Sunday, May 29, 2016

That time they set fire to Baker Street.

It's a small enough thing. Something we don't like to dwell upon.

"You haven't seen about Baker Street, then?" Sherlock Holmes asks John Watson in "The Final Problem."

"Baker Street?" Watson replies.

"They set fire to our rooms last night. No great harm was done."

That last was Mr. Sherlock Holmes speaking, of course. Think of it in that light . . . Sherlock Holmes saying "No great harm was done." His view of "harm" might be a little different from what the rest of us consider "harm." Especially Mrs. Hudson.

The basket-chair. The bearskin hearthrug. The deal-topped table that held the chemicals. What burned in that fire? What would any of us wish to see gone from the sitting room at 221B?

We know that chemical corner table survived, as Watson references it in "The Empty House" as being still a part of the familiar scene. The basket chair isn't referenced again post-Reichenbach. And was that bearskin rug even there before the fire?

When setting fire to a room, something has to go first, and my money is on that basket chair. And surely some papers, as Baker Street was full of paper. Recent newspapers perhaps? Unanswered correspondence? Holmes's scrapbooks survived, as Watson reports them in "Empty House" as he does the chemical table. But any document that saw the inside of Baker Street would surely be a treasure to us, and many of those had to be lost, despite Holmes's "No great harm was done."

Maybe it was all in Holmes's bedroom, which we are not nearly as familiar with. Burning a man's bed sends a message, even if the rest of the house doesn't go up with it. And Holmes wouldn't consider sleep all that important when there was a Moriarty to deal with.

"Mycroft preserved my rooms and my papers exactly as they had always been," Holmes says upon his post-hiatus return, so it would seem everything of import to him was still there, in line with his "no harm" statement. Yet we have to wonder . . . fires don't occur without some damage, unless Holmes was there while the criminals were actually igniting the blaze, or some equally rapid-response situation.

A fire starting in what hadn't been Watson's bedroom for some time would imply some very incompetent criminals . . . except for the way Holmes refers to the fire being in "our rooms." Watson has been married and out of Baker Street for years. The year before, Watson only participated in three cases with Holmes. And yet . . .

What might have remained in Watson's old room that would have felt like "no great harm" to Holmes and yet something both men would have left there even after Watson's marriage?

Watson's notes and papers dealing with the publication of A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four . . . attractive representations of Holmes's detective success to the potential firebug in Moriarty's employ, and yet to Holmes?

"No great harm."

I still worry about that basket chair, though.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

We should talk . . . .

I'm a nice guy. Really. I have witnesses.

That's a weird statement to feel like one has to make at the beginning of an essay, but it seems to be something the internet makes necessary. Especially these days, when I haven't been able to get to as many Sherlockian events as I'd like to, and I'm feeling a bit guilty for not keeping up with as many old friends as I'd like. Because when your primary Sherlockian existence is on the internet, you definitely lose the "real people" side of things you'd be getting if you were discussing the same topic over a drink at some cozy establishment.

I knew I was stepping out on to a minefield this week with open considerations of fan fic. It's a fascinating topic, one that is having a huge influence on Sherlockian culture, and one that has some very strong opinions on both the "Love it!" and "Hate it!" sides. And it is far too easy to step on toes when writing upon the subject, as some folks actually seem to extend their feet into the aisle just waiting for you to walk through.

Where it really gets interesting is when a conversation gets going on Twitter, which one only seems to be getting a disjointed portion of in some parts, as I suspect someone has blocked me (I'm a nice guy, really!). And Twitter is a durned hard place to explain something at length, though I am obliged to @spacefall for giving it a try. Fanzines of the 1990s are an interesting terrain, and apparently the Sherlockian fanzine publishers I was hanging out with at MediaWest*Con back in those days weren't entirely representative of the entirety of Sherlockian fanzine culture of the time.  

We all only have our own perspective to go on, and some of us are ready and willing to be educated otherwise and spread the word when we're wrong.

How far back does Johnlock fanfic actually go? Well, I'm hearing evidence back to 1990 now, and there probably were isolated examples before that. What was the first tale included in a mediazine collection? What was the first volume devoted entirely to Holmes/Watson fanfic? With print runs of a hundred or less, they can be a bit difficult to track down, and they certainly weren't having the impact of the Trek stuff or some others. And before the 1960s, fan publications had a very hard time existing just due to limited printing options. Those things are a little hard to track. And even harder to get a feel for their true context.

As Johnlock moves into its place in Sherlockiana going forward, we shouldn't conflate it too strongly with the history of Sherlockiana already on the record books. The article that helped inspire my last blog made it sound like Rex Stout was a Johnlocker, which got a bit weird. And the thought that even Doyle had them originally in mind as a gay couple? Well, it's a thought. I'll give it that. But the moon landing being filmed on a Hollywood sound stage is also a thought. (Not saying it's completely crazy -- it does make chronology work better.)

So, anyway, some days I wish we could all sit down and discuss this stuff. Most of us are actually pretty nice people, fun to have dinner with, all that stuff. Not offensive at all in person. Kind to children and animals.

Especially with yet another Minneapolis conference coming up, which have always been my favorites. So many folks I will yet again miss talking to in person . . . so back to struggling to get by with this internet thing.

A man writing about slash some more.

It's been an interesting week for considering the impact of slash fanfic on Sherlockiana as a whole.

From an article trying to pin down its rise on Inverse, to a less than positive reaction to discovering a Holmes/Watson romance from John Foster when he wasn't expecting one, to a point in a discussion with a non-Sherlockian pal on Captain America's latest crisis where he admitted not liking the constant slashing of male friends in media because it sexualizes male intimacy. I understand his point and I sympathize with John Foster's issue at not being fully informed of what he had coming in the mail.

Johnlock fan fiction isn't really for us boys, and we really aren't yet sure what women are saying about the male gender with it. (Which varies by individual woman, of course.) We don't always react well to it, especially when presented as the one true vision of Holmes and Watson, despite what anyone wrote prior. (Subtext is the only true reality!) This doesn't mean we're bad people. We're just . . . men.

Whatever that means . . .

The Inverse article presents details from the history of Sherlockiana in a way that might seem to the casual reader that Holmes and Watson slash has been going on as a part of our fandom forever, and the fact that Sherlockiana precedes Star Trek fandom might even mean we were into slash fiction first. As a lifelong Sherlockian and Star Trek fan who was alive when Trek slash began, I can definitely say Trek slash was here waaaaaayyyy before Holmes/Watson. Heck, Starsky and Hutch slash was here waaaaaayyyyy before Holmes/Watson. Why?

Because until recently, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were always old guys and no one wants to see a lemon party. (Don't google that phrase without preparing yourself for nudity of the wrinkly variety.) Not even most fans of Johnlock. (As evidenced by the non-rise of Mr. Holmes porn. Sure, somebody had to do it once or twice just to do it, but I bet their hearts weren't in it.)

I still have actual print fan fiction from the Jeremy Brett olden days, and it's interesting. It plays up the intimacy and love between Holmes and Watson, turning the Canonical relationship up to eleven, but there is no sex and no kissing. Written for the most part by women, just as today's fanfic, it shows where Sherlock Holmes fanfic will eventually head, being more about relationships than mysteries much of the time, but Sherlockians weren't quite ready to go as sexual as Trekkies just yet in the early 1990s. And back then, gay porn featuring Sherlock Holmes was still actually that -- gay porn. By men for men.

I'm sure someone can cite a story or two they saw that goes against the statements above, but by and large, Sherlock Holmes fandom did not come to the slash party until Cumberbatch and Freeman and the tremendous influx of female fans. (Recall that America's core of Sherlockiana, the Baker Street Irregulars, didn't even allow women at its dinners until the 1990s.) Gender plays such a large role in looking at this particular part of fan culture that implying certain things have always been so starts to verge on history denial.

