Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The return of the Reichenbach Falls Lemming Society

 It was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, 1995. MediaWest*Con, that annual gathering of media fans of all times was being held at the Holiday Inn in Lansing, Michigan. Trek fans, Phantom fans, Rat Patrol fans, X-File fans, Highlander fans, you name it, there were fans of it there. And Sherlockians, especially fans of the Granada series

More than a few folks have seen the six-foot-tall Paget art that hangs out in my basement — a screen-dot print illustration enlarged multiple times using 1995 copy machine technology. This was the weekend it was created for and the “Sherlock Holmes Festival of Consulting Detection” — basically a room party with scones and other treats.

Anyone who showed up for the Sherlock Holmes festival of Consulting Detection was signed up for the Reichenbach Falls Lemming Society by our membership director Bonnie Bills, and they would receive the official membership kit with membership certificate, autographed photo of Reichy the lemming, and a cherry licorice pipe. We played whist, had a little bit of a Sherlock Holmes based game show, and just enthused about Sherlock Holmes.

Back in the 1990s, Sherlock Holmes didn't have his own convention, so MediaWest*Con was the closest thing to a con experience with Sherlock Holmes fan fun for the Lemmings to land. BoucherCons have always had a touch of Sherlock here and there, but that seemed more a "Last Bowcher" event that one with ties to "Final Problem." (Yes, that is a reason I just made up.) It any case, it seemed only right and proper that, at long last, the Reichenbach Falls Lemming Society move to 221B Con.

What does this mean?

Well, membership packets will be distributed at a meeting that will probably occur in or near the hotel bar at a time yet to be determined. Or at other random moments. And there might be a game of whist. And something else. In any case, the RFLS flag will figuratively be planted at this new con location for 2022.

Because it's 221B Con. And you just never know what's going to happen at 221B Con.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

When Sherlockians gather, at whatever level

 Our little local Peoria library group of Sherlockians found its footing again this month, leaving Zoom behind and meeting in person with a healthy attendance. And it was a great discussion, with some insights on "The Man with the Twisted Lip" that I had never heard before, which is what I really love about our local group.

I didn't understand the value of the local group quite so much when I was younger, and the mad dedication of national-level Sherlock Holmes fans was so entrancing. Those of us who are deep into Sherlockian culture love our community, the familiar tropes, the verbal shorthand we acquire with each other, as in any familiar group. But we also lose a little something when we've all been taking in similar input and going over the same points time and again. There are things you just can't see when you're reading the same story for the sixth, tenth, or fifteenth time that someone coming at it fresh can see.

"The Man with the Twisted Lip" as a tale of male abandonment, for example. Isa Whitney abandons his wife for the opium den. Watson abandons his wife to follow Holmes. Holmes abandons Baker Street to stay at the St. Clair house. And what is going on at the end of the case? Is Holmes abandoning Neville St. Clair at the police station while driving off with the man's own cart and horse? And even if he and Watson are taking Neville with them, all three of them are heading to Baker Street for breakfast when two of the three have wives at home really wondering what has happened to their husbands.

And let's not get into whether Isa Whitney ever actually made it home or not -- "Hey, cabbie! Forget what that guy said, drop me back at the Bar of Gold!"

After our meeting, a few of us went to the local pub to chat a little more, where I got to tell of the recent Dayton conference and explain how such things worked. As a part of that, I extolled the virtues of gatherings of any like-minded set of hobbyists, be they Sherlockian or otherwise, as we come together and focus on that one thing. In a time of bizarre culture wars, opinion lines in the sand being drawn, and team politics, Sherlockians still come together and just be Sherlockians for a couple of days. We get to feel connected, rather than feeling the fortifications of social media algorithms walling us off from the rest of humanity.

And Zoom has helped us keep those connections strong. Some of the best parts of Dayton were getting to hang out with folks I've gotten to know on video chats, and confirm that they are just as delightful in person as they are on a little computer screen. After all this time, it wasn't really necessary, and I think I'd still enjoy their online company as much without Dayton, but it was a nice reminder.

