Sunday, October 30, 2016

Surveying the future.

New ground seems to be broken daily in Sherlockiana of late. And every time a phrase like "of late," "these days," or "modern" slips into my blogging, I sigh and feel the years. Because I know that anyone who is truly in the Sherlockian world of the moment doesn't use those lines -- to them, this Sherlockiana of the here and now is Sherlockiana. My use of those qualifying phrases place me as a Sherlockian who still has one foot in a world gone by . . . and not 1895 . . . 1985.

So I enjoy the occasional splash of water that wakes me again just as my head nods into a nap of nostalgia. And I got a good splash today . . . it's one thing to know the ocean is there, but another when the wave washes over you. That splash?

The survey results from the Three Patch Podcast's Fandom and Sexuality Survey are in, and even from a quick overview, one can see we're talking about a Sherlockian world of 2016 that is nowhere near that of 1985. While survey respondents were self-selected and were most often reached through fannish channels quite unlike those of the old-fashioned telephone pollsters, their response numbers were definitely high enough to be worth consideration.

Right off the top, the 3.8% of survey respondents who claim to be male-identifying out of 2195 participants should tell you something. That's a little over eighty members of the gender identity that completely ruled America's main Sherlock Holmes fan club thirty years ago . . . 80 out of 2195. Many a male looking at those results is apt to exclaim, "That doesn't represent me!" and the appropriate answer to that is, most certainly, "No, it doesn't." But it represents well over two thousand fans. And that's a number with some weight in fan world -- in 1985, the total number of copies of a single issue of The Baker Street Journal published was 2155, and that was probably the biggest thing in our fandom at that time.

The survey also shows a rise in the acceptance of the "multi-fan." Local Sherlock Holmes society meetings have long had conversations that wandered off on to Star Trek, Dr. Who, or some other fandom, but as Sherlock was the elder, more respected fandom, the polite Sherlock-focussed article about Gandalf or Batman was about as far out of the closet as a Lord of the Rings or comic book fan who was also a Sherlockian was going to come. A crossover fanzine like Holmesian Federation existed more in Trek's fandom that Sherlock's. Perhaps it has to do with Trek being a more dominant fandom in those days, but Three Patch's own "Potterlocktober" episode seems to demonstrate that things are a little different now.

The main thrust of the survey (pun intended) that will certainly give rise to an "us and them" feeling in a old school Sherlockian is its focus on sexuality. "What does sex have to do with Sherlock Holmes?" one might cry . . . if one hasn't been paying attention to the Sherlockian world of 2016.

Sherlockians have always had a game to play, to focus their fan-love when reading the sixty stories were done. The first game of any fandom is creating copies, fan fiction if you will, and Sherlock fans were there right off the bat. (Published writers are, of course, the only ones whose work survived.) The second game was operating on the premise that Watson wrote history and researching story details from there. As distance made Conan Doyle more of a historical figure than a current celebrity, Doylean scholarship became a game Holmes fans played as well. Now, the wheel has turned, we're back to fan fiction, and more sexually-charged, relational fan fiction is the newest game that Sherlock Holmes fans are openly playing. (I say "openly," because yes, yes, a handful were doing it back in the day, but nowhere close to as prominently as now.)

The Sherlockians of 2016 aren't the Sherlockians of 1985, and when someone tries to differentiate between "Sherlockian" and "Sherlock fan," it often feels like they really mean "1985" versus "2016." It's a little like saying millennials aren't true people because they don't act like baby boomers. Things were always better in the good old days, but every era is someone's future "good old days."

Nothing delights me more than thinking of 221B Con 2056 and the older fans there bitching about "these kids today" not doing things properly 2016 . . . trust me, that day's going to come. The best we can all do is just keep fighting to keep an open mind, no matter our age, and see if we can enjoy the world as it is and not how it was. So I'm very glad for Three Patch's survey and all of the interesting points it makes just by existing.

On Sherlockiana goes . . . in whatever direction it heads next.

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