Star Trek fan culture is a good place to look to see where Sherlockiana might be headed, oddly enough. While media, like old Saturday Night Live skits tended to portray Trekkies as geeky males back in the 1980s, attending cons showed you a different picture -- that the fandom was predominantly female. And that slash was a big part of that. But somehow, Star Trek being all about a positive future with philosophies like IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) folks seemed pretty much cool with that. The neighbors did what the neighbors did, but you were all still happy to be living on Trek street.

And we'll get there eventually, I think, unless we see some odd retro rise of male-only enclaves dedicated to barricading themselves against our expanding fan culture. (Or female-only enclaves devoted to the mindset that Holmes/Watson man-love is the only true Canon.) These things just take time.

And fortunately, as evidenced by a century and a quarter of Sherlock's popularity, we have time.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Even a part of the Canon for Memorial Day.

Part of the magic of Sherlock Holmes is how you can tie the detective and his adventures to very nearly anything . . . even an American Monday holiday.

It's Memorial Day weekend. The holiday that was originally called "Decoration Day," and founded at a time to put flowers on the graves of America's Civil War dead. Since then, it has expanded its purpose to all Americans who have died in service of their country, but it's origins are totally in that conflict that was in John H. Watson's thoughts in that passage first printed in "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box."

"You were recalling the incidents of Beecher's career. I was well aware that you could not do this without thinking of the mission which he undertook on behalf of the North at the time of the Civil War, for I remember your expressing your passionate indignation at the way in which he was received by the more turbulent of our people. You felt so strongly about it, that I knew you could not think of Beecher without thinking of that also. When a moment later I saw your eyes wander away from the picture, I suspected that your mind had now turned to the Civil War, and when I observed that your lips set, your eyes sparkled, and your hands clenched, I was positive that you were indeed thinking of the gallantry which was shown by both sides in that desperate struggle. But then, again, your face grew sadder; you shook your head. You were dwelling upon the sadness and horror and useless waste of life."
We depend upon Sherlock Holmes to reveal Watson's thoughts to us, as Watson never shared his passionate feelings about Beecher's mission to England and Europe in 1863 to gain support for the United States and deprive the Confederacy of recognition as a sovereign nation. Why was Watson so passionate about an issue an ocean away that happened when he wasn't more than twelve  years old?

Well, Henry Ward Beecher came back to England on a speaking tour in the summer of 1886, and I would wager Watson found a way to hear one of those talks. Why? Beecher's support of Darwin's theory of evolution? Beecher's push for women's suffrage? No, there is one topic sure to draw Watson to Beecher: Temperance.

Watson's brother died before his time, perhaps due to alcoholism we know he was afflicted with. And Watson's hatred of Holmes's "self-poisoning" shows us that John did not go unaffected by the condition of his "unhappy brother." While chronology of Watson's writings has always had its issues, it's not so hard to see Beecher's 1886 speaking tour coming at a time when Watson's feelings about the drink that ruined his brother were at their strongest. His respect for Beecher and his causes was enough to get a portrait for the walls of his Baker Street flat. And it also probably moved him to have some "passionate indignation" about the way Beecher was treated on his earlier trip to England during the American Civil War.

So, like Watson, many an American will be reflecting upon the sacrifices of war this Monday. And even if you're such a dedicated American Sherlockian that you can't turn away from the Canon, even for a national holiday, well, there is still a roundabout route for you to get there.

Have a good Memorial Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Freed Sherlock. Safe as houses.

Remember when Conan Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes because he was tired of him?

Didn't care about the money. Didn't care about the success. Didn't care to have Holmes go on.

Killed Sherlock Holmes because he just felt like it.

Even though I was just writing about "Final" tales of Holmes yesterday, I think I still would have thought of that fact today. And appreciated it, along with one more fact.

Sherlock Holmes, with a few minor exceptions, is a free man.

Yes, writers can put him through all sorts of silliness, suffering, or adaptation imperfections, but every single one of those tellings of a tale just adds one more alternate universe to an unlimited multiverse of Holmes-worlds.

None of the will ever affect Holmes-world Prime, the original sixty. With Conan Doyle's death and a popular acceptance of those sixty as The Complete Sherlock Holmes, both in description and Doubleday title, we were given the gift of a finished product, a stable world to be interpreted as each of us will, but not changed for anyone else's free interpretation of those same words.

Sherlock Holmes happened before corporate licensing took hold, before characters were created as "work for hire" and carried forward by a company rather than an individual. And today, seeing what one such company decided to do to one seventy-five-year-old icon just for a sensational moment and a little publicity . . .  well, I'm happy for Sherlock Holmes.

No one is going to make him give up detection in a moment of self-doubt.

No one is going to kill him once and for all.

No one is going to have his evil twin take his place for five years of real time.

No one is going to make Watson leave him after an act of ultimate betrayal.

No one is going to make him turn out to have been Moriarty's agent all along.

Sure, anyone could write a little tale of any of those things but nothing any of us has to even consider if it's Canon, unless we really want to. And even if we want to . . . well, it's just our head canon with a small "c" and up to everybody else to choose as they see fit.

Perhaps its all tom-ay-toes and tom-ah-toes, because stories are stories. And if you want to be one of the jaded cool kids and pretend not to care about this bit or that just to show your superiority to those who do, that's your choice, too. But the thing is, we're all at the table because we care about Sherlock Holmes in some fashion or another.

And for me, today was a good day to appreciate the place that object of our caring is in these days.

Good-bye, Mr. Holmes? Not so fast.

"The Final Problem"

"The Dying Detective"

"His Last Bow"

The Last Sherlock Holmes Story

Exit Sherlock Holmes

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

A person might think somebody didn't like Sherlock Holmes, looking at all the titles with his name in them across the years. It starts with Conan Doyle, and we know that he had issues with Sherlock. Above are just the ones I could think of off the top of me head, but given more research and more years of pastiche, I'm sure we'll eventually get to every combination of death-departure-end-finish-final-done Sherlock title there can possibly be.

Endings are dramatic. Death is a big finish (or start, which is why we have more murder mystery stories than just plain mysteries). And tragedy is one of the two faces of that symbol of the dramatic arts, taken from the muses Thalia and Melpomene.

It's said that tragedies end in death and comedies end in a marriage, and it's interesting to see the balance of those elements in Holmes's cases. A Study in Scarlet originates in a marriage that ends in deaths, The Sign of the Four starts in deaths and ends with a prospective marriage. Lovers run off together at the end of a few of Holmes's cases. And sometimes clients die at the end of Holmes's cases.

So when do we start seeing the other side of titles for Holmes stories? Oh, wait . . . we have.

"His Last Vow," anyone?

"The Sign of Three"?

The Marriage of Mary Russell. (To you-know-who.)

With Sherlock Holmes, it seems, we're always going to get a little of both. And personally, I think I like the latter theme a little better, as unromantic as Sherlock himself wanted detection to be.

Will the pendulum continue to swing both ways? Of course! The ability to handle both comedy and tragedy is part of what makes Sherlock Holmes such a great character . . . and as long as he is that great, we'll surely keep seeing both sides of that dramatic coin.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Fury Road of Sherlock fanfic.

Somebody was talking about the movie Mad Max: Fury Road on YouTube, and it made me think about how much I like Sherlock fan fiction. How does that happen, you ask? (Or maybe you don't. Maybe you just go, "Here he goes again . . ." and wait for the madness to flow. In any case . . .)

Well, it's because of the way I like Sherlock fan fiction.

