Monday, October 30, 2017

My amateur standing.

In 35 years as a Sherlockian, I think I made money from my hobby four times.

Three books, for which a small publishing house paid me $500 lump sums for each, and a $50 prize from a contest. And the latest of those was in the mid-1990s. On the debit side of the column, ignoring purchases, doing things like publishing a journal and paying for web hosting, have more than offset that little bit of profit.

That's really what being a fan is, to my mind. Sure, there are those fortunate few who turn their love of Sherlock Holmes into an income stream, through their sheer talent or some really good business sense. But at some point in that transition from amateur to pro, you have to think of your audience, promote your work, try to expand the business.

As I was contemplating fandom and what makes it different last night, I realized that being a fan rather than a pro is that you'll make the grandest efforts without any expectation of profit. You would do what you are going to do despite the fact your audience may just be your best friend, a local club, or maybe a hundred subscribers. Don't get me wrong, profit isn't something any of us would turn down . . . but if you realize there's no money in something and continue to do it?

That's just sheer love of the game.

When I was younger, I really wanted to be a professional writer. But I wasn't ambitious enough to leave Peoria, take risks on opportunities that did come my way, or just push-push-push with the strength that such a leap requires. Well, all of those things and one other: I only wanted to write what I wanted to write, and not anything that might bore me. (Which killed journalism for me the first time I saw what a city council meeting looked like.) None of that gets you to "professional writer." And I've been lucky enough to get good jobs that used other skills.

Sherlockiana, and the many scion publications of the 1980s, provided a fun little outlet for just writing odd little essays, which eventually turned into a regular column, which then turned into a blog. And the thought of making any money off this hobby left the building a long time ago. I just got asked the past week if I wanted a fee for speaking on Sherlock Holmes, and, as always, I just grinned and said, "No. I do this stuff because I just like Sherlock Holmes."

Because after all this time, I'd hate to lose my amateur standing.

(Although if the Sherlockian Olympics ever come around, those books are probably going to kill it for me, aren't they? Ah, well, the kids out there are way more talented these days.)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A flimsy attempt at marriage.

It's funny how the smallest crack can sometimes bring down the largest edifice. Something that seemed so solid once, suddenly fractures and falls apart, just due to that first small crack. Maybe the crack didn't even cause the destruction, maybe it was just the one sign of great internal pressures that were destined to break things up in any case. But the crack comes first.

This week, I saw, for the first time, a very real crack in one of Watson's statements about getting married. "It was a few weeks before my own marriage . . ." he writes in the beginning of "The Noble Bachelor," and then the good doctor goes on to write about his current state: living in Baker Street, nursing his war wound, staying indoors, and reading newspapers for a while until he's decides to just, in his own words, "lay listless."

The man is a few week's from taking responsibility for a household, taking a woman from her paying job to be a Victorian housewife, and he doesn't have a job yet? He's not making plans for moving out on his own? He's basically just being that bum from The Sign of Four who was worried a blonde with a treasure wouldn't want to date a "half-pay surgeon."

Which then takes one back to Watson's "wooing" of Mary Morstan, which the door to 221B Baker Street eventually reminds him of in "A Scandal in Bohemia," for some reason we never learn.

Watson's period of dating Mary Morstan before proposing marriage is less than two days. The Sign of Four is a mystery novel, not a love story, so we never focus on this ridiculously non-existent courtship, but strip away that mystery and look only at the dating part and . . . .

Well, Watson just gets this immediate crush on a woman he's just met, and she gets put into a position where she doesn't want to hurt the feelings of a guy who just did her a big favor. And maybe she agrees to something she really doesn't want.

Watson's best friend refuses to congratulate Watson on his hasty decision to marry. And, as we saw in "Noble Bachelor," Watson really wasn't making much of an effort to get ready for the marriage.

So did he really get married a few weeks after that day in October 1887? Or did someone leave out a word from the phrase "a few weeks before my own planned marriage?"

When one then considers that the line occurs in the telling of a tale of a woman who escaped a bad match on her wedding day, the thought that Mary Morstan didn't marry John Watson when he implies she did really gains strength. And these days I know we have a lot of partisans who will happily take up the fight that John Watson was struggling with his love of a someone else at the time he got the wild idea to marry Mary out of the blue.

