This morning, I subscribed to a year of Sherlock Holmes Magazine for fifty-eight dollars and seven cents. A reasonable price for a big, glossy, well-written magazine coming all the way from Great Britain, but at the same time, spending that much on a periodical always gives me pause. Not that long ago, I remember having to make the decision to forego a year of The Baker Street Journal due to a post-Christmas budget crunch, even though I'm a fairly successful member of the tail-end-of-the-Boomer generation.
I look at that luxury item I just bought, realize how many of the other Sherlockians who will be buying it come from a generation that didn't have to take out something like a home loan just to attend college, many of whom got no-longer-existing retirement packages that let them quit working in their fifties, and that doesn't even include those folks in our realm who inherited enough from their folks to go full-geek early on. I know, I know, most of us have jobs, earning what's available at the time we're living in, but if I look at all the Sherlocking I did in my twenties, like subscribing to every single Sherlockian journal available, and try to imagine doing that now?
Hard enough to imagine living the lifestyle of my 1980s Sherlockian self in the 2020s with four times the income . . . but if I was at the relative income level of my 1980s self now? No way would I be living the Sherlockian life I had then.
Sherlockiana is a bubble of sorts, where we have always intermingled with folks from all walks of life, and it's easy to think, "Oh, Sherlockiana is the same as it's always been," when, like every other part of the world, it's slowly evolving. Sometimes so slowly that we can pretend it's staying the same.
Should membership in a Sherlockian society be based upon the subscription price to a journal that might have been the ambitious project of the well-off Sherlockian that started it? That's a question I've raised and will be raising with the John H. Watson Society, as I think we need to start taking economics into account as we move forward as Sherlockians. You might not think that the game is rigged, that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, or that folks like Jeff Bezos raise their income by taking income away from the middle class and below. You may think that even suggesting that idea is "politics," the word for any part of reality there might be room to debate. But our little bubble of Sherlockiana isn't an air-tight biodome or terrarium. The outside world affects us.
It's easy to take pot-shots at country club Sherlockians who think that an annual trip to New York is the baseline cost for being in their club. But sometimes we have to step back and look at our own parts of the hobby, and how generational wealth might be tilting things toward a certain market of buyers rather than actually spreading the legend of Sherlock Holmes far and wide as we might prefer.
The game may be afoot, but I'm sure we'd rather it wasn't fixed, wherever the opportunity to even up the playing field can exist. There's enough corruption and bad-actor gamesmanship in the outside world right now working against our younger Sherlockians, so opening doors wherever we can, making things more affordable wherever we can, in events and publications, is probably something we should think about.
Especially in a hobby based around two guys who had to share rooms because they couldn't afford to live without each other.