Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The line we all know is there.

There was a time in Sherlockiana when "playing the Game" was the thing to do. "The Game," in that context, was a fun little pretense that we are actually living in the same world in which Sherlock Holmes did in those sixty classic tales, that John H. Watson did indeed actually write the tales, as his narration portrays, and that Arthur Conan Doyle was his literary agent.

And occasionally, in playing that Game, one would run into someone, even within our happy little fandom itself, who feared such a practice would lead to actual human beings who believed that Watson was a living author and that Doyle was merely an agent getting a percentage off the good doctor's works. I was never sure a.) If they really believed the majority of humanity was that brainless and Sherlockians that influential, or b.) what exactly the harmful effect on humanity would be if we were to wander down said path. A disrespect of the honored dead seemed, to me, to be the main pitfall, and while a shame, not exactly an extinction level event.

The thing, however, that I always found true among my fellow fans of all things fictional, is that unlike whatever sheeple that person who objected to the Game was referring to, we tended to know where the line between our fantasy life and our real life lay. No doubt about that in the slightest. We could write about Sherlock Holmes's connections to actual history all day long, but in the end was any of us ever expecting to discover that ancient fellow or his tomb? Not at all.

The real world was the real world, and that place where Holmes and Watson "dwell together still," as the Starrett poem reads, is something else entirely. Actual real-world fans tend to understand that. Mythical TV sitcom versions of fans, or stereotypes conjured for the sake of argument, do not . . . but, hey, they're mythical.

What we're becoming more and more aware of lately, however, contingents that is a lot like a fandom, but actually has a hard time distinguishing between the fantasy they wish were true and a very real world that is incapable of supplying their fantasy realm. When someone wants dragons flying in the sky, it's pretty obvious that isn't going to happen. Dragons don't exist. When someone wants a magical wall separating two parts of a continent, however . . . well, walls exist. Why not a magical cross-continent one?

It's fun to be a kid long into your adult years, playing with imaginary friends in the back seat of the car, but every now and then, you start to wonder, "Who's driving the car now? Wait . . . not the guy who has imaginary roads!"

Certain mindsets are great for recreation. Taking some time off from our real jobs and real work to indulge in a little play and relax. There's a line there that an experienced player knows, because he or she knows they're playing. But when that same sort of mindset starts creeping into practical matters . . . .

Things start to get interesting. And not the good kind of interesting.

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