Wednesday, April 29, 2015

S&D Fanfic 3: "A woman's love."

EDITOR'S NOTE: We continue to interrupt our regular blogging for a brief interlude of fan fiction from the world of Asylum "Sherlock Holmes," a.k.a. "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs." How long can this go on? We shall see. 

"You Really Are An Automaton!"

A memoir of Anesidora Ivory

Chapter Three: "A woman's love."

"Do you know what I love about John?" Susan Mary Morstan-Watson asked me one night during a visit to the home she and Dr. Watson had made for themselves. "That little part of his belly that sticks out of the gap between his vest and his pants. It's such a cute and cuddly little pinch-paunch!"

I smiled appropriately. "Pinch-paunch?"

"My pet name for it. What's your favorite thing about Sherlock?"

Nobody else in London was as interested in my relationship with Sherlock Holmes as Mary was. As Sherlock Holmes was a man who remained outside the world of social functions and meddlesome family members, his landlady Mrs. Hudson was really the only person in is life who might question our domestic arrangement, and her own past left her not as judgmental as most of her neighbors.

"My favorite thing about Sherlock . . . ? The 31.4 inches," I told her, with a pause calculated to evoke her very human laugh, "between his shoulder and the tip of his forefinger."

"You know the exact measurement of his arm?" she asked with a grin left over from her laugh. "You are a match for him! Why is that your favorite part of him?"

"It is ten times pi. The circumference of a circle with a ten inch diameter. The measurement of the narrowest part of my waist, which was once a perfect circle, early in my construction. If Sherlock's arm had no bones, he could wrap it around me like a tentacle."

Mary laughed all the more. "You're kraken me up, Nessie!"

"Nessie" was Mary Watson's preferred alteration of my full name. It amused her. Many things amused Mary Watson. Especially the confidences I had shared with her about my past with Thorpe Holmes.

"Once you get kraken, you'll want to go back in!" Her laughter had built to the point where she had to stamp a rat-tat-tat on the floorboards with her feet just to release some of the energy. While her husband was never entirely comfortable around me ever since our battle to the death in front of Buckingham Palace, Mary was never anything but comfortable, even when friends brought her the most troubling problems. And I, to the mind of her husband, was nothing but a problem.

"So what have you two been up to?" Mary finally asked when she got her breath back. I continued with my needlework, as I had consistently despite my friend's self-inflicted hilarity.

"He calls it his 'touring test.' He has us driven around London in a closed growler and we analyze non-visual location cues."

"It sounds . . . romantic."

"He challenges my capabilities. I point out the gaps in his perception. We improve each other."

Mary smiled. The sort of smile that did not come from an impending laugh.

"That actually does sound . . . sweet. And romantic. You never cease to surprise me, Nessie."

"And I do not know why I surprise you, Mary," I replied with my usual frankness. "I simply report what is."

"Yes, you do. And there are surprises enough in what is."

"I'm done," I announced, and handed her the needlework I had just completed. Mary clapped her hands in delight.

"You are so marvelous, Nessie!" she said, after giving me a hug, she spread my work out across her bed. "It's a perfect reproduction of George Seurat's 'Sunday Afternoon' as a bed-cover. It's a pity that no one besides John will ever be in the bedroom to see it!"

"I can bring Sherlock up," I replied. "And we can all enjoy the bed together."

At which Mary began to laugh once more, thinking me much more innocent and much less skilled in my use of language than I truly am.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sex, Sherlock, and me.

Exploring the world of Sherlockian shipping is, to me, kind of like staring into a fire.

Primal, beautiful, of infinite variety . . . yet a true mystery of the universe I will never understand on a gut level. I can build one, sure. I known the combination of tinder, sticks, and wood that will start such a fire on the technical side of  things. But do I know what goes on inside the flames? Not at all, even though I've had it explained to me many a time. And yet it is so pretty to watch.

As a male, there's something in the female side of fandom's urge to pair male characters that I never will get, something I don't think most gay men even get, because shipping would surely exist even if sex did not. I remember a lot of the printed Granada Holmes fanfic from the eighties -- no sex, but very intense relationship issues between Holmes and Watson. (We still weren't on a first name basis with them back then, something I enjoy about BBC Sherlock's upgrade to our world. We're so "American" about it now.) And thanks to internet publishing and Sherlock fever, however, we're seeing just how far that the art of shipping can go.

The best "college course" on Sherlockian fan fiction that I've found so far is the Three Patch Podcast, which I got started on at 221B Con. It's not for the dabbler, with its in-depth discussions, because the ladies of Three Patch go deep during their shows, segmented like Sixty Minutes and going on for hours. But they themselves get into the subject of why women are so attracted to shipping, and there are some very insightful thoughts presented. Listening to it in my car means I can't take notes or easily quote it here, but trust me, I've heard some things there that really give one cause to think . . . and discuss with your friends.

I can understand why a Sherlockian from the old school might be put off by this crazy world that dives headlong into Sherlock and John having sex, just at it's basic level. When you get to Sherlock and Jim Moriarty in a sado-masochistic dom-sub relationship with Sherlock as the sub, it can almost hurt your brain to try and even consider that thought. But the key to it all is that it's just a study of Sherlock Holmes in a language that so many of us aren't used to speaking in, and may never be quite fluent in.

I've taken a lot of heat for my absolute rejection of Elementary as a Sherlock Holmes incarnation, and the fact that I can have those thoughts and embrace fanfic as a valid way of exploring Sherlock will, as usual, seem utter hypocrisy to those critics. But exploring the relationships between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, Jim Moriarty and Mycroft Holmes, Inspector Lestrade and Mycroft Holmes, Molly Hooper and Jim Moriarty, etc., etc., and a giant ETC. through emotion and sex will always seem like a more valid Sherlockian past-time than just shoving Sherlock Holmes into a formulaic television format staple with creative strictures involving allowing for commercials and avoiding BBC lawsuits because someone thought they could make a buck copying another's success.

Even if I don't quite get it, and even if the idea of Sherlock and John french-kissing gives me the willies.

Because on an intellectual level, Sherlockian shipping is like watching a fire to me. Except unlike fire, which has to destroy to get the pretty flames, Sherlockian shipping uses creation to fuel its blaze of light and heat. There are some fires that don't quite catch, sure, just like there is a range of quality in any other field, but when they do light, they can be something to behold . . . even if I don't really want to stick my hand into the middle of one of those fiery, hot, chaotic things.

You don't have to understand something to think it's beautiful, whether it's fire or fanfic.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The value of post Reichenbach theory and "the other one."

This morning I was catching up on some very old podcasts and finding out just what lasting value all those theories and discussions of just how Sherlock survived "The Reichenbach Fall" really have.

That cliffhanger, designed to just get us from the end of season two of BBC Sherlock to the start of season three, spawned a mountain of research, analysis, and theory that should impress anyone. One would think that all that would have been somewhat ephemeral, losing all value once "The Empty Hearse" aired. But listening to old discussions, I've found that it did not lose its worth at all. Still thoughtfully educational and even a bit more entertaining with the knowledge of what came after, there is still fun to be hand there.

And time-travelling your mind back to that period in Sherlock fandom even has brand new results.

For example, go back to wondering how Sherlock Holmes survived falling off that building and then listen to a season three comment from Mycroft all over again:

"You know what happened to the other one."

The other one. The other Holmes brother. No name, not details, just "the other one."

Other brother? Other sister? Other twin brother?

And what if we actually already know what happened to "the other one?"

What if we actually already saw it?

Yeah. That. The corpse that looked just like Sherlock Holmes, and yet Sherlock Holmes was still alive.

I really doubt that BBC Sherlock will waste the potential wonders of a third brother on a character who is already in the ground. But it does give one cause to wonder if we're truly past all the fallout from "The Reichenbach Fall" after all -- well, of course we're not! (Silly me.)

"Miss me?"

Even if we haven't met you yet.

E3:21. Alfredo appears.

I remember back in season one of CBS's Elementary, when Mr. Elementary's generic addiction group sponsor, Alfredo, first appeared near the end of an episode. He was my favorite character in that moment, and gave me hopes that something interesting might be going on. And then, like so many "recurring" characters on Elementary, he vanished for all intents and purposes.

Alfredo, Miss Hudson, Clyde, Everyone, Hannah Gregson . . . Elementary has a tradition of rationing out its characters who aren't one of the big four (Mr. Elementary, Joan, Gregson, and Bell) like they're the last bottle of Imperial Tokay.

But Alfredo came back this week, as the focus of the episode's non-case subplot. The main focus of his appearance in the opening scene quickly turned to a nice turn on the thing that's going to happen if you put Mr. Elementary into a twelve-step program, but that was a part of Alfredo's tale, too, it seems.

Fun side fact: On November 29th of 2012, I had this theory about Alfredo . . .

Ah, so naive I was back then! Irene Adler and Professor Moriarty have always been such important cards in the Canonical deck that doubling them up just didn't enter my consciousness. (Yet like the rationing of side characters, one can now see it as an effective cost-cutting measure. Unless you hire an actress from a wildly popular HBO series who is about to star in a wildly popular tween novel adaptation, which might make her hard to get. But again, it could just be more rationing.)

