Thursday, December 31, 2020

Yeah, we like Conan Doyle well enough now . . .

 Looking back at anything from the future, where timelines compact, there is no waiting between specific events, and we all know how things came out, it's always hard to imagine how it was for the folks who had to live through those events at the time. One of my personal experiences of that was that one really depressing season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was a nightmare to deal with one-episode-per-week, yet binge-watchers plow through relatively unscathed. "You weren't there, you don't know the misery we went through!" I tell them, but they can't begin to know. Such fan experiences are very personal.

As I perused another round of "this TV series didn't end how it should have" complaints on a more recent finale, my mind drifted back to that series innovator, Arthur Conan Doyle, and his fans.

Whether it's Star Wars or BBC Sherlock, the creators and the fans come to some pretty stark disagreements upon character arcs, but none can nearly be so bad as what Doyle pulled in 1893.

"Enjoying Sherlock Holmes every month? Had a great two year run, you've been enjoying, right?"

"Yes! It's great!"

"Too bad. He's dead. Series over."

Had there been an internet in 1893, Conan Doyle would have taken such heat that come 1901, even his mama probably couldn't have talked him into bringing back Sherlock Holmes. 

Seen through the lens of hazy history, Conan Doyle is the kindly old grandpa-looking guy with that walrus moustache with "Steel true, blade straight" on his tombstone. (Why it was so important we know he was straight, I'm not sure. Also . . . kidding! Don't "@" me!) But if you were a Sherlock Holmes fan in 1893?

Not enough swear words to toss at the man. 

The by-line distance of published stories and no over-familiarity with a creator as the internet gives us now, Sherlock Holmes fans of 1893 might not have had an image of Conan Doyle strong enough in their minds to poke verbal voodoo pins into. And monthly short stories might not have developed the tight bonds that a binged series does in the modern day. Victorians were mostly just concerned with surviving and working their long-day jobs, with no expectation that a good thing might last -- life was hard in 1893.

A hundred and thirty-five miners got blown up in Yorkshire. Lizzie Borden was worried about her trial. Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii was getting overthrown by U.S. Marines. Thomas Edison was building a movie studio. Grover Cleveland had mouth cancer. And if you thought Ford's Theater treated Abraham Lincoln badly, talk to the ghosts of twenty-two war department clerks that the theater caved in on and killed.

We may have been through a tough year in old 2020, but not so tough that we still don't have the time and energy to gripe about what creators are doing to our favorite characters. Conan Doyle didn't know how lucky he had it. Nor do we, really, with our sixty story Canon all neatly wrapped in a bow with no surprises left at this point. 

And I think we're all okay with that, as much as we'd love a new tale.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

How mean was Mycroft?

 Yesterday, one of our legion finally got around to watching Enola Holmes and was struck by the portrayal of Mycroft therein.

"I feel like a different character, like a solicitor, could have been used instead of assassinating Mycroft's character," Robert Perret tweeted. 

Putting Enola Holmes on mental trial for this accusation, my mind palace's defense lawyers surprised me with their line of attack on the charge: "What do we really know about Mycroft Holmes?"

What DO we really know about Mycroft Holmes?

He has better powers of observation than Sherlock. He is seven years older than Sherlock. He has no ambition or energy. Good at figures, only goes to work or his club, flipper-like hands . . .

Nowhere does it say "unselfish and kind."

"Well, you take the case up by all means, and let me know if you do any good." There's a classic Mycroft quote, and I can hear that in a few different tones. Let's try something from his second appearance.

"A most annoying business, Sherlock. I dislike altering my habits, but the powers that be would take no denial. In the present state of Siam it is most awkward that I should be away from the office. But it is a real crisis. I have never seen the Prime Minister so upset."

Interesting that Mycroft's first words on the Cadogan West business are very self-interested and annoyed. And, getting back to that "flipper-like hands" line, I've always had a feeling that Watson didn't exactly have a lot of respect for Mycroft for using such a line. And if Watson doesn't like you . . .

There's definitely a very large space of blank canvas surrounding Mycroft Holmes, and the different portrayals we have of him, like rattling around his old manor house naked in a certain movie, get a definite license to play due to that space.

My mental jurors had to declare Enola Holmes innocent of Robert's charges of character assassination, as Mycroft Holmes could well have been a jerk, given our limited experience of him. We actually have more Canonical evidence for Mystrade shipping than we have for Mycroft being a lovely guy who treated his sister and mother well. ("Mycroft Holmes and Lestrade had come round by appointment after breakfast next day . . ." and later "Lestrade and Mycroft were fidgeting in their seats . . .")

And since Enola Holmes does team up the inspector and the brother, suddenly it gets more Canonical as well. Perhaps we'll just say that the Mycroft of Enola Holmes was going through something off-screen that was making him a bit more unpleasant than we might have liked. Everybody gets a bad day now and then.

'Tis a shame that Millie Bobby Brown seems to be getting so busy with other projects that she might not get back to the character, so we could see a little more of her Mycroft to find out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Virtual Sherlockian 2021

 Well, it's not a surprise any more now, is it?

Here we are on the cusp of a new year, and Zoom gatherings of Sherlockiana lie in front of us, as far as the eye can see. Yes, things will change eventually, but right now this is our world. So as one starts to think about the year ahead, resolutions, all that, it's had not to have some questions and plans revolving around that.

First among these for me has to be getting my Zoom calendar under control. Right now, I'm never sure what Sherlock Holmes meetings I'm attending, which ones I prefer and should give priority to, and what is going to happen at the ones I'm involved in the planning of. And beyond that, what virtual functions that haven't existed in the Sherlockian world need to be tried while we're still in this space.

This year is the first time there's been a virtual "New York" birthday weekend as well, and the big question there is now, "What do we wear?" The bow tie fanatics are going to do bow ties no matter what, of course, and a few tuxedo owners will surely don their fancy threads. But the bar hasn't been set for "dress up" level Zoom meetings yet. We've done hats, but full cosplay? With set dressing? As we've gotten more comfortable with virtual gatherings, more folks have been using digital backgrounds, but our visual potential has yet to be reached.

There are a lot of side effects of all the challenges we've faced in the past year. We've met a lot of new folks we might not have met without being forced into virtual gatherings. We've got some new Sherlockian-world "celebrities" in our world as well. Paradigms are shifting. And while the strong traditional side of our hobby remains, the new energies brought to us in the last decade from the major Sherlocks hitting the mainstream have helped us get through this in ways we might not even realize. Had the quarantines hit us about 2005, Sherlockiana as a whole would have taken a much harder hit.

But here we are, on the verge of 2021, with some brand new toys in our Sherlockian toy box, yet again. It's definitely a moment to step back and think about just how we're going to play with them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

We have a listener!

 One of the things about podcast life that I was well aware of going into it has been the "shouting into the void" aspect of it. Podcasters often talk about podcasting on their podcasts, and podcaster panels at 221B Con were very good at both encouraging and laying out some of the realities of the hobby, and one of those realities was the fact that you don't often get much feedback. Or any. People listen to podcasts as a part of their regular routines, and how often do you thank your mailman or the TV shows you watch every week?

Sure, one usually gets download counts and knows how many people are listening. And the numbers for The Watsonian Weekly and Sherlock Holmes is Real have listener counts in line with any Sherlockian activity I've ever done. The one with "Sherlock Holmes" in the title gets more listens than the one with "Watson" in the title, as one might expect. But what one rarely gets is reviews, which, early on, is a very good thing. If amateur podcasters (which everybody is when they start) got compared and critique at the level of Hollywood films, only the truly driven or narcissistic would probably endure.

So this week, The Watsonian Weekly got its best Christmas present ever -- a listener who went through all the episodes without trying to escape, and actually gave us a complimentary thread on Twitter. Even Rob Nunn, our drop-in book reviewer who read so many Sherlockian books this year he couldn't even attempt to review them all without impacting his reading goals.

So this week, Madeline QuiƱones gets a shout-out in this blog, a special Christmas episode coming Christmas eve that will bring back "Slow Train to Little Purlington," a feature that's been missing lately, and my learning how to put a tilde over an "n" using a Mac keyboard.

We have a listener! As we start the third year of The Watsonian Weekly, that's a little boost of energy to keep us rolling on with our little podcast. Many thanks to Paul Thomas Miller, Margie Deck, Robert Perret, and even Rob Nunn, along with all those other voices we've dragged on to the show over the past year. Their week-in, week-out work has made the show possible, and the fact that they have supplied bits through some busy, challenging, pandemic-problem weeks of this particular year is especially worth noting. I really appreciate all of their efforts.

But our podcast cast and crew is not a closed-door  group. Have an iPhone or some other app that records voice memos? You, too, could actually be a podcast content creator for The Watsonian Weekly. Get in touch, even if you hate the sound of your own voice. (You know what the best way to get over hating the sound of your own voice is? Keep hearing it over and over again! You get numb to it, and just trust that anyone who keeps listening must not find it too offensive.)

So many thanks to Madeline this week for being one of those rare folk who pulled up our little podcast out of the great sea of podcasts out there. It's great to have a listener!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Doyle writes a pastiche

I don't think I have to explain the long history of disrespect for pastiche in the Sherlockian world.

It's natural, of course. You come to something as a fan, hope to repeat your original enjoyment of that thing, and your attempt to feel that same joy fails. It's as much your fault as the author's, for even having that expectation. The Sherlock Holmes novels I got into during my first summer as a Holmes fan weren't Conan Doyle. In fact, they're works generally thought of as crap, even in one or two cases, by their own authors. But at the time, I loved them and enjoyed them at a level that even the Canon itself doesn't bring me any more.