Getting Watson off the couch and into a chapel may have not been the slam dunk many Sherlockians have always taken it to be. And seeing that problem just starts with one . . . little . . . crack.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sherlock Holmes story night.

Our little library band, the Sherlock Holmes Story Society at Peoria's North Branch Library, just gets better every meeting of late. Tonight we really had the cream of our attendee crop, with one or two notable absences I'd still like to see in the mix, and the discussion of "The Noble Bachelor" made me raise that tale quite a few shelves in my mental library.

I mean, are there any Sherlock Holmes stories that are as much just plain fun as "The Noble Bachelor" when you come right down to it?

It has elements of "A Scandal in Bohemia," as came up in our chat, as Holmes so enjoys making fun of those whose claim to superiority is in title alone. But Irene Adler is enough of a challenge in that case that Sherlock has to focus and get a little serious. In "Noble Bachelor," Holmes has it figured out pretty quickly, and just starts screwing around. Whiskey and cigars, catering a nice dinner for guests, espousing wacky theories about national mergers . . . I can't think of a case where Sherlock Holmes is just enjoying himself so darn much.

Holmes speaks of "those unwelcome social summonses which call upon a man either to be bored or to lie," but in this case, he's neither bored nor lying. He's just having fun.

And he loves the Americans so much.

"It is always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believes that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes."

Okay, you might think he was talking about the United Federation of Planets here, if not for that crazy flag idea. That flag flying over a "world-wide country" means that England and America took over the whole damned planet. Where would Holmes get such a crazy idea?

Oh, right, his brother Mycroft was THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT.

Did brother Mycroft rise to power with a goal of world domination, seeing America as a key ally in that cause?  The story "The Noble Bachelor" itself might be an actual metaphor for the failure of Mycroft's hopes for empire, as a British noble, hoping to shore up his family dynasty with some American resources, finds the Americans quite content to lead their own lives without his plans.

As I first came to discover at a meeting of the Parallel Cases in St. Louis, a good library discussion group focussing on a single story can be as inspiring as anything in Sherlockiana, and we seem to have a very good group coming together here in Peoria now. This won't be the last you'll read of "Noble Bachelor" thoughts inspired from tonight's gathering, thanks to my fellow Sherlockians and the stimulating conversation they're treating me to.

I am a very lucky fan.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

I love a weird theory.

There are a lot of storytellers in our Sherlockian world.

Fanfic writers, professionals . . . those are the obvious ones. The sort of story I've always loved to tell best about Sherlock Holmes, however, isn't one that I tell in a fictional narrative. It could be told as a short story or novel, but I'd almost say I must be just too lazy for that.

Which is why it delighted me many years ago to discover the Sherlockian theoretical article. Not sure if that's what would be called "Sherlockian scholarship" by the truest players of the game, but I've referred to it as that before.

All it is, really, is coming up with some wild idea about Sherlock Holmes or his fellows and then making a case for it, leading the reader through an assortment of details drawn from the Canon or history and then presenting a conclusion with a sort of "this could possibly have been true, as unlikely as it might have been" sense.

It's a lot like being Sherlock Holmes without Dr. Watson or Scotland Yard there to verify your results, and it's totally NOT like being Sherlock Holmes because you're not as careful about eliminating the impossible en route to making a case for a theory you know is fiction.

In the last dozen hours, on either side of a little needed sleep, I was treated to some good fun telling just such a story in the guise of an article . . . and it's crazy as hell. But so much fun to get on paper. (Yes, I typed it on the computer, but printed it out the minute it was done.)

You'll hear this particular story very soon . . . not at tomorrow night's meeting of the Sherlock Holmes Story Society at Peoria's North Branch Library, if you make it to that at 6:30, but I might let some preview details slip out . . . but soon. We're talking about "Noble Bachelor" then, which has its own theories. (And none of them are bad-mouthing Hatty Doran, I'll say that right now!)

But I just love a weird Sherlockian theory and the chance to lay a case out for it. It's not a traditional way of telling a story, but it can weave a story nonetheless.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Alfred gets it done.

Three years after Basil Rathbone finished his last film adventure as Sherlock Holmes, in the year 1949, television decided to have a go at Sherlock Holmes.

