Sunday, April 30, 2017

The uninhabitable room.

Okay, prepare yourselves for somebody whining about how tough it is to live with a luxury . . . .

As I type this, I'm sitting at my basement desk, bare feet on a concrete floor, surrounded by a banker's boxes, a shop vac, little figures of Gaiman's Endless, a lantern in case the power goes out, an old Weight Watchers case, and a thousand other random items that basically make it look like a junk shop or crazy old coot's storeroom, which it has kind of become.

Two floors above me is one of those things every Sherlockian wants to eventually have at least one of: the Sherlock Room. A library that's totally devoted to Sherlock Holmes (well, at least 80%, in this case.) Once one settles into their own place, doesn't have to deal with the raising of children, and values Sherlock over overnight guests, it's not that hard to put together. And put together. And put together. It can evolve over years or decades.

One envisions creating such a room, then lounging in its comforts, soaking in all the Sherlockian essence that now surrounds you. What happened in my case?

A room I walk into, grab the book I want, and walk out of again.

If somebody's coming to visit, I'll clean it up enough to let them take a tour without stepping on anything, but in day-to-day life? I'm down here in the basement listening to the dehumidifier run while I blog about the guy I devoted that whole room to, two floors up.

What's wrong with this picture?

I've planned campaigns to retake the room, to clear its wild literary overgrowth, and settle in there once and for all. Oh, yes. But the room gathers up its overwhelming contents of nostalgia and sideroad Sherlocking routes and steals my gathered force like a field of poppies on the way into the Emerald City. And eventually I retreat to my basement stronghold, to work on something that's a little more accomplishable . . . like a blog post.

I could claim I'm not lazy in avoiding that larger chore, but that would be a bit like being an invitation-only group that claims it has no elitism . . . the tinge of what I'd be denying is hard to shake.

My Sherlock room has, ironically, become like 221B Baker Street even though it's not an attempt to replicate that famous address. It is a place I imagine that I'd love to spend time in, yet I just can't seem to. Or maybe it's my Afghanistan, which I inevitably leave, a bit wounded and looking for company whenever I attempt to retake it. If it seems like I'm just rolling through metaphors like mad, it's probably because I'm searching for the one that inspires me to go up, face the room and do what needs to be done.

And having made that statement . . . off I go. . . .

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lestrade in Boscombe Valley.

Tonight was Sherlock Holmes Story Society Night here in Peoria, and our discussions took us all over "The Boscombe Valley Mystery." As Holmes's cases go, it's a pretty humdrum little murder piece, practically a CBS procedural in it's way (How many other Holmes tales feature the coroner's report?), but the relationships portrayed are fascinating when one digs in.

The thing that really caught my attention tonight with the clever insights of my fellow attendees, was Inspector G. Lestrade's mindset running through the course of this mystery.

Lestrade is far, far away from Scotland Yard on this one having been "retained" by Alice Turner to discover the true murderer and prove her childhood friend innocent.

The first interesting Lestrade fact involves Watson, as Holmes tells his friend, ". . . Lestrade, whom you may recollect in connection with the Study in Scarlet . . ."  Now, Watson is married at this time, so the statement might make one wonder how Watson went all the way from A Study in Scarlet to well after his marriage before seeing Lestrade again. Tales like "Noble Bachelor" and "Cardboard Box," in which Lestrade appears before Watson's wedding seem suspect, and the multiple Watson wives theory is immediately back on the table. Unless . . . .

Roll Holmes's words around in your head, "Lestrade, whom you may recollect in connection with the Study in Scarlet." Sherlock Holmes is using the actual title of the novel. Like he's not only needling Watson about his work, but smirking at Lestrade's role in it. Almost like Lestrade has been bragging around town about being written up in a novel.

And when he's retained by the daughter of a wealthy rural land-owner for what he seems to think is an open-and-shut case,  Lestrade calls up Sherlock Holmes . . . also in said novel . . . seemingly just so Holmes could confirm that James McCarthy was the killer and that there was no more investigating to be done. (Unless Alice Turner was shy about calling in Holmes directly and went through Lestrade, whose connection was celebrated in the aforementioned A Study in Scarlet.)

Holmes is uncharacteristically taking his time in this case, talking about the barometer a lot, like he's just messing with Lestrade . . . and really, he is. There never seems to be too much doubt in Holmes's solving of the case, just some time to gather evidence. And when Holmes doesn't follow the path Lestrade intended for him, we get one of the best Lestradian attempts at cover:

"I am afraid that my colleague has been a little quick in forming his conclusions."

Good old Lestrade! Is he actually doubting Holmes here? Oh, yes, he is. Lestrade is very full of himself in this case.

"I find it hard enough to tackle facts, Holmes, without flying away after theories and fancies. . . . McCarthy, senior, met his death from McCarthy, junior, and all theories to the contrary are the merest moonshine."

When Holmes describes the killer, according to his evidence, Lestrade even refuses to consider looking for the man. And Holmes then actually calls the inspector an imbecile (but not to his face), and the Scotland Yard inspector is never heard from again in this account.

Holmes and Watson had a room already rented for them at the Hereford Arms, while Lestrade is "staying in lodgings in the town." Why no hotel for Lestrade? Was he staying with a "friend?" Did he have family in Hereford? Even roots in Hereford?

Was Lestrade a local hero having recently attained a bit of fame in the novel A Study in Scarlet?  (Possibly from carrying a copy of Beeton's Christmas Annual around with him just to make sure people saw it and his name in print? They didn't have to read the whole thing.)

Lestrade calling Sherlock Holmes in on a case he thinks has already been solved is a curious point on the years the two men worked together. For someone who likes to ponder on Sherlock, John, and Greg/George/Geoffrey/Gilgamesh/etc for a while, "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" actually offers up more mysteries than just a murder . . . and I'm stopping at Lestrade for this evening.

It makes the case surprisingly worth a repeat visit.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sherlockian generosity.

There are Sherlockian traditions, and then there are Sherlockian spirits. The former are easily documentable, repeatable, and most often, expected. The latter, while often behind the former, pop can pop up so randomly that one can get a surprise smile in the middle of an otherwise unexceptional day.

Seeing a Sherlockian desiring of a particular item on the interwebs today, I offered one up gratis and was not at all surprised to find that a fellow Sherlock Holmes buff had beat me to it. Not at all surprised. Because that is who, with certain rare exceptions, I've always known this fandom to be.

But the range these days is so far-reaching, when one considers the current state of Sherlockian generosity.

From individual books handed from one friend to another, to large endowments given to keep university collections curated and growing. From the legion who write and publish to the web for the entertainment of friends they haven't met yet to those groups who organize events that give to charities both inside and outside our hobby. (And those which hit both -- the Beacon Society may have Holmes as a context to give financial aid to teachers, but any funds that help teachers serve purposes much greater than Sherlock Holmes.)

In considering generosity, I've heard it said there are those who give time and those who give treasure. Those who set up weekends to remember like the Scintillation of Scions, the SH/ACD Symposium in Dayton, 221B Con, or that big January weekend all donate massive amounts of time to give a few concentrated days of magic to many a Sherlockian they don't even know. I've known Sherlockians who'll work for weeks or months on a gift for a single Sherlockian, which is time actually creating treasure.

From buying someone a drink to picking up a dinner tab to paying a hotel bill . . . in my time as a Sherlockian, I've seen Sherlockians kind and generous even when they really shouldn't have. Not everyone I'm talking about was wealthy or even possessed of that much disposable income. But their Sherlockian spirit held a love of others in this community that let them rise to the occasion.

Sherlockian spirits are fine things to behold, and no one should ever call an exorcist to remove when a serious possession by one is encountered. In fact, it's the thing one might even find Sherlockians to be most generous with.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sherlockian walls.

A long time ago, in a city far, far away (from here), a fellow named Christopher Morley received a letter from a fellow named Edgar Smith that asked, "Starrett also told me something of the Baker Street Irregulars. Is this band still operating, and is membership in it beyond the realm of my aspirations?"

That was 1938, before the sin of suggesting one's self for membership in the Baker Street Irregulars of New York was invented, along with many another hoop to jump. It was a simpler time, of course, a time when even a vice president of General Motors did not feel so privileged that he wouldn't ask a New York writer such a simple question without some decorum in a private letter.

