Monday, December 31, 2018

The fic-king finish line

Well, lords, ladies, and deities of unspecific genders, when I set up my Three Patch Challenge at the beginning of the month, there were doubters out there, and, indeed, there will be those who even might claim that technically I did not read the entirety of the Three Patch fic list for December. And that would be true. A first chapter alone doth not a novel make . . . though often 'tis the best part.

The blog-diary of my fic-read made it to December 16, before Christmas movie releases started sucking up my time. And once I went evangelical on Holmes and Watson, well . . . .

But here we are with a mere three days until my deadline, month-end, and the new year. So let us reconvene.

December 29

John Watson's Twelve Days of Christmas by earlgreytea68. Boy, I'm late on this one. But at this point, with Watson dressed and Jingle the elf and Holmes dressed as Jangle the elf, I'm really feeling it, having been tasked with solving Jingle's murder myself a few days before Christmas at a holiday party. My elf name was Sparky. Here's the picture, just so you know I'm not having you on.

How could I be reading fics dressed like that? Anyways . . . .

Sherlock and John meeting as department store holiday temps (well, one of them is actually employed there) rings pretty true and the first chapter is the entire set-up to a traditional holiday romantic comedy.

Sleep Study by AxeMeAboutAxinomancy.  Well, first I had to google "Axinomancy." It's pretty much exactly what you'd think it would be. Not a good late night read, as there's a lot of sleep going on. And what's going on in Sherlock's head while John is sleeping, so it gets a tad science-y. Until a finale that's a start to more than just the reader.

Damage by lifeonmars. Coming between seasons, I'm not quite sure where my feet are on this one, as it may be heading somewhere the later season blew away. 

Scotch by earlgraytea68. Also at a specific place in the continuity, but this one clicks pretty quickly, and the first part is purely a Mycroft character bit. And as such, pretty analytical. That's Mycroft.

December 30

"Slow Revolutions" in the Irregular Pieces series by Amythe3lder. A short character piece of young Mycroft's attraction to a girl older than him.

"Genius Loci" by silverpad. Here's something a little out-there from the norm: London as the main character. London talks to Baker Street, which makes me get very philosophical about London being Baker Street's god that it is also a part of. It's a lovely piece of urban spirit and how Sherlock and John connect with that spirit.

Sketchy by serpentynka has a very short first chapter, and I don't really get a feel for where it's headed from just the one. But I have to keep moving to meet the month-end. Hopefully I'll get time to circle back.

"Alone On The Water" by Mad_Lori . . . we meet at last. I have heard this fic mentioned so much, and its devastating effects upon its readers, that I'm hesitating on its opening even now . . . .

It doesn't spare any time into getting someone terminally ill and with a short clock, but like all fanfic written in 2011, it's hard to read without facts we later learned creeeping in. The parents we got to meet. The death of Sherlock Holmes. Even that sister that was lurking out there, and might surely have contrived to show up if she knew her brother was terminal. With its 2011 state of things, it seems like a closed box of a world, where Sally Donovan gets to show up simply because she's one of the few people that exist in that universe. With so much fic written after each season break, the multiverse of Sherlocks truly is a place where a myriad of paths spun out of each season's moments.

"The Truth of the Musgrave Ritual" by mydwynter. This one goes original Canon . . . or at least the story behind the original story and just why it is that Watson is not in the case as it appeared in The Strand Magazine. Having a touch of something myself at the moment, the mix of flu and cocaine that leads into the tale are not quite as romantic as they might otherwise seem, I'm sure . . . . I really should have not gotten to this final deadline pace.

Children of Small Gods, Chapter One: Temple of Small Gods, by alexxphoenix42. Ah. Nice little fantasy universe where a Sherlock is discovered by a monk named Brother John and magic ensues. Literal and kissing magic. Starting to feel a little like Fred Savage in The Princess Bride about these kissing parts, but like I said, I've got a touch of something and my inner child might be the only thing supporting my frame right now.

Back to mydwynter and Memoranda of Understanding. 'The Opposition Party." Ooooo, the bulk of chapter one is Mycroft and Greg Lestrade having dinner. And a good dinner. There just isn't enough food porn fanfic. (Did I mention that my only contribution to A03 involves Sherlock and ice cream? I need to get to the John and cookies tale one of these days, which leads into the . . . well, you can guess.)  Mycroft and Greg are still spending time together in mydwinter's So Full of Light. A lot less food and a little more business. They do make the interesting pair, and maybe don't seem to jump in the sack as quickly as John and Sherlock. Probably Mycroft's part.

Handle with Care by Brainygirl. Aren't recovering addicts supposed to stay clean from all sorts of addictive things . . . other drugs, alcohol . . . sexxxxx? John isn't doing too well on that last score with Sherlock in this one.

Four or five left before midnight tomorrow.

December 30

"Saved by the Bell" by IamJohnLocked4Life. Sherlock, John, and friends in TV sitcoms? While I'm not of the "Saved by the Bell" generation, sign me up! "I Love Sherlock," where the Watsons live upstairs from Greg and Molly, and Sherlock's schemes are always pissing off John. "The Baker Street Bunch," where Papa Holmes and Mama Moriarty try to create a blended family with Mycroft, Sherlock, and little Eurus having issues getting along with Jim, Jamie, and James Junior. "How I Met Your Mycroft?" "Myke and Molly?" "M*A*S*H Afghanistan?"

"Instrument" from redscudery's Rare Pair Bazaar. Janine and Sally Donovan should be a sitcom . . . though more of an HBO sitcom, as their breasts come into focus very quickly. So short that I head into "Dare" which pairs Stephen Bainbridge and Corporal Lyons, and I go "Who?" and move along.

"Through the Clouds" by Mazarin221B. We don't get enough of Sherlock Holmes at the point of his retirement decision, and this one definitely seems to be making that a happy transition.

Performance in A Leading Role by the well-known Mad_Lori. This one, it turns out, I have read . . . at least part of . . . a while back during a sampling phase. Three Patch do have their favorites that have come up more than once.


And with that, I'm done. I have managed to both succeed and fail at my Three Patch Challenge. Succeed, because I read each of the fics listed in the show notes for the December episode during the month of December, and failed because . . . well, reading every part, start to finish, of said fics would have taken a lot more obsession. And with some of the series, someone might have been writing more as I read. Fics do go on. But it was still a worthwhile exercise.


I don't think anyone from the older parts of our hobby can really appreciate the depth and breadth of the fan fiction universe out there, the quality of the writing, the so-varied planets of content spinning around the twin suns of Sherlock and John, without making themselves go an a reading marathon. We might think, "Oh, I've got a couple shelves of pastiches that someone managed to sell to a publisher over the last fifty years, and since I paid money they must be better than the free stuff on AO3," but that's just holding on a little too tightly to the past.

True, most of what you find there is BBC Sherlock and John, but how many commercial novels are you going to find of that? Sherlock Holmes still comes through as Sherlock Holmes. And think they don't have editors? They have "betas" and good beta is a bit like an editor with subject knowledge. Having read through the entire December list, I didn't find any crap. Porn, yes, but no crap.

Explorations of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson, along with their friends and family, through alternate universes, between-the-canon-cracks scenes, and bizarre situations shine a lot of lights that cast shadows of Sherlock, etc. that can be quite refreshing.

But there's a good side and a bad side to rampaging through so much fic in a few short periods of time. You get a feel for the wide open universe of stuff that you still haven't read very quickly. But, if you're me, you might get a little tired of the kissing. (Kind of "I get it, universe, they're soul-mates! Can they be unrequited this time?") The myriad paths by which they get to that point, however, are always illuminating.

And so, 2018 ends with a fanfic marathon, and a major motion picture where Holmes and Watson sing of their love for each other in the climax. I'm pretty satisfied with that.

2019 is going to be fun.

"Mr Mac, the most practical thing that you ever did in your life would be to shut yourself up for three months and read twelve hours a day at the annals of crime."
-- Sherlock Holmes, The Valley of Fear

The Most Hated Sherlock Holmes Movie Of All Time!

As we come to the end of Holmes and Watson's first week in theaters, I'm going to call it: This, truly, is the most hated Sherlock Holmes movie of all time. Can you think of any that can compete? I can't. Even Adolph Hitler's favorite Sherlock Holmes movie hasn't gotten as much hate as Holmes and Watson and it was Hitler's favorite Sherlock Holmes movie.

I mean, I love the movie (Holmes and Watson, not Hitler's). So why would I want to acknowledge its place as "Most Hated Sherlock Holmes Movie Of All Time?"

Because something has to hold that title. It's still an accomplishment. And, if it truly isn't that bad a movie, one that will inevitably surprise some viewers as actually having very funny moments, well, being the worst may attract some of those viewers out of sheer curiosity.

Yet one still has to wonder, why the hate? Why the social media mobs turned up and against it, even when the larger share of those folks won't even watch it to begin with? It's not like there aren't dozens and dozens of really bad movies released every year. REALLY bad, in ways you can't even imagine if you're not an every-week sort of movie-goer.

So why this one?

Well, there are a lot of reasons, and I've hit a few of them in past blogs. But I think that most of it was simply the timing of the movie's release, which garnered it most of the attention. Christmas day is not not a normal time for a movie release.

Much of the political hate going on these days took a break during the holidays, and I can't help but wonder if all those habitual haters were also looking for fresh social media targets on Christmas, which ramped up the visibility of this single movie's unpopularity. So many people with no intention of ever seeing the movie jumped on the bandwagon of hating on it. Some of them were just Will Ferrell haters ("I said he wasn't funny in 1994, and here is finally the movie that proves me right!"). Some just had to fill their Tweet-thread with some proof they were awake and aware. ("A Rotten Tomatoes score of zero! That movie is trash!") Haters be hating.