I've read some good stuff, I've read some weak stuff, but in the end, it doesn't matter what I think of it. It doesn't matter, because most of it wasn't written for me. Yes, yes, rarely is anything written for any of us specifically, and we get to sift through it all and pick out our favorites. It seems like that's all we do any more on social media is tell each other "I like this." "I didn't like that." "Don't say you didn't like that, because I liked that." "But I didn't like that, and I get to say so." Et cetera, et cetera.

With Sherlock fan fiction, I find myself in that rare position of having had heard the love of it, the positive impacts it has on lives, all so well explained to me that I'm happy it exists. Even if it isn't necessarily to my taste much of the time. (What can I say, I like love stories with a girl playing a key role, and the best stuff is usually missing that element.)  It's a good thing. We've got some cultural stuff to work out these days, and Sherlock Holmes is helping people make the world a better place, because that's what he does.

Sherlock fan fiction comes from the heart, based on some cinematic art that also came from the heart -- BBC dramas do seem to have a little more art and a little less paint-by-the-numbers-between-the-commercial-breaks to them -- and good things can come from all that heart. And do.

What does all this have to do with Mad Max: Fury Road? Well, as many a fanboy has complained, Max is not really the main character of that movie. Furiosa is. Max is more like Dr. Watson, along for the ride and helping tell the tale, because he knows that Furiosa is the story, just as Sherlock Holmes is the story for Watson.

One of the toughest transitions a person has to go through in life is that part where you realize you're no longer the main character of the story. The generation after you is marrying and raising kids and carrying the main plotline now, and you can be a great character actor in a supporting role now, because you don't have to be the star. Perhaps that is why Watson is so often portrayed as an older gentleman, so it is more natural that he step back and let Sherlock Holmes be the star. (Even though Holmes might not be all that much younger.)

It may be a little hard to step back and let someone else take center stage, especially when you're not entirely sure what it is that they're doing, or why. But you look at where they're taking their inspiration (our mutual friends Sherlock and John) and trust that there's good to come of it.

Just like it has in previous generations.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The world can be a very stupid place.

Somewhere that night, a headline read:

"Britney Spears Slayed the Entire World at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards and We Will Never be the Same"*

In that place of always eighteen ninety-five, where he and Watson would survive though the world explode, Sherlock Holmes looked up from indexing his commonplace books as if expecting a knock at the door.

No knock came.

"Watson," he spoke, looking across the bearskin rug to where his friend was reading yet another Clarke Russell novel, "did you ever consider the fact that if the entire world was slain by some malefactor, there would be no one to send for us to solve it?"

Watson paused for a second to consider the matter.

"I don't know that there would be anything to solve, Holmes. You and I would have an alibi in each other. The assassin would be the only other left. The world would not be the same as when your powers were needed to separate the criminal from the innocent masses."

"Yet there would be justice left to be dealt," Holmes replied. "And how would we know that we needed to deal it?"

Watson sighed. "I'm sure we'd find out. Unless the culprit was in America."

The two men shared a laugh.

"We are fortunate that no such criminals exist, Watson. I would miss the occasional dinner at Simpson's."

Watson agreed.

*Actual E! Online headline in the year 2016.

Slappy birthday, Conan Doyle!

There's a certain happy disrespect for Conan Doyle in some provinces of Sherlockiana these days. And I kinda like it.

Sherlockiana started out with a healthy bit of disrespect for the curious celebrity spiritualist by his contemporary fans, demoting him to the role of Watson's agent and all. And really, for all we owe him, we owe Doyle's imperfections just that much more.

Conan Doyle grew to hate Sherlock Holmes and killed him, when he could have realized what he had in his hands and just kept writing his consulting detective. On the surface, not a great move. As it turned out?

Accidental marketing genius! Absence makes the fans grow fonder, and a dead-and-risen Sherlock exploded in a way an ongoing Holmes never could have.

Conan Doyle paid little attention to continuity, leaving discrepancies and contradictions in his stories. On the surface, shoddy workmanship. As it turned out?

Fodder for fan imaginations. Grist for the Sherlockian study mill. Fertilizer for the growing irregularity.

Conan Doyle dove deep into the supernatural. Seances. Fairies. Future predictions.

Okay, that stuff was just a little "okay in the wacky uncle no one knows about, but memorable in a celebrity." Not really any help for Sherlock there. But it adds color. And we do like our celebrities a little bit colorful, to say nothing of ironic.

As I said, I have a little enjoyment for a certain Sherlockian disrespect of Conan Doyle. He's our home boy, so to speak, and those pokes come with an accepted admiration for his work.

A certain Fox TV series, on the other hand . . . ?

Well, in any case, today is his day. Light a candle on a cake and see if he blows it out for you.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Training mystery writers on Doyle, 1913.

Every now and then my Saturday housecleaning gets stopped dead in its tracks by something I didn't know I owned. After over forty years of gathering up random items associated with Sherlock Holmes, it's not surprising I don't have intimate knowledge of all of them, as sometimes a great haul might have me focussing upon a particular item and ignoring some of the less-flashy ones . . . for decades, apparently.

Today I found myself entranced by a little brown book entitled The Technique of the Mystery Story from 1913.

Let me say that again: 1913. Conan Doyle was still a full seventeen years from the grave. The Sacred Sixty was thirteen or fourteen tales shy of complete. "The Dying Detective" was brand-spanking new.

And Carolyn Wells, author of Technique of the Myster Story, writing for The Writer's Library series of The Home Correspondence School of Springfield, Massachusetts, was using Sherlock Holmes's cases as some of her prime examples for writing mysteries. The book cost $1.50 (or $1.62 "by mail") and in introducing the work, J. Berg Esenwein writes of the author, "In suggesting the subject to Miss Wells, I felt that no other American writer and probably no other author living was so well equipped to do such a piece of work -- a distinct popular and technical service to letters." (Conan Doyle was still alive, but maybe not "equipped.") As Wells was one of those Asimovian spigots of the printed word, turning out over 170 books in her lifetime, I suppose he was correct.

What does Miss Wells have to say about the Doylean advances in the mystery story?

Well, in a segment entitled "The Heroine and the Element of Romance," she advises "The true economy of the Detective Story forbids the introduction of romance . . ." and then uses the first paragraph of "A Scandal in Bohemia" to help make her point -- Sherlock Holmes would have gotten along nicely with Miss Wells and probably pointed Watson to her example, were he not off fighting the first World War by then. (Yes, even Sherlock was still alive when this book came out!)

Another choice bit from elsewhere in the book . . . . 

"Conan Doyle employs this hitherto unknown criminal frequently. Usually he is some old man who had known and quarreled with his old friend, the victim, many years before. . . . But Conan Doyle's motive is the exploitation of the powers of his Transcendent Detective in discovering the unheard-of criminal, and so in his case the end justifies the means. But ordinarily, and especially in a book, it is bad workmanship to absent the criminal from the scene until the last."

In other words, Doyle gets a pass on some things, because . . . Sherlock Holmes.

Wells refers to many another "recent detective of fiction" besides Holmes. Names like Luther Trant, Craig Kennedy, Average Jones, Scientific Sprague, and Ledroit Connors pop up, most of which I've never heard of, despite their memorable qualities. And they get their references, too, but none so much as Holmes.

"Watson is doubtless fulsome, but like begets like, and the Reading Public, quick to take the cue, are also fulsome in praise of Sherlock Holmes." (Fulsome, to save some a Google search, is "Complimentary or flattering to an excessive degree." Apparently Wells thinks we would not accord Holmes such high honors without Watson, but it seems like Holmes himself was who first talked about how great he was.) 

Curiously, Miss Wells's course on mystery fiction has a whole section on "The Real Sherlock Holmes" and writes of Doyle's teacher Joe Bell. She doesn't come out and outright suggest that mystery writers go out and find a Bell to inspire them, but one wonders.

