Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Surviving the Sherlockalypse

Okay, word of warning. I'm about to go dark with this one. If you're feeling a bit "not up for worst-case-scenarios tonight," leave it be and go have fun. This one's entertainment for the gloom-and-doomers.

Last November I sensed a disturbance in the Sherlockosphere, and asked the question "Be the Sherlockalypse nigh?" And just over a month later, an event took place that one speaker at a highly-esteemed Sherlock Holmes conference recently called "the worst thing that's ever been done to Sherlock Holmes." And yet . . . and yet . . . in this time of "worst" things, when never-before-seen extremes seem the prevailing trend, we have yet to reach the true Sherlockalypse.

Recent reading of a Mad Max style novel, a fanfic current of apocalypse-stopping ethereal creatures, and even a big archiving seminar planned for November all seem to be putting me in mind of that dread hypothetical event, and like a Ghostbuster told not to imagine the form of the destroyer, I can't help but envision the possibilities.

Sherlockalypse Scenario One: The culture turns, whether by political will or religious fervor, and Sherlock Holmes, being a.) British, or b.) Non-reproducing, or c.) a science-guy, is declared verboten and the Sherlock-a-purge takes place. Prominent collectors are found via newspaper and web feature archives and raids are staged, before the very newspaper articles identifying them are redacted from the news archives themselves. Those quiet accumulators become even more quiet, and entire rooms are sealed off, ala "Norwood Builder." Certain countries become havens for known Sherlockians who make it out of the country, and hopefully one of those is still England. But the resistance can surely find tools of use in the Canon.

All things considered, at least with that option, you get some hope for a return to normal Sherlocking. Because there's . . .

Sherlockalypse Scenario Two: The dusty, dirty one. For some reason, everything goes dustbowl, all the electronics go down, and we're not only back to print media . . . we're isolated in little pockets of humanity where the nearest actual Sherlockian is a hundred miles away and nobody will loan you a horse. You have to start converting locals if you want to make sure any of your books outlasts you, but not so well that you seem to be starting a cult that threatens the established local government. (Unless you quickly overtake the local powers-that-be and start a Sherlock-based territory, where mysteries get solved and step-fathers are kept under close watch.

But maybe, eventually society rebuilds? Unlike . . .

Sherlockalypse Scenario Three: The new ice age. Books are fuel. Yes, yes, you can say "Never!" all you want, but as your newly extended family holds you down and throws that two-volume Baring-Gould complete into the hearth, nobody's listening. "Drunk History" is no longer a show on Comedy Central, it's now the way the actual stories of the Sherlockian Canon get passed along. But you're probably not drunk at that point, because the good liquor had to be used for fuel or pain meds. You still have DVDs though, just nothing to play them on. And those pewter Sherlock Holmes statuettes may last a while, so you can use them to tell your stories with. Don't have any pewter Sherlocks? Well, Detective Pikachu action figures may last a few decades, but the kids are going to have a weird idea of Sherlock a couple of generations on.

I know that the Sherlockian collections of the University of Minnesota are housed in an archival vault situation, but I wonder if there are any Sherlockian survivalists out there, combining their collecting with doomsday-prepping, and what that even looks like. We can't all journey to the ancient underground archives, and hope to find the treasure vaults, after the Sherlockalypse. Some of us will just have to get by with a sturdy travel-Canon as we roar around the wasteland with our punk-mutant tribe of nomad ne'er-do-wells, who'll shoot a guy in the shoulder just to make him our Watson.

Ah, Sherlockalypse! So many possibilities to deal with, as Sherlockianly as possible.


  1. You'll have to do a 'Fahrenheit 451,' and everybody will memorize the canon... some of you are already there!

  2. Unfortunate and sadly close to the truth...the old guard shuffle off and aren't replaced. Sherlock retreats from the public consciousness, no more shows are produced, the name becomes a meme and nothing more, and there are no more adaptations or new creative energy being put into pastiches.