But let's start with those who actually saw the movie. Holmes and Watson is a nonsense comedy. Random weirdnesses dropping like hail in a hailstorm. When Rob Nunn asked me what I specifically  liked about it, I had a hard time choosing a specific thing. Once it had me tickled, I stayed tickled. So much nonsense. Non-sense. No rhyme or reason, kind of a Zen thing. What is the sound of one hand clapping? Contemplating why Holmes and Watson is funny could be the Zen koan that offers you enlightenment at long last.

And critics, along with holiday movie crowds, do like things to make a little more sense. You know who also doesn't care if things make sense?

Thirteen-year-old boys.

I have a feeling that forty years from now, Holmes and Watson will be hailed as a Sherlockian classic, just because the now-thirteen-year-old boys will be established Sherlockians remembering a Holmes that broke them up laughing when they were young. But after our latest live-action Sherlock Holmes theatrical outing was Mr. Holmes, which definitely targeted a very different demographic . . . well, any big Mr. Holmes fans that walked into Holmes and Watson were probably definite walk-outs. (Not saying you can't like both, of course. But not everyone is as special as you, right?)

Whatever the perfect storm of reasons for Holmes and Watson's surge of notoriety, we've all got something to talk about for a while. Not sure at what point people will stop listening, of course, but since when has that ever stopped a devoted Sherlockian?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A name for that small society of "Holmes and Watson" enjoyment feelers?

As the movie Holmes and Watson settles in as a thing that exists in our cultural filmography, there is an aspect for those of us who enjoyed it that is a bit like searching for survivors in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Those like us seem far and few between.

Dr. Tassy expressed this perfectly this morning upon finding Paul Thomas Miller newly joining our ranks, with the tweet: "Welcome to our small and exclusive society!"

And as a Sherlockian raised in a past era, my knee-jerk reaction is "Society? We have a society? What do we call our society? Let's have membership cards! Or BADGE RIBBONS FOR 221B CON!" (Yes, I love my badge ribbons. If you haven't been to a venue that lets your con-badge grow a beautiful beard of ribbons, you are missing a treat!) So I turned to my second viewing notes to try to come up with a potential Ferrell/Reilly Canonical club name.

"The Companion's Room"

"American Ladies"

'The Terminally Ill Onanists"

"Hudson's Many Lovers"

"The Electroshock Patients of Dr. Grace Hart"

"The Deadly African Plague Mosquitos"

"Millicent's Family of Feral Cats"

"The Okinawan Beard Flippers"

"The Anglo-American Exhibitionists"

"The Queen's Platypus Lips"

"The Baker Street Co-Detectives"

"The Effects of Black Orchid Poisoning"

"The Child Boxers of Quarterman's Pub"

"Watson's Intoxigrams"

"The Stationary Cyclists of Fumbles Gymnasiums"

"The Tattoos of Gustav Klinger"

"Klinger's Corpse-filled Cake Bakers"

"The Eastbourne Sailors and Mermaids"

"Watson's Last Meal Hair Buckets"

"The Grimey News Kids"

Now, that last one is Holmes and Watson's stand-in for the Baker Street Irregulars, so I would suppose it would have to be the central NYC society that the rest beg scion status from, but as you can see there are many more potential society names than we shall probably ever have members for, should we ever go that traditional route. But as you can see from this little exercise, Holmes and Watson has a ridiculous amount of content crammed into its ninety minute runtime (I suspect it would be easy to double that list), one of the many reasons I find its utter nonsense a treat.

Societies or no societies, as with all Sherlockiana, there is much fun to be had beyond the thing itself, and for some of us, Holmes and Watson will be no exception.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

How Sherlockian is "Holmes and Watson?" [SPOILERS!)

The first key to any Sherlock Holmes movie is always the leads. If you don't find the actors quite right, you're not going to like much that follows. T'were Jonny Lee Miller not the lead in Elementary, I might have felt more kindly to it. Robert Downey Jr. is a bad fit as Sherlock Holmes, but he has enough charm as RDJ to fill that gap while surrounded by more passable Holmes players. And Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly?

Well, they really work for me. But beyond that, Holmes and Watson is a very Sherlockian movie, full of lovely details that might trip lots of triggers for a broad-spectrum Holmes fan.

In its pre-credits origin sequence for Sherlock Holmes, young Sherlock arrives at boarding school with his pet turtle. Clyde the turtle from Elementary is now part of the lore? Cool. And the rest of Holmes's origin is properly over-the-top parody. Tricked by his school-mates into kissing a donkey's butt when thinking it's Bridgette, his school crush, Sherlock starts to shed a single tear, then uncries, drawing the tear back in and immediately launching into a chain of observation-deductions that gets all of his schoolmates expelled so he is the only child at school, and all of the teachers can focus only on him, making him the smartest boy in England. An unlikely origin? Well, I like it better than "his mother had an affair with his math tutor" that another movie and book tried to tell us.

And just like Young Sherlock Holmes, he meets Watson at that school (Watson being the janitor's son) and his first words are, of course, "Elementary, my dear . . ." needing Watson to introduce himself before he can finish the line. One of the charming elements of this movie is that "origins" aspect -- one ongoing thread through the whole film is Holmes's search for the perfect hat, a search that culminates only when he and Watson have reached their own relationship culmination.

The credits are a quick flashing of Holmes's career blooming from boy detective to the capture of Professor Moriarty, and the movie truly begins with Moriarty's trial . . . a trial which hinges on the famous Sherlock Holmes's evidence, of course.

But where is Holmes? Back at Baker Street practicing his pronouncements, down to the way he holds his index finger. This, to me, is some prime Sherlock pushed to the nth degree. His pronouncements are a key part of the Holmes way of solving crimes, and seeing him primp over them is lovely. Need a little Canon in the movie already? In a bit that borrows from "Dying Detective" a mystery box arrives at Baker Street purporting to be evidence for the trial, yet containing a virulent disease. This time, instead of a spring and sharp bit assembly, the African plague virus is borne by a mosquito.

And that leads to another Holmes/Watson tradition that the parody pushes to the extreme: Holmes telling Watson what to do, with Watson immediately doing it. Holmes tells Watson to do a Dutch jig, and Watson does it, Holmes then explaining that the rising body temperature from the jig will attract the mosquito so they can kill it.

Here we get into our first session of literal slapstick as the two attempt to swat the mosquito on each other, and the long-suffering Mrs. Hudson gets a cricket-bat to the face as she tries to help. (Hey, "Smack! Smack! Smack!" is Canonical.) And if that wasn't enough slapstick, Holmes's RDJ-based mental calculations to finally kill the bug lead to cracking the killer beehive case (Holmes keeps bees in Baker Street, why not?), and the part that has cracked me up every time I've seen it, including the previews, Watson attempting to shoot bees. And the diving helmet bit just makes it better.

"It's working!"


But, with all these distractions, can they make Moriarty's trial?

Gun-toting John Watson is a classic John Watson. Gun-firing John Watson is the perfect parody extreme of that John. They make Moriarty's trial in a hail of bullets . . . perhaps not from a source you would normally expect.

Moriarty on trial after Holmes captures him isn't Canon, but if it was good enough for Rathbone and Cumberbatch, it's good enough for Ferrell. And of course there is a twist at the end of the trial, every single time. Remember Sherlock Holmes's "cat-like love of cleanliness?" His panther impression at the trial might make one recall that line, as well as set up a reason for his eventual love interest.

And it is obvious from the start that Holmes doesn't consider Watson as he should saying how he was alone at the crime scene when Watson was plainly there. Because the real plot of this movie is completely Holmes and Watson's relationship . . . which is completely in tune with a more modern focus on the pair. It's not just about the deductions any more, and this movie gets it, at least on that point.

The crowds that chant Sherlock's name in the courtroom may not be Canon, but if feels like Canon, as beloved as Holmes has become over the years. A character named "Jacob Musgrave" flips one of our Canonical triggers, though, as does Holmes's solution involving fingerprints, an art he pioneered in "Norwood Builder."

Lestrade's constant frustration with Sherlock Holmes is well-played in the movie, though one has to wonder who Lestrade's un-named constant companion with that stereotypical period cleavage is. And half the time, the inspector is only doing what Holmes tells him, only to have it turned-about later.

Watson writes Canon while Holmes plays the violin, Holmes contemplates how dull detective-work will be with no Moriarty. Cocaine and opium are tossed in as ridiculous Victorian commonplaces. There's a lot of Holmes-stuff here, but a lot of Ferrell/Reilly as well, when they start screaming for Mrs. Hudson in a very improv-sounding sequence, pleasant to the ears of a fan, horrific to the casual movie-goer, I'm sure. But the conclusion of the sequence, with Mrs. Hudson coming out of Watson's bedroom with her Mark-Twain-looking lover quickly turns things in a different direction.

This is one of the movie's great strengths -- it moves through bits like a train. Too many comedies dwell on a single line or moment as if waiting for their laughs, this one just keeps charging ahead, and that pace makes it an eminently rewatchable film for those of us who are into it.

Watson's fanning over Queen Victoria seems very appropriate for our Watson taken to the extreme. And Holmes just can't stop making deductions . . . unless it's a moment where a knife won't cut a cake properly, Lines like "The game is a-starting" might be meaningless to a non-Sherlockian, but a Holmes-that-is-not-quite-full-Sherlock is kinda fun for . . . well, some Sherlockians . . . the ones the movie hasn't lost already.

Holmes vomiting at the mere though of corpses in the morgue is the exact opposite of Canon-Holmes, yet harkens nicely to the Holmes-with-diarrhea of 2001's O Xango De Baker Street. It also gives Holmes that needed moment to connect with Millicent, the newest competition for Irene Adler as the woman. (They both have that Canonical "cat-like love of cleanliness," you see. Literally, in her case.) Watson's autopsy-love scene with Dr. Grace Hart quickly gets him in a romantic place as well.

