Saturday, March 27, 2021

SPOILER POST -- The Irregulars on Netflix

" I may not be the hero of the story any more, John. But I can at least help."

-- Sherlock Holmes, Netflix's The Irregulars

"I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."

-- John Watson, Netflix's The Irregulars

Okay, let's get down to business. Don't read this unless you've already watched all of The Irregulars on Netflix, or are silly enough to decide you're just not going to. While it might seem like a tale of five teenagers, supernatural shit, and a topcoat of Sherlock Holmes brushed over it, there's a lot of deeper stuff here, and stuff that hits at the core of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson.

So stop right here, because I'm immediately getting into it.

I loved the story that The Irregulars had to tell, and I loved it as a Sherlockian most of all.

The Irregulars is a tale of people broken by love and loss. John Watson's love and loss.

This Watson has no interest in any Mary Morstans. He loves Sherlock Holmes, completely.

So when Sherlock falls in love with a woman named Alice (which is straight out of William Gillette's play, an excellent touch) and the three of them face a crisis where John must help Sherlock save Alice, but is too focused on saving his own love to do the job, everyone loses.

Sherlock loses his love. As he disappears into his broken, drugged state, John loses Sherlock. Sherlock's daughter and step-daughter lose any chance at traditional home and family. The hill that The Irregulars climbs is dealing with every part of those losses, while dealing with the villains created by and taking advantage of that situation, a situation entirely created by John H. Watson.

Even though, as always, Watson isn't the focal point of this story, he is the spark that ignites the fire of the plot, and, in the end, literally the steady hand that says, "You aren't alone against this."

It's a John Watson story that way. The Irregulars, formed in the ashes of a failed previous team of Irregulars, are about a group of people supporting each other and holding life together in ways they could not alone. Yes, the story has monsters and magic, but that's just the set-dressing for that heart-felt core of the story this show tells. Anyone who says "This isn't a Sherlock Holmes story!" has never thought long and hard about the subtitle of Christopher Morley's 1944 Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship. Yes, Sherlock Holmes is the flashy attention-getting part of the team, but is Watson and the friendship he brings that creates the Sherlockian Canon itself.

And by putting that relationship at the core of its story, The Irregulars becomes a Sherlock Holmes story more true than many a cold pastiche of observation and deduction. Somebody thought about this for a while, and it shows.

I don't know if The Irregulars will be popular enough for a sequel, or what that story would be. It certainly won't have Sherlock Holmes in it. But John H. Watson finding a new friend, a next generation Sherlock (or Sherlocks) to commit to, seems to give his character a place to grow in a second season. Like many a current series that tells its story in one arc, there's always the question of where the characters go when the story they were originally built to exist in is done. Do they have other stories to tell?

The Irregulars just might. John Watson definitely does, as ever.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Mandatory blog post on Netflix's "The Irregulars"

 Bea, Jessie, Billy, Spike, and Leo . . . the new Irregulars.

No Wiggins, Cartwright, Simpson, no last names at all. And they were all a lot younger and cartoonier in the Dark Horse comic upon which it is based. 

Beatrice is the lead Irregular, the detective, the main character, if there is one, hired by an arsehole of a John Watson, to use Paul Thomas Miller's perfect word for him, to investigate supernatural crime. Billy and Leo are the romantic interests for Bea, the brawn and the knowledge. Jessie sees visions.

As much Stranger Things, X-Files, and Lovecraft Country as Sherlockian Canon. The closest predecessor is probably the Downey Sherlock Holmes, if it actually turned out that Lord Blackwood was supernatural. Except this isn't a Sherlock Holmes story at all. This is the story of Bea and her friends. Sherlock Holmes is just another mystery to chase, with Watson blocking their path.

As I made my way through it, and saw darker versions of all our usual Canonical friends appearing one by one, it started to see like a "Mirror, Mirror" universe to that of Sherlock Holmes, to use the classic Star Trek trope. And indeed it is. Where Sherlock Holmes's world is one of science and logic, the universe of these Irregulars is one of magic and monsters . . . a reversed image.

