Saturday, May 25, 2013

Questioning your Sherlock Holmes fan bits.

A little while ago, the Welcome Holmes discussion group bandied about the question, "What kind of Sherlockian are you?" It's an innocent little question, but the sort that could be answered casually or with all the contemplation of something a Vorlon would ask a captain of Babylon 5.

What kind of Sherlockian are you?

Well, that's for you to decide, and I'd encourage you not to be easily labeled. But I am a bit curious about a few of your tastes as they apply to this ongoing blog endeavor. While the numbers of readers of this page massively outnumbers the rare comment-writers that come here, it seems like a single reader who makes a comment can influence what gets written in Sherlock Peoria a disproportionate amount, and that hardly seems fair. So I'd like to hear from you, but if you're at all like me, getting involved in the comments section of any web page is just something you like to stay away from. The answer?

Fortunately for us all, the internet gives us a lot of venues for anonymously finding out what people think, so I've constructed a little survey to give everyone a shot at the direction this blog heads this summer. It's easy, multiple choice for the most part (with one final vote that should provide at least one interesting blog all its own), and won't take more than a minute or so. Ten questions in all.

And if you live in the U.S., you've probably got a three day weekend to kill anyway, so have at it!

Here's the survey!


  1. And Nea Dodson writes, via FB: "I am a returned Sherlockian. I was in the canon groups for a while, then drifted away as life got busy. I was lured back by Sherlock BBC and now blend the movies, canon, and TV. Three times in my life, I've returned to a fandom. Once I left again, because without new text to talk about, all we had to discuss were topics that ossified 30 years ago. The two I stayed in had new texts to discuss/compare/contrast with the foundational text."

  2. Hi Brad,
    I’ve been catching up on your old blog posts and felt compelled to comment (and to complete your survey).

    First to say that I enjoy your approach because, despite your obvious love of the canon you are a million miles away from the "OMG - doncha just love EVERYTHING Sherlock and isn’t John Watson just dreeaaamy...LOL..!!!" zeitgeist. I particularly relish your demolition of Elementary - not because I hate it (it falls into the 'guilty pleasure even though it's basically crap' category for me) but because your criticisms capture many of the issues that bother me about the present Sherlock-fever sweeping the internet. At the heart of it is a disregard for the original stories themselves - I recall one post where you quoted somebody as claiming that Conan Doyle's 'take' on Holmes was but one iteration of the stories. I'm all for as many people as possible discovering Holmes, but I don't see the point if the stories as written by Conan Doyle (or Watson, if you are of that persuasion) are not at the heart of it. Your core critique of Elementary seems to be that the show doesn’t look like it was produced by people who actually care about the character and merely sprinkle canonical references about at random. I think this is one of the things that marks the BBC Sherlock out. One example - I just re-watched ‘A Study in Pink’ and noticed the ‘Rache’ reference. In a reversal of the original story, the policeman assumes the dying word scratched by the victim to be the German for ‘revenge’ while Holmes says “don’t be stupid, she was obviously writing ‘Rachel’.” Only somebody who knows and loves the original stories could pull that one off and that, to me, encapsulates the difference between the adaptations.

    This underlies some of the current controversy about what constitutes a ‘true’ Sherlockian/Holmesian. While I deplore the idea that only a self appointed elite can bestow the title of ‘Sherlockian’, it has to be said that some of the new fans didn’t do themselves any favours in the early days. I recall hearing some early Baker Street Babes podcasts, for example, where some of the presenters freely admitted that they hadn’t actually read the stories. I don’t think it’s being elitist to suggest that you can’t expect to be taken seriously talking about Sherlock Holmes when your knowledge is based on watching BBC Sherlock and a Robert Downey movie. I believe that some of the criticism of the Babes and others was part of a general backlash against an internet-driven ‘dumbing down’. In the past, to get a public platform, a person would actually have had to put some time and work into gaining an in-depth knowledge of a subject, whereas now it’s possible to get airtime based on a wafer thin, passing acquaintance with a topic. Having listened to subsequent Babes podcasts, it’s clear that within the team there is a depth of knowledge that matches their enthusiasm and that’s great to see. I do think though that there’s a lingering scepticism from some of the early critics that will only disappear over time.

