One of the pop cultural touchstones that the good Carter and I refer to every now and again goes back to a 1986 episode of Moonlighting called "Symphony in Knocked Flat." In that particular episode of the detective show's quirky run, the two main characters make a deal to both "a fine evening" and "a fun evening," to share each others' tastes. And the Sherlockian world reminds me of that episode every now and again.
Moonlighting's Blue Moon Detective Agency is a lot like Sherlockiana in that we've got serious folks and screwing-around folks all populating the same fan-space. We have Conan Doyle biographers and buyers of orange Peeps at Easter. We have careful archivists and wearers of the Watsonian red pants. We have footnotes and we have limericks. And, like the Blue Moon Detective Agency, we can sometimes get a little cranky with each other when somebody doesn't match the seriousness-level of the the other person's moment.
I know, I know . . . "But we're both! We're accomplishing scholarly things and we have a sense of humor!" Yes, everyone thinks they have a sense of humor. We're centered around a classic character from fiction, so "literary." But when you're out there in the fields actually producing some sort of Sherlockian work, be it creative or documentarian, you often come to crossroads where choices have to be made.
Are you doing a fun Sherlockian thing or a fine Sherlockian thing?
Fine Sherlockian things require actual effort and some modicum of discipline and restraint. Fun Sherlockian things require an acceptance that there are no rules to playtime other than "try not to hurt anybody too badly."
Can they be combined?
Well, maybe not at the same time. Disciplined efforts can get a might dull. And unrestrained play can be messy. And putting the two together doesn't allow either to be used to the fullest. The best fiction writers know how to do a bit of both . . . free-wheeling first draft, followed by disciplined editing and re-writing. And while Sherlockiana isn't all fiction-wirting, at its core it comes from the love of a fictional character. The heart of Sherlockiana is pure fun. And yet . . . .
So much fine work gets done because of the fun parts. And even not so fine work. All the indexing of details, the applying of mailing labels to a newsletter going out, the pure monotony of doing something like translating "The Gloria Scott" into Hudson's code . . . a whole lot of work gets done on the way to the fun.
I don't think Sherlockiana can ever be strictly one or the other without losing some of its charm. Just as Sherlock Holmes himself is both fun and fine, and sometimes actually does pull off both at once, one can only expect his followers to go likewise.