In an anthology series named Your Show Time on NBC, Alan Napier, eventually to be best known as Batman's faithful butler Alfred on the 1966 TV show, took the role of Sherlock Holmes. And, as things happen these days the result is now to be found on YouTube.

When Rob Nunn first pointed the link out to me, I clicked on it just to see what it was . . . and then wound up watching the whole show, an adaptation of "The Speckled Band."

Alan Napier turned out to be a very solid Sherlock Holmes, and, as far as I'm concerned, the short film compares with the later Rathbone stuff quite favorably. The mere fact it got me to stop everything else I was doing and watch it all the way through says something about it -- that just doesn't happen much at all.

There is plenty from 1949 that one could pick apart in 2017, but taken next to other productions of its time, this "Speckled Band" does a great job, and I always enjoy a few little non-Canonical additions to just add something new to a story that I'm way too familiar with. The host of Your Show Time inserting himself back into the show just before the climax is especially funny.

Definitely worth a watch!

Who gets to set the rules?

As much as social media gets blamed for drama and conflict, it also has its moments of wisdom.

This particular tweet from last night struck me as particularly wonderful. It's talking about fanfic, yes, but when you remember that the bulk of all fiction starring Sherlock Holmes started as fiction by fans, a lot of the way Sherlockiana's past is full of patriarchal privilege shines brightly.

Because these same words apply.

"Seriously, a lot of y'all's beef in fanfic boils down to preference/taste. Please stop wording your complaints like they're hard rules."

When I think of the number of articles I read in Sherlockian journals/newsletters in the past four decades that were exactly that -- rules for writing Sherlock Holmes pastiches -- it kind of makes me laugh. Both in that people are still trying to pull that silly exercise, and that once upon a time it was legitimate article fodder.

Because basically every one of those rules articles boiled down to this: Don't do anything that wasn't done by Conan Doyle, and even then, do the stuff he did most often. Which, when you think about it, is a recipe for boredom.

Lyndsay Faye just met with enough success with her book of Holmes stories The Whole Art of Detection that a few enthusiastic critics have compared it to Doyle, but where Lyndsay really succeeds is where she diverges from the original in her structure and style, yet still captures the flavor. It makes her stuff both timely and worth reading, instead of a pale imitation.

Almost all of those who like to write rules for writing about Sherlock Holmes are not people who write well about Sherlock Holmes. Instead, they express their opinion in that rules format, which basically seems like a weird attempt to assert some sort of control over a world they're not a part of. Too many times, they're fans of the originals who are never going to be satisfied with any attempt at new Sherlock, so even attempting to obey their rules would just be attempting to satisfy someone who will never be pleased with the work.

Now that fandoms are more common and longer-lived than ever, we've seen this with Doctor Who, Star Trek, and any other fiction that survived past its original creator. Any older fan expecting exactly the same rush they got with the original material is bound to be disappointed. That first time experience is hard to recreate. You get your own preference and tastes, and that should be enough.

So screw the "here are the rules" essays, for fanfic, pastiche, or whatever you want to call new work spawned off old ideas. That "you have to learn the rules before breaking them" is for teachers trying to control classrooms full of schoolkids, not anyone encouraging original work . . . even original work that's not completely original. No one knows what combination of angles and style are going to spawn the next great thing. If they did, they'd have done it themselves.

Friday, October 20, 2017

And then things got weird . . .

I haven't written about Sherlockian podcasts in a while, and I don't really want to write about this latest one, but it appears I'm going to need to out of self-defense.

"Sherlock Holmes Is Real" is a fairly recent podcast by a Sherlockian named Toni Sutherland, which . . . to my ears . . . sounds a lot like the recent waves of crazed conspiracy theories have finally washed into the world of Sherlock Holmes. Like the title says, Sutherland's podcast posits the thesis that Sherlock Holmes was actually a real historical personage.

Now, let me say that again.

That Sherlock Holmes was really historical. Not like those articles we like to write using historical details to flesh out the dates and references of the Canon. But that he really existed, and has been the victim of a conspiracy to fictionalize him from at least the 1920s.

Crazy, right?

I know. Really, really, nuts.

But as of the second episode, Toni Sutherland seems to have picked up the notion from a certain Rob Nunn that I know something about something, and as any regular reader of this blog is well aware, that just isn't the case. And anything that is in my head tends to come out here pretty quickly.

