlockian scholarship or two that have my name on the cover and thus require the occasional autograph for a friend or collector. Because copies are rather limited, such things happen as the "double-autograph" copy, where one owner dies and the new owner wants their copy signed to them. Today marked a whole new experience in autographing books, however, as a Sherlockian who now goes by a completely different name than they did twenty-five years ago asked for the same inscription with their new name on a different page, so they could cut out the old page and still show the book to people without explaining their previous identity. The world is full of fun surprises.
  • Last night at about 11:30 P.M., I stopped in our local Peoria Kroger for milk and cereal and was also able to buy a copy of The Gods of Gotham by author and ace Sherlockian Lyndsay Faye. In a supermarket, in Peoria. That was a very cool thing. If I myself was cooler, I might have Instagrammed the moment.
  • And for those of you who actually read this blog without being pointed to it by your pissed-off friends, any more comments on a certain blog from this week were suspended on Friday. Some of the kiddies weren't playing nice, and a line in the sand had to be drawn. I apologize to anyone who got caught on the wrong side of that line. In a related note, our aged comment moderator has actually been know to hit the "Delete" link instead of the "Publish" link on comments when it's a particularly groggy morning. Don't take it personally. And don't mention this paragraph to him if you want to get a comment published.
And with that, the mind-palace dumpster finishes pouring it's contents into the moat and slams back into place. Moving along now.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How I've missed you, Mr. Elementary!

 Ah, it's Thursday night and a new Elementary is on the old TV. After a controversial week, it's a lovely thing to relax and sit back for something we can all agree upon.

An interesting take on a Canonical tale on Elementary tonight, which you may have heard about already: They're actually doing a sort-of "after Charles Augustus Milverton." Yes, after nineteen episodes, they're finally using the actual Canon to base a tale upon. Bravo! (Yes, Sebastian Moran didn't count, as his episode had nothing to do with "The Adventure of the Empty House.")

Mr. Elementary, hiding behind a curtain, watching Milverton being shot . . . at the start of the episode. Milverton's choice of blackmail material in this little scenario is especially repulsive -- threatening to release videos of rapes on the internet unless the victims' families pay. As with so many evil contrivances of modern television, one has to wonder if such an evil idea is something we should call "entertainment," but they did certainly find a way to create a Milverton who makes one's skin crawl.

As with the "Snow Angels" episode, Elementary is now keeping Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson working together on one case as partners, which was definitely missing from the earlier parts of the season, when he seemed to just want to ditch her. Outgrowing that "sober companion" nonsense was an important step in the show's development, to be sure, getting them closer to the ground of the original Holmes and Watson.

Mr. Elementary is reminding me more of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory than Sherlock Holmes, but the conversion of "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" into an actual detective tale is just too smart to deny. It's probably the smartest thing this show has done. Well, they also brought Alfredo back for a substantial part that doesn't involve car theft, so that's not the only smart thing going on this episode.

The conversations in Joan's bedroom as she's waking up have become a standard of the show, and gives it a cozy-cute thing that somehow fills the absence-of-romance gap just a little bit. He's in her bedroom, she's all snuggled up with bed hair, but there's not the least bit of sexual tension.

Of course, because it's a major network crime drama, they have to follow that sweet little scene with a corpse scene as repulsive as something form the movie Seven. I truly could have spent a lovely evening without the sight of a week-old obese corpse in a bathtub. Of course, the network follows it soon after with one of those PSAs displaying the ravages of cigarette-induced cancer on a person, so the network seems determined to leave one's brain with some unpleasant visual or another. Given all of the smoking in the original Holmes tales, it's especially ironic paired with Elementary.

This episode also wanders heavily into the addiction storyline, humanizing Mr. Elementary, making for a better show, but somehow making him all the less Holmes-like, to my mind. My theory of Mr. Elementary as a fan of the London Sherlock Holmes who took that identity in New York is still serving me well for digesting this namesake of the master detective, tattoos and all.

Overall, I'm not sure if I liked this latest episode of Elementary. I like the idea of it, but the execution seemed somehow lacking just a bit of something. Maybe it was the yuck factor of Milverton's scheme and his obese corpse of a partner. Maybe it was the sobriety chip plot and scenes of Mr. Elementary tattooing himself. I'm not sure.

Next episode, however, they say we're getting strands of Moriarty's web as we head toward the season finale. The penultimate episode is also titled "The Woman," so Milverton's Canonical-based plot this week gives some small hope of something interesting for the Sherlockian viewer in weeks ahead.

And in one final note: I'm dedicating this week's kindler, gentler review of Elementary to the young lady who portrayed Joan Watson for the 221B Con costume contest. It's very hard to be mean to the show knowing she's out there somewhere.

Conan Doyle Estates.

I've got this crazy idea for a gated community within a gated community.

I buy up a bunch of land, develop it with some nice houses, and call it "Conan Doyle Estates." As a direct tie to the great man himself, I'd also buy some book or lesser manuscript from the original inheritance he left, frame individual pages, and put one in every house. Outside that gated community and completely surrounding it, I'd build a second housing development of houses adjacent to Conan Doyle Estates. These houses, I'd rent out by the hour to folks who wanted to come in read, experience, taste, or otherwise enjoy any book or product having to do with Sherlock Holmes. If anyone in the rented houses enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes product and gave it their stamp of approval, that product could then by advertised with the motto: "Approved by the Conan Doyle Estates."

Nothing fraudulent there, right? Conan Doyle Estates contains property owned by Doyle at the time of his death, part of his estate, so if there's a little confusion, a little mistaking the current business for the actual direct inheritance of Doyle's kids, well, technically the framed pages in the houses have filled the bill. And I'm just renting and selling houses, nothing at all skeezy in that. They're good houses, with nice framed Doyleiana inside. And as a result, we get a whole lot of books with "Approved by the Conan Doyle Estates" on the cover, which is apparently a very good thing in some circles.

Yes, it's a crazy idea, and I still like the thought of a Sherlock Holmes amusement park much better. But there are ideas just as crazy out there these days that seem to be working for some folks, so feel free to borrow it if you have the time and energy. I probably won't be renting one of your houses though.

Those "approved" labels just have never worked for me.

A bad taste in wine.

Seeing Sherlock Holmes used to promote some product or another is nothing new. And getting word of a Sherlockian creating a small batch of some product honoring the great detective always brings a smile. Of course, one small detail can sometimes turn something pleasant into . . . something maybe not so agreeable.

When 221B Cellars decided to put out A Study in Scarlet, their first limited "first edition" wine, and sent out some nice little cards to announce same, they covered all the bases. Picture of Beeton's Christmas Annual, check. Note from Sherlock Holmes with fake quotables ("I have always found that people confuse and wine clarifies."), check. Small card announcing that a portion of the proceeds go to the University of Minnesota Sherlock Holmes Collections and the Napa Valley Napoleons, check. (Though I never thought of a scion society as a place for donated proceeds before, but, hey, I suppose it's bringing Sherlock to the wine-drunk unSherlocked of Napa or something.)

But then, on the very back of the advertising card, I found "Licensed by The Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. All 221B Cellars TM wines are produced and sold under a license with the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. We extend grateful acknowledgement to Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. for permission to use the Sherlock Holmes characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle."

Suddenly the nice little Sherlock Holmes wine turned political. I would guess that 221B Cellars set up their promo card before the "Free Sherlock" movement began and aren't rabid supporters of The Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. and their right to bully anyone using Sherlock Holmes in their own endeavors. The wine-makers apparently aren't too concerned with profits, after donating portions of their proceeds to the U of M, a scion, and The Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. They're just trying to do the right thing, but unfortunately, The Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. uses that right impulse as a means of money-making.

After delighting in Cara McGee's Sherlock Holmes blends of Adagio teas, I wasn't at all opposed to a little wine love for Sherlock from 221B Cellars. But that kissing up to The Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. on the back of their promo card really didn't do them any favors. As the lawsuit to free Sherlock Holmes moves forward, some entities may still want to pay the demands of The Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. just to stay in the clear. I can understand playing it safe. Being a rebel isn't for everyone, especially where it involves the legal system. But they may want to downplay their connection to that entity until it can prove its authority in court.

