Saturday, February 3, 2018

Sherlockian scholars

One of the reasons that I think the Sherlockian world has the occasional issue with the term "fan" is that we have long seen ourselves as "scholars," even when that term is applied with tongue in cheek.

Definitions for the word "scholar" vary, but there is one that applies most definitely to any Sherlockian who has put in the time: someone who has done much study in a particular field. While you become a fan the moment you fall in love with something, becoming a scholar happens when you follow that love long enough to gain a modicum of expertise in what you love.

And Sherlockians come in both forms.

Being called a Sherlockian scholar, however, is not nearly as simple as it was back in the 1930s. When our movement first began, Sherlockian scholars were just those who studied the sixty stories by Conan Doyle (or John H. Watson) and knew the contents of those oh-so-historical records well. Becoming a scholar of Sherlock Holmes, in that respect, is kind of easy. Once we got The Complete Sherlock Holmes, it was just one book that you had to read and study to become an expert.

But as time went on, and Conan Doyle went from "eccentric modern day writer" to "author of historic importance," we started seeing Sherlockians who were scholars of a more serious subject: actual biography and literary history. As the legend of Sherlock Holmes spread to other mediums, we started to see film historians in our midst, and as time moves further along, we're starting to see those who make fandom itself an area for scholarship.

Serious scholars, man.

Us silly midwestern kids who just read the one book over and over again have a harder time imagining ourselves "scholars" when a Mattias Bostrom appears on the scene and kicks everyone's butts with a book like From Holmes to Sherlock. Heck, I can't even make the umlaut dots appear over the second "o" in "Bostrom." (Yes, I could google how to do it, but unlike Mattias, I am very lazy.)

But we've always had those folks with us. Chris Redmond has been doing the hard work, as well as being an actual academic, for as long as I can remember, with a father who had amazing scholar cred as well for his work on textual variations. Some people really work hard in the world of Sherlock Holmes.

And some of us, even though we may push through for the occasional appearance of great learning, are just here for the parties. I just blogged about TV John Watson having a one-night stand with Superman, for goodness sake. Nobody does that for the furtherance of Sherlockian knowledge and culture. That's just having fun. And yet, all those silly parts of writing about Sherlock Holmes take a certain amount of research and expertise . . . scholarship, if you will.

Being a Sherlockian lends itself to being a scholar, whether you write fiction or non-fiction or don't write at all. There's so much out there to be learned that, with time, you have to learn something. And given long enough in this world, you learn a whole lot of something. You might even find yourself being called an expert in a local newspaper article, because in your particular town, you are a top expert in Sherlock Holmes. (Be careful calling yourself the top expert though -- Sherlockians you never heard of are all over the place. As a guy who suddenly discovered a re-creation of the 221B sitting room existed in the town of 15,000 where I had been Sherlocking for years, I can testify to that.)

Sherlockiana is an amazing world unto itself with so many avocations within it, words sometimes can't do it all justice. But we definitely have scholars, no matter how you care to define the word.

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