    Anyhow, I’m looking forward to seeing the results of your survey and continuing to follow your blog. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks, Colin. You made my morning!

    2. That was a very thoughtful post, Colin, and captured very well many a thing I've been thinking myself but couldn't express as eloquently as you.

      Though I have to admit that I only came to SH myself via Sherlock/BBC. I had read some of the stories in translation as a child, but they never really sparked with me. Having watched Sherlock I found that it was clearly time for going back to the original canon if only to be able to spot in-jokes and easter eggs. I've since read all the stories in the original twice.

      Sadly I'm still more of a Sherlock-fan than a Sherlockian, but I find that I don't aspire to more than that. And a better knowledge of the canon has made me enjoy the show even more.

  3. Thanks for both the comments. The distinction between Sherlockians and fans is, I think, that the former came to Holmes via the books and the latter via movies/TV. There's no reason that the two groups can't happily co-exist and indeed, learn from each other. There has to be mutual respect, though. While the recent focus has, quite rightly, been on the need for the traditionalists to accept that the newer devotees have an equal right to Holmes as they, there is an equal need for respect the other way. The fans cannot demand that Sherlockians 'lighten up' and drop their traditional ways. Plenty of people are attracted to the Holmes stories because they are somewhat old-fashioned, evoking a way of life and a type of behaviour that is in sharp contrast to the ways of the modern world. That's certainly one of the attractions for me - an escape from constant bombardment by inane Tweets and mind-numbingly banal Facebook updates . Whoops, did I give myself away as a grumpy curmudgeon there....? Oh well...

    1. "While the recent focus has, quite rightly, been on the need for the traditionalists to accept that the newer devotees have an equal right to Holmes as they, there is an equal need for respect the other way. The fans cannot demand that Sherlockians 'lighten up' and drop their traditional ways."

      Exactly! That's what really drives me from fandom. I personally find it vulgar and noisy and terribly grabby. I fully support the right of the old school to stay among themselves if they so wish. But then, although a fan and not a devotee, I'm far closer in age to the grumpy curmudgeons and probably am one myself.

  4. The big difference today is that we demand Sherlock be one of us--an up-to-date, hip, 21st-century kinda guy, even in (especially in) the Downey fils comedies. We expect him to meet us on our terms so we can relate to him better. Even assimilate him, Borg style.

    Contrast this to when I, the beardless youth, became a Sherlockaholic in the early 1970s. What fascinated me was Holmes as Victorian/Edwardian genius. In getting to know this fascinating enigma, I sought to meet him in his world, not mine. So I dug in, learning as much as I could about the culture of his period. This scholarly approach was fun, believe it or not, and served me well later in academia.

    But it's a different world today. The "fans" are the dominant voice and I can live with that. It's their world, and I hope they prosper in it.

    But after overdosing on bad adaptations over the years, I now choose to remain with the original 60 stories and *nothing* more. Let the fans have their pastiches and dodgy TV shows and bad comedy-action movies and fanfic and podcasts and whatever else floats their boat.

    I'll be on my mountain top rereading the ACD stories.

    If anyone has a serious question and wants to visit, climb on up.

    But bring beer.

    1. I find myself agreeing with pretty much everything you've said. Demanding that Holmes changes to make it easier for us to relate to him in the 21st century is another definition of 'dumbing down' as far as I'm concerned. It's a sad comment on modern readers (or more likely viewers) if they are incapable of discerning the universal themes in the Canon unless the dress/language/attitudes are 'updated'. And, as you point out, by doing that, the Victorian/Edwardian setting that attracts many of us is pushed aside in the name of 'relevance'.

      So I will be joining you on that mountain top with my well-tumbed copy of the Canon. I will certainly bring beer, but be warned, it will be the warm English kind...

  5. Wow Brad-

    When I stopped to figure out question 9 and realized it had been 20 years! I felt ancient.