It sure doesn't make me feel all Sherlock-happy to associate it with anything, and I know I'm not alone.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Us and them, me and you.

As humans, we seem to have an instinctual need to be wary of "the other."

We can't help ourselves. It drives back to a time when the survival of your tribe was dependent upon not letting the others outside your group take away what you needed to live. A part of our brains still seems to be scanning for those whose differences make them someone to watch out for, even in situations that have little impact on our actual survival.

And in fandom, those lines are always clear cut from day one. You're either someone who likes Sherlock Holmes, who gets it, or one of those other people, who usually outnumber folk of your taste in great numbers. It's not like football or other sports, where the fans are so numerous they have to subdivide so they have groups of fellow football fans to be their enemy tribe. When you can have a national gathering of your fellow fans and only draw a couple of hundred people, you tend to let the differences fall aside, as you're a handful of like-minded in a vast sea of "muggles," as the Harry Potter fans like to say.

Whenever Sherlock Holmes's popularity gets a growth spurt, though, we get a little case of the "us and them." Those of us that get it versus those who don't. And I'm horrible about that. When Doylean scholarship was on the rise back in the eighties, and I was solidly in the "Watson wrote the stories" camp, watching what looked like a bulldozer headed for the playground, I actually had something printed up for the B.S.I. dinner packets heralding the formation of the "Doylebusters" with a cute Ghostbusters-type logo with a cartoon Doyle instead of a spook. The slogan underneath ran "We ain't afraid of no spiritualists." But since I'm not completely mad, as some might think at times, that entire print run got tucked away and eventually trashed. Sometimes you have to keep the things that amuse you to yourself. (Said the blogger.)

Whether it's men-only Sherlock Holmes clubs, lovers of Elementary, or those who still smoke pipes, there will always be folk in Holmes fandom whose brain-patterns I can't completely empathize with . . . or partially empathize with . . . or ever be one of those who gets it, whatever "it" is. I'm sure you have a few of them, too. Attitudes and tastes within the Sherlock Holmes community run the gamut as far and wide as they do with the general populace. We have our conservatives, our liberals, our reactionaries, and our radicals. As monolithic as the Sherlockian community might look to a newcomer, we're not even close to all the same.

But here's the thing: as much as one might snark at some crazy-lame idea about Holmes from a distance, where the idea is much separated from the person who thunk it, in person, 98% of us are congenial sweethearts who make excellent dinner company. From the stauchest old Irregular to the spiciest writer of Sherlock fanfic, up close and in person, you'd probably get along with each other.

Which is kind of the point I've been trying to make ever since 221B Con. Nearly 700 people, and 98% of them were cool. Yeah, I may have seemed to throw a lot of the old world Sherlockiana over in the process, but -- news flash -- I've sorta been doing that for the last twenty-five years. And there aren't too many bridges that have been burned up along the way. (A few still show serious charring, and I'm not proud of that, to be sure.) "Us and them" is a hard instinct to fight against, even within the bounds of your beloved hobby.

The only real cure is getting the chance for "you and me," when you actually get to meet some of the "others" face to face at a con, symposium, or other event. Sure, there's going to be that 2% you may run into that truly suck, but don't let them become the face of an entire faction of Sherlock fandom for you. The rest of us probably don't like them either . . . . Hey! One more thing we have in common.

See you around.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

And sometimes, after a case, they cuddle . . .

It's a new day for Holmes and Watson's sexuality.

One of my favorite scenes in all of movie-dom is the ballet sequence from The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in which Watson freaks out after having his heterosexuality questioned. One can image poor Private Life Watson's reaction were he to encounter modern slash fan fiction. They'd probably be locking the poor chap up in Dr. Seward's sanitarium in the room next to Renfield. The very question of possible homosexuality was horrific to Private Life Watson, but then, he was also horrified at the possibility that Holmes had his way with a beautiful naked amnesiac client. Private Life Watson seemed to be quite the sex-negative chap, when you come right down to it.

Since neither Holmes nor Watson had known offspring in the original Canon, we can't be sure that either of them actually had sex. Holmes was focusing on the detective art above all else, and Watson liked to keep even his marital status rather confusing. (Hmm, were Watson not Watson, one would wonder if he did that on purpose to keep his opportunities open.) Fanon has Holmes and Irene Adler eventually having some honeymooning vacations together, sometimes resulting in the birth of Nero Wolfe. And Watson, if the tin box pastiches are at all true, had some descendants.

To me, it always seemed like Holmes was too career-driven to even take vacation trysts with Irene Adler, but if the more romantic Sherlockians wanted him to get it on with her, well, I suppose that was okay. Everybody deserves a little happiness now and then. And besides, in the Basil Rathbone/Jeremy Brett sort of Sherlocks, our favorite detective was past his sexual prime anyway, and the question really didn't matter. Nigel Bruce as a ladies man is almost impossible to wrap your head around.

Now, with two younger actors in the roles of Holmes and Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman seem like a Holmes and Watson who could definitely be sexually active. Watson dates, Holmes's observational powers shut down when he sees a naked Irene. (And really, you know he could deduce even from naked if he wanted to -- he's just that good!) They have that Starsky and Hutch buddy thing going that fan fiction has always been able to easily slide into a comfortable gay pairing.

The name "slash" in referring to gay fan fiction comes from old Star Trek fanzines that used to denote stories of Kirk and Spock as lovers as "K/S" for easy reference. I first ran into it in the early eighties and it always fascinated me that it wasn't created by gay men, but straight women. It's taken decades for Sherlock and John to catch up to Jim and Spock as a major source of slash fan fiction, but thanks to Cumberbatch and Freeman, the day is finally here. And kind of like Holmes and Irene going off to conceive little Nero, it's not a part of my primary headcanon, but I can see how it might be in some alternate universe.

Elementary, as always, is an entirely different animal. One would think, with the absence of so many major female characters, that show would be Slash Central. Holmes/Gregson, Holmes/Bell, Holmes/Rhys, Holmes/pre-op Miss Hudson, Holmes/Marcus. And there is a bit of it out there, but with a relationship between Holmes and Joan Watson off the table so far on the show, that relationship seems to be begging for the relief of fanfic's black market satisfaction first.

Recently, star of The Avenger's Mark Ruffalo, when confronted with Bruce Banner/Tony Stark fan art, was as accepting as Martin Freeman is well known for being, and said, "I endorse [this art] one hundred percent. You know what it is? It's open-source creativity." He really hit the nail on the head.

Some really great art has always come from unfulfilled needs on the part of the creator. It's something that resonates in our minds and hearts and reminds us that we are all much the same on those levels. When it comes to Holmes and Watson, there are great areas of untapped creativity still to be explored, with places fans will now go that previous fan generations and the two or three existing ancient male-only Sherlockian societies are afraid to touch. (Literally. Snicker.)

Slash fiction with Holmes and Watson may not be for everyone, but it's becoming a part of our culture that is going to be around whether one supports it or not. Robert Downey Jr.'s antics in promoting his last Holmes movie has to make you wonder if a gay Holmes and Watson might not even be coming to the big screen before too much time has passed. The idea is out there.

But as long as Sherlock Holmes remains a solid, entertaining Sherlock Holmes, and as long as John Watson remains a solid, entertaining partner and friend to him, what they do in their private lives is their business, as far as I'm concerned. In their public lives, on the big and little screens, though, I might prefer it if we continue to get a naked Irene for every naked Sherlock, as Stephen Moffat so graciously provided last year.  If not?

Well, I might have to brush up on my art skills and start doing fan art of my own.

Friday, April 19, 2013

When it's always 1985, you follow the path.

Sometimes, I just let life take me where it will. Today, for example, I was looking for Matt Laffey's "Always 1895" site and transposed two digits. Google quickly took me to an IMDB page for the movie "Always (1985)."

