Friday, June 30, 2017

Watson's un-wedding date.

"The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was made memorable by three cases of interest . . ."
-- John H. Watson, M.D., "The Naval Treaty"

"A few weeks before my own marriage . . ."
-- John H. Watson, M.D., "The Noble Bachelor"

The marriage of Dr. Watson has driven many a would-be biographer to distraction, especially those who maintain he a proper Victorian heterosexual and only married once, to the one woman we know he proposed to. That belief seemed to have run as strongly through the early generations of Sherlockians as Johnlock does through today's fandom, and with such a bias, facts may have been skewed just a little bit in favor of Miss Mary Morstan.

Take the two quotes above.

The latter, we all presume to mean that "Noble Bachelor" took place a few weeks before Watson's wedding. Since that case has other evidence dating it in October of 1887 or 1888, it is usually presumed he and his bride had November nuptials.

The phrase in the first quote, however, "The July which immediately succeeded my marriage . . ." is also taken by one-wife-Watson fans to refer to that same wedding date. But roll that around in your head a bit. Why would Watson use that event to place a month full of cases with Sherlock Holmes a full eight months later?

"Succeeded my marriage" can have another meaning, one which doesn't much get considered -- that the July in question happened after Watson's marriage ended. Why else would he suddenly be out on three cases with Holmes that month? Why else would "The Second Stain," one of the three cases he references have him referring to "our rooms in Baker Street" and seeming to live with Sherlock again?

The month after a marriage's end would be a definite mile-marker to use for dating one's life events, and read with a non-monogamous mind, that seems to be what Watson's "Naval Treaty" words are saying. Instead the metaphorical "May-December marriage," Watson actually had a November-to-June marriage. At least for one of his supposed romantic entanglements.

These days, I'm still not sure if all those random marriage details weren't cover for a certain aforementioned theory that's very popular of late, but we won't get into that here. As we end our June today, however, maybe it's time to consider what might have also come to an end in a June a hundred and thirty years ago.

Watson's maybe not-so-merry Mary marriage.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The beauty of hard things.

Last night I was writing about how collectors may not be the dominant force in our Sherlockian future due to the internet, but how I was also sure that they would still be among us. The rare treasures of our shared past make collecting a fascinating occupation for those with the means, and just because we have the "easy button" of the web doesn't mean that there won't be those who, even now, chose to do things the hard way . . . which is where some of the best collectables come from.

I thought of this tonight as I pulled a random book down from myself, landing upon Client's Case-Notes edited by Brian R. MacDonald.

Published in 1983, the first thing you'll notice about it is the dust-jacket is actually glued together from two sheets of paper. And opening it up, you'll notice something else.

Somebody typeset this book on a typewriter and justified the margins! (I used a picture of Dana Richards's article, as he was one of those lovely regulars who graced The Holmes & Watson Report with regular content back in my print era.) And the mere fact that it's a hardbound book means someone spend some money on the binding of its 125 copy run.

Every detail of this book cries out "Somebody really wanted to publish a book!" to the knowing eye. Such things did not come easy back in 1983, before such modern miracles as household typesetting a child can do and  48 Hour Books. And despite the crass commercialization of the collectable market with chase items and "limited" runs designed to hit just the right price-point that we see these days, I think the best collectables will still come from a place of the heart.

Hand-binding, papercraft, and calligraphy still exist, and Sherlockians who will produce a run of  17 copies, 221 copies, or something in between just for their friends will probably still take place. Sherlockiana is not a field one spends much time in for profit . . . unless one counts "squee" as currency (or one of the less high-pitched expressions of delight, of course, for the easily-embarrassed). Because the best collections we have are the ones with memories attached, as memories are proven to be fueled by emotion.

Such items will actually carry a sense of that forward to an appreciative future owner in many cases, as with that Clients Case-Notes. I know I didn't lay hands on it in 1983 . . . or did I? . . . but just paging through it now and reading a few of its articles yields an echo of the pride those original Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis much have felt when this first hit their hands, after what was surely a long, hard journey into print.

And there is a certain beauty in that, one that keeps it on a collector's shelves, even now.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Another collection leaves its collector.

When word came over the wires today that Don Hobbs's library would be making its way to the library at Southern Methodist University, it was one of those "end of an era" moments that become more frequent once you've lived long enough.

If you're unfamiliar with Don's library, it contained what is generally acknowledged to be the largest collection of different foreign language editions of Sherlock Holmes stories. No Sherlockian ever amassed such a globe-spanning collection of Sherlockiana as Don, and he made many a friend in many a foreign clime along the way. It was almost like the collection was just a side effect of Don Hobbs being Don Hobbs, and not really a project.

But nothing lasts forever, and it's good to see Don's massive amount of books moving to the next phase of it's book-life at Don's direction, freeing him from the responsibilities of caretaker for such a valuable resource as well, to move on to his own next phase.

I'm a big fan of healthy change, and even though I'm a bit sad to see this period end, it does seem like a healthy shift. I suspect the era of the big collector is leaving us. Oh, there will always be collectors, yes. Humans have certain native tendencies that aren't going away. But the time when collectors dominated the Sherlockian world is fading fast.

So much content is online, with more coming out every single day. Every one of us has a massive Sherlockian collection at our fingertips now. More to read of Sherlock Holmes than we could ever hope to read. More resources for research that we'll ever use. More video, more audio, more Sherlockians to connect with, in dribs and drabs or in fully-formed friendships.

But thinking of Don Hobbs and his marvelous collection takes me back to the days when John Bennett Shaw roamed the Earth, holding workshops, pointing out the one hundred key books we could all go searching for to sow the seeds of our own collections. Collections that most of us were growing similar versions of . . . except for that rare fellow like Don, who found a niche and went at it with the whole of his being.

Collections have always impressed us, and Don's work getting a new home will only let it continue impressing Sherlockians as time goes one. But it makes me smile to think that, while the books were nice, Don Hobbs was mostly memorable for just being out there and being Don Hobbs . . . and that era continues.

And yet, here we are at a turn in the road, with a big sign telling us, "You are now leaving This-moment-ville!" But more of the great Sherlockian road still lays before us.

Wave to Don when you get the chance. He'll be the one with the slightly lighter step now, I'm sure.

Monday, June 26, 2017

John Watson's Island gets vistors!

Well, the AU-TV network is still on the air here in Sherlock Peoria, and six more episodes of that Sherlock Holmes based version of Gilligan's Island came streaming in over the weekend. Here's the latest updates on our episode guide to John Watson's Island!

19. The Retired Street Urchin. While retrieving an apple from a tree, John Watson sees a boy running through the trees. He gives chase only to be eluded as the wily youth runs under branches too low and through passages too narrow for John to navigate without wacky mishaps. The other castaways claim John is just hallucinating from some island berry or other poor food choice, but when John finally gives up and sits dejectedly flipping a shilling, the boy jumps out and tries to grab it. John snatches it back, and the boy introduces himself as Wiggins, a street lad who rafted downriver to get away from city life. John tells Wiggins he'll give him the shilling if he meets the rest, and when he does, the Professor announces that the boy's weight is perfect for the hot air balloon he's been building, but didn't have enough material to make it large enough to carry himself. They send Wiggins off in the balloon, but having forgotten to teach him anything about wind currents, watch as he heads in the direction of France.

20. The Hound of this Islandville. When Irene and Mary demand the men help them build their own establishment apart from 221B Island Street after their tolerance for Sherlock's experiments runs out, the men hold a planning session at Professor Moriarty's pub. Deciding it would be easier to convince the ladies they should stay at 221B than to build a new building, the professor suggest the others put together some mythical night-time threat to terrorize the women into staying in the group structure. Sherlock and John concoct a costume of a giant hound that breathes fire and put the plan into effect. But when Lestrade runs up to Irene and Mary, fleeing the supposed demon hound, whips and truncheons appear in their hands and they start pummeling John and Sherlock until their hoax is exposed. As John sleeps off his injuries, he has some very sexy S&M dreams about the ladies, and in the morning decides it is only proper for the fair sex to be housed in separate accommodations, and talks the rest of the men into building Camden House.