Pastiche, an honest attempt by any writer to capture the magic that a fellow writer once worked, has the great tragic nobility of the charge of the Light Brigade -- attempting a glorious thing that is probably doomed to failure. Sometimes it's even a spectacular failure. But any writer that loves the written word has to try pastiche at some point, to see if one can use another writer's tricks.

Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

You might have had the thought that his later Sherlock Holmes works are actually pastiches of his original Sherlock Holmes stories from the early nineties, containing the same elements, but not quite measuring up. Did Doyle slip in one written by his wife or secretary? Improbable, but a few of them are just off enough to make one wonder.

This evening, however, was the first time I realized that Conan Doyle borrowed very much from another author within the Canon itself. And I'm not talking about Poe, who gets referenced right off the bat when we are practically told straight on: This detective is not a Poe detective. He's better.

No, what I realized tonight was that Conan Doyle gave us a Baroness Orczy story, shuffled in the middle of a bunch of Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Baroness Orczy created a popular historical stage play -- two genres that Doyle always wanted to be successful in that had a long London run after opening in 1903. She wrote a novel of the same title after her play, called The Scarlet Pimpernel. Many other novels featuring the character followed, in 1906, 1908, 1913, and 1917 . . . yes, 1917, the same year Conan Doyle published the short story "His Last Bow."

The general premise of the Scarlet Pimpernel stories is that we're introduced to a set of characters amid a dangerous historical time, villainy is afoot, and at a key moment -- voila! -- one of the characters was the Scarlet Pimpernel in disguise all along! It's a grand moment in every Pimpernel tale, and the moment the reader waits for, like the M. Night Shyamalan of her day, readers new her story mechanic and it made her very popular. So popular, in fact, that Conan Doyle had to be aware of it.

While I haven't seen any mention of Doyle reading The Scarlet Pimpernel or seeing the play that started its popularity amidst all the documenting of his life that has gone on, the very timing of "His Last Bow," which is basically a Scarlet Pimpernel story with Sherlock Holmes in place of the Pimpernel seems to show that Conan Doyle surely borrowed the scheme from the Baroness.

And, in that respect, wrote a pastiche. Right there in our Sherlockian Canon.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Too many Zooms can make one hungry

Well, it's been one of those weekends-plus. Four Sherlockian Zooms in three days, which I'm thinking a lot of folks did this weekend, as I saw some of the same faces at two or three of those, and the one Zoom I wanted to attend, but missed due to the John H. Watson Society Zoom, which I was running, going long.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom.

So then tonight, I've just put some frozen fish in water to thaw, getting my pans ready to cook up a nice Monday night supper after a long work day, and the good Carter says, "What's this calendar reminder that says 'Six Napoleons Toast' in fifteen minutes?"

Back in the freezer goes the fish. Zoom!

Never been to a Six Napoleons of Baltimore  meeting before, as with all those other faraway Sherlockian societies that we're getting to know a little bit in Zoom-world. I say "a little bit" because a lot of the same people tend to overlap in the online experience, and whatever clubs stay online after the pandemic is over will probably all have the same members.

Greg Ruby has become one of our foremost Sherlockian Zoom meeting facilitators, if he's not the Sherlockian Zoom facilitator, and he began the Six Napoleons meeting with a couple remembrances of Sherlockians who recently left us. He opened up the floor for personal memories of those mentioned, and even though I have one really good memory of what a great guy John Pforr was to talk to, I didn't think invoking Ronald Reagan and a popular Peoria strip club were appropriate for such a moment. Plus, new scion, I'm just here to observe. Oh, and give a toast.

I was asked to toast "the woman," which came very early in the program, which is both blessing (getting it out of the way) and curse (being my first attendance at a Six Napoleons meeting, it wasn't a venue I was completely at ease in -- though now that every venue is Zoom, not all that new or uncomfortable).

Julie McKuras's talk on Watson's second wife was right in my wheelhouse -- she dove right into the chronology of matters. Julie is good. She lays out the timeline of Watson's marriage, and how Mary Morstan shows up after Watson already seems to be married. It's one of those talks where you suddenly find yourself going, like Watson himself, "How did I never see that?"  It's a very up-to-date talk, too, citing ideas from last month's Adventuress meeting and Tim Johnson's useful phrase "the Watsonian Witness Protection Program."

After Julie's talk, we got the results of Steve Mason's membership inquisition. The Six Napoleons of Baltimore is an old Sherlockian society with certain rituals and formalities in that area, which Greg Ruby explained, and the reportage on Steve's membership trials were quite entertaining in themselves. Mentions of "absentee balloting" in the process did bring up shadows of the recent election, but those were quickly brushed aside as the evening moved along, and Steve Mason was up for the next toast.

A little story discussion of "The Blue Carbuncle" followed. " Not too much, as I suspect we're not all keeping up with all the stories for all these meetings very well right now. And then a ten question quiz, nicely done with Zoom's polling feature so we could see how we scored en masse. I liked that, as I'm about done with quizzes after forty years of them, and the ten questions were more entertaining than annoying.

Announcements followed, Steve Mason got voted on for membership, some other housekeeping, at which point, my attention was being severely torn away by hunger, having not gotten any supper, and one dear, dear friend was torturing me about that fact with a description of his meal via text message. So rather than a quiet reflection after a fine meeting and meal, as one would usually wander from such an even with, I left my computer with a shout of, "TO THE DRIVE-THRU!" and the good Carter and I raced off into the night.

There's a villain in Flash comics called "Professor Zoom." How did he get his powers? Why did he turn to crime? Well, the old comics had one answer, but I think I might be imagining a brand new one. Sheer hunger.

A Toast to "the" Woman

Composed and delivered by your humble servant, Brad Keefauver, for the Six Napoleons of Baltimore on Monday, December 14, 2020. On Zoom, amidst the Pandemic Times. 

    There are those ephemeral beings who come into our lives like a passing cloud or just maybe . . . a barge floating down river. 

    Now, I realize that I may be the first Sherlockian on the planet to ever use the imagery of a river barge in relation to New Jersey’s own Irene Adler, but one must factor in that I am a resident of Peoria, Illinois, a river town, and I have to use what metaphors I have at hand.

Here in Peoria, we sometimes find ourselves down on the river bank, and sometimes we find ourselves stopping to watch a barge slowly pushed downriver. Barges are enormous things, and when they’re passing through our lives they eclipse and predominate the whole of the river. Usually, there is just the one, filling up the scene in front of us, and for a time, that barge in front of us is the barge.

A barge headed down river, from up near Chicago, moving toward St. Louis and maybe on as far as New Orleans, hides most of itself beneath the surface of the river.  The cargo, the barge’s inner truth, that keeps so much below the waterline and out of our sight, is not ours to know.

One never feels any emotion akin to love for a barge, watching it float down river. Usually a barge is being helped along by what is properly called a pusher boat, since it isn’t tugging like a tugboat, but pushing like a pusher boat. And if one ever tried considering a barge in the way that a pusher boat captain would, one would definitely be placing  one’s self in a false position. 

While Sherlock Holmes has pretended to be a boat captain on occasion, it was Godfrey Norton who is our pusher boat captain in this metaphor, only to be seen from a distance when hitched to his client, the larger figure of the tale whom he’s helping move to her next destination.

The river of life flows downstream, and a barge, even if it is the barge, as well as the pusher boat wedded to it, move on, out of our lives, leaving a clear view of the river once more. And life goes on.

So tonight, let us stand on the banks of that great river of lore we call the Canon, and take a moment to consider that veritable barge of a woman in the river of Sherlock Holmes’s life, the late Miss Irene Adler. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Testing the limits

 Well, as if my blogging pace weren't slow enough this year, this month I seem to have replaced writing a frequent blog with a new writing exercise: Sending Paul Thomas Miller a new Yuletide story related to Sherlock Holmes for every day of December preceding Christmas. One only has so much writing time in a day, and this mad gallop into the guns of writer's block is taking up a goodly chuck of it.

And how does one even start to come up with that many premises for short stories?

The whole premise behind Doyle's Rotary Coffin, our loose organization of Sherlock-love, is summed up in the motto "No Holmes Barred!" and since I'm writing these things for its "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" project,  those three words are, in themselves, a guide.

The holiday season is many things to many people. Sherlock Holmes is also many things to many people. Mash those two things up and you get an insane matrix of possibilities. Looking at the combos that I've hit so far, I see:

  • Sherlock as Santa, re-imagining "Charles Augustus Milverton" as a grinch
  • Long haul trucker Sherlock, coming into Nashville for Christmas dinner
  • Watson's connection to the Christmas mentioned in "Speckled Band"
  • Will Ferrell's Sherlock having a visit from Santa
  • A holiday parade on the River Styx ala John Kendrick Bangs' Holmes parody
  • Child Sherlock and Winwood Reade's view of Christmas
  • Grimesby Roylott and Festivus
  • Sherlockian podcasting and Christmas episodes
  • Santa Claus, Queen Victoria, and Mycroft Holmes's true connection
  • Krampus brings Holmes a case
  • Arthur Conan Doyle's version of Frosty the Snowman

Eleven so far, after nine full days of December. Fourteen left to go. If you think that's driven, I should show you how many "Watson's Wonderful World of Wildlife" episodes he's recorded ahead of time. He's about to more than triple that number in the same period of time as I'm doing Christmas tales. Some of us just get an idea in our heads and take off.