At the end of that chapter, she also writes of the stir caused by Reichenbach: "But Holmes's death, instead of being welcomed, roused indignant protest. One lady wrote a letter to the author which began 'You beast.'" (Which makes one wonder if she might have heard anything about the black armband business, since it wasn't much more than a decade before.)

I'm looking forward to delving deeper into Technique of the Mystery Story: A Complete Practical Study of the Theory and Structure of the Form with Examples from the Best Mystery Writers, as it is a pretty decent read, even now. And a little inspiring.

Perhaps one of these days, then, perhaps I will be able to write a mystery story up to the technical standards of 1913 . . . which, actually, wasn't too bad a time.

P.S. Turns out the whole book in online thanks to Project Gutenberg, if you'd like to explore it.

Forget who is the best villain of the Canon -- who could be the best villain Holmes faced?

Two bits of news merged in my head this pleasant Saturday morning, as mowing the lawn left my mind free to wander. First was that actor Toby Jones was going to be playing an un-named "classic villain" on Sherlock. Second was the word that Christopher Redmond's ambitious project to collect sixty essays by Sherlockians arguing why each of the sixty stories of the Canon is the best had finally gathered its sixty and could see publication within the year.

As I contemplated the Toby Jones news, I wondered just who the true "classic" Sherlock Holmes villain was, once you got past Moriarty. This even got discussed a bit on Twitter, with a few diverging opinions. I started thinking about what made a good Sherlock Holmes villain, especially seeing how Moriarty mainly just looks good "on paper."

Was it the foes who actually caused bodily harm to Sherlock or John?

Was it the villains who forced Sherlock Holmes to go outside the law to deal with their work?

Was it some other scoring method, as in "most successful crimes while Holmes was on the case?"

And then I thought of Chris Redmond's work, gathering that sixty essays.

Sixty essays on why each villain of the Canon is the best villain? Bad idea -- so many of the stories had no villain.

Or did they?

And then it hit me: A collection of "the sixty best foes of Sherlock Holmes" could never be just essays. It really needed to be pastiche.

Where but in fiction could one work enough narrative magic to turn Effie Munro into a true villain who not only fooled Holmes but perpetrated some magnificent crime along the way? Where but in fiction could we see the evil legacy of a Grimesby Roylott live on beyond his death to bedevil his step-daughter anew? The five orange pips still being served up? Legends of Dartmoor continuing to terrorize the populace?

Yes, yes, it seems a bit "sixty sequels," but who knows? In the mind of the truly creative, a prequel could set up a perspective on the Canonical tale that shows us how the villain actually succeeded. Or a tale from another character's point of view as the case happens shows us more villainy afoot than we ever expected.

But as I am no editor or publisher of such things, I'll have to leave such an idea to the folks out there who are adept at such collections, like MX publishing or my friends who work with those sort of interests. I hope somebody gets to that theme one day, as I think it could be a fun one.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hoping for a different big screen Sherlock?

An interesting question came up on Gizmodo this morning, and my instinctive answer surprised me.

"Hey, Are You Ready For A Bunch More Movies Of RDJ's Sherlock Holmes?"

My first thought: "No . . . ?"

I mean, I like Robert Downey Jr. I like Sherlock Holmes. Seeing RDJ in a Sherlock Holmes space has been entertaining . . . as a novelty. But the thought of Robert Downey Jr. as an ongoing representation of the iconic character?

"No, thank you . . . ?"

The most memorable Sherlock Holmeses have always been the actors we didn't know before they took on the character.  Rathbone. Brett. Cumberbatch. They become Sherlock Holmes to us, and face the danger of typecasting because we identify their image as Holmes. The reverse happens with known actors.

Downey. Frewer. Plummer. You look at the screen and see Downey, Frewer, and Plummer. Yes, the story might involve you enough to almost forget, but not always. And sometimes there's character bleed from their other prominent roles: Sherlock Holmes is suddenly Tony Stark. Or, in Christopher Lee's case, Dracula. There are others, but everyone's personal mileage varies on these sorts of subjects, so I'd better just stick to those . . . .

Downey's Sherlock reminds me of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow in a way. Free-wheeling, eccentric, a tad altered, but Sparrow was original with Depp, he is a Depp character. More of a comic character than anything else. Entertaining enough, cinematic enough, but missing the full power of the legend brought to life. I know I'll enjoy the Downey Sherlock, but will I enjoy it any more than an installment of Pirates of the Caribbean? Or some other movie that doesn't have Sherlock at all?

Budget for the first RDJ Sherlock Holmes: $90 million.

Budget for the second RDJ Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows: $125 million.

That kind of investment in a Sherlock Holmes film doesn't come without a lead of Downey's level, so a person can't really go, "Boy, I wish they would make the next one with a new Sherlock Holmes." (Though, after Dr. Strange, who knows? Cumberbatch might be there.) Mr. Holmes with Ian McKellen only made $29.4 million total.

It's almost as if Sherlock Holmes is going to be in a major motion picture or ongoing network television show that meets with mainstream audience success in America . . . well, he . . . can't just be Sherlock Holmes?

If I'm sounding a little tentative in my thoughts on this subject, well, it's because I've learned to show sensitivity toward the fans of Sherlock Holmes portrayals who might find negative comments about any given Holmes . . . unpleasant?

But Robert Downey Jr. coming back for one more go-round with the name "Sherlock Holmes" is not nearly so tentative any more, so . . .


Thursday, May 19, 2016

No longer immortal?

A subtle change has been happening with our friend Sherlock in this new millennium. It was probably overdue, because as the saying goes, "No one lives forever." Not vampires, not Highlanders, and certainly not professional detectives.

Sherlock has successfully moved into the modern day with his TV iterations, and with those, has become a contemporary man in much of the public consciousness, just as he was when he was created in Victorian times.

Like King Arthur, Robin Hood, and the Three Musketeers, it seemed like Sherlock Holmes was going to be forever stuck in that period, early on due to a nostalgia for those times, later almost as if writers weren't as good at making deductions from modern details. In any case, when his birthday was celebrated each year, mention was made of how he was still alive at one hundred, one hundred and one, one hundred and two, etc. . . . because humans do sometimes live that long. And as that number crept up, perhaps some special bee-related diet was needed, but Victorian Sherlock living to one hundred and twenty did not seem impossible.

Now that the Sherlock of the original story would have turned one hundred and sixty two years of age, we don't hear such talk all that much. Sherlock Holmes was a man firmly grounded in science and reality: "No ghosts need apply." And neither do all the other sorts of supernatural immortals. Making him one of those would betray his entire life's work.

Should Sherlock have remained completely Victorian and has us accept that he quietly passed away at some point in the last hundred years? Or should we just allow that the legend lives on, and that an incarnation of that legend can live at any time now, to inspire, to exemplify, to teach, and to entertain?

I don't know about you, but it sure feels to me like we need Sherlock Holmes's clear observations and logical conclusions these days . . . and in a younger, vital form than a 162-year-old mummy of a man. So having Sherlock Holmes be born, age, die . . . and then be born in another era to wander that era anew as an excellent specimen of mortal man . . . well, that's just fine.

Being an immortally respawning mortal, with the chance to view each new version of our world with fresh, non-jaded eyes actually suits Mr. Sherlock Holmes better than the alternative.

He's just going to have a lot more criminal history to read up on, every next time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Too many shelves?

This past week my god-daughter announced that she and her significant other were buying a house, and finally taking a piece of furniture we'd been holding for her. And all of a sudden I found myself asking, "Do you want any bookshelves?"

It wasn't planned. It wasn't that I'd even considered my current bookshelf situation until that moment. And it's not that we have any empty shelves.

But we do have an awfully lot of them.