First names instead of last names. Magic instead of science. Watson more dominant than Holmes. 

Yes, these Irregulars are not anything close to Holmes's Baker Street urchins. But there's something worthwhile here. And some new things to explore about the old and familiar.

Oh, wait . . . there are unseen Cartwrights here, working for Mrs. Hudson. And an Alice that I think may have come with Hatty Doran from San Francisco. At least that's the way my headcanon is starting to weave it.

Of course, I'm only halfway through . . . .

Thursday, March 25, 2021

A pre-show guide to dealing with "Irregulars" haters

 As one of the world's biggest Holmes and Watson fans and a person who quietly is still on the other side of the Elementary fence, it seemed appropriate, on the eve of Netflix's The Irregulars, to ponder what's about to come from the haters in our ranks. You know they're out there. We've already heard pre-judgement from numerous opinionated sorts on the Zoom calls. So what does a Sherlockian do with such folk?

The easiest to ignore of the haters is the "I'm proud to say I've never watched a minute of it" hater. It's the sort of statement that practically has no natural response. "Good for you!" seems like a sort of bad faith pandering. "How do you . . . " -- well, that statement isn't even worth finishing. It's just a very confusing statement. 

How anyone in Sherlockiana can go "I neither see nor observe but can solve the case anyway" sort of statement is beyond me, so we just ignore those haters as irrelevant and move on.

Next we come to the hater who uses the "It's not Canon!" line. But even the [Cue heavenly choir] Granada Holmes had revisions like John Clay being a part of Moriarty's scheme's during its most faithful moment, and as sad as Jeremy Brett's later illness what, Mycroft Holmes with x-ray vision was still a part of that series. The Canon is a book. If it's not the book, it's not Canon. Let's move on to specifics.

Those who hate the supernatural tone? Hmmm. The Hound of the Baskervilles. Supernatural scares are Canon, even if their solutions might have been more mundane. Sherlock Holmes stories can be scary.

Sherlock Holmes doesn't look right. Sherlock Holmes doesn't talk right. Sherlock Holmes is Will Ferrell. Y'know, casting is something we can quibble on. But you can't hate a whole production for one actor in one role . . . unless your fandom's name has that one role specifically identified. "Sherlock"ians do have a certain leeway to be picky about Sherlocks. Although at this point, I would hope we've learned that everybody gets their own Sherlocks, and you just leave them alone about it. You don't constantly tell your pals, "YOUR SPOUSE IS UGLY. I WOULD NEVER HAVE MARRIED THAT SPOUSE!" No, we must allow for our own Sherlocks, just as we allow for any other personal choice of relationship.

Yet there will be haters, some just because they want their existence acknowledged, some of actual ill intent. But the best way to deal with haters? Don't defend. Praise.

Praise hard.

During my days as an Elementary hater, one of the things that seemed to justify my hate the most was the fact that the initial fans could not tell me what reason they had for liking the show. I had a thousand reasons for hating it, but it seemed like I would rarely get praise of the show in rebuttal. There was the simple "But I like it!" response, which wasn't something one could argue with, but didn't help the pro-Elementary cause. And then there was the "But Sherlock isn't that great!" which the drag-the-other-fellow-into-the-mud rather than just being better approach that politicians have loved of late. Neither of those will put a hater off their game, trust me on this.

If you really like something, the best game to play with haters is to ponder why you like it and double down on those facts. Because they are facts. Reverse the positions of the previous paragraph and let the haters go "But I don't like it!" while you just gush joy back at them. Offense has always been the best defense. And a joyful, laughing offense doesn't just defend, it invites.

I have been living happily as a fan of Holmes and Watson for years now, embracing its every flaw, double-loving its every perfect move. And while I haven't won over too many of the staunch haters, it does bring one's fellow fans out from their Munchkinland homes just the same as if you dropped a house on a bad witch and had the good witch call "All clear."