This wasn't the movie with Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter -- that came four years later. This "Always" was about a middle-aged couple considering divorce. I started following up the cast to see if there was a connection to Sherlock Holmes to at least make my mistake somewhat worthwhile. Melissa Leo seemed a familiar name, and her notable part in the recent Olympus Has Fallen gave me a reason for that. Alan Rachins had a long list of TV credits, including Dharma's father on Dharma & Greg, but no Holmes stuff. I was just about to give it up as a lost cause when I looked into Jonathan Kaufer.

Jonathan Kaufer only had two acting credits, but his writing credits were a little more notable. The memorable sci-fi parody Quark, and one of the few Sherlock Holmes related sitcoms ever to air, the very unforgettable Holmes and Yo-Yo.

Of course, Holmes and Yo-Yo was about Detective Alexander Holmes and not Sherlock, and "Yo-yo" was his indestructible robot partner. And it has been called one of the worst sitcoms in the history of television. But nobody creates a detective named Holmes with a Nigel Bruce-ish robot partner without trading on the Sherlock Holmes legend at least a little bit. The show was on in 1976, however, so it doesn't quite qualify in the department of "always 1985."

No, 1985 was the year Young Sherlock Holmes came to theaters and Jeremy Brett first appeared on American TV in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. (Never mind that the UK had it almost a full year ahead of us. Curse you, PBS, and your time lags!) You could do a lot worse than 1985, if you had to pick a year for "always." And a lot better than Holmes and Yo-yo.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Elementary explanation.

Another Thursday night, another rerun, as Elementary saves up its energies for one last run of the season. But we can't let Thursday pass without a little tale of Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson, can we? So let us consider that little theory I've been kicking about of late, and see just how it plays out. You know the stories.

Remember how a fellow named Richard Brook exposed the famous Mr. Sherlock Holmes to reporter Kitty Riley? Exposed him as a complete and utter fraud, demonstrated how his greatest case was completely staged, and cast John Watson's blogs in a very unfavorable light? Sherlock Holmes had become quite the celebrity detective, with fans, real fans just like Kitty Riley pretended to be. Seeing their hero discredited had to be quite a blow to those fans. Sherlock's suicide soon after, added to the damage.

So suppose you were one of those fans, a fellow whose mental state included traits of Asperger's, an encyclopedic knowledge of trivia, and a near obsessive fascination with Sherlock. And just before your hero's fall, your girlfriend, that one rare woman who could look past your quirks and love you anyway, was hung upside down and exsanguinated by a serial killer whose path she was unlucky enough to cross. But Sherlock Holmes, the one man who could get justice for her death, the one man you know could make things right, is suddenly gone. The pain is incredible, beyond the mind-numbing drugs you attention to escape with, so much so that eventually your damaged, bent, and drugged psyche comes to the one answer to your problem that seems at all workable.

Sherlock Holmes must solve the murder. Sherlock Holmes must right the wrongs. The slogan "I believe in Sherlock Holmes" becomes more than just a belief. It becomes certain knowledge. You know Sherlock Holmes exists, because you areSherlock Holmes.

In London, that might mean institutionalization. But your father is so very, very wealthy. And he has friends in America, powerful friends in the right places to have some influence with the NYPD. He's also wealthy enough to find and hire a disgraced surgeon whose name happens to be "Joan Watson." If your wealthy father can set you up in a situation where your delusion can be somewhat functional, perhaps you can work your way out of it without the scandal of the nuthouse. (What's a little heroin addiction between rich friends? But madness? Delusions of being a disgraced celebrity? That's just not done.)

So your find yourself in New York City, calling yourself Sherlock Holmes, and working for the police in some odd consultory fashion whose paycheck probably comes from the same source as your Dr. Watson's. Your methods are quite the same as the original Sherlock, who you never really knew, but quick statements of the obvious, a constant barrage of trivia, and some assistance from the real police to keep you on the right path all seems to get the job done. You must be Sherlock Holmes.

Of course, when the girlfriend's actual murderer does show up in New York, you go a little mad and head for torture, but the killer recognizes your madness (he's from England, too, of course, and knows all about Sherlock Holmes and the "mythical" Moriarty) and feeds you just what you need to keep from going psycho on him. And on you go.

At some point, you realize that your role needs a woman named Hudson to be a part of your domestic situation, so you hire a sex worker who specializes in fantasy to play the part. And on you go.

Now, if the world and the entertainment industry was a perfect place, when Sherlock comes back from the dead next year (or even while he's still letting all of England think he's dead), it would be an excellent climax to Elementary for he to appear in New York just as his biggest fan regains his sanity and bless the detective union of Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson, sort of like King Sean Connery showing up at the end of the movie Robin Hood. But alas, sometimes we have to let our fictions remain separated by their corporate masters.

One can always dream, however . . . .

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sorry, Vincent. It's not always 1895 these days. But we're okay.

Occasionally, someone attributes a quote to me that I don't quite remember saying or writing, but if it sounds good, I'll claim it. This week, the quote was "It's not about the sixty stories any more." That's sounds like me, if you add the word "just" in there. Because it isn't just about the sixty original Sherlock Holmes stories any more. And when Joel Senter asked me to elucidate, my immediate reply was just, "it hasn't been about the sixty stories for a long time, really."

Let me actually explain myself this time, for Joel and everybody else, because I wanted to talk about fanon tonight. "Fanon" is a word I just learned this weekend, a word that perfectly describes something I've been into since day one as a Sherlockian.

We all know what Canon is, the holy texts that we all agree upon for our hobby's center. The complete Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

"Fanon" are those things we all know and agree upon that weren't written down by Doyle. Sherlock Holmes's birthday, for example. January 6th, right? That was data created by fans of Holmes, accepted by fans of Holmes, and used by fans of Holmes. Our Fanon. People who don't have a clue why Holmes's birthday is January 6 hold to that date and celebrate on it. Watson's middle name? A little less certain, but at this point I think "Hamish" will not get you into many arguments.

And that's just the fan aspect of Sherlock Holmes culture. The deerstalker, the calabash pipe, both brought to us by actors and yet the accepted icons of Sherlock Holmes. No one disputes those at all. Movies have contributed so much to the legend of Sherlock Holmes. Most of Moriarty's villainy has been added post-Canon in movies and television, as there is so damned little of it in the stories.

When I think about what non-Doyle writers have added to Holmes's legend, I have to enter into the realm of "headcanon,"another new word for me. Headcanon are things outside the original sixty that your brain has come to accept as a part of Holmes's legend. Headcanon varies from person to person, but I'll make an embarassing personal admission here: As much as I'm not a fan of Miss Mary Russell, but my brain seems to have given over to the King fans' claim that "After 1914, he's ours!" Mary Russell has become a part of my headcanon. Of course, my headcanon also thinks that Mary Russell is insane, but that's another matter.

Which brings me to the new Sherlocks, modern London and modern New York editions. No gaslight. Little fog. No 1895. The world hasn't exploded as Vincent Starrett's well known poem "221B" theorizes, but Holmes and Watson have moved on from Victorian London. Having been a reader of comic books and science fiction all my life, the idea of alternate universes fits right into my mindset, so accepting parallel worlds where Holmes is a modern is something I can slide right into, if the character of Holmes fits my personal image of him. (And if it doesn't, my sliding in takes a bit longer. Even with acceptance of Elementary as a parallel universe, my headcanon still thinks Jonny Lee Miller's character is a delusional Baker Street Irregular.)

Sherlock Holmes's legend has always encompassed more than just the sixty stories. Some of it, like deerstalkers and calabash pipes, are Fanon we accepted because it was with us from day one. The lore of Sherlock Holmes developed at a much slower rate in years past, because the delays of postal delivery and publishing schedules kept ideas from flitting between humans at anything but a snail's pace. The internet has ramped up the speed of the evolution of ideas to a previously unheard of pace, and as a result we're suddenly seeing ideas entering the mix without seeing the build-up to them or where they come from. The fandom coming in from the TV show Sherlock has an amazingly developed Fanon that  may seem totally alien to an old school fan who first encounters it, and yet it comes from the same place the Fanon of Morley and Starrett did: scarcity.