How can any Sherlockian have too many bookshelves or too many books, which in turn, require bookshelves? What sort of mental malady could cause such a thing? Is another remote Sherlockian slowly working his way out of the ranks of the faithful?

I remember hearing a story from Peter Blau many years ago about a Sherlockian whose entire collection was contained on one, carefully-selected shelf. And while I don't see myself becoming that guy, there is a certain allure to the minimalist life of a Zen Sherlockian monk these days. I've moved boxes of books far too many times, and my back complains in advance at the thought of the eventual next move. (What, hire movers? To move my Sherlockian treasures? That is nuts!)

But as with any other household possession, there comes a time when you realize that some things have gone untouched for literally decades, and are probably never going to be touched again. At which point it's time to move them along to someone else's appreciative care. And the space! You can't get your time back. You usually can't get your money back. But space? You can always take back the space. The future of Sherlockiana doesn't depend upon my measely archives, but the future of this Sherlockian depends a little bit upon a certain amount of free space in the house.

So it is that I found myself deciding to reduce the number of bookshelves in our house this week, once again seeming the Sherlockian contrarian.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Oh, for the love of Harry!

After yesterday's blog about Thurston the 221B-wrecker, I was left pondering that off-screen character and what little we know about him.

First, I pondered his lack of first name.

Second, I pondered how close "Thurston" sounds to "Morstan." Sherlockians like to make much of the "Mor" prefix in the names of folk in Holmes and Watson's lives, but who else besides Thurston and Morstan have that "rst-n" sound? The Earl of Carston? He's not even a proper character.

Third, I started wondering if Thurston might have been a woman.

So I headed back to the Canon to check on Thurston and found that Holmes definitely calls him a "he," and there is that whole "hanging out at Watson's club" thing. Not too many co-ed clubs in clubland of Watson's time.

So Thurston was definitely a dude.

But having associated Thurston with Morstan, the reverse thought started creeping into my head.

Yes, Mary Morstan is definitely portrayed as a woman in The Sign of the Four, wherein Watson proposes to her. But in no other story does Watson's "wife" get referred to by name, no details of their wedding come up, no children are mentioned . . . the best domestic details we get are just Watson complaining about the maid, whom he does refer to by name ("Mary Jane"), or that she does needlework and has friends who come to her when they are troubled.

"Mary" is such a common name that we don't tend to remark that the maid and the wife had the same first name. But there it is.

So, just speculating for a moment, if Morstan and Thurston were one in the same and Thurston was a man . . . and a Watson who had set up housekeeping with another man needed a name for his "wife" as he wrote his second novel . . . well, there was that pesky Mary Jane.

The Morstan that Watson left Baker Street for being a man would explain a lot about the whole "he's married, now he's not married, now he's married again" thing that Sherlockian chronologists have alway dealt with. If Watson was not legally married, yet had someone he referred to as his "wife," then he could flicker back and forth between marital states as that stormy-seeming relationship proceeded. When Watson finally did leave Baker Street once and for all with Morstan/Thurston and Holmes calls it "the only selfish action" -- singular -- it makes more sense.

One had to wonder if, in 1941 when Rex Stout proposed to the Baker Street Irregulars that Watson seemed to have feminine characteristics, he had flat-out proposed that Watson was simply gay . . . well, it's impossible to wonder that, since the attitudes of the time would never have allowed it. Now that most of us are more accepting of such relationships, however, the Canon provides us with some all-new angles for fresh perspectives.

Such as a gender-swapped Harry Morstan, whose Canonical first name was borrowed from the maid. As Sherlock Holmes himself said . . .

"I never get your limits, Watson," said he. "There are unexplored possibilities about you."

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Thurtson . . . the elephant ship in the room.

Johnlock, Johnlock, Johnlock . . . and maybe a pinch of Jolto just to establish Watson's bonafides pre-Sherlock . . . Johnlock. So much Johnlock!

But when the subject of John H. Watson taking male lovers comes up, does anyone ever mention "Thurtson," the very Canonical Watson/Thurston relationship?

NO!!! It's a conspiracy, you see, one that runs even deeper than the Johnlock Conspiracy . . . the notion that BBC's Sherlock is working its way toward Sherlock and John coming out of the closet. But what then? Happily ever after? Or do Moffat and Gatiss have secret plans to turn again to the original source material and . . . DUN-DUN-DUHHHHHHH! . . . bring in Thurston.

Thurston. The 221B-wrecker.

The year was 1898. The adventure is that of the "Dancing Men."

Sherlock has sat for some hours in silence with "his head sunk upon his breast." Suddenly he speaks.

"So, Watson, you do not propose to invest in South African securities?"

Watson is startled at what he calls this "sudden intrusion into my most intimate thoughts."

Intimate thoughts about South African securities? What is going on here?

Sherlock Holmes brings up the billiard chalk between Watson's left finger and thumb the way a spouse would bring up a lipstick-stained collar.

"You never play billiards except with Thurston," Holmes remarks, in a tone we can't hear through the printed page. Possibly a tone that reveals a jealousy in Watson not playing "billiards" with him any more. If you ever wanted subtext, the talk of sticks and balls that is billiards is ripe for the plucking.

Holmes speaks of Watson having the chance at some "South African securities" that would expire in a month, a month being typically the period when leases expire on lodgings. And one immediately wonders what country Thurston hailed from. South Africa, maybe? Would Watson have possibly been considering the security of a committed relationship elsewhere than 221B?

But Sherlock Holmes concludes from his retaining of control on Watson's cheque-book that Watson is not going to take his relationship with Thurston any further with those securities. For now . . .

But let's take this a bit deeper. In 1903, four Sherlock Holmes stories were published.

First: "The Empty House -- Sherlock Holmes is not dead, a necessary restart of the Canon.
Second: "The Norwood Builder" -- The tale of a man being forced out of his closet abode.
Third: "The Dancing Men" -- Thurston's tale and that of a past love coming back to destroy a relationship.
Fourth: "The Solitary Cyclist" -- Lonely bicycling, unwanted affections, brutes and South Africans.

Now turn to the text of "The Blanched Soldier," where Sherlock Holmes himself writes: "I find from my notebook that it was January, 1903, just after the conclusion of the Boer War, that I had my visit from Mr. James M. Dodd, a big fresh sunburned, upstanding Briton. The good Watson had at that time deserted me for a wife, the only selfish action which I can recall in our association. I was alone."

The Boer War was a South African conflict. Watson had supposedly taken a wife in Mary Morstan in the 1880s, something that has some very sketchy documentation when you come right down to it, and Holmes doesn't seem to care about that here. Holmes seems to find something admirable in the big upstanding British male that is James Dodd and wants at least one reader to know about it. And finally, that bald, straight-to-the-facts, three-word statement: "I was alone."

Did Watson eventually leave Sherlock Holmes to take up housekeeping with a South African named Thurston? Was "Thurtson" a bit more than just another fanfic combination paired up just because fanfic mixies cards turned up Watson and Thurston this time out? Was there no "happily ever after" for our favorite detective duo?

There are those that say Sherlockiana's exploration of the original Canon played out long ago, but Thurston, and the silent "Thurtson" conspiracy to ignore the sad end to a once-great relationship, might say otherwise.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What do we call Sherlockians?

It seems we have a little bit of a problem these days when we try to discuss Sherlockians en masse.  Or even define just what a Sherlockian is.

I'm a Sherlockian. Have been for many years. You probably are a Sherlockian, too.

But if you're going to write about us together, and you don't want to constantly use the word "Sherlockian" over and over, what works as a more generic synonym?

Are we fans? Are we devotees? Aficionados?