21. The Novice Bachelor. "Duke" Balmoral, handsome captain of the Camford sculling team, rows up on the beach in an experimental single-scull craft during a marathon training exercise. He is greeted as a liberating hero by the islanders, who serve up a feast and make his rest for the return trip as pleasant as possible, having determined he can take one person back with him. Duke loves the attention, especially that of Irene and Mary, and soon, we find, that of Sherlock, too, as he comes out of the closet as bi. Announcing he has decided to stay on the island, Duke finds the castaways a little less enamored of him, and when Sherlock rejects his affections, he slips away in his sculling boat early the next morning, leaving a note to say he enjoyed the freedom to be himself on the island, but is not willing to come out of the closet back at Camford, with a cheesey "What happens on the island stays on the island" sign-off.

22. The Performing Ape. When Sherlock devises a fruit-juice cocktail that will help Irene's sore vocal cords after a night of operatic singing, a wild island langur starts stealing the containers of it Sherlock leaves by her hut. When the castaways start hearing a beautiful singing voice in the night, they are certain someone new is on the island and spend a lot of time searching -- but seeing the same langur hanging out near Camden House. Eventually, as Sherlock brings Irene a new container of juice just as she starts up a gramophone recording that the langue starts singing along with, they realize the truth . . . that Sherlock's elixir has improved the langur's normal barks and whoops to the point they sound almost human. Sherlock vows, "I won't make that any more -- oh, we certainly don't want an island of talking apes!"

23. The Glaringly-Obvious Scot. When Sherlock saves Mary from drowning during an afternoon swim, John decides he must do something heroic to impress Mary to turn her grateful attentions away from Sherlock. Lestrade and Irene offer to pretend they're in jeopardy to help John, but John turns the offer down. Later that evening a crazed Scottsman wearing a kilt and blue facepaint shows up on the island and kidnaps Irene in front of John, who thinks it's Lestrade going on with the original play and waves Irene's pleas for help off. On his way back to 221B, however he runs into Lestrade and compliments him upon changing clothes so fast, but when Lestrade is baffled, John realizes the truth. He and Lestrade chase after the Scotsman, whom John battles as Lestrade frees Irene. The Scotsman, seeing things not going his way, dashes back to his Scots-canoe and paddles away. Irene, however, praises John as her hero, balancing things out for Sherlock's earlier heroics.

24. The Return of Black Peter. Black Peter Carey's dinghy washes back up on the island, and the castaways learn he wasn't killed by that harpoon nineteen episodes ago. They all try to talk Black Peter into taking whoever will fit in his boat back upriver, but Peter's will has been broken after being left for dead on the banks of the Plumstead Marshes where tidewaiters nursed him back to health. He is afraid of returning to civilization for fear of Patrick Cairns harpooning him again. Irene, Mary, and John try to build up his ego, to no avail. Mycroft and Lestrade try to convince him that the full forces of the Government and Scotland Yard back in London can surely protect him. The Professor offers to have Cairns murdered.  But when Sherlock shows up with a harpoon-like spear after killing an island boar for the night's dinner, Black Peter freaks out and takes off in his boat to head further downriver.

Well, six more episodes down the tubes (internet or boob, your choice). Really didn't expect to see Black Peter returning like that, but Wrongway Feldman set the pattern, and the pattern must be obeyed. (For those who aren't big Gilligan's Island fans, every episode of John Watson's Island is inspired by its numeric counterpart in the Gilligan version.) Just seventy-four more to go, but we've got all summer for this. Who knows, we might even get to the Harlem Globetrotters! (The third of the TV movie sequels.)

And what the heck, it's time to sing the sign-off again!

So this is a case that has gone astray,
they're here for a long, long time.
They may not solve a case each week,
please send them a lime.

John Watson and his Sherlock too

will do their very best,
to foil Jim Moriarty troubles
in their weird Thames island nest.

No wires, no gas, no hansom cabs

not a single luxury
just like the Grice Patersons,
it's primitive as can be.

So join us now, Sherlockians,

E'en if you're full of bile,
for seven stranded characters
here on John Watson's Isle!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Dark spots on the Canonical banana.

After hearing someone go on about the "crimes" of Moffat and Gatiss and season four of Sherlock earlier today, I decided to dip back into that trio of episodes this weekend to remind myself of what I found of value in them, which is quite a bit. The controversy over them gave me room to contemplate what a problematic season means to any series . . . and the different reactions different viewing patterns can give.

I mean, go back as far as The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes and some of the stinkers contained within. These days, we just accept them as a part of the whole, and the better stories that came before give us reason to pardon them when they finally show up. We have a full sixty stories to read, and our memories of those good times are still so fresh as we move along that we can cruise by the likes of "The Mazarin Stone" at speed and get back to thinking about "The Red-Headed League."

But when they first came out?

You got "His Last Bow" in 1917. And that was the end. No more Sherlock Holmes stories. BUT WAIT! A miracle happens, and four years later, you get "The Mazarin Stone."

(Insert sad trombone noise here.)

And you now at least two months to contemplate that sorry piece of crap before getting "The Problem of Thor Bridge" to take your mind off it.

I can relate to this as a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To anyone who Netflix binge-watched the entire series, or watched it on DVD, season six when showrunner Joss Whedon was away doing Firefly, was just a bad bump in the road. But to those of us who lived through a full year of such sad spectacles as "Doublemeat Palace" and the ruinous "Normal Again" rationed out one-per-week until a three month summer hiatus brought back something that, while better, could never quite be the same again . . . well, maybe you survived without scars, but my Buffy fandom took a "Star Wars Episode One" level hit.

Which brings me back to Sherlock. Eventually, I'm thinking there are going to be new fans of the series who plow throw all four seasons without the damage it did to so many who experienced show-change in real-time. At which point an older Sherlockian might reply, "You just don't know . . . you weren't there . . ."

Fandoms rarely get to be all roses and sunny days. Talking to the good Carter tonight about her personal canon, classic Star Trek, she too has those hard-to-rewatch episodes of things she first saw nearly fifty years ago. (She didn't start until reruns, so she was a few years late to that party.) And yet, tonight, we sat down to an episode of Star Trek Continues, an amazing piece of work that you can find on its own site or on YouTube, and found that sometimes you get lucky and you can go home again, at least for a little while. (After watching that, I fully expect that someday the Johnlockers are going to get something very close to their wish. Fan video abilities get better every day.)

In the end, the love of the whole will always trump the disappointment of the component part as a fandom moves through its generations. But, man, those hard days are always tough when they do come. Good thing we can have hope.

A new Mrs. Neville St. Clair

During last night's discussion of "The Man with the Twisted Lip" at the library, I was struck by a change in the Sherlockian approach to a particular character, and a change that shows a bit of evolution in Sherlockiana itself.

"The Man with the Twisted Lip" is a very different story among the first dozen shorter cases in which we first experience tagging along with Sherlock and the doctor. 221B Baker Street never appears, John encounters his friend Sherlock out of the blue, and in one of the truest expressions of their friendship, just runs off with him without a moment's hesitation. Middle of the night, "Hey, what are you doing here?" and yet, "Okay, let's go!"

The reason Sherlock Holmes is not at Baker Street for this case is that he's taking the very unusual step of staying with his client. This is even more odd when you consider John Openshaw from a few cases before, who feared for his very life, yet was sent home alone. This time, Mrs. Neville St. Clair, a woman who truly deserves a first name if any Canonical character did, seems to have talked Holmes into working out of her home as he attempts to find her missing husband.