So I wanted to put this essay out there, just to prepare everyone, in case I watch The Irregulars on Netflix tomorrow and turn into a were-hater once more, without having properly chained myself in the basement. I don't think I will, but you just never know, do you? Never been a big fan of heavily druggie Holmes, but being more heavily Watsonian than in past debuts, I'm hoping to counter that bias with a good, action Watson.

As the song says, "It's only a day awaaaaayyyyy . . ."

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Sherlock Holmes, the mantra

 Sherlock Holmes is a gift the universe has given us, I think every Sherlockian knows that. Conan Doyle gets the lion's share of the official credit, but so many of us have come to Sherlock through the efforts of other creators over the years, though, that I have to spread the appreciation out. No matter what you think of an individual Sherlock Holmes pastiche or film, somewhere out there was a person whose Sherlockian switch got flipped by that Holmes. While I publicly credit Billy Wilder for starting my Holmes journey, there was a Manly Wade Wellman turning point that may have been critical to that trip, and, hoo boy, let's not get into that pastiche.

But there is much more to the gift that is Sherlock Holmes than just a guy in a deerstalker running around with Watson. Sherlock Holmes brings so many other things to our lives when he walks in. For some, it's discovering a love of history. For others, it's a motivation to do more art. For me, it's the writing.

At this point, it seems like I'm writing every day. It may not be as visible as if I was blog-posting every day, as it gets scattered out among podcast script, newsletter bits, the occasional article, and always . . . always . . . those books that may or may not ever reach fruition and readers. And the current running underneath all of it, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, giving me something to write about.

Writing isn't something you really see as a thing -- you see the results of the writing. The process itself is something that happens privately. I've never been the sort of writer than gathers in a coffee shop or library for a group writing event like Nanowrimo encourages, with rare exceptions, like a late night 221B Con fic workshop. Writing has become more like a meditation for me, putting the thoughts in order, a practice that has worth even without eventual readers. And I owe that practice to Sherlock Holmes.

At the meeting of the Sherlockians of Baltimore last Saturday, Monica Schmidt spoke on mindfulness and learning to focus amid the chaos and attention-pulling distractions of life, and how Sherlock Holmes was a practitioner of same. And you can find some really good quotes in the Canon about focus. One of my favorites has always been "It is a singular thing, but I find that a concentrated atmosphere helps a concentration of thought" from The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sherlock liked filling a room with smoke, and when I was writing The Elementary Methods of Sherlock Holmes I tested out filling a room with light to see if that had a similar effect. (Hard to say if it really did, or I just went along with the thought and made it work.) But Sherlock himself helps us focus, just by being Sherlock.

Sherlock Holmes is almost like a mantra in human form. Instead of a word or sound used to aid concentration for meditation or focus, he gives us a mental target to pull our thoughts and abilities to a certain headspace. Vincent Starrett romantically referred to it as the place "where it is always 1895," but in truth, that Sherlock Holmes space isn't a point in history or an alternate universe. It's a mental state we come back to in ourselves, using our own tools and tastes, whether it is writing or watching actors do their thing or socializing with fellow Sherlockians. "Sherlock Holmes" is the password that takes us through the door into that particular mindscape.

The universe, working through Conan Doyle, Jeremy Brett, or even Manly Wade Wellman, gave us a gift in Sherlock Holmes, and sometimes I suspect it's a larger gift than I can even fully realize.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Do we need a director's non-cut?

 There's a particular movie with a particular fan base that gets its "director's cut" remake re-release today. Left to his own devices, said director made the thing a crazy four hours long. Same story, just two hours longer, a bit similar to when an author like King or Rowling becomes so successful that no editor or publisher dares tell them to trim a golden word of what becomes a massive tome.

Which brings us to Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, released in 1970. Originally a three hour and twenty minutes film, the studio insisted Wilder trim it to two hours and five minutes. Which brings up the classic "How dare the studio interfere in an artist's vision!"

