Friday, September 22, 2017

The money thing.

None of us likes to talk about money. It's long been one of the great trouble spots of marriage, of friendships, even of a hobby like Sherlockiana.

And these days we're seeing it more prevalent in this hobby than ever before, thanks to two big generational waves and the gap between them. A lot of the baby boomers who rolled into this hobby in the sixties and seventies are doing quite all right for themselves in their retirement, and take for granted that their lives have been just the way life works. On the other hand, we have that great influx of Sherlockians that came to us thanks to the Downey/Cumberbatch wave, a great many of whom are still paying student loans the size of home loans their predecessors were taking out at their age.

And it's not just the generational differences. When I was in college, I could buy every new Sherlock Holmes book that came on the market without putting too big a dent in my budget, which was entirely based on part-time jobs. And there weren't nearly so many Sherlockian events that one needed to buy an airline ticket to fly to. And none of them had paid celebrity autographs. Commercial interests have entered all fandom experiences in ways they never have in the past.

There were differences in our incomes in the 1980s, but at a Sherlockian weekend, you never really seemed to notice them too much. The base price level of Sherlockiana seemed be set up for bookworms, because nobody wanted to waste too much money on other things when we could be spending it at the city's bookstores. And those things that did cost a little more? The Strand magazines and rare old books? Finding them was the trickiest thing, and sometimes you could still luck into a real deal. So when somebody did get something good, you were just happy for the fact that they found it, not going "Oh, well, guess they just had more money than anyone else watching eBay that day."

Ah, eBay. The first harbinger of wealth awareness. Early on, I remember a Sherlockian friend talking about certain old volumes always being bought up by the same familiar buyer whenever they came on the site. My friend knew exactly who was grabbing up the items he saw in their common shop and knew exactly why he wasn't getting them: the number of bucks in his bank account. But it hasn't just been eBay that gave us a newfound wealth awareness. The whole internet seemed to want to chime in, even in the most innocent of social media comments.

A simple humble brag can now be posted to numbers of people once only attained with the full circulation of The Baker Street Journal, the top Sherlockian communication method of its day. Shelf porn doesn't require being friendly enough with a person to go visit their house, at which point you liked them well enough to be delighted at their good fortune, rather than envious. And when a big event happens, you can now start ticking off hundreds of people who are attending when you aren't, just by glancing through social media.

It's easy to feel less than able in the current climate of Sherlockiana, because there is alway something you won't be able to do, or buy, or even just get to. And it doesn't help that a few of the people who do get to do all of the things kind of suck. Tradition overrides empathy a lot of times in a fandom as old as Sherlockiana. Some corners of the fandom can seem to claim ownership of the true Sherlockian world a little more than happens in younger fan cultures. We have our narcissists, just like many other parts of life, who will always need someone to claim to be better than.

But money? Pay close attention to the big money folks in the hobby, and to those with less. And see where the most creativity is coming from.

Sherlockiana itself was born during the latter years of the Great Depression, when poverty was the name of the game. Nobody was living as comfortably as they liked. But with some paper, a pen, and a copy of a completed Sherlock Holmes canon, good things could still be had. And we have so much more than paper and pens these days. Even if we aren't living large in an urban Sherlockian center with a goodly disposable income.

Whether it's in the Great Depression of the last century, the one that might lay ahead, or just dealing with your own bank account on a Friday night, the money thing is always going to suck. But you aren't alone in that, because that's kind of the point of a community like Sherlockiana. There are things here that can't be bought, and will never be, things of yours that you don't even realize will make even the wealthiest Sherlockian a bit envious at some point.  (Trust me on this -- I'm a very jealous person, and some of you out there? Wow.)

It's good to consider and be considerate of income disparity in our world, inside and outside Sherlockiana, every now and again. And perhaps help fight the rising tide of inflation if you find yourself in a position to do so. Because we are, and have long been, a community. And a pretty good one at that.
Holmes folded up his cheque and placed if carefully in his note-book. "I am a poor man," said he, as he patted it affectionately and thrust it into the depths of his inner pocket.

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