Friday, May 24, 2013

On belonging to clubs, 2013.

"And still, poor soul, I had this morbid hankering for inventing clubs."

I remember a day when I, like Christopher Morley, had such a hankering, and I'm sure many a Sherlockian of seasons past has felt that way as well. The swell of Sherlockiana in the late seventies and early eighties were a boom time for club-starters and reinvigorators alike. Many of those societies have fallen away since then, but some still hold on to proud records of decade after decade of existence.

So now that we stand in the midst of one of the greatest high tides of Sherlock fancy in our history, I find myself occasionally wondering: Where are the clubs?

Sure, the old guard is still out there. But new fans like to start new clubs, even in cities that have established groups. And perhaps I'm out of touch . . . well, yes, I am rather out of touch . . . but I still think the internet would have showed some sort of clubbishness on the rise. Sure, you can cite the Baker Street Babes, but they're a podcast cast when you come right down to it. And they're kind of unique.

Now, as I'm gaining a reputation for being the anti-everything Sherlockian with this blog, I have to phrase this carefully so as not to seem to be coming out against clubs. But here's the thing . . . could we be entering an era where the club no longer serves the purpose it once did?

Clubs were always connecting points, places we'd go to meet other Sherlockians. Now, thanks to the internet, you can find other Sherlockians in your area and arrange a meet-up without having name nor banner to fly overhead. Networks of friends can be built to your individual tastes on the web, and your Sherlockian pals can be completely different form those of the Sherlockian who lives next door. Geography no longer limits us.

And while clubs have historically served as great organizers of larger events, this year's 221B Con rose up without involving any local scion. It's not the first Sherlockian event to come about in such a way, but as the first Sherlockian con of size, it's worth noting.

We're not the only clubland affected by the modern day, which you may hear of if you talk to any Elks, Jaycees, Odd Fellows, Eagles, Moose, Kiwanis, etc., etc. Service clubs that were once key parts of local communities have felt a shift of late, and even though Sherlockian societies would seem to be an entirely different animal, history brings change to everything at some point.

I'm certain existing groups will carry their banners on into the future. Retro-chic clubs will inevitably form now and again. But what used to be the standard way of doing things might be changing. Will we one day come to look at the 1980s as the era not just more Sherlockian newsletters and journals than any other, but a rare peak of the traditional Sherlockian society as well?

I suspect that we're just going through a major shift of the way we interact as we merge with our new technologies, and that on the other side some charming soul get a hankering to gather some folks together for lunch just like Morley once did (poor soul), and the cycle of new groups will begin again. Despite the listserver groups, I don't feel like the internet has yet produced a true, fully-functioning web based society that takes advantage of all that our advances in tech have to offer (unless the Babes actually are the new model). And I definitely don't think we've all adjusted to seeing as much of each other as the web makes it possible to do. (That, perhaps, is a blog for another time.)

The Sherlockian community is stronger than ever, despite my perception of a blip in the new club radar. And most of our surprises lately have been happy ones. The new kids on the block have come up with some impressive stuff so far, though. I can't wait to see what they'll surprise me with next. Will it be a new model of club? We shall see.


  1. I here in dinky city, Indiana (not as bad as the last town, but still), and kind of isolated, both philosophically and fandom-wise, I like being able to drive the kids up to Grandma's and go to a meeting of the Illustrious Clients with my good sport of a husband. The internet is great--I've met some very special people this way--and it probably keeps me sane, but it's not the same as being able to actually BE with people, nor is it the same as actually talking to someone (much as I hate the phone, I'll talk for hours with a Sherlockian friend). People don't have scads of time today--not that they ever did, I'm sure, but as families often have both parents working--and then running their kids from activity to activity, service clubs fall by the wayside because they make demands on one's time, and may not be all that interesting from a networking standpoint as they once were. The thing about clubs or scion societies is that there are relatively few of them, and it takes a special kind of person to have the patience to get one going in an area in which interest and commitment may be tenuous for quite awhile. The internet is lovely, but I think human beings still require some actual contact, and there are days when I might kill to have another woman living in this city who was as insane about Sherlock Holmes as I am.

    (Leah Guinn)

    1. Never been to a club gathering, never wanted to. As Groucho Marx once said 'I wouldn't belong to a club that would have me as a member.' Never been sucked in yet, THOUGH I seem to be on this blog thing several times a week! Egads, I might have to stop reading this or people will start to think that I am friendly! Nah, ask my wife, that won't happen.

    2. The internet is like a Bizarro Diogenes Club, reversing the normal rules -- you can communicate with people, but you don't have to hang out in the same building with them. And if you've read the other comments that come into this blog, commenting definitely doesn't automatically put you in the "friendly" column . . . .

    3. Leah, I'm with you. The internet cannot replace actual time spent in the company of people. I prefer to see faces when I interact. The internet naturally has a de-humanizing factor, making it easier for us to forget that the people we are interacting with are PEOPLE. I like to look into people's eyes when they are sharing their passions and insights, and when someone says something witty, I like to laugh with a group.

      And, Leah, I'm insane about Sherlock Holmes, too. If you're ever in Peoria or I'm ever in "Dinky City," Indiana, we should meet for coffee and some Sherlock talk.

    4. Melissa--I'm in Terre Haute, actually, so yes, if you're ever in the area, that would be great!

  2. Nea Dodson, who observes while my faulty memory but sees, writes: "There are new clubs! There is SherlockNYC and SherlockDC off the top of my head. The thing is, the "business model" as it were is to come up with meetings and ideas at the last second and advertise 'em on tumblr. And then we can meet other fans at the cons - 221BCon was excellent for that, Scintillation's coming, and there's apparently a West Coast Holmesian-in-all-incarnations con too."

    1. Jeez, and me with a Sherlock NYC wristband, too. Well, I enjoy being wrong when I get happy answers.

  3. I'm perfectly happy that the internet allows me to connect and talk with people all over the world without even leaving my home and without having to interact personally. I'm a recluse at heart - the fewer people I have to see the better - and the net keeps me from being totally lonely.