Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The perils of the older Sherlockian

A few words of wisdom came along this morning from the Homeless Network that were worth a little consideration for me, as an older Sherlockian. The Holmes Network has been caring for their fellow Sherlockians for many years now, with aid, snacks, and whatever they can do at 221B Con, one of those rare and special things we never saw in the more male-dominated world of Sherlockiana past. Their words went like this:

"Just remember that just because someone has been in fandom a long time a) doesn't mean they fan better than you and b) doesn't mean their interpretations carry more weight than yours. You need nobody's approval to fandom how you fandom."

I felt those words to my core, not because I've been in Sherlock Holmes fandom a long time, but because I was a young fan once, too. Now comes the part where I do what we older fans do and tell y'all about the way it used to be, which sometimes gets used as a stick to beat newer fans with by the assholes among us. But I promise this isn't for that, as much of an asshole as I can be at times, despite some of the very kind compliments I've gotten lately.

In the 1980s, when I was hitting my Sherlockian stride, the Sherlockian world I knew had a whole lot of boys in it and, being boys, we all wanted to win at Sherlockiana. And how did you win at Sherlockiana back then? There was practically a checklist: Start a local scion society, publish a newsletter and a journal, get the Baker Street Irregulars of New York to notice you, invite you to the dinner, and make you a member. And that was only step one. Once you got there you had to look for new worlds to conquer, because it was the Grand Game and boys' games need winners.

And for Sherlockians like me, nerdy little social outcasts, damaged by high school life who were building our egos up from scratch, the world of Sherlockiana was a great place to build an ego. By the time I was in my thirties, I had attained enough recognition to feel really, really good about myself, good enough that I could get into a fracas with a Sherlockian heavyweight or two over some social issue and not be chased out of the hobby forever. (Though it did leave a mark, but that's a long story for another time.) The point is, this hobby and my ego became very intertwined.

It's hard to step back and look objectively at Sherlockiana when your ego is in play, but on those days that I can, what I always see is a peer group of people who are just as good at this thing as I was, or sometimes better, at different points in their Sherlockian journey. And their journey are taking them places mine could never have, because they're making that trip in a world far different from the one mine happened in. 

One of my favorite parts of 221B Con is how humbling it is that way. I'm walking amidst hundreds and hundreds of Sherlockians who are having great fun on a path that I couldn't fully take if I wanted to. I'm an over-sixty, white American mostly-hetero male, that part of our society that really needs to step back and let the other folks speak at this point. I used that kind of language once, and another over-sixty, white American male called it "self-hate," but it's not. It's recognizing that there's a time when my own ego needs to shut the hell up and just listen, even if I might feel a bit de-valued in the act. Hopefully, by age sixty, we've built up enough self-worth to take a little de-valuation.

Getting older is a tricky thing. You have all this experience and knowledge and you really want to tell your story. (Notice that I went that route here.) And sometimes your own story seems really, really important and pertinent and needs to be told. (Yup, here!) And those moments aren't solely the province of Old School Sherlockians of advanced age -- fans who came in with BBC Sherlock fan or crossed over from other fandoms really want to tell their stories to younger fans as well. But that's the key: You have to tell your story without telling them how they need to live their story.

Because their story is going to take them into a future that some of us eventually won't get to see, and have no idea how to navigate. When we're young, we all want Yoda or Merlin to come along and impart their wisdom, but there comes a time when you're older that you realize you aren't Yoda or Merlin, and maybe you should hear what the Lukes, Leias, Arthurs, or Gwens are actually trying to tell you.

As my good Carter will tell you, even I need a video game fairy following me around and shouting "LISTEN!" in its little fairy voice. (Had a friend with that as their ringtone, now it's stuck in my head.) But it is the best advice any little fairy can give, especially to us long-time fans.

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