New to the hobby or here forever, online or in person, we are wealthy in what we gain from our fellow Sherlockians. I know I don't have to blog about this as almost everyone who might read this already knows it. But it's just nice to get it out every now and then. On to the next gathering!

Friday, March 25, 2022

When did the first wave of Sherlock truly start?

 We all know when Sherlock Holmes first appeared to readers in A Study in Scarlet. We also know when his readers were devastated at the unexpected series finale of "The Final Problem." But somewhere in between those points, a whole lot of Victorians had a moment where they went "Hey! I like this Sherlock Holmes! When does the next story come out?"

Ever wonder when that moment occurred?

I mean it had to be during The Strand Magazine short story run. The Sign of the Four was a standalone novel, inspiring no real expectations that any of the characters would return. (Mary Morstan sure didn't.) And readers of "A Scandal in Bohemia" didn't just go, "I love the first episode of this new series! What's next month?" with the expectations we have of a television show. No, like any series, it had to pick up steam.

Was there a turning point story where the Strand's circulation suddenly shot up with the next issue? Was there a tipping point of public opinion on Holmes?

It's not like stories in The Strand Magazine got weekly ratings numbers like a TV series. And there was no social media to pull engagement numbers from. Yet you know there had to be a point where Strand readers turned to their friends or family and went, "These Sherlock Holmes stories are cool!" (Or whatever Victorians said in lieu of that.)

I checked Mirror of the Century: The Strand Magazine 1891-1950 by Reginald Pound, but found nothing about that other than the delight the editor had in getting "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Red-Headed League" on his desk. Did it take the readers just two stories to get excited? Or was it a few more in, like the month "The Man with the Twisted Lip" came out? The new practice of releasing some new TV shows first three episodes to hook viewers might indicate three is a magic number, but I somehow don't see "A Case of Identity" as the turning point.

If you look at those first six stories -- A celebrity scandal, a goofy con, a domestic oddity, a murder mystery, a cultish horror tale, and a disappearing act -- you can see it was the sheer range and variety of Holmes tales that helped draw readers in. Didn't like "A Scandal in Bohemia?" Here's "The Red-Headed League?" Didn't fancy that, here's something else entirely. Yet every step of the way, here is your old friend Sherlock Holmes.

It's quite ingenious, and something locked-room murder mystery sloggers missed about Sherlock's success. Holmes's variety was key, and it took a few stories to really put that on display. At the end of those first six -- and then that lovely little Christmas carbuncle as the seventh -- readers definitely had to be hooked. For us now, reading A Study in Scarlet or The Sign of the Four, knowing that a whole lot still awaits us, we don't have nearly that same short-story-by-short-story introduction to Holmes. But back in the day, someone did.

And those someones are a bit intriguing, especially now as our print archeologists unearth new reports every few weeks. I'll be curious to see what else turns up.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Sherlock Holmes reads "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"

 I was checking up on something in the Canon tonight when a detail caught my eye, as they often do when reading those original tales of Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes hasn't seen Watson in a while and is telling the doctor about his new ring.

"It was from the reigning family of Holland though the matter in which I served them was of such delicacy that I cannot confide it even to you who have been good enough to chronicle one or two of my little problems."

"And have you any on hand just now?" Watson asks.

"Some ten or twelve, but none present any feature of interest. They are important, you understand, without being interesting."

That last line stopped me in my tracks, because multi-tasking is all we seem to do any more, and I've become painfully aware of just what my limits are in terms of the number of simultaneous projects I can carry at once at work, without losing focus on one or the other. I know, I know, we're talking about Sherlock Holmes here. But twelve? TWELVE?

Keeping twelve different investigations separate in your mind, without any of the details slipping from one case to another, forgetting something, or just missing something entirely is a much more superhuman feat than simply unbending a bent fireplace poker. In fact, the thought that Holmes could accomplish such a thing without some noticeable system went beyond my personal suspension of disbelief. No way, Holmes, no way!

So was he just lying, puffing up eight or nine letters he had skimmed to investigation level? Or was it something else? Let's look at that context again:

". . . you who have been good enough to chronicle one or two of my little problems."

"And have you any on hand just now?"

