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.

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