As I near the midpoint of my quest, however, I'm starting to feel the limits of Sherlock Holmes and the Yuletide season . . . no, actually, I'm starting to feel my limits. When I don't stop to think about what I've done already and just look to the "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" horizon I actually don't know if I can see a limit. Like I said, the combo just presents a matrix of possibilities, a geometric function of possibilities spinning out possibilities. And once a concept is there, Sherlock Holmes and his friends are such living, breathing creatures that they can take it from there and just do what they do.

I may run out of pseudonyms before I run out of stories, but we shall see. Soon it will be time to take to my keyboard once more and cry, "On Sherlock, on Watson, on Lestrade and Gregson! On Mycroft, on Morstan, on Stonor and Hudson!"

Come, write, join the "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" party! With so many combos out there, I can't possibly be the grinch that steals all the ideas. And what's a party without all the guests we can invite?

Friday, December 4, 2020

Baker Street Batcave and other Speckled Observations

Tonight some local Sherlockian friends and I did a little viewing of a couple of old black and white Holmes productions (via Zoom) of course, the most fascinating of which was a little number from the  1949  TV series Your Show Time. It was the first TV series ever to win an Emmy, and it adapted many a short story by many a famous author. The host, called simply "the Bookman," was supposedly a little bookshop owner who not only introduced the tale, but would also occasionally jump in during the story to build suspense, a bit like Professor Everett Von Scott in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Since the show was sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes, he smoked like a chimney, and his teeth were definitely from a time before bright, well-ordered smiles were de rigueur for television.

The story presented was "The Speckled Band," and the first thing one notices is the star -- Alan Napier, the Alfred from 1960s Batman as Sherlock Holmes. But did you ever notice the other appearance from that same future Batman series? It's Shakespeare!

In fact, the positioning of the bust of Shakespeare in 221B Baker Street is very close to where it was positioned in stately Wayne Manor in the latter show. 

Helen Stoner is played by classic horror movie Evelyn Akers, who also played opposite Basil Rathbone's Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, and we get to see her sister "Jean" Stoner die in a flashback uttering "The speckled band!" as she dies, as all Stoner sisters must. I say this, because Helen's sister was named "Violet" in a 1931 adaptation, and "Julia" in the original story. So Helen, Jean, Violet, and Julia were quite the snakebit "Little Women" of Stoke Moran.

Grimesby Roylott in this version is a bit problematic -- with a six foot six inch Sherlock to threaten, actor Edgar Barrier (also in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror) comes off a bit puny, and when he bends the fireplace poker using his knee, it doesn't seem like Sherlock is going to have any problem bending it back (using his knee). Watson, who looks like Einstein with shorter hair, can't bend the poker at all by simply waving it in the air (and not using his knee).
But that isn't Watson's biggest problem in this one -- he's constantly attacked by the Stoke Moran monkey, who seems to be thrown at him at every opportunity by someone off camera. Even when they're climbing in the window at night, Holmes gets in easily enough, but Watson comes in fighting off the monkey. The little monkey even makes for Holmes to say his classic line when Watson finally asks "Why does this monkey keep attacking me?" The reply: "Elementary, my dear Watson! Romance."

The horny monkey of Stoke Moran sees Einstein Watson as their true love, and if you think that's not enough inspiration for me to write another "Ho Ho Holmes!" tale to send to Paul Thomas Miller, you don't know how easily I'm story-triggered this month.

 Old adaptations are probably most delightful in the weird little choices mad in changing the story, and there's a whole subplot with Helen's fiance John Armitage that gets ridiculously out of hand, and why he doesn't have Holmes and Watson arrested when it's all over, I'll never know.

But it made for a pleasant evening. (Somehow we squeeze two twenty-something minute films into two and a half hours of conversation.) 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The 221 training bags of Baker Street

 Have you ever noticed the number of writers whose first book is a Sherlock Holmes book, then they go on to success beyond Holmes? It's not a huge number, as getting to "successful professional writer" level is a hard hill to climb in any case, but it's significant. It's a bit like Sherlock Holmes is a practice dummy for perfecting your word punches. And, as his survival after pastiche after pastiche after pastiche shows, he can take it.

Doyle's Rotary Coffin has started another holiday festival of short, short fiction this month with "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" and it's an excellent way to give yourself a reason to play with some wacky idea and give your writing skills some practice. All you have to do is let yourself go.

Seriously, this is some no-stakes writing fun. You can use a pseudonym. There's no comment section. You don't have to plot, write for a certain length, or even have it make a lick of sense. In fact, the more nonsensical it is, the better it might fit the Doyle's Rotary Coffin's motto of "No Holmes barred!"

I'm going to be letting fly on "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" this month with whatever silly Sherlocking that the season inspires on me and tossing it the DRC's way, because you know what? It's good therapy as we wind down this stressful year just to let the brain do a dump of whatever Sherlock nonsense it has available -- it's almost like the therapeutic dreaming that your brain will sometimes do.

Because really, "No Holmes barred!" isn't just about allowing all Holmeses to exist. It's also about a no-rules, no-limits, no-mental-gatekeeping approach to this hobby that makes it so much more enjoyable. (Yes, there probably are actually some limits -- actual crime, personal attacks via fiction, all the things a reasonable person wouldn't do anyway. But that's not you, right?) There's no speed limit on this Holmes highway, no U-turns you can't make, and crashing and burning doesn't have to hurt at all. You can just get in that blank page of a car and drive!

Okay, so maybe I switched metaphors again, but like I said: This is a place to get some of those thousand hours in that will make you a master of your craft, and there's fun to be had here.

"Ho! Ho! Holmes!" -- think of it as NanoWriMo that only takes one evening. Spend a couple hours just pounding the keyboard and send the results along. As with any training bout against a practice dummy, you just can't lose.

Monday, November 30, 2020

November's end.

And so we come to the end of November.

National Novel Writing month has hit it's final deadline, and am I racing to hit that 50,000 word goal on this final night, or am I blogging here and now, writing what you're reading?

Let me check my official NanoWriMo word count . . . well, if I get in another one hundred and forty-seven words tonight, I will hit ten percent of the fifty-thousand word goal. Did I write fifty-thousand words this month? Probably. Was it all focussed into one single novel-length work of fiction? Nope.

And therein lies the key -- focus.

I wouldn't say I have attention deficit disorder, because it sure doesn't get in my way of getting anything done, hence, no "disorder." But I do have a problem keeping my attention in one place without a very purposeful, very task-oriented focus . . . and this month did not have that at all. In the end, I don't think I wanted it badly enough.

I did wind up finishing the book I wanted to finish writing in October, and got it off to my beta readers last night. I did write a couple of toasts, a short story or two, a bit of podcast content, ten other blog posts, a few long e-mails, and . . . hmm, seems like there should have been something else . . . oh, yes, five thousand words on that novel I was supposed to be writing.

On to the next thing, I guess. I have hopes for 2021, but at this point, don't we all!

The amnesiac Sherlockian

 Yesterday Morton L. Duffy tweeted a very interesting question on Twitter. 

Waking up with no memory, in one's own bed, surrounded by the collected paraphernalia of one's life, is a very curious mental puzzle. The bedroom alone would make me wonder several things, like "Why do I have a shelf and a half of what looks like the same book?" "I guess I'm a hat guy?" "Who wears this women's underwear that doesn't seem to fit me?"

Wandering across the hall, though, and encountering the library overstocked with Sherlock Holmes related books, however, would be the true mind-boggler. With no memory, the fact that all these books had that odd name in them would show there was something somehow important about this guy, but how long would it take to understand which books were the original source material, buried in all the works that came along after? Honestly, I think my first reaction would be writing off the entire mystery as way too big to start trying to figure out which one of that legion I should read to solve the puzzle. Besides, I'm probably hungry, having just woken up, and wanting to find food. 

Hunger might be the great motivator, but even with no memory, one has to wonder if one's emotional core will still hold on to something that would hold a reaction, even if one didn't know why. Would certain books draw me to them, while others would automatically be ignored?

If any feelings toward individual books remained, Baring-Gould's Annotated would draw me to it, and the exceptionally battered nature of one particular edition might even attract my intellect once I got something to eat. Any book that beat up and still owned must have some significance, and, even now, I think that would be the best primer to bring me up to speed about Sherlock Holmes . . . though about the current state of Sherlockiana? Not anywhere close.

I'd have a hard time logging on to the computer that sits next to it if I couldn't remember my password, but if I made it past that little hurdle, I'd find a browser with an initial quick button that has a little blue bird and says "Twitter," at which point the confusion really starts. But that is where I think I have to start to answer Morton's question: The difference between what I read from Baring-Gould about the hobby of Sherlockiana and what I see on Twitter would definitely be the mind-blower.

The big question, however, would be "Would Doyle's prose work on blank-slate me?"

Some of us had a route to Holmes that started with a movie, went first to pastiches, then back to the original source material. Along the way, I remember blowing past a lot of old Sherlock material that only got more interesting when a whole lot of other Sherlock Holmes input got loaded in first. And my original introductions to Sherlock Holmes came with the developing brain of a thirteen-year-old, and loaded in during the. following years. How would a fully-formed adult brain react?

I'd have to get dressed, of course, and opening the t-shirt drawer might distract me from Holmes immediately, as I'd have to go look up the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Mandalorian, and there's a real danger that I might just become a Marvel Comics fan and not do the long study of the library across the hall for quite a while. Sadly, Avenger's: Endgame might leave my mind numb to the more subtle influences of earlier times.

