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.


  1. Brad, that could be me talking - except that I might not have expressed it so well.

    Thank you!

    Roger Johnson, BSI, ASH
    Editor, The Sherlock Holmes Journal

  2. Great points.

    Regarding meeting some folks difficult to empathize with, I have had some recent experiences in that aspect.