Sunday, January 29, 2017

Panel punditry panic!

The deadline for applying to be on a panel at 221B Con 2017 is fast approaching, and with just a couple of days left, choices need to be made.

Well, that is, if one would like to sit on a panel.

Therein lies the source of my perturbation.

Life in the old world of Sherlockian doings gave one plenty of room to get comfortable with public speaking. Stand at a podium, give a talk on a subject with prepared remarks, reading from an essay you'd already written in the early days or speaking a little more freely from an outline as one got better at it. Public speaking, not a problem. You knew where it was going to go.

The panel discussion, however?

Well, it's a completely different animal. You get to join a few people in giving your considered opinions on a topic in an unstructured format. Interaction, the balanced mix of personality, with . . . hopefully . . . some give and take, can make for a delightfully unpredictable wellspring of info and ideas.

The nature of the panel feels like it calls for experts on a topic, or at least colorful personalities familiar with same, and while I can ramble all day at a keyboard, my default setting for being at a table full of new faces is to sit back and see what they have to say before jumping in with my own bits . . . a defense mechanism built from a lifetime of not knowing what is liable to offend a given person when the roulette wheel of thought starts spinning.

The other thing about looking at 221B Con panels, and this is what I love most about them, is that so much of it is not the traditional Sherlockian world I spent previous decades in . . . Sherlock-oriented panels. The number of subjects one knows nothing about interspersed through a list of panels one might know a thing or two about makes the entire list a very daunting thing. Just looking at it makes me feel like a total noob in a hobby I've been in all of my adult life.

And so, determined to be a little more participatory at this year's con, the first step seemed to be copying the whole list of panels and make a first pass, eliminating every panel where the most I could contribute would be dressing up like the Queen and doing that little queen-wave at the audience.

That left . . . amazingly . . . sixteen whole panels that I could be somewhat knowledgeable on.

Now . . . panels where I might possess more savvy than the average Sherlockian. That cut the list down by half, to eight.

One of those bores me entirely . . . so seven.

Seven panels where I think I could make a decent contribution, and with only a list of those seven to look at, my panel punditry panic has subsided completely. From here I can build my case as a panelist for each of those seven and let the good folks at 221B Con decide where I might be of use. That case-building might result in another disqualification or two, so let's see . . . .

Well, I might or might not have taken one of those off my final list, but basically I tossed them at the runners of 221B Con and let them sort it out. If they put me on zero panels, I'm fine with that . . . no matter what panel you sit on, you get to miss some other panel you wanted to see. And these days, with so many bright, young minds full of energy and enthusiasm (Last year a panel on Sebastian Moran by a couple of very young ladies still remains a vivid memory of how great these new fans can be.) . . . this aging male Sherlockian doesn't really think he needs to be talking quite so much, and listening more.

Looking forward to doing a lot of listening at 221B Con this year, as ever.


  1. Took a look at that panel list... my suggestion- stay away from the ELEMENTARY one, go for the Arthur Continuity Doyle... could be others- read about a third of the list before letting my mind wander off.

    1. Trust me, despite the devilish suggestions of my friend Howard, I have stayed out of the Elementary panels after the first con. (At which, I sat quietly and absorbed the very interesting views of the fans of that show.) And I did have Arthur Continuity Doyle on my list!

  2. I truly believe you and I belong on the 'Elementary' panel, and as Mr. T might say, "I'd pity that fool who got stuck between us'. Then again, I'm getting too old to be ducking rotten tomatoes, so staying away as James suggests is probably the best option.

    1. Well, maybe we can hold our own ultra-small, unofficial Elementary panel in the bar . . .