"And nah-ow, so do Oy." Excuse me, had to stop to do a Mr. Elementary impression.

HEY! It's Fisher Stevens! The bad guy is here!

One of the flaws with Elementary that even it's biggest fans can't deny, and common to many a procedural, is that when you see an actor of such stature that you recognize him or her, you know that character is the bad guy for the week. Of course, Detective Bell and Joan immediately go talk to someone nefarious looking with an accent just to distract from Fisher Stevens, but he is definitely our guy.

Being a TV viewer detective is a lot easier than being a real detective.

I've always had a soft spot for Fisher Stevens, ever since the short-lived Fox show Key West. Loved that show.

Oh, Fisher Stevens is so the bad guy. The more he appears on the episode, the more he digs his own villainous grave.

Not a lot of Joan Watson on this episode, which makes me wonder . . . oh, wait, they're bringing her into a scene in place of Mr. Elementary just to give her more screen time. Oh wait, again, just as I'm starting to question Joan's usefulness, she bring out her old surgical expertise -- an appearance as rare as those of Miss Hudson.

One of the great problem with Alfredo's character from the start was a slightly racist bent to it. He's a black guy, so of course his greatest skill is breaking into cars. (Yes, Detective Bell doesn't demonstrate that skill, but his character is so underdeveloped that he's practically decor. Which is kind of . . . well, back to Alfredo.) Now he's being harassed for stealing twelve cars in one night, which would be way cool if he was Nicholas Cage of a decade ago, but here it just feels a little like racial profiling.

And just as we're worried about Alfredo and hoping Mr. Elementary will step in to help him, we have to go back to Fisher Stevens and his inevitable capture and forced confession. Okay, show, he said "I did it," let's get back to Alfredo! I'm having a very bad feeling about this.

I hope they don't cliffhang Alfredo, send him to jail, and then suddenly start pretending Mr. E. is going to have addiction issues. Oh, no, it get's weirder still . . . Mr. Elementary has magically solved all of Alfredo's problems off camera. This whole subplot was so that Mr. Elementary can announce to Alfredo that they're now friends. Relationships work that way a lot on Elementary, with someone just telling us that the relationship exists. So there's that now.

"Now that we're friends, can I ask out Joan?" Alfredo asks Mr. Elementary at the last.

I wish you would, Alfredo. I really wish you would. But I'm afraid you're not going to be showing up enough on the show to go steady.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The world is big enough for us.

The last two weeks have been a very interesting period in my Sherlockian life.

Not due to my sudden seeming fondness for the Asylum Sherlock Holmes. That's just having some good old-fashioned fun. A little playtime with the great detective, which has always been Sherlockiana at its best. Working on Sherlock Holmes projects can lead one to expect results of some sort. But playing with Holmes . . . always nice. Yet not the interesting part.

I've hesitated in writing about the interesting part, because I'm still trying to take it all in. The breath-taking expanse of it all. The depth of thought that suddenly comes out of nowhere. The little mysteries that need to be explored. I want to understand it all a little more before I start writing about it. Though that might never quite come.

Sherlockiana used to be a fairly containable thing. There was a day when you could collect a library that pretty well represented the entire hobby. You could actually read all the tales that had been written about him. Yes, that day was starting to slip away even as my days as a young Sherlockian slipped away, but it was there.

And then, eventually, BBC Sherlock came along.

I really shouldn't even say those words. Objectivity suddenly goes out the window, as everyone's opinions on that particular lightning bolt comes into play. To say it reinvigorated a hobby in need of a good charge will bring out denial from some corners. To say it brought a new generation of fans to the hobby will bring out the factionalism in others. To even just say that it's a pretty good show will bring in charges of unfairness from the fans of another show and even examples of how it is not as good as it once was from fans of the show itself.

Ah, yes, BBC Sherlock. And all that came after.

I wonder about how many fans of Holmes my age and older . . . excuse me, enthusiasts, if that particular "f" word offends . . . really grasp how big all that came after has gotten. Most old school Sherlockians seem content to keep on keeping on, and let the new come to them as it will, but not all that many are moving out into the pathways of the new to explore what life is like in the new worlds of Sherlock Holmes fandom.

The Sherlockian world is just so big now. Bigger than anyone, of any age, probably has a full handle on. If I'm sounding a bit spaced-out here, a bit like my mind has been blown, to used old-fashioned hippie-speak, it might be because it pretty much has.

It's been a while since I did a vague-book sort of blog talking about something without actually talking about it. But this time, it felt kind of . . . fitting.

More to come, but probably after a hard return to Earth for that thing that happens every week.

SH&D Fanfic 2: "Somewhat expensive tastes."

EDITOR'S NOTE: We continue to interrupt our regular blogging for a brief interlude of fan fiction from the world of Asylum "Sherlock Holmes," a.k.a. "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs." By reading further, you are also giving your word, upon your honor, that you are of an age to read something that could be, perhaps, quite shocking and scandalous in nature. 

"You Really Are An Automaton!"

A memoir of Anesidora Ivory

Chapter Two: Somewhat Expensive Tastes

Sherrinford Thorpe Holmes, the elder brother of Robert Sherlock Holmes and Edwin Mycroft Holmes, was never the man you wanted in charge of the family estate and fortunes.

It was not that his intellect was not capable of such -- to a Holmes -- quite uncomplicated doings.

No, Thorpe Holmes was the sort of man whose search for intellectual stimulation took him to places no country squire should normally be. Scotland Yard, for example. And after a bullet cost him that profession, to advanced mechanics. The cost of that avocation was something else entirely.

"So that is what happened to the old place," Sherlock Holmes mused quite calmly for a man who just learned his family estate had been sold off to pay for kraken and tyrannosaurus parts.

"If you had visited him more often, you might still have your childhood home," I told him. "And he might have not become so deeply disturbed."

"My brother's issues went far beyond the curative powers of fraternal affection, Miss Ivory. And I'm afraid those issues come a little too close to my own inner workings to discuss with such a new, and formerly criminal, acquaintance."  The detective jabbed at the coals of the autumn hearth with 221B's slightly bent iron poker.

"I'm a bit surprised that you haven't shown any curiosity about my own inner workings," I told him. "I've been living here for almost a month. I was certain a man of your intellect would wonder what was under this costume at some point."

Sherlock Holmes smiled, bemused by that thought. "I have been much more interested in your behaviour, the range of your human characteristics and intelligence, the results rather than the process. I must say I am rather surprised to have not found your limits yet."

"Your brother was quite fond of testing my limits . . . in certain capacities."

"We haven't really spoken of your relationship with Thorpe since you've been here. I know you have visited his grave during the dead of night on at least three occasions, which led me to believe you might need more time to process his loss." Had the word "process" come from the lips of any other man, I might have taken it as a slur upon my automaton nature. But this was Sherlock Holmes, a man whom I was coming to understand might be as close to a soul-mate as I might ever find without my late creator to build one for me.

Which is a bit how I came to be.

"Your brother was his own Frankenstein's monster. After he had recovered certain physical abilities through his mechanized advancements, he decided he needed a bride who would share his new nature."

"That much seemed plain. But I really never fully understood his progression from kracken to dwarf tyrannosaurus rex to dragon in his later creations. For a man as apparently brilliant as my brother was, and as knowledgeable of crime, he seemed to take some outlandish routes to accomplish rather ordinary tasks."

I paused for a moment, deciding if I should reveal the less . . . lady-like portions of my past. If it was ever to be told, I concluded, this was the man to tell it to.

"Your brother Thorpe was a man of expansive tastes," I told Sherlock Holmes. "You have heard, of course, of the Sanskrit work, the Kama Sutra?"

"Of course," he replied.

"Well, consider that a primer in the case of your brother. Just the earliest steps in a course of study that went far beyond what any man could imagine."

"Men, in general, have quite broad imaginations, I think you will find, Miss Ivory."

"Do you know of many men who stage their own depravities featuring a dinosaur and a young woman? Or of a tentacled creature and that same young woman?"

"Are you saying he built those monsters for amusement and not to commit crime?"

"He spent every penny he could raise from the family fortunes and properties on seeing his personal fantasies come to life. I don't know why he couldn't just have put on some desktop marionette show at a more reasonable cost, but Thorpe Holmes was not a man who had such small visions. And he did like to involve himself occasionally, so as not to seem the cuckold."

Sherlock Holmes gave something of a smirk. "I would like to say I'm surprised, but it all sounds just so . . . Thorpe. So I take it the dragon was only half-done when the funding ran out, causing him to resort to using his earlier creations to steal needed parts and funds?"

"Yes, and by then he had become quite bitter and jaded, and just wanted to see London burn for not being capable of giving him the level of entertainments he craved. But . . . there was that one last scene between the dinosaur and Inspector Lestrade before the dragon launched. I suppose you might have wondered why Lestrade was making that funny sound."