But this is the world that new Sherlockians are going to come into. So much media out there, competing for time and mental space. And as good as Enola Holmes is, without that gap we used to have between entertainments, does someone follow that back to the source, or just roll into the next Netflix movie? All of the great fandoms were built on wanting more but not getting it quickly enough. Star Wars, Star Trek, BBC Sherlock, even Strand Magazine Sherlock at Reichenbach Falls. Once that fandom is built, and once one finds one's self in the midst of it, it's great place of joy. But waking up with no memory anywhere other than the Sherlock Holmes birthday weekend or 221B Con?

That's a real puzzler. Of course, Sherlock Holmes was all about solving mysteries, so if one gets to that particular key, maybe it won't be so hard to unlock.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Why place limits on virtual Sherlockiana?

 The Baker Street Irregulars are holding their January "dinner" virtually this year for the first time. Invitations have gone out, and I have signed up. It's been a few years, and I'm curious. The thing is, my curiosity always makes me wonder things, and that's where I tend to get into trouble with some folks, especially concerning the Big Sherlockian Institution. Because I tend to be a little public with the thoughts that most reserve for personal conversations, so as not to get into the sorts of trouble that I get into.

But since I'm already in that strange purgatory of certain people's shit list, why not just dig that hole a little deeper. So let me ask this question:

If you were running the Baker Street Irregulars, and a pandemic forced you to hold that annual meeting online for the very first time . . . why not make it open to everyone?

Every reasonable excuse I've ever heard for keeping the dinner and membership limited has had to do with banquet venue size. It was never "we don't want people to know what we're doing." Nothing that weird or out-of-the-Sherlockian-ordinary goes on there. So why place limits on it?

Is there a fear that if everyone saw what goes on there, the mystique might go away? A fear that a wide open virtual dinner might lead everyone to expect to be able to come once a physical dinner was possible again? Or is just the "exclusive" part of the Baker Street Irregulars so ingrained at this point that the very concept of a wide open BSI meeting is not even on the table? One hates to think it's fear or a locked-in mindset.

What purpose do limits like that serve? 

Any other corporate entity, and let's be honest, there is a certain brand-based incorporated aspect to the BSI, would see thinking-inside-the-box limits as something to be avoided. But historically, the organization's first reaction to any new thing is to see it as a threat and tighten the sphincter. The internet? Whoa! Hold up! A new Holmes fan base thanks to a hit TV show? Whoa! We're a literary society! The turns come very slowly. And this whole pandemic Zoom shift in Sherlockian lifestyles has been a high-acceleration drive into a turn none of us were ready for.

But, as any optimist knows, challenges like this offer opportunities as well as troubles. There is an opportunity here that many Sherlockians and groups are taking advantage of, and pushing new ideas forward.  It's a little ironic that the BSI chose to charge thirty-five dollars for the virtual event and build into that cost a donation to its own charity for helping its members and guests afford the costs of its annual dinner. One of the growing issues across the board in America is finding ways to help fund people unable to pay high prices, rather than just lowering prices, so on that one, maybe they get a pass. But this was definitely a moment where some fresh thought would have been welcomed.

The BSI "dinner" packet price includes a souvenir, and I have a feeling that the group won't be able to hold the "dinner" without the standard group photo so everyone can show they were there, so I'm betting it might be a screenshot of all the little Zoom windows. New idea, or just same old, same old? (Which is also called tradition, of course. Ah, tradition!)

It's going to be a very interesting year in any case, and I shall be curious to see how it all does play out. And seeing if curiosity kills the cat, as the saying goes. We shall see.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The new Sherlockian nomads

 It wasn't too long after I started attending Sherlockian weekends that I noticed a certain commonality. There was a certain pack of Sherlockians that, despite having no coordinated plan for such, always seemed to be at such events. "The Sherlockian gypsy caravan," I used to call them, before the word "gypsy" was something I learned was best avoided. They were the ones who found their community, the ones who knew the reward for the trip made it worth leaving home, had one the ability to do so.

And then the world changed.

Another nomadic community started to form, except these weren't folk who had to travel -- just folk comfortable enough with current tech and time to handle regular Zoom calls. New familiar faces started to show up time and again as the new regulars of Sherlockian gatherings. Others disappeared from sight. We saw what the online symposium looked like, not once, but twice, and we saw that about any Sherlockian society meeting could have the same level of content without taking up a whole day, and a whole lot of people went, "This works for me." And even though the community of Sherlockian Zoomers was created by the restrictions of the pandemic, it really seems like the best parts of it might just live on after it's over.

I suspect if one were to bring a new Sherlockian into our world at this point, they would think the three biggest Sherlockians in American are Steve Mason, Greg Ruby, and Rich Krisciunas. Each of them has made a splash into this new pond by just putting in the time and effort to get around and make some things happen, in their different ways. There are a lot of other folk, old Sherlockians (and hoo boy, have we all gone gray since I last saw so many folks!) and new (some really impressive new, too) that are starting to feel like the familiar folk of a new small town that we all suddenly found ourselves in.

It's so much like the old weekend workshop/symposium regulars, but the big difference here is that you get to see all these folks a lot more often. That old BSI buy-laws gag line "and there shall be no monthly meeting" has been tossed by the wayside by the sheer number of monthly meetings that any Sherlockian could easily put on their calendar.

It's funny that, since the Zoom is a substitute for local meetings, there are still local Sherlockians. Some folks will always be happy with the people they already knew, staying in touch with local friends. Having the ability to attend meetings all over the place doesn't mean it's for everyone, and there are always going to be gathering that fit some more than others. But when the pandemic plight is done, and the locals go back to meeting in person, I'm pretty certain that the community that connected across time zones and even oceans during this change will continue to evolve. It's just started working a little too well for many of us.

But who knows? It's been an invigorating time for a lot of old Sherlockian warhorses, in any case, and I hope the bonds that have been forming with this new sort of community continue on. This new group of Sherlockian nomads have a whole lot of future territory to explore.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The 43rd Anniversary Meeting of the Hansoms of John Clayton

 There are those who say that because something can't be what it once was, maybe you should just let that thing go. You find that sentiment a lot among fans of different fandoms. Fear of overlaying old memories of thing they enjoyed I guess. But the world never ends with any of us, and sometimes things go on.

And last night, Peoria's Hansoms of John Clayton went on for one more night.

It's been a bumpy road since Bob Burr gave the group up with the turn of the century. He was the heart and soul of the Hansoms during its peak, and my biggest challenge in carrying on the group, especially during those dark times of the early 2000s between Brett and Cumberbatch, was those clear memories of all that came before, and moments never to be recreated. 

But when the Cesspuddlians of London, Ontatrio (whom I always think are in England, for some reason), tweeted last Friday that the Hansoms were coming up on a birthday, well it nagged at me for most of the weekend.

At some point Sunday night, I realized that any attempt at a 43rd anniversary meeting was better than no attempt at all, so I started inviting the few members and nearby friends I still had connections to, and those fellows we all know who are attempting to attend a Zoom meeting for every scion society ever. I didn't want to try to beef up the numbers too much, as I had no program for the meeting as of that moment, and it was two days away. So I started to throw together a program, with the help of two Hansoms who have came aboard at least as early as me -- one was the good Carter, of course, and the other was George Scheetz, youngest of the club's three founders.

We ended up with a dozen fine folk in attendance, and I got out the old podium with the club logo on it and managed to zoom from behind it.

We kept to the basic rituals that we observed at every meeting: Start with the Clayton Ritual, end with Starrett's "221B." As our banquets had forever had a letter from Sherlock Holmes writing as to why he couldn't attend at the outset, we had one of those. The meeting minutes of the first meeting forty three years ago, held only a few hundred yards from where I was currently hosting the meeting, were read, and we rolled through a slide show with random talk of Hansom history. I kept it to an hour, as I promised those in attendance. (It was a school night, after all.) And after that hour, I offered the option to view the video of the Hansoms' lowest-possible-budget recreation of "The Three Garridebs," which featured some of the worst line-reads imaginable, and was a little sleep-inducing. But it was only twenty minutes long (with at least four or five of that being hand-written credits being . . . hand . . . written), and eight of our dozen dutifully suffered through.

It was definitely more about the Hansoms of John Clayton than Sherlock Holmes, which can be a bad thing for any club -- becoming more interested in itself than the great detective -- but the Hansoms hadn't had a meeting in a many years, and it seemed a good way to do a reset. This is where we've been, where are we going next, if we are at all? Who knows?

People always ask me if the Hansoms of John Clayton still meet in Peoria, and I like to think they do. And since we just had a 43rd anniversary meeting, with old members and new, I can now say we definitely do. Some clubs meet annually and leave it at that. Maybe that will be what the Hansoms do now as well, until someone triggers something further and new traditions are built underneath the name, should it be carried on.

Next year, there will be a 44th anniversary meeting, and since I have a year to prepare, it should have a program that's something new and not about the club of years gone by.

Because the world never ends with any of us, and sometimes things do go on.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Major Holmes and Captain Watson

 Back in the eighties, when I was first getting into Sherlock Holmes, it seemed like any non-Sherlock, Sherlock-related folk in books or comics were all trying to be Sherlock clones. Irene Adler would grab up a Watson of her own. Solar Pons just flat-out copied everything. More and more since the Cumberbatch wave hit, I'm seeing writers create some marvelous original characters who exist in Holmes's universe and bloodline without being dreadful mimics of the master detective.

