Let's talk about the monkey's paw of Sherlockian creations. The art form that we all want to try, yet in its very practice is a devil's bargain, a deal with a price beyond what any right-minded person would pay. Yes, the worst Sherlockian thing you can ever create.
Now, I know there are people who will argue with the preceding paragraph. And I would wager those people have not made this devil's bargain. Perhaps they are people who have feasted at the table of one who did, or just are so deep in our little cult that they can't see . . . well, really, maybe they're just positive, happy individuals whose dark side does not run as deeply as mine. (I just finished watching a couple episodes of American Horror Stories, so I might be tainted at the moment.)
In any case, I was out for a stroll with a friend tonight, walking a long local trail with a canopy of trees, looking so much like Sleepy Hollow in its daylight form. And, curiously, at one point in the trail a voice out of the foliage said, "Hello, boys!" And the gleeful trickster of my office appeared out of nowhere to greet us, which was very weird during a four mile trek, that he should appear at the moment we passed his portal to the trail . . . but that wasn't the part where I became accursed.
No, that part was the sign at one of the trail crossings that read "No equestrians on trail."
"No equestrians," I thought aloud. "But what if I was to ride a cow up the trail. That's not equestrian . . . no, that's a . . . bovestrian!"
And then my Sherlockian brain went click -- click -- click.
"And what is your conclusion?"
"That it is a remarkable cow which walks, canters, and gallops."
Yes, "The Adventure of the Priory School" and its remarkable cows, cows ridden by bovestrians.
Only, wise Sherlockian that you are, you're probably going, "But those weren't cows, they were horses with special shoes!" And I would say, "Yes, but did we ever see those horses doing that?" And I am also being mildly influenced by an ancient text by Pope R. Hill, Senior I recently read that contended most of the sixty Sherlock Holmes stories had an alternate subtext of a plot that Conan Doyle coded in. (Such a pity that Pope Hill came along before YouTube. He could have fit right in.)
And, having tripped upon the concept, what was my first thought as how to use it?
I thought, "I SHOULD CREATE A NEW SCION SOCIETY!!!"
Have I ever told you the story my mother tells, of when I was a lad of about six or seven, and I gathered up a bunch of papers and insisted she take me to my club meeting? I couldn't say what the club was, where it was, or what the papers were for, but I was very bothered that she wouldn't take me. To this day, I don't know what was going on there, but as you can see, I have a long-lived passion for clubs that do not exist.
So, "the Bovestrians of Ragged Shaw." Such a perfect name for a Sherlockian society.
But what would they do? Why would they sign the roster? Well, given certain other paths I have been following lately, it only makes sense that it would be a society for alternate readings of the Sherlockian Canon, such as bovestrians appearing in "Priory School" would imply. But another scion society?
Didn't I just pull together the Sherlockian Chronologist Guild with Vincent Wright, and aren't I currently dog-paddling with John H. Watson Society zooms and podcasts, trying to keep my head above water? But this is the monkey's paw aspect of Sherlockian society creation . . . we all wish to be connected with like-minded Sherlockians, even if it's with more tendrils of connection to people we have already connected with, like some network of cyanea capillata sharing a bay.
"And still, poor soul, I had this morbid hanker for inventing clubs," Christopher Morley once wrote in "On Belonging to Clubs." He goes on to describe how successful on of said clubs came to be, and all the various encumbrances that now needed performed to serve said club, but ended the brief essay with those happy words, "But not be me." Christopher Morley escaped his own little deal with the devil of Sherlockian societies, by creating one with enough allure that he could tempt others to adopt and raise the thing. Of course, like any new parent who displays the joys without the burdens, Morley inspired others to give birth to societies as he did, which means we now have more of them than there are folks willing to adopt.
And I've already left some society orphans in my wake, which haunt me to this day. So you will forgive me for certain metaphors and tone in this particular blog post. I was, in truth, exorcising a demon. Clutch your Canon tightly to your breast, and hope he doesn't look your way.