Wednesday, October 9, 2019

What makes a Sherlockian?

Reading an interchange on Twitter this morning about some folks who "went on to read the Canon and become Sherlockians," followed by a comment on "the age-old question about whether reading the Canon is the measure of a Sherlockian," my early morning brain, that simplest and most honest of brains, reacted with three words: "No, it's not."

"Why did you say that, early morning brain?" I inquired.

"Don Izban," my brain replied.

Forgive me if I get a detail or two wrong here, as it's been a while since I've been up to Chicago or crossed paths with Don, but for those of you who have done neither, Don Izban is a genial and often hilarious Sherlockian who has put together more than a few Chicago Sherlockian traditions. And one thing I still remember him doing from my time up there was claiming to never have read the Canon.

We all took it as a gag, of course, but the funniest part was when you would stop and wonder, "What if he really never did?"

Sure, he did great tours of the cemetery where Vincent Starrett was buried. Sure, he started the STUD Sherlockian Society and co-founded a Sherlockian jazz appreciaton event, among other things. But none of those things really required reading the Canon.

Which made me realize that you don't even have to like Sherlock Holmes to be a Sherlockian. Here's the two-part actual baseline that I've seen proven out, time and again, over the last forty years for being a Sherlockian.

a.) Know there's something called "a Sherlockian."
b.) Find some people calling themselves "Sherlockians" to hang out with, either in person or online.

That's it. If you just hang out with Sherlockians, it pretty quickly becomes assumed that you are a Sherlockian. You don't have to read Doyle. You don't have to watch BBC Sherlock. You really don't have to do anything else but connect with at least one other Sherlockian and listen to them and nod.

That's what makes a Sherlockian.

Show up at this weekend's Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium, and guess what? You're a Sherlockian! Find your way to one gathering of Sherlockians, and guess what? You've got Sherlockian street cred. 

Any bar set above those two conditions that I've laid out above is just someone trying to put themselves above or below someone else in that perverse desire we have to rank people, be it to compliment them or ourselves. Being a Sherlockian? Not really so hard.

Finding out Sherlockians exist, in a world where we are a real tiny fraction of the population, is the highest hurdle you have to jump, and that's usually just chance.

So if you're reading this, and you don't actively resist the tag, hello, fellow Sherlockian!


  1. True. My earliest experience of being a Holmesian was me and my dad watching a show on telly together. I didn't know there was such a thing as 'Sherlockians' until I found some on the internet. You are a Sherlockian the moment you step in that door to the magic garden, even if you don't know the door exists until you see someone else smelling one of the roses and go to sample the fragrance together. Like a bee.

    It's a Sherlockian garden jam-packed with different flowers for all the different species of bees.

  2. Good Golly, Miss Molly, I love this community. I was despairing not being able to find more information about the STUD Sherlockian Society and here is a post by Brad, one of my favorite Sherlockians today (yesterday, he was just so-so), with an insightful and wonderful post from 4 years almost makes me want to claim never to have read the Canon as well, though I am sure people are more likely to believe that than to believe I can READ.