Private Life is, perhaps, my favorite Sherlock Holmes film, even though Holmes and Watson has made that question debatable in recent years. The quest to see as much of that missing hour and fifteen minutes as possible had me buying a laser disc without a laser disc player back in the day, and getting a friend to video tape the disc's output. And I really enjoy those cut scenes, they're complete little stories in themselves. But as much as I enjoy the movie and the scenes, do I think they would have made it a more viable product when released to movie theaters?

Even a fan has to be realistic at some point.

I love seeing movies in the theater, and pre-pandemic went to at least one per weekend, often more. But a three hour and twenty minute theatrical experience sets a bar for movie quality that very few ever reach. While The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes at that full length might be a treat for Sherlock Holmes fans, I'm pretty sure that burden would have been too much to bear for an average movie-goer, given the film's light tone, not-so-complex theme, and small basic cast. If I weren't a Holmes fan, I doubt I would have invested the time in it, if it came out in a theater at that length.

The landscape has changed now, with streaming services that allow us to stop a movie, take as much time as we need to do whatever in our lives (even go to work for a few days) and come back to start up where we left off. An extra long movie can become a mini-series by our choice, whatever the director's intent. Private Life has some natural break points that would have made it perfect for an extra-long streaming version. It was ahead of its time that way, and perhaps in 2020, during a pandemic, Holmes fans could have rallied an effort to get Billy Wilder to put it back together for HBO Max.

But such was not the case back in 1970. And maybe that's not the worst thing, as much as I love that film. Like a stopped clock that's right twice a day, studios do occasionally get it right.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The problem with Sherlockian debate

 We don't have much debate in Sherlockiana these days, and that's probably for the best.

Now, I don't mean disagreement, as Sherlockians do disagree, fight, etc. on occasion. But a spirited debate that leaves both parties uninjured and all entertained? Maybe I'm missing something, but it doesn't seem to happen much.

And I have a theory as to why we don't see much true debate in our circles these days: It's because Sherlock Holmes is a creature of both fact and fiction.

As someone whose debate skills were not acquired in a formal, rule-based debating society, but just from having siblings, my quiver contains a few arrows that a proper debater shouldn't have, and one of those is simply "just making things up" just to keep the argument going. Ah, siblings.

Yes, yes, that would make me a fine politician in today's environment, but it's not something one does in a place where one wants to keep friends if you're debating someone who passionately loves their facts. And that's what we have filling up our Sherlockian world, people who love facts and, as well, people who love making things up. It's what makes the classic grand game so grand, but it can also be a friction point that goes a little beyond the usual "I didn't like Elementary!" "Well, I thought Sherlock sucked!" exchange.

Back to my point, aside from those always-distracting TV Sherlocks, Sherlockiana is a fandom that started while the author was still alive, with some playful pop culture fun and a bit of nostalgia for an era people remembered from their youth, and eventually evolved into something with the words "literature" and "history" giving one the ability to take it very, very seriously in an academic setting. And academia likes its facts and footnoted sources.

Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are somewhere on the internet with alternate biologies making babies together. We're still making things up as we go, too. The best of Sherlockiana has always been that juncture of the two: Taking well-researched historical data and adding enough imagination to make it fun. That's the place where Sherlock Holmes actually lives, in the Victorian era and our imaginations.

Sherlockiana is actually about the harmonious existence of fact and fiction in the same space. Sure, we may focus on one some days more than others, but the two cannot really duke it out without spoiling the party. So is there even anything left to debate, anyway?

Well, the existence of the film Holmes and Watson has made all "best Sherlock" arguments moot. The silly old "Watson was a woman" thing is now "Yeah, so what?" And . . . well, Sherlockian chronology is still out there available for debate, but even among chronologists we've become very much "You do you, I'll do me." So I don't know if we have much left to debate.

If you find something, let me know. I'd love to get into a good spirited debate. But, I'll warn you ahead of time: I will definitely start making things up. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021


 Late in 1893, Sherlock Holmes died and nothing happened.

