I'm always pondering "Sherlockiana then" versus "Sherlockiana now," and yesterday I was remembering how I used to belong to a dozen Sherlock Holmes societies.
I didn't attend their meetings, of course, but back in the eighties, you joined clubs just to get their publications. Newsletters and journals were our main information exchange source, pre-internet, so you wanted those, even if you knew you could never get to one of the club's meetings. And the dues of most clubs were pretty affordable. You could pile up a dozen annual dues-bills without killing too much of a twenty-something's hourly wage.
But now we have this lovely free information exchange called the internet. Newsletters and journal seem almost as much an affectation as carrying a pocket-watch. Yes, physical media does still have value, not going to argue that, but we don't have to go the ink-on-paper route as our only recourse anymore. And doing so definitely raises the price of admission.
And now we have a lot of other interesting innovations available for Sherlockian enterprise, like tiered rewards. I don't think we've seen a Sherlockian group take a Patreon-style membership model yet: One buck a month gets you a membership card (remember those?) and online access, five bucks a month gets you a print journal, twenty bucks a month gets you into the annual symposium, something like that.
But what does membership mean, really? It's something to contemplate as we reach 2020, rather than following 1980 models out of habit. We're all Sherlockians, a specialty rare enough to give us a common bond. Being in a particular sub-group of that class, getting some abstract club identity and being able to utter the near-nonsensical "I'm a Hansom of John Clayton!" . . . well, it's a subject worth pondering the deeper meanings of now and then, especially now that our web connections have made us all a little less region-specific. A local club is still a local club, but when you move beyond local, what then?
We've seen podcasts form communities out of thin air in places where there weren't even fandoms before. We've seen friendships form without a face, a name, or a physical location. We've seen a lot of things that are worth considering in pondering what a modern association of Sherlock Holmes followers could be. But certain central considerations apply, like . . . .
Why are we connecting and what enhances those connections? How niche is "niche" and what "of the moment" trends are a part of the longer journey and what will pass? And what do we hold on to, and what can we actually let go at this point?
We live in a world of both challenge and opportunity, so much so that even saying that seems trite. But Sherlockiana is up for it, I think.