I think I can fairly say "Sherlockians are fans of Sherlock Holmes," and most people won't disagree. Yet as individuals, there are those who feel "fan" doesn't quite sum up the work they've put in on Sherlock. There are, indeed, students, scholars, and those who've even taught Sherlock among us. Those who've published treatises, done great researches, and dealt with weighty matters in the name of Sherlock Holmes. And also a few folk who just feel their love of Holmes is somehow grander than that of the rabble for no special reason.

The thing is, I feel like every one of those people had to start out as a fan. It's not a profession. Like anything else, fans of Sherlock Holmes have found ways to weave it into their profession where they can, whether they're professors, novelists, or lawyers. And sometimes, when that weaving leaves the realm of typical fan activity, they do deserve a description more than just "a fan." And there are such words: author, historian, playwright, impresario, collector, master.

Still Sherlockians, of course.

The place where we always run into trouble, however, is when someone tries to "fancy up" the word fan without putting such accomplishments behind it. "Oh, I . . . [sniff] . . . am an enthusiast." Yes, yes, and the geeky man-child living in his parents' basement is a comic book collector . . . he doesn't buy comics because he likes to read them. And your spouse with the Mr. Spock ears and the uniform isn't a Trekkie, they're a Star Trek cosplayer. We're all serious adults here. We sometimes don't like to do silly kid things without sticking a fancier word on it.

Yet we were all kids once. And probably silly now and then during that period.

And even though we were all fans once, and many still happily are, sometimes that word gets used the same way "boy" gets used to speak of a grown man -- as a derogatory statement that the person is less than deserving of full status. And if you're going to call somebody a fan in a derogatory manner, then you have to have something to call yourself, which is where words like "devotee" and "aficionado" have lately taken up a somewhat uglier taint.

So what do we call our fellow Sherlockians?

Well, my first thought would be "anything you'd call all of us, including yourself." If you're like me and don't consider "fan" a dirty word, we can be Sherlock Holmes fans. If you truly are a fancy sort and will allow that we're all fancy folk, "aficionados" is actually a pretty fine word and we can be Sherlock Holmes aficionados. (Just keep writing it over and over until you learn to spell it. It's a bit of a beast.) And if you're Samuel L. Jackson and want to make us all out as Sherlock Holmes #*&%+!$@ers, well, if you're willing to include yourself in that group, have at it.

Because we're all Sherlockians, whatever that is. And if you want to get more specific than that, and separate out the these from the those, maybe we should just name names.*

*Except where lawsuits are a possibility.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Deeply flawed jokes about Sherlock Holmes.

Okay, yesterday's post was waaaayyyy too cranky, and even though I wrote a follow up to it just now, I simply can't go there tonight. Time for a palate cleanser. Time for some deeply flawed jokes about Sherlock Holmes.


Knock knock.

Who's there?


Watson who?

If Conan Doyle hadn't put his name on all these books, you'd know who the hell I am!


Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go to an inn to spend the night.

They have a hearty supper and go to bed, and as they lie there, waiting to fall asleep, Holmes says, "Watson, look up in the sky and tell me what you see."

Dr. Watson looks up and says, "I see a new moon coming out from behind a small cloud. I see the stars that some say we will one day travel to. I see tentacles of darkness reaching out from beyond space and time to ensnare tomorrow's sun and plunge us all into an eternal void. What do you see Holmes?"

"Brownish powder burning on the lamp! Out the window, Watson, it's the Devil's Foot Root again!"


Who is buried in Sherlock Holmes's tomb?

Moriarty's corpse with a facial prosthesis -- didn't you see the start of "Empty Hearse?"


How many Scotland Yard detectives does it take to change a light bulb?

None, once Sherlock Holmes explains that it wasn't a burnt-out light bulb after all, but a light whose switch had been purposefully turned off!


Sherlock Holmes walks into a bar and orders a gin.

The bartender pours him a drink, Holmes downs it and orders another. The bartender refills his glass.

This repeats seventeen times until Sherlock Holmes has been served and drank seventeen straight servings of eighty proof gin.

"Bartender!" Sherlock Holmes protests. "I've had seventeen gins! Why am I not drunk?"

"Elementary, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," the bartender retorts. "You've been using a magnifying glass!"


Why did Sherlock Holmes cross the road?

Because it was January 4th, and Moriarty's path was taking him down that road.


How do you make a re-agent which is precipitated by haemogoblins?

Tell the retired haemodwarf and haemoelf agents that the haemogoblins were the ones who killed their parents.


Knock knock.

Who's there?

Mrs. Hudson.

Mrs. Hudson who?

You beast! I knocked you up, and you don't even remember my name!


Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Arthur Conan Doyle go skydiving.

Sherlock jumps first, his parachute fails to open, and he falls to his death.

Dr. Watson is beside himself with grief. Conan Doyle looks very guilty for a moment.

Sherlock Holmes comes out of the plane's cockpit.

"PSYCH!" yells Conan Doyle.


Dr. Watson stops by 221B Baker Street to visit Sherlock Holmes.

"Congratulate me!" Watson tells him. "I talked Mary into letting me buy that 85" LED HD television I had my eye on! It's beautiful!"

Sherlock Holmes was unimpressed.

"You forget, Watson," he replied with a wave of his fingers. "I have a V.R. wall."


Okay, that feels better. On with the blogging . . . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

One more mysterious disturbance in the Sherlockian force.

There's a new Sherlockian game that some of us are playing these days, as found in a tweet to me this evening, which began "Not sure what the new Sherlockian trauma is this week . . ."

Social media is a lovely communication device, and gives us much we might otherwise miss. It also has a habit of giving us thoughts without context, non sequiturs, and entire conversations we seem to have walked in right in the middle of. And, as happened this evening, one sometimes finds that there is a lot of strong backlash going on to some event one has no clue about. At which point one gets to play the new Sherlockian game I mentioned: "Find The Cause Of The Disturbance."

It's mystery-solving time!

Sometimes, it's enough to go, "Oh, it's that sort of thing. I know that one."

Some elder Sherlockian is has decided to puff up his gatekeeper pretense and make some pronouncement about the whole of the hobby -- that was my first inkling, seeing a mention of the ever-unpopular phrase "real fan" somewhere down my Twitter feed.

A little further along, I come upon some kudos aimed at the younger writers among us, which bolsters that case.

Ah, and then a report of "people saying scholarship in Sherlockiana is dying and the good ole days are done."

Yup, we've had those assholes as long as I've been in Sherlockiana, going on forty years now. Thanks to medical advances, they're actually living longer. The ones that don't seek out the good new stuff and then complain because nothing that comes walking in their door is as good as things once were. The ones that aren't currently, and probably never did, try to contribute to Sherlockian culture, outside of maybe collecting somebody else's writings (which has been a classic path for calling one's self an expert in the field without actually working in it). And the ones whose vim and vigor glands just can't produce the necessary juices for them to get as worked up for anything as they once did.

Those guys have been around forever. And with the internet, they're always finding new audiences to get a reaction out of.

Were Sherlockians always this emotional? Trust me on this, having been the target of a snail-mail flame war in the 1980s, I can safely say that yes, some of us always have been. We love our Sherlock Holmes, and that emotion can cause all sort of other emotions to spin out of it, as with any other love affair. Jealousy, anger, betrayal, rejection . . . oh the list goes on and on. And as with the normal arena of romance we have our (and most of them males at this point) elderly spinsters who might be a little bitter that they never quite got to be the belle of the ball.

I don't know if I'll ever know the full details of what raised a ruckus on the web this week or which one of our lovely jerks started this snowball rolling. I don't need to know. It's good to see the number of folks that come up against it and extol the better angels of Sherlockiana.

Sadly, I'm just another one of those cranky old bastards of Sherlockiana who tends to gripe about stuff . . . I just have a slightly different target. But I do love to see the positive energy of so many of the "kids" coming up. They always do my heart good, both in their attitudes and their incredible creative energies, serious research, and the new Golden Age they've brought us . . . 

