The professionally run con is now an established part of our oh-so capitalist world. It was inevitable, I suppose, as everything people love or desire is now seen as a market by someone. The thought of an untapped market just makes an ambitious business-sort salivate, and we just have so many ambitious business-sorts these days.
The day someone figured out that an actor known for a single cult-favorite TV show can make a substantial addition to their income selling autographs was probably the big tipping point in that business model. Now those free autographs we used to get at Star Trek cons forty years ago seem like the twelve-cent comic books, thirty-five-cent movie theater tickets, and gallons of gas for thirty-two cents I remember as a wee lad . . . all making me feel like I was born in the Depression.
But here we are, SHERLOCKED USA being held at the Los Angeles airport Marriott by a company called Massive Events Ltd. that a great many of us can't or won't afford to spend the money on to celebrate Mr. Sherlock Holmes in his BBC TV incarnation.
A full boat ticket to SHERLOCKED USA, before you figure in airfare, hotel, and meals, is $2995. It gets you in all the events, gets you all the autographs and photo shoots with the actors, gets you a replica Sherlock prop item, and basically privileged treatment for the whole three day affair. And those sell out quickly. A cheap ticket to just hear the talks in a secondary "live stream" hall is $125. $265 will get you into the main hall where the celebs are actually live. And $595 will get you reserved seats behind the people who spent the $2995. Class stratification has definitely come to fandom.
Different kinds of fans are definitely going to pay $2995 for a ticket: The wealthy, of course, or the children of the wealthy, to whom that's just going to the movies. The truly, deeply obsessed, who will focus their savings or charge card limits like a laser beam to get them into that full-access space despite their income. And those somewhere in between, who just see an opportunity that doesn't come along many times in life.
And despite the awful commercial side to SHERLOCKED USA that many a more traditional Baker Street Irregular might pooh-pooh, it is just that: An opportunity to celebrate Sherlock Holmes that has never come before and may never come again. The fact that we don't see similar conventions completely devoted to CBS's Elementary or Guy Ritchie's film Sherlock Holmes tells you there's a peak of popularity to this Sherlock Holmes and this period in time that isn't going to happen for every screen Sherlock and his cast. This really is something special, and despite every urge I have to be like the fox in the Aesop's fable and go "sour grapes," there's a part of me that wishes I was there, getting my picture taken on the 221B set or with some of the cast. I've loved that show end-to-end and it would be a great way to get a bit more enjoyment out of it.
If you're still a bit curmudgeonly about SHERLOCKED USA, and its modern way of fanning, consider this: What do you think The Baker Street Journal Christmas Annuals are going to be about, thirty years or more down the line? The 2017 BSI dinner, one in a long line of many? Or these never-before-seen celebrations of Sherlockian celebrity that either set the tone for much that follows or disappear from our culture when we don't get another Sherlock show with so much popularity in the decades after? Whatever your opinion of the event, it's a part of our Sherlockian history now, for better or worse. And we do love our Sherlockian history.
So here's to you, you lucky SHERLOCKED USA con-goers! While I'm still cleaning out the residue of four decades of my personal Sherlockian history this Memorial Day weekend, it'll be good to think of you out there making some new memories, which I hope you'll share with us one day.
And it does make me look forward, all the more, to next year's 221B Con in Atlanta . . . which is definitely more my speed. (And the "Diogenes Club" class there is a lot cheaper. Maybe this year!)