Monday, October 28, 2019

Letting the Sherlockian spring breeze in

In the past week, two of the Sherlockian activities I've enjoyed tremendously were our local library discussion group and the Final Podblem podcast. It's easy not to stop and ponder why such regular events give us joy beyond "Sherlock Holmes!" but a tweet from the 221B Con Homeless Network put those bits in perspective this morning.

While their message was plainly about gatekeeping, it was also about folks who don't recognize the greatest source of Sherlockian joy when they see it. 

When I say "I've been an active Sherlockian for forty years" that might seem a brag, a citing of some supposed position in the fandom, or other puffery, but there's also an aspect of that forty years that is, to state it plainly, a curse. All of the first time joys are long past. The once-fresh eyes now gloss over things they might have once caught. Some names bring back decades-old prejudices that can spoil what might have been a good moment. And, worst of all, you can never go back. The magic spells of the past don't always fire in the present.

However, as I said at the start, I have found joy of late in what Sherlockians who are so much newer to the fandom have to say. They have fresh eyes. They don't get a thing or two right at times, but that's okay -- even mistakes can lead to fresh perspectives when considering how a new Sherlockian might see that old familiar thing you know too well.

New Sherlockians often have a bit of an identity crisis when they look at the filled bookshelf of Sherlock books of an elder Sherlockian, sometimes thinking they don't measure up. But what they don't realize is the journey that elder Sherlockian took to get all those books, starting from where the new Sherlockian is now. And how almost all of us would take that journey again, given the chance.

But after forty years in the hobby, one can't take that journey again, as much as one would like. The best we can do is watch someone else enjoy that ride, and you can't do that if you're constantly critiquing it for not being the exact same ride you took, decades ago. I get tired of hearing myself say "It's a whole new world!" but it so much is. And there is so much coolness going on in this world, so many Sherlockian joys that we didn't have forty years ago, so many new paths to explore . . . and guess what? Sometimes the guides for those paths are Sherlockians whose mental backpacks are still lightweight and not filled with crap to slow them down. Sometimes, the old bones have to follow the young energies. (And I'm not even talking about actual age here -- an Sherlockian who is new to the field and is older in age than I can lead an exploration as well.)

Don't ever close the doors and shutter the windows when the breezes of fresh Sherlock start to blow. Or at least open them up in the spring, which, curiously enough, is when 221B Con happens each year. 

And with winter coming on, I'm very much looking forward to that breeze already.


  1. This is only semi-related but your post got me thinking about why the BSI/"real Sherlockian" system is so frustrating, and I think it is the whole mentality of "paying your dues," which is a concept that doesn't hold water any more. My parents did the whole start in the mailroom, retire from the boardroom thing and that just doesn't exist anymore. But people of a certain experience still act like it does. And apply that mentality to other areas of life. There are people who have spent decades in the Sherlockian mailroom, on the Sherlockian loading dock, in Sherlockian Accounts Receivable, who will never get investiture, never get that Sherlockian corner office with the shiny BSI plaque on the wall. Who cares? I try not to, but those letters are treated like an achievement in a pure meritocracy, when, as in many areas of life, the process is a lot more "faceted" than that. (Look at a BSI dinner photo from the 20th century. Who is missing? Almost everyone. While progress has been made, look at a BSI dinner photo from this year. Who is missing? Still an awful lot of amazing Sherlockians. Not just individuals, but types of Sherlockians.) Worse, a lack of those letters is viewed as a Sherlockian moral failing, when the truth is there is no ladder to the top. As least not one that anyone can climb Horatio Alger-style with hard work and good deeds. While there are surely pecking orders in other fandoms, does any other fandom have a "credentialing" system like this, where people are literally not invited, even dis-invited from the fan club? And if we see that behavior in others do we applaud it or disapprove of it? What would Sherlock Holmes do?

    1. Well, you know I have a ton of thoughts on that topic, and I hope we're outgrowing the limits of system as a fandom. So much is being done outside that bubble anymore that I don't know that it can hold.