The boy Sherlockians who dominated the last century tended to focus upon one detail of Mrs. St. Clair above all others. When she first appears at the door to her home, she's wearing a fabric we've never heard of (Mousseline-de-soie, defined by Webster's as "a silk muslin with a crisp finish") and Watson writes that he can see the silhouette of her figure. Those two details were enough for ye olde men of the Sherlockian table to so often chortle "Seductress! Oo-la-la!" and dig no further into the true strangeness of this situation.

Yet we live in a different age now, when empathies for a female character are a little more pronounced in most of Sherlockian society, and other thoughts come nicely to the fore first, as they did last night in our discussion group. Mrs. St. Clair's actual behavior, rather than her potential wardrobe scandal, gets the limelight.

And Mrs. St. Clair is particularly interesting in the way she plays Sherlock Holmes, holding back the news of her husband's letter until after Holmes speaks of his conviction that Neville St. Clair has been murdered. It's almost like she's trying to poke holes in that Sherlock-smarty-pants persona . . . just the way a family member who's known you your whole life would.

Sherlock Holmes is not only staying at the St. Clair home, but he uses its dog-cart and stablehands like a familiar houseguest would. He has things ready to go in the wee morning hours, and doesn't bother announcing his departure to his hostess, a casual bit that one might take to be a touch of rude Sherlock, but I really don't think that's the case.

Because one you get past the "oo-la-la!" of boy Sherlockians past, Mrs. Neville St. Clair, her hidden first name, her letting Holmes stay, and her general cleverness and the way Sherlock trusts her intuitions point more to her being a Holmes cousin than a seductress.

This is a woman who charged straight into a murder-friendly opium den when her husband seemed to be in trouble, so considering her for a place in the Holmes family does not seem undeserved. Back in 1988, in my book Sherlock and the Ladies, I theorized that Mrs. St. Clair was a childhood friend of Sherlock Holmes, but now . . . my lord, can it be nearly thirty years later already? . . . I would be all for promoting her to cousin.

She deserves it, and we live in a little better world than we did then, despite certain reversions. A happy thought that came out in last night's discussions of our friend Sherlock Holmes.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Bob Burr Memorial Edition.

With all the ways to keep a calendar these days, I still find I am horrible with birthdays.

So when The Sherlockian E-Times showed up last evening with a "Bob Burr Memorial Edition," I was quite happy to be reminded of my late friend's natal day. In my mind, his spirit still inhabits the house across the fence, so I hope the residents aren't too troubled by that ghost. He could be quite the insistent mischief-maker, as the Hounds of the Internet were often painfully aware.

And then tonight, Bob came up again, as he tends to when Sherlockians gather in Peoria, as he was the first to gather the faithful here, not a hundred yards from where I now sit. Author Philip Jose Farmer may have been the first to say Peoria should have a group and named it with the oft-needs-explaining soubriquet of "The Hansoms of John Clayton," but it was Bob, always Bob who actually got the meetings going and held the group together for so many years.

So as our Sherlock Holmes Story Society met again for the sixth month in a row at Peoria's North Branch Library to discuss "The Man With The Twisted Lip," those who remember him couldn't help but think of Bob. Especially as his Canonical title, both in the Hansoms and the Baker Street Irregulars was "the Rascally Lascar," which comes from that very tale. As the lascar rascal in the story ran a den of addicts, I don't think that any Sherlockian society chief ever had a more appropriate reference for his alias.

T'were I a better friend, perhaps I should have taken "a Dane, who acts as assistant there" from the story to have been a bit more dedicated to his efforts, but having more Canonical titles at this point than I have fingers on one hand with this society or that, I was never as steady a hand as Bob in Sherlockian nickname or scion society coordination. Like the song says, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone," which is one of the great things about being a Sherlockian long enough: You get to have seen enough good things and good people to have a few regrets at not appreciating them all as fully as you might have.

Which is always something to think about as we interact with those present now. It may be fight-fight-fight on the internet some days, but in the little local gatherings, we shine. (And the big ones, too! Really missing 221B Con this week, after hearing reports of Sherlocked USA.)

Ah, well, enough nostalgia for one evening. Perhaps a few observations on "The Man with the Twisted Lip" will be coming soon. And you can thank Mr. Burr for that.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What is Sherlock Holmes to us?

Sherlock Holmes is so many things to many people, but he has always occupied a couple of major spaces in our modern mythos.

To the post-Victorians of the early 1900s, he was an envoy to nostalgia of a time gone by. To the predominately left-brained, before "left" had such strong political connotations that the phrase might be misunderstood by many, he was a torch-bearer for logic and reason. Classic Sherlockian texts push those two roles hard, but these days, Sherlock Holmes definitely has one more major role in our lives, and I've been trying to put it into words for a few days now.

When Sherlock Holmes and John Watson first meet, both men are on the fringes of society, practically outcasts. Watson, through ill-health and physical injury, has been put on the government's disabled list. Holmes is described by a colleague (Stamford) as someone you probably don't want to spend a lot of time with, and fits no well-defined societal role. Neither man really has much in the way of friends, family, or lovers. And when they meet, it's important.

Christopher Morley once put his name and introduction on a book called Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship. It contains just A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, "The Final Problem," "The Empty House," and "The Bruce-Partington Plans," but doesn't really delve into the theme of its title much other than to present those stories and talk about Sherlockiana in general.

We know that Sherlockiana has sparked some wonderful friendships over the years, and we know that Sherlock and John were great friends as well, but why is that friendship more special to us than that of The Three Musketeers? Or Nero Wolfe and Archie? Or any of the thousands of other fictional friendships from classic literature up to today's New York Times best sellers?

Now that we've had a chance to see two major denominations of Sherlock Holmes fans develop, with different styles of Sherlocking, we have a great opportunity to look for commonalities in very different approaches. How are middle-aged men calculating the geometry of "The Musgrave Ritual" like young ladies producing Mystrade porn fics? How are past travelers working out the location of 221B Baker Street like modern fan tourists extrapolating from Setlock? The techniques might be very different on the surface, but the spirit behind them? Much the same.

And so much of that common spirit ties back to the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Call it friendship or call it love, those two souls coming together has great meaning for us. Two men who don't fit into society at all, outcasts in their way, coming together in a relationship that makes that same world that doesn't know what to do with them a better place.

All the mysteries they solve, all the clients they help, none of that is as meaningful as what Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson bring to the table when they come together for that work. "The Blanched Soldier" and "The Lion's Mane" are nice stories, but with Sherlock alone, they don't tend to make anyone's top ten list. Something is missing and even though Watson's role doesn't seem as specifically important as Sherlock's, replacing him with any casual stranger just doesn't filled the bill, just as if Watson had gone on to room with Stamford in A Study in Scarlet.

Even just asking the question "What does Sherlock Holmes mean to us?" leaves out a key element of the equation. It is Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson together that bring the most meaning to their stories, in any medium, in any re-creation. Their relationship, the bond of two outsiders that works a pure magical alchemy of personality, has produced good things both in fiction and in our really real world. Solving mysteries to entertain us and bringing empowering friendships into our lives.

And that, the connection between Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson is, at this point in our world, far more important than nostalgia for the Victorian period or examples of observation and deduction.

We are very lucky to have them.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

An old story, a new story, and a pod full of stories!

Great day to be a Sherlockian today.

First, and most unremarkable to a stalwart fan of Holmes, the local Sherlock Holmes Story Society is doing "The Man with the Twisted Lip" on Thursday night at Peoria's North Branch. Even though I've read that story many a time, it's a fun one, and a tale that comes much earlier in the Canon than I expect ever time. Opium dens, Holmes and Watson doing a sleepover at a client's house while Watson is married, Holmes swiping stuff from a lady's bathroom, the boys actually going to jail to see a supposed murderer . . . all kinds of wacky atypical fun. And the discussion starts at 6:30 this Thursday with a special guest from afar.