We can never get enough of Sherlock Holmes. Whether it's waiting for that sixty-first Doyle story that will never come, or waiting the long year or so between short seasons of Sherlock, all mighty fandoms come from a longing for something you can't have. People write stories, obsess over trivia, collect the furnishings of Sherlock's sitting room, and get together with those who share their love of Holmes. That part has never changed since day one, and will never change. It just might look a little different to the casual observer. But we're not casual observers. We're the followers of Sherlock Holmes.

"Here, though the world explode, these two survive," Vincent Starrett wrote in his classic poem. "And it is always eighteen ninety-five." But the world doesn't explode very often. Mostly it just changes. We change. Generations live in ways their grandparents could hardly imagine. And Sherlock Holmes changes with us. The Canon, those original sixty, will never change. But what we build on that foundation may look different from year to year. Even Starrett's phrase "always eighteen ninety-five" was more Fanon than Canon, more about his headcanon than the actual Canon. (Sometimes it was 1887, Vincent!) But that's okay, Starrett got to be a fan his way, we get to be a fan our way. The guy who was first in line at the cineplex doesn't get to decide which movie the rest of us see.

Because it's never been just about the sixty stories. Without human beings to react to them, be entertained by them, and be inspired to spin new things out of them, they're just 566 sheets of paper with ink on them, sitting on a shelf.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


At the end of a really great vacation, like the now-legendary 221B Con this weekend, there's always that moment when you realize you're going to have to go back to reality. The job, the household chores, all the obligations you manged to completely put out of your mind. And the serious, serious shit the world itself throws down outside of all that.

As I drove along the interstate headed north today, before hearing about the Boston tragedy tonight, I was remembering something Joss Whedon once wrote that I've always held dear, and it goes like this:

"Bottom line is even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what, are we helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are."

Big moments. They're not just tragedies. Sometimes they're a really great weekend you got to spend in the company of like-minded folk. Sometimes they're accomplishments you worked really hard to make happen. Things you knew were coming. Things that caught you by surprise. There are all sorts of big moments, good and bad, that change our lives. 

And it's really true: "It's what you do afterwards that counts."

This weekend, we got away for a while, learned some new things, enjoyed the creative efforts of others, met some new friends . . . just like so many Sherlockian weekends I've had before. There's always a level of energy that comes from such things, if you get past the initial drop. The chance to use things you've learned, and follow paths you didn't know were even there earlier.

But this weekend wasn't just any Sherlockian weekend. For me, it was a big moment. Maybe not as big as some. Maybe even something that seems a little silly to some. Like everything else in life, however, now comes the "afterwards."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

221B Con fried brain wrap-up.

Well, 221B Con ended about five today in Atlanta.

And guess what? I left some of the best parts out of the blogs thus far.

Costume contest? Yes, there was one of those. Sherlocks. Johns. A glowing blue bunny and her scientist pal. Mycrofts. Molly. A mind palace. Joan. Things I recognized and things I didn't. And all those Irenes. All those gorgeous Irenes. Pictures will turn up at some point, I'm sure, and you'll see things my fried brain can't pull up at this point. But creativity and craftsmanship rules and Wear Sherlock did a beautiful job of introducing the sixty contestants.

The Baker Street Babes live podcast? Everything a BSB podcast should be -- an interview with Cara McGee, creator of Adagio's Sherlock-based tea blends, full of fun, insight, laughter, and just the right amount of timely profanity. Five Babes live and present for the event, and since you'll soon be able to find it online, I won't spend too much time on it here. I'll be giving the Babes their due later in the week.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes, he was there, big as life, in two dimensional black and white, and enjoying the attentions of a great many women. Poking his head out of the Tardis. Someone tweeted that he looked a bit miffed, but that big moustache makes him very had to read.

The new Fanon. Sherlock Holmes fans have always had Fanon -- those accepted facts created by the fans themselves, like Holmes's January birthday. BBC Sherlock fans have their own Fanon, as well as memes that kept showing up in costumes wandering about the con. Winglock. Red underpants. And as much as the concept of radio cosplay still boggles my brain, a crew of Cabin Pressure folk. At times it was like walking into a new dimension of Sherlockiana. Quite refreshing.

Howard Ostrom. Okay, this place was full of Babes, girls, women, ladies, Adventuresses, and young men with oddly painted-on whiskers. But it also had Howard, who was a treat to serve on a Rathbone panel with. This was my first time getting to spend time with the WelcomeHolmes favorite, and it was always good to compare notes with him as we passed on our way to the various sessions.

The wrap-up panel of the con organizers is a really brave concept. After a long, tiring weekend, they invite everyone to come in and tell them what they did wrong, which is a risk I sure wouldn't take. They got some good constructive comments, and the accepted fact that the con ran "smooth as butter."  For a first time con, it was an amazing thing. But that might have been a part of it -- it was a first time con for a great many attendees as well, no one with expectations from past glories, just enthusiastic people happy to be there and willing to go with the flow.

After the reputation this year's 221B Con is getting, next year might be a tall order to live up to, but they're going to try. And the good Carter and I have signed up for it already.

Paradigm shifts.

I have dear friends who will never read this.

I say that to start this post just to demonstrate the size of the paradigm shift I'm talking about. This blog might as well be written in Russian as far as certain people are concerned. And the fact that those folk will never read it has nothing to do with their opinion of me  -- were these words printed in The Baker Street Journal, or on any other piece of paper I'd print up and snail mail to their home, they'd see my name and happily look to see what I was writing about. Why?

Well, hard as it is to believe, there are people out there who aren't Amish and still don't quite get this internet thing. And a few of them are old school Sherlockians. Traditional Sherlockian culture has always been a slow moving thing, given to looking back lovingly at a pre-tech era, but the last ten years have really put an exclamation point on it. I give a lot of admiration to Scott Monty, who has devotedly tried to drag cranky old geezers into the modern age, including trying in vain to get me to do RSS feeds, and fought an uphill battle the whole way. If it were up to Scott, the Baker Street Irregulars would have been the premiere web Sherlock group, I'd wager, but there was a lot of self-proclaimed Luddite stuff among old school Sherlockians that it was plain he couldn't get around.

Of course, nobody foresaw how much human culture would change as a result of the technologies the internet brought us. Unless maybe they looked for it, like Scott did. And even he probably didn't get what would happen when new generations grew up with this stuff.

Well, boys and girls . . . and especially you girls . . . there's another paradigm shift going on that you might want to pay attention to. Sherlockiana is trending female. It has been for years and years, since the Jeremy Brett era, just like the mystery genre itself. In the 1960s, when the little group of college girls who later called themselves "the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes" tried to get into the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars, women were seen as complete outsiders to the hobby of Sherlock Holmes. The Adventuresses had all the spirit and Sherlock-joy of the Baker Street Babes, but with one key difference. They began their Sherlockian voyage in the shadow of a male dominated culture.

Which is the main thing I love about the Baker Street Babes. They didn't ask anyone's permission to become a "scion society" when they started up. They weren't burdened by all the old baggage. They just went, "We like Sherlock. We're gonna have some fun. GO!"  And boy, have they gone. The Adventuresses would surely have done similarly, but they really didn't have much of a choice in the matter.  The 1960s kind of sucked. I was there. I know. (The 1960s, not the Adventuress thing. I was only ten or so.)

And look around. Do you see a male equivalent of the Babes anywhere on the Sherlockian scene? Matt Laffey of Always 1895 puts on a pretty good one man show, but he's just the one guy. Of course, that said, I barely get Tumblr, so maybe I'm missing something.

The culture of Sherlock Holmes is changing. More and more, we're seeing Watson more as Holmes's nurturing caretaker or lover, taking on a little more feminine approach to their relationship. Some might argue that it was always there, and maybe it was . . . for women . . . Doyle had a great sympathy toward the opposite gender, but at the same time he was all boy. His characters can be seen in a lot of different ways by a lot of different people, which is part of the reason they're still with us and kind of timeless.