Grace's suggestion that Watson try to advance his part of the partnership to "co-detective" is both a big plot driver and a real understanding of current views of the Holmes and Watson partnership. CBS's Elementary is all about Watson becoming a consulting detective equal to Holmes. We view their partnership differently now than our counterparts in the 1940s did, and Holmes and Watson leans hard into that thought. While Holmes is a genius, far beyond Watson in intellect at every turn, whether it's mental Battleship or communicating with Mycroft at the Diogenes, but Watson is Holmes's guide in the realm of emotion. And this movie is all over that paradigm.

Want more Canon? Stamford's prediction in A Study in Scarlet that "I could imagine his giving a friend of pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid, not of malevolence, you understand, but simply out of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects" is completely put on display here, as Holmes tests the black orchid poison that the murderer used by dosing Watson with it . . . and then observing the effects. Sure, they are things like temporary brain damage, body image dismorphia, and lactation, which might be funny to you, or not, but, hey! Canon!

Okay, and is "Gustav Klinger," the one-armed tattoo artist, a reference to Les Klinger who has consulted on Hollywood things occasionally? Well, given that there was a Russian Bolshevik politician with that name, maybe not, but one has to wonder.

Is an "Okinawan beard flip" a baritsu move?

Did drunk Holmes and Watson start with Cumberbatch and Freeman? I suspect that's a thing now.

When they go to Dorset Street, a neighborhood so bad that prostitutes pull men off coaches and you can get stabbed for asking the time, it was the site of a Ripper murder that Holmes and Watson have visited many times in pastiches, so that almost counts as Canon . . . well, almost.

Moriarty's daughter was a concept pioneered by Laurie King as a foil for Mary Russell, and do we get a Moriarty daughter here? Welllll, maybe . . . I won't spoil that. A touch of Steve Hockensmith-type "Holmes in the West?" Well, that might show up, too.

And of course we get "Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" . . . . only at the most dire time for Holmes to make that pronouncement, as be betrays Watson during the movie's break-up turn.  (Does it bother you to think of Ghandi saying of Watson, "I'd hang that bitch myself!"? Then this might not be the movie for you.)

There is a level of detail to Holmes and Watson that I dearly love and I look forward to the DVD release, just so I can pause to read the newspapers and journal entries that flash across the screen. Even fish-and-chips wrappers have headlines trumpeting Sherlock Holmes, so there's a lot to see here.

Details, fun characters, it's a pity this movie is being dismissed by so many, eager to toss another film on their "Worst of 2018" list because they didn't get it. But there is something to get here, and laughs to be had. (Hey, the one other person in the theater for my second viewing was laughing as much as me!) A lovely Mark Mothersbaugh soundtrack that, unfortunately, doesn't contain the climactic duet-plus-one of Holmes finally finding his love of Watson (don't get your hopes up -- they're shippable, but they don't go full-on bi in the movie). What does it take to "get it" with this one?

Well, Holmes and Watson might be the sort of thing that scientists one day narrow down as one of those DNA-level tastes that you have to be born with. We could deep-dive on psychological factors all day long and probably still not completely profile why some of us are enjoying this movie even as the torches come out from the cinema villagers.  But is it a Sherlockian movie?

Yes. There's a lot of Sherlock to find inside it, if certain aspects don't scare you off. (Not for the easily grossed-out, not for the Trump fans, not for the purists, not for the Ferrell-haters, not for any who thinks stupid can't be genius . . . .) It will be very interesting to see how this does on DVD, when that initial Rotten Tomatoes score is but a misty memory.

Prelude to a second viewing of "Holmes and Watson"

"It's astounding. Time is . . . fleeting. Madness . . . takes its toll. But listen closely . . ."

-- Riff Raff, The Rocky Horror Picture Show

As you may have noticed, I'm in a very special place this week. As prophesied in my initial review, my particular level of enjoyment of the movie Holmes and Watson has not been shared by . . . well, most. And in typical contrarian fashion, that just adds to the piquancy of the feast.

And so, this morning, even with a touch of some virus, I shall do what few Sherlockians will dare.

I am going to see Holmes and Watson a second time. And taking notes.

Second viewings are always a good test. Do the reactions from the first time hold up? Can a movie hold your attention when you know what's coming? Is there anything in the film worth closer observation?

Due to the way Sony released Holmes and Watson, its critical appraisals might have been slightly tainted by said critics being forced to see it among Christmas Day audiences -- perhaps the worst audiences of the year in my long experience of movie-going. Kinfolk who never go to the theater are suddenly pulled in by family outings and their behavior is horrible. (And the older folks do tend to fall asleep after their Christmas dinner.) Going to see a movie that you would not normally be attracted to enough to spend ten bucks on is no way to see a movie. Which brings me to Sherlockians who would never see a Will Ferrell movie being drawn in by Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson -- like me and CBS's Elementary, it was oil and water to begin with. Add in a touch of the Asch Conformity Paradigm to that critical lambasting and you get a movie that was doomed, doomed, I say!

Does this mean it was a bad movie? Like music, humor is a very individual taste. It might have been a bad movie for you, and I won't argue otherwise. You get to have your own opinion, just as I do with that accursed Elementary. But I do find myself in the position where I might need to explain myself, just so I don't get locked up . . . well, if we locked up madmen anymore, instead of just casting them to the curb.

It's been interesting how many social media pundits cite this as the end of Will Ferrell's career, without really considering Will Ferrell's career. Casa de mi padre was six years ago. A Deadly Adoption was three years ago. From the medium-wandering Ron Burgundy to the casual commentary of "Cord and Tish," Ferrell gets out there and takes chances that drive some people crazy in his pursuit of comedy. But it's a great comedic voice (at least for those of us that get it), and I strongly doubt this will bring him down. He might not completely have a cult following, but the seeds are there.

Which is going to be the big test in seeing Holmes and Watson again today. Is it re-watchable enough for someone going in with a positive attitude to make it a cult movie?  So many "bad" movies are still with us today after attaining cult status -- even though flawed, like Tommy Wiseau's The Room, there is an inherent watchability to them that makes going back an easy choice. Can Holmes and Watson pull off that trick? The first viewing went amazingly quickly -- I thought I'd only been in the theater an hour when the movie was done, which is a very good sign. A truly bad movie seems like an never-ending torture.

"Treasure or torture?" is a question that comes up time and again in our Sherlockian lives, whether it be a particular month-long quiz or a classic area of study like Sherlockian chronology. I'm leaning toward "treasure" this time out, but we will see what that critical second viewing brings.

Off I go! 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Problems of that final problem

The Sherlock Holmes Story Society at the North Branch Peoria Public Library met again tonight, and our focus was "The Final Problem." (And nary a word of a certain film you might have heard about.)

And, boy, are there problems to be discussed there.

In Professor Moriarty, Conan Doyle created a foe that not only could elude Scotland Yard -- he can elude a reader as well. For a little old mathematics professor moonlighting as a criminal mastermind, he does some very weird things.

For one, he chases a train. And like a dog chasing a car, we have to wonder what Moriarty would have done with that train had he caught it. He was plainly outnumbered, two to one, by men known to carry guns. He actually lets Sherlock Holmes write a note while explaining his super-villain plotting, as super-villains must do by law (or out-law) apparently. And then he just throws himself at Sherlock Holmes. When you put it all together, Moriarty comes off more as an obsessed, unrequited lover than a criminal genius.

Holmes, of course, is no great brain himself at times on this one.

He explains to Watson how Moriarty will probably go to Paris and watch where their luggage winds up, but then seems surprised that the professor is not arrested in London. And again, bare-handed wrestling with one's arch-foe on a cliff. Guns, knives, hunting crops . . . anything, boys?

It's no wonder Nicholas Meyer found this fodder for calling Holmes delusional in The Seven Per-Cent Solution. Watson himself never gets a good look at a man he could identify as Moriarty in a court of law.

But, as with any Sherlock Holmes story, we get such tantalizing details . . . Holmes writes that his friends will be sad at his solution to Moriarty's end, and especially Watson. What other pre-1891 friends is he writing of? Lestrade, who gets ditched on this big haul for Inspector Patterson? Frank and Hatty Moulton, who proved to be just that charming as dinner guests? Mrs. Hudson? James Mortimer?

I read it this time from Christopher Morley's Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship, which follows the tale up with some ridiculous discussion questions. Read all the stories that aren't in this book and figure out how Watson had two wives. Get an atlas and figure out what you would do if you had time to kill in Canterbury. Sherlock Holmes not eating goose liver and only taking a half hour for lunch is a tribute to what? I'll say it: Morley was a bit odd.

But aren't all of us involved with our friend Sherlock Holmes, from Conan Doyle to Will Ferrell. (Whose voice I heard Holmes's lines in, as I read "Final Problem." Yes, I am that far gone.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A rotten tomato hurled at Sherlock Holmes?

A friend of mine took a stance a couple of years back. He had decided that in order to encourage Hollywood to make quality films, he would only go to movies with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 75% or above. My other movie buddy and I scoffed at this position for good reasons, and eventually our 75% friend relented. Because, when it comes to Rotten Tomatoes, below 75% is where the real fun is.

Action movies, most comedies, genre films of all sorts except that "Oscar-bait" genre . . . critics see so many movies that they occasionally need to relieve their stress by bashing a flawed film about, overlooking the fact that those "flaws" might be what the audience bought their ticket to see. Which brings us to my new favorite Sherlock Holmes movie, Holmes and Watson.