Second, and another great time ahead, is that the Amazon pre-order I threw in on Sunday arrived already: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss. Henry Jekyll's daughter Mary is calling upon Mr. Sherlock Holmes for help by the second chapter, and having made it that far, I can already say the book looks to be a lively, inventive read. Charles Prepolec had mentioned it online and the description seemed just too perfect. More on that one to come, I'm sure.

And third, and a great time just finished, is "Episode 65: Sherlocked USA Con Roundup," a special (and very different) episode by Three Patch Podcast.  Team Three Patch are some great podcasters, usually providing a three-hour-ish show every month featuring many different segments one can make last a while, taking in a bit here, a bit there. But this episode is one 105 minute romp entirely dedicated to Fox Estacado and Chelsea giving you EVERYTHING you want to know about Los Angeles's Sherlocked USA Con.

Like any proper adventurers returned from exploring an exotic land, Fox and Chelsea have stories to tell, and they really do it so very, very well. Stories of meeting the members of the Sherlock cast who were headlining the con are to be expected, but an unexpected treat from this episode was Fox's behind-the-scenes look are her life in the dealer's room. Having seen her at work a booth at 221B Con, it made her stories all the more vivid for me, but Chelsea held her own with descriptions of her cosplay outfit and encounters it helped make.

Unlike the way I usually ration out a month's worth of Three Patch, I found myself rolling through this one without a pause and happy to skip other new podcasts to hear more. This month was a great episode to sample the sort of enthusiasm common to Three Patch's work and get a full report on a Sherlockian event of a sort we may not see too many of . . . I was both more than a little envious and just happy for the reporting they did when it was done.

But as I said before, this week holds Sherlockian treats ahead, so I can't dwell too long on any regrets of not going to Sherlocked USA.  Some days, it's just great to be a Sherlockian.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Original Canon fanfic alternate worlds.

There has long been a trope in science fiction that every moment creates new universes. If you decide to turn right, a "turn right" universe springs up. Turn left and an entirely different "turn left" world arises. This seems like a whole lot of energy being expended just to give importance to minor choices, but it's a fun little extrapolation game to play. And, it really does happen.

Yes, it really does. Maybe not in our really real world, but in fan fiction world?

Season one of Sherlock happens. A thousand fan fiction universes spin off. Season Two of Sherlock happens. A thousand more fan fiction universes incorporating the choices made by the showrunners for that season spring up. And so on.

Can you imagine what alternate fan fiction reality generations would have come had Victorians had the internet?

A Study in Scarlet sees print. Fanfic writers spin off stories about Watson's disabilities, romantic entanglements with characters we never heard of, Sherlock advising foreign detectives . . . .

The Sign of the Four appears. Watson dumps previous romantic partners for Mary. Holmes boxing and addiction fics run wild (and boxing-related addiction fics). Sherlock's multiple siblings start appearing, and he might even be the eldest brother. Sherlock and John work with Toby the dog on a regular basis.

The Adventures and The Memoirs come out. Sherlock Holmes is suddenly dead. Dead, dead, dead. Afterlife fan fiction happens (as it actually did, with John Kendrick Bangs.) Do the fans produce stories where he didn't really die? Probably not, as they have dozens of episodes of new material to play with. Irene Adler, Moriarty, and Mycroft all come into play. Except Mycroft is just a government auditor who is too lazy to be a detective. Mycroft fan fiction takes a big hit, as who wants to write about an auditor?

The Hound of the Baskervilles doesn't affect much.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes brings Sherlock back to life and futzes up almost a decade of fanfic and headcanon. Mycroft is still an auditor. Milverton shows up and we start getting darker, criminal-act Sherlock . . . or just feeding of those who already had written him dark.

The Valley of Fear is a problem in any world. Watson knew about Moriarty?

His Last Bow. Finally, Mycroft gets to be the British Government!  Sherlock the spy fanfic begins, if it hadn't already. Watson's preface also alters any retirement fanfic, heavy on the rheumatism.

The Casebook ends the Canon. No real alternate timelines spin off this one, because it always just seemed like fanfic by the author anyway.

Each publication, like each season of Sherlock, would have brought changes for those who bravely charged ahead into the lives of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. And they would have had plenty of time to do it in those days, with hiatuses lasting such random lengths as three, one, eight, two, ten, and four years. My meagre extrapolations above don't begin to touch on the possibilities that could have come.

But that, really, is the cool part. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have always had so many possibilities in them. Universes upon universes, and many, many more are still out there, waiting.

Turn right. Turn left. Head off at a fifteen degree angle. It's all good.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

An American point of union.

Where is the best place in America for Sherlockian road warriors to meet?

Over in his new blog, Interesting Though Elementary, Rob Nunn was discussing the idea of a Sherlockian road-trip competition, inspired by something Chris Redmond said on Twitter. And as so many of us web-headed Sherlockians oftimes feed off one another, looking at Rob's team race idea put another in my head: How would all of us get to the starting point with our cars?

America has so many cities mentioned in the Holmes Canon that are brilliant destinations. San Francisco, New Orleans, St. Augustine . . . many on one coast or another and so many of them have Sherlockians there already. There's a reason so many Holmes fans fly to the big events in New York, Minneapolis, and Atlanta, as well. We're very spread out.

The starting point of a road rally would practically be the finish line for most of us, having to drive so far to get our cars there. And where would the fairest place for that be?

Well, the geographic center of the contiguous United States is supposedly about 2.6 miles northwest of the center of Lebanon, Kansas. It has the same name as the Pennsylvania town mentioned in "The Red-headed League," which gets it some points, and it's about three and a half hours from both Fort Dodge, Kansas and Topeka, Kansas, which both appear in that most Kansasian of stories, "The Three Garridebs." If Sherlockians were camping folk (and some surely are, but I'm betting not most), it would even be a wonderful thing to pick a campground in Kansas, gather there in tents and RVs and christen that place "Moorville."

T'were one to map out distribution of the U.S. Sherlockian population, a road rally would probably happen on the East coast, starting in New York, Philadelphia, or  Washington. And maybe that's where such a thing would start . . . but not for everyone. Have you ever been to a Sherlockian weekend where you and a couple of friends decided to do dinner, then pick up Sherlockian after Sherlockian on your way out of the hotel until you wind up with a table for ten or more? What if a Sherlockian road rally actually worked like that?

A stalwart carload or two from the Eastern seaboard starts west, headed for Palmyra, New York. From there, they go up to Toronto, down to Detroit (pausing at London, Ontario, of course). Along the way, they are joined by other cars from those places. (Alternate Caonical route, Palmyra to Buffalo to Cleveland.) From there, on to Chicago to add more Sherlockians to the convoy, and down to St. Louis (with maybe a Nauvoo swing-out). Then that fabled Kansas leg of the trip, followed by a long day's drive to Salt Lake City. Then Carson City and on to San Francisco . . . except then those poor San Franciscans don't get to drive anywhere, and everybody else has to drive back.

At some point in this consideration, the thought occurred to only travel in states mentioned in the Canon, at which point Indiana, Kentucky, and the Virginias become real problems. I have a feeling that Canonical driving tours of Great Britain are a whole lot easier to manage. Here in America, we have to use a little imagination, which is what Don Hobbs did in coming up with his Watson, Oklahoma, Holmes Peak, and Sherlock, Texas route. I'm sure we could find the one state with the most Canonically referenced sites and add some "Watson, Illinois" type places.

Not that I'm biased toward any particular state in the fifty, mind you. (Though one where you can go from Chicago to Cairo . . . oh, wait, our roads are not exactly prime right now.) There are a lot of possibilities for those with a week or a weekend, when you start digging into it.