Is Watson referring to "problems" with his question . . . or "chronicles?"

Had Watson written up his first bunch of short stories and given them to Holmes, and that is the "some ten or twelve" that Holmes has on hand? Did Watson want to know if Holmes had read the stories, not if he had any investigations in progress?

Holmes, as usual, isn't very enthusiastic about Watson's works. "None present any features of interest," his first thoughts come out, but then sees Watson's lips start to frown and goes, "They are important, you understand." Yet he remains Sherlock Holmes, adding ". . . without being interesting." He just can't help himself.

The conversation makes perfect sense as one about Watson's writings. Even more sense, actually, given that "ten or twelve" business.

Sure, the story in which that exchange occurs is "A Case of Identity," which is a part of the first twelve stories that we saw. But Sherlock Holmes definitely got to read them first.

And Watson's inclusion of the silly little business of Mary Sutherland so early in the Adventures series could actually have been part of a reaction to Holmes's words documented here. "You want to see a case of little interest? Here you go. Also, I'm putting that time Irene Adler beat you as the first story." (These decisions, and the first set, were all determined before Holmes went up and died in 1891, of course. At that point, a grief-stricken Watson just let Doyle pick them up off his desk and take them to the Strand.)

I really think that what we're seeing in "A Case of Identity" is Holmes after he's recently read Watson's first attempt at a short story collection, a first draft of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Because that twelve-jobs-at-once thing is, well, a bit much.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Watson versus the Rugby Superfan

 Studying the chronicles of Sherlock Holmes and digging deep into their details has always involved a certain level of trust. At its most basic level, trusting John Watson as much as Sherlock Holmes did is a part of our Sherlockian DNA. While we might occasional indulge ourselves with flights of headcanon fantasy, the facts are the facts as Watson presented them, even when we have to adjust our point of view to see them as they truly are.

One issue that comes up time and again is trusting Watson's words over that of a client or someone else in the Canon. The first article I ever had published in The Baker Street Journal made that point with Jabez Wilson, and how his skewing of the facts made Watson's dates look off. As I recently looked at the work done with "Missing Three-Quarter" by Sherlockian chronologists. 

Watson tells us that "The Missing Three-Quarter" started on a gloomy February morning. Cyril Overton comes running into Baker Street claiming his friend was going to go missing for the big Cambridge versus Oxford rugby match. Respected Sherlockian scholar Jay Finley Christ (the guy who came up with the abbreviations) wrote that Oxford and Cambridge only ever played rugby against each other in December.

Of those three people, Watson, Overton, and Christ, there's one that I trust least. And his name is Cyril Overton.

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson don't know or care about rugby. Holmes doesn't have rugby players in his commonplace books. And when a guy comes in claiming, "I am the skipper of the Rugger team of Cambridge Varsity, and Godfrey Staunton is my best man. Tomorrow we play Oxford," well, even if they think he might be a little crazy, they're probably just going to go, "Okay. Go on . . ."

Lord Mount-James doesn't seem to know or care much about the supposed "rugby star" role that his nephew has been cast in. Dr. Leslie Armstrong only refers to football when Holmes mentions the match that he himself only knows about because Overton told him there was such a thing.

In fact, Cyril Overton's entire story seems like some trumped-up fantasy meant to inspire Sherlock Holmes on just how important it was that the detective find his missing friend -- and in Overton's world, nothing could be seen as more important than an Oxford-Cambridge football game. 

Holmes asks Watson about the whole football game thing late in the adventure, and Watson reads something he found in the evening paper about some "Light Blues" being defeated by the absence of "the crack International, Godfrey Staunton." 

"Personally I am in agreement with Dr. Armstrong, and football does not come within my horizon," Sherlock Holmes replies after hearing that. Holmes has no idea what Watson read him from the paper, and doesn't really care. And the next morning, Watson freaks out when he sees a hypodermic needle in Sherlock Holmes's hand.

What was it Watson said at the beginning of this story?