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Don't know nothing about Sherlock Holmes being real, and even if I did mention a guy I used to know in a previous blog post, I really don't want to talk about that guy on a podcast.

Sherlockiana has always been a place for all sorts of odd things . . . "queer things," "strange coincidences," and "cross-purposes," as Sherlock Holmes might say.

So I'm not exactly encouraging you to go listen to "Sherlock Holmes is Real," which appears to be available on iTunes, as well as via this link,  but, hey, they're your ears.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sherlock Frankenstein and Detective Chimp.

This week's trip to the comic shop turned up a book whose title meant it was a must-buy: Sherlock Frankenstein and his Legion of Evil.

Both the title, the art, and "From the World of Black Hammer" betrayed that it probably had little to do with Sherlock Holmes, but still . . . . "Sherlock Frankenstein?" If I've got $3.99 in my pocket, I'm buying anything with that name, at least the first time I see it.

The character has origins in Victorian times and his corporate empire's name will make anyone who understands basic shipping laugh. It's "Frankenlock Worldwide." And he's a super-villain. We know that from the start.

But here's the problem: Sherlock Frankenstein doesn't appear in the first issue of his own comic. Not really. The daughter of a superhero (the aforementioned Black Hammer) is looking for him to see if he can tell her what happened to her father. And she's talking to old friends and foes to see what she can find out.

It seems like a really good story . . . or that it will be a good story, over a six-issue arc. Which is the problem with a lot of comic books these days. Many writers seem to have lost the ability to tell a story in a single issue, preferring to lay out a tale for a trade paperback comic (a.k.a. the "graphic novel). Thus, Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil seems more like the prelude to a comic book story than the actual story itself. (Unlike this week's Batman #33, which is as complete a tale as you could want and still is chapter one of what looks like a great tale.)

Don't know if I'll be back for issue two of that, but this seems as good a place as any to mention that Bobo, the Detective Chimp, the ape who dresses like Sherlock Holmes, made a brief appearance in last week's Metal #3, as Superman passed through the Oblivion Bar, where Bobo is known to hang out. It was just enough to make me realize how much I missed him since his days in the Shadowpact comic.

So two weeks with two marginal comic book references to Sherlock Holmes. By next year, I think we'll all be more than ready for Will Farrell in the part, just for something Sherlockian in major media.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A day at the theater.

This afternoon, the good Carter and I drove down to St. Louis, now called "Saint Louise" by the latest reincarnation of Siri, to see a play. Ken Ludwig's stage adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, simply titled Baskerville, has been playing all over the country and this was our first experience with it.

And honestly? It was glorious.

Ken Ludwig's Baskerville, written for a Sherlock Holmes, a John Watson, and three other actors who must play the rest of the parts, is a remarkable play to start with. But when performed by a cast with the talent to pull it off right?

A thing to behold.

At this point in my forty-some years as a Sherlockian, I have to tell you: Adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles bore me to death. The story is so familiar that I can't help but get snoozy.

What made this one great was a Sherlock Holmes played by John O'Hagan who immediately clicked into place as Holmes. (Post-play, he mentioned he was going for a more Rathbone style of performance, but his look was definitely his own and fit Sherlock perfectly.) His Watson, played by Kent Coffel, was a solid Watson, as Watson should be. And around the core of those two characters, the other three actors, Elliot Auch, Ed Reggi, and Gwen Wotawa whirled and cavorted through a variety of personas that both brought the story to life and added comic bits that fit into the tale perfectly, keeping the story a true Holmes story and not heading full steam into farce.

(The good Carter noted that she didn't think an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles with comedy was possible before this . . . then remembered the Dudley Moore Hound. I reminded her that that didn't really count as a comedy, despite my late neighbor's consideration of it as such.)

Gwen Wotawa went from Mrs. Hudson to Cartwright (now an Irregular) to a gender-swapped version of cabbie John Clayton (a favorite of many a Peoria Sherlockian) to Beryl Stapleton, adding a lively spark to each character that was much enjoyed. Elliot Auch's prancing Jack Stapleton was the definite stand-out of his over a dozen characters, which also included such notable performances as his Dr. Mortimer, portrait of Hugo Baskerville, and Barrymore. Converting Henry Baskerville from Canadian to Texan made sense for the play, and Ed Reggi took that part, as well as Lestrade, Sir Hugo . . . and most notably, Daisy, the non-Canonical Baker Street housemaid . . . and made it great fun.

