Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Living in the big, big world.

The Sherlockian world is bigger today than it has ever been. A new Russian Sherlock Holmes TV show. A leading online retailer listing 23,940 separate items having to do with Sherlock Holmes, with 14,000 being books (as opposed to 916 in movies and television, and 139 in video games). The ability to set up a personal Sherlock Holmes news feed that pulls up dozens of stories at an average of two a day. There is so much to see, so much that the idea of one man cataloging all existing Sherlockiana like Ronald B. DeWaal did back in the 1970s is ludicrous.

Yes, in the early seventies, one man armed with index cards and a typewriter, could make a fair attempt at cataloguing everything that had to do with Sherlock Holmes in the world. He didn't get it all, sure. There were a lot of foreign editions nobody in the English-speaking world even knew about back then, and other odds and ends that got missed. But I'd wager DeWaal got most of it.

These days, though? Like I said, none of us is even going to attempt to collect it all, much less document it all. The world has changed, no one would dispute that. And it's big. So very, very big. And where does it leave us?

Well, here's the challenge we're still faced with: interpreting our view of that giant mass of Sherlockiana.

It's kind of like a Rorschach test, really. There is so much Sherlockiana out there that you can pretty much justify a lot of different interpretations of the world as we know it. Based on the few facts I began this blog with, one could say that more people are reading Sherlock Holmes than experiencing him in any other medium . . . which would, of course, be a faulty interpretation, ignoring box office and TV ratings. One might surmise that Sherlock Holmes is as popular in Russia as he is in England or America, two other countries with current TV series running. Again, probably not the most solid deduction. Or that, if news feeds exist, we are better informed of Sherlockian happenings than ever before. (I'd say Peter Blau's Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press still has Google beat there.) But one could still try to justify any of those slightly faulty conclusions.

When faced with as much data as the current Sherlockian is every day, it's tempting to limit the range of our view just to make it easier to process. But in doing so, we do make it easy to theorize without having all the facts.

Add to that the real temptation, as one grows older, to start seeing the end of life as we know it in everything, and one can really get into trouble. It's not a wrong perception -- life as any one human knew it is always ending. The content of each of our lives is a unique and time-sensitive thing. But future generations somehow keep the world going on, not only surviving, but thriving, and enjoying things previous men and women didn't have a chance at . . . things that more than make up for the past things that went away.

The Sherlockians of today have opportunities we didn't even dream of just twenty years ago. And it's already altering their interactions with Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockian culture. In twenty more years, who knows what it will all look like? (Well, probably with a brand new actor playing Sherlock Holmes with their elders going, "He's no Benedict Cumberbatch!" That's been going on since William Gillette, and will keep going on as long as there are successful Holmes interpretations.) The Sherlockian world is undoubtedly going to be bigger that ever, as it snowballs on, adding new bits to the old with each passing year.

And to see it all, we have to just keep looking, and looking with eyes open to the far and the wide -- an activity at which we can never stop, and why would we want to?

It's a big, big Sherlockian world out there. And getting bigger all the time. Yay.


  1. Indeed. It's a great time to be a fan of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. A few years ago at the BSI Dinner, Roger Johnson gave a toast (or perhaps a paper?) in which he recalled the Gilded Age of Sherlockians, harkening back to the 1940s and 1950s. He concluded that we were (then) living in a Golden Age. I suppose now we could consider ourselves in the Platinum Age.

  2. And yet, gold is valued so highly because it is rare...

  3. Big is o.k., small is better. All one needs is a copy of the Canon - everything else is an extra - to be enjoyed or dismissed. (As to those index cards - I still use them and have a couple of thousand or so in my files - which everyone tells me to put on the computer - not going to happen!)