I don't know what the female-to-male ratio is at 221B Con this weekend, but men are barely a blip on the radar here. And one can't help feel that we're looking at the future of Sherlock Holmes fandom, because we most certainly are. Not one doubt about it. Some geezer sitting in some men-only club in Boston right now may cry, "No! We are the true Sherlock Holmes fans, as we've always been!" But as with so many other folks in (and sometimes ignored by) history, the world moves on as it will. How does the saying go? "Man plans and God laughs."

And I know She has been laughing her cosmic ass off at the goings-on in Atlanta this weekend, just at some of the Tweets. We are having such a good time here. All historical paradigm shifts should be this much fun.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

221B Con . . . Into the night.

Well, it's been a helluva night folks. I put on the Victorian duds, threw on the top hat, and the good Carter and I headed down to S. Moran's Invisible Tigress Speakeasy, the big Saturday night event hosted by the Baker Street Babes.

Now, you know the Babes can throw a party. But do you really expect to find yourself all hot and sweaty and crawling around the floor to do their bidding? Along with forty or so other people?

Well, with all the Irene Adlers at 221B Con, it's not really that surprising. And after the Babes' devilish Dancing Men demands to get in, we should have seen it coming. And like all the most devious plotters, they also offered up one's heart's desire to get you to do their bidding. What's my heart's desire, you ask? We'll get to that.

The coded messages found all over the Con today instructed us to tell them something about Rupert Graves to gain admittance to the Speakeasy, and the good Carter was ready with a Graves tidbit good enough to get us both in. (Currently watching Rupert in V for Vendetta as I write this.) The ballroom we entered was full of balloons, which seemed festive enough . . . except for the strict instructions not to pop those balloons.

We divided up into teams of five. The good Carter and I split off from our familiar neighbors and joined Matt and Clay, two rare gentlemen at the con whom I'd met earlier in the day. Also on their team was Laura, whom I knew as "Victorian Irene Adler" and the internet knows as Timestitcher. (Her costume was one of the winners of the big costume contest earlier.) Our assignment: find the balloon with the answer to a question on it. On the back of that balloon would be another question. The answer to that question would be on another balloon with another question. And on and on, answering questions and finding balloons before the other teams. Our questions started with "What was the first story Mycroft appeared in?" and ranged through writers, Rathbone movie years, Eve Titus, and Anderson's supposed love of dinosaurs. On and on, finding and answering, until we finally found someone holding on to our final balloon for some reason.

We dragged all our balloons up through the balloon grabbing chaos and had them validated by the Babes, only to find we were the first to complete the task. The prize for that little achievement?

Did I mention one's hearts desire? Well, I don't know what it meant to my team-mates, but about a year ago I realized that there was one more Sherlockian thing I had to do before I considered my resume in this hobby of ours complete, and that was accomplish one thing that would get me on a BSB podcast. I didn't know what that thing would be . . . a book, maybe? Something new I hadn't thought of yet? Complaining about Elementary in a blog week after week certainly wasn't going to do it. But I didn't expect it to be crawling around on a floor looking at balloons.

The first prize was a guest spot for our team on an upcoming podcast about the con.

After that came some Sherlockian pictionary, but I had gone to the bar with Clay to get some celebratory refreshment. And the party started moving out into the larger atrium area. Once the pictionary was done, I got to help give away a whole lot of books and deerstalkered stuffed toys at the turn of a playing card. (Remember that mini-library I blogged a picture of? With so many Con attendees on flights, we decided to parcel the books out bit by bit.) And I think it worked out nicely.

After that, a little relaxation, one more panel on Holmes and Jack the Ripper, one more late night conversation, and back to the room for some blogging and that plotter of revolutions, V.

Bill Mason and I, as much as we disagree on Elementary, both agree that something revolutionary happened to Sherlock Holmes fandom as we know it this weekend. Something we couldn't have imagined ten or twenty years ago. Most of the attendees don't probably see it, as they're just having a good time enjoying Sherlock and other people who enjoy Sherlock. But as representatives of the old world of Sherlock fandom, Bill, Marilynne, Regina, Jacquelynn, Howard, David, Rich, and anyone else I haven't run into yet are certainly seeing it.

And we still get one more day of it.

221B Con Saturday continues.

Currently, I'm sitting in the back row of the "Legalities of Fan Fiction" panel, after the Doctor Who panel seemed to be retreading earlier ground which "Moffat versus Moffat" hit. Lyndsay Faye has agreed to sit in for a lawyer who couldn't come, and I think that's an exchange anyone would take. But I'm not live-blogging another panel. It's waaaay too hard to keep up, as they get a little lively.

So let me tell you a little more about the con. The hotel has a nice layout for it -- a nice-sized, multi-level atrium with function rooms jutting off its sides. Nice room to mingle and hang in that center, easy to find a friend, and with room for author's tables, registration tables, and a Tardis you can step into for a picture.

Take that space and fill it with young, excited fans, mostly female, a large number in costume. And when I say in costume, since BBC Sherlock is set in the modern day, a lot those costumes are just people in nice outfits. The murder victim from "A Study in Pink." Mycroft in his three piece suit. Sherlocks and Johns (easier to spot a John if he's with a Sherlock). A couple bunny rabbits. And Irene Adlers. All kinds of Irene Adlers. Dream-like legions of Irene Adlers.

Or maybe my focus just keeps getting drawn to the Irenes, and there are just a handful of them. Hard to tell, because there are a more than a few that draw the male attention to the deficit of all other data in the room. That's Irene for you.

Of course, there are slightly overweight, middle-aged men in over-large red t-shirts with the Dancing Men embroidered on the front . . . well, me anyway . . . and a lot of other sort of fans and folk here as well.

The dealer's room (which spills into the sides of the atrium) is nicely varied with books, steampunk gear, artists selling some neat bits of work, jewelry, hats, DVDs . . . a really nice mix of typical dealers. I keep finding myself wanting to say "just like a real con." But this is a real con, I have just become so used to Sherlock Holmes weekends fitting the workshop/symposium model with the usual dealer suspects that I keep getting a layer of surreal over it all.

Just enough old school Sherlockian friends here for a comfort zone, things running very smoothly for a first time con (or any con, it's just going very well). And the day is flying by! It needs a "pause" button -- with four or five tracks, I've already missed things. Especially if I'm trying in vain to capture it in a blog!

But more to come, later tonight!

221B Con's First Panel!

Well, for starters, Kristina Manente is the devil. The red hair should have been a clue, but if anyone had any doubts, her posting of hand-drawn dancing men code clues to the password to the Invisible Tigress Speakeasy gave me, Bill Mason, and our new acquaintance Russell a very torturous hour just prior to the first panel. Kristina even wandered by once to snicker evilly at our efforts.

But since she's leading the "Rats, Weddings, and Bows" panel that I'm sitting in right now, along with Stacy Smith, I suppose I'll be retracting that "devil" bit. She's giving us Sherlock gossip from the shooting going on in London. (Oh, there's a Tardis outside this room, did mention that?) Taylor of the BSB just showed up to join the panel.

Oooo, the Babes have been sitting on the Amanda Abbington news of joining the show ever since their interview with Amanda last year. The devil thing is sneaking back . . .

Big discussion of Watson's upcoming moustache and Rupert Grave's loss of hair, Anderson's beard, and on to some spoilery speculation on Molly from shooting sightings.

Pause for getting this posted . . .

"Don't feel sorry for him, he's a dick." Manente on Sherlock, taking a hit from Watson.

More spoilery speculations. And ooooooh, I just screwerd up a Rathbone reference in a suggestion to the panel. Regina Stinson, sitting next to me, gave me a quick correction. Regina has a history of being smarter than me, which we've seen demonstrated in Dayton on many a year.

Well, despite that, this is a whole lot of fun.