It had been quite a while since I'd been to a play done so well as this one, totally absorbing me with it's pace and performance, and we had a delightful afternoon with it. Director Maggie Ryan and the Insight Theater Company deserve much applause for putting Baskerville together, and I hope it does great box office during the rest of its run.

(Added note: New author Rob Nunn was in the lobby signing copies of his book The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street, and I picked one up. I had hoped to hang out with Rob for a while, but he had to do some podcast interview that I'll have to track down eventually.)

The disappearance of the Baker Street Irregulars.

Things being a bit slow here at Sherlock Peoria, I've been doing a bit of walking through the fall weather and contemplating whatever impulses my brain thinks to muse upon. This morning's walk brought me back to a thought a Sherlockian named Alan King shared with me a long time ago, which has probably been written up somewhere by now, and that's the disappearance of the Baker Street Irregulars.

In Watson's first two novel-length works, the street urchins who scour the city for Holmes are featured quite prominently. They even get their own chapter title in The Sign of the Four. They "go everywhere, see everything, overhear everyone." And get their pay in shillings.

But after that? One of them, named Simpson, shows up to watch an old man in "The Crooked Man," and we never hear of the rest of their lot again.

"The Crooked Man," according to my calculations, occurs in 1887. Something else that occurred in 1887? The publication of Watson's first write-up of a Holmes case, and one of the only three mentions of the Irregulars, A Study in Scarlet.

And after 1887, Sherlock Holmes's use of the Irregulars abruptly stops. At least as far as we know.

Watson's publications and the rise of Holmes in public popularity seems to go hand-in-hand with the disappearance of the Baker Street Irregulars from Holmes's work. And that coincidence makes perfect sense when you think about it.

The younger Holmes of the 1880s probably found it easier to work with kids as he wasn't so far from being one himself. And, as he said, nobody noticed street kids hanging about.

Until, of course, some accounts of Sherlock Holmes's doings started growing in popularity, at which point, anyone who suspected Holmes of being on their trail would go, "HEY! What's that kid doing here? Is that one of Holmes's?" And then things would turn very nasty for the lads.

One hopes that Sherlock Holmes saw this possibility coming once Watson's works hit the public press and disbanded the group before one of the kids got hurt. One hopes it wasn't the tragic fate of one of the kids that made them disappear from the writings. Or that Watson himself just saw the danger and quit writing about them.

But disappear they did, and Sherlock Holmes seems to have voluntarily lost on of his best tools for searching London, fairly early on in his career.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lestrade and Holmes, 1887.

Now that Rob Nunn seems to have given up his prosecution of Ms. Hatty Doran of "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor," and the Sherlock Holmes Story Society is about to have a meeting on that very tale next Thursday, perhaps it's a good time to look at a few other folk involved in that little matter.

This case has many a fun path to explore, with so many relationships intertwined throughout the tale -- perhaps that's even part of what makes it so enjoyable. One that definitely bears exploring is evoked in a single line from Lord St. Simon's letter to Sherlock Holmes before the case even begins.

"Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, is acting already in the matter, but he assures me that he sees no objection to your cooperation, and that he thinks that it might be of some assistance."

The year is probably 1887. Sherlock Holmes has already attained enough prominence in his profession that Lord St. Simon has not only heard of Holmes, he knows that the consulting detective's help is something to be sought after. St. Simon is plainly the one who brought Sherlock up in talking to Lestrade about the case. (And Lestrade was obliged to go along, social rank needing to be obeyed and all.)

Inspector Lestrade's comment that Holmes "might be of some assistance" is something I imagine was more than just being agreeable or pure narcissism on the Scotland Yard man's part. He knew Sherlock Holmes could be of assistance and was probably delighted at the chance to bring Holmes in without having to lost any face in the matter. ("I had no choice . . . Lord Robert said so!")

Lestrade walks into Baker Street in this case without being announced, and Holmes immediately invites him to have a glass of whisky and a cigar, then comments on the inspector's emotional state. Sherlock knows Lestrade is struggling with the very case he has announced he has solved to Lord St. Simon, and even if he's being a little cryptic, Sherlock Holmes is actually trying to help Lestrade . . . for a bit.