There are legends, rumors, certainly. Young businessmen in black armbands. And a few facts with evidence to back them up. A writer named John Kendrick Bangs put Sherlock Holmes into the afterlife. A playwright named Charles Rodgers wrote a play.

On January 15, 2012, Sherlock Holmes died and things rolled out a little differently.

In 1893, there was only one story, one Sherlock Holmes. And he was dead.

In 2012, there were already multiple Sherlock Holmeses when the core Sherlock Holmes died. And the creators of all those other Sherlocks knew that the death of the 1893 Sherlock Holmes was a lie.

And more Sherlocks were created.

The difference between 1893 and 2012 tells us something about more than just Sherlock Holmes. Because Sherlock Holmes didn't change. Humanity did.

As much as we like to think our Sherlock is in a little box of Canon, living on, immortal and unchanged, nothing could be further from the truth. Even that Sherlock Holmes we first encountered, the one each of us loves best, does not stay the same in our own heads as we move through the years. Other Sherlocks, our own life experiences, it all shapes the edges of that Sherlock and paints his surfaces with new shades of color.

If you watch Sherlock Holmes closely enough, you can actually see humanity reflected and omens of what is to come. Remember when Johnlock didn't come about in a certain television show and the denial ran so deep? Lines up with a certain 2020 election, doesn't it? Sherlockians interacting with Sherlock practically become an indicator of trends in human behavior. 

Sherlock Holmes has become so much more than Sherlock Holmes.

We know that. Yet I don't know that we're even capable of seeing the entirety of what he is, especially from the inside of our Sherlockian bubble. We can see him better than those who stand at a distance, or are looking another direction. But we also like to think our bubble has edges to it . . . as one can see by my even calling it a "bubble." Sherlock Holmes is in the human world, running through its cultural veins, in parts of our culture where we don't even know it is.

In an age where much attention is given to pronouns, we don't often think of Sherlock Holmes as an "it," that most insulting of pronouns in its object-ness, but the larger thing that is Sherlock Holmes, not just the character from a book, not just the role on the screen, that larger thing is an it. A great big, Lovecraftian, unimaginable "it."

One doesn't like to think of our little fuzzy puppy of a Sherlock in that larger form, that "it" beyond all knowing. And maybe it's best if we don't. Glimpsing it every now and then is probably enough. We never want to look too hard in the mirror.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Your Holmesian Hug questions answered!

International "Hug A Holmesian" Day is tomorrow, Thursday, March 11th. Get ready!

 In a last minute attempt to be like blog-interviewer Rob Nunn, I ignored the six hour time difference between the US and the UK, and harassed a sleepy Paul Thomas Miller, the world's foremost expert on the holiday with some questions. He did his best to fight off sleep and answer, so here you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about International "Hug A Holmesian" Day if you only got to ask questions that I made up:

1. Has Hug A Homesian Day an official policy for masking, vaccinations, and other conditions for hugging during These Unprecedented Times?

This year the International Hug-A-Holmesian Day celebrations will mostly be taking place online. Fortunately, providing you have anti-virus installed, internet hugs are perfectly safe. Where Holmesians share a bubble, it may be possible for Real Life Hugs, but this is not to be encouraged. That's how trouble starts.

2. I note that it is "Hug a Holmesian" and not "Shag a Sherlockian." Does the old thought of "Holmesians" being British and "Sherlockians" being American affect who we should target our hugs at? And has the holiday committee identified a day for shagging Sherlockians?
There has never been an International Shag-a-Sherlockian Day. At one point March 12th was destined to become Shove-A-Sherlockian day, but had to be cancelled due to the frailness of typical Sherlockians.
The festival is very much an International affair. Americans (who, I understand, in many ways are just like real people) are encouraged to join in the fun, but to refrain from using the incorrect term "Sherlockian" for just one day.

3. What is the status of fans of Oliver Wendell Holmes or Katie Holmes on Hug A Holmesian Day? Hugs or no hugs?
To steal a motto from The Baker Street Babes "All Holmes are good Holmes." Apart, possibly, for Henry Howard Holmes.