One such delightful new character is Captain Sheffield Holmes, the nephew of Sherlock and the start of Cloudwrangler Comics series Major Holmes and Captain Watson. I've had some real disappointment in Sherlock-related comics lately, so many just trading on the name, and I'm very happy to find the Major Holmes & Captain Watson does not fit that category at all.

Another successful Kickstarter that hit every single funding goal it went after, the book is a lovely thing and writer Jeff Rider and artist Ismael Canales put their talents to make it a rip-snortin' wartime tale that captures the magic of comics that many a Sherlock-ish comic doesn't, which makes it a very special beast. The book doesn't waste any time in setting Sheffield apart from Sherlock, the blond, tossle-maned nephew getting pulled from bed with a boyfriend on the very first page. His "Watson" arrives and quickly sets herself in place as an able partner . . . though one that might have been more contrived to be just that than a random relative of Dr. Watson who just happened to be handy. And who would contrive such a thing?

Well, that would be telling. The ride that Major Holmes & Captain Watson gives a reader is the kind you don't want spoiled, and I was very glad to get the book with a completely blank slate to place my first impression on. (I'd forgotten the preview pages, as I backed the project so long ago.) I'm saving the second issue to read when the time is best suited, but since I backed it at "The Special Dossier" level, and received the file of extras, one of the intelligence photos did give away a secret I hadn't read yet.

That particular secret was still a grand treat, as I had already developed my theories on the subject -- which immediately proved wrong, even though I should have seen it. (Aren't those the best twists, the ones you kick yourself for not seeing sooner?)

You can find copies of the comic at as well as some other items of interest, and, being a comics fan as well as a Sherlockian, I've already ordered a couple of Jeff Rider's other comics.  And I'm definitely looking forward to this series going forward.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Thirty years to an ASH meeting

 It is 1:04 PM on Sunday, and I am already reviewing the meeting of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes that started at noon. Why? Because somehow, Evelyn Herzog, with technical support from Greg Ruby and Steve Mason, distilled what felt like three hours worth of Zoom speakers into a terrific hour of Sherlockian fun.

Of course, the fun for me didn't truly begin until I got to finish my toast to "Friendship," because I was more nervous than I've been in a decade, about anything. Why?

Because I've been wanting to get to a meeting of the Adventuresses for well over thirty years.

Back in the eighties snail mail days, Tina Rhea was a frequent correspondent and would write me of all the glories, fun, and frolic of the ASH gathering together. At a time when the BSI was still men-only and seeming a bit stodgy, that group seemed like the true fun Sherlockians, and I had even promised Tina I would attend in 1989, then got talked into the other January dinner by a friend who was strongly hinting at a shilling might be my reward. (It was, but that's another story.)

Now, I don't know about you, but even though we weren't Catholic, my mama raised my with a fully activated sense of guilt, and a couple of years later, when the Irregulars started letting women in, and the alternate January dinner was no longer the ASH dinner, I did get to NYC again and attend that other dinner, at least a couple of times. But it wasn't the ASH dinner. And since getting me to fly to New York for any reason became a harder and harder sell as the years past, the non-January ASH dinners never saw me in attendance either. That little thread of Sherlockian guilt never fully left.

Even after 2008, when I became an Adventuress myself, I never got to a meeting proper, but then along came this pandemic and Zoom. Suddenly, my chance was here. I actually volunteered to give a toast, not realizing how big that moment might feel, finally getting to be with the ASH and their friends, virtually traveling to New York in my mind. And had I not become so practiced at pontificating in front of the computer screen for podcasts, I might have been just a little freaked out by all that.

But, the moment passed, as all moments happily do, and the ASH meeting as a whole was full of thoughtful toasts and excellent presentations, all kept in one tidy hour in a demonstration of how much diverse and quality content can be put in a single hour of Zoom -- an inspiration to those of us trying to wrangle our own Zooms. While we didn't get to see all the faces of all those hundred and fifty Sherlockians present, and there was some confusion in the chat as to who was Peter Blau, it was one of the best virtual Sherlockian meetings I've attended, and while I hope the ASH can return to their old habits soon, I would not mind another one of these at all.

And if not, how much is a ticket to NYC? 

Friday, November 13, 2020

The less socially motivated Sherlockian

 A couple of questions have come up lately that have related answers, so it seemed worth a post. The first was "Why not invited a guest on your podcast?" The second, "Do the Hansoms of John Clayton still meet?"

Here is the grand Sherlockian paradox.

A goodly share of our number are bookish sorts. Introverts. Readers who enjoy our own company as much as a group. And yet everyone wants a little company now and then, the validation of a community, the fresh ideas of others who know your field.

And over the years, if one gets involved in a hobby, an introvert might pick up a few social skills, lose some of that fear of public speaking, even organize a function or two. And yet there remains a distinct difference between being a true gregarious extrovert and someone who can sometimes pass as one.

So, the answers to the two questions: As long as either of those questions relies completely on me, my natural inclinations never draw me in those directions. 

Podcast guests aren't a problem, if time allows and it's someone I'm comfortable with from past association. Cold-calling someone brand new? Not in my zone, especially for a first meeting to converse over Zoom. And not the sort of thing I'm going to bite the bullet and force upon myself when there is so much other Sherlocking to do out there.

Do the Hansoms of John Clayton yet meet? Well, Sherlockians do meet in Peoria, together when we can, Zooming when we cannot. Gathering under the name of the Hansoms faded out in the 2000s, when things were slowing down and our meetings fell to three persons per, two of whom came from my house. We had a couple attempts at restarts since then, but the evenings were mostly filled with my friends who would have come over anyway and the one or two other Peoria Sherlock Holmes fans, if they had time.

The Sherlock Holmes Story Society, the name I came up with for our library discussion group, when it started a few years back, has been meeting monthly for four straight years now. We've got a good group of regulars, even after Covid knocked us down by half. Being public library based, however, we needed a name that advertised what we did without explanation. I could easily hand out membership cards or certificates to our group and claim the Hansoms of John Clayton still exist, but that seems like a bit of a cheat.

The Hansoms of John Clayton will exist in Peoria, at least as long as I do. It'll be one of those one-or-two person groups like the Solitary Cyclist or the One Fixed Point or the Shingle of Southsea until that day when someone with enough interest in classic Sherlockian society dinners or meetings comes along and has extroversion, energy, and time enough to try to build it up again. And I'll be willing to help that person. But for now . . . .

Some of us are just a little too comfortable with Mr. Sherlock Holmes, a book, and a laptop for some projects to get fully undertaken.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

"Listen to the experts!"

 A phrase I enjoyed hearing the other day was "I will listen to the experts" with regard to the current pandemic. Medical experts have done a lot for the human race. And then my brain fell into Sherlockian mode. "Listen to the experts!" applies to scientific areas of human endeavor, but does it apply to our particular field.

My gut instinct said, "Nooooo, don't listen to the experts! Follow your own path." I've always railed against those classicists of Sherlockiana who claimed that every good thing possible in this hobby was done before 1950. But were those folks "experts?"

I've been called an expert on Sherlock Holmes. My late neighbor was called an expert on Sherlock Holmes. Practically every single Sherlockian ever written up as a feature in their local newspaper (back when newspapers were a thing and needed features) has been called an expert in Sherlock Holmes. Because compared to non-Sherlockians, who outnumber us by the thousands, if not the tens of thousands by my estimate, we are experts in Sherlock Holmes. All of us.

The thing about being a expert in Sherlock Holmes the man is that you really just have to be knowledgeable about the one book, where we find everything that is completely accepted about the man. You can go on and become an expert in Sherlockian film, in Sherlockiaan chronology, in Sherlockian fan fiction, but to just be an expert in Sherlock? One big fat book.

Read that one big fat book, and you don't really need to listen to the experts. Sure, they can tell you what has been done in the past inspired by Holmes, but as I said, expertise in what has been done in the past outside of that one book is a whole 'nother expertise that not every Sherlockian has. Your own inspired creation will surely find an audience among the other experts in your area . . . who didn't necessarily read the monograph William Buxley passed out as a table favor at a Baker Street Irregulars dinner in 1953.

If one enjoys listening to experts, Sherlockiana is a wonderful place. We have so very many experts.

But if one is a creative who wants to follow one's own path free of expert critiques, Sherlockiana is also a wonderful place. None of our experts is expert in everything Sherlockian, so you're likely to find a free spot to fly.

And if you want to do something between those two, listen to some experts and charge blindly into your own Sherlockian project without calling upon every other person who wrote about the wine Watson took with his lunch on a particular day, well, you can have at it. We'll still love to see what you come up with.

The larger Sherlockiana grows, the more territory it seems we have to explore. It's part of the magic of this hobby -- there's always more left to learn, to see, to do.

And, to become an expert in. Because we do love our experts, even if we don't always listen to them.

Monday, November 9, 2020

The true reason Mrs. Watson and Mr. Holmes didn't get along?

Some time back, my mind wandered to Mrs. James Watson, the wife of Sherlock Holmes's friend and chronicler in "The Man with the Twisted Lip." I'd like to refer to her as Mary Morstan Watson, or Mrs. John H. Watson, but going strictly by the evidence presented in that tale . . . well, she really is most accurately identified as "Mrs. James Watson."

And what was the notable characteristic of Mrs. James Watson?

"Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a light-house."

Grief, like all emotions, can be very hard to deal with when it comes on, most commonly brought on by the loss of a loved one. In "The Man with the Twisted Lip," the loss of a loved one is in the "misplaced" category rather than the "death" category, but the way Watson describes his wife and the reason people came to her, it seems like the latter might have been more common than the former. While folks whose loved ones were missing might come to Doctor Watson, folks whose loved ones had died would not need his services. So they came to his wife.