"It is why Watson and I have sworn not to speak of the case. Inspector Lestrade had to confide in someone about his ordeal, and he knew Watson and I had kept many a much worse secret when called upon. Though, I really can't think of a worse secret at present."

"You are a good man, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. I hope you do not think less of me for the nature of my past lovers."

"Don't be silly. I am even more impressed that you have gone through such an ordeal and come out the woman you are today, Anesidora."

And that was the first time Sherlock Holmes called me by my first name. I definitely think I found more joy in it than he did my reply.

"Thank you, Robert."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Doyle versus Cumberbatch . . . and it's a tie!

Let's start the morning with a statement that may be regarded as heresy to some, shall we?

Here goes . . .

The study of Benedict Cumberbatch is every bit as valid as the study of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I was inspired to make this statement after seeing some of the energy and devotion to which some Freebatchers were applying themselves. If you're not familiar with that term, a little investigation might have you disputing my earlier statement based purely upon your reaction to that beautifully out-there bit of fandom fun. But it caused me to step back and take a long view of fandoms surrounding the legendary Sherlock Holmes, and when you come right down to it, even the Freebatchers and the Doyleans share a very important common trait: They came to their current pursuit after falling in love with Sherlock Holmes.

True, the study of Conan Doyle will, in modern times, get you more respect. He's historical now. You can use the word "literary" since his chosen expression of Sherlock was written. But a hundred years ago, when Doyle was just another wacky celebrity, believing in ghosts and fairies and marrying his children's governess, being a fan of Conan Doyle himself was just the same as being a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch today. You had to read a lot of tabloid gossip.

But at the root of it, Conan Doyle created a portrayal of a character we love. Benedict Cumberbatch created a portrayal of a character we love. Time and becoming historical will give Benedict all the respect Doyle has gained just through the passing of years. We will start calling him "Cumberbatch" instead of "Benedict." And the study of his life and roles will be just as valid as the study of Doyle.

Still doubting me? Two words.

William Gillette.

Actor. Popular portrayer of Sherlock Holmes. Respected historical guy, right up there with Doyle.

I'm pretty convinced that if I ever saw the man perform Sherlock Holmes live at this point, I would react as strongly as I do to Jonny Lee Miller. But in his day, he was very popular at portraying Sherlock Holmes, and the soft focus lens of history has put him up on a marble pedestal with Conan Doyle.

Benedict Cumberbatch still suffers from the curse that all of us do, that of being alive. Living in the here and now that we all have a certain measure of disrespect for, taking selfies, making the occasional odd public statement. But a hundred years from now, should this old world hold together and the legend of Sherlock Holmes with it, we shall surely find that the fans of that great actor from the past were on the leading edge of history, with works providing much delight to those who enjoy looking back more than looking ahead.

And he'll be on that same marble pedestal in the Sherlock Holmes gallery, with Gillette and Doyle.

Thus I find miyself time-travelling ahead this morning, having as much heartfelt respect for those as devoted to Benny, "the 'Batch," or whatever you want to call him, as those who caught on early to Conan Doyle. Keep doing what you do, you wildly creative souls. I'm loving it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

SH&D Fanfic: "You Really Are An Automaton!"

EDITOR'S NOTE: We interrupt our regular blogging for a brief interlude of fan fiction from the world of Asylum "Sherlock Holmes," a.k.a. "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs," although technically, there is only one dinosaur in it, and **SPOILER ALERT** he's not really a dinosaur. 

"You Really Are An Automaton!"

A memoir of Anesidora Ivory

Chapter One: Pandora's Box

The flames Thorpe Holmes wrought upon London had long gone out when the crate was delivered to 221B Baker Street. Rebuilding had begun, and life for those Londoners not afflicted with some lingering post-catastrophic brain fever had fairly returned to normal. The strange sights of that terrible night now seemed like some strange Jules-Verne-inspired nightmare. And, quite oddly, many people just forgot the whole thing.

The reputation of Robert Sherlock Holmes had not suffered as a result of his elder brother's infamy, in fact, it raised his stature with the public to much greater levels than his much less well-known vanquishing of Professor Moriarty ever had. This did not delight him, as the problems posed by amorous young ladies coming up the seventeen steps to his sitting rooms with wholly fabricated problems in hopes of attracting his attentions became the bulk of his potential clientele for a time. Watson, who was at that time, happily married and living away from Baker Street, seemed a little less happy to be away, especially after seeing Holmes politely show the door to a particularly fetching pair of intimate friends who seemed insistent upon bringing Holmes into that circle.

The crate that arrived at 221B Baker Street that afternoon took two parcelmen to carry it up the seventeen steps to Sherlock Holmes's sitting room. The great consulting detective was expecting the delivery, having received a telegram  about it from his sole remaining brother, and he had the two place it upon the bearskin hearthrug at the center of the room. I like to think he had it placed there on purpose, in anticipation of the many long evenings we would come to spend together there, when Watson was not about. Why?

Because I came to 221B Baker Street in that crate. My name is Anesidora Ivory, and I am a woman of a mechanical nature.

Dr. Watson once exclaimed to Holmes, upon his friend's failure to react appropriately to Watson meeting the lady-love of his life, "You really are an automaton -- a calculating machine. There is something positively inhuman about you at times." I find that statement, recorded in the novel The Sign of Four, to fit Watson's over-dramatic nature. (Ah, the looks that would come over his face when he would attempt to choke me and find my throat not so vulnerable, nor soft, as he would expect.) To call his friend a mechanical being just because he did not share his taste in romantic partners? And when had Watson, with his boasted "experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents," ever sampled the delights an automaton has to offer a lover?

Fortunately, Mr. Robert Sherlock Holmes proved to be not nearly so narrow minded.

When I first came to Baker Street in that crate, I was just one more inherited oddity, passed along from his late brother's estate. Mycroft Holmes's government specialists had restored me to working order, and that man himself had, through a combination of tinkering and logical explanations, convinced me to give up trying to carry out my former lover's schemes. (Many was the time I was picked up on my long, slow walk to Buckingham Palace before he succeeded, of course.) Mycroft Holmes seemed to think my presence in Baker Street might keep my brother from his dreaded boredom, as well as protect him from the ever-increasing number of criminals wanting to murder Sherlock in his sleep.

"You have been in Q division subbasement four, I perceive," Sherlock Holmes first said to me, upon popping open the much-mentioned crate. (Yes, I do go on about the crate over-much, but you should too, had you ever be stored so.)

"'How on earth did you know that?' would be my appropriate response," I replied. "I have read the books."

That made him laugh, tipping his head back ever-so-slightly to shake his Byronic curls, and he took my hand to help me out of the crate like a proper lady, despite his sure knowledge that I required no such aid.

"Marvelous," he said cheerily after watching me carefully make my way out of the crate. "My brother instilled in you all the behaviors of the female of the species, did he not? You were his lover at some point?"

"He did. And I was," I replied. "Do you find that repulsive?"

"Not in the slightest. I was just considering how useful you might be in helping hone my manners and ability to be gentle with the fair sex without risk of permanent emotional issues upon your part. Does that sound within your capabilities, Miss Ivory?"

"I can adapt myself to such a role. And blow up the queen."

Sherlock Holmes tilted his head slightly and raised an eyebrow.

"Blow up the queen?"

"I am sorry. Your brother Mycroft instructed me to append that statement to any requests I might agree to perform. It seemed to amuse him."

"Oh, we are going to get along famously," Holmes announced. "Come, let's introduce you to Mrs. Hudson and see if we can get her to relax her morals enough to let you cohabitate here without benefit of marriage."

And so began one of the great love stories of the late Victorian period. Forget about Irene Adler, Maud Bellamy, Mary Russell, or even John Watson. Anesidora Ivory is here.

And I have got more stamina than any of them.

Monday, April 20, 2015

SH&D: The Brothers Holmes.

Once upon a time, a writer named John H. Watson, M.D., wrote a series of autobiographical tales which had certain continuity gaps. Wound locations, periods of marriage, days and dates . . . he left so many contradictions which devoted Watson loyalists labored for nearly a century to explain. Why did they go to such lengths? Why did they care?

Sherlock Holmes.

And now, we are finally realizing the importance of another chronicle of that same legendary figure with similar details in need of study and explanation. Dr. Watson's agent this time was one Paul Bates, also known for scripting the film Nazis at the Center of the Earth. And to avoid confusion with another movie entitled Sherlock Holmes, it has been retitled by many a fan with the more distinct "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs."

So where do we begin, in smoothing the little bumps in this 2010 discovery?

Why, at the core conflict of the case itself, of course! At a time when speculation is rife about a third, perhaps villainous, Holmes brother coming up in the fourth season of BBC's Sherlock, we have already seen him. And his name is Thorpe Holmes.

He is obviously not Mycroft Holmes, who was the British government. No, Thorpe is a younger, obviously hater of Mycroft and that same government. A jealous younger brother who won't even acknowledge Mycroft's existence, mention his name, or otherwise refer to him in any way whatsoever. And a brother who not only has enmity toward Mycroft, but as a former Scotland Yard inspector, has some issues to work out with Sherlock as well, probably doing a slow burn for years over Sherlock's aiding of the force that left Thorpe a cripple.