Since the makers of the film didn't allow critics pre-release screener copies, and the movie opened on Christmas Day, one might suspect an actual plot to keep anyone from seeing the movie before audiences had a first chance to buy tickets . . . and you might be right. In this age of Rotten Tomatoes dominance, where that site's score can kill a movie's box office, that strategy is legitimately necessary sometimes. Movies we all saw in the 1970s and 1980s would never have survived their first week had RT existed back then. And while haters of a given movie will always go, "Yeah! Kill those weaklings of the litter!" the truth is that some movies would actually find a larger, satisfied audience without the influence of that single percentage. 

So, a day after the film's release, we find ourselves still awaiting that verdict from Rotten Tomatoes the way a Moriarty on trial waits for his final verdict. As individual reviews started coming in, things weren't looking good for our hero's latest outing. Even ousted governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker had felt the urge for a Christmas Day Twitter review to bash the film. (Which might actually be seen as a positive for the movie in some circles.) Waiting. Watching. Thirteen reviews in. Zero positive ones. Of the about three thousand critics that RT looks at, eighty reviews have to be in for a "Tomatometer" critical consensus, and of those eighty, sixty percent have to be positive for any kind of "Fresh" rating. But a "Rotten" still seems to be coming Holmes and Watson's way.

For those of us that like to make up our own minds, though, the movie theaters are open and it is still there to be seen. Sherlockians who had the time available and were either curious, looking forward to it, or just completists, could still get a viewing in. You could still gather firsthand evidence before Scotland Yard muddled up the crime scene, so to speak. Because once that all-powerful Rotten Tomatoes rating comes in, you're either jumping on to a winning team after they reach the Super Bowl or swimming upstream against the current and racing to see it before it gets yanked from theaters.

It's a weird business, seeing movies in 2018. But make up your own mind, and try to have some fun along the way.

The Shaw . . . sixteen?

When the occasional reminder comes up that one's name appears on a list of ancients in the Sherlockian world, questions arise. How many of the other folks on the list yet live? If it's a scant few, one starts to worry about one's own mortality. If it's a healthy number, one can breathe a sigh of relief and figure one has a few good days left. So it was when the topic of "the Shaw 100" came into my head again this week.

The Shaw 100 is actually more than a hundred, as it is his list of a "Basic Holmes Library" of a hundred books that was re-compiled multiple times. Some books were added, and some left the list. Each of those books has authors or editors, and while a book may be nigh immortal, sadly, their human creators are not. And when one gets in one's head to start checking on the health of all the names in that list, it can get a bit grim.

But here's the happy side of the list, as far as I could tell from a quick internet search:

Pj Doyle
Jon Lellenberg
Steven Rothman
Philip Shreffler
Owen Dudley Edwards
Christopher Redmond
Robert W. Pohle, Jr.
Douglas C. Hart
William D. Goodrich
Julia Carlson Rosenblatt
Frederic H. Sonnenschmidt
Michael Kurland
Carol-Lynn Rössel Waugh
Martin H. Greenberg
Nicholas Meyer

All of the above were involved with a book in John Bannett Shaw's basic Sherlock Holmes library. And as far as I can tell, they're still around. Google, however, will give you some trouble with certain Sherlockian writers. "Orlando Park," for example, gives you Disney World and you start thinking "pseudonym," even though such might not be the case. Michael Pointer is apparently a Marvel Comics superhero. Others just seem to have namesakes all over the place.

The point of all this research is simple: We need a new heir to the Shaw 100. Many of the items on that list don't hold the weight they used to. Many have had modern equivalents or betterings. And they don't account for the massive wave of Sherlockiana that's come in in the past decade.

But no single Sherlockian is qualified to create such a thing any more. John Bennett Shaw was in a special position in the 1980s, one that no other Sherlockian has attained since . . . or possibly even could at this point. It would definitely take a team at this point. Maybe a team concocted by an objective central authority, like the folks in Minneapolis. No simple poll could create such a list -- whoever produced it would have to argue for every single item on it. (This is the age of argument, isn't it?) Cases would have to be made.

But the results would certainly be worthwhile, and useful to newer Sherlockians more than collectors.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The "Holmes and Watson" Report

Let's get what may be the future unpopular opinion out the way at the outset:

I believe that the new film Holmes and Watson, starring the ever-polarizing comedic icon Will Ferrell and his best partner in crime John C. Reilly, is actually a work of genius.

Not like nuclear physics genius, more like comedically smart genius, but still, of an intelligence level above that of the common motion picture.

I had a great time, the good Carter had a great time, and this was after AMC screwed us over by changing the time and we walked into a dark and crowded matinee just as the opening credits finished. So, basically, we arrived in a bit of a bad mood.

But, like the best comedies, Holmes and Watson moves at a lively pace. Didn't think that bit was funny? Here's another bit. Don't like slapstick? Here's parody. Don't like parody? Here's a clever line. Don't like clever lines? Here's a bit of gross-out humor. (But not too much.) The movie's roots lay in all sorts of grand Sherlockian places -- Moriarty on trial again, Holmes abusing both Watson and Mrs. Hudson (taken to comic extremes), Mycroft's Diogenes silence taken to a new level, that co-detective thing that Elementary likes to do -- it's all over the map, which is where a comedy of this level needs to be.

And Millicent. I'm not going to tell you about Millicent, but I love Millicent. She's my dream girl.

Holmes and Watson is a great movie . . . unless you are just not a silly comedy person, and I know some of you are out there. I intend to see it again, definitely because I missed the pre-credits bits, but also because I will enjoy doing so. It moved along so quickly that when it was done I had to check my phone to see if more than an hour had actually passed.

John C. Reilly may even be my new favorite Watson (I have Nigel Bruce roots, you know). Will Ferrell does a funny, funny job of being Will Ferrell doing Sherlock Holmes, but he definitely isn't British enough for a top Sherlock (though did any of us really expect that?). Kelly Macdonald's Mrs. Hudson stands out as well.

If you have any impulse to see Holmes and Watson whatsoever, I would recommend that you do it. You'll find something in it worth your time. And it's a perfect addition to our Sherlockian film treasure trove, giving us one more treat to bide our time until 2020 when RDJ and Jude Law return in the roles.

P.S. First movie to ever mention the Holmes Canon using the word "Canon" internally? Could be!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sherlockian white elephant gifts?

One of the weird little ways we deal with holiday traditions is the "white elephant gift." Said to come from the King of Siam's gifting of very impractical gifts of actual white elephants, these weird gifts can take some very odd directions, but the main point is usually that they are things you probably don't actually want. When this comes to a Sherlockian, however, is there anything having to do with Sherlock Holmes that we would consider a "white elephant" of a gift?

Most of us own a few weird and wacky Sherlockian items, most of it impractical as can be, but what would fit that sort of "Ha-ha, you got a [blank]!" that a prime white elephant gift embodies?

A VHS tape of the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore Hound of the Baskervilles, perhaps? Since most of us don't have VHS tape players at this point, it would probably be unplayable, but an unplayable copy of an unwatchable movie might just be the white elephant we're looking for here. Except for the fact that it's still a collectable.

That "collectable" designation kills a lot of potential Sherlockian white elephant gifts.

How about a bust of Sherlock done in soap that is slowly degrading in a jar? Kinda weird, kinda gross, definitely not something anyone is proud to add to their collection. But . . . why do I even have this? Yuck, I couldn't give this to someone, just because it looks more like a curse than a gift.

So, what else, what else . . . Sherlockian tchotchke's abound, but a Sherlock Gnomes figure from a Burger King kids meal is actually desirable to a great many Sherlockians.  Are there books that would fit this category?

I mean, there are some weird ones, some goofy ones, some so-bad-they're-funny ones, but I feel like every one of them has someone out there that thinks they're a worthwhile tome for the collection. Nothing too impractical in their eyes. But then there's my old favorite . . .

The book that seems like it could be about Sherlock Holmes, but isn't. Amusing, impractical, but a good white elephant? I'm still just not sure.

Are there any Sherlockians out there doing white elephant gift exchanges with each other, passing gifts of a Sherlockian nature? It would be a great party to get invited to, if there is. Who knows what wonderfully odd thing you could wind up taking home?

Saturday, December 22, 2018


There's a thing that people, especially Sherlock Holmes, do in the original Canon that you don't hear a lot about people doing in our everyday lives. Maybe it's just one of those Victorian words that's fallen out of fashion, but I don't know . . . it just seems to fit a certain feeling so well.

It's a big box office time at the movies, and with big movies, of late, come superheroes. Your Aquamen,  your Spider-men, your Autobots, and your Sherlock Holmeses. It's no coincidence that RDJ Sherlock and Will Ferrell Sherlock both have debuted on Christmas. It's a super time for super movies, and Sherlock Holmes is a super-character. And what do all of the most fun superheroes, including Sherlock Holmes, do in their powers?

They exult.

They all have that one glorious moment when they feel the marvelous abilities they have at their command and they exult. They scream "WOOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOOO!" They get a twinkle in their eye. They come to that one perfect realization best expressed with the words, "I've got this." It's a great moment, and we love movies that capture it in story.

Sherlock exulted a lot. He knew what he had, he enjoyed the rush of being who he was and doing what he was doing. It's one of the things we love about him, and we feel it right alongside him.

The problem with stories, however, is that we often start to think that those are the only place things like exulting happen. That they're the only place that special people with special abilities exist. And there's a reason for that: The people in stories are written into situations that perfectly match their special abilities. Sherlock Holmes gets to solve mysteries so well because, let's be honest, he was written with the needed skills to undo whatever problem needs to be undone. (Yes, he gets to fail, but those are just endearing trimmings to the tree.)

In our lives, we don't often get written into scenarios that line up perfectly with our special bag of tricks, even though every single one of us has that unique combination of personality and skills that could, theoretically, find a perfect situation as its match. But maybe just that thought is enough.