Smith had heard about the club via actual word of mouth . . . a transmittal method where "viral" was not something that happened overnight. And Morley, at that time, was probably still happy at the mention of one of his little clubs. It's a little hard to imagine their perspectives at this late date, but one can see a bit of it in the distance with a mental squint.

But one has to wonder, upon thinking such thoughts, "When did the walls go up?"

When did Sherlock Holmes's followers become such a demanding legion that an annual dinner in New York City needed barriers to hold back the tide? Was it the 1960s, when William S. Baring-Gould's The Annotated Sherlock Holmes put a chapter on the group in the hands of baby-boomers and their patents nation-wide? Was it in the 1970s, when Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution made Holmes trendy enough that a non-Sherlockian might ask a pal to bring him along to the feast? Jeremy Brett and a television Holmes that non-readers could get worked up about in the 1980s?

The walls didn't happen overnight. Phrases like "private club" and "literary society" weren't used to defend those walls beginning in the 1940s. All of what we see today evolved over time to protect what someone along the way saw as an institution in danger of invasion, a culture under threat by immigrants who might cause change. You know, those "faddy" people.

Those darn Basil Rathbone fans. The people that just got excited by Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. The Russellites. The Jeremy Brett stage-door Joanies. All of those people, who got all worked up about Sherlock Holmes for a time and were never heard from again.

Oh, wait . . . .

Sherlockian immigrant cultures are a lot like other American immigrant cultures. There are worries of their invasiveness at first, then eventually they add their strengths to our own and we go, "Hey, these guys are all right!" And as for "faddy" folk who come in with guns blazing and are never heard from again in five years, we get those from original Canon pedigrees just as much as from the other sources. Some of us just have shorter Sherlockian life spans than others.

Walls go up when we're feeling weak and afraid of something on the other side of that wall. The strong and confident don't put up walls or set themselves up as gatekeepers. Those things only come when you feel like you've got something to lose or something that can be taken away. They're not about moving forward into the future and opening up to possibilities, but settling into one spot.

As Sherlockians, and as human beings, we have to think hard when we start to put up walls. Are we keeping just one thing out or many? Are we protecting ourselves or boxing ourselves in? Are free-range Sherlockians healthier than carefully fed Sherlockians?

The world is big enough for us to see all sorts of Sherlockian growth taking place these days. There was recent news of a Sherlock Holmes convention attempting to organize in Minneapolis, a city that has been home to some really wonderful symposiums every few years. The idea that both kinds of Sherlock events could be happening in a town with such a long and storied history of Sherlockians is a wonderful one, as the two approaches could feed each other like a dream wrestling tag team. (Horrible mixed metaphor, I know.)

But as we've seen with the BSI and ASH in New York City, where one group arose because the other blockaded their kind of Sherlockian, walls will never stop Sherlockian expansion completely. Development will still happen around the outside of those walls, tunnels will be dug, neighboring towers will rise up, and the newcomers will have their own parties. (The "Daintiest Thing Under A Bonnet" Charity Ball, for one good example.) That growth isn't validation of the walls, it's just Sherlockian society dealing with an obstacle in the best way it can.

The Jurassic Park movies like a quote that goes "Nature finds a way," when talking about the fences in their dinosaur zoo that never work. In our own Canon, we have a similar quote from Sherlock Holmes that goes "When one tries to rise above Nature, one is liable to fall below it."

Walls are always an attempt to control nature, whether it's Mother Nature, human nature, or even Sherlockian nature. We have to be very careful where we put them up. Because even though that line from "The Creeping Man" was about a somewhat outrageous monkey-professor, there are much more mainstream ways to "fall below" nature with our walls.

Because it can easily quite being about Sherlock Holmes and start being all about those walls.

(As in, someone feeling the need to write a blog post about them!)

Monday, April 24, 2017

That New York question.

It's not even May, and I've already had the question a few times already:

"Will you be in New York next year?"

The question doesn't need any more detail to anyone familiar with more traditional Sherlockian venues. It's practically a traditional Sherlockian farewell -- yes, we're parting, but there's always that great big gathering in New York that happens about the time of Sherlock Holmes's birthday every year. It's a simple, happy tradition, a universal statement of Sherlockian friendship and happy hopes for the future, right?

Except, maybe not so universal and maybe even . . . troubling?

No, don't be silly! It's all good! Sherlockians are the best people, and any chance to be in that grand company is mandatory fun!

Yes . . . of course . . . except . . . .

So many great Sherlockians to see! New York City itself! The annual BSI dinner! Cocktail parties! That special speaker thing! Book shopping!

Well . . . I . . .

The whole family will be there! Auntie Violet will want to see you! It may be her last Christmas, you know!

Hey, wait . . . when did this . . .

And you don't want to make Uncle Mike sore. You heard what he did to cousin Jon!

I'm not . . .

There are people making it all the way from France! Japan! Australia! You don't have to go nearly that far!

But I don't live that . . .

You went to 221B Con!

Yes, it's more cost-effec . . .

Sorry, got to go! Will you be in New York next year?


Thursday, April 20, 2017

When Sebastian Moran was born, American-style.

When if comes to the doings of Sherlock Holmes and his folk, we like to focus on London, that great city with such a rich history. In 1840, for example, Professor Moriarty's lieutenant Sebastian Moran was born there, London was the largest city in the world then, having not-all-that-recently taken the title away from Beijing, which held it for about a century after taking it away from Istanbul. Moran was born a big city boy.

This evening, however, for completely non-Sherlockian reasons, I was exploring a less urbanized area of the world and what things were like there about the time Sebastian Moran was getting slapped on the bottom for the first time. (Of course, Watson left out the part of "The Adventure of the Empty House" when Holmes slapped Moran on the butt as Lestrade and company dragged him off to jail. How do I know this? Well, you have your tin dispatch box, and I have mine . . .)

So while the son of Sir Augustus Moran was being welcomed into the world, here's what was going on over here in Peoria-land. Peoria was here, with just under 1500 people, about a third the size of Chicago, which was only number 92 in America's largest cities. (New York City, first. Baltimore, second. New Orleans, third.) And why not? The Mississipi river above St. Louis marked the edge of the frontier. Only ten years before, Black Hawk and his Sauk warriors were trying to reclaim parts of Northern Illinois, coming back from the Iowa Territory.

With twenty-six states in the U.S., Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana were are far as U.S. civilization went. The American map on Sebastian Moran's date of birth is something to see.

Joseph Smith was still alive and in Nauvoo, Illinois when Moran was born (though they only named it "Nauvoo" in April of that year, having just bought the town the year before when it was still "Commerce, Illinois," and the Jefferson Hopes of St. Louis were all still in St. Louis, probably still gabbing about the Missouri Mormon War not long before, and Joseph Smith going to talk to U.S. President Martin Van Buren after getting kicked out of Missouri, in hopes the president would intercede and force Missouri to take Smith's 20,00 settlers back.

Pa Doran, father to Hatty Doran, was surely a child somewhere east of the Mississippi River, but where or how old, it's hard to say. Doran families were scattered all over the U.S. in 1840, with plenty even in Indiana, where the Clients were not nearly as Illustrious in those days.

It's hard to say, too, whether or not Elias Openshaw had come to the Florida Territory to seek his fortunes by 1840. The guerilla war that the Seminoles had undertaken against settlers was pretty well over by then, so if Openshaw hadn't arrived, he had probably heard that the territory was a little less dangerous. (Which is truly ironic, given how later dangers of the area would follow him back to England.)

For all the fancy credits on Colonel Sebastian Moran's resume, it should surprise no one that a man born in 1840 still had so much of a wilderness hunter in him. There were still frontiers to be explored, especially for those born in the big city of London.

And to a modern American, some of those were right in our own backyard.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A visit from one of that wandering Sherlockian tribe.

I was reminded today of what Sherlockian life was like when I got out a little more, when travel was a bit more easily done, and work responsibilities didn't get quite in the way as much. Monica Schmidt and her husband Bill stopped by a local pub on their way to the city where I first found other Sherlockians and we had a nice leisurely lunch that could have well gone on to Morley's "Three Hours For Lunch Club" length with just a little more disrespect for the workday and places to be.