But Thorpe's story is stranger even that what we've seen on the screen. Noted Robert Sherlock Holmes expert Ben Snyder has let slip a rumor that Thorpe Holmes was originally thought to be Sherlock's uncle, rather than his brother. Uncle? Brother? Uncle? Brother? It's a real Chinatown conundrum. And given that scandal proposed in The Seven Per-Cent Solution, that Sherlock's mother had an affair with his math tutor, would how much more dark and cocaine-inspiring-depressing to propose that his math tutor was also an evil paternal grandfather, and that Thorpe was the progeny of that so-wrong relationship.

And ask yourself this question: Why is Thorpe Holmes the only person ever to call Sherlock, "Robert?" Everyone else in the world, including Mycroft Holmes, calls Sherlock "Sherlock." What makes Thorpe insist upon "Robert?" Unless "Robert" was the name of said evil paternal grandfather, whose name was banished from mention to all but that same man's son once the scandal came to light.

The addition of Thorpe to the Holmes family adds much gothic drama to those old country squires, living, for as Sherlock once said, "It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside." Note the words "founded upon my experience."

Thorpe, Mycroft, and Sherlock, three brothers, each dealing with dark origins in their own way.

What other possible lights might "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs" shed upon the legend of the master detective? New studies await!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

E3:20. The parallel universe that I'm living in.

Every now and then, I read or hear comments like appeared on Oregon Live today, under the headline, "The 10 Most Underrated Shows and Stars on Television," and I become somewhat confused.

It's number one entry on the list was Elementary, about which the following queries were made:

"Why doesn't this shrewd, well-written, beautifully acted series get more attention? Is it because it dared to offer another contemporary spin on Sherlock Holmes in the wake of the justifiably adored 'Sherlock' on PBS? Or because it grafts its modern-day Holmes  and Watson  onto that snoozy old CBS staple, the crime-of-the-week procedural formula? Is CBS only allowed one critics' darling show?"

The first question is in the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" category, positing a fact that must be accepted as truth to even begin to answer it. Those that follow are merely excuses, theorized because said posited fact must be true. 

And a lot of people out there are apparently seeing a "shrewd, well-written, beautifully acted series" on CBS, Thursday nights at nine Central. My television, however, seems to be relentlessly feeding me something else, like I'm living in a parallel universe.

This week's wacky Elementary hijinks began with Mr. Elementary having brought his beehive, complete with bees, into his sitting room to work on colony collapse disorder. This is about the same as bringing a corpse into your living room to work on a cure for cancer -- doing it in your main living quarters is just trying to show people you're wacky. Yep, wacky established.

A dead body shows up just after a subplot with Joan Watson and Hannah Gregson starts rolling, as the procedural ritual demands, and we're off and strolling with another episode of Elementary.

Mr. Elementary exposes a new skill this week as he deprograms a cult member off-camera in a matter of minutes, and moves on to some rather transparent ghost investigation, where one has to wait patiently for the show (and the consulting detectives) to come to the same conclusion one probably saw at the outset. It might have been fun had the show played up the ghost angle a bit, like The Hound of the Baskervilles toyed with the supernatural before Sherlock Holmes brought in a more mundane explanation, or showed us just how Mr. Elementary manages the tricky business of deprogramming, but those opportunities are wasted to keep the electrocardiogram of the show at its normal procedural flatline.

Joan Watson deduces a man has been in a house because a toilet seat is up. Yes, that actually happened in a show with the names "Holmes" and "Watson" on its characters. People who want to write Elementary casefic do not have to work too hard. (And yes, I just learned "casefic" on my latest 221B Con trip, and am trying to sound like I'm hip to the ships and recs, betas. Sad, isn't it?)

Hannah Gregson, at least, uses her meager subplot to live up to the Gregson family name by making sure she gets credit for solving crimes. Even if she had a little help from "Hey, that toilet seat is up!" Watson.

Eventually we get to the trivial pursuit fact upon which this case is based. I would be very curious to hear an engineer's analysis of the technical specs of what is being attempted, but it's a TV show, right? We'll let them have that the magic maguffin works as they say it does. We have to get back to Hannah Gregson, and her father's apology to Joan Watson for his daughter's failings as a human being. But who can blame her? If you're going to only get to come on the show once in a blue moon, why not grab all the credit you can?

And with that, the latest episode ends, and even sadder for Hannah Gregson, I don't think I could pick her out of a police line-up only minutes after the show ended. Yet somewhere, I'm sure someone just watched a version of this show where she gave an Emmy-award performance and people are looking forward to her return to Elementary's "shrewd, well-written" continuity with bated breath.

Maybe in their episode, the show even explained how Mr. Elementary got all those bees out of the house and back to the roof in an expanded bee subplot.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

E3:19. Just be yourself.

Back to everyday life, back to Elementary. And while I was enjoying myself in Atlanta, it seems like the normally plodding CBS procedural had a pretty decent episode.

"WHAT?" the regular reader of this blog might ask themselves. "Did the Elementary fans at 221B Con get to him? Is he still filled with Sherlockian bonhomie and spewing sunshine and rainbows at everything?"

Nope and nope. Even though I missed the one Elementary panel at 221B Con for the "Sherlock and Dinosaurs" film commentary by Ben Syder, my experience with the show's fans there emphasized why I don't really want to debate the matter with them: We seem to have different sets of eyes. If I see a fire truck and say "it's an awful shade of red," and someone else sees the same truck and honestly says, "I love the lovely blue color of that fire truck," it's a little hard to have a discussion of the truck's color.

But lasr week, the fire truck that is Elementary did what a good fire truck should. It acted like a fire truck.

Rather than work a throwaway procedural mystery this week, Elementary dove into its own mythos to investigate trouble in the hacker group "Everyone" and look at Joan Watson's social life. Clyde made an appearance. Many things from the show's continuity were referred to and used in a positive manner toward building the story. In short, this week's Elementary was written by someone who actually cares about the show's fictional universe.

Yes, it's Mr. Elementary's fictional universe, and if you don't try to tell me it's Sherlock Holmes's fictional universe, we'll get along just fine this week.

There is even a wonderful, somewhat meta, conversation this week when Mr Elementary talks about he and Joan's roles, a dialogue that gives the episode its title, "One Watson, One Holmes."

"Our relationship is predicated on one Holmes and one Watson," Mr. Elementary tells Joan. "It doesn't function properly if there are two Holmeses and no Watsons."

Mr. Elementary is actually trying to fix the show from the inside. I've never loved Jonny Lee Miller as much as I did in this episode. He's not playing "Jerk Holmes" or "Damaged Holmes." He's playing "Competent and Even Slightly Warm and Charming Holmes." Or as close as he can be in the Elementary-verse.

Last week's Elementary was a great example of the show just enjoyably being itself with a good writer/director team. I don't know why it can't do that every week, but then, I think the fire truck is red.

The last interchange between Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu from this episode ended the show on the earlier meta note, almost like Mr. E. and Joan were looking at themselves from outside.

"Enjoy yourself . . . Watson."

"I'll try . . . Holmes."

And that is all we can ask of any fictional Sherlock-verse. Enjoy yourself. And this week, it felt like that was what Elementary was doing.

221B Con 2015: Afterwords.

I went to my first weekend among Sherlock Holmes fans in 1983.  Here's a picture . . .

As you can see, there were about fifty people there, only one of whom was in costume, and the program was definitely single-threaded. Now, here's a photo of just the costume exhibition from the weekend of Sherlock Holmes fans I just attended in 2015. (There are very few large group shots in a conference of hundreds and hundreds.)

Times have changed a little bit, and it's not just because one of the pictures is in color. (We had color film in 1983 -- it was just if you wanted to print a photo for publication on a fan budget, you had to print from black and white to get the best results.)

The similarity between those two pictures? Both events helped give me new eyes about Sherlockian culture. In 1983, I was like a first-time attendee at 221B Con, just finding out all the things out there I hadn't heard about yet. And in 2015, it started feeling like the 1980s all over again to me.

At the first 221B Con two years ago, I think I spent the whole weekend in shock. Never having seen seven hundred people interested in Sherlock Holmes in one place before, let alone any wearing Irene Adler lingerie, I was just trying to wrap my head around the basics of what was happening. This year, my second time at the con, I came a bit better prepared, and when at it trying to learn as much as I could . . . because 221B Con has a lot to teach an old school Sherlockian like me, a lot more than the more traditional venues, no matter how much new research the speakers at said venues have done this time around.

There's an energy among the newest generation of Sherlockians that seemed very familiar, and one aspect of it became clear early on, talking to Cloakstone69 (a.k.a. Valerie) as we waited in line for registration. She pointed out how a lot of Sherlock fans came to the fandom after being Harry Potter fans, and it reminded me of all the Sherlockians I knew in the past who came over after being Star Trek fans. It's that "fandom gene" that one hears mentioned now and then (though it's not a gene passed through bloodlines on most occasions). Fans are fans, and if Sherlock Holmes had never existed, we would probably all be connecting through some other mutually harmonic legendary figure.

