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. 

1 comment:

  1. I liked 'Holmes and Watson' better than some other Sherlockian movies - but I know you wouldn't debate this.