One of the multitude of Sherlockian topics that came up was a great Sherlockian named Joe Moran and how one tended to see him at so many events . . . a true Baker Street Irregular by Sherlock Holmes's own definition that "They can go everywhere . . ."  There have always been certain Sherlockians that you tended to see at all sorts of events, in all sorts of places. They were like an unofficial club all their own, a sort of gypsy Sherlockian society that could never be delimited or defined lest it loose its special magic.

I'm sure that nameless society wanders from Sherlockian gathering to Sherlockian gathering still, and Monica is surely becoming a part of it. I mean, I saw her in Atlanta just a week and a half ago, and she showed up in Peoria today . . . and we average about one out-of-town Sherlockian a year of late, so it's a rare imaginary stamp to have on your virtual passport. But things are looking up.

A chance to hear another Sherlockian's stories is always a wonderful way to spend a meal, and I especially enjoyed discovering another soul whose initial youthful contact with Holmes was a movie they didn't get to see when they wanted to . . . the sort of dangled Holmes bait that makes you prize something all the more as you wait to get at it. And then there are the compared notes on all those rare and fascinating folk one meets along the Sherlockian road, which brings me back to that unofficial wandering gypsy society of Sherlockians that's out there, even now.

It doesn't require an invitation. Just keeping your eyes open, keeping a few weekends free, and finding a little extra traveling cash for the occasional hotel room . . . depending upon your area of the country, of course. It may be a little easier when you call a major city home, yes, but if one listens carefully enough to the Sherlockian grapevines, opportunities arise all the time.

What will 2017 bring, now that spring has sprung and people are moving about . . . maybe even myself? Well, we see what that distant gypsy call beckons us to. It was great to have a visiting reminder of all that today, for as much as I enjoy this blogging bit in the late quiet of the evening, Sherlockians in person are always better. (Thanks, Monica!)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Three numbers and a letter.


Three numbers, one letter. Four characters that signify . . . what?

An address . . . no, more than that. Poems aren't written and conventions aren't concocted based on a location. When we well remember a site, it's usually because something significant happened there. Troy. Waterloo. Gettysburg. Or it's a place of power. 10 Downing Street. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 30 Rockefeller Plaza. But most lists of famous addresses contain 221B Baker Street as well.

Site of a significant event? Place of power?

You could make a case for either, but those things are not what "221B" evokes.

The most important events in the detective career of Sherlock Holmes, with few exceptions, just didn't happen there. Clients telling their stories were key, of course, but not the sort of climactic moment that sticks with you.

"221B" is almost binary in its makeup, and that's where you start getting to the heart of things. Since "B" is the second letter of the alphabet, it's really all twos and a one instead of ones and zeroes. The one is the odd character in there, almost standing alone to make itself more significant. Because you need that, now and then, to really show how important two of something can be. "222B" just never would have done it, really.

It's pretty obvious that 221B has come to signify a partnership that brought us some of the greatest detective stories of all time. Maybe the one stands for the first and foremost consulting detective the world has ever known. Maybe the "B" stands for his . . . best friend? Analyzing the make-up of "221B" as a symbol for partnership is just two weirdly simple. Yet there it is.

221B Baker Street is less of an address and more of a period of time. Whoever lived there before Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson is irrelevant. Whoever came after, equally so. The seventeen years that Sherlock Holmes operated out of Baker Street with John H. Watson at his side align perfectly with the seventeen steps that led up to that flat, and that period is the location in space and time that 221B will always represent, even without the "Baker Street."

There's something very special about that. Cold numbers and a single letter of the alphabet evoking a bond between two men living lives of discovery, adventure, and justice-dealing. And so much more, so much that we have spent over a century in study of it, and will surely spent a great many years more. Of all the words written by the creator who gave us those amazing records, none will probably ever have the full power of "221B," unless it's that very unique first name of the very unique figure who first thought to rent the place.

A better sigil no tribe could hope to have, and we are that lucky tribe.

Three numbers, one letter. 221B.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bro Grimesby.

Though he died way back in 1883, I was thinking today how happy Dr. Grimesby Roylott would be on the internet. And I mean troll happy.

Here's an older white guy who feels righteously robbed of his dominant place in society by his gambling forebears. He lives in relative isolation, treats women as resources just there to feed his needs (talking financial here, but you go where you need to), loves dangerous pets that make him look more manly, and when he feels threatened?

First, the ad hominem attack to discredit any input Sherlock Holmes might have:

"I know you, scoundrel! I have heard of your before. You are Holmes the meddler."

And he goes on.

"Holmes the busybody!"

And then . . .

"Holmes, the Scotland Yard jack-in-office."

If you look of the definition of that last one, it would appear that Roylott things Sherlock is somehow a part of the official police force, which is the line that . . . unbeknownst to ol' Grimesby . . . is the bit that really tweaks Holmes, if he wasn't already laughing at this cartoon character of testosterone.

Grimesby Roylott's second act, of course, is physical threat via showing his arm strength, bending the fireplace poker in lieu of punching someone. We tend to focus on Sherlock Holmes's unstraightening of the poker in the aftermath of the scene and not the fact that Watson surely would have put a bullet in the man had he moved on Sherlock Holmes in any manner that actually seemed to endanger the detective. People tend to forget about John Watson when louder personalities are engaging around him.

Watson is the man more interesting to compare to Roylott than his oft-showboating room-mate. Quiet, effective, and always ready to do the right thing, even at risk of his own health.

But the good Watson distracts me from the actual subject at hand here, Dr. Grimesby Roylott, the perfect Canonical candidate for modern internet troll. The name-calling, the stalking of a poor woman just looking out for her own safety, the threats toward any who might suggest he's doing something foul . . . which he most certainly is.

Grimesby, of course, was a long ways pre-internet. Had he had access to such a thing, he might not have only been doing some heavy duty trolling -- if his eventual end was any indicator, he would probably have also been the start of a YouTube video that qualified him for a Darwin Award: "No, I'm putting the swamp adder in the air vent . . . watch this now . . .  there he goes . . . what? No, not this wa . . . OUCH! SON OF A . . . wha . . . whoa . . . sitting down now . . . gblhh . . ."

Humankind hasn't evolved past producing Grimesby Roylotts, sadly. How are we doing on our Sherlock Holmes quotient? Hard to say, as you know how he was about letting Scotland Yard take the credit before Watson started working his magic. We can hope, though.

But I'm really glad Grimesby himself didn't have the internet. THAT guy. Sheesh.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sherlock, Sherlocker, Sherlockest . . .

When it comes to words, there are two definite ends to the spectrum.

On one side, language is a thing of rules and proper construction. On the other, a palette of verbal paints to be blended and applied in whatever way conveys the proper message to the reader.

Words can be taken as a science, or an art, or a bit of both. And as a result of the latest Hansom Cab Clock Club newsletter, e-mailed out by Don Hobbs, a bit of discussion ensued following Don's use of "Sherlock" as a verb. He was subsequently accused of verbal misdemeanor by Mark McGovern, and I found myself forced to plead Don's case in the court of "Reply All."

Citing evidence that Don had been using "Sherlocking" since at least 2003 in blog posts, and that he had been "beshillinged" into the Baker Street Irregulars after at least nine years of publicly doing so, I suggested that using "Sherlock" as a verb seemed to be approved by that highest Sherlockian authority in the U.S., if we are to imagine such a thing exists. And therein always comes the bone of contention between word scientists and word artists. Do we accept a voice of authority or let the chaos of the verbal marketplace run rampant?

"Holmes" and "Watson" are what our heroes are called in Doyle Canon, but "Sherlock" and "John" have become a popular usage since the Sherlock Canon, even for the originals. "Johnlock" is a shipping term for Holmes/Watson romance, while "Tunalock" is the identifier for an alternate universe where Sherlock Holmes is a fish and not just human Holmes in love with a tuna. One can plant one's feet in the dirt on a particular usage, but variations on "Sherlock" seem to be coming from every direction of late.