Another aspect of the familiar fannish activity was the pure creativity of a younger fandom. We saw it in the Sherlockian surge of the 1980s -- people coming up with wild new ideas for celebrating Sherlock Holmes -- before the gravity of "AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN!" calmed things down again. People enjoy a moment and, like a toddler who just uses that single word, want to keep repeating that moment, creating rituals around it, trying to archive it, institutionalize it, gain control over it . . . instead of moving on to enjoy some new moment.

Some good things do come out of the "AGAIN!" moments. Culture and progress depend upon a certain continuity. 221B Con can't have it's first year all over again every year, with its marvelous lack of expectations. But it can take the best of previous years and try adding new things to the mix -- Ben Syder's presence this year was fabulous, but he was just the right celebrity for the con, becoming a great part of it without turning it into something else. Keeping an event like this going takes a delicate mix of the fresh and the familiar, and this year's 221B Con definitely had that.

Too much in fact, for as usual my bout of "con-drop" includes the regrets of missing all those panels and events that were happening while other panels and events were happening. All the people I didn't get to say hello or good-bye to in the rush of one thing to the next. Especially Howard and David, who were last seen in a panel where a particular panelist comandeered the thing for multiple soapboxes. You fought the good fight, guys, with more patience and self-control than I could have! But now I have to live with the vision of them in some eternal panel purgatory, somehow stuck in that room still . . . .

I enjoy the hell out of 221B Con, and this being my first year with a smart phone, it was enhanced even more. The ability to see what so many other attendees were thinking, enjoying, and hearing added to my own sensory inputs added some amazing dimensions to the event. A sort of group mind can develop at a con anyway, but technology is making us near-telepathic and bringing us ever closer to the real thing. And the con experience -- with so many creative minds, not just the organizers themselves -- bringing treats to the table (Who knew badge ribbons could be so much fun?), there is no other Sherlockian experience like it. 

I still can't recommend it highly enough to any Sherlockian who is willing to come without expectation, immerse themselves in new worlds of Holmes, and just boldly go for it. And I've still got enough Trekkie in me to use Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (the one where Khan wasn't Benedict Cumberbatch) to express how the thing makes me feel.

There's a scene in that Nicholas Meyer-written film after Mr. Spock has died and Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Carol Marcus are looking down at the newly-created Genesis planet, teaming with life. After dealing with the onset of age the entire movie, Kirk is asked by McCoy how he feels after all that they have been through.

"Young," Kirk says. "I feel young."

Like the aging Shatner of that film, I know I'm definitely not as young as I once was, but something about 221B Con, "seeing new life, and new civilizations," seeing new creations flowering like the plants of a Genesis planet . . . well, it just makes you kind of forget that Chris Pine will eventually be coming along to replace you. 

Yep. 221B Con. Love it.

Postscript about the old photo at top: If you wonder where I am in the picture, look for the bearded fellow in the Hawaiian print shirt in the upper right part of the pic. Among the others pictured, there is a least one fellow later thought to be murderer (since deceased), another whose name is best not mentioned on the Sherlockian internet, and some, I am happy to say, who are prominent and active Sherlockians still today.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

221B Con 2015: The final day.

It's 9:06 on Sunday night and the hotel is full of strangers. It's very odd.

Not that I knew every resident of the hotel by name this morning, but they were like familiar residents of a small town. Friendly "hellos" were exchanged in the elevators, little comments about our common community were passed between us. And that small town has evaporated like morning fog, leaving a few drops of dew in the bar, perhaps, but otherwise mostly a memory.

And a happy memory.

Today's path for me was very simple, didn't allow time for lunch, but was so very worth missing a meal.

It started with a simple panel on "Villains of Sherlock Holmes," with a few familiar faces on the panel, including a new friend met this weekend, as is typical of a Sherlockian weekend.

Then came the live Baker Street Babes podcast, featuring Sherlock Holmes (and Dinosaurs!) star Ben Syder, now among my top two screen Sherlocks for his great warmth and humor. Now, it's been two years since my last live Baker Street Babes podcast, and I don't know if they have a fan club yet, but I am still waiting to join up the minute it exists. Kristina Manente, even quietly feeling under the weather, is still a presence well worth having on any panel, and the rest of the line-up like the gathered Avengers of modern Sherlockiana. I could fanboy on the topic of those ladies all day long, and may even do a podcast upon the topic with some Baker Street Buddy-Boys one of these days just for fun. (Alliterating a male version of the Babes needs work, obviously.)

After that came the screening of the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes (and Dinosaurs!) with its star and Sherlock, Ben Syder, doing live commentary alongside it. Yes, live DVD commentary you won't find anywhere but here and then. And it was among the best movie viewings of my life, because, hey, I live in Peoria! And Ben was great and generous with his time all through the con, enhancing our love of his Sharknado-level Sherlock Holmes film and appreciation for a good, working actor. I can't wait to see what he gets up to next, and hope it's on the screen rather than the stage so I don't have to fly across the ocean to see it. A grand time was had by all at the screening, and it was a highlight of the weekend.

Following that, a panel called "Holmes through the Years," when Ashley Polasek gave us a sample of her special area of expertise (and yes, there were other expert panelists, but I'm singling out Ashley because she's going to be publishing on the subject of Sherlock Holmes's evolution on film one of these days and I want to remember to watch for it).

Eventually we came to "Our Last Bow," 221B Con's wrap-up panel where the crew that puts on this marvelous event every year bravely lets the audience suggest things for next year, typically getting comments like, "I love the con so much! But could you . . . ."  That panel always ends with some good applause, which is well deserved. So very well deserved. Every bit of praise I lay down for every other person at the con can be doubly laid down for Crystal and the team as well

I have played Sherlockian pictionary with pre-flight Baker Street Babes, and I have been tested by the BBC Sherlock Fluxx cards of the devilish Nea Dodson, (along with Chris Zordan on both counts) all since 221B Con wound up. And in the early morning, I shall take to the highways and wind my way away from this once happy place.

But I shall return. Yeah, verily, I shall return. (Sorry, read a Thor comic at some point today, as well.)

221B Con 2015: Fan fiction writers and the futility of Ripperology.

Here's what my brain remembers of late Saturday night at 221B Con.

Lyndsay Faye, Tim Greer, and a demonic school teacher, whom I hope will forgive me for forgetting her name (which is kind of good, because I might accidentally summon her), convinced me that solving the Jack the Ripper murders was futile and/or required some sort of social action. It might have been a subtle mind-fog the demon cast upon Lyndsay and Tim, but they seemed to be forgetting time travel technology, whose future development is our last best hope for catching the Ripper and/or bringing him to 1979 where we can use 1979 Mary Steenburgen as bait and catch him there, even though she is the furthest thing from a prostitute, at least in my Midwestern mind.

Then I stood in the hallway and got carded again for standing there, then followed a line of people into a fan fiction workshop. Which was cool, because all comments from the Sherlockian poser community aside, fan fiction is about writing. It's about being literate and literary. And anyone who goes on about "literary societies" without ever having spent any significant time trying to be literate and writing something has less cred with me than any writer of fan fiction. (Excuse me, it's late, and my peeves are coming out.)

So anyway, we broke up into five groups and had some old hands at fan fiction come around and discuss our writing issues with them. We apparently had three hours available to get through a rotation of the five advisors, but about half my group seemed to get pretty sleepy after two, at which point many of us slipped away. But in the time we had, good conversations were had.

There's a language all its own to the world of fan fiction, and I am slowly building my fluency in it. "Casefic," that brand of story that has Holmes actually working a case seems to be a universal problem, and why not? Even Conan Doyle struggled with that one and probably would have loved Holmes more if he didn't have to be a genius all the time. "Betas" are helpful readers of one's work, giving both constructive criticism and motivational support. (And if I'm missing beats here, somebody please Beta this blog and straighten me out.)

Despite the carding to get in, my groups never seemed to get into the sexy stuff the genre is notorious for, during the late night fan fiction sessions, concentrating more on the basic story writing. (I don't think it was me, as a couple of folks seemed happy to have me in their group a second night.) Because sexy or not, story is still story, even on the black market of fiction that supplies us when the professionals make us wait or don't go where we want them to go with our favorite characters.

And that was fine. And what did I just write about leaving the workshop because I was too sleepy? Well, now it's later still . . . . goodnight.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

221B Con 2015: The day Brad just ate cookies and fried his brain.

Transcranial stimulation. I learned what that was today.

Of course, my brain on 221B Con doesn't really need it. So many things I could write entire blog posts about, just from a few revelatory sentences from one of the many bright stars here. And some of those will come along in the future, but for now, it's time for a brain dump:

First thing: Three Patch Podcast live taping. Learned so much, including the fact I've apparently been writing for squee my entire life (except squee sounded different until B.C. came along) in the market model of fandom. And apparently I need a Beta, or should become a Beta, but I'm still kind of sussing out that concept, so maybe I shouldn't get one until I do. The Three Patch Podcast gang gave the audience a very simple question, "How has fandom changed your life?" and just let them talk. What happened after that was informative, diverse as hell, and so touching that you had to get misty-eyed at least once.