"Hatemail blanket." Random, sorry, this live blogging thing is HARD! I should just Twitter like a sensible person. Aw, well, I'm committed for this hour.

 Will Sherlock have emotional development in series three?

"Empty Hearse" almost finished filming, Could the third series come out next January? Will they close the Britain/America gap in the schedule? (Oh, PBS, I hate you so!)

Regina ponts out they moved the Elementary panel to the next hour . . . . . hmmm.

How will Mary Morstan die? She's not even in the new series yet, and we're speculating on her death? Poor Mary. Wonder if Watson will be multiple married on Sherlock?

This is turning into the Mary Morstan death panel! Sherlock shoots her. She gets sick, sacrifices herself to save John's life. Watson blames Sherlock somehow. "Mary Moran"? Lot of instant fanfic being put out there in this one.

Most depressing theory so far is that she gets pregnant AND THEN gets killed!

"By the way, here's some ovaries . . ." (On Doyle's introduction of Mary.)  A lot of wondering why Doyle introduced Watson's wife, only to leave her out or write her out so much. Good thoughts going on here. The elite devotee class really needs to come hang around these ladies for a while and have their illusions shattered.

Awww, we're being let go! Well, that's it for this blog moment! I think I'm done bloggin for the mo! Later!

Friday, April 12, 2013

You . . . gotta . . . see . . . this . . . .

It's midnight and I'm blogging from the bathroom, because someone is sleeping in my bed.

Don't get too excited, it's the same person that always sleeps in my bed. But after slipping in late from my first taste of 221B Con, I had to start blogging for you guys and didn't want to wake the sleeper.

This is something special. This is a Sherlock Holmes convention with an expected seven hundred attendees (and that being just the cut-off point) tomorrow, the like of which this country has never seen.

The hotel has been taken over by fans of Sherlock Holmes, wearing costumes, decorating their hotel room doors, showing their love of our favorite detective in every way imaginable.

And the Con itself hasn't even started.

Tonight, in the hotel's large atrium, here was the scene: A little band of six of us, middle-aged and older, four men and two women, sitting in a circle talking, surrounded by great numbers of other circles of energized, cute-as-a-bug, under-age-thirty young ladies who sounded a lot like it would if you played about a hundred different Baker Street Babes podcasts simultaneously. This is definitely not your father's Sherlock Holmes event.

For years, aging Sherlockians have wished for young people coming into the hobby, and I think that wish has been granted. Their major point of entry might be BBC Sherlock, which some of the self-proclaimed devotee class might pooh-pooh, but they're here and they're our kind of people, smart, funny, and enthusiastic. Seeds of future Sherlockian thought will be planted this weekend, without a doubt. (I was already discussing a potential Baker Street Journal article with a scholar whose submission the editor is sure to love.)

I can hear fans of Sherlock Holmes in the hallways even now, laughing and happily talking into the night. (This is not going to be a hotel for sleeping, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made.) Earlier in the evening you could hear them out in the parking lot from our fourth floor room. And what you hear is excitement. Energy. The spirit of real fans, a whole lot of whom traveled a very long way to get here. (Even as far as Australia.)

I really hope you're not missing this. But I can understand if you didn't see it coming. I don't think any of us, even the con's organizers fully foresaw that the moment for an actual Sherlock Holmes convention was here, and could pull such numbers. But it is, and it has.

"More to come," the tired but happy fellow wrote.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Road to 221B Con.

Might as well accept it. This is going to be the "All 221B Con, All The Time" blog this week.

And if that's not enough for you, the official Sherlock Peoria Twitter feed is full of even less interesting 221B Con tweets going into the hashtag #221BCon hopper. 

This morning started with picking up a Big Red Car at the rental place to tote more Sherlock stuff than got transported to the Dayton Sherlockian Dollar Store some years ago. And then, the most non-Sherlock thing of all happened. The sump pump broke. But Mrs. Hudson-for-the-week was on the case, and the Big Red Car was on the road, straight for Indianapolis.

There are some wonderful Sherlockians in Indianapolis, and I haven't been down there in forever, so just passing through was a killer. Thought about trying to have lunch with anyone who might, but given my usual slow departure and the one hour delay of crossing into Eastern time, lunch would be at 2:00 at the earliest. After a bad attempt to find a Greek restaurant my memory apparently didn't retain all the details on, lunch wound up being at 3:00 in Southport, so that was probably a good call. So no Sherlock fun in Indiana, and the Big Red Car just kept moving.

When we hit Kentucky, I thought, why leave this to chance? Stopping at the Visitor's Center, the wall of pamphlets revealed two likely sites: Holmes Bend Marina Resort and London, Kentucky. The first choice was completely Holmes-related. Holmes Bend Marina Resort offers both boat rental and fishing, two activities we know Sherlock Holmes indulged in. Faux Thames River chases and faux trout (bass) and faux pike (crappies) await! Of course, there isn't really time to indulge and still get to 221B Con on time, so I'll probably have to pass on that. 

London, Kentucky posed its own challenges. Doing prep work via Google's satellite photos, I found that 221 Meyers Baker Road in London Kentucky, despite the fabulous Canadian connection in the name, is a vacant plot of light brown dirt. The Cumberland Parkway leads into London, and if you squint really hard, you can make it look like "Cumberbatch Parkway," but if you're squinting that hard, you really shouldn't be driving, so that was out, too.

If all else failed, I thought I could at least watch a new episode of Elementary for the blog, in our lodgings at Elizabethtown, Kentucky.  But no new show there, just a rerun. (Can a TV show hate you back? I wonder.)

An "Elizabethan (k)night" is mentioned in The Hound of the Baskervilles, so spending the night in Elizabethtown has to get me some Kentucky Sherlock-points . . . doesn't it?

Tomorrow, on to Tennessee and Georia! And then things get REAL Sherlock-y!

No sleep til 221Bcon!

Well, I suppose I will sleep sometime between now and 221Bcon. But it's not going to be easy.

Tonight, for example, after a weird crazy quilt of a project at work that threw me off by three hours all day long, an assortment of pre-travel errands that included a big favor from a kinsman and a sudden, dark rainy rendezvous with part of the trusted inner circle, and finally getting time to pack for our departure tomorrow . . . well, suddenly I found myself taking time to decode a message in Dancing Men code.

I soon discovered that I already had the information coded in the message, having caught up with the Baker Street Babes latest announcement of Sebastian Moran's Invisible Tigress Speakeasy. But that was okay . . . it reminded me of a time when we used to do things in Dancing Men code. And by "we" I mean that generation who was once energetic and creative and all those things we're seeing in the Babes and the much maligned Sherlock fandom, back when we were not so slightly toasted (if not burnt out) by the years and that long, hard drought between Brett and Downey/Cumberbatch.

Sure, there have always been certain ever-glowing flames in our midst. And there have been ever-burnt-out curmudgeons in our midst as well. Most of us fall somewhere in between, or alternating between the two, after a time, but the thing of it is this: we're all looking for something new. A new Sherlock Holmes. A new book. A new movie. A new event.

After all these decades, 221Bcon is something new to the land of Sherlock Holmes. A con. Not a workshop, not a symposium, but an unashamed, flat-out con. Cons are what the popular fandoms have, fandoms with a center that has current pop culture momentum . . . kind of like Sherlock Holmes does these days. People want more Sherlock, and not just the die-hard fans. When I mentioned I'm going to a Sherlock Holmes con this week, people actually reacted like it was kind of cool, instead of the slightly perplexed look one got in past decades at the mention of a Sherlock weekend.

Let's make no mistake: Cons can be amazing, but cons can also be disastrous. You especially roll the dice when you go to a brand, new one. But whatever the experience, they're almost always memorable. And this one, with its currently unknown attendance figure, rumors of at least one significant media presence, a goodly contingent of Baker Street Babes doing their podcast, and being the first major Sherlockian event at which I will have ever even come close to cosplay . . . the interest factor is very high, at least for this Holmes fan.

But I'm starting to ramble on from lack of sleep, I think . . . and there's more of that to come.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

221Bcon versus The Holmes & Watson Report.