. . . for those whose eyes are open enough to see it.

There is no mystery to that.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sherlock Holmes: Civil War? Go for it!

Well, after this spring's trend of superhero-versus-superhero movies, the latest with our big screen Sherlock, Robert Downey Jr., as one of the combatants, one can't help but imagine a third Sherlock Holmes feature film with Holmes, now done with Moriarty, battling it out with a rival detective.

But who? He's freakin' Sherlock Holmes! The original! The master! The legend beneath which all others are pale shadows. And he can't fight Watson, as Watson is his Bucky. (At least according to Fox Estacado's "Ask me about my ship" shirts parallelism, and if you can't go by t-shirts . . .) So if Sherlock Holmes 3 is going to follow current trends, and find Sherlock going against somebody who outshines Moriarty, well, there is just the one guy. You know who.


I'm sure out there in the million-monkeys world of pastiche, someone has hit on this plot before, but we haven't see a big-time, all-out, major-talent battle between the brothers Holmes. And that could be so very, very cool.

Mycroft is bigger than Moriarty. Moriarty was lord of the criminal world, the underworld, the organizing power behind all that had to hide in the shadows. Mycroft is all that hiding in plain sight. Moriarty might have been London and a bit more, but Mycroft was Britain herself.

It almost seems an unfair match-up. But consider:

Mycroft has all the visible resources, and the limited spy networks of the 1890s, most of whom were directed outward. Sherlock Holmes was a Predator, skilled in camouflage, maintaining hidden refuges, and more skilled at just about everything than Mycroft's minions. Which is where Mycroft's weakness lies, balancing things out: Mycroft Holmes had to work through fallible minions. As brilliant as the man was, perhaps moreso than Sherlock, his limited movement and the fact he had to relay orders across channels which took time and direction . . . well, little brother Sherlock could use those weaknesses to his advantage.

We know the Holmes brothers did not always see eye to eye on everything -- their choices of occupation scream that fact. Mycroft believed in the benefits of the government and its structures as the place he could best use his talents. Sherlock believed in independent action, outside of the official channels and its rules. Coming up with a scenario to pit them against each other in an all-out war of the Holmes's, perhaps not to the death, but to the incarceration, is not too hard to imagine.

Mycroft Holmes goes one step too far, untouchable by the law, in the pursuit of Britain's welfare. Sherlock commits an unforgivable treason in the cause of an innocent. There is so much kindling piled between these descendents of Vernet's sister that the flames which could erupt could be so very beautiful to see.

That would be a wonderful finale to Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes trilogy. Just as we glimpsed shadowed Moriarty in the first movie and Sherlock fought him in the second, we saw Mycroft in bright, naked daylight in the second movie and Sherlock could fight him in the third.

But Sherlock Holmes: Civil War is perhaps too American a title. So here's hoping for . . .

Sherlock Holmes: Fawkes You!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

On the fifth day of Reichenbach, my true love gave to me . . . .

At this late date, one might wonder what might drive a non-Elementary lover like myself to watch the latest season finale of a show I find so little value in.

I myself could not imagine such circumstances arriving. But upon finding myself residing for the evening in a room with someone who had watched well over three hours straight of the "Learning Channel" show Sister Wives, I was rather desperate to come up with an excuse -- any excuse, however flimsy -- to change the channel. Did not Jefferson Hope give his life to save us from such stuff? Did not Conan Doyle raise awareness of bigamy's pitfalls high enough? As a known fan of some stories that feature the name "Sherlock Holmes" -- a name used with one of Elementary's characters, the CBS show seemed a ready motive for grabbing the remote.

And what did I find there? (Spoilers, if you're in a situation to be spoiled.)

Apparently, Elementary was following actual continuity from its previous episode for the finale, instead of wandering off on its typical procedural attention deficit disorder. It had something to do with Jamie Moriarty's organization, taken over by a Professor Vikner after Moriarty went to jail.

"You bested the head of this organization once before," Mr. Elementary's father, Morland Holmes, told him tonight in a moment of encouragement. I don't think Morland had read the Elementary wiki,  which tells it more like this:

"When she (Jamie Moriarty/Irene Adler) discovered that Sherlock (Mr. Elementary) was not a real threat to her other operations, she staged Irene's death . . . and resumed her business as Moriarty. Jamie was unaware of Sherlock's subsequent descent into drug addiction, and showed genuine regret when she found out about it."

It was actually Joan that eventually got the better of Jamie Moriarty, I seem to recall. But I may be wrong, having not dedicated much brain-space to retaining that bit of trivia. And Swiss waterfalls were not in the show's budget, nor a trip to Bart's, so Jamie survived to go to prison.

Tonight we learned that Morland Holmes was being considered as Moriarty's replacement when she went to prison . . . because criminal empires always recruit from the outside to fill management spots, I'm sure . . . and was Professor Vikner's arch nemesis, hence the attempt on Morland's life some time ago that Mr Elementary was getting around to thinking about solving.

Mr. Elementary doesn't seem to think his father is capable of being a criminal mastermind, even though he seems to act like he is quite a bit of the time.

At some point, I started wondering if Jamie Moriarty would send Mr. Elementary and Joan another letter from prison, as she has in the past. It's a little ironic that Jamie is mainly missing because her more popular show over on HBO is on the same night as Elementary now, and all of America awaits her getting her dragons on.

But no Jamie letter was forthcoming. Instead, Professor Vikner was murdered by someone who thought Morland would be better at running the Moriarty organization, and Morland agreed to take the job to protect Mr. Elementary and Joan from its evil ways.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Instead of bringing down the criminal empire, Mr. Elementary just let his dad take it over and keep it away from New York. Not sure why, as even Jamie Moriarty didn't think Mr. Elementary was a threat to the organization earlier.

And then, blah, blah, blah, anyone he ever loves will be in danger, so here, Joan, have a safe house that looks like a penthouse apartment, but, no, why would anyone want a penthouse apartment, blah, blah, end of season, blah.

The one detail that is slightly intriguing about this rather dull mess was that Mr. Elementary's father basically had Jamie Moriarty's baby daddy murdered. Happy Mother's Day, Jamie. If you ever get your dragons together, you might want to send one Morland's way. It will make as much sense as anything else in this LOVELY SHOW CHERISHED BY MILLIONS OF VIEWERS.

Elementary, giving hope to young men everywhere that a Natalie Dormer lookalike may come sleep with them until she figures out they aren't a threat to her criminal organization.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Who are the true addicts here?

There's an interesting headline that's been buzzing about my Google new feed all week: "Would Sherlock Holmes be a coke addict today? It's an interesting question."

That question, of course, is predicated upon the notion that Sherlock Holmes was a cocaine addict in Victorian times, which I have never been fully convinced of. Cocaine is referred to six times in sixty stories and never in a way that seems to impair Holmes's career or steer his choices. Morphine and other opiates, which the Irish Times article mentioned about focuses on, get referenced, but referenced as something Watson worries about Holmes going to more than actually evidenced in the cases.

The question raised, though . . . "Would Sherlock Holmes be a coke addict today?" . . . is actually quite interesting. Cocaine addiction is quite a different thing now -- crack cocaine is highly addictive, but its users don't tend to go on to successful careers in anything once that habit starts, and Sherlock Holmes was so laser-focused on his profession that it's hard to see him even experimenting down that road. Elementary, and some lesser-known adaptations, gave him a heroin addiction, as it's a well known and easy to reference addiction, but as mentioned earlier, opiates like heroin weren't really Holmes's thing in Victorian times where they were widely available, so they definitely wouldn't have been his thing now.

