Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Boomer's Sherlockian life.

There's a weird cultural/demographic thing called a "cohort," that marketers and such folk use to define broad generational groups. Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials . . . all terms that wind up dogging us throughout our lifetimes, wherein we are lumped together with the worst examples of folks born within twenty or less years of us.

Each generation rejects previous values, as generations do. Each gets a bit of a rep for having coasted off their parents. And all of that gets established while they're young, forgetting that each will grow old, be parents themselves, and come up with the values that the next cohort will reject.

I was sitting at a non-Sherlockian event today, populated by mainly aged Boomers, and pondering the Sherlockian Boomer wave. Born from 1946-1964 (by one definition) the things that molded Boomer Sherlockians were distinctly different from those that are creating the Sherlockians of today.

Basil Rathbone was making his very last Sherlock Holmes movies the year the first Boomers were born. As they grew to adulthood, television made its way to every home, and Rathbones movies were re-running on those televisions, making him one of the first Holmes faces to reach the largest generation ever. Boomers didn't go "I love Rathbone's Sherlock" or "I hate Rathbone's Sherlock," because he was just Sherlock Holmes. Others played him, too, but Rathbone just was Sherlock Holmes.

Boomers always had a complete Canon of sixty stories, and by the time the oldest of them turned twenty-one, they had Baring-Gould's The Annotated Sherlock Holmes as a present for their adulthood, the massive two-volume set that pretty much defined the Sherlockian hobby for their generation. In Baring-Gould, they read about the doings of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York and the scion societies that followed and saw a model for creating fan clubs that we could call by the fancier term "scion societies," and set about organizing those clubs.

Sherlockian scholarship was also spreading its seeds with Baring-Gould, and, yes, yes, I know this wasn't every Boomers path into the culture, but was there ever a more complete package so available in bookstores everywhere? And once Boomers found the cult, The Baker Street Journal was there to subscribe to, of course, and as they hit their twenties and thirties, Nicholas Meyer dropped a best-selling Sherlockian nuke on the world entitled The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, which opened up floodgates to not just celeb-filled pastiches in bookstores, but Jack Tracy's The Encyclopedia Sherlockiana . . . a Sherlockian reference book you could find in any bookstore. The oldest Baby Boomer was only thirty-one when that hit stores.

Having been young enough and fresh enough to enjoy the wave of non-Doyle Sherlock fiction in the late seventies, Boomers settling into their thirties and forties got the comfort food of Jeremy Brett portraying doing the greatest set of Canon-loyal adaptations of Sherlock Holmes ever. And then . . . ?

Well, within our Sherlockian cult, the game is always afoot, but outside the Boomer Sherlockian's focussed gaze, things got kind of quiet for a while. No major Sherlocks past Brett from 1995 to 2009. Fourteen very long years to make our own fun. And then, just as the first of the Baby Boom was well into their sixties, some very new things started happening. A brand-spanking new generation of Sherlockians came aboard, and, yes, there was really spanking at 221B now, but let's save that for another day.

Many, maybe even most Sherlockians of the times I just wrote of came into the culture at a later point in life than the ages that line up with a true Sherlockian Baby Boomer timeline. And not every Boomer who got in early hit all those touchstones in the order or era above. We all have different paths to 221B Baker Street and beyond. But when you lay out the history of the Sherlockian Baby Boomer there, you see a generation's Sherlockian view. You see a view that will one day not exist, replaced by Sherlockians who came up with other faces as their Sherlock, other seminal texts as their inspiration for how to carry the torch beyond Doyle.

I don't fear the loss of Baby Boomer Sherlockian culture too much, because Lord knows we've documented the hell out of it. It's just fascinating to note that certain core events that shaped so many are not what are currently shaping Sherlockians, and the diversity of Sherlock stuff we're seeing available for those coming on board points to a future that none of us can predict, other than it's probably not going to be the same-old, same-old, except for a very traditionalist few.

And the more of that future I get to see, the better.

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