Altamont, Illinois to Chicago? Violet, Louisiana to Hosmer, South Dakota?  Baskerville, Virginia to Stapleton, Georgia? Norwood, Illinois to P & W Builders? That last one is a three minute drive just outside of Peoria. You can have some very local fun with this stuff. (Don't think I haven't been to Baker Street in East Peoria on more than one occasion!) The trick is, as always, getting Sherlockians together for the thing. Which brings us back to . . .

Kansas, anyone?

Dad versus Morland.

There's a bad link on IMDB's page for BBC's Sherlock. If you scroll down through the cast list and click on the character played by Timothy Carlton, listed there as "Dad," it takes you to the character profile for "Morland Holmes" from CBS's Elementary.

Since CBS would surely sue the BBC for using Morland Holmes on their show, t'were that actually the name of Timothy Carlton's character, I would strongly tend toward believing "Dad" has some other, and surely more benign, first name.

I mean, "Morland." Really. "Snidely Whip-Holmes" wasn't available?

Sherlock and Elementary take two decidedly different approaches to the father of our friend Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock's Holmes pater is full of kindliness and normalcy, which leads one to believe that his sons' quirks tend toward nature over nurture. Elementary's Sherlock father figure is such a villainous mess one would push his boys' issues over into the "nurture" column. And, boy, do those two have issues, and they didn't even have a last season sister to push them to where they are. (Of course, with at least one season left to go, another Holmes sibling could still be in the offing for Elementary.)

If one were to pit Sherlock's "Dad" and Elementary's "Morland" against one another, mano a mano, one's first thought as to the outcome would be that the villainous Morland would dispatch Dad with half a thought. But it is very hard to think of Dad Holmes as an individual item. Mrs. Holmes is a part of the package. And that eldest son would probably get wind of any threat on its way, if the middle one wasn't somehow in the picture already, and daddy's little girl? Yikes. Sorry, Morland, but that last one would have taken you out at age fifteen.

Morland Holmes and Dad Holmes come off as a paternal Goofus and Gallant, when you look at the true role of a father. One distant and manipulative, hiring surrogates to interact with at least one of his kids. The other a sweet old guy who just wants a visit at the holidays and maybe to go see a show with the kids now and then.  We've seen a wild array of Holmes fathers over the years, when we've seen glimpses of them at all. (Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and Mona Morstein's The Childhood of Sherlock Holmes come first to mind, along with Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street.) Our current pair of television Holmes papas, however, are about as wide apart in life-choices as we could find.

So here's to Father's Day and the hope that you got a "Dad" and not a "Morland," if there was a male parent in your family photo. He seems a lot less stressful upon the detective career.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A friend from Nepal.

When we think of Sherlock Holmes's great hiatus, between leaving Watson at Reichenbach Falls and returning to London years later, we tend to think of him as a solo act.

". . .  the trial of the Moriarty gang left two of its most dangerous members, my own vindictive enemies, at liberty. I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhassa and spending some days with the head Llama."

Okay, let's think about this for a moment. Sherlock Holmes finds himself thought dead and unable to go home. Where's the first place he thinks to go? Tibet? Why?

Well, he's Sherlock Holmes. We don't question why he does things, trusting that he has great reasons which will one day be explained to us. But Tibet never gets an explanation. But, hey, he's Holmes. That's fine.

Yet this morning, as I was considering the fate of his original Watson, young Victor Trevor, I took a moment to look into the Terai tea plantings, where Trevor went to recover from the loss of his father and disgrace of his family name and was doing quite well, according to Holmes.

Seeing that Terai is in southern Nepal, I made the immediate mistake of many a geographical novice and went "Isn't that a part of Tibet or something?" But even though they are two very different countries, Nepal and Tibet are neighbors, both claiming the Himalayas and even Mount Everest itself. So, yes Sherlock Holmes travelled in Tibet . . . but if that included mountain explorations, as his "Sigerson" identity seemed to hint at, why not start in Nepal?

And more to the point, why not start an exile from London and his current Watson by going to Nepal and re-connecting with the original item, Victor Trevor?

Sherlock Holmes heading to Terai for a friendly place to plot his next move make complete sense. We know he stayed in touch with Victor, enough to know he was doing well there. And who better to head for in a time of crisis than the one non-Watson person Sherlock Holmes called a close friend, and a hearty, spirited friend at that.

Did Victor Trevor travel Tibet with Sherlock Holmes? I like to think he did. The idea of Sherlock Holmes working alone is never a cheery one. He needs that other part, that matching piece who is, as he put it in Trevor's case, "the very opposite of me in some respects."

I have no doubt that the million monkeys of fan fiction have already hit upon this notion. (And no slur upon fan fiction writers intended there -- I like monkeys. Even created a male Mary Sue superhero once called "The Millionth Monkey.") Every possible idea about these boys seems to be out there somewhere anymore. But it was still a delight to me to finally make that connection.

And if nobody has written up the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Victor Trevor in Tibet yet, for heaven's sake, do it!  (I would, but I can't stop blogging! Trying to write something else right now, and everything keeps wanting to jump into a blog post!)

Anyway, Holmes and Trevor, yes, me stopping blog post now as going on too rambly long and starting to use monkey dialect. (Aw, Tibetan macaques are cute!)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Decent fellows enough.

One reason I prefer Twitter to Facebook, as a Sherlockian: Lack of gory details.

I hear that Twitter can be a horrible place, full of rude folk and personal attacks, and I'm sure it can be, if one catches the eye of the wrong folk. But with Sherlockians? I guess I've been lucky with my feed. Sure, I hear rumblings of things now and then. Just last night, a report came along of some Sherlockians somewhere being nasty to each other. No specifics. Just an echo of a disharmony, somewhere else on the social networks, a quiver of the web, if you will.

No gory details. No names that seem to need a judgment call as to who is right and who is wrong. And it's not like we're moving in with people and really need to make judgements, after all.

Before John H. Watson met Mr. Sherlock Holmes, Stamford said something about Sherlock that I always find "just right." Stamford commented, "He is a little queer in his ideas -- an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know he is a decent fellow enough."

That statement from Stamford has always been my default setting for most Sherlockians. Some of them are a little odd in their ideas, yes, but they're decent enough folk. But something changed over the last couple ten or fifteen years: The data explosion. We learned too much.

There was a day when you rarely found out personal details about the writers of most things you read. What you knew about them came through in their work, or it didn't come through at all. Sherlockians wrote about Sherlock Holmes, and that was how you knew them. You didn't know who they voted for in the last election. You didn't know if they went to a church that played with rattlesnakes every Sunday. You didn't know their every reaction to every world event in real time. And al that data takes some adjustment.

If you read those opening passages of A Study in Scarlet, you see Stamford's tone on Sherlock Holmes shift as Watson becomes more serious about moving in with Holmes. He starts with "decent fellow enough," but winds up at "You mustn't blame me if you don't get on with him." The difference? Stamford starts drawing up more information from his memory as the topic of Holmes is kept alive. And more judgmental statements start being made as he realizes Watson might actually bunk with this guy. But Watson adjusts.

Not adjusting or accepting comes far too easily. Exist in a place long enough, and eventually someone is going to cross a line that makes you put up walls. And when walls are up, you are left with only your imagination as to what is on the other side of that wall. And imagination can be a wicked, wicked thing, making it harder to consider tearing down those walls.

Something about speaking face-to-face makes us less quick to raise walls -- Watson takes in all of Stamford's information through the filter of Stamford's presence, and decides Holmes might be worth a shot. Can you imagine if the exchange between the two had taken place entirely on Facebook, with all of Stamford's FB friends jumping in to offer their thoughts on Holmes as well? I don't think we'd have the Canon today.