But the inspector has a problem, and it's one that any one of us might have had . . . a clue that is just too tempting to let go of. The missing bride's clothes contain a note with the initials of the groom's ex-girlfriend. How could anyone not go after Flora Millar with such a bizarrely coincidental clue? It's almost a little amazing that Holmes doesn't go talk to her about where Hatty Doran got off to.

But the hotel bill on the reverse side of the note gets Holmes's mental gears going, and happy cigars-and-whisky time is quickly done. Lestrade is stuck on that "F.H." and Holmes is anxious to start checking hotels . . . it's kind of sad, really.

I mean, I kinda wanted Sherlock to invite G. to the fancy dinner at Baker Street that night . . . or at least send a note out to him after Lord St. Simon stormed out and there was an extra place setting.

But after that little display of cross-purposes that didn't get to whisky or cigars, Lestrade is never seen again in "Noble Bachelor." And possibly not again until he calls Holmes in for "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" or Holmes calls him in for The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The relations between Holmes and Lestrade were, in those early days, peculiar, to borrow a phrase from Watson's later words. But there was definitely an interesting relationship there, and that's just one of many on display in "Noble Bachelor."

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

221B Con Panel Suggestion, Shotgun Season.

221B Con panel suggestion season is still upon us, so it seems time for another round of "choneling."



Trying to combine "channelling" and "con panel" into a word and it just ain't happening. Anyway . . .

I've already sent one off tonight, entitled "A particular set of skills." I love Sherlock Holmes's methods and the idea of him going full tilt ala Liam Neeson has always intrigued me. (Yes, I'm sure many a writer things they have written him going all out, but I really don't feel like I've seen it yet.) But I want to pump out a few more, because the committee has to have some choices to bat around -- and it's fun to do, anyway. So here goes another session of choneling;

A Canon Lost In Time -- What would happen if every story in the original sixty was set in a different time period and Sherlock and company were time travelers jumping to solve each one in its era? Which story would take place in which era, and what historical figures might replace the Canonical ones?

American iDoyle -- If Apple created an AI of Conan Doyle that you could wear on your wrist, what purpose would he serve? (Yes, I just liked that title and have no idea what a panel on it would do.)

Unshippables -- Are any pairings too rare to even exist as a thought experiment? Are any combinations of characters too fractious to get along at all?

Favorite Pizza Orders From Baker Street -- I still contend the "large flat box" from "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" was a pizza. Who is ordering what on their pizza at Baker Street, and what do the assorted clients/villains who visit ask for when they're there for pizza time?

England is England Yet -- What parts of London can you visit today to see something that's pretty much what Victorian Sherlock Holmes saw?

Captain James T. Calhoun -- When the Lone Star was lost in that Atlantic storm, and Captain Calhoun was transported to the future via the Bermuda Triangle, what did it take for him to reform and change his name to Kirk?  (Yeah, they can't all be winners. And you probably thought the iDoyle thing was the low bar . . .)

Podcast Familiars -- We're getting to know the voices in our heads a little too well these days, as podcasting lets people open up to strangers all over the world. What are the upsides and downsides to getting so familiar with the distant voices on podcasts? What sorts of personalities do the communities growing up around podcasts demonstrate?

Mycroft IS the British Government -- How exactly did that work? What do we know about the British Government and how could he even fit in there?

The Lords and Ladies Fancy Folk Hour -- Put on your favorite title of nobility and come for a panel of fancy folk discussion with a lifted pinky and an air of St. Simon as we discuss how badly Sherlock Holmes treated all of his betters in the original Canon. Horrendous chap! Someone should have said something!

The Game Afoot Is You! -- Planning to murder some relative for their inheritance? How do you foil Sherlock Holmes when you know Lestrade is going to bring him in? What do you plan ahead? What do you do after?

Okay, that's enough for one evening. Not a banner crop, but we'll see if they get better with a little age. Feel free to use any of them to springboard your own submission or steal them outright and send them in, as it's all about getting ideas in to stir the creative juices at 221B Con, which we'll all enjoy.

