Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Niches within niches

What's your Sherlockian specialty? What's that corner of Sherlock Holmes lore you're into that most Sherlockians aren't . . . but, oh, those rare few that are!

Sherlock Holmes is one of those parts of our culture that most people have a positive feeling about, which is why he's a part of our culture. But those who cross over into fandom, a passage marked by the act of actually seeking him out rather than just smiling when he appears, are but a small, small percentage of the populace. A niche market within the mystery genre market, some would say.

But if Sherlockiana is a niche within the mystery niche, how far down do the "niche" groupings go?

There are certain parts of Sherlockian culture that one would definitely call "mainstream" Sherlockiana. If your screen Sherlock of choice is Jeremy Brett or Benedict Cumberbatch, those are definitely mainstream Sherlocks. If you attend the NYC weekend every January, there is a venerable old mainstream of Sherlockiana to that. If you hold that Vincent Starrett's poem "221B" is the poem in a field where we don't do all that much poetry . . . well, mainstream.

I have to stop now, as I'm starting to sound like Jeff Foxworthy: "You MIGHT be a Sherlockian if . . ."  Yet while our mainstream connects us, it is always our niches within a niche hobby that makes us interesting. None of us can dive deep into every aspect of Sherlock Holmes, so we depend upon our fellow Sherlockians to go those distances for us and report back. It can be that one person willing to research puddings and write it up for publication, or it can be that one friend who travels to the conferences we can't get to. The lowest level of Sherlockian niches within niches can even be a Holmes fascination you share with only one other friend . . . and you're still waiting to find that friend. But when you do, oh! They will be so happy.

Sherlock Holmes himself was on the road less taken. He picked a path that didn't guarantee him popularity or success. And at first, the connections with others he made were with people that didn't entirely get it -- Lestrade or Gregson loved the results, but didn't get the brilliant methods behind them at all. Eventually, however. Sherlock found his John Watson, the guy who understood that what Holmes was doing was way cool. And their little niche of detective work fandom got to be a greater joy for them both.

Sherlockians have always found it easy to model their hobbying after Holmes, and our myriad of different focuses and loves within the greater focus and love of Sherlock fits that pattern nicely. Niches within niches, all the way down.

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