"Scion society" gets used almost interchangeably with "Sherlock Holmes society" among Holmes fans of the older generations. In the 1980s, when new societies were springing up like popcorn, it was a part of the unspoken checklist of what every Sherlock Holmes club wanted to have. You had meetings, of course, and a newsletter. A journal was also a common goal. But in addition to all that, you wanted to write to the Baker Street Irregulars and get official "scion society" status.
There were no rights or privileges associated with that status. And it didn't mean anything to anyone who wasn't already Sherlockian enough to be familiar with the culture. And it's not like the BSI checked on its societies to make sure they were fulfilling any duties or not turning into a Doctor Who fan club. All in all, applying for scion society status was just a sort of "bowing to the king" thing and acknowledging the first among . . . equals?
Well, maybe not equals. The Baker Street Irregulars of New York has this weird thing that no other Sherlockian society has. People want to get into the group to be recognized as a true Sherlockian. Not every single member, of course, and nobody really likes to admit people do things like write for The Baker Street Journal instead of other publications in hopes of that BSI shilling, but the aspiration for membership in the Baker Street Irregulars has driven a lot in American Sherlockian culture.
Becoming a member of the Irregulars -- very hard. Becoming a scion society of the Irregulars -- very easy. Got an original club name and a town? Unless standards have drastically changed of late, you're in. You don't even have to have a local member of the New York club.
So when new folks get the impression that the Baker Street Irregulars of New York is somehow the central power for all of American Sherlockiana, well, it's an error that they are pretty much encouraged to make. And there's a certain level of honesty we don't get to a lot of times, because folks who want to make BSI someday, whatever that really means, don't want to get on the bad side of the shilling decider. And Sherlock Holmes clubs have, ninety-some percent of the time, be very good things. It's hard to criticize the "scion society" tradition without looking like you're going after the clubs themselves.
But a big difference between the Benedict Cumberbatch wave of new Sherlockians and the Jeremy Brett wave of new Sherlockians has been the amount of scion societies created. The eighties seemed full of Sherlockian clubs being created or revived under that banner. The twenty-teens have been more about meet-ups, cons, and podcast groups. The old style of "the Canonical References of Anytown, U.S.A." didn't seem to be coming into being quite so much . . . of course, maybe that style had hit a saturation point in towns big enough to support them. And I could just be out of the loop on this, too, since we only know what we know.
The term "scion society" probably isn't going anywhere at this point. Even if the ocean reclaims the East coast, Chicago gets nuked, and the established B.S.I. structure is wiped out by a roving Mad-Max-style gang of road-crazies, some cave somewhere will have a small band of skinny survivors reading Sherlock Holmes by candlelight and telling the younglings, "We are the Scion of the Four, and we are charged with reading the Holy Text."
And like many a previous group, that ragtag band won't have passed any official sanctioning rules or even contacted the current version of the old NYC club for permission. They'll just do what Sherlockians do and keep gathering around the name of Sherlock Holmes. Because, in the end, every club, society, podcast team, street gang, or whatever comes next are all really just the scions of one thing: Sherlock Holmes.
"He was indeed a scion of one of the very oldest families in the kingdom, though his branch was a cadet one . . ."
-- Sherlock Holmes, "The Musgrave Ritual"