There should be no doubt that 221B Con is one of my great Sherlockian event-loves, especially if you've ever read this blog in pre-pandemic springtime. From the never-before-seen throngs at the very first one to the . . . well, every little thing at our last time in Atlanta. After losing last year's incarnation to 2020, the monster year that took Godzilla sized bites out of every part of our lives, with 2021 not quite reliable in April . . . well, there was really only one route to go for this year's con.
It's been a year of Sherlockian Zoom meetings and symposiums. Nothing new there. And they were. . . . okay. Some nice side benefits of extending our reach, meeting new people, but as this weekend approached and my attention turned to a Zoom version of 221B Con? Well, I'll be honest, I started getting worried and a little depressed. I really didn't want this to be just another Zoom.
Without the reserved time of vacation days and a trip to Atlanta, my Friday workday wound up running later than the opening panel, and at the evening was mostly breakout rooms. And my past experience with breakout rooms, combined with all that comes from being a natural introvert (even after years of practicing pretending I'm not), I eventually wrote Friday night off. Taking vacation days, being present in the hotel where it's happening, well, you can't help but venture out, perhaps see the right person in the hotel bar, and get the social-brain going. Being at home, with all the normal routines? Not helpful.
Side note: Also just happened to be the week of the hundredth episode of the Watsonian Weekly podcast, which added another layer of duty and distraction. I should be editing that right now.
But Saturday came, all obstacles cleared, and I clicked on the Zoom link.
And there were Taylor and Crystal. Some other folks, too, just hanging out in the lobby, but those were the first two, quick to say "Hi!" and start talking about who had said what the night before and that my favorite movie came up, and . . . well, suddenly my weekend changed. Crystal explained navigating between the rooms of the Zoom, which somehow became easier than any other major Zoom event I had been to. And I went over to the "Imposter Syndrome" panel, one of the con staples. And things started to actually feel a little like 221B Con and not like a Zoom, just a little, but it was getting there.
I am a huge fan of 221B Con's five-track system, a veritable buffet of programming with something tasty every hour, usually so enticing that you sometimes can't take an hour off for actual food. And in a first attempt at a Zoom con, the 221Bee-keepers provided plenty of rooms but kept a single content thread, almost a sampler version of the con with less non-Sherlock-Holmes side dishes. A wise choice, I think, and hopefully we'll be back to a five-track live situation next year, but if we're not, I wouldn't mind seeing more tracks in not just this event's Zooms. If the rooms are available, why not use them?
But I do understand, not everyone is as wandering-brained as I.
The panels, the return of past guests David Nellist and Ben Syder, the flash-fic writing, the watchalong of "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs" . . . I could go on about the content, but when all was said and done, the content wasn't the most important part of 221B Con.
It was the Bees.
Folks have talked about the Sherlockian community and its wonderful welcoming nature for decades. Outside of a few assholes and bad policy choices, it's a warm and wonderful place. But something about the community-for-a-weekend that a single-hotel con builds in hard to match. And when one considers that same community-for-a-weekend has been built over and over for nearly a decade? Like living in any small town, you may not know all the names, but you know the faces, you know the personalities. I don't know when we started calling the population of 221B Con "Bees," but the name has stuck.
The Bees were wonderful Zoomers. Yeah, somebody always slips up on muting their microphone, but for the most part, everybody was lovely. We weren't sitting in rooms at a hotel, but once someone mentioned that you could move the Zoom boxes to line up the panel people on top, well, that worked pretty much the same. And with a whole weekend, we didn't have to spend that mandatory first fifteen minutes of every gathering talking about vaccines, or whatever else the current state of Covid world was.
I really should have taken a couple days off on either side and just cleared everything out. Set aside a 221B Con room in the house and just immersed myself in it completely, and learned Discord and Gather. Because even though it wasn't the actual big wonderful live-and-in-person event? The spirit was there. I would never have believed that the magic would be quite the same. The Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend, back in January, while better than nothing, hadn't had quite the same feel as a trip to NYC. But 221B Con? It may not have been the full dose, but it sure as hell was a booster shot of the real deal.
When I say that 221B Con is one of my event true loves, a place and a people that have been an important part of my life, it's not just a pose. It's deeply heartfelt, as in, yes, something I actually feel in my chest, and has been since that first year blew my mind by going beyond any Sherlockian event that I had ever known. And next year is the tenth anniversary.
However it winds up being held, it's going to be a helluva of a time. Because if 221B Con could work its magic over Zoom? Oh, hells yeah, getting back to Atlanta is gonna be a time.