Maybe we should exult in our powers occasionally. Even when life is hard, and we have loss, frustration, and despair. Our best gifts are never the ones we get handed wrapped in paper at Christmas time. They're the ones that cost us time, pain, sorrow, and life. Sherlock Holmes didn't get what he got for free. The isolation, the big failures, the tragedies . . . those gifts of his had big price tags.

And yet, Sherlock Holmes could exult in his gifts every now and then. Which, as ever with Sherlock, can give us something to look at in our own day-to-day lives. And maybe do a little exulting of our own.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Don't say it. Don't say it . . . "Elementary 2.0." Dammit!

Sigh. I'm in trouble.

Whilst the Holmes and Watson war rages on, the creative world has decided to lob another Sherlock salvo that's going to get me in trouble for not being "All Holmes is good Holmes!" again.

Stupid Sherlock Holmes, when done by a Will Ferrell, is parody. Comedy. Silliness.

Stupid Sherlock Holmes, when done as a serious procedural or drama, is just bad Sherlock Holmes . . . to my mind. Because it robs him of his prime virtue, and instead of parodying him for fun, actually lessens him to make him more palatable to those who cannot stand to think that anyone might be smarter than they. And to make Sherlock Holmes as mass market as possible, you have to smooth those genius edges down and show that other folks can be just as smart as he is.

So when Howard Ostrom passed along a story from Cultbox this morning, and the description of a new Netflix show called "The Irregulars" ran like this:

"Sherlock Holmes had a group of street kids he'd use to help him gather clues so our series is what if Sherlock was a drug addict and a delinquent and the kids solve the whole case while he takes the credit."

Even the good Carter had to shake her fist at the ceiling on that one, and she's my emotional dampening rod. As a comedy or parody, that concept would be fine . . . we saw that in Michael Caine's Sherlock turn Without A Clue. But to make a show that sounds a lot like the BBC's Shameless (which I loved) where the children in a family had to prop up their missing drunk of a father and replace that father with Sherlock Holmes . . . well . . . .

It's the basic problem I had with CBS's Elementary cranked up to eleven.

So, yes, I'm pre-judging. And yes, I've just become everything I preached against regarding Holmes and Watson. And that is not a recipe for a good morning, especially pre-Christmas when we're all a little more stressed, a little more emotional, and a little more . . . oh, wait, the spirit of Christmas! That's it! Somebody sing me a carol or send me some ghosts to right my brain and fill me with forgiveness and kindness toward TV shows I don't like, past, present, or future.

Oh, no! My own personal Christmas Carol is taking place real-time with the ghosts of TV shows and movies, isn't it? Elementary is the ghost of media Sherlock past, Holmes and Watson the ghost of media Sherlock present, and The Irregulars is the ghost of media Sherlocks yet to come, with Howard Ostrom as my Jacob Marley.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!   Can I just buy someone a goose and get this over with?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Let the stupid fun begin!

There's a lot of bad going on right now. But that thing that's going to happen in a couple of weeks is definitely not a part of it. It's our Christmas gift.

Holmes and Watson, starring Will Farrell and John C. Reilly, is stirring the Sherlockian pot a bit, as was demonstrated by a recent trip to Facebook-land, which is one big comment section. I love the original thoughts from creative, bright folks, but hate the long chains of repetitively dull comments that follow. And, boy, was Holmes and Watson getting repetitively dull comments.

"So stupid!"

"I'm not seeing it."

"Why does Hollywood produce trash movies like this?"

a.) Yes, that's kind of the point.

b.) Then your review will be a little worthless, won't it?

c.) They make money, because people see them. Duh.

And anyone that love, love, loves Elementary but pooh-poohs Holmes and Watson can bite my sassy Sherlockian ass right now. But I also apologize for having said that, because I know neurodiversity can produce some interesting combos, valid for certain situations and not others. Like biting my . . . oh, stop! (Insert second apology here.)

Anyway, like I tweeted on Twitter (but not on Facebook, because frankly, Facebook frightens me like mobs with torches do), parody is subversive. And Holmes and Watson, with a Holmes AND a Watson both as stupid as Nigel Bruce, is definitely subversive against the high-IQ traditional image of Holmes (and now Watson, since we're done with Nigel Bruce). Wait, was Nigel Bruce subversive parody . . . of a certain type of British fellow . . . ooooohhhhhh, he waaaasssssss.

Just as Will Farrell has long been a parody of a certain type of arrogant American male in most of his movies, a skill he's now bringing to a British icon. He's always garnered a big love/hate split in reactions, because stupid in comedy isn't to everyone's tastes. And neither is slapstick. Smacking Queen Victoria in the head with a box camera could be seen as violence against women, and if one is especially sensitive in that area, this is not your movie. But Queen Vickie isn't just a woman, she's the ruler of an empire, a symbol of both power and propriety. Smacking her in the head or fawning "I love you" in her direction is subversive as hell, and that's where the fun starts.

My dear old Sherlockian neighbor, back in the Seinfeld days, would say how proud he was never to have watched an episode of Seinfeld. Proud. Years later, when it was on a 6:30 syndicated nightly rotation, he was watching it religiously and going on about how funny all those gags were that the rest of us got years before. I'm not telling this to say that folks who go see Holmes and Watson are going to necessarily find they enjoy it, just that they might want to go to make sure they can talk about it knowledgeably afterwards. Proclaiming things from a place of ignorance is a something we can seeing hurting our country real-time right now. Don't be that person.

It's okay not to like things. Especially annoying bloggers who will start poking you in the ribs once they realize that you don't, and they're feeling especially merry about something.

Because Holmes and Watson really looks like it's going to make for a very merry Christmas for some of us.

Hee hee hee.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Detective Chimp stands on his own

I was reading the sixth issue of Justice League Dark last night.

Why is this relevant to Sherlockians?

Well, one of the main characters of this supernatural offshoot of DC Comics's Justice League is a little fellow named Bobo, the Detective Chimp. Sherlockians have included any appearance of Detective Chimp in their comics collections for years because Bobo wears a deerstalker and often a chimp-sized Invernesse cape.

That deerstalker, the base level for inclusion in a Sherlockian collection for decades, is falling out of favor as a must-have Sherlockian base for picking something up, at least to me. There is just so much Sherlockiana out there since the Cumberbatch Renaissance that we have to draw lines in the sand somewhere. "Vacuum cleaner" collecting is no longer a financially viable option. (The books on Amazon alone could replace your house payment and would build a very poor shelter.)

And just in time, Bobo the Detective Chimp is gaining some real character, worth reading on his own. He's got a few dark secrets, a drinking problem, and the detective skills to solve his issues if someone just gets him into gear.

So at this point, I might have started reading Justice League Dark for the deerstalker, but I'm sticking with the book for the story itself. And Bobo, the Detective Chimp, himself.

Hoping Detective Pikachu does as well for himself.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Diary of a fic-reading challenge, third part, second week

Think I'd given up on the fic-reading challenge? Nope! Still at it!

December 10

Starting to feel like I was force-feeding fic to myself a little hard, I stepped back tonight and counted fics, counted days, and made myself a calendar to pace myself for the long haul. My "Three Patch Podcast December Fic Challenge" finishes on New Year's Eve, and if you're going to wind up the year with something, you want to do it right.

What started out as a whimsy has become a plan.

December 11

"Picnic," part one of the What Did You Think About series by Chryse, spends an appropriate amount of romancing and foreplay before getting to the . . . hmm, with what's gone down over at Tumblr, I almost hate to even use the word p-o-r-n these days as the platform censorship spreads. Fear is very infectious these days, and I'm hating it. A local church, a very welcoming and friendly sort of church, starting locking its doors when services start blaming the temple shooting in another state. Boy, that's a dark turn in a log-post about a romantic picnic story. Sorry.  The folks responsible for recent turns in our society cannot do enough jail time. But, onward.

"The Adventure of the Missing Tale" by Paul Thomas Miller was not on my Three Patch list, but I read it anyway tonight. The adventure of Sherlock Pooh was a nice little palate-cleanser after that lusty romp in the pasture preceding it. (And ensuing micro-rant about fear.)

December 12

"Middle Ground," the first part of Triptych, by strangegibbon, TSylvestris is a Sherlock, John, and Greg Lestrade three-way. Makes me wonder what take-out curry must be like, as I'm not even sure we have that in Peoria. And there seems to be a bit going on with male nipples that I don't remember being a thing, but, hey, no three-ways with an ex-army doctor and two detectives on my resume either. One thing fic writers do tend to get, more often than not, is the voices. Yes, they're saying a few things we never heard on Sherlock, but the way they say it sounds right if you listen.

"A Carriage Full Of Secrets" by faerymorstan in the Biscuitverse series. Text message during the events of "His Last Vow." Molly Hooper gets a much bigger part this time around, I like that. Somebody has to be the voice outside the Sherlock/John/Mary marriage in all these texts. Texts read quickly and I'm up to chapter five before I have to stop for now.

December 14

"An Act of Charity" by wordstrings, start of The Paradox Series. Lovely think-y inner-Sherlock piece. Such a good attempt at inner Sherlock that I'm surprised when the inevitable Johnlock turn comes along . . . my brain just doesn't feature that as an automatic, and it's a bit like discovering someone is attending a function for completely different reasons than you thought they were there for. Taking the night off last night was definitely a reset.

December 16

A holiday month is definitely not the time to undertake a time-consuming challenge, I now realize. Thought the whole holiday bit might buy me some extra time, but no, Christmas is a time-vampire, always has been, always will be, disrupting our happy normal schedules with don't-be-a-Scrooge demands and offers pinpoint targeted to take as much money from us in this season as possible. (And even my movie-loving soul is a bit pissy about the holiday movie dump after a few weeks of scant choices.) Grrr.