If I say you have a Sherlock brain, and someone else has a Sherlocker brain than you, it's definitely less confusing that saying you have a Sherlockian brain and they a more Sherlockian brain, if you mean said brain is like Sherlock's. Would "Sherlockish" be less confusing and more the proper adjective?  Can the mad zealots among us undertake to start using "Sherlock" as every part of the English language, not just noun and verb, but adjective, adverb, preposition, etc.? Will happy anarchy prevail as "Sherlock Sherlock Sherlocked Sherlockly Sherlocker Sherlock Sherlock Sherlock!" becomes our cultural dialect?

Pishlock poshlock! We can't have too much Sherlock Holmes!

Okay, I know, five seasons of a certain "Sherlock Holmes" makes me a liar with that last statement. But I'm just having fun here. Sherlock Holmes has been around long enough that there are serious scholars doing serious work on our friend with serious words. They need to be a little less silly with the verbiage.

Some of us, however, are probably always just going to be screwlocking around.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Sherlockian of note.

It was kind of a big deal when Kareem Abdul Jabbar co-wrote a book featuring Mycroft Holmes, revealed a love of Sherlock Holmes, and appeared at the annual Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend in New York. Bigger to some than others, of course, as some of us could give a flying fig about basketball. What was a much bigger deal to me, personally, was when I first saw Curtis Armstrong in the lobby of the host hotel for a Sherlock Holmes conference in Minneapolis, and Don Hobbs said, "Let's go say 'hi' to Curtis."

Over the course of that weekend, I quickly came to realize that an actor I'd been mentally tracking in movies and TV shows since he first went from Revenge of the Nerds to Moonlighting was an honest-to-God lifelong Sherlockian as much as you or I.  The kind of person who thought of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes as a favorite Holmes movie. The kind of person to whom acquiring a copy of the Baring-Gould Annotated Sherlock Holmes was a life-changing event.

Those touch-stones may not be the Sherlockian keys to everyone, as every generation has their own. But when you hear certain experiences being shared, you always know one of your own.

Soon after I had the chance to talk with Curtis this past weekend at 221B Con, I had to admit to him that I was mentally separating the actor from the Sherlockian just to keep my cool. I'm from Peoria -- we don't get many folks from the big or small screen walking into our world, so it's a little too exciting sometimes. Sherlockians, however, are people I get somewhat excited about every single day, rare and special folk that they are, and am quite accustomed to dealing with through that little thrill. So Curtis Armstrong, the Sherlockian who'd been in Susan Rice's Michigan scion society in his youth, was not just in my wheelhouse, he's a guy you'd hang out with at a con even if he was an accountant. (Even one named Herbert Viola.)

If you'd like to get a feel for the guy you'd meet at a Sherlockian weekend like 221B Con, take a listen to Geek Versus Week 's episode #127  -- an interview with Curtis at 221B Con. Late in the interview he addresses the difference between Sherlockians of our generation and older who enjoy the new fan-ways, and those who find the newer, more nerd-culture ways of doing Sherlockiana too much change to tolerate. Curtis expresses it much better than I can, being, quite naturally, a talented speaker and not having picked up that bit of bitterness that assails me on occasion.

So, in celebration of that particular Sherlockian of note -- one of many I got to see this weekend -- I decided to watch his favorite episode of Supernatural tonight, as I'd only made it through the earlier part of that season. The parts Curtis is in could stand alone, most of the episode, really, as a great little two-man show about God writing his memoirs as Metatron critiques. (Season 11, episode 20, "Don't Call Me Shurley" -- on Netflix as we speak). Very good stuff.

Plainly, I'm still winding down from this weekend, even on Thursday night after a day back at the salt mines of system configuration. And not minding those after-effects at all.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Explorer versus missionary.

Arriving at the first 221B Con happened four years ago, I remember feeling like Professor Challenger discovering the Lost Continent, full of something you didn't think existed. (Here's my original post.) Sherlockiana, like many a small church or social organization, had seemed to be literally dying of old age, as the amount of younger fans who had been coming to the hobby was nowhere close to replacing those who moved on, either from death or disinterest.  Pre-Cumberbatch (and Downey) even "new" fans had a strong tendency to be retirees. But what I, and a handful of other Sherlockians discovered at that first con, wasn't dinosaurs. It was exactly the opposite.

It was youth, energy, and a fresh start. Here was something Sherlockian that had come about separately from all of the scion societies and way-we'd-always-done-it. Here was a different model of fan event happening for a new breed of Sherlockian, and a fresh canvas for creative energies to pour into. It wasn't something any old school Sherlockian came up with to accompany or compete existing Holmes events. 221B Con was, and is, its own thing.

As old school Sherlockians encounter the con, however, certain things tend to happen. First, there will be those so rigidly locked into their view of what Sherlockiana is that they'll reject it whole-heartedly. Happily, those folks don't tend to make the trip to begin with. Or make the trip once, go "Not for me!" and back away. Again, free choice, and a good thing. The greatest challenge for an old school Sherlockian, however, can come from to of us that get excited about it, those of us that do go back . . . and want to help.

Because once you've led a lifetime of doing Sherlockian events a certain way, your first thoughts of helping out are helping people do things the old way. "Hey, these people don't even stop to eat! We should organize a good old-fashioned Sherlockian banquet!" While banquets are nice for those who have built up some disposable income, paying a hundred dollars for a dinner with a few toasts and a speaker isn't something a twenty-something with plenty of enthusiasm and limited income is going to get their money's worth out of. In the three hours it takes to get even a decent plated meal, they could have been to three different hours of content from a dozen panelists, each with as many ideas as that single banquet speaker.

Trust me on this, I've been a banquet speaker quite a few times. And eaten a lot of mediocre banquet meals. This year, I missed a lot of meals. And I . . . DO NOT . . . miss meals. All just because I was enjoying 221B Con being 221B Con that much. But I've sort of gone native at the con at this point, which is why this is the point I'm making here:

Coming from the Sherlockian old school to 221B Con, one has to come more as explorer than missionary. Nobody needs to show the new kids "how it's done." Four years in, "how it's done" is how they do it, and do it quite successfully at that. There are still venues for doing things the old way -- plenty of them. And the con has its own ways to add your ideas to the mix.

Suggesting a session topic when the call comes out around October. Applying to be on a panel on that topic, or others, in January. And then sitting on that panel come the time of the con and letting people benefit from what's in your head as it mixes with what's in the heads of some other panelists. And, man, are there getting to be some smart panelists at 221B Con. Do not come in expecting to be the smartest person in the room, no matter the topic.

What I had the most fun with this year, however, was going to the panels I knew the least about. When the schedule comes out a few weeks ahead of time, you can do a little research online and find out what this or that alien phrase means, see if you're intrigued by the topic, and then go listen to why a particular branch of our Sherlockian tree enjoys that thing so much. You might find that you enjoy it a bit, too.

Sherlockiana doesn't seem to be dying anymore, but it is evolving. And those new parts of Sherlock Holmes fandom you'll find at an event like 221B Con are probably going to be an entrenched part of the culture as a whole in twenty years, just as other generations of fans have left their marks on Sherlock's legend over the decades. So much new stuff to explore. Be an explorer.

And that missionary position? Well, if you favor it, you might want to spice things up a bit.

Just sayin'.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Post 221B Con 2017: A few thoughts before hitting the road.

Sunday night at the hotel is always a weird time after 221B Con ends at five. People have been leaving throughout the day, as a lot of people have to work on Monday, and non-Sherlockians start checking into the hotel. The magical environment that has surrounded you for three days slowly dissipates, and reality begins to set in . . . except this was your reality for three great days, so that's not even correct. More exact to say "all the cares and obligations of every day life set in." It's been a good escape from those.

The hotel bar and a few room gatherings keep the torch burning for a little while longer, as people decompress and share thoughts on what just went down, as well as cons past. I got to spend a couple lovely hours in the bar with some of the best Sherlockians you'd ever care to meet, but I'm not going to name names as, you know, it's not a competition for "best Sherlockians" because we happily have so damn many of them. But every person there deserves all the rewards that Sherlock heaven can give.