Second thing: Talking to a documentarian film-maker from a nearby university and saying some things that surprised me and got some nice words from the bystanders. More on that in future blogs.

Third thing: Hearing Howard Ostrom finish up talking about Sherlock Hound, after I missed his Russian Sherlock panel, which I heard good things about. Elementary tends to come up in Howard's comments at least once in every panel, and if we were buddy cops on a show where Elementary was the criminal, I almost think I'd let Howard be the bad cop.

Fourth thing: Ben Syder Q & A. Hearing an actor frankly discuss one of his movies when he's not on a publicity tour under studio gaze is a fun, fun thing. So many great stories about the thirteen day filming of the Asylum Films Sherlock Holmes, for a crowd that loved his movie as much as any big budget outing. From the crew of Americans trying to work in "the back end of nowhere in Northern Wales" to acting against unseen special effects (or non-existent telephones) to the Japanese fighter dog that set up a deadly "lady or the tiger" situation of "the bathroom or the dog," it was all good. Ben was charming and accessible, both in the Q&A and out at the autograph table afterward, and is now one of my favorite actors ever to play Holmes. (What can I say, I'm easy.)

Fifth thing: The premiere of Lee Shackleford's Herlock web series. Jonni Watts was smart. Sheridan Humes is smarter. Martha the cat is amazing. And the show really captured what a true Sherlock/Watson master/apprentice partnership could be like. Just go out to and get this thing. It's only $1.99 and you won't be sorry. It was amazing.

Sixth thing: The premiere of S(her)lock: The Web Series. These ladies didn't get the crowd they deserved partly due to the back-to-back two-hour web shows scheduling (that's a lot of sitting), and their product isn't available to the public yet, so those who missed out really missed out. Another female Holmes and Watson, yes, but a trans Watson and a cross-dressing Mr. Hudson all making a found family with Holmes at a modern 221B Baker Street gave it a whole new energy, with their version of "The Dancing Men," entitled, "The Voguing Men" looking like something that could definitely find an audience when they get it out there -- I know my friends back home would love it. And I got an autograph from Helen Davies (who played its Holmes), which made two for this con.

Seventh thing: The costume exhibition. A lot of favorites, a lot of memorables, but those would require pictures, and my brain had reached a point of being too fried to describe same adequately. Marilynne McKay (famed for her Mrs. Hudson's) and Ben Syder hosted, adding to the fun.

Eighth thing: Well, I'll be off to find that next. Leaving out the part where I just rolled off the grid after a full day of eating nothing but a couple of strategic Ali's Cookies (best cookies ever, just a few blocks away!) all day and found a guacamole and crepes place to crash and let my brain rest.

On with 221B Con. Having a fabulous time. Wish you were here.

221B Con 2015: The Midnight Flash Fiction Workshop.

When last I wrote, I was headed off to the "Watsons through Time" panel, where Howard Ostrom and company held forth on the Watsons of the cinema. Which went well, enough, though Howard did encounter an Elementary fan who was prepared to write off his dislike of that show as pure sexism, which Howard countered with Joanne Woodward.

Some time later, I wandered into the "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs" panel with Red Bull, rum, Coca-cola, and assorted fruit juices flowing through my veins. As the words "Are you going to blog about this?" were spoken during that period between panels, I am not going to blog about that part, but just so you know, there was that part. And it was lovely.

When anything to do with dinosaurs comes up at 221B Con this year, you know that there is one subject and one subject alone that it at hand: The Asylum Films Sherlock Holmes. This panel had a goodly share of the con's organizers on it, so you know it was a subject near and dear to their hearts. And the audience was really into it as well, a goodly share wearing dinosaur costumes. There's a lot of "ya had to be there" to this con, sad to say, so I won't try to detail the loving attention to detail that the Asylum Sherlock Holmes got in the analysis that happened in that hour, but it was pretty hysterical.

As the clock neared the strike of midnight, however, we had to scamper off, and me, I was the first one in the door for "Flash Fiction Workshop 18+" which meant this nearing-sixty lad got carded for the first time since the South Park movie came to the local cinema. What is a flash fiction workshop?

Well, let me tell you. You gather in groups of four to six (and we had a lot of groups). You get a card with one Sherlock character on it. And then a second. You get a card with a thing, another with a place, and a final card  . . . if you want it . . . with a sex act. And then you are given fifteen minutes to write a story. And then you read it to your group.

My cards read:


Mrs. Hudson.



A quickie.

As cards went, I was one of the luckier ones in our group. The poor girl who got a Playstation on a street corner had a real challenge on her hands. Now, I'm going to trust you here. If you're not over eighteen, you have to close this browser window this instant! This instant, I say! Yes, I mean you! Do it!

Okay, remaining adults. I am going to let you see my story, as it's way past midnight now, and I'm too tired to make good choices. I call it "The Adventure of the Cinema Lipstick." (See, I'm too tired to make good choices.) And here it is:

"I don't understand this, dear," Mrs. Hudson protested, a little too loudly for the neighboring cinema patrons. One thirteen-year-old boy in an Iron Man t-shirt was already glaring at them from the seat in front of Molly.

"Why is Robert Downey Jr. playing Sherlock in World War I?" Mrs. Hudson continued. "Were there gypsies in the resistance in World War I?"

"It's artistic license," Molly whispered back. "Guy Ritchie wanted to write a modern celebrity in a different era, I guess."

"But he's not at all like Sherlock!" Mrs. Hudson wailed. The kid ahead of them actually shushed her, and a few other people began to make British sounds of displeasure.

"Just watch," Molly whispered. "We'll talk later."

Mrs. Hudson went quiet. After a few frustrated moments, she looked around, made sure the lad ahead of them was engaged in the movie, and got out a lipstick.

At least it looked like a lipstick.

Molly heard a quiet whirring sound.

Mrs. Hudson didn't move the lipstick to her mouth. She began to lower it toward her lap.

"MRS. HUDSON!" Molly shrieked, causing the entire theater to spin their heads in her direction and make some very unpleasant comments.

Both women went stock still and dead silent, trying to look as innocent as possible. And sat that way through the rest of the movie. Later, over coffee at Baker Street, Molly brought up the matter.

"I always did fancy a quickie with that Jude Law," Mrs. Hudson replied.

Not really caring for that last line, but time ran out and I want to give you a fair report. So that's what goes on at midnight at 221B Con. There is going to be an all ages version Sunday afternoon, so you might be seeing another of these things.

Friday, April 10, 2015

221B Con 2015: The big tent.

If you came to 221B Con this year, you would be soon to realize that there's a function room that isn't marked on any sign, yet defiantly exists, all the same. Salons A thru E are plain enough, and Tyler and Carter rooms well directed, but the place they call "Pavilion?" You might have to ask somebody.

"Pavilion" is a large, well-constructed tent-like structure outside the back door, housing what looks like a couple hundred seats. And that "big tent" is a nice metaphor for Sherlock Holmes fandom, that phrase coming up during my second panel of the evening, in Tyler.

My first panel of the evening was "Abundantly Queer" speaking in a lovely English accent about Sebastian Moran's place in history in that big tent we call "Pavillion." I would defy any crotchety old "these kids today aren't real Sherlockians" Canon purist to have heard her and seen the crowd listening intently and find a more solid Holmes talk at any venue they'd care to name. One of the things I love about 221B Con is the way it always makes me feel warm and fuzzy about the future of this nutty little hobby, at least until we're battling Mad Max punk psychos for water in post-apocalyptic desert America. And even then there's going to be one wise old lady with her copy of the Sacred Book and a cabinet photo of Benedict Cumberbatch.

When we sadly found we had to clear that room, I dashed through the rain to the Tyler room to spend "An Hour with Lee Shackleford," an actor and playwright who filled us in on his adventures since I first got to read a pre-production copy of his playscript Holmes & Watson way back in the 1980s. The play eventually had a successful off-Broadway run with Lee as Sherlock Holmes, only to meet with a decision not to push on as Jeremy Brett's Holmes play was supposed to be coming to town. We then got to hear a bit about his web series Herlock, which premieres tomorrow, and when the Q & A started, also discovered that the makers of S(her)lock: The Web Series were also in the room. (If only the people from Baker Street: The Web Series could have been there as well. Critical mass on female Holmes-Watson teams might have been achieved!)

That's where the "big tent" comment came along, a comment I often hear when disparaging CBS's Elementary. And it is a big tent these days, not just in that near-mythical "Pavilion" structure at 221B Con. We have room for millions of Sherlocks and Watsons, as AU fan fic amply demonstrates. We're not going to have time to take it all in, nor should we, as it all isn't going to be to our taste. But the tent that is Sherlock Holmes's cape/cloak/greatcoat (or whatever his current fashion is) is big enough to have room for them all, even that old joke where Holmes and Watson don't have a tent anymore.