4. Are bears allowed to participate in Hug A Holmesian Day?
I can't see a single good reason why not. I encourage all Holmesians to go hug a bear. From what I've seen of Paddington, Rupert and Winnie The Pooh, it should be fine.

5. Since the curse of the Baskervilles began with non-consensual hugs from Sir Hug-o, is there a danger that hounds from hell will visit those who practice non-consensual hugs on Hug A Holmesian Day?
As a general rule, it is perfectly fine to practice non-consensual hugging online, but it is not a very good idea in Real Life. Be sure to get Real Life consent from Holmesians and bears before Real Life hugging them.

6. Are Hall Pycroft half-night self-hugs acceptable on Hug A Holmesian Day, or does hugging end at sundown?
International Hug-A-Holmesian Day runs from midnight to midnight, local time. Any hugging of Holmesians on 12th March is rendered null and void.

7. Is there a particular food or beverage associated with Hug A Holmesian Day?
This varies by region, but I understand the French invented the ring doughnut specifically to be used to hug engineers' thumbs every March 11th.

8. What is the current record for the largest number of Holmesians hugged by a given individual on Hug A Holmesian Day?
The day is usually filled with such carnage and abandonment of reason that no official count has ever been made. However, one photograph found in London Library Archives clearly shows an orangutan in a deerstalker hugging four sailors at the same time.

9. Is there any hope of a Hug A Holmesian Day festival one day?
No. Or yes.

So there you go. "Hug A Holmesian" Day, a day of hope and dreams, and hopefully warm acceptance from 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Disputatious about his "dispute"

 When reading the Sherlock Holmes stories over and over and over again, one of the most remarkable things is the way one can see new things with each reading. Even after decades of trying to squeeze all the juice from this sixty-story fruit, it seems like I'm perpetually seeing something new. But is that due to changes in the words themselves or changes in me? I have to think it's the latter.

The latest instance of this occurred when "Cardboard Box" was the topic at the meeting of the Crew of the Barque Lone Star. The opening, with Holmes's mind-reading trick, came into focus and I looked at the words: "You are right,  Watson. It does seem a most preposterous way of settling a dispute."

And what was Sherlock Holmes referring to? The American Civil War. 

Yes, war is horrible. Yes, there are better ways to solve issues. But the American Civil War was fought over one issue at its core: The legal right to enslave human beings.

Suddenly Holmes's "a most preposterous way of settling a dispute" seemed far too flip, far too removed from the reality of what the subject he was using just to play a trick on his room-mate. I didn't really like Sherlock Holmes in that moment.

Those of us who weren't schooled in the culture of the Southern states also felt a bit gross over fellow Sherlockians who chose that moment to knee-jerk toss out the "No, it was the war of Northern aggression!" like that was a real ha-ha funny. It's getting very hard to take a joke that basically tries to deny historical abuse of a people.

As a person over sixty, I'm very aware of how hard it is to see something we've thought or done our entire lives as something that's no longer appropriate. Lord, the amount of unrealized misogyny built into my aged head at this point is amazing, as came out this weekend during a watch of "Coming 2 America" with the good Carter, who had a very different opinion of the movie than I did. It's so easy to just go "this is how it's always been, so why is there a problem?" "Why should I feel bad about this now?"

Younger Sherlockians discussing the Sherlock Holmes stories are always bringing up issues in the stories that slid by us in the 1970s and 1980s. Folks like Italians and South Americans take some pretty stereotypical insults in the stories, but at least they get to come and play. Asians, South Pacific folks, and anyone with skin beyond a certain shade barely get to be people in the stories, despite the one time a white guy warmly picks up his wife's daughter from another marriage.

The words of the Canon don't change. We change. 