"Unkissed," part one of the Unkissed series by 221b_hound. Remember how I was a little grumpy in the previous paragraph? Well, bear that in mind . . . I came grumpy. This bit of fic is a comfortably domestic Baker Street life, featuring that one thing that many a husband dreads: time to talk of the relationship. As a long-time husband myself, it's like reading a long, detailed fic about doing the dishes -- one of those recurring duties you don't enjoy, but must be done. And that reaction of mine is not fair to the piece at all. It's well written, if it resonates with the reader in a positive, want-to-see-that fashion. But me, now? "You're a mean one, Mister Grinch . . ."

This might be a bad fic day. Onward.

And my next fic tumble is straight into the opposite of Sherlock and John trying to get past first base -- it's Janine and Molly heading straight for a home run without much hesitation at all: "everything you had and what was left after that too" by IamJohnLocked4Life. Oh, that Janine, the fabulous X-factor that the BBC Sherlock crew added to the Baker Street mythos. She's the perfect character for bringing any new element into the relationships of her time, even a side of Molly we hadn't seen.

I have to wonder if there could have been a Victorian Janine retrofitted into the Doyle Canon, given the times. Surely someone out in fic-world has accepted that challenge.

John and Sherlock's Kinky First Times is a series by wendymarlowe that is a bit like a box of variety chocolates. If you can stop at one, you just don't like chocolates, or don't have the burning curiosity to see what the next one contains. I cut myself off at five on this series of short, sweet, and funny little first encounters that are exactly what the name says.

"The Blog of Eugenia Watson" by Mad_Lori reads like world-building to me, except until Omegaverse, the world is that of one teenage girl. Intriguing first chapter. Curious about the mom.

In the Space Beneath Our Clothes by kingaofthewoods does what fanfic is primarily there to do: fill in the gaps between the official canon bits we are handed. Even when the goal is Mollcroft, moving the two protagonists from when we last saw them in the series to their own combined story takes some real thought and skill to move us from one place to the next, and it's good fun to watch someone pull off that transition, bringing back the joy of the series itself with new content that surely might have been what came next.

This has been an interesting run, and I'm starting to see patterns in the fic and in myself. Looking forward to month-end and the after-action analysis of this challenge.

Sherlock Holmes and Aquaman

"A curry was exactly the medium which would disguise the taste."
-- Prophetic Sherlock Holmes in "Silver Blaze"

Why prophetic?

"A curry," which is also the pronunciation for "A. Curry," which is short for "Arthur Curry," which is the civilian name of Aquaman, the DC superhero whose big movie comes out this week. And, of course, I am going to attempt to tie it to Sherlock Holmes.

There is the mention of a case "concerning the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant" in "The Veiled Lodger," of course. Arthur Curry's father was a lighthouse keeper, his mother was a politician of sorts from Atlantis. And the trained cormorant?

Consider that tales of the Aquaman first came to be in 1941. Watson wrote of the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant late in his writings, a scandal which occurred in "the late Victorian Era." And, oh, yes, Aquaman's birth was quite a scandal for the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, as his mother was a runaway queen from that very place.

So what if the Atlanteans of 1900 or thereabouts used trained seabirds, like cormorants, to attempt to locate someone gone to the surface world? And what if Sherlock Holmes helped Tom and Alanna Curry escape the tendrils of Atlantis, only to have the Atlanteans continue to try to get their location from Watson's records, hence the warning in "Veiled Lodger." And what if they kept trying, even going after Sherlock's neighbors in Sussex with such creatures as cyanea capillata as part of their plot.

The tale of the Aquaman has moved forward many generations since its origins, so there is a potential that its origins came from a situation that Sherlock Holmes might have had something to do with. At least that's what I'm claiming this week.

And you know I had to go to the Amazon Prime sneak preview last night just because "Amazon" is mentioned in the Canon. Or maybe that was the excuse for Wonder Woman. For a Sherlockian, there's always a reason somewhere in those tales.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A Peoria failure among the great Sherlockian weekends past

Wandering through my ancient crypt of an old office file cabinet, I stumbled across a file from the study of my old friend Bob Burr that contained flyers for about fifteen Sherlockian weekend workshops conducted by John Bennett Shaw in the 1980s.

The run of flyers actually goes from June of 1978 to August of 1987, from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland to Stanford University in California. Most were university weekends, at some you stayed in the school's dorms. My introduction to the larger Sherlockian world came at the one held in Lisle, Illinois, at Illinois Benedictine College in 1983.

I will always remember stepping up to the registration desk to sign in for the workshop, and how John Bennett Shaw nudged my friend Bob at the time and pointed to the accommodations chart. It seems that myself and a young lady with a last name different from mine were sharing rooms, which in 1983, rated a questioning glance. Bob reassured John that, despite the different last names, we were married and no mistake had been made in the room assignments. (Not thinking Shaw a prude, just that he was concerned for the potentially single lady forced to room with a bearded scalawag such as myself.)

Lisle, however, was not the place I was supposed to meet the larger Sherlockian world for the first time. No, that was supposed to have occurred in July of 1979, at the Shaw workshop held at Bradley University, right here in Peoria, Illinois. But Peoria's Sherlockian society was brand new, the university had little idea what they were doing, and even though we are less than three hours from both St. Louis and Chicago Sherlockians, those involved could not get enough people to sign up and cancelled the event at the last minute. So last minute, in fact, that no one bothered to tell a very angry Jack Tracy, at the peak of his Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana prominence. (So angry that he refused to even dine with local Sherlockians since he was in town anyway.)

I hadn't even met the local Sherlockian society at that time, so I didn't know what I was missing, and the flyer for the workshop, almost hysterically vague and weirdly academic, was no help on that account. "There will be a limited number of assigned readings connected with the workshop." "If possible, participants are asked to procure one of the editions of the complete Holmes stories." "Several noted Sherlockians will be guest lecturers during the conference." (With no names outside of Shaws listed in the flyer.)

The weekend would have run from 7:30 PM Friday through 4:00 PM Sunday, and in that time there were to be six lectures, nine films, and "remarks," "discussions," and "definitions of terms." It seemed to be aimed at non-Sherlockians, but would a non-Sherlockian pay $55 for a Holmes weekend in 1979? I don't know.

In any case, this city of mine didn't get on the Sherlockian map that year, which will always be a great "what might have been" for me. As Lisle in 1983 inspired me to start working on some wonderful Sherlockian projects, I can't help but wonder what might have occurred with a four year head start.

But an interesting time, the late 1970s and 1980s. We had disco Sherlockians. And Shaw.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Regrets, I've had a few . . . dozen . . .

Here's a fellow I would enjoy having a chat with.

He was all of twenty-five years old. Just married two years. Had only that weekend met the greatest Sherlockian alive in 1983, according to most. Was about to write a book. And skin that wasn't doing that stuff your skin does when you pass sixty. (Some fuss about the gray, but it's not the gray, it's the skin.) Because that's me, me in 1983.

What would we talk about?

Well, quite a few things, and it would be a very tricky conversation. Because I know all the things he doesn't, and instead of just saying "Buy Apple stock!" I think I would want to talk Sherlockiana, and not just about buying more of those single-issue Strand Magazines I stumbled across once in Boulder. Because it wouldn't be the collecting that I would risk changing history to tell him.

It's more about the relationships, I think. Forewarning of a few rough corners that could be sanded off as a kindness to others who might get scratched or dented as he passes through their lives. When Frank Sinatra sang "regrets, I had a few, but then again, too few to mention," I often think Frank's singing guy must have been a real jerk, because anyone with any sense of other people had to have screwed up more often than a few times in their dealings with others. Especially if you're all about doing it "my way."

Not that'd I'd advise against every conflict. I can think of one or two I'd say "use your words better, think it out a little harder, and double down . . . kindly." Because sometimes you have to draw the line. But other times, in smaller moments, lines can get drawn too quickly.

And maybe I'd just play Calvin Harris's "Acceptable in the 80's" for him. And mention those three words that every younger version of ourselves might like to hear: "It gets better."

Sherlock-man, Sherlock-man . . .

(Sung to the tune of "Spider-man," the sixties cartoon theme song.)

Sherlock-man, Sherlock-man, does whatever a Sherlock can!
Runs an ad in the Times, here come those who did crimes,
No doubt! He is the Sherlock-man!

Is he strong? Watch this, Hans! Bent that poker with just his hands!
Can he jump off a cliff? You will not know the diff!
Fake out! Still alive Sherlock-man!

In the Lon-don fog, sitting at Baker Street
He will solve your case, all tidy and neat!

Sherlock-man, Sherlock-man, detective genius Sherlock-man!
Scotland Yard gets the cred, escaping crooks wind up dead.

Shipwrecks, or mysterious train stabbings, 
About which nobody is blabbing,
Was it the Sherlock-man?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Whispers of Doylette and more

After a couple weeks of fic reading, I'm starting to hear a tone in voices where none existed before. I mean, Once upon a time, William Gillette wrote a telegram to Conan Doyle, and Doyle replied. But in my head, I hear the the two men speaking together.

"May I marry Holmes?" Gillette asks, breathlessly.

"You," Doyle replies with special emphasis on the "you," "may marry him or murder  or do what you like with him." His tone is a that of a man who really likes the look of the handsome actor he's speaking to.

Not long after, Gillette's take on Sherlock Holmes gets so hot that it burns up, along with the hotel surrounding it.

Then, in May of 1899, William Gillette and Conan Doyle spend the weekend at Undershaw together.

Hey, Doyle's wife and kids were there, don't get worked up. But, like I said, all that fic reading can change the tone you view things in a bit. But that single line from Doyle to the actor and playwright is, perhaps, the most inspirational words from Doyle to any writer of fanfic outside of those words creating Sherlock Holmes himself. And ever there you can play with the tone.

