Wednesday, February 10, 2016

When you strip away all the tech.

DVDs, online fanfic repositories, YouTube video . . . so much of Sherlockian fandom revolves around technology these days that it's very easy to get a little confused about it.

If a great big ol' electromagnetic pulse was suddenly to wipe out all our podcasts, ability to rewatch BBC Sherlock, Facebook groups, and all of that other stuff, would we suddenly lose all those fans who came to 221B through technological channels? Some Luddites might tell you so, to feel a little more proud of their Luddy-ness. But lets go back to the Great Depression, when the bottom dropped out of things once before.

A fellow named Gray Chandler Briggs, who had "the most beautiful home in St. Louis and a garage of five cars," along with a healthy bank account, lost it all. One of his friends had "recently took the .38 route to alleviate his mental sufferings," because things were bad. Really bad. He was corresponding with a writer friend at the time, whose life was also hit hard.

"I try to make sort of a game of poverty, and try to be happy in it," his writer friend wrote. "And much of the time I succeed."

Life had changed for everyone, so dramatically that mutual poverty was openly written of. No one tried to hide it, as it affected all. But the writer friend wrote something else:

"Our values, fortunately, yours and mine, and the values of other 'right ones' -- didn't have to change with the times. We have always cared for the things -- books, pictures, music, etc. -- that others are now coming back to."

The baseline human entertainments: literature, art, music . . . able to be produced and enjoyed when so much else is stripped away. Those three things are the measure of our hearts in a way, the way we capture our spirit and save it for a rainy day. When you strip away the tech, they remain.

And here's what you realize when you look at the newer parts of our fandom with open eyes. It has brought us its own art. It has brought us its own literature. It has even brought us some music. Strip away all the tech that surrounds it and the inspired writers, artists, makers, musicians, and other creatives inspired by the spirit of Sherlock Holmes remain.

As Gray Chandler Briggs had written to his writer friend some time before, "Time back there was talk of keeping a perpetual flame in memory of Sir Arthur. That has been done. The fire which Doyle lighted with his pen in that second floor front in Baker st. will burn as long as books are read."

That fire Conan Doyle lit stays on in a lot of ways. Some old and some so new that it can be very hard for many to see it as the same flame. But it still burns, and brighter than ever these days.

That flame we call Sherlock Holmes.


Postscript: I said "some old and some so new," right? The old, that inspired this post was from a collection of letters in a book I inherited from an old friend of mine, Mr. Robert C. Burr. The book is titled "Dear Starrett --" / "Dear Briggs --" and the quotes you find above where highlighted by my friend, a man who loved books yet had no fear of making them his own with written-in corrections and highlights. The spirit of Sherlock can be passed along in all sorts of ways, even after we're gone. (And thanks for that, Bob.)

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