At the end of 2004, I realized that I was done with producing print. The internet made it just too easy to distribute to more eyes than printers-and-post-office with so much less work. Yes, there is a certain loss of focus when you compare the experience of a print journal to what you'll find on a web site or blog. And not everybody wants to go digital just yet. But for me, the time to move on had come.

The thing is, sometimes, even after you've moved on, you find you're still dragging some residue from that earlier time. Many, many pounds of residue, at that.

For me, that was about twenty or so copies of six or seven of the later issues of The Holmes & Watson Report. Doesn't sound like that much, but it fills a banker's box. And among my goals for the 221Bcon weekend in Atlanta? 

Making that box disappear.

Somebody at the con has to have never seen this thing before, and some of those somebodies might enjoy a free copy or copies of a defunct journal. If nothing else they can hunt up a few of the regular writers from The Holmes & Watson Report and get articles signed to raise the value. 

We shall see. The road to 221Bcon continues.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A hotel with more than a mini-bar? Could be.

Introducing the Sherlockian mini-library, coming soon to Atlanta.

As the rapidly approaching 221Bcon is looking like a fine opportunity to take a little pressure off of our overcrowded house, I started sorting out what might make good giveaways, dispersables, etc. for appropriate moments, whatever they might be. And then that small set of shelves I could never find a place for came into my line of sight. Good, solid, old-fashioned wood shelves, two feet wide by three feet wide. And I started to wonder: Could I stock those shelves with an appropriate sampling of books to provide a decent Sherlock Holmes mini-library to one of our newer passengers on the great hansom cab of Sherlockiana?

I'd need a good edition of the complete Canon, of course. Some apocrypha. Some reference books. Some Sherlockian scholarship. A sampling of journals. And an array of classic hardcover pastiches. (Every bottom shelf should have pastiches. They provide a foundation that says "Sherlock Holmes" and can sacrifice themselves to rising floodwaters to save rarer tomes.)

So I built the above. It still has a few gaps to fill, but that's entirely do-able. The thing of it is, through what mechanism might I find a willing winner for such a prize? The arrived-by-air attendees are kind of out of luck, being limited by carry-on restrictions. (They might like some of the things that didn't fit on those shelves that I'll be bringing along, though.) Elder attendees are liable to have most of it already. So how does one properly give away a Sherlock Holmes mini-library?

Any great ideas out there besides, "Just give it to me!"? (Which might not be entirely ruled out -- like I said, the house is way too crowded.)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Miss Hudson arrives.

I missed watching Elementary live this week, and I'm a bit glad I did. Watching it "on demand" gave me a little more time to savor it and appreciate a minor miracle taking place. This week's episode was actually tolerable TV. In fact, I would have to call it the best episode the series has produced to date. Why?

Well, even though a blizzard episode in April is not the most timely thing, the mass of snow gave New York a coating of clean, kept the characters close together, and brought some nice visuals to the thing all around. No silly serial killer or murder mystery nonsense. And there were continuity bits. Clyde was back.

And then there was Miss Hudson, who came to clean up. Not Mrs. Hudson, nor landlady Hudson, as that would apparently risk a Sherlock lawsuit as most classic Holmes details would. Miss Hudson was a completely charming lady, a "muse" by profession, giving her a bit of the modern Irene's cachet, and in taking up a job as housekeeper (Mr. Elementary needs a cash transaction in his relationships, it seems.), seems to have been built exactly the opposite of any Mrs. Hudson we've ever known.

Miss Hudson seems to have an organizational mind completely to Mr. Elementary's liking, and isn't nearly the lovable irritant that comes with the flat, as she usually is to the usual fellow named Sherlock Holmes. In fact, she's just adorable. Combine that with Lucy Liu's own charms getting played up in a well-directed episode where Mr. Elementary is finally letting her accompany him and behave as a proper Watson. (In the nineteenth episode. Are we trying to evolve life forms here?)

Elementary's biggest problem, however, continues to be Mr. Elementary. He might have even grown on me a little bit this episode, but is he Sherlock Holmes? No way in Hell.

In a movie version of this show, Jason Statham would play Mr. Elementary, though he might have to get prosthetic forearms to make them Wolverine-level hairy. Jonny Lee Miller's character remains a yattering, bouncy ragamuffin who seems to be consciously avoiding the quiet cool of classic Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes was many things to many people, but he was never a man-child, which seems an intrinsic part of Mr. Elementary's character. And as Mr. Elementary becomes more and more fully realized as a character on this show, such stark differences between him and the real deal become forever two different brands of detective. (Detective Bell, looking cool enough to be from the Matrix at one point this week, should give him wardrobe pointers, just the same.)

I hope the show continues upon the path begun with Miss Hudson's arrival, as I'm going to be watching it anyway -- it might as well be somewhat enjoyable. But Elementary has offered moments of hope before, only to backslide into its formula procedural silliness. Who knows, though, it might continue to improve and someday be an Emmy-level entertainment. In any case, an episode in which Mr. Elementary's past as a Baker Street Irregular to the real Holmes is revealed would still make the whole affair much more palatable, as well as keeping the marketable connection.

We shall see.

Mr. Elementary's bookshelf contains You Can Learn Telepathy by Morton Zuckerman, by the way. Make of it what you will.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Elementary! Elementary! Elementary! I can't make bricks.

"Elementary, my dear professor! Ele . . . mentary! El . . . eh . . . men . . . tah . . . ree . . . ."

No, that's not a line from the worst adaptation of "The Final Problem" ever.  What it is is part of a bit of a detective-ish ramble from a little theatrical production I was involved in back in February, where one of the actors was fishing a bit for a line and used the single word to buy time. The scene came back to me tonight, while watching the video at a belated cast party, and gave me new reason to consider that word of questionable repute.

We all know the bit of trivia that Sherlock Holmes never actually said, "Elementary, my dear Watson." He calls things "elementary" a few times, and in "The Adventure of the Crooked Man," we find:

"Elementary," said he.

But "my dear Watson," which can be found elsewhere in the original stores, is never attached. There's even a Snopes article on the myth of "Elementary, my dear Watson," which like "Beam me up, Scotty!" from a certain other fandom, entered the popular culture without a direct usage in the Canon it celebrates.

"Elementary" is just one of those words that's perfect for a man like Sherlock Holmes. It's got five syllables of big-word clout, but practically everyone knows what it means. It's used for conveying the simplicity of a seemingly complex problem, and just saying it slowly sounds like you're pondering something.

Adding "my dear Watson" to it adds a certain patronizing tone, which makes it all the more interesting that Sherlock Holmes never really used it that way in the original text. Sure, movies like to use it quite a bit, but movies gave us Boobus Britannicus, as Nigel Bruce's Watson has been called, and I'd wager that any time you hear someone talking about how mean Sherlock Holmes is to Dr. Watson, they're almost always speaking of some screen interpretation. So does our culture take for granted that Sherlock Holmes is a little bit patronizing, a little bit mean?

Well, our culture isn't decided by the Sherlock Holmeses of the world, I'm sad to say.

The Merriam-Webster definition of elementary is "of, relating to, or dealing with the simplest elements or principles of something." Which means, if you call something "elementary," you find it pretty simple, which is why Sherlock Holmes used it. If you looked over a problem and just went, "Pretty simple!" it would serve the same purpose, and "pretty simple" means no big deal . . . unless of course that thing isn't simple to you at all.

"Elementary," and one's view of it, may always be a kind of line of demarcation between the haves and the have-nots of mental prowess. Or I might just be using it like that actor I mentioned earlier, to stretch out some time when I'm trying to think of something to say . . . .

(Trivia for the day, who said "My dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes"?  Hint: There were three of them, one rather cute.)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Now he's creepy!

I'd feel worse for Dr. Watson if he didn't always make me laugh.

Sure, we've all heard folks who don't really get the Holmes-Watson dynamic complain about how badly Sherlock Holmes treats poor John H. Watson over the years. But did Sherlock Holmes ever treat Watson worse than the rest of the world?