We're all decent fellows enough, really. Most of us just don't have John Watson to move in and explain it to everybody in print.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

John Watson's Island goes past the Netflix season length.

An alternate universe where Sherlock Holmes and company were used by a TV producer to create their own version of Gilligan's Island.  A first season with thirty-six episodes paralleling those of the version that we're so familiar with. And tonight, John Watson's Island rounds the turn by finishing the first half of that first season. So, on with the show!

13. The Head Circle. When a discussion of golf clubs and the obliquity of the ecliptic gets out of hand, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty get into a series of double-or-nothing bets on the dynamics of a golf ball as struck by Sherlock, and Sherlock Holmes winds up owning London's criminal underworld.  While all of the others, except for Mycroft, approach Sherlock about how he can help London as a whole by making specific changes to the criminal empire, Moriarty engages Mycroft in a game of cards at the pub. Sure of his skills, Mycroft doesn't spot Moriarty fixing the game, and eventually Moriarty wins the Diogenes Club, British intelligence, and a goodly chunk of Central London real estate. As a favor to his brother, Sherlock trades Moriarty the underworld for the government and the island is declared a gambling-free zone.

14. The Veiled Showerer. When John is out hunting island boar, he falls into a mire and needs to clean up at the communal shower. He has to wait for Irene to finish, however, as she was there before him. Since Irene also used the shower to wash the dress she was wearing, she hands it out to dry next to the shower and heads back to her room in a towel. Sherlock comes along, sees the dress and someone showering and mistakes that person for Irene, and he confides certain personal feelings to "her." Hijinks ensue. And something about the water supply, but who really cares about that?

15. The Newgate Squire. An Australian penal colony guard whose ship was lost on its way down under in 1868 washes up on the island, convinced he has finally made it to Australia. Thinking he has found a group of escaped cons after hearing Moriarty talk about his life back in London, the guard starts subduing the castaways one by one and locking them up in a handmade cell on the beach. Eventually John Watson is the sole remaining free agent on the island and starts using tricks from his Australian boyhood to vex the guard, and sets everyone free while the guard is distracted. They lock the guard up in his own cell for the night, only to find the next morning that the river has risen during the night and the cell is floating downriver with the guard inside.

16.  The Starboard Box. While Lestrade and Watson are digging a barbecue pit, they discover a locked iron treasure chest. Deciding they want to look at what's inside before any of the others, the duo tries to open it without enlisting either Sherlock Holmes or Professor Moriarty's skills. After struggling through many attempts, including a drop off a cliff and a crude explosive device, Irene Adler discovers the box and opens it with a hatpin while the  two men are planning their next attempt, and they return to find it open and empty.

17. The Non-existent Patient. Gangster Jackson Biddle is dropped off on the island by his accomplices, Hayward and Moffat, with a satchel full of money. Hayward and Moffat go on downriver with their steam launch, the Norah Creina, so an anticipated police search will not turn up their ill-gotten gains. When Biddle finds the isle is inhabited, he pretends to be a doctor carrying funds to build a hospital, who just escaped river pirates. Even though Biddle has never met the Professor, Moriarty recognizes both the man and the amount from a job he planned, and tries to keep Sherlock Holmes from seeing through Biddle's story. Hijinx ensue, and Biddle barely makes it off the island with Lestrayd in chase when his friends return. The money, however, winds up in Watson's medical bag, where he will hold it to donate to a hospital when they are rescued.

18. The Seven Blazes. When over-sized flares come falling over the island one evening, Mycroft recognizes them as initial targeting flares for Project Gomorrah, the British armory's secret five-hundred-ton cannon, a gun whose projectile is an explosive large enough to destroy the entire island. The castaways contemplate their final hours, confess wacky personal secrets, and in with the dawn, a mammoth projectile falls on the center of the island . . . and does not explode. Mycroft and Moriarty work to first disable the explosive device at it's core, then attach it to a large pontoon, built to channel its force to propel the pontoon upriver to London at a high rate of speed. When Sherlock is chosen by both his brother and his arch-foe to undertake the dangerous ride, John attempts to take his place ahead of time and accidentally sets the rocket-pontoon off without having been securely seated. When the rocket-pontoon explodes dangerously close to London, the government kills Project Gomorrah and the castaways are saved.

It has long been said in Sherlockian culture, "Never have so many written so much for so few." And if you're one of the few that this little ongoing wackiness seems to be written for, bless you.

On with the show!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Being earnest upon unimportance.

I awoke today with a curious thought: Is there "important" Sherlockiana?

I mean, must-read, Sherlockian 101, "if you haven't read this non-Canon work you're missing key points," in-everybody's-library, life-changing IMPORTANT Sherlockiana. Something you could even show to a non-Sherlockian and get confirmation that, "Yes, this is a thing of importance."

And then I wondered, "Is it the unimportance of Sherlockiana that really makes it great?" And, "Or am I just feeling old and crabby this morning?" So I started randomly pulling down books and looking for something that might give me guidance. And soon, I found something that made me go, "Oh . . . that . . . ."

Not something of importance, but someone writing about things they found important. An essay called "Requiem for the Game" by David Hammer, published in the 1995 U of M volume Sherlock Holmes: The Detective and the Collector. In a volume celebrating one of our great Sherlockian enthusiasts, Hammer writes a definitely unenthusiastic article. But he even hits on enthusiasm:

"I am not suggesting that Sherlockian scholarship will, or should perish, only that it is already attenuated -- through enthusiasm still runs high. While enthusiasm is laudable, it is not scholarship and may not produce good writing. I suspect that the next waves of writing will be generated solely by enthusiasm, for we are now writing about the Writings about the Writings. Sadly, the Great Game is over."

Hammer obviously found some older Sherlockian works important. Unmatchably important. Like many a Sherlockian of his generation, he felt like he missed the bus for a "good old days" of Sherlockiana that he didn't get to be a part of, a time when Sherlockian giants strode the Earth. And as I remember hearing many times back in the 1990s, from more than one elder Sherlockian of that day, none of our fellow current Sherlockians would ever be as great as those who came before.

Because those guys were important. To some Sherlockians.

When the waves of BBC Sherlock love signaled the start of a rising tide of Sherlockiana, we saw a few similar speeches about how all this new enthusiasm was ephemeral fannish faddery. Nothing important would come out of it. Silly, silly people.

Do you know why we can't make another violin that sounds like a Stradivarius? Because someone somewhere decided that a Stradivarius is what a violin should sound like and all other violins got measured against that goal. A Stradivarius is not, objectively, a perfect violin. Just a chosen subjective standard. Someone claimed authority on the subject, others went along. The Strad became important.

But musical instrument development did not stop with the Stradivarius.

Sherlockiana has its violins, and it also has its guitars. And electric guitars. The music produced, as a whole, is important, but while individual songs might have importance to individual people, as a culture, I don't think we can cite works that touched every single Sherlockian life -- we have some great Sherlockians coming from entirely new directions these days.

And can anyone seriously propose that the Sherlockian works of Morley and Starrett were more "important" than the Sherlockian works of Moffat and Gatiss? We can puff up and dismiss television as being of lesser stature than the literary print as a medium, but who affected more lives? Who brought more people back to the original Doyle? And most importantly, do those questions even matter?

You can't have fun when things are important, and Sherlockiana, at its very core, is about fun. Unimportance is what keeps it fun, and whenever we see importance creeping in, someone is usually about to get very crabby. Play any game too long and you get a little bored with it. You might even make rules about how it was played back when it was fun for you and try to foist them upon the new players . . . even though you've lost the fun . . . because your past fun is important to you. To you.

Importance, really, is just a pain in the ass, and I'd probably have been happier if I had awoken with a different word on the tip of my brain this morning. But I still haven't had breakfast yet, and that's the most important meal of the day, so I'd best get to it. Or maybe I should just have fun with toast.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

How does Watson hunt?

