It's hard to think of 2003 as "way back when," but at this point, we're sixteen years past that point in history. Adrian Monk was the closest thing we had to a TV Sherlock Holmes. Netflix was still only sending DVDs out through the mail. I was publishing The Holmes & Watson Report every other month and writing Sunday night HTML blogs on the Sherlock Peoria of that era, along with doing Sherlockian roleplay in the Dark Lantern League.
And that year, the Beacon Society was founded by Sherlockians concerned at the lack of other Sherlockians younger than fifty. It's goal: to help promote a Sherlockian future by encouraging teachers and others who worked with kids to bring a little Sherlock into their young lives. And now, sixteen years later, the Beacon Society is doing well, with great examples of kids getting excited about Sherlock Holmes every year.
When the Beacon Society was founded, I think it's safe to say that we all thought sowing the seeds would bring new generations of Sherlockians that were pretty much like us. And when we thought of "us," we probably weren't realizing then how diverse "us" really was.
Seven years later, new Sherlockians started appearing, but via a route no one had expected: Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch, along with all their associated writers, producers, fellow actors, and media fanfare. A grand, great wave of brand new Sherlockians. Seeing them gathered at the first 221B Con was like a miracle, a miracle too few pre-2010 Sherlockians got to see.
The thing was, to many a Sherlockian, these were exactly the "like us" Sherlockians they were expecting. More female, more LGBTQA, more fiction-writing, and more . . . young, with all the things that word brings with it. Coming in with new enthusiasms, new favorites, new rituals, and maybe not just sliding into the familiar patterns like past generations did. And there are those who are still struggling with complete acceptance of this next-wave Sherlockian.
Which brings me back to the Beacon Society and those great kids it's bringing to Sherlock Holmes every year, since 2003. They're very young, born into a world with songs those of us over sixty might never have heard, using smartphones at an age when most of us hadn't touched a computer, connected to the world in ways of which we can't even conceive. If they start with "The Speckled Band," and their parents aren't too restrictive with the remote, "A Study in Pink" or "Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows" might not be too far behind. And once they get a little older, a little more interested in non-childish things, and morally flexible enough to click "I'm 18" on a website, they could possibly wander into Sherlockian turf none of us even knew existed in the 1970s. (Seriously, we thought Liberace was a lady's man.)
The paths a new Sherlock Holmes fan will take if they start that journey in 2019, may strike chords familiar to us if we listen, and some of the stops may be the same, but, boy, are they heading into an entirely different world than the one we knew. The one we might have thought would go on forever. But that's okay.
Every generation brings their own lights to our friend Sherlock Holmes. And I'm just now realizing that all those kids the Beacon Society is turning on to Sherlock? Well, the ones who hold onto him into adulthood, aren't going to be the 2060s versions of you or I. They're going to be something really special. Kind of like the ones we're seeing emerge now.
So let's inspire as many of those as we can now, and then get the heck out of their way.