It wasn't Sherlock Holmes who cast Nigel Bruce as Watson, and decided he should be shown as a cookie-loving doofus. It wasn't Sherlock Holmes who decided he needed other biographers and dumped him repeatedly for Teddy Roosevelt, Irene Adler, Mary Russell, Doc Holliday, any Irregular kid you'd care to name, and so many others. And it wasn't Sherlock Holmes who made Watson creepy.

Creepy Watson, the result of some less-than-stellar programming in a Sherlock Holmes video game has not only picked up some hits on YouTube, he's apparently now promoting a new video game as well, by being just as creepy once again. He doesn't walk. He doesn't move a muscle. He's just there, standing next to you. Turn away, he's gone. Turn again. He's closer than ever.

Creepy Watson now stands next to Doofus Watson, Drunken Watson (an old Peoria favorite), George Costanza Watson (the Private Life version), Cyborg Watson, Transgender Watson (well, if he used to be male, and now he's female . . .), Unrequited Love Watson, STD Watson, James Watson, Dead Watson, Whole Other Watson, Regenerated Gallifreyan Watson (yes, Burke/Hardwick), et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, in the great Hall of Watsons that surely will come to exist one day.

It's really amazing how flexible Watson is. I've always thought it do to his "everyman" quality -- he's a stand-in for all of us in the stories, he's just so relatable -- he literally has the ability to be every man (in the species sense of the word), it would seem. And he's also like an old friend that we're so comfortable with that we have no problem dressing him up in whatever costume we feel like at the moment. We know he's good old Watson. He won't complain, and he'll bounce right back to being Watson.

Even Creepy Watson has a limit on how creepy he is, for those of use who've known him for years. Tweens on YouTube may jump back and squeal, but seeing the old chap pop up at one's side just brings a smile.

Good old Watson.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April 2 . . . almost.

The day of the fool is done.  Well, not quite.

Writing yesterday's blog came at some small cost. A few thoughts had to be suppressed. Comments had to be edited out. And while I consider myself a man of some willpower when the task demands it, I have to admit that no amount of resolve could have quelled all the things that came up as I worked on praising Elementary yesterday. And so, for those of you who would know what didn't get said, here are the random jottings expelled from creating my first April Fool's Day blog.

WARNING: The following is intended for mature adults who are not fans of CBS's Elementary. Anyone who does not match that description should do themselves a favor and go somewhere else, like that Deductionist site. Here's a link to help you  get there ASAP. Seriously. Go now. You're not? Well, don't say I didn't warn you.

And now, on with the show.

  • Was Elementary created to be like Sherlock Holmes? No, it was created to NOT be like Sherlock. Sherlock was created to be like Sherlock Holmes. Think about it.
  • He's just such a cute little Jonnylock, like you could stick him in your pocket and take him down to the stream to scrub him up like a filthy little leprechaun or one of those Cottingsley fairies after they got into the garbage as they were wont to do.
  • Seriously, does it bug anyone else that they named one detective from the Canon (Gregson) and one from Doyle's biography (Bell)? That is just kick-you-out-of-the-reality messed up. They were already using the names Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, which were both in Sherlock, would it have killed them to use Gregson and Lestrade?
  • Has any pastiche used as much defecatory material outside of O Xango de Baker Street? (Which I still enjoy better than Elementary, and it featured Sherlock Holmes with diarrhea.)
  • The waste of Lucy Liu still appalls me. She has been given so much better work to do, almost everywhere else she's been. Watching her in Elementary is like watching any actor you'd care to name in that second Star Wars trilogy. George Lucas took some of the liveliest folks on the silver screen and made them ho-hum, even with light sabers. But at least they had light sabers. Poor Lucy got a stick.
  • He's a deductionist. Seriously. Like there's deductionism.
  • I worry about people who say how much they love the relationship between Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson.  Either they were raised without human contact, or someone is abusing them horribly, because that is not any kind of relationship as I know humans. 
  • Conan Doyle once said to William Gillette of Holmes: "You may marry him, murder him, or do anything you like to him." That was a.) specifically to William Gillette and no one else, and b.) in the 1800s, before anyone, even a science fiction writer like Doyle, could have foreseen what horrors the future and a thing called television could hold for Holmes. And Conan Doyle definitely didn't mean this . . . no, definitely not this . . . anything but this . . .
  • If they changed all the characters names in Elementary, I think I could safely quit watching it and forget all about it. Until then, it's like they're holding the good name of Sherlock Holmes hostage, and hostage crises are riveting television.
There. That's better. Karma is balanced.

Oh, wait, it's a whole twenty minutes until April 2 . . .

April Fool! Hee hee, I was just kidding all along.

The light seen! It was Elementary all along!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say. And it's true. Weeks have passed since CBS last televised a new episode of Elementary, even taking away reruns last week for some sporting event of minor importance. And without that reliable Thursday night jolt that I've grown so accustomed to, where did my heart pine to be this week?

A certain Brooklyn Heights brownstone, of course, where one Joan Watson gets paid . . . paid you understand . . . to spend time learning from the world's finest deductionist, a master of his field, a man these pages have oft referred to as "Mr. Elementary." Perhaps it was, earlier, used as a placeholder for a character I resisted calling "Sherlock Holmes" as CBS had, but really . . . what honorific could be more fitting to the next evolutionary step of Sherlock Holmes, a character boldly taken out of an old English urban folk tale and elevated it to modern American relevance?

It's just so . . . Elementary. To call him "Sherlock Holmes" would be like calling you or I "neanderthal." A bit of an insult, really. So "Mr. Elementary," he will remain here, just as his Watson remains a "Joan," stepping up from that hanger-on John of the past. But that's all that stays the same.

I admit it: I pre-judged Elementary last summer before ever seeing an episode, and when it came out, well, I didn't even watch the first six episodes and just blogged based on what I read on the web. And then, when I finally did watch a whole episode, I still just could not bring myself to admit that here was possibly a true American counterpart to BBC's sets of Sherlock movies.

And then, a single comment from a single reader of this blog put it all into perspective. I'm sure you may remember the comment, it was pretty hard to miss. The insight probably touched you as well.

Suddenly, the entire history of this country and its breakaway from the British motherland made sense . . . our fore-fathers didn't just fight to escape their present taxation, but to be a separate, better country, where we could take the old things of England, improve them, and make them our own. I mean, where would James Bond be without Hollywood, U.S.A.? He's the most American movie hero of the last fifty years! It may be hard to get King Arthur and Robin Hood to America, as it didn't exist as America proper back then, but . . . well, let's get back to Mr. Elementary, the star of our consulting deductionist firmament.

In the weeks ahead, you'll be seeing a new side of Sherlock Peoria. Or should I say "Elementary Peoria," which the blog will be changing its name to just as soon as I figure out all of this Blogger buttons and switches to do so. And then the fun really begins as we delve into a myriad of in-depth topics revolving around Mr. Elementary and Joan:

The professions Mr. Elementary loves to insult. The friends Joan has when she's not on the job. The furnishings to recreate Mr. Elementary's lifestyle. Gregson and Bell, the combo of Scotland Yard and Doyle's med school teacher. The ex-lovers of the team, including one-nighters. The clever t-shirt references. Speculation on just how much Joan is getting paid to study deductionism. Mr. Elementary's bathroom and what its contents reveal about his transition to American life.

So much material to cover! Will there be room to start speculating on how soon Elementary's ratings popularity will catapult it to the big screen to compete with Robert Downey Jr.? You bet there will be, I can write two or three of these blogs a night, if need be!

Somebody just needs to point me in the direction of ElementaryCon 2013 -- I've got my cosplay outfit already started, and -- SPOILER ALERT -- it's Father Holmes! The pictures that have sprung up on the web of that character are making him the must-be for upcoming Elementary meet-ups. So much to do, but in the meantime . . . .

Can't wait for Thursday!

Yours truly,
Mr. Elementary Peoria