"YOU may marry him or murder or do what you like with him." Doyle certain wasn't going to do it. Except maybe murder him . . . Doyle did do that once. If he thought having Sherlock marry would get the detective out of his life, he might have married the guy off as well. To Watson?

Well, he did tell Gillette, "You may marry him . . ." so maybe Doyle was also telling us something about Holmes's preference. Gillette was wearing Sherlock's clothes when he got off the train to see Doyle that weekend at Undershaw. Who knows how that acquisition took place?

Who. Knows.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left us with so many verbal toys to play with, and there's a lot of fun to be had. He even preceded Aleister Crowley's "Law of Thelema" which says "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" by a few years with his "do what you like with him," narrowing the focus of such a thought to that one man: Sherlock Holmes.

But, y'know, he never said jack about Watson. Maybe we should leave him alone. Maaayyybeeee . . .


The Cult of Conan Doyle

"Hence every man feared his neighbour, and none spoke of the things that were nearest his heart."
-- STUD 2:3

Every now and then we like to frame the sixty stories of Sherlock Holmes as a holy book, do things like call it our "Canon." And why not? It's a book of wisdom, with many a worthy insight, and as you might note in the quote from A Study in Scarlet above, actually sounds like the Canon of a previously unknown religion in places.

Sherlockians have even referred to themselves as a cult upon occasion. But Conan Doyle, t'were he still alive and looking upon all of that which, basically, emanated from the tip of his pen . . . think about that for a second . . . all the books, all the banquets, all the movies, all the letters, discussions, e-mails, tweets, friendships, sexual encounters (sorry, reading fic), that have, at their root cause, flowed out into humanity with the ink from Doyle's pen . . . all that Doyle hath wrought, well, Conan Doyle might want to deny responsibility for their cult, I am sure.

And yet, Arthur Conan Doyle was a very religious man.

He spent a goodly share of his income promoting the cause of spiritualism, which, while it never took off as a major religion, was actually a religion of sorts. Doyle actually put out books of prophecy, championed the existence of mythical creatures, and did all the sorts of things one might expect from a person trying to start a cult or religion of their own, enough that you can almost start to wonder, "Why wasn't Conan Doyle a cult leader?"

It certainly seems like he could have started a cult if he wanted to, traveled around America converting believers, sleeping with the faithful as cult leaders like to do, building a center in some major city to which his followers would flock . . . Doyle could have done all those things. But he didn't.

Looking at Conan Doyle's life, you see a man who was just trying to figure things out for himself. You can see that in his writings, you can see that in his actions. He wanted to help others, whether it was heading to Africa to work in a wartime hospital or just helping two little girls convince the world their story was real. It's very hard to look at Doyle and see the sort of narcissistic egomaniac that it takes to wrap a cult around himself.

And yet, here we are, a legion that follows him two centuries after he first hit the public eye. And still talking about the wisdom he related from his own quests for knowledge, even if it was through the mouths of a detective, a doctor, or whoever wrote that second half of A Study in Scarlet.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Diary of a fic-reading challenge, second part

My log of pursuing the "Three Patch Podcast Challenge" -- reading all of the fics in the show notes for their December episode in the month of December -- continues.

December 7

I had a class last night, so I didn't get much reading in. Basically, I'm counting the novel-length A Fold in the Universe as being read in two nights, even though it was seven minutes past midnight when I finished it tonight. darkest_bird is a seriously good writer, and one who has that skill I've always struggled with: making characters earn their pay-offs. We all want to get to the good parts as soon as possible, and as writers, we have that power. Unfortunately, the true force of any fiction is the anticipation. The journey. The "oh boy, I know what's coming next!" (Funny how knowing what's coming next is both the worst thing and the best thing that can happen to a reader . . . it's a wonderful trick to make someone sure something is coming yet tantalize them with it at the same time.)

And while the porn side of two characters with male genitalia doesn't do anything for me, A Fold in the Universe very deftly displayed that romance IS romance. It's twin pairs of Sherlock/John couples had me with very dewey eyes as their love stories culminated at the end of the novel. "Love is love is love" loses a touch of its romance as serving as a viable social action slogan, but the core truth of it is completely romantic: Love is love is love, and an able story-teller can show us the bridge over any of our personal barriers with the right tale.

Ye gods, if enough writers keep up the pace this month, I doubt I'll be able to see Holmes and Watson as anything but lovers come January.

December 8

Back to a shortie or two. Yesterday, I tweeted about how telling anyone you've read one fanfic story will cause four new ones to pop up, and my challenge list is growing, thanks to Twitter. I added (and read "Crossing the Threshold" by janto32 (FaceofMer) a short Omegaverse fic, and now I'm back to "A Beginner's Guide to Apiology." And with that, I'm suffering a bit from the big flaw in this forced pace of fic-reading. Most readers are not going to put down a very action-filled Omegaverse novel and immediately pick up a more slow-moving tale of senior citizen Sherlock and John finding each other, which is probably how I was easily lured over to "Crossing the Threshold" for a time. But all the usual distractions of the weekend are keeping me away from my task well enough.

December 9

Finished "A Beginner's Guide to Apiology." These boys . . . I'm going to have to find some fic of other characters in the pile, lest Sherlock and John just start seeming insanely obsessed with each other, across universes, across time, like one of those Dracula tales where he just can't get his mind off that one woman in his past and always looks for reincarnations of her. It's a big world, full of a wonderful variety of blood-filled people, Vlad-baby! Have a little fun!

I'm not following any order with these and, ironically, I wind up going from old incarnations to young ones. the first of the Celestial Bodies series by songlin, "Tremble."  AAANNNNDDDD, I'm back in Omegaverse fic. Since I'm pulling these for Three Patch's "Fics of Your Heart Roundtable," I'm thinking the Patchers like them some Omegaverse. And I'm good with that.

"Tremble" starts like an Omegaverse Young Sherlock Holmes, but puberty is a thing in that sort of world that has its own issues. Since I first learned about this genre of fic at a 221B Con panel that songlin was a part of, I'm really glad to find that she writes as well as she talks about it. Curious as to where Celestial Bodies goes next, but after taking one novel-length ABO break already, I need to keep sampling and come back later.

WHOA! Big gear shift! "Forever 1895" from the Forever Freeman series by alexxphoenix42 is that mythical beastie I've heard of, the Benedict-Cumberbatch-and-Martin-Freeman-find-love-with-each-other genre. One thing I haven't noted so far is the period setting of so many of these fics -- not period in the story itself, but period in which the tale was written, where the author lacked knowledge of future episodes which is all the past to us now. Worlds without Eurus, or where a bit more Johnlock showed up in the show. This one comes before the Christmas special, with expectations that never played out.

"What To Do When Your Flatmate is Homicidal" by hyacinth_sky747 -- not sure I fully understand what "crack" is at this point in fic-world, but I suspect this might be it? Funny/quirky in that "Sherlock is very different mentally" sort of take. Being a sort who has always related more to Holmes than Watson, it might be mildly offensive to me? I don't know, but it didn't taste right. (Oh, for some reason, I've started referring to my experience of reading through flavor sensations. Not sure if all this fic is rewiring my brain somehow.)

Working the Edges by earlgreytea68 gets me into that first variant-profession Johnlock fic of this challenge, and it's a skating fic.  Big fan of The Cutting Edge, so Sherlock the figure skater and John the hockey player, set at the Winter Olympics, is a comfortable AU for me. Changing their professions always seems to become an exploration of their personalities, like the writers are white-lab-coated scientists dropped their Sherlock and John mice into new environments to see how they respond. Really a good test of a writer's feel for the characters.

Let me tell you, though, I'm starting to feel like I'm in Orphan Black or a certain episode of The Good Place, where all of the characters look like one actor. By the time this challenge is done, I'm going to see everyone as Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock and Martin Freeman Watson. Which might make . . .  well, we'll leave that thought half-written.

I can understand why some Sherlockians who were once completist, "all Sherlock is good Sherlock" sorts like to pretend the great sea of fan fiction does not exist. Not because they wouldn't enjoy some of it, if they actually got the right stuff -- I mean, you can't read non-Doyle Sherlock without getting into somebody's fanfic eventually, even if it s professionally packaged. But THERE IS JUST SO MUCH OF IT!! I've not even really scraped the surface over the past seven days and I'm starting to feel like a Lovecraft character whose mind is just trying to process the full scope of what his eyes have seen. (Did the old gods create A03? I'm starting to have suspicions.)

Anyway, more to come.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Sherlocking the phone

One of the first memories I have of BBC's incarnation of Sherlock Holmes is his use of a smartphone. I remember at the time thinking "Text messages are telegrams! We finally have telegrams back, and Sherlock Holmes can exist in the modern day! Brilliant!"

Yet even at that, an older Sherlockian fully coming to grips with this thing in our pockets is not always a quick and easy path. Many among us still think it's a major social crime to look at one's phone during any human interaction. The Baker Street Irregulars still have an edict against phones at their annual dinners. (Their leader, of course, being a happily self-proclaimed Luddite for many a year.) And the books. How can we ever replace the books?

Well, this has been the week for my phone and I.

Sure, Twitter, photos, Pokemon Go, WhatsApp . . . we all have found apps that draw us in for daily use. But there are some leaps that need to be made on a personal level. Like how we feel about looking something up on Google during a conversation . . . I mean, with every answer in the world at our fingertips, why waste time puzzling over it and hold up anything else? Rude? No -- ruder to waste someone else's time. We all know how rude some folks tend to think Sherlock Holmes can be, but he sure seems like an efficient and sensible guy to me.