I had to leave that happy venue a little earlier than I might otherwise have, because I wanted to give the good Carter a call and apprise her of the last forty-eight hours since we spoke last, and that call wound up going on for a very long and enjoyable time. When you've been together thirty-five years, you do occasionally run out of things to talk about, and since she couldn't come this year, I had a whole lot of things to tell her about . . . and even just telling someone about 221B Con for an hour or so can be a fabulous thing.

Time to get dressed and load the car, but I'm going to leave this post open for a little while longer . . . leaving is hard.

Two trips to the car down, one to go. Good to take home less than I brought, somehow turning a bunch of Sherlockian items I didn't care so much about into a few new ones that I'm really happy to have. I got to say hello to Lyndsay and Elinor one last time in my travels, and any morning with writers in it is a good morning. Beautiful weather out there to hit the road with, and I hope all the air travelers have easier journeys today than they've had of late. But I guess that means it's finally time to hit the road . . . .

I'm definitely not done writing about subjects, ideas, and other residual effects of this weekend . . . definitely my favorite 221B Con yet, which is saying something considering the open-mouthed sheer amazement I had over the very first one. The con has evolved and matured, just as Sherlockiana itself evolves, even though it's been so well-run and high-functioning from the start. Yeah, there's a hiccup now and then, but even those can lead to better things. (Though I have to say, for me . . . not really seeing the hiccups so much.)

Thank you, everybody. And I do mean everybody involved or participating in 221B Con and those who wish they could have been. I don't really drink . . . I literally had one rum and Coke the entire weekend . . . but I'm definitely feeling the "I love you, man!" of an over-affectionate drunk at the moment. It was soooo good. And I'm actually getting a tear or two of pure gratitude as I write this. But what's done is done, and it's time to head for the future . . . which means next year's 221B Con and the whole Sherlockian year that comes before it!

Onward and upward. To the Bradmobile!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

221B Con 2017: The Sunday final.

Okay, just in from a fine establishment called "The Greater Good BBQ" where a few of us were recovering from a long hungry day of 221B Con over ribs, brisket, banana pudding, and other locally made cuisine. (Recommended, if you're in Atlanta, though I'm not experience enough to know if the wonderful food we ate was the high bar or the low bar here. In Peoria, it would be a high bar.) It has been a good day.

I dragged my aching body down to the pavilion, the con's biggest venue, for Curtis Armstrong's Q&A at 10 AM, and Curtis is just a treat. His long career in TV and movies has given him a lot of stories, but he's not shy about sharing a few from the not-so-famous days of high school bullies in a way that makes you recognize a fellow veteran of the nerdy trenches. His upcoming book Revenge of the Nerd . . . The Singular Adventures of the Man Who Would Be Booger is something to look forward to, given the taste we got at the con. (It's coming in July, but pre-orders are VERY important to authors these days, so don't wait until it comes out.)

Since sitting on hotel chairs all day isn't good for the back, I made myself walk the perimeter of the Perimeter Marriott between each session and the day was the most beautiful we've had all week. So when I made it to the next panel, the Baker Street Babes interview of writer Martin Powell, who has down Sherlock Holmes comic books among his many other credits, I was in a good frame of mind . . . not that it was needed.

The Baker Street Babes did their usual excellent job with Martin, drawing out stories of his own approach to Holmes and his conversations with Conan Doyle's daughter Dame Jean and Ray Bradbury. His reports on those taught us that maybe Doyle didn't hate Sherlock so much and Bradbury's main lesson in writing fiction is "Start as close to the end as you possibly can." The session went fast, and I'm sure you'll be able to find it on the Babes' podcast very soon.

Another walk, another panel . . . "Fanfiction."

Six panelists spoke on their paths into and through the world of fan fiction, and as happens so often at the con, this was a group of folks whom I might see on the street and go "not my age, not my gender, don't seem to like exactly what I like" . . . and that is where so many long-time Sherlockians can go awry with the new generation coming in. If you listen to their stories, where they come from, you'll often hear echoes from your own story, your own path, that you may have forgotten or hadn't reconsidered in a while. You can learn a lot from your fellow con attendees, even about yourself if you're a mild narcissist like me, and especially if you stick with your fellow writers if you're a writer, artists if you're an artist, etc.

"The only way to write wrong is not to write," someone said, and nowhere is that tenet more true than fan fiction. Without commercial considerations, it's an area with wide open possibilities, some of which librarians are still trying to figure out, a question Tim Johnson raised . . . which led handily into the next panel I went to on "Fandom Studies," which Tim was on.

Now, if there's anyone out there that still thinks 221B Con with all the shipping, burlesque, costumes, and other fun, I would point them to the "Fandom Studies" panel for a learned discussion full of fascinating material from very smart people. (And it was hardly the only one here.) Sherlockiana is one fan "religion" among many, and with so many finding their way into mainstream culture, serious work is being done. You can hear statement you've heard all your life like "You're not a real Sherlockian if you don't . . . " referred to as "normative statements," and bits like that, as well as see how the overlap between fans as scholars and scholars as fans is pretty widespread. (And harder to get objective studies with, as a result.)

A quick trip to the room had me excitedly showing off a Crobabies pic on my phone to my fellow con-goers in the elevator: "It looks like the present I gave them is strapped to the back of their little car as they drove away from the hotel!!" It's good for a man approaching sixty to still squee now and then.

And then, on to the "The Rarest of the Rare: Fandom and the Rare Pair."

I tend to like "rare pair" fanfic writers a bit more than the average fanfic scribes, as they walk the path less travelled in their genre. The see two people no one else could see as a couple and go "Why? Because it's there!" Panelists talked about doing it for the "What if?" factor, the "uncharted territory" factor, the "no rules or tropes here already" factor, and just what two completely different types of people can bring out in one another. "Rare pair" panels can get very creative and inspire all sorts of ideas in writers (well, I guess most good panels do that), and I even get blog post ideas from such a free-flowing environment. (Just wait.)

My favorite line of the panel was "That's no moon!" in considering the bulk of Johnlock fanfic next to all other relationships portrayed in fan fiction. Even John Watson and Mary Morstan seem like a rare pairing next to John and Sherlock.

My final session choice was "How to Podcast," which might make you think something is eventually in the offing. And there is a Blue Yeti mike on my desk of late. But don't hold your breath on that.

The very last panel at every 221B Con is "Our Last Bow," at which our hosts, who have quietly kept the great machine running all weekend without ever jumping out on a stage and going "HELLO 221B CON! WE'RE YOUR HOSTS!" all sit down with everybody who gathers in the largest venue available to hear how their experience went. The folks that run this con are brave, brave people to do that, let me tell you, because you know how it is . . . we all know how to improve everything . . . and there are always a few folks with definite ideas. But there are always more than a few folks with "thank you"s and a general appreciation and applause to the opportunity we're all given here each year.

This year was an important one, in my view, as the reaction to season four of BBC Sherlock was a rough go with a lot of people. And if this con was all about silly-billy fad-followers, as some dumb-ass old white dudes occasionally seem to think it is, season four would have been the end for 221B Con. But what the organizers have built here in the last four years has been a community, as surely as Sherlock's birthday weekend in New York is a community, as surely as that travelling band of Sherlockian gypsies who hit symposium after symposium is a community . . . and as surely as Sherlockiana itself is a community.

Given the relatively tender ages of the organizers, it's a community with the potential to go on for quite a while, too, with it's more sci-fi con model and "big, but not too big" size. And, wow, does that make me happy. It's a very nice community to live in for a weekend, and like many who discovered it for the first time this weekend, I'll be back again.

221B Con: Prepping for Sunday's Last Ride.

It's Sunday. Just woke up, reviewed the #221BCon thread on Twitter to see what I might have missed in the night, and then reviewed the panel list from yesterday to see what I missed during the day.

Reviewing one's own ability to take in all of 221B Con that one can has to be a forgiving process. I missed the Three Patch Podcast, though I'll get to hear it later once they drop it to the web. I missed "World Building for Writers" and I'd liked to have heard "OMG Check Please" just to confirm it was about what I thought it was about. (They give you a beautiful program book that describes every panel, but did I take time to read it, in the heat of 221B Con? Nope.) I missed Martin Powell's time, the second ABO panel, the Atlanta Radio Theater Company, Elementary . . . wait, I missed Elementary? I missed "Ele-frickin'-mentary?" Okay, I'm high on con now. If I had Hermione Granger's time-turner, I would loop back and see every single session at this con, including the unofficial ones, including the suite stuff, and the video room -- oh, yeah, I missed the Russian Holmes! -- there are LITERALLY hundreds of hours of programming at this con.