Getting the results of one of those DNA ancestry tests back this weekend showed me that I am pre-disposed to love the Sherlock Holmes stories on a genetic level. England, Scotland, the Netherlands . . . so much Northern European there that the people of the Canon might as well be my relatives. I might have certain biases for letting Watson's little slights of those born elsewhere off the hook. But it's 2021 now, and just like we now find it a little incomprehensible that America's primary Sherlock fan club didn't admit women to its meetings just a little over thirty years ago, our attitudes towards some other bits and pieces of the hobby change as well.

Growth is a good thing. And we are still a growing hobby, even now.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

The spot where Sherlock Holmes stood

I have a little puzzle for my Sherlockian site experts out there.

When visiting downtown Indianapolis on a trip long past, the good Carter and I had the chance to go to Monument Circle and climb the towering Soldiers and Sailors Monument there. Inside that aged edifice's little observation deck at the top, the small space once visited by Arthur Conan Doyle makes one realize a rather significant thing: At some point, you have to be standing where Doyle himself once stood. It's too small a space to miss doing so, if you move around at all.

That experience made me wonder something more elusive. With all the Sherlockian sites that we know exist, and we know Holmes was at during a given case, Simpson's, Bart's, etc., is there any place in London or elsewhere that you can go to and know, yes, this is a spot where Sherlock Holmes himself once stood!

Cumberbatch's Holmes, yes, you can do that. Other TV and cinema Holmeses as well, I'm sure. But the Canonical original? Is there a place we can definitely say he stood?

As I write this, my mind left England and has started to wonder about that precipice at Reichenbach Falls. Is that the best option? It surely seems like his native land would hold at least one site, and you don't have to go all the way to the place Watson (and surely one or two Moriarty brothers) thought was the scene of a great tragedy. And London would seem to have to hold some such space.

Perhaps the best candidate for a spot Holmes occupied would be the door to a building or room. While be could be or not be anywhere in a decently sized room, everyone has to pass through the same doors. What a great photo collection that would be, too! Doors Sherlock Holmes passed though, with you yourself standing in each one. We really don't give doors the credit they deserve, do we, just taking them for granted.

Doorlock Holmes is a character in some Lego thing, I see, after searching for Daffy Duck's incarnation, which was spelled "Dorlock" in "Deduce You Say." But "Doorlock" would also make the nice name for the practice of taking pictures of doors Sherlock went through, or studying same. (Oooo, he had to touch the knobs, too, didn't he?)

Any other ideas on places one can specifically say that Sherlock Holmes took up space? (And if you want to be the wag and say "He didn't because he was as fake as WWE wrestling!" well, I'm sure there are some very muscular sorts that would like to talk to you, as they do when such things are said.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Why is Sherlockian chronology so much fun?

Getting a major project over and done is always a relief, and the start of the next thing can be a lot of fun. But the choice of next thing for me this January was one of those aspects of Sherlockiana that has long haunted me, more of a feeling of obligation to finish something than just a choice for pure fun. Having purged myself of my 1980s demons with a book on the subject, it was time to deal with Sherlockian chronology, what seems on the surface like one of the more boring topics in the entire hobby.

"I find any chronology the stupidest sort of reading among the writings about The Writings," James Montgomery wrote in 1953, and I can't say I disagree with him entirely. Maybe not the stupidest, but the one that's the least fun to read. Sherlockian chronology is not a niche for those whose joy is reading alone. Not stupid in its content, perhaps, but stupid as a choice of reading material.

So why dive into it, assemble chronology Avengers into a Sherlockian Chronologist Guild, and start putting out a monthly PDF newsletter on the subject, which many, like Montgomery, might consider "the stupidest sort of reading?"

Because the fun in Sherlockian chronology isn't in the watching the sport, so much as getting down on the field and playing. You have to have a certain sort of mind, I suspect, one that likes to put things in order and obsess over small details. The serious Sherlockian chronologist is probably not your cocktail party gadabout, as they're probably going to go quiet into their own thoughts at a given moment and leave the conversation. (I'm guessing and stereotyping here, so don't take this as a hard-set opinion.)

But what is any part of Sherlockiana other than an entertainment to take us away from our day-to-day troubles? 