But why?

We know Watson spent more of his time in the company of Sherlock "No ghosts need apply!" Holmes, but the good doctor also had a certain literary agent in his social sphere, and therefore in his wife's social sphere. And when it came to a particular way of dealing with grief, said literary agent was hardcore headed down a certain questionable path. So let's just cut to the chase:

Was Watson's wife a medium?

Did folks in grief come to her to contact their recently passed loved ones?

Mrs. James Watson being a practicing spiritualist, holding seances, doing spirit writing, etc. makes that light-house line a very interesting thing, setting up a more direct conflict between Mrs. Watson and Mr. Holmes, explaining why the doctor might have been going for periods without seeing his best pal.

"Birds to a lighthouse," Watson wrote, and the symbolism of the souls of the departed being attracted to his wife's aura just adds to the idea of Mary Morstan, medium.

Sherlock Holmes, of course, knowing the powers of observation needed for an expert in cold reading (one technique for the con artist playing at spiritualism) would almost confirm Mary Morstan as such with his assessment of her as "most useful in such work as we have been doing." Sherlock's own displays of his powers of observation were basically cold readings -- which makes if odd to think that Watson's literary agent would have fallen so easily into such a trap at some point.

And yet John "James" Watson's association with devout spiritualist Arthur Conan Doyle makes the idea of his wife Mary being deeply involved in the practice as well even more likely . . . with her husband constantly caught between worlds.

Ah, but if only someone could contact Mrs. James Watson's spirit and let us know the truth, eh?

I think I'll stick with Sherlock Holmes, though, and when it comes to Sherlockian scholarship, say, "No ghost wives need apply."

Friday, November 6, 2020

The clumsy fabrications

 "How do I know they are lying? Because it is a clumsy fabrication which simply could not be true."

-- Sherlock Holmes, The Valley of Fear

We hold the methods of Sherlock Holmes in pretty high esteem in these Sherlockian parts. The man was a genius, who studied hard, kept a mental library of recognizable details, and performed feats of observation and deduction that seem beyond most of us . . . usually.

Yet this week, I don't think one particular method of Sherlock's is beyond most of us, the one he uses in the quote above. How does he spot a lie? Because it's so badly concocted that it just couldn't be true.

That has been a growing trend of the U.S. president over the past four years. Yes, I'm going "political" because reality isn't just an opinion, as much as some would like to deny facts as it suits them by dumping them in the "political" bucket. The man lies, again and again and again. Clumsy fabrications that anyone who is paying attention to the world about them knows are lies the minute they come out of his mouth.

It quit taking a Sherlock Holmes to spot that a long time ago.

His sycophants lie to him to keep him happy, he lies to keep his fans happy at their little fan-fests, and then his enablers lie to try to massage his lies into something closer to palatable plausibility. The circle of fiction just feeds itself, 'round and 'round it goes. It becomes very tiring to the rest of us, having to hear the clumsy fabrications day after day, to the point where the news has to just shut him off.

Before the last few years, it's hard to imagine a major network just shutting down a presidential speech just thirty seconds in, but here we are. Just that tired of the clumsy fabrications.

The loyal team players dutifully stand by him, for whatever reason. Many have just been trained to fear some other group so much they'll put up with incompetence, just to protect themselves from that group they're frightened of. There are other reasons, some more valid than others, some as nutty as a flat earther with a magic bean.  But, y'know, I'm writing a Sherlock Holmes blog here.

And you know what a Sherlock Holmes blog is about? That guy who had no time for "a clumsy fabrication." The guy who sought truth, honest, science-based, provable truth . . . it was his whole end goal, every time. Justice could be administered or not. Lives could be saved . . . or not. But at the end, always at the end, no matter what he could or could not do, was the truth. Even if Sherlock Holmes was just revealing the truth behind his own less-clumsy fabrication, as in "Dying Detective."

We need more Sherlock Holmes right now. And a lot less clumsy fabrications.

Because, damn, they get old fast.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Let's talk about Irene Adler.

Let's talk about Irene Adler.

If any character in the Sherlockian Canon has been completely screwed with in the years since her creation, it's Irene. Yes, yes, Nigel Bruce Watson, blah, blah, blah, but you know what? People have always complained about him not being up to Watsonian snuff. Watson has always had champions pushing forward to go, "That's not the true Watson!"

But Irene?

Secret Montenegro rendezvous with Sherlock just so he can father Nero Wolfe?

Working for Professor Moriarty until he decides to kill her?

Shoved into a re-envisioning of Gillette's play just to make Sherlock having a love interest slightly more Canonical?

Or just turned into female Sherlock Holmes with a female Watson. Surely that's not so offensive, right?

But is it Irene?

An American singer who worked her way up to prima donna of the Imperial Opera of Warsaw, the sort of career path one doesn't just flim-flam one's way into. Being an American, she didn't have the proper respect for social distance with Bohemian royalty and wound up in one of those entertainer/prince relationships that doesn't ever seem to end well. And it didn't.

The King of Bohemia slanders her with the word "adventuress," which at the time meant "gold-digger" not "Laura Croft, tomb raider," and even "gold-digger" probably has a nicer connotation to it than what the king was trying to say. Sherlockians, notably female Sherlockians, have taken that word, as folk do with offensive terms, made it their own . . . yet it is not Irene Adler either.

John Watson, claiming that Sherlock Holmes singled her out as "the woman," has set imaginations aflame, but what does even that really mean? And expression of irritation at being bested? Admiration for a quick and clever mind? Being the best looking woman in her neighborhood, according to the locals? There's just not much there either.

Irene Adler, sadly, has always been shaped by male perspectives. The king's words. Watson's words. Holmes's words. Her resume in Holmes's index and her own words never get quite the focus given those three men, especially by the men who led this hobby for decades. Just getting past the creaky old Holmes/Adler ship and its barnacled hull is not enough. Figuring out who Irene was to Irene is the real place our attentions should surely lie.

And then we might even be able to start discussing Godfrey Norton, because that guy . . . well, that guy must have really had it together to be the man for Irene Adler.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The friendless

 The last gathering of Peoria's Sherlock Holmes Story Society focussed on the story "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax," and whenever one wanders through that story, one particular line always comes up:

"One of the most dangerous classes in the world is the drifting and friendless woman."

Sherlock Holmes goes on to preach hard on how Lady Frances Carfax is a sort of migratory chicken who is just begging to be victimized. Add that to Watson's wandering Europe and basically just getting confirmations of how good looking the missing woman is, and the level of Victorian sexism on display in this story starts to measure pretty high. We never get to actually meet Lady Frances, get a display of her true personality, or even be assured that she survives her ordeal with no brain damage.

But amid all that, the word that always seems to jump out for me is "friendless."

Sherlock Holmes seems sure that this nice traveling lady has no friends. We know she writes letters to her old governess, which seems like a really kindly thing to do. We know she meets people in her travels and establishes at least short term friendships. Why is Sherlock Holmes so quick to judge the lady as "friendless?"

If one does the ever-popular word search of the Sherlockian Canon, one quickly sees that only two other persons in all of Watson's records are described as "friendless." And just who are those two folks?

Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson.

Watson, of course, makes his statement early on in his cohabitation with Holmes: "During the first week or so we had no callers, and I had begun to think my companion was as friendless a man as myself."

People start showing up, but they are Holmes's clients, unless one counts Lestrade as a friend. And he very well might have been. So perhaps Watson was wrong about Holmes being friendless. But Watson definitely considers himself among the friendless at that point.

Before meeting Watson, Sherlock Holmes states in "The Gloria Scott" that he himself was friendless in college. Holmes meets Victor Trevor and "it was a bond of union when I found that he was as friendless as I." Being friendless seems to be the temporary state leading to friendship for both Holmes, who found Trevor, and Watson, who found Holmes.

But even after he has Watson, Sherlock Holmes can't get past that looming spectre of friendlessness.

"And now, my poor Watson, here we are, stranded and friendless in this inhospitable town . . . ."

It's an interesting note that Holmes is describing Cambridge, "an old University city," as that inhospitable place where even with Watson he feels friendless. Is he revealing his own alma mater here, and echoing the feelings he first had there as a lonely student? It's very likely, I think. College towns have usually seemed friendly places in my experience of adult life -- is Cambridge that different, or was it just Holmes's past haunting him?

And also, does his use of the term "friendless" about her indicate a certain sympathy and kinship with Lady Frances Carfax? Might she have been a cousin, that he seemed to have such a feeling of who she was and what she was about, having such worry about her wandering Europe?

For a single word, "friendless" is one that will always raise questions, no matter who uses it. Even Sherlock Holmes.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The champion of objective reality

 In preparing for an non-Sherlockian discussion this week, I came up with a question to muse upon that led to a very Sherlockian train of thought. The question: "If the thing you're a fan of stayed in the public consciousness for a thousand years or more and evolved into a religion, what's one thing it would involve?"

If you go beyond the superficial ("The followers of Sherlock would all wear deerstalkers!"), the question gets to the very heart of our love of a thing and what makes that thing distinctive from all others. A thousand years of wear and tear could strip away all the superficial outside "paint" of a thing and get it down to its true make-up. So wear would that leave Sherlock Holmes?