Of those hundreds of hours, six opportunities are left. SIX.

Less time than it took to drive here.

So bittersweet. Only one thing to do.

Start playin' "Stayin' Alive" on the iPhone and get ready to roll.

221B Con 2017: Saturday Night's Alright For F . . . Everything!

Okay, where was I . . .  starting to get worn out here at 221B Con, but to paraphrase an old Letterman line, it's a good kind of worn out.

Costume exhibition! That's it. Not a contest, just a totally for fun, let a celebrity guest introduce you and walk on stage, get cheered, and walk off. Costumes range from classic Sherlock, to fan art given life, to anime characters, to . . . well, a "fancy gentleman" going to the annual meeting of the Amateur Mendicants in the story "The Adventure of the Beggar's Feast" by Lyndsay Faye in her book The Whole Art of Detection, complete with his curio cabinet receipt in pocket. (Buy the book, read the story.)

The crowd at the costume exhibition has more participants than non-participants, but everybody there seemed to have ramped up their cheering and clapping at the previous night's burlesque show and they were a wonderful audience. Curtis Armstrong introduced each costume with his usual flair, and since I've had to miss too many of his sessions already, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow morning's Q & A. But back to the costumes . . .

. . . okay, now it's 1:39 A.M. and it's a little hard to get back to costumes, but they were cool and my old top hat is much coveted. ("Scott & Co., Hatters to the King and the Royal Family, 1 Old Bond Street, Piccadilly W. Made for Saks-Fifth Avenue, New York" -- that "King" part dates it.) I wore it at the first 221B Con, so it was a return engagement. But why am I wasting time writing about my hat? (It's late and I'm punchy, that's why.)

I wore my costume to sit on the "Fannish Estate Planning" panel, where Tim Johnson was probably our star player, though Diana Williams carried the ball on organizing and moderating, and David McAllister had some solid input. The key to fannish estate planning? Do some research, there's a lot to know. A lot of data flowed in that one, and one felt it was still just the tip of the ice berg.

I then had an hour to get out of my costume, relax, and prepare for "Arthur 'Continuity' Doyle," which had about forty-four people in it. How do I know? Because I hand-stitched fifty text-booklets for the participants and had six left. (The old Baker Street Digressions format, for those collectors out there who remember those rarities.) They basically laid out Watson's primary continuity error quotes in a timeline by years so we could all refer to the original text as we spun our theories on just what the heck was going on with Watson's first name, his wives, his wound, the Billys, the landladies, the Moriartys, etc. Lots of fun there, with Amy Thomas, special guest Martin Powell, and Lyndsay Faye as the forty-four helped us work out just how such things were happening in the Canon.

On my way down the hall after that panel, Marilynne McKay yanked Steve Mason and I on to her next panel, "Canon Book Club: Jewels of the Crown," where we got into five of the classic stories, the basics and random thoughts on things like who was the true villain of "Golden Pince-nez."

Next stop was to drop by the Three Patch Podcast suite for the Crobabies wedding reception. A crocheted couple of fellows named Sherlock and John who were familiar to many a con-goer got married this weekend, and some beautiful photos of that event were taken. Sherlock Peoria's longtime lead actors,  Action Sherlock and Stout Fellow John Watson, wanted me to carry a wedding present down as a token of their esteem, and the happy couple was seated at their head table at the reception while guests buzzed with excitement. I felt myself fading, so I didn't wait for the wedding toasts, as much as I would have liked to hear those, and headed for one last tour of the con before bed.

Having never seen 221B Con karaoke in person, I had to stop in at the pavillion for a moment to check it out and wound up staying for about ten or twelve songs. Why? And what does karaoke have to do with Sherlock Holmes, as Howard asked me earlier in the evening? Well, answers: Unlike every karaoke bar in Peoria where somebody has to sing the song about keying her cheating husbands car and that song about the horse and the cherry tree EVERY FREAKIN' NIGHT, 221B Con Karaoke tended to be mostly upbeat dance tunes. A few unfamiliar ones at first, but then they got down to laying down the classics, including a rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" that had everyone dancing. (Except an old, tired blogger who just was rocking his non-rocking chair and bobbing his top hat head -- did I mention I put my hat and vest back on for the wedding reception?)

At one point, someone got up to sing and prefaced their tune with "I don't sing karaoke anywhere else, because this is where I am most comfortable." It made perfect sense because 221B Con has a definite feeling of community, and I realized that what what karaoke had to do with Sherlock Holmes: It's just another part of the community building between Sherlockian friends. You can't talk about Sherlock Holmes all the time, so why not sing and dance together into the night? And the young and the young at heart, they do love to sing and dance.

There was also somebody named Betty, who everybody wanted to be their girlfriend. Go, Betty!

After the DJ had to reset the tunes at one point and started playing "Bye-bye-bye" as an interlude, I took that as an omen to finally head for some needed rest. Buuuuuutttttt . . . then I poked my head in the bar and decided to say "hi" to Crystal Noll, con goddess, which led to a lovely conversation on the con, blogging, and the Sherlockian world in general. Well worth losing a little more sleep!

But remember when I wrote about that singlestick demo I went to earlier? Well, apparently I was supposed to be on a "Sherlockian Societies" panel, which had somehow evolved from the ASH panel that I had originally been accepted for but the name change didn't lock into my head, and before I could leave the bar, Monica Schmidt had to put on my top hat and admonish me properly for my truancy. Which is the fancy way of describing . . . well, anyway, once a purdy lady in a bar tells ya yer a worthless polecat, it's time to head for the old bunkhouse, amigo.

And when I'm so tired I'm palaverin' in cowboy lingo, it is definitely time to get some shut-eye.

G'nite, pardners. Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

221B Con 2017: Saturday morning and afternoon.

Maybe it's my impulsive nature, but I tend not to stay on the rails very long sometimes at 221B Con.

And first rule of 221B Con: You're always going to miss something.

My first destination for Saturday morning was supposed to be the Three Patch podcast. But then Howard Ostrom went and sold every single thing on his dealer's table yesterday, and I had this box full of Sherlockiana I wanted to get rid of, and Howard had one more item he wanted to try to sell, so for the first two hours of the con, I became a dealer in the dealer's room.

My homemade "Baker Street Dollar Store" sign went up, spun off a similar dealer's table idea I'd run at symposiums many years ago. Sometimes, as a Sherlockian, you may not care about your profit from getting rid of an item so much as just seeing it move on to a good Sherlockian home. And that is where the Sherlockian dollar store comes in. But being a dealer for the short term at 221B Con can be a reward in itself.

The con takes good care of its dealers, with a volunteer concierge coming around with bottle water and snacks, as well as offering to watch your table if you need to run to your room. And, if I haven't mentioned this enough already, con attendees here are friendly and fun to talk you. From a seat behind a dealer's table, you can chat about costumes, see old friends you might have missed had you stayed mobile, visit with your fellow vendors . . . oh, and spend any money you made selling things.

I was sitting staring directly across at Fox Estacado's booth, where I immediately bought one of her "I want to break free" Moriarty shirts, but then as I looked over her art for the next hour, I also decided I had to have a print of her "A Study in AU! Sherlock," with its dozen alternate Sherlocks. As noon neared, and I wanted to get to the singlestick demo, I put the dollar store in clearance mode and started giving things away to interested shoppers, which is, quite frankly, a sign of the shockingly bad businessman I am.

And then, for the second time, at con this year, I wandered into a near-empty room because I was an hour early for the event I wanted to go to. I blame Eastern time, but it's mainly a new disability I've discovered where I apparently can't follow a horizontal row across a grid. Going to have to start carrying a ruler.

So I visited the front lobby. First came the "Baker Street Elementary" table where all things Dallas Sherlockian were out, including a custom comic created just for 221B Con by Joe Fay, Rusty and Steve Mason., now being maintained at Michigan State, had stickers, cards, and a Beta version of a coming upgrade to the handy website created by Chris Redmond for people to try out. I gave it a run through my typical paths and came away satisfied with the results.