A few night's ago during an informal class, I whipped out my phone and started looking up concepts the speaker was hastily cramming into his talk . . . and suddenly what I was getting out of the lecture tripled in size. Rude to be looking at my phone during the lecture? Maybe to a viewer who didn't understand what I was doing, or an ego that demands all eyes on them. But the speaker had the self-confidence and insights to know that I was still paying attention, had no inner fears that needed to be calmed by my constant gaze, and later enjoyed the questions that I brought up as a result of my multi-task learning experience.

And then there's been the fanfic reading thing. Do you know where most fanfic doesn't exist? In books. Do you know what you can't carry around with you while you brush your teeth? A laptop or desktop computer. I've tried reading books on my phone before, but find my lifelong habits still have me going to bound paper books for my leisure reading. Trying to read a massive amount of fan fiction, however, has driven me to smartphone-as-a-book so I'm finally starting to make that evolution, one which many a younger Sherlockian has come to the party with that skill already in hand.

With a major purge of Tumblr going on this month, there is a definite awareness of the fragility of electronic fiction, art, and other media. Print backups are good. But carrying a library in your pocket? Letting that technology make us smarter, better-read, and more aware of the world around us? (Yes, I'll fight you on that last one -- name one person who actually fell into a ditch playing Pokemon Go.) There are some risks worth taking.

Sherlock Holmes was not a guy who was who he was because he stayed in his comfort zone or worried overmuch about public opinion. He pushed into using every new thing, tech, info, etc. that the world had to offer to further his cause. And as I'm definitely not Sherlock Holmes, these things may take me a little bit longer to get to, but I'm working on it.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Omegaverse fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Watsonian was kind enough to publish a talk I gave this summer in their latest issue, the Fall 2018 number. The article follows my evolution of thought regarding John H. Watson, his marriages, his discontinuities, and, eventually, his existences in a multiverse that Conan Doyle portrayed more than one universe from in the original Canon of sixty stories.

There was, of course, one universe where the dates line up perfectly with our own history. But there's another universe where our Tuesday was on their Friday. And another where our Tuesdays are their Saturdays. One where Sherlock didn't take a hiatus after Reichenbach (the "Wisteria Lodge" universe), one where Irene Adler lived past 1891, and one where she didn't. The details of the original Conan Doyle Canon are ample proof that what we've long thought of as one universe were actually many.

And since my reading travels have just yesterday taken me to darkest_bird's A Fold in the Universe, a tale of the John Watson of two parallel Earths . . . one of which is an Omegaverse . . . I couldn't help but wonder if the many universes contained in the Doyle Canon didn't contain at least one adventure that came to Doyle from an Omegaverse Holmes and Watson. Doyle, of course, transcribing what mental images and thoughts he could get from that other place, would filter them through an XY/XX Victorian mind and get the sort of story he expected in a world like our own.

John Watson, one will recall, rarely left Baker Street in those early days there, usually thought to be recovering from a weakened constitution left him by the ravages of war in a foreign land. But what if Doyle had transferred those reasons to a different sort of house-kept Watson, an Omega Watson, to whom a particular adventure had occurred? Could one find a tale in the original sixty that shows all the possibilities of being one drawn from a six-gendered world?

"The Five Orange Pips" takes place entirely at Baker Street, from Watson's point of view. While it's true, there are little fill-in details about Watson's wife or practice around the edges, there is also that remnant of a page reading "sent the pips to A, B, and C" . . . and have you ever noticed how much a "C" is just an incomplete "O"?

This is all surely making little sense to anyone unfamiliar with the genre, but as we look at Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson with new lenses and new angles in our study of them, the possibility of one of Doyle's tales being a hidden Omegaverse case is a fun little bit of mental exercise.  For the mind that likes to play, all the modern threads of our hobby are a gift from the gods, and an "open world" greater than that of any video game. There's so much fun to be had there that opening yourself up to some new possibilities, like alternative readings no Irregular of the 1930s every conceived of, can just bring a smile to your face.

And the potential of a straight line like "There are a few of us who frequent the Alpha Inn . . ." well, there's gold in them thar hills!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Diary of a fic-reading challenge, part the first

Okay, let's get the disclaimer part out of the way.

In reading the following, certain allowances need to be made. Being a male of a certain race and a certain age, who grew up in a world that might as well have been designed especially for him, I'm very used to entertainments directed at just my sort of brain. That Marvel Cinematic Universe that's ruling the box office is built around comics I've been training my brain on since junior high. It's a ridiculous level of being spoiled.

So pushing myself to read something that wasn't designed for my sort of brain, using Sherlock Holmes as a shoehorn or lubricant (now, now!) to get some different perspectives on life from another person's point of view . . . well, it's going to have some quirks, some odd pickiness on odd details, and just . . . well . . . nobody should take any of the following as a proper critique of anything.

That said, on with my "Three Patch Podcast Challenge," as I attempt to read every single bit of fic in their show notes for their December episode while the month is here.

December 2

First fic, chosen at a whim, At Least There's The Football by steffiesharpe. "Aftermath," the first part of the series, is written in present tense, which fits the initial scene: What was once a possibility, but is now an AU . . . the Moriarty bomb at the pool actually going off. It's a great way to bring Mycroft Holmes and Greg Lestrade together, but might be a little too interested in socks at one point for my taste. I hate character socks, as they're usually those thin sort of socks and not the thick, cotton fluffies I prefer. I will have to revisit the second part of this after I sample something else to get those thin socks out of my head.

Second read, "Seeds" by thesardine. Phew! A short story. A nice little character piece of Sherlock dealing with being alone and case-less in Baker Street, a box of crackers becoming his "client," so to speak, and the endeavors that follow. Its premise borders on the silly, but Sherlock's personality is just quirky enough to make it totally work, and it sticks the landing with its finish. My only complaint: Apparently bad bodily odors coming off my heroes is one of my no-go areas. (Ick! Yuck! Pooey!)

Next up, "The Balance of Probabilty" by IAmJohnLocked4Life. Okay, getting a little more into the hot-and-heavy that fanfic's reputation tends toward, with a coming-of-age short about John Watson discovering he likes boys with a math tutor named James. Had I read the tags at the start of the tale, I'd have known exactly who that older lad was, but no . . . a math tutor named James, what was I supposed to think? When his hair and skin were a little too beach-boy for he-who-shall-not-be-named, I started to realize my mistake. Tales of males getting shivery at a like-gendered touch are going to be the interesting part of this experiment, not being of that persuasion myself . . .  as yet. And the writers surely don't want me slipping "Aphasia the imaginary ghost girl" into my reading of the narrative to turn that key. But on we go.

December 3

Busy night out with friends, hoping to get a short one in tonight, and clicking upon "The Snow Queen 'Verse" by aderyn and faerymorstan (lovely name that) yields a series with a very short opening gambit, "Soft as Petals, Hungry as Thorns." Fairy tale Sherlock is asking Fairy Tale John out on a date. It's brevity gives my tired self an out for checking a box and checking out for tonight, but I'm going to have to return to see where this goes.

December 4

Getting home from work, it seemed like a good time to multi-task, and going the pod-fic route for the first time seemed a good way to add some fic to getting other things done. The first podfic on the list? The oft-mentioned A Cure for Boredom by emmagrant01, as read by finnagain. The reading is good, the narrative itself, however? This is where we start getting to that "not the intended audience" part of this trip. The first half is the two main males discussing and practicing masturbation, and when the other gender is writing your gender, wellllllll . . . there's a bit of a challenge in getting your brain to agree with what is going on as something you can relate to. I mean, it's a bit like . . . no, I don't want to really critique what I can't. I mean, we're talking a story whose design is to stimulate arousal, a.k.a. porn, and like music, that's a very subjective topic.

Sherlock and John seem very easily aroused in this fic, which is kind of necessary in the kind of sex-world AU where pizza delivery boys don't get nearly as many pizzas delivered in an evening shift. And there's very little non-sex story here so far. I'll be curious to see how that goes down the line.

December 5

Before going to bed last night, I pulled up "A Beginner's Guide to Apiology" by VictoryCandesence on my screen for my next read. Today, however, the Red Cross was taking blood at work, and when it turned out they were running late . . . eventually very late . . . I settled in for a read while I waited. But with a new day and a different device, I clicked into A Fold in the Universe by darkest_bird. Up to this point, I had determined to just hit a starting chapter from each of the novel-length fics and move along, so I didn't miss the breadth of the list of fics in the challenge by going deep too soon. But stuck in one place with a novel fic that had some great chapter-to-chapter intrigue going on, I went deep with A Fold in the Universe.

Annnnnnddd, it was Omegaverse. Often seemingly judged as one of the more extreme varieties of fic, so far it has seemed the most comfortable of genres to me. The mildly uncomfortable "that doesn't feel like real male behaviour" that I get from some fics gets swept away in the sci-fi of Omegaverse gender combos. And having started with The Gilded Cage by BeautifulFiction, some time ago, I've been impressed by the world-building that seems to draw some very bright writers to this genre.

darkest_bird works hooks into their fics as well as any pro (for all I know they might be a pro, outside of AO3 and that pseudonym -- such is the world of fic), and I'm halfway through the twenty-six chapters of A Fold in the Universe already, as I am having a very hard time putting it down. Two John Watsons trading universes between an Omegaverse and our traditional 'verse leads to some amazing character bits for all the players, but the John who suddenly finds himself an Omega is one of my favorite Watsons ever. This will definitely be the first novel-length in this challenge that I finish.

(And a side note -- if you need a fic to read during a blood donation, as we're all being typed "A," "AB," "B," or "O," well, a universe where the people are typed "A," "B," and "O" is the one to pick. Omegaverse makes blood donation a wacky online quiz -- "Are you an Alpha, a Beta, or an Omega? Your blood type will tell!")