Sunday, October 18, 2015

The new Sherlockian studies versus the old.

I finally finished that durned "Sexpisode" yesterday.

Catching up on my podcasts this week, and after listening to the Three Patch Podcast take on Hamlet, monster Holmes, and deathfic (As well as pre-ordering the t-shirt. I love their artist's work.), my smartphone queued up the rest of their previous episode . . . the notorious "Sexpisode 3."

Yes, the one that gave me the vapors back in September during its "Sexy Headcanon" segment from Gridlock 2015. SO MUCH random coupling . . . or tripling, I guess . . . fried my poor midwestern late-baby-boomer brain. I backed slowly away from it after that segment then, but coming back to the episode and bits like its thoughtful look at the Sherlock-John-Mary triad, I was a little more secure that the ladies of Three Patch weren't going to terrorize my inner old maid any more.

I really enjoy listening to Three Patch, much more than I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere and the Baker Street Babes of late, because they always make me think. The old, cozy Sherlock talk is a little too relaxing for my sleepy old brain, and the view of that new Sherlockian planet that internet connectivity has taken us to is fascinating, and a bit energizing. Like one of those old B movie sci-fi plots, we rocketed to Mars in our future Sherlockian world and found it populated by women.

And listening to Three Patch today, acclimating all the more to the environment of Planet Cumberbatch, coming to see it as Sherlockiana Now and the old Sherlockian scholarship as the different thing, it became very apparent that the Sherlockiana of the 1940s and 1950s was Sherlock Holmes studies as done by men. Think about it . . .

Locating 221B Baker Street. Charting its floor plans. Enumerating and classifying Canonical characters. Researching and hypothesizing to make Watson's dates exact and reliable. Bring in the math and spatial dynamics wherever possible and, good gawd, spending so much time trying to work out that damned Musgrave ritual.

Not to be all gender-stereotyping, but this was Sherlockian scholarship created by men for men.

Had it been women who created it from the get-go, perhaps the focus would have been on something else even back then: Relationships. Reactions. Emotions.

For when you distill it down, that's what the amazing multiverse of fanfiction is: studies of human interaction. Taking the fascinating specimens of the Canon and putting them in experimental conditions and seeing what they do. True, there is a bit of experimenter bias going on, but that was true of the old Sherlockian scholarship as well. Sherlock was a golfer, a Buddhist, or a wine lover pretty much according to how much to writer wanted him to be. Now it's more who winds up in bed with whom as we explore their reactions to class structure, death, gender issues, power dynamics, and all those other ways humans relate to other humans (even if Holmes and Watson are not exactly human in a given fic).

We saw a Golden Age of Sherlockiana in the 1900s. We're seeing a Silver Age of Sherlockiana evolving in front of us in the 2000s. And as much as the Bronze Age of Sherlockian of the 2100s might be too much for my poor brain to wrap itself around, I would still be very curious to see what it's going to look like when that third wave hits.


  1. I listened to the Three Patch podcast and the OT3 "ships". I had to catch up on the language having never heard of headcanon before. At some level I don't approve the causal pairing but understand that it is female fantasy and suppose to be out of my comfort zone. But why oh why drag poor SH into it? I know I say bad Sherlock is better than no Sherlock but I might have to retract some.
    Will fan fic stand the test of time asked the collector. What would ACD think asked the man.

  2. I love all the old, Sherlockian scholarship for its wit and playfulness, even as I agree that its orientation is supremely male. The chronologies that focus on minutiae of weather patterns or some other arcane point while completely missing the overarching narrative that is the Holmes / Watson love story -- it's kind of adorable actually. It's much like the Holmes / Watson dynamic: Holmes focusing on 243 species of tobacco ash and derogating Watson's "romanticism" while Watson is writing the stories that make Holmes a legend and are beloved the world over.

    And then there is the fabulous eroticism of it all, which is completely missed in almost all of the traditional Sherlockian scholarship. The creators of BBC Sherlock have done the world a huge favor by re-introducing the Canon with eroticism intact and amplified. It is absolutely not invented, let's be clear, merely amplified. One need only be attuned to it in Canon, as BBC Sherlock's creators are, and as multitudes of fanfic writers before them were. So yeah, IMO, if the previous age was The Golden Age, we are now entering The Platinum Age. May the old and the new unite in a beautiful partnership.

  3. I would challenge the concept of a "fabulous eroticism" in the canon. One can interpret it in that way just as one can find Frued and Marx. Other contemprary authors of ACD wrote homoerotic fiction like Oscar Wilde and E.W. Hornung. The BBC Sherlock did a modern tease with Watson asked if he was Sherlock's boyfriend. Clearly he denied it and went on to marry so presumably heterosexual.
    I'm not sure what a "beautiful partnership" would be. I fear amplifying human sexuality over logic and deduction is going in the wrong direction. Using cell phones and computers to enhance the detective's power is fascinating.

  4. I've to agree with the old fogeys of Sherlockiana on this point. You can find eroticism everywhere, if you're looking for it. Not because it's actually there, but because you can see something erotic even in the photo of a turnip. That doesn't mean turnips are inherently sexy, it just means you can't stop seeing sexy things everywhere. And more power to you, if you find enjoyment in that. I, personally, after being initially quite enamoured with 'the hidden eroticism' have arrived at a point where mentioning it elicits convulsive yawning. Even the thorough study of weather patterns seems more exciting by now. There really is something like 'too much'.