When we think of Holmes and Watson lying in wait for villainy to strike, we think of many tales: The dark Stoke Moran bedroom of "Speckled Band." The doings on the moor in The Hound of the Baskervilles. The bank vault of "Red-Headed League." But our thoughts . . . or at least mine . . . rarely wander to "The Adventure of Black Peter," and Holmes and Watson hiding in the bushes outside of the harpooned man's cabin.

Watson tries to make it as dramatic as possible, before the somewhat anticlimactic arrival of the frail, thin, pale fellow who is . . . well, not very murderous. Here's how Watson describes their night-time vigil:

"It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet it brought with it something of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies beside the water-pool and waits for the coming of the thirsty beasts of prey. What savage creature was it which might steal upon us out of the darkness? Was it a fierce tiger of crime, which could only be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, or would it prove to be some skulking jackal, dangerous only to the weak and unguarded?"

Once you get past the question of Watson's melancholy (It was 1895 -- still mourning "his sad bereavement?" Something not right between he and Holmes?), you come to the hunting scenario he describes . . . which makes absolutely no sense.

Maybe I'm just too used to Central Illinois hunters and their deer stands in the woods, the little treehouses that keep them above the fauna. But Watson's description just sounds like a ridiculously bad position for awaiting tigers and jackals. And the idea of "fighting hard with flashing fang and claw" brings an immediate reaction of "WHERE'S YOUR GUN, WATSON?!?"

It's almost like Watson is going from human hunter to bestial predator mid-metaphor, like he's some wild were-creature waiting to bring down a lesser beast.

When Watson writes of the voices of "belated villagers" wandering by after all that, he almost comes off as a little kid playing pretend in the bushes while the adults stroll by unawares. And Stanley Hopkins just grabbing a skinny guy by the collar is quite the letdown after all that build-up. Where's the fiesty Colonel Moran of "Empty House?" That guy would deserve such a prelude. But this?

Well, there's probably a reason this vigil doesn't come to mind when we remember Holmes and Watson doing midnight stake-outs.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Getting his hands dirty.

There come those moments in the career of Sherlock Holmes when he takes a turn for the dark.

All the logic, professional focus, patriotism, and virtue need to go away for a time in pursuit of a victory can will apparently only come from cheating. And what case comes to mind when we consider Sherlock Holmes taking that darker path?

The business of Charles Augustus Milverton.

"Surely you have gone too far," Watson says. Sherlock Holmes just courted and proposed to a girl he has no intentions of a relationship with.

"For heaven's sake, Holmes, think what you are doing!" Watson cries, not five minutes later. Sherlock Holmes is planning a break-in.

"I cannot help you, Lestrade," Sherlock says at last, and covers up a murder.

True to their form of taking the originals and ratcheting them up a bit, BBC Sherlock even took that last bit and just had Sherlock Holmes commit the murder himself, forcing his brother to cover it up.

Sherlock Holmes carries a real Superman/Batman duality in his character that is a part of what makes him appeal to both sides of human nature. In the daylight, he is a paragon, a hero at a level of ability we can aspire to, using his powers for truth, justice, and the British way. But in the night? A vigilante whose actions would land him in jail if he were ever caught by the police.

"Vigilante," of course, is our word for "criminals we like."

Most of us believe in the systems and legally laid-out moral codes that define our nations on a large scale, and our communities on a smaller scale. But we also can't help but see there are flaws in those systems, mis-steps in the code that allow those with no kindness or an over-abundance of selfishness to do harm in pursuit of wealth, power, or just to fluff up their own view of themselves.

Charles Augustus Milverton embodies all three of those motives, taking profits, yes, but with a power dynamic that plainly feeds his ego and gives him that creepy smile. Perhaps the most disgusting thing we see of him is the sheer happeniness he enjoys during his blackmail demands and verbal jousting as he plays his power cards. So we give Sherlock Holmes certain moral freedoms when it comes time to deal with Milverton.

Sherlock Holmes does wrong, yes. But to stop a larger evil.

Defining "a larger evil" in fiction is quite easy. You add that Milvertonian twinkle to the eye, maybe have his TV incarnation lick people's faces. But in the real world, of consequence and secrets harder to keep hidden? A Sherlock Holmes taking such action might have a harder time of it.

Still, Holmes's cases always give us a broad range of human situations to contemplate. And when he gets his hands dirty, as in Charles Augustus Milverton's case, that discussion can be very well worth having.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

John Watson's Island, on to . . . ?

Having now stranded this blog on a topical desert island, with readers looking for rescue ships to get them back to more diverse Sherlockian topics, I can only look to the Canon (episode guide) to John Watson's Island for ideas on how to get myself off this topic.

7. The Blown Carbuncle. As food starts to run in short supply on the island, John Watson thinks he hears a goose in the underbrush. He encounters Sherlock, who also hears the goose, and they go on a goose chase, first leading them to the crude pub Moriarty has built called "The Alpha's Omega." Irene is singing there, accompanied by a primitive handmade piano the Professor built, and they discover her singing has lured an entire flock of geese to the back lot of the pub. They pick one out for supper and as Sherlock is raising his ax to behead it, Mycroft shows up and shouts for him to stop. This is one of the British government's secret homing geese from Project Carbuncle, capable of carrying coded messages in capsules in its crop, and Mycroft is sure it can get a message back to London that they need rescue. Sherlock releases the bird, and as the castaways shout "HUZZAH!" the frightened fowl flies off, without the intended message in its crop.

8. The Six-legged Napoleon of Crime. Mary and John are having some morning pancakes when Sherlock arrives, sniffs at their syrup and asks them what manner of tree this syrup came from. John shows Sherlock, who then uses the sap from the tree in a chemical experiment that results in a new kind of glue that he announces as "Handcuffs in a Bottle," an invention that will revolutionize police-work. Sherlock then goes to tell Moriarty a rescue ship has come and that he should immediately grab his trunk, at which point Sherlock squirts the stuff on the Professor's wrists and "handcuffs" him in place. Only Sherlock finds his right hand is now glued to the Professor's wrists and when John tries to pry them apart, he winds up attached as well. Irene and Mary show up to see the contorted trio wrestling about to attempt to free themselves, make several crude remarks and suggestions, and then Mary produces some nail polish remover and frees the trio.

9. The Golden Pinterest. While surveying the island with Mycroft, John discovers a vein of gold on a rock outcropping. Mycroft convinces John to cover the vein and keep it a secret until they can mine enough to put the island on the gold standard or at least supplement their current tender of silver coins with additional gold ones. (Bimetallic question, anyone?) John tells Sherlock, of course, who then convinces Watson to tell him where the vein is, as he wishes to ask Irene to marry him and needs to make a ring. Later that day, John runs into Irene and accidentally spills the secret of Sherlock's upcoming proposal and the ring plan, only to find Irene has developed a sudden, devastating toothache and will need a filling. John tells Mary the gold vein's location and sends her off for the filling, then heads for the Professor's pub to get alcohol for to numb Irene's tooth for dental work. The Professor produces a mining pick and volunteers to help Mary, heading off to do so once John tells him where to go. Eventually, everyone is at the gold vein squabbling over both the gold and the series of lies and betrayals that got them there, when Lestrayd, the last to arrive, impounds all the mined gold, both as evidence and fine.