Still plenty of time left, and the more input the con-creators have, the more powerful the final line-up!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Orville Peoria

Howard Ostrum, a current king of Sherlockian stage and screen buffs, posed the following puzzler this weekend on Twitter:

Rathbone, on the right, looks pretty much like Basil Rathbone always looks, but the guy on the left?

No idea. I'm hearing whispers that it might be Jeremy Brett, but failing the terms of Howard's post, I found that it must be time for me to finally hang it up, give up Sherlockiana as my aging intellect becomes too slow for this crowd, and move on to something simpler.

But what?

Well, before Sherlock entered my life, there was Spock. Yet Star Trek fandom is too old and established with its own whiz kids, some of whom actually are rocket scientists at this point, so I decided to turn to something new. 

And then I remembered The Orville. What Solar Pons was to Sherlock Holmes, The Orville is to Star Trek: an easy pastiche to sink into, not far from the original, and easy enough on the brain to feel like a comfy couch to an old Trekkie. Or "Orkie" as I have now decided to christen my lifeboat fandom.

Now I just have to wait for mo' Orville. 

Funny,  that looks just like "Mo-orville" as in Moorville, Kansas, which is one of my favorite Sherlockian towns. There are stories about Moorville I've always wanted to tell, and a folder on my hard drive with hints of them. Oh, wait . . . .

Moorville! I just realized . . . that means Garridebs . . . and that means . . . .

Okay, I'm applying for new Sherlockian credentials. Always good to see what the current ones look like. I'm suspecting they have Cumberbatch/Freeman art these days, and that slash isn't accidental.

(Add if you think the blogging has gone a bit sideways here, just wait . . . )

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The thing that connects Sherlockians.

This week I got the gift of perspective that is having one's smartphone become useless for a day while alone and away from home.

I still had a laptop, wifi, a hotel room phone . . . so not too big a crisis, of course, but even with all that, it was an interesting little experiment. The regular checking in on Twitter, the constant stream of podcast voices during morning rituals like shaving, the ability to find a particular store while driving around an unfamiliar town, and more, all gone. A host of trivial things missing, yes, but the feeling of just being disconnected with life itself was amazing.

When we think of Sherlockiana, a lot of times we think of books about Sherlock Holmes, art depicting Sherlock Holmes, knick-knacks that evoke Sherlock Holmes . . . the things of Sherlock Holmes. It can be an analytical article or a movie adaptation, a party favor or a fannish song. People collect Sherlockiana. But is that really Sherlockiana itself, or the residue from the actual thing that is Sherlockiana?

Google "definition of Sherlockiana" and the search engine pulls up

"Definition. People interested in Sherlock Holmes and who enjoy sharing their interest with others are baptized sherlockians or holmesians. Their purpose is to keep green the memory of the detective. The literary activities of the sherlockians is called Sherlockiana."

Google is pulling that curious combination of thoughts from a site called The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia, which gets a part of it, but doesn't really dive deeply enough.

Are activities a part of Sherlockiana? Are clubs a part of Sherlockiana?

While writings, art, and objects are things we call "Sherlockiana," what are they really, if not just ways Sherlockians connect with other Sherlockians. Just like societies, conventions, and mailings. Even the simple act of wearing a T-shirt with Sherlock and John on it is a means of broadcasting your love of the boys in the hope that someone will see it and, even in their head, just for a moment, connect with those feelings.

Getting my phone up and working again and resuming my connections with all the data streams it brings, I suddenly had a lot of Sherlockiana once again available during any given moment. And it wasn't just "literary activities," as the ACD Encyclopedia site defines the word. It was the verbal web of a multitude of Sherlockians sending out their quivers of thought for other spiders on the web to pick up. (If you think "spiders" is creepy, I could have went with a tendrils/feelers sort of metaphor and had Sherlockians be Cthulhu-like tentacle beasties. At least Moriarty metaphors aren't Cthulhu horrific.)

Losing and regaining some of my connections this week gave me a new definition of Sherlockiana, not as a collection of things, but as the connections that are the reason for those things. Fanfic kudos. Membership certificates. Movie reviews. All residue of the true network of shared loved of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson.

Thinking of Sherlockiana as a network of shared love really makes clear what our goals as Sherlockians should be, too. Not to define boundaries, act as gatekeepers, or promote our personal brands, but to share joy as much as we possibly can.