Then, of course, I had to get my copy of The Whole Art of Detection autographed by Lyndsay Faye, whose autograph I still have from my first visit to 221B Con, and, well, she's Lyndsay. She autographed my Sherlockian heart with her very being long ago. (I've already had text conversations with friends back home on how emotional Con Brad is, weeping at engagements, hollering at dancers, and doing an internal squee because "Ron Weasely" talked to me before the burlesque show . . . so take this in stride.)

AND THE MORIARTY'S WEB PEOPLE ARE HERE!!! A chance to buy that well-reviewed new game for a mere thirty bucks? HELL'S YEAH!!!  (See, I'm a maniac now. Still, Lyndsay . . . sigh. Hey, the lady can write!)

Finally, it was time for that singlestick and Bartitsu demo that I was an hour early to an hour before. Ashley Polasek and Tim Greer, with the occassional aid of Curtis Armstrong, took advantage of the stage area in the pavilion to demo Victorian Sherlock Holmes's styles of hand-to-hand combat, single-stick fighting, and even a little sword and whip play. (Be-have!) Some good fun there, and then off to lunch!

One hearty chicken marengo later and I'm back at this keyboard, which I must now depart to dress for the cosplay strut. What am I dressing up as?

Tune in later tonight! Same Brad-time, same Brad-channel!

221B Con: Second Friday Night Update

Driving down to Atlanta, I heard someone on a podcast refer to a lyric from the band "Yes" that went "Don't surround yourself with yourself." And while we always think of cons as a place we go to find like-minded people, one of the things I love dearly about 221B Con is all the people here who don't think like me. Because I've seen all of my thoughts, and I want to learn something new. And our friend Sherlock Holmes has always been a one man portal to learning something new.

So when we last left our hero, he was headed down to a panel called "ABO 1 (+18)" . . . abbreviation to be explained shortly. Of course, my Central Time senses had me an hour off, so I wound up heading into the bar with an hour to kill and found inimitable Sherlockian sword-wielder, Ashley Polasek who will be a vital part of the singlestick demo tomorrow, with no chairs at her table. A couple of chairs were found by the waitress, to accommodate myself and the imminent arrival of Curtis Armstrong, after which followed some great stories of starstruck encounters and awkward proms, the arrival of three Baker Street Babes (Amy, Sara, and Lyndsay), and eventually the walking entertainment that is Tim Greer. Chairs were discovered and/or stolen for all, chairs being in short supply in the Perimeter Marriott bar with so many people inviting new and old friends to their tables.

Now, there was no reason to leave such a table that one is lucky to find one's self at, but I had determined to hit that "ABO" panel and a handy Tweet told me the time had come. Mistake, right? That was a great table! But, no! Let me explain "ABO" to you.

"ABO" stands for "Alpha Beta Omega" as in Omegaverse, a particular brand of sci-fi/fantasy fanfic that evolved from someone pondering werewolf sex. I had looked into it after last year's con and read a particularly lovely fic called "The Gilded Cage" by Beautiful Fiction. The thing that makes Omegaverse more interesting to me than normal Johnlock fanfic is that it tends to inspire some real thought in its writers as they try to figure out the social dynamics of humans who have a completely different biology than us. It can be very smart.

And if you think fiction derived from werewolf sex sounds ridiculous, well, the writers and readers of Omegaverse fic tend to also know just how silly it all can sound. Which makes their panel discussions some of the most hysterically funny stuff you'll hear at the con. (Or maybe this was just a really good team of panelists.) There's also a lot of sense to it, as they talked about how Omegaverse fic allows writers to explore power dynamics without all the baggage that comes with the standard genders, extend sexual tension beyond the first sexual encounter (Oh, how Moonlighting once needed this!), and the way it allows for much more uninhibited expressions of pure passion.

And how do you end a really good panel in a way that tops every other panel in the weekend? Have one of the panelists ask another to marry her. Seriously. Had me in tears, too, which was not what I expected from "ABO" hour.

From there I had to take a quick break to hit the restroom before a panel I was sitting on began immediately in the same room, "Fandom Generations." Of course, the restrooms in the place I was familiar with now had some marvelously gender-friendly signs on them that I wasn't able to decipher on the fly and at a con of predominantly female attendance, I was hesitant to rush into either. So, nine stories up to my hotel room, nine stories back down to the panel, and I make a comically late run-in. This will soon be paired with a comically early run-out from the same panel as I try to get to the burlesque show on time, but in between it was a pretty good panel.

Nea Dodson, Lynne Stephens, Diana Williams, and myself were those who made it to the con out of our scheduled six, and we each opened with a bit on what we thought the biggest generational shift in fandom had been. Being a bit of a goof as explained earlier, I'd missed the earliest thoughts on the matter, but there were a lot to come. Big topics were the shift from using actual names to internet aliases, the way porny fanfic was once a much more underground, in-the-closet activity, and the quirks and benefits of getting your fiction published in a physical 'zine.

Lynne brought an old (things from the nineties are "old" now . . . weird) copy of 221B Baker Street that she and I both had stories printed in, and I started having flashbacks to MediaWest*Con of years ago, which Nea also had spoken of, a part of Sherlockiana that often didn't interact with the old school scion societies even then, being more a part of the general fandom community. It's very had to make generalizations about our Sherlockian past, because we all have different stories from the road to today. I get a lot wrong that way, as regular readers of this blog will sometimes call me on, but that's why I'm here at 221B Con yet again.

Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson are being celebrated here with mighty exuberance. It might not all make sense to a given Sherlockian, and there are a lot of other fandoms poking their way into the mix, as well as random bits like the ball pit which require a certain in-joke background, but learning about every little odd thing and how it has connected itself to Sherlock and John is part of the fun.

I've always loved exploring an environment full of wonderful new things, and 221B Con provides.

It also has a burlesque show with Sherlock Holmes in it. And one fabulous young lady who was every incarnation of Dr. Who and wound up being a Tardis. And Ron Weasley discovering Hermione was a bit of a dominatrix. But that's all I'm saying about that in a blog, except that the proceeds go to the Beacon Society, which just makes it all the cooler.

And that, I think, is enough for one night. Saturday is coming.

Friday, April 7, 2017

221B Con: First Friday Night Update

Okay, half hour before the Omegaverse panel, so here's the rundown of my adventures so far:

My morning constitutional took me over to Perimeter Mall where a California Avocado Salad was eaten in honor of Francis Hay Moulton and Hattie Doran at Cheesecake Factory. Halfway through the salad, the phone rings and Howard Ostrom tells me that he and David McAllister are about to roll into town, so I finish up and hoof it back, arriving just in time to help them unload two heaping luggage cart loads of framed Holmes and Watson actor autographs like Howard sold last year. We spend a good amount of time setting up Howard's dealers table, which he'll be manning solo this year, and I've offered to babysit it for him now and again. I wish you could've seen all his stuff, but if you live in Texas, you might . . . that story comes later.

That task done, I drive the boys to Shake Shack for their first lunch and my second, get back to the hotel in time to don tonight's con apparel (deerstalker and vest full of flair, with lanyard ready to receive my con badge), then head down to register. A family gets in line behind me in the registration line and are asking me if it's always so long, and I say, "Yeah, at first, but it dies down," then eventually we figure out that they're here to check in to the hotel and not 221B Con. They seemed happy to be here, though.

So, once registered, I hit the dealer's room and spend half my ready cash on some really great stuff. There's some lovely Disney-esque Johnlock art by anotherwellkeptsecret -- the first is just ethereally nice and the second relates to a moment in BBC Sherlock which I like the story of. And since I've already broken my Johnlock art virginity, down the aisle there's a piece by purrlock holmes of Sherlock and John sleepily at the bathroom mirror that's really lovely. I get a Mycroft Holmes marshmallow across the aisle (chocolate and double ginger), then round the corner to see a very attractive comic book called "the foldings" by Faye Simms and Joann Dominic. Being a comic book fan, that's an easy purchase, and I'm wondering if I'm going to be able to afford to go back to the steampunk dealer's excellent selection of wares when the Mocha Memoirs Press ladies ask me what kind of books I like . . . and of course, they have a vampire book . . . and a Sherlock book, so there goes more money.