BBC Sherlock's new construct -- that their Sherlock takes an entire list of drugs to attempt to reach certain mental states -- seems as fantastical as Dr. Who's Tardis time machine, and just as the Victorian fantasy it was used to excuse, could definitely be seen as an over-reach on that show's part. Drugs have forever been a crutch for Sherlockian writers to bring in when coming up with a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes proves to hard, and there's where we probably see the true addiction.

It's not Sherlock Holmes who went back to the cocaine too much in the sixty stories that contain everything we shall ever truly know about the man. It's the writers that came after him. Like Mycroft, like Moriarty, and like Irene Adler, cocaine addiction is a habit that pastiche-creators lean on to stimulate their tales, much like stand-up comics who depend upon profanity to get laughs their cleverness is not great enough to evoke.

There are stories to be told about all those topics, yes. Mycroft, Moriarty, Irene, and cocaine are all tid-bits from Holmes's career we're curious about, but none of them were the focus of that career. And, lord, have we seen more shoddy writing around those topics than any other part of Holmes's life. They are indulgences that distract far too easily.

And best used in moderation, lest one develop a destructive habit that one's own Watson will start to complain about.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May the fourth be Reichenbach.

Cinco de Mayo is tomorrow, and you know what that means!

Well, most Americans don't, other that "eat Mexican food and call your happy hour beer 'cerveza.'" But to Sherlockians, it means Reichenbach Day is here -- May 4, the day in 1891 when Sherlock Holmes defeated Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. We may not get May 5th, but we sure have May 4th. All ours. A Sherlockian's day, if ever there was one.

Except . . . a certain other fandom took over our day of celebration, starting back in 1979, when some joker decided to quip "May the Fourth be with you."

Yep, Star Wars Day.

Not "Reichenbach Day," not "Holmes Victory Day," not even "Moriarty Memorial Day."

Star Wars Day.

But Sherlock was here first, right? And you know what that means: We can look for parallels and claim that Star Wars got them from Sherlock Holmes, because he came first.

So, May 4th, Reichenbach Day, the day when Sherlock Holmes was thought to have fallen to his death. And who else did we, for one moment, think was falling to his death?

Luke Skywalker, climax of The Empire Strikes Back. Darth Vader, obviously symbolizing Conan Doyle, reveals "I'm your father." Luke, in a reverse play on Conan Doyle's making his creation fall to his death, denies his own creator and lets himself fall. Sure, Darth Conan could have used the Force to stop him, but noooo. Sherlock Skywalker has to go so Darth Conan can go back to his conquest of the universe/historical fiction.

The theme of the Reichenbach death-fall continues in the next Star Wars movie, The Return of the Jedi. (Hmm, who else had a title like that? The Return of Sherlock Holmes about eighty years before?)  This time Darth Conan makes sure Emperor Moriarty takes the long fall and Sherlock Skywalker survives, because, plainly, the first Star Wars trilogy was a massive secret symbolic tribute to Sherlock Holmes's victory at Reichenbach Falls. A tribute only exposed due to fan insistence that May the 4th, our Reichenbach Day, be called "Star Wars Day."

It works better as "Significant Deadly Fall That Kills Baddies And Not Good Guys, Though We Might Have Thought The Good Guys Were Dead Day," if you really want to be inclusive to all fandoms. Throw in a few other fandoms with that plot device maybe, if there are any.

But that's just if we Sherlockians want to be nice about it.

May the fourth be Reichenbach Day, after all.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Next on Sherlock, nuclear winter.

It's January 2017, and the bomb has just gone off.

The big one, the one that changes civilization as we know it.

Sure, there were those who said it was coming, said the world was in for heartbreak and tragedy, said the past would come back to make everyone pay . . . but no one listened. The audio in the mind palace had been turned down while the fanfic channel was playing . . . .

Yes, I'm talking about Sherlockiana here, not the real nukes. All the  talk of gloom and doom about Watson being a happily-married hetero-normative male in the next season of BBC Sherlock just got me to thinking . . . it could always be worse.

It could always be worse.

Because everyone is assuming that the baby appearing in setlock photos belongs to John and Mary.

Sure, her pregnancy happened last season. But "tragedy and the past returning," right?

Suppose, just suppose, that the  tragedy part happened with Mary's pregnancy. More than a few Johnlock shippers have guilty hopes in that direction, I'm sure. So if that happens . . . whose baby is in those setlock pics?

Remember a time, aways back when, when Sherlock Holmes travelled to a distant land to save a certain lady in the nick of time? It was a standalone moment, one we never saw the lead-up to nor the after-party for. But there it was . . . and maybe there was an after-party.

And the results of that after-party got dropped on Sherlock Holmes's doorstep, where John Watson would, of course, wind up being the one to carry that result around in a baby-carrying harness.

And suddenly the scorecard seems to read:
Sherlock -- straight
John -- straight
Mary -- straight
Irene -- bi

KA-BOOOOOM! There goes the nuke.

Johnlockers, of course, would quickly start building fanfic bunkers. A few would not survive, yes, but Sherlockians are tougher than that. Sherlock having a hetero moment and producing a baby is just one more trial, as any epic romance must have, right?

Worst case scenarios help us mentally prepare for what's to come, so when whatever does happen happens, we can go, "Oh, that's not so bad!" And reading a lot of Tumblr commentary these days, it seems like the classic Sherlock/Irene Montenegro hiatus romance could be the worst case scenario for a lot of folks. (And make Nero Wolfe the baby who fiddled while Johnlock burned.) What was once a commonplace thought now becomes the unthinkable. Or not.

I'm really enjoying the brain-play going on in Sherlockiana these days. I just hope we all survive it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Letting fictional Doyle wander unattended.

After the whole CBS Elementary thing, I've pretty much decided that giving an honest reaction to Fox's Houdini and Doyle in these pages isn't worth the keystrokes. The show also suffers from that America-lag issue that BBC's Sherlock had so very badly at the start: Other parts of the English-speaking world have seen it long before us, and reviews aplenty already exist.

And must we all give our opinion on everything these days?

Well, yes, but it's also good to pretend to show restraint now and then.

Which brings me back to Houdini and Doyle. I don't have to use any restraint not to review that show, nor even not to watch it. Fictional Conan Doyle has just never had an attraction.

The real Arthur Conan Doyle was interesting enough. He led the sort of life one rarely sees in a modern man: from whaling ships to ghosts, with an incredible list of varied experiences in between. No fictional version of Doyle could ever hold all the life that the real Doyle did, because stories just aren't big enough.

The only time fictional Conan Doyle ever served any sort of purpose was when Sherlock Holmes himself was on copyright lockdown and a writer wanted to tell a Sherlock-Holmes-ish with a stand-in for Sherlock. It was a misuse of Doyle, sure, but at least one could see the reason behind it.

At this point, the one author I might give a shot at reading a fictional Doyle would be Seth Grahame-Smith, whose Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter show the sort of care and attention to detail that the best Sherlockians in our past used in playing the Grand Great Game (whatever we're calling that thing now that the horse is out of the barn). Grahame-Smith knows how to have some fun with the past and can weave the most outlandish premise together with existing facts or story, so the resulting written work would surely rise above schlock, even if its movie adaptation didn't.

Houdini and Doyle will be taking the spot of Lucifer on Fox, right after the season-closing episodes of Gotham. Fox's view of the fictionalized magician and mystery author as fitting right in with the devil and the Batman, entertainment-wise, but those other two properties were based on comic book stories. This show is "inspired by," as the popular tag goes, history. Which means it will have less to do with its originals than either of the comic book shows. The fact that we're more faithful to comic books than history these days is a little sad when you think about it.

And if I was going to subject myself to any tortures for blogging's sake, I'd still be watching that accursed CBS monstrosity. (Shakes fist at sky for its very existence.)

So let me know how Houdini and Doyle goes. Or better yet, enjoy life.