Well, I unconsciously did a little of that elimination right there in framing that question. Poor Watson just got stripped away, with the lone name "Sherlock Holmes." Yes, the relationship between the doctor and the detective is important, but it is not unique. Other characters bond just as hard as our friends, and even Watson intended to shine the spotlight on Sherlock as the rare and special thing.

So what does Sherlock Holmes give us as a core belief for some hypothetical religious institution?

I'd have to say the thing he fights for, works for, and produces in every story, even when he's wrong.

It's not justice, though he does get it many a time.

It's not stopping crime, as crime does not appear in every story.

It has to be a little thing called objective reality, doesn't it?

In every case, Sherlock Holmes enters a world of subjective reality. Scotland Yard thinks a dancer murdered a noble's bride. The citizens of Dartmoor think a dog from Hell is killing members of a certain family. A husband thinks his wife might be a vampire. Sometimes the subjective reality is something as simple as "there's no possible reason for this thing to have happened." Having not seen what actually happened, somebody gets a headcanon going.

And while headcanon might be great fun for questions we'll never get answers to, like where John Watson got shot in Afghanistan, it's not always real useful in reality. And that's where Sherlock Holmes comes in.

Sherlock Holmes looks hard at reality. Bits of hair or fiber. Impressions in the soil. Types of paper. The measurements of a house. Looking at all of the little realities, Sherlock Holmes begins to assemble an objective reality that, in most cases, is finally proven out to be the one true reality.

If you ever looked into police work prior to forensic science, it was basically asking the neighbors what happened, depending upon finding a witness. And if no witness came forth, the investigator was just gathering opinions, like the classic "He was a nice, quiet man who couldn't hurt a fly." Subjective views that are, as in case of that particular trope, often as wrong as can be. Headcanon from the neighbors is not always the best source of truth.

Here in 2020 we've seen a massive rise of folks loving their subjective truths in spite of solid evidence, so a hero of objective truth like Sherlock Holmes still fulfills a need in our culture. Will that carry him forward a thousand years, whether spawning a cult or not (like he hasn't already)? 

Let's hope he makes it in one form or another reminding us that objective reality is a valuable thing. And hopefully he teaches us that lesson a little better than Robin Hood, the legend that still reminds us that there can be the too rich at the expense of the poor when Jeff Bezos doesn't seem to be holding any archery tournaments.

Let's talk again in a thousand years.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

C'mon, give us a little Holmesoween treat!

 Hey, everybody! Let's all get published!

Yes, yes, you can get something printed in a collection of essays or short stories pretty handily these days. But you know, even the most hungry of editors and publishers have some gateway level of quality and length required, and who has the time, self-esteem, and talent to spend jumping over that bar of entry. Writing is great fun, and you shouldn't have to be good just to practice, let it flow, and just enjoying discovering what words are in your head.  What you do need, most times, is just an excuse!

So here's your excuse.

Our good friend Paul Thomas Miller is publishing Holmesoween short stories on the Doyle's Rotary Coffin site like filling a trick-or-treat bag with candy. There are already eight tales of "terror" out there, having something to do with Sherlock Holmes and/or Doctor Watson, and this being the web, there's room for a whole lot more.

At 2500 words or less (but not even strict about that), and seven more days until the final Holmesoween deadline, you couldn't ask for an easier writing task. We're not talking Nanowrimo, which starts a few days later, and it's 50,000 word goal. Heck, this could even be your Nanowrimo warm-up exercise, if you're planning to hit that. And you don't even have to submit it to Doyle's Rotary Coffin at with your real name attached. Use a pen-name, if you're concerned about ruining your future career as a Pulitzer prize winning novelist or diverging wildly from your expected output on AO3.

The whole point of this Holmesoween writing effort is to have some fun and fill Doyle's Rotary Coffin's trick or treat bag with literary candy. It doesn't have to be good for you at all, just something that brings a moment or two of joy in the giving or the getting.

Because it's HOLMESOWEEN! And writing is fun! Also reading!

That's !

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Universe without the Voice

 The good Paul Thomas Miller has set out another little writing prompt for Doyle's Rotary Coffin -- "Holmesoween" tales for October enjoyment. And, as anyone who reads this blog now and then knows, I can't help but put words together -- furor scribendi, my old neighbor used to call it. But as I set out to come up with something for the DRC this time, I really noticed a problem area I have.

The story I started writing, and may yet finish, was a more traditional pastiche, written as Dr. Watson. It's the path the other three contributors to the project have followed, and it's the more traditional Sherlockian path. These stories are the source of our pleasure, so why not imitate them? Makes perfect sense.

And yet as long as there have been Sherlockians, there has been a struggle to capture Watson's written voice. Something that came so naturally from the original author is nigh impossible to replicate. It's why we're all not Stephen King or Jane Austen or Ernest Hemingway -- every writer's voice is their own.

And yet Sherlockians struggle and struggle to replicate Watson.

During the Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium, one of the speakers raised the question: "Is it easier to write in someone else's fictional world?" Most of those present said "yes." But I suspect the difference between those who said "yes" and those who said "no" was that they were answering different questions.

Is it easier to write a story that takes place in a universe someone else has already fully formed? Well, the mass of work that fills Archive of our Own should answer that question. Of course it is. You can move right to creating the story, without worrying about characters, settings, or timeframe. Writing a story based on a world created by a television show is wonderfully convenient for such work -- you get the world to write in, but no existing prose to compare it too. We don't expect a story to feel exactly the same as watching a TV show or movie, so the writer gets a bit of a break.

Sherlockians, however, have traditionally set themselves an impossible task -- not just writing in the world that Conan Doyle created, but writing in his voice -- Watson's voice -- as well. Why do we torture ourselves so? Even the most successful and skilled among us will still get their best work met by a "Well, it's not Conan Doyle" from some grumpy Gus. It's like our love of those sixties stories has put a curse upon us: "Ne'er will ye write that which ye so desire!"

Fans of Star Trek were never cursed this way. Those who came through the BBC Sherlock door after 2010 have less of this curse upon them. Their Sherlocks get to be mermen or rock stars or whoever they feel like being and their stories wind up being better stories. I mean, I'm sorry if I offend anyone here, but if you take all the BBC Sherlock stories and match them against all the ACD pastiches ever written with some fairly objective way of measuring quality . . . I think the former would win hands down. Their writers did not start the process shackled by trying to speak in a voice not their own.

We're all better when we just write with our own voice. And, yes, mimicking another is a great way to start out in finding your own writer's voice. I couldn't tell you all the times I tried to imitate a writer I admired in voice but not world. Dashiell Hammett, William Goldman, Andrew Vachss . . . the more distinctive a voice one admires, the more one has to try to mimic. And in that case, it's usually attempting to use the voice without borrowing the universe, so no one knows it's fan fic unless both your pen and their reading ear are good enough to communicate style.

Writing is hard at the start, and it's interesting when we choose to make it even harder by trying to do Watson. For Holmesoween, I got lazy, threw Watson out, and just wrote in the universe without his voice. I'll probably go back to my little Watson-voice experiment for the holiday celebration, but, man is that the harder route to go.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Plane trees, wooden gates, and bow windows

One of the problems with being a rabid Sherlockifan like myself is the distraction.

Paul Thomas Miller almost sabotaged the start of my workday with the revelation that he was in agreement with Bonnie MacBird's theory on the location of 221B this morning, and my inner old Sherlockian immediately went "Harrumph, I say! Gray Chandler-Briggs, burfle, burfle, burfle!"

Paul liked Bonnie's evidence of the plane tree in a particular yard, which sent me into researching plane tree longevity and finding that London had its own particular variety of pollution resistant plane trees called "London Plane tree." So you know, head canon immediately gravitates to that one for Mrs. Hudson's backyard tree out of sheer London-loyalty.

Gray Chandler-Briggs, in addition to sounding like a character from TV's Friends, hinged a lot of his own  theory on a wooden gate leading to his theoretical location for Camden House, Moran's chosen sniper post.

Plane tree or wooden gate? And what about that thrice-damned bow window?

And that yellow brickwork across the street with the sun shining so brightly off it that the yellow brick had to be on the west side of the street.

Was 221 Baker Street really 72 Baker Street? 111 Baker Street? 61 Baker Street?

Ah, the simplicity of Watson being wounded in shoulder, leg, both, or neither. Only four options.

Baker Street was a whole street.

And it's a rabbit hole that I've managed to avoid, even though I fell a long way down the chronology one, probably for one reason and one reason only . . . the thing most of the Alices for this particular rabbit hole have in common? They've been to London. The Baker Street that exists there is a real thing to them, as in they've felt the solid pavement under their seats. They believe in London's city plans.

I'm just still not convinced that 221B Baker Street wasn't just 221B Baker Street, and I'll tell you why.

Consider Sherlock Holmes, a man who came to London and went, "I'm not doing into the existing profession of doctor, Scotland Yard inspector, government clerk, musician, artist . . . no, I, Sherlock Holmes am going to create my own unique role in this great metropolis!"

If anyone in the world was going to move into Baker Street and go, "These are nice numbers, but I need to have 221B as my home address. Here's a few extra pounds, Mrs. Hudson, buy two twos and a one and put them on the door. A couple of days and the delivery men will know where we are," it was Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

And, y'know, if I published a book titled Watson Does Not Lie, I might have a little faith in that fellow and his choice to advertise Sherlock Holmes's address in The Strand Magazine as 221B Baker Street.

Of course, I guess we would still have to discover which house on Baker Street that Sherlock Holmes decided to designate as 221. Well, FUUUUUU . . . .