This week, I had a little bit of a tooth issue for a few days, and I noticed in that time, I was having some real fun working with the chronology of a couple of cases and all the thoughts on those cases from past chronologies. The chance to deep dive into such a simple part of the Canon, ignoring everything but the line of time itself, was the perfect thing. In an era that stimulates attention deficit at every opportunity, finding a focal point to anchor one's self for a time . . . well, that's a genuine treat.

Walking through the writings of John H. Watson with the slow deliberation that serves chronology best seems. to serve as an antidote to the hyperactive consumption of media that's so easy to fall into, multi-tasking with things like binge-watching a TV show while playing a video game and having a text conversation, all at the same time. And, personally, I find pleasure in that alterative, as Watson might call it.

Sherlockian chronology isn't fun like fun things are fun, if that makes any sense. But there is something joyful to be found there at the right moment. And I seem to be having that moment right now.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The mystery of Cadogan West

 It struck me like a bolt of lightning tonight that we have a very curious crime in our Sherlockian Canon, and a flash of insight zoomed into my brain. So listen.

Technical papers are stolen from the Woolwich Arsenal from a secret government project that will give the British Empire elemental superiority. We are told that it was all about a submarine, something that history tells us failed and failed again for the British Navy of that time. Of course, why would Mycroft Holmes, or that government that he was imbedded in the heart of, allow a detective story writer reveal such secrets just over a decade later? Wouldn't Watson just substitute some other mildly futuristic-seeming secret for the real deal?

And what if the submarine was that substitute secret?

And what if the true secret was something much more incredible, and the crime that took place an even higher level of incredible?

Cadogan West, it seems at first, was thrown from a train. "It could only have come from a train," the old railway man at the scene says. West's head is crushed as if by a horrible impact born of speed.

Cadogan West was a man keeping a secret from his fiancee, Violet Westbury. And on the night in question, she says, very specifically, "Suddenly he darted away into the fog."

He darted away. 

Now, I'm sure by now there are a few among the readership who are picking up traces of where I'm going with this. Secret researches and experiment. A man whose last name is West who speedily dashes away from his fiancee upon seeing something she doesn't. And a family line with connections and enemies who are known for traveling through time to change history by eliminated key turning points.

Yes, I'm going to say that Violet Westbury might have been pregnant at the time her fiancee died. And in keeping that matter socially acceptable, moving somewhere else as a widow named "Violet West" would have made perfect sense. Her child grew up, had a child of their own, and so onward . . . until we get to a young man named Wallace West.

Here's the point where anyone who is not into DC comic book continuity is apt to be leaving this essay. Thanks for letting me tease you along this far, have a nice rest of your web surfing. Because I'm about to say that Cadogan West was the ancestor of Kid Flash (later the Flash proper, successor to Barry Allen), and that the government resource that Mycroft was having Watson call "submarine" was actually the speed force, and that Cadogan West was the first Victorian speedster, killed, not by a spy, but by a speedster from the future named Zoom who hoped to end Wally West's bloodline right after it first picked up a connection to the speed force.

It fits all the patterns one sees time and again in Flash comics: A speed force connection being passed on from generation to generation. Villains who like to alter the timeline. And while traditional lore might try to say that Wally West just happened to get hit by the same random chemicals and lightning bolt as his eventual uncle Barry, after finding himself drawn to the Flash for years before, it makes more sense that the speed force was always in that West line, just waiting to be triggered again after Cadogan West being a part of that long-before government experiment.

Cadogan West being killed in a super-speed battle by a more experienced speedster from the future is a crime that Sherlock Holmes could never hope to solve -- or admit the truth of, if he did solve it. Spies would serve the story, as would the submarine, when Watson wrote it up, and the British government's experiments in hyper-acceleration of the human body would remain a secret, and a secret process destroyed by that same villain from the future as well.

There are a lot of histories out there, and one never knows which ones will rub up against the Sherlockian Canon so nicely. If it turns out a "Flash-y" one does, I think I'm okay with that.