The intellectual stimulation one gets at a multi-track panel convention like 221B Con is only limited to one's choices and what a single body can be present for . . . so many ideas shooting from every which way, going even which way, on any theme you could name.

Next up: "Watsons through Time." Given it's my friend Howard Ostrom (with whom I had an excellent dinner, earlier in the evening, along with his daughter Macie and David McAllister) whom I suspect will be talking about actors past and not future incarnations of the good doctor.

But at 221B Con, you just never know.

P.S. Given time limits, I had to leave out a lot of cool details involving Star Trek: The Next Generation, cookies, Daffy Duck, etc., etc., etc. This place is rather mind blowing to my aged mind palace.

221B Con 2015. A visit to the Three Patch Podcast suite.

Having ventured out into the city enough to get some walking in and find out that Altanta's MARTA is not some ultra-chic department store (Hey, blame the way the Marriott map portrayed it), I returned to 221B Con central this morning determined to find something to blog about. One feels a certain blog-journalist obligation, after all. And though I am a decided introvert, not usually fond of walking into situations where I don't know anyone, I decided to wander down to the suite of the Three Patch Podcast, as their Twitter feed was being very welcoming.

Okay, let's get the hard part of 221B Con out of the way: Being a aged and graying male and wandering around a con inspired by BBC Sherlock, you don't exactly blend in. In fact, one might as well be wearing a sign that says, "Old school Sherlockian, raised by Conan Doyle himself." Which is pretty much true.

But the thing that exploded in my head two years ago at the first 221B Con was the wonderful energy of this new age of fans. Yeah, they're not all going to fit into the old "Baker Street Irregulars" model, but, hell, I don't fit into that model, and that's one of the things that I think is so cool about them. They're going places with Sherlock Holmes that nobody ever did before. (And, yes, to me at least, Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes is a true incarnation of that deity in human form.)

When I arrived at the Three Patch Podcast suite, they were trying to install a reverse-engineered replica of the Speedy's Cafe awning. The already had their fireplace up. (Luckily Sherlock fandom trends female -- it wouldn't take much for a drunken male counterpart to take a Magnussen tribute of a piss on such a prop in a moment of "Aren't I hysterical?" excess. Boys! Pfffft!) But back to that Speedy's awning -- it was very impressive. And that was just part of the room's cool decor.

Two of the consulting podcasters, B and Caroline, were kind enough to answer all my questions about the Three Patch production, and again the energy and thought that the group has brought to the table was admirable. I love that they break out their spoiler episodes as clearly marked specials and enforce a definite spoiler policy on their site. They change their format up, which is always nice, and the sorting hat bit from their recent shows sounded like the fun sort of fan stuff we used to do in the Sherlockian 1980s. (We liked to crossover Spock and Sherlock back then, instead of Harry Potter and Holmes, but still.) See, that's what I like most about this generation of Sherlock Holmes fans, even when they are totally focused on the BBC show -- they remind me of the energies we had at a younger age, but boy do they have a lot more toys. (Man, if I had Photoshop in 1982? Yikes.)

I kind of wish I had my drive from Peoria to do all over again, so I could chain-listen a bunch of Three Patch, having only caught an impressive twenty minutes worth before I passed out late last night. But a live Three Patch Podcast is coming as a part of 221B Con (along with the Baker Street Babes as well, I hear -- hope they don't get into an Anchorman-style gang fight), so that should make one heck of a start.

The actual start of 221B Con is still hours away. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The long road to 221B Con 2015.

Getting from Peoria to Atlanta can be done in a one day drive. Not a short one day drive, but it can be accomplished between sun-up and sun-down in a single day. Barely.

The drive started promisingly enough, as my usual Thursday morning podcast, Longbox Heroes, started out with a discussion of Sherlock Holmes. Which is pretty unusual, as it's a comic book podcast. And the two podcasters involved, Todd Rowker and Leonard F. Chikarason, are far from Holmes fandom, which made their conversation all the more interesting -- I always enjoy overhearing what the outside world is saying about good old Sherlock.

The reason for Sherlock talk was IDW's announcement that they would by publishing Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution in comic book form. And what amused me to no end was the completely objective comic fan's view of the thing. The wonderment that of all the possible Sherlock Holmes team-ups, anyone would choose Sigmund Freud over someone distinctly more "comic book." (And their suggestion of a Sherlock Holmes/Daredevil team-up is actually more perfect than any Sherlock/Batman team-up or Sherlock/Dr. Who team-up commonly hoped for.) The curiosity as to why anyone would choose a forty-year-old Sherlock Holmes novel to adapt for comics at this point. The assurance of the comic book store familiar that there were always people who bought anything with Sherlock Holmes in it.

It was a refreshing set of viewpoints to begin a weekend soon to be spent among people who know the Sherlock stuff all too well. And a reminder that Sherlock Holmes belongs to people who don't really care about him as much as Sherlockians do, just as he does to us.

And since I couldn't stop in London to see Holmes on my way to 221B Con, I stopped in Metropolis to see Superman, because it's on the way. And Metropolis, being a city of opportunity, basically wound up paying for my 221B Con hotel stay after ten minutes before lunch at the local casino gambling twenty bucks on a quarter slot machine. (Don't take this as an endorsement of riverboat gambling, kids, and try this at home!)

Driving to 221B Con is like a literal trip down memory lane, as I pass Sherlockian memories I've had in Southern Illinois, Nashville, and Chattanooga. It's a long drive, as I said, but finally finding the Marriott Atlanta Perimeter Center was rewarded with a 221B Con welcome letter and a hotel that, as ever, seems to be housing more charming young ladies than the average business hotel. (God bless you, Benedict Cumberbatch! You may not be particularly easy on my eyes, but you definitely decreased the percentage of us old guys, with our limited cosplay options, in any large crowd of Sherlockians.)

And so it begins.

Monday, April 6, 2015

True Great Detective.

Every now and again, I have a moment . . . just a moment . . . when I entertain the possibility that I might . . . just might . . . have been too hard on CBS's Elementary.

And then something happens like HBO's "Watchathon Week" on the giant cable system.

And after all this time, I finally get to see a little something like True Detective.

"Oh, yes," I go, and remember just how good television can actually be.

Now, "That's not exactly a fair comparison," one might say. It's an HBO show where they get to show actual nudity, not strippers in bikinis like CBS has to do. And they can pay A-list actors like Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson in their lead roles.

They also don't have to slap a "Sherlock Holmes" label on a random detective just to attract viewers.

Rust Cohle and Marty Hart are the names of True Detective's detectives, not Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. But if you want a darker exploration of the Holmes/Watson dynamic, as some might say Elementary is (Though have you seen Sherlock? That show can get dark!), True Detective has more of a Holmes and Watson partnership in it than said CBS show has done on its best night.

Cohle is the troubled intellectual, with drug issues and a greater talent for investigation, as his former partner is the first to admit.

Hart is the more Joe Average family man whose vice is the ladies . . . a definite Watson turned up to eleven.

As they wade into vaguely cultish turf that would be played up for supernatural in a less grounded story, and high government officials wander in (that their Holmes has no respect for, or even recognition of), there is even a sense of a Doylean touch there. Of course, I'm just at the start of the show, and have a feeling this is going to go some very dark places before it's done, but then, Doyle could do dark when he wanted to. He just was more polite in how he wrote about it.

I really wanted to say, "Can you imagine a Sherlock Holmes drama done at this level of quality?" but then I remembered True Detective was nominated for the 2014 Emmys and lost out, while a certain BBC product took home that award in numerous categories . . . except that show was a comedy for about half of its last season.

Whatever the case, as a TV lover and a great fan of the original character named Sherlock Holmes, I think it's going to be a long time before I let Elementary skate by because they used an occasional magic word, like "Mycroft," "Milverton," or "singlestick." Things like True Detective just keep reminding me what can actually be done when a storyteller sets his mind to it.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Weeding the books.

It's easy to have a love affair with books. As a whole, they're a marvelous thing. Step back and look at the shelves of any library, public or private, and you see beauty . . . much like the view from an airplane can make any landscape a sight to see.

But when you get up close, and start looking at the individual tomes . . . well, there are just some books that you might wish you never met, some that just don't mean as much now as they once did, and some . . . some, you just wonder why you even have. Including some that have Sherlock Holmes in them.

I'm cleaning up my shelves this weekend, as I've reached a point in my life when all the excess baggage picked up over the years seems a little silly, and many a book is headed for 221B Con to find a new home with some younger Sherlockian who might find some joy in them.

My criteria for this particular purge was interesting . . . novels that I've had for over a decade that didn't leave a meaningful residue on my consciousness, good or bad. Some were well-written, lovely books that were fun to read at the time, but just didn't really seem like anything I would ever go back to, for reading or reference. Some I remember being bored with at the time, but they had such pretty covers or some other small redeeming quality. And some, I hate to admit, were just Sherlock shelf-filler.