10. The Find of the Boar. As they explore a particularly dense part of the island's vegetation, Lestrade discovers a gray gargoyle perched on a ledge. Moriarty identifies it as "Tona" the god worshipped by the island peoples of certain north Atlantic islands. A sudden earthquake shakes the island, and when it stops, they see that Tona is gone. Moriarty immediately declares that no Englishman was ever meant to look upon Tona and Lestrayd has activated Tona's curse. (Moriarty, being Irish, is unaffected.) The gray gargoyle of Tona keeps turning up wherever Lestrayd wanders on the island, until the Scotland Yard man is verging on madness . . . the true curse of Tona, according to Moriarty. Sherlock, however, finds some child-like footprints and deduces that "Tona" is really the pygmy Tonga, who washed downriver and survived from an earlier case. Sherlock uses an island boar he trained named Toby to track Tonga, only to have Toby chase Tonga into the river, where Tonga is small and wiry enough to use the boar as a flotation device and escape the island.

11. The Phantom of the Alpha's Omega. Wandering to the beach, Sherlock and John find Irene in tears, holding a script for an opera she was signed to open in before their boat-wreck. In an attempt to cheer her up, they convince Moriarty to stage the opera at his pub, which John will direct. But as pre-production takes place a series of near-accidents threaten Irene's very life, and Sherlock sees a phantom of the pub disappearing into the shadows after the latest attempt. The show's rehearsals go on, and during the next attempt, the phantom blow-darts Irene from the rafters. As Irene falls, however, her costume veil falls aways and she is revealed to be John Watson in disguise. Mary Morstan drops from above, revealing herself as the phantom, and when she is accused of killing Watson, explains that the dart was a mild sedative with properties that cause an after-effect of laryngitis, Mary hoping to succeed Irene as the star of the show so she can spend more time with John. She has to take over as director, since John can no longer speak, and the couple happily watches Irene's premiere together when the show is put on.

12. The Naval Entreaty. A waterproof newsboy's leather bag washes ashore two days after Christmas with newspapers declaring that castaways have been seen on a secluded river island by a passing steamer and a navy rescue effort is being mounted immediately. John Watson distributes the papers among his fellow castaways, wishing them "Compliments of the Season!" They all gather at Moriarty's pub to celebrate their impending rescue, celebrating so heartily that they're eventually all sleeping off a roaring drunk. When they awake, late the next day, to find no rescue ship has come, they at first blame each other for the celebrations which caused them to miss the rescue, but eventually Sherlock points out that the date on the papers was before they even wound up on the island, so the castaways in the news story were actually the Grice-Patersons whom he later had as clients. But the rescue of those past castaways gives them hope and they happily spend another night at Moriarty's pub.

Great Caesar's ghost, this is awful!

Why would anyone try to replot Gilligan's Island episodes using the prominent characters from the Sherlockian oeuvre? And why would the sort of imbecile who would attempt such a thing hope to convince anyone he was literate by using words like "oeuvre" to make up for such an attempt.

Let's hope for better things tomorrow, people.

John Watson's Island, the first six episodes.

Gilligan's Island had ninety-eight episodes. The Sherlock Holmes Canon had sixty, but enough pastiches to easily get it to ninety-eight, if needed. So what if Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherwood Schwartz had traded places in history? What might the first season of John Watson's Island have looked like?

Here's the first part of episode guide:

1. A Study in Mormons. Sherlock and John plan to take a raft downriver to find help. The Professor finds a Book of Mormon in one of the island's caves and warns them there may be throwback Mormon polygamists on a nearby island. Sherlock and John take the raft, but at night while they're asleep, a kindly tugboat captain tows them back to the nearest island -- the one they came from. Hilarity ensues when Sherlock and John think the rest of the castaways are Mormons (and vice versa) and they all try to entrap each other.

2. The No-good Builders. Sherlock and John attempt to build 221B Island Street to protect themselves from yet another rainstorm. During the process, however, Mary and Irene come by and sweet talk John out of tools, Mycroft and Lestrade come by and convince John its his patriotic duty to give them the doors and windows he had readied for 221B so for the erection of an island government HQ. And Moriarty just steals what's left. Sherlock swats John with his deerstalker for the first time. Sherlock then points out the obvious points of failure in everyone else's attempts at shelter and convinces them to combine their efforts before the ominous oncoming storm. They build 221 Island Street, with A, B, C, and D apartments, just in time and ride out the storm merrily in 221B.

3. The Creeping John. Some of the supplies at 221 Baker Street go missing, and the castaways blame the Professor at first. Professor Moriarty claims innocence and starts telling the others that their fate is due to a voodoo curse put on Sherlock and John by the cook from an old case they were talking about. Watson thinks he sees the shadowy culprit the next night and gives chase, only to wind up falling into one of the island's bogs. When he goes to a cleaner pool to bathe after the mishap, a baboon comes out of the forest and steals his clothes. The baboon then tries to steal more supplies dressed as John, and Lestrade thinks voodoo has turned Watson into an ape. There's a lot of stuff with John running around holding leaves in front of his privates and monkey comedy before it's all sorted out.

4. The Bruce-Partington Trip. John hears Sherlock talking in his sleep, talking about specific details of the plans for the Bruce-Partington submersible. When John tells the rest the next morning, Mycroft realizes that Sherlock was the only one on the case who got a look at the key components of the plans and that they are probably stored somewhere in is brain-attic, even though Sherlock swears he can't remember them, and those plans might help them build a craft to escape the island. Each of the castaways either concocts or finds some different narcotic to slip into Sherlock's wine, which sets him off on a mind-trip into a far-off century, full of alternate versions of the castaways. When he returns, he doesn't remember the plans but remembers the fatal flaw in those plans as revealed in that other time, making them worthless as a rescue plan.

5. Black Peter Carey. Black Peter Carey lands on the island, thirsty and hungry, after escaping a murderous attack by his harpooner in a dinghy. After he's been given food and drink, he tells the castaways that he can take two of them down-river with him in the dinghy, and send help for the rest. There's much argument about who should go with him, and Black Peter tells them he's leaving in the morning, with or without them, so they'll have to decide. During the night, Moriarty, Mycroft, and Irene each try to persuade him that they should be on board with their various arguments, but in the morning, another sea captain, Captain Basil, turns up and tells everyone he has a boat with room enough for all of them on the other side of the island. While the others follow Captain Basil, John stays behind and tells Black Peter to start shoving off, he and Sherlock will be going in the boat, and Sherlock will be here shortly, shedding his "Captain Basil" disguise. But as the dinghy hits water, a harpoon goes through Black Peter's chest, and Patrick Cairns turns up on another boat. Cairns tells Watson that he can't take a witness to the murder he just committed back with him, holds Watson off with a second harpoon, and tows Black Peter's dinghy away with him, just as Sherlock runs up with the rest of the castaways in hot pursuit.

6. The Second Abstains. When Mycroft tries to order Lestrade to arrest Moriarty, Lestrade points out that the island actually has no formal government, and they decide it's time to elect a prime minister. Mycroft and Professor Moriarty both vie for the post, and a series of comic vote-bartering and appeals to various castaway's particular needs ensue. In the end, Mycroft and Lestrade vote for Mycroft, Moriarty and Irene vote for Moriarty, and in a surprise turn, Sherlock, Mary, and John all write in votes for John Watson, who becomes the prime minister of the island. Watson's tin dispatch box is burgled in the night, however, and a paper goes missing that could threaten his office if revealed to the rest of the castaways. Moriarty and Mycroft are suspected, but in the end, Sherlock discovers that Mary has taken the paper and hidden it beneath the floorboards of she and Irene's apartment, hoping to get John to resign as prime minister so he doesn't decide his social status is above hers. John says something romantic and she gives him the paper back, but he resigns from being the island's prime minister anyway.

Phew! Only ninety-two more episodes to go!

Can a TV adaptation featuring just our favorite Canonical characters in recurring roles go on for a whole ninety-eight episodes? Well, someone once did it with Gilligan, didn't they, and Holmes and Watson are much better characters . . . at least we always thought so, right? And Elementary, though not quite as popular as Gilligan's Island, has made it to one hundred and twenty. (Though, to be fair, the latter is using a procedural playbook, which is good for distance.)

We shall see.