Fox Estacado's booth isn't together yet, as she apparently hit the travel delays that have cost us a few con-goers this time out, so I make a note to save some money for that one. She has a Moriarty shirt I regretted not ordering earlier, and . . . well, on to that later. Drop stuff in room, back down to "Sherlock in YA Lit" panel which yields a lot of notes for future research as well as a tip for a librarian friend and an idea for a current project of mine that may now involve an escape room.

And when I get out of that panel, pause to have a few words with Beth about the John H. Watson Society, and get back to the dealer's room, I find Howard's entire two-table booth of autographs has been sold off to some fancy Texan who shall remain nameless for this blog entry and  Howard is roaming free.

Of course, I'm leaving out a pic with Mrs. Hudson (Marilynnne McKay) that made it to Twitter, a little chat with an author and a director about season four aftermaths and con discussions, and getting to see this person or that, including, of course, con special guest Curtis Armstrong. More name dropping to come soon, but I need to get back to things after a handful of nut mix and a little tea to keep my strength up.

I've already missed so much!  (Story of the con, every durn time!)

BC versus RDJ in retrospect.

Contemplating this evening's 221B Con panel on "Fandom Generation" and the impact that BBC Sherlock has had on our hobby, I suddenly remembered the movies Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.

Very popular movies featuring major movie stars, and at the time, they seemed to be part of inspiring a major boom of Sherlock Holmes in popular culture. But a mere seven years later, is anyone still talking about Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson? Not if you look at the panel list for 221B Con.

And, looking back, even at the height of the Downey movies' popularity, were they inspiring events like 221B Con, causing new Sherlockians to join old societies, causing anyone to go "Robert Downey Jr. is MY Sherlock Holmes!"?


Now that the director of those movies has moved on to King Arthur movies, and you can see a similar pattern of Big Action Movie adaptation happening, and now that Season Four of Sherlock ended with some crazy action movie stuff that fans were not entirely thrilled with, it's pretty easy to see what elements made those two movies less "sticky" with Sherlockians than BBC Sherlock or even the Granada TV series.

Once you were done with the roller coaster ride of a big screen action movie, the momentary thrill of exploding trees or collapsing ship construction, there was nowhere else to go. Sure, they had Mycroft and Irene and Moriarty, but beyond the names they didn't give you any reason to go back to the original stories for more details. I think, at this point, I have probably spent as much time considering Asylum Films' Sherlock Holmes (or "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs") as the RDJ pair of movies.

Saw the movies. Enjoyed them. But not coming to 221B Con because of anything that happened in their aftermath. The RDJ movies might have even got a little more fan attention over the last few years because of BBC Sherlock.  (As has Sherlock's American step-brother from CBS TV.) It's more than a little ironic that Sherlock's fourth season finale had action movie elements of the sort that brought the RDJ movies big box office and little fan endurance.

On with the weekend!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The road to 221B Con 2017.

Well, when to get an Egg McMuffin one morning and your total cost is $2.21, then the next day, you get a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit with a drink . . . which has to be more than $2.21 . . . but your ticket comes out with order 221 printed on it, and you're on your way to 221B Con . . .

I'm not sure what that means.

But when your tire pressure light comes on crossing the river from Illinois to Kentucky and you roll into Paducah just before it goes irreparably flat, well, I suppose those odd occurrences were just the universe's way of telling you to do what you gotta do to get to the Perimeter Marriott in Atlanta.

Not that you wouldn't want to do that anyway.

Unfortunately, "James Sanders Drive" where I spent to night in Paducah wasn't "James Saunders Drive" like I first thought it was, which would have been appropriate, since the first Sherlockian I eventually saw upon arriving was a member of the Sir James Saunders Society for Sherlockian dermatologists. And the pair of new tires I had to get to resume my trip weren't Dunlop or Palmer, but then I'm not driving a Ford. (All of which makes you wonder if there is a Sherlockian out there SO devout they purchase Canonical brands wherever possible.

But the rest of the trip went quickly, even if passing "Patti's 1880s Settlement" is always tough. (Their website doesn't evoke Sherlock Holmes's London, unfortunately, so too big of a regret. Let me know if you know better on that.)

Three or four hours in the hotel bar with a table full of Sherlockians and you know you're definitely at 221B Con, even though things don't officially start until tomorrow afternoon. Which is good, because I definitely need some rest . . .

Monday, April 3, 2017

The 221B Con plan.

The phrase "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy," is Helmuth Von Moltke's contribution to popular culture, and with 221B Con coming on, it's hard not to be reminded of Helmuth's words. Not that the con, or its legion of attendees, are the enemy, nor is it in any way a battle -- past experience just counsels that outside of hitting certain must-do marks, it's best to let the con take you where it will.

Between 5:00 PM Friday and 5:00 PM Sunday, there are: Six session locations running up to five different panels/demos/events during any given hour. A viewing room running an amazing variety of video the whole time. Unofficial events going on in places like the Three Patch suite. Random friends turning up in the hotel bar. Dealer's room shopping available for any open spots. And the unexpected. Always the unexpected.

Here's my current must-do plan:

"Fandom Generations" panel 9:00 PM Friday.

Fandom burlesque at 10 PM Friday.

The costume exhibition at 5 PM Saturday.

"Fannish Estate Planning" panel 6:00 PM Saturday.

"Arthur Continuity Doyle" panel 8:00 PM Saturday.

The panels are the one's I'm sitting on. The costume exhibition is fun to watch, aaand maybe also participate in this year. And the fandom burlesque show? Just in the audience for that one -- it was amazing last time out, and my own burlesque talents are nowhere near anyone in that company! (Editor's note: As far as anyone knows.)

And then there's the part of the plan that's taking up a lot of time this week that you'll have to show up at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center's Tyler room at 8 PM Saturday to find out. It'll get a mention here after that, I'm sure, but why wait later than eight on Saturday?


Saturday, April 1, 2017

"What does it mean? Why did you say that name?"

And now, a Sherlockian moment from the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:
Superman: You're letting them kill Martha . . .
Batman: What does that mean? Why did you say that name?
Superman: Find him . . . Save Martha . . .
Batman: Why did you say that name? Martha? Why did you say that name? WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?
Lois Lane: It's his mother's name! It's his mother's name!
Yes, in a scene that will go down in movie infamy, Lois Lane points out something that many a comic book fan has missed over the years: Batman's murdered mother and Superman's adoptive mother have the same name.

But what if little known Sherlockian scholar Lois Lane was actually just having a "Eureka!" moment of her own, and had gotten distracted by a discovery about her own recent Canonical reading of "His Last Bow" at that moment. And it was just coincidence that caused her words to end the fight?

Hey, it makes as much sense as anything else in that movie!

"There is no one in the house except old Martha, who has played her part to admiration. I got her the situation here when first I took the matter up," Sherlock Holmes explains to Watson after his capture of German spy Von Bork.

Many a Sherlockian has whimsically thought of this Martha as "Martha Hudson," over the years, Sherlock and John's old landlady, stepping in to help the British cause. But this "pleasant old lady" that Sherlock Holmes has put into a very dangerous situation "playing her part," would probably need more experience at duplicity and spywork than the average English landlady, who, though she could be called upon to rotate wax sniper targets by crawling into the room, was probably not up to leaving Baker Street for years on end, even for her favorite lodger.

What, however, if Lois Lane's Sherlockian theory was correct, and not only Batman and Superman had mothers named "Martha," but Sherlock Holmes as well? Who else would have the skills to spend two years in counter-espionage but an unmentioned mother of both Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes?

Makes more sense than Mrs. Hudson, I'd say.

And what if that Martha Holmes was an immortal mother of heroes, who did things like fake her death in Gotham when it was time to raise a boy in Kansas, well over a century after she produced two heroes named Holmes in the Victorian era? And what if Lois Lane put that all together in that moment of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?

Well, like I said, it makes as much sense as anything else in that movie.

Happy April Fool's Day from a blogger that's not fooling you at all with this one. It is Watson's birthday after all . . . but that's another story.