Sunday, March 13, 2016

The map back to Sherlockian calm.

O' witness ye of Sherlock Holmes and heed the ancient tome!

Occasionally of late, heading back into the original Doyle makes one want to just turn crazy street-preacher and start monologuing in faux 1600s rants.

Heed this book, brothers and sisters, and let its truths guide your scrivening hand!

I think putting on a sack-cloth robe and wearing a long gray beard while waving around a copy of the Doubleday Complete would complete the effect nicely and might even be some fun cosplay for a con . . . t'were it not for the fear some might take it as a real thing. Those of us who aren't the most skilled of writers depend upon occasional contact with real humans so we have those who can vouch we're not mad hermits. (If you regularly attend Sherlock Holmes society meetings, you can be crazy as Hell and Sherlockians will eventually just go, "Oh, that's just old so-and-so, our local color!")

But I do wonder sometimes, where the cult(s) of Sherlock are headed, now that we have so many fans that aren't dependent upon the original Doyle for their fix. Now that we actually have derivative Sherlocks that are derived of derivative Sherlocks (or based entirely on doing a derivative Sherlock of a derivative Sherlock while avoiding being sued by that first derivative Sherlock, as in the case of a particular pastiche I shall not name). Our world has gotten very, very big, and the day when you could just subscribe to a few journals and feel you had a handle on the entire hobby seem long gone.

But still, at the center of it all, is that kernel of Sherlockian truth we call the Canon (now, often, the Original Canon) for those minds bright and curious enough to follow the trails back to.

"Here dwell together still two men of note," Vincent Starrett wrote in that most famous of Sherlockian poems, 221B, a statement that doesn't fit many a current Sherlock story on one or two points. But Starrett wasn't writing about all Sherlockiana, just those original Conan Doyle tales. 

At 55 years old, when he wrote the poem, Vincent Starrett was already feeling the world had gone "all awry," as those passing into their later years often do. But it wasn't just "old man talk" with Starrett, he had actually seen the Great Depression rob everyone he knew of their former lifestyles and make day-to-day survival a harder thing. He wasn't just dealing with a fandom grown wild and untamed, he was dealing with a real world that even makes the current Trump silliness look like nothing worth all that attention being lavished upon it.

And amid all that, Vincent Starrett wrote words that didn't go "crazy street preacher" in the slightest:

"But still the game's afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears --
Only those things the heart believes are true."

Next to Conan Doyle's own words, those of Starrett's poem are probably the single most treasured in all of the Sherlockian world. And rightly so.

Because no matter where we're headed, no matter what kind of wild off-shoots the legend of the Master Detective produces in the decades ahead, those calm and steady words are like a treasure map leading back to that source material we sometimes fear will be left behind and forgotten amid all the sensationalism.

Perhaps I should think of just cosplaying Vincent Starrett and quietly hand out poems. Only that would involve wearing a tie, which might be one sacrifice too many . . . fake sack-cloth could be a lot more comfortable.


  1. I was wondering if you can write a review on Houdini and Doyle. I thought it was a very good series actually and would like your opinion on it. Thank you!

    1. I would love to see Houdini and Doyle, but it doesn't come to the US on Fox until May 2nd! So that review is probably a couple of months out, sad to say.

  2. This post is lovely. While I have enjoyed BBC, fanfic, and pastiches, poems, and most of all, Sherlockian scholarship--nothing compares to the Canon itself. It is like the bottomless ocean, a resource that can never be exhausted.