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The room party

 There's a thing that happens at Sherlockian weekends that's never on the program, sometimes planned, sometimes spontaneous, sometimes big, sometimes small . . . the room party.

A few friends decide to gather in someone's hotel room after the official program is over, do a little Sherlockian gossip, and just chat with a few like-minded folk, often into the wee hours. And while our newfound Zoom-based weekend programs have replicated the cocktail hour with some free-form chat rooms, nobody has really come up with a substitute for the room party yet.

Having a private online party might come across as gatekeeping to some, which is a big difference from the "whoever happened to be around" sort of gathering at a hotel-based event. You aren't expected to announce to the whole joint, "Hey, everybody! Party in my room!" because that could just be a disaster. Plus, you've suddenly hit cocktail party level again.

Sooooo, it you're going to the Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium today and you're reading this blog, I'm going to invite you to my room party after the symposium is done. I want to record a little audio for the Watsonian Weekly on the symposium, but the recorder isn't going to be running the whole time, as there are always things to discuss we don't want on the record. I'll be starting my little room party at 8 PM Central Standard Time, and I'll send you the Zoom details if you email me. If you don't know my e-mail address, you can try "podcast at johnhwatsonsociety dot com." (Not making this easy, am I?)

This is something of an experiment, to see if we can get just the right number of folks for a proper post-symposium room party. There's a few hours of cocktail party chat before 8 PM CST, so I don't think most folks will feel the need for more. Heck, nobody at all might show up. I have no idea how many people are going to today's event, what time zone they're in, or who reads this quick enough to know this is going on.

But, hey, that's what make these things fun, right? And we're all still figuring out the tools for remote Sherlockian connection that we'll probably be using long after this pandemic is over.

So, long distance room party? Let's see what happens.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Oh, yes . . . Irene . . .

 One of the most annoying things about the modern comic book industry is multiple covers upon a single issue of a comic book. Have I bought a comic a second time, thinking I missed an issue? Yes. Is my collection of Titan Comics Adler a incoherent mix of variant covers? Yes.

Peoria is not a town where smaller comic titles are well stocked, and something as specialized as Adler has to come in from your pull list to make sure you get it, and you get what you get. The first two issues had as little cover art on the version I got as a 1970s Baker Street Journal. (Really! Just one small silhouette as the only actual art on a tiny part of the cover.)  The third issue's artist had a style that didn't really suit the rest of the book, and the fourth, while closer to the interior art, wasn't the one by the guy who draws the comic itself, which is all I really want from a comic book.

Nobody wants to start reading a comic pissed off, as the form is short enough that it takes one great story to change your mood in the time allotted. And as I can't remember reading issues two or three at this point, this seemed like a good time to sit down and read all four issues of this Irene Adler book.

I remembered Adler as being League of Extraordinary Gentlemen done with literary ladies. Irene doesn't show up until eight pages in, with Miss Havisham introducing battlefield nurse Jane a few pages later after Irene is done beating up one of Moriarty's assassins. Sherlock Holmes and Watson are off in Dartmoor dealing with the hound of the Baskervilles, so it appears Irene and Jane must fill similar roles.

But the tale soon forgets about Sherlock Holmes, veers sharply away from the familiar Holmes Canon, and gives Moriarty an underworld full of Sherlockian and non-Sherlockian crooks . . . until they aren't Moriarty's any more. There's an overabundance of characters in this book, and we see so much of them that if the comic was titled Havisham or Ayeesha, one might not know the difference.

After four issues, I'm still not sure who Irene Adler is, other than "fighting adventure gal" and none of the characters has really stuck. Ayeesha is kind of an evil Victorian Wonder Woman who is very proud of her abs. Miss Havisham comes across as a brothel owner/scientist. And in 2020, you really have to wonder why a comic book full of women from literature and history isn't being done by female creators.

Enola Holmes has come along and set a new bar for Sherlockian spin-offs since Adler first began its action-movie styled run, and, well, you just don't bring in Jack the Ripper in issue two for a cameo and then . . . kind of just ignore him? (They kill a random cabbie a couple of issue later that I think might have been him, but this comic just has a lot of random things going on.)

I don't know if Irene Adler would be helped by a good adaptation at this point, or if we should all just quietly back away and let her lead her happy wedded life with Godfrey Norton. (Who does not appear in Adler, like Sherlock Holmes, btw.) She's been through enough, and a good deal of it in Adler.

An unsung hero of Sherlockian publishing

 We've seen a few Sherlockian publishers come and go. Publishing has never been the best of businesses, and Sherlockian publishing? Not the best of markets. It's a tribute to Wessex Press that they've lasted as long as they have -- probably in part because they didn't start as writers trying to publish their own stuff, as some others have.

We've had the notoriousness of Jack Tracy and the quality of David Hammer, but I don't think either had the importance to Sherlockiana of Magico Magazine, run by Rabbi Samuel Gringras out of New York City. Full disclosure time: Magico published my first three books way back when, but that's not the reason I'm singing his praises this morning.

When Paul Thomas Miller and Rob Nunn got into a Twitter discussion of Moriarty as a horse, it immediately put me in mind of Robert S. Morgan's "Spotlight On A Simple Case, or Wiggins, Who was That Horse I Saw With You Last Night," a privately printed monograph from 1959. These days you can find it on AbeBooks for fifty bucks. In the 1980s, though? Good luck!

Yet I have a copy of this rarity due to Magico Magazine reprinting it during the 1980s.

While Magico did print a goodly number of new things, like my own magnum opus of my beginning years, one of the best things they did for us was making all those rare classics of Sherlockiana available in reprint form. Without their work, the field of Sherlockian chronology would be practiced by even fewer than practice it now. (Would that be a good or bad thing? I'm not sure.) 

Mysterious Press would come along and later reprint some of our hobby's classic books, but the little monographs and things like Julian Wolff's maps weren't anything a book publisher would touch. Items like that Morgan monograph would never have been seen by most Sherlockians just twenty years later without Magico's sizable catalog of works. Their main output may have been books on stage magic, a field where the enthusiasts might even by more ardent than Sherlockians (and able to attain a little more fame and fortune in their top tier), but we never got slighted in Magico's output.

The publisher had its critics -- all publishers do, working with such a sometimes persnickety breed as writers, but they provided a service to Sherlockiana that few have matched. Were I to have to choose between all of Magico's reprints and all of the BSI manuscript series, I would have to say I'd definitely take the former, as prestigious as the latter might be. They've been an important resource in my Sherlockian life since they came out, one I might not have otherwise had, putting so much into circulation that otherwise might have been reserved for the wealthy or determined few.

There were those who used to xerox old Sherlockian stuff and quietly pass those pirated copies among their friends, even going so far as to bind the xeroxes like a book if they had the resources. Sherlockians are a hungry breed. But occasionally someone sets us out a fine table to feast upon, and Magico Magazine was one of those someones. And for that, I think they deserve a great many more plaudits than they have gotten to date, but hopefully that day will come. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

How important is Sherlock Holmes?

Let's  start with a statement that might be a bit controversial:

One thing any fan does, from the most sticker-laden convention-goer to the most footnoting academic, is  to exaggerate the importance level of their chosen fandom over the other parts of life. 

Of course, I'm not talking about you or me, just those folks. You know the ones.

We can get a bit carried away. 

Over the last century, Sherlockiana has been lightly compared to a religion time after time. We have our sacred text. We let our following of Holmes makes certain life choices. We have our little "cults" and, definitely, our fanatics. Yet none of us would outright say "It's definitely a religion!" because we know, in our hearts, that Sherlock Holmes was a story created by a man named A. Conan Doyle, not a messiah.

And yet, the parallels between our hobby and a religion are often useful. For example, when debates over religious freedom come up, the same arguments apply to controversial Sherlockian topics. Does our Sherlockian fervor allow us to freely have a negative impact in the lives of other people?

Can you be a real jerk, but it's okay because you're such a devout Sherlockian?

It's an interesting question, as our community, like many a church, is welcoming and accepting. We often welcome and tolerate Sherlockians whose social skills might be appalling enough to get them rejected from a normal social circle. They scratch their back with a fork at the dinner table or persistently smell of unchanged cat litter, and yet no one tells them they can't come to our banquets or meetings. But in that tolerance, we often have tolerated assholery along with the merely off-putting. Because . . . well, Sherlock Holmes.

As Sherlock Holmes, his legend, and lore all serve as a necessary diversion in our lives, we can become a little too diverted. We can dive our head into that rabbit hole like a cartoon ostrich and lessen the noise that's just too loud around us. And that's okay at times. We need that for our mental health.

Burrowing into our personal Sherlockian lairs has become an effective tool in a time when we need to limit contact to protect our communities from the spread of a pandemic, I think. The percentage of Sherlockians struck down by Covid might hopefully be less than the general populace due to our bookish natures? I don't know. But even if that were the case, we still have to use those Sherlockian powers for good.

We have to pay attention to people and things that aren't Sherlock Holmes related. This may seem like a really stupid statement to the average person, but for some of us? Well, speaking as someone with two Sherlockian podcasts, a blog, a journal to edit, and a book in the works . . . occasionally I need a splash of cold water or a friendly hand from outside the Sherlockian world to pull me out of my burrow and engage the rest of the world.

Was there a point that this little morning ramble was coming to? If there was when it started, I don't remember it now. But I will say this, if you haven't heard it enough already:

Figure out how you're going to vote, if you're American, and get out and then do it. If there was ever a moment to forget about Sherlock for long enough to get a thing done, this is it.