Okay, I've got to reign it in a bit before I become a little too sweet about this hobby I've enjoyed for my entire adult life. But you get the picture. Stay connected, with whatever media you favor.

Because we're all out here, waiting to hear from you, even if it's just via t-shirt.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Therapeutic Sherlocking.

Driving down the interstate, listening to Sherlockians talk about making Jello . . . .

With the absolute shite that we're currently calling leadership in this country and the tragedies they are unable to address or deal with in any meaningful manner, driving down the interstate listening to Sherlockians talk about Jello is a outright oasis of joy, because you know what?

They goddamn care about that Jello. They're putting in the effort.

And this is what Sherlockiana has always, and will always be to me. A place where things don't have to be important. A place where we can make Jello about Sherlock Holmes and enjoy doing it, even if it's alcoholic jello in the shape of Sherlock's penis. (Making a big assumption there. Could be John's penis. Could be Mrs. Hudson's penis. Let's not assume.)

While all Sherlockiana spins off of those sixty stories with "by A. Conan Doyle" attached to them, so many of our most beloved tropes and rituals came almost randomly from Sherlockian interactions. The old BSI collectively saying "and there shall be no monthly meeting," when meeting schedules have nothing to do with Holmes. A scion society's annual summer picnic egg toss. A beloved restaurant where Sherlockians gather. And Jello shot penises.

A more traditional form of Sherlockian respite was saved for later in the day: Retail therapy.

Did I really need a volume of DeQuincey from Holmes and Watson's time? Or the 1924 Little and Brown edition of Doyle's Memories and Adventures? Or a spare copy of the novelization of Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes? Probably not. But, oh, they felt so good coming into my possession. It had really been a while since any good Sherlockian bookfinds in an actual store, so it seemed like I was suddenly back in 1985. (Which ain't 1895, sure, but close!)

There are decades of difference between the worlds of ye olde bookshoppe wandering of the eighties and the latest Three Patch Sexpisode of today, but they both serve the same goals: Letting a Sherlock Holmes fan unwind. That part of Sherlock's purpose never changes.

I hope he's serving you well these days!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Podcasting madness.

Well, it's October.

For a very long time, I've been toying with the idea of doing a podcast. I love podcasts. At one 221B Con, I remember one a host from an Atlanta podcast enthusiastically encouraging anyone who had the urge to do a podcast to do one. And at one Christmas, not so long ago, I was even gifted a Blue Yeti microphone.

But the idea of doing a podcast still seemed much to me like thinking of writing a book when I'm in Barnes & Noble: You look around at the massive amounts of stuff already existing and go, "What can I add to this that would be worth anything?"

I mean, sure, we all think we could just talk on and endlessly charm people with our stories and wit . . . well, at least I hope your ego has some moments of that, just to make me feel less of a narcissist . . . but actually putting that to the test? And doing it on a regular basis, like blogging? That just seems like work.

But then I heard a podcast that seemed like the sort of thing that would fit in the Sherlockian world, except that the particular one I was hearing was definitely not Sherlockian. And it was a limited series.

So I started recording things. And editing them together. And going, "Man, anybody who's a real sound engineer or a skilled podcast producer is going to hate the amateurishness of this." It seemed like the audio version of those people whose desktop publishing skills revolved around too much Zapf Chancery in the early days of the Macintosh Classic. But you have to start somewhere.

And it's actually a lot of fun . . . well, in parts.

I've seen tweets from more obsessive podcast editors on how much effort they put into their work, and now I'm seeing firsthand just how detail-oriented anyone with a touch of the obsessive-compulsive can get. I find myself perfectly willing to slop through some parts of the podcast, yet obsess maniacally over some other little detail that no one will ever care about. It's amazing.

And something I always thought I would never have time for. But when the bug bites you, the time starts getting cut from other things. Cooking, cleaning . . . blogging? Yikes.

But I'm sure if you've read this far, there's one thing you really want to know: What is this podcast and when will it be available?

If everything goes according to plan, you'll see an episode or two by the end of the month. And while I don't want to give the title away just yet, I will tell you this: It's not a chat show. It's not a talking-about-the-stories show. And where it's going to go, I'm not even sure. But it has definite places to go.

And yes, completely about Mr. Sherlock Holmes. To be continued.