On the other side of the coin are Sherlock Holmes books that left a negative impression, but that I'm keeping. Not sure if I'm holding them prisoner to keep them from inflicting their damage on other Holmes fans or just keeping them as a reminder of how wrong things can go, whether through amateur accident or the evil intent of the professional. They're like a rogues gallery of print.

So far I've filled two banker's boxes for this trip, and now I'm starting to work on some other aspects of the collection. Those 1980s were days of indiscriminate vacuum-collecting on the Sherlock Holmes front, and there are a lot of things that just need to wander out of my house and into the universe. Not because I love Sherlock Holmes any less these days, but because I know, eventually, I'm going to have to move it all yet again . . . and if you've ever moved massive amounts of books, you know there's a price you pay for those filled shelves.

And an avid reader's back does not tend to be a strong one . . . .

Saturday, April 4, 2015

E3:18. The sex blanket episode.

Mr. Elementary has a sex blanket.

And he spent the pre-credit moments of this week's episode rearranging the living room in preparation for anticipated sexual gymnastics with one of his Irregulars, who is also able to "compartmentalize," as he can.

And of course he has to explain this all to Joan Watson, who recognized the sex blanket immediately.

All this shows up in the middle of a week when internet re-reporters were echoing Stephen Moffat's quotes about his modern Sherlock Holmes not being straight or gay, living in the belief that such liasons would lesson the level of his mental faculties. It's almost like he knows Mr. Elementary.

As a cab-related murder wanders its way along, we find that Mr. Elementary is avoiding his Irregular sex partner, "Agatha." Yes, students of ye olde Sherlockian Canon, Mr. E. is dodging a woman with the same first name as Sherlock Holmes's quickly-dumped fiancee from "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton." Is he dodging because he became engaged to her for a case? No . . . .

For as apparently sexually adept and busy as Mr. Elementary seems to be, he has a very hard time explaining what the problem is.

"She's asked for my . . . issue."

Ah, now that Kitty Winter is far in the rearview mirror, Elementary is back to working the titillation factor, while the long-suffering Joan has to somehow force interest in this worthless piece of crap she has mysteriously bonded her life to. It's no wonder that Ms. Hudson gets little work on this show -- Joan Watson sucks up all the long-suffering household presence usually reserved for Mrs. Hudson.

Oh, Agatha . . . you foolish blonde Brit. Your subplot is silly, but you do bring mention of Mr. Elementary's daddie dearest back into the picture. And you demonstrate one of the fundamental flaws of Elementary . . . that view of deductive powers as a magical genetic gift. Well, when they're not trying to show that it's something anyone can do by having Joan be a consulting detective, too.

Is it a coincidence that the "Olympus" computer software that tracks Zooss rideshare cars looks like an animation of sperm randomly moving about a really bad body diagram? Okay, maybe they don't once you've looked at them a moment, but that subplot really sends this episode a-kilter.

But Mr. Elementary considers his mind, personality and all, a burden. He is actually in pain all the time because of his genetic detective gifts. "You say I'm using my gifts, I say I'm treating them. So I can't in good conscience, pass them on to someone else." YES! LET THEM DIE WITH YOU! YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY ONE IN PAIN FROM YOUR AWFUL CONTRIVED PERSONA, YOU BAD XEROX! AAAAARRRRGGHHHHH!!!

Excuse me. Just had a moment there. I must go spend some time in the Sherlock room now.

Well, at episode's end, Mr. Elementary puts away his sex blanket. Someday, maybe he and Sherlock can have a towel-whipping duel with sex blanket versus shock blanket, but that's the only time I'd even remotely want to see that thing again.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Silent Elementary, part two.

Perhaps the most telling moment in Elementary: The Ghost Line, by Adam Christopher, came as our protagonist, Mr. Elementary, solved the case.

"Watson!" he yells up at Joan Watson's bedroom door. He then proceeds to spend the better part of four pages yelling the solution to the mystery at her, only to find she never came home that night and was never in her bedroom.

This, we are supposed to believe, is the most observant man in the history of the world, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Sure, it's not at the level of sleeping with a criminal mastermind on a regular basis without knowing she was a criminal mastermind -- that kind of observational "OOPS!" is a classic that will always be reserved for the original CBS show. But at least Elementary: The Ghost Line is properly following in its original's footsteps.

Meanwhile, Joan Watson, I am sad to say is busy playing damsel in distress after all that "hit the dummy on the top of his head" singlestick training proved worthless once again.

Having finished reading Elementary: The Ghost Line tonight, letting it substitute for the actual CBS procedural in its silent, somehow more palatable, way, I still hold to my feeling from reading the first half -- that it's a bit of a Hardy Boys adventure. Big bad men with no personalities doing bad things in a secret place. Series characters that you never have to worry about being threatened with deaths that you know are flat-out impossible. An exotic foreign element coming in to shift the whole view of things. Something pre-teens could read without fear of anything too graphic, in sex, violence, or language.

The Mr. Elementary/Joan Watson dynamic was not quite as on-target in the last half of the novel, as they spent most of it separated . . . well, I guess that was the dynamic of the first season. Mr. Elementary pulls in a substitute Watson, giving Alfredo more story-time than he ever had on the TV show. There's a moment or two when Alfredo even utters lines that of loyalty and dedication to mission that would make good old John H. Watson proud, which reminds you of how different Joan is from her last-namesake.

And Mr. Elementary saves the day with a bit of his usual Trival Pursuit knowledge, rather than anything a criminal expert might logically have in his repertoire, only this time it's a pretty far reach and an almost Doc Savage sort-of ending.

The subtitle "The Ghost Line" pretty much gives away key plot points of the book from the cover on, and you're waiting for a secret subway train to enter the picture from the moment you hear of its "Oh, that has to be it!" target. The only real surprise in this mystery is that weird Trivial Pursuit bit . . . well, and how long it drags out after you pretty much know who the villains are and what they intend to do, well before Mr. Elementary or Joan does.

But I will say this about the book, for you Sherlock fans out there:

Joan Watson gets a shock blanket.

And that ain't nothing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Copy on a copy of a copy of an adaptation, part one.

Today's post brought with it my shortly-awaited copy of Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher, my first venture into the non-televised fiction of our almost-hero Mr. Elementary.

It was a pleasantly light read, and in under a couple hours I found myself halfway through the book. Not that I couldn't put it down, of course, my Elementary viewing training has left me very disciplined for enduring the doings of Mr. Elementary, Joan Watson, Captain Gregson, and Detective Bell. And this book was about . . . Mr. Elementary, Joan Watson, Captain Gregson, and Detective Bell.

Oh, and New York City, too. NYC is like a fifth member of the team in this book. The first murder victim loves New York, Joan Watson loves New York, the plot is very city-based.

Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher is a very good novel about Mr. Elementary, Joan Watson, Captain Gregson, and Detective Bell. The bar has not been set too high by the TV series, and the novel captures the voices of those characters quite well. It also explains some of the differences between Mr. Elementary and Sherlock Holmes quite well:

Mr. Elementary's detective skills come from "a gift he had been born with, like perfect pitch or an ear for languages." Joan Watson, however, knows that "the art of deduction, while partly an innate, wild talent, was also something that could be taught, learned." Yes, folks, some of us are just born logical, like Vulcans, and the rest of you poor suckers have to figure it out. Sigh. It's like a Creationist view of reasoning. But it sure suits Elementary.

Mr. Elementary is also "obtuse, rude, and childish, very often all at once."  Not something a Sherlockian would mistake for a description of Sherlock Holmes, but Mr. Elementary? Nailed it!

The first half of Elementary: The Ghost Line reads a bit like a Hardy Boys adventure, with mysterious tunnels and exploring by flashlight. It's quite readable, and the interplay between the characters isn't nearly so painfully uncomfortable as it is so often on TV. Oh, yes, and there is this one weird bit out of nowhere:

"The Blue Carbuncle is a gemstone, one that used to belong to the Earls of Morcar, passed down the female side from countess to countess. Fascinating history. In the late 1880s, it was stolen and later found in the crop of a Christmas goose."

Don't worry, that's not really a spoiler. It just comes out of nowhere, like I said, and seems to indicate that the events of "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" actually happened in Mr. Elementary's world. Which would totally discredit my favorite theory that Mr. E. is a crazed Irregular from the Cumberbatch Sherlock universe who escaped London and took his boss's name, and lends more credence toward a theory that Dr. Watson did not publish his accounts, or even write them, in Mr. Elementary's world, yet Sherlock Holmes did exist in Victorian times and was so unknown that a kid in the modern day could borrow the name for his detective business when he wasn't on heroin.

All in all the first half of Elementary: The Ghost Line has made me realize how important the clients were to the original Holmes tales, giving Conan Doyle a place to add colorful characters who weren't Holmes, Watson, Lestrade, and Gregson from the get-go. Watching Mr. Elementary, Joan Watson, Captain Gregson, and Inspector Bell wandering around mostly interacting with each other isn't as painful here as it is in the TV series, as Mr. Elementary is softened a bit, but it is still like the Hardy Boys -- you know that relationship isn't really going to go anywhere by the end of the tale.

We'll see what the second half of the novel brings.