"Things had indeed been very slow with us, and I had learned to dread such periods of inaction, for I knew by experience that my companion's brain was so abnormally active that it was dangerous to leave it without material upon which to work. For years I had gradually weaned him from that drug mania which had threatened once to check his remarkable career. Now I knew that under ordinary conditions he no longer craved for this artificial stimulus, but I was well aware that the fiend was not dead, but sleeping."

Watson was desperate for Holmes to take any case. Stanley Hopkins sent this missing sports buddy case over because he thought it "was more in your line than in that of the regular police," when a missing person is still a missing person . . . normally. It's almost like Hopkins was dismissing this as a real missing persons case and wanted to give Holmes at least a slight distraction.

And Watson welcomed it. Watson had every motive to play along with Cyril Overton's fantasy February rugby match, and even read some other tripe from the paper and insert Staunton's name just to keep Holmes on the scent. From Watson's point of view this might have well have been the cut-for-time "Case of the Upside Down Room" from Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, a case invented purely to keep Holmes away from the needle.

Did Watson have any reason to lie about it being the February doldrums when the case occurred? No. But did he have reason to prop up the validity of a delusional sports fan whose buddy was missing? The evidence is there.

And Cyril Overton, well, how much do we really know about that guy?

Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Monstrum Opus of Sherlock Holmes

 Do we need yet another collection of Sherlockian stuff?

Well, I'd say that depends. Depends upon the writers. Depends upon the subject. And it depends upon who's collecting. And even then . . . you have to wonder, right?

Yeah, me too.

But then somebody starts saying the right words. "Essays, instead of stories."  I like essays. I like articles. I like Sherlockians explaining how there were things in those sixty stories that we didn't see, despite the obvious clues being there. For some reason I've always found that more headcanon-expanding than pastiche, which is more of a tour of someone else's headcanon. Good for one kind of enjoyment, but I like seeing if someone can twist my own headcanon.

So when Rob Nunn said he wanted an assist in doing a collection of essays on the monsters hidden in the original Holmes Canon, I forgot for a moment that I'm a writer and not an editor, and went, "Okay." And now we already have a goodly number of writers already lined up with a monster and a Canonical story attached to their monster, and The Monstrum Opus of Sherlock Holmes is underway.

But Rob and I weren't sure who all to ask to write an article about a monster in the life of Sherlock Holmes. It's hard to say what anyone's view of that combo would be. And we don't know everyone. So we're opening up the invitation list, to see if anyone else out there might like to join in the mad monster party. We'll be publishing it through Amazon's little publishing arm, with any profits going to the Beacon Society helping teachers out with their lit programs. There are only a couple of rules:

No ghosts need apply, as our hero flatly stated.  (Also, not monsters.) Second, no vampires, as Holmes seemed to make a special point that those weren't real. Like the Batman, the sometime-batty monsters have been a bit over-exposed. The werewolf was checked off our list before a single writer was asked, thanks to a certain presentation that put the thought in Rob's head. So what's left?

Maybe Martha the bee-woman from "His Last Bow?"

A living voodoo doll from "Wisteria Lodge?"

A shape-shifting step-father from "A Case of Identity?"

"Black Peter" really being a were-whale?

Nobody picked any of those, nor any of my other suggestions (hey, they asked). And some of the writers who have jumped in thus far went even more imaginative than those. So many monsters out there!

Interested in contributing one of your own to our Monstrum Opus? Rob and I would love to hear from you. As I said, essays, not fiction. And we're very probably not moving from our "no ghosts, no vampires"  position, because . . . well, the former was Conan Doyle's turf, not Holmes's. And as much as I truly love vampires -- well, that's kind of the problem isn't it? They're just a little too sexy and lovable these days. 

But I digress. (And we won't even get into how the thought of the song "Monster" by InVader just triggered a vision of Stapleton and butterfly aliens. Monsters can be anything. And so many things.)

Seeing monsters in the Canon Holmes? Let us know.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

The talk we didn't hear in Dayton

 After a good Sherlockian weekend, you come home with a lot of things: new books, inspirations for new projects, new acquaintances . . . maybe even a new friend or two. And now, a week after the "Holmes, Doyle & Friends" conference in Dayton, I can safely say I didn't come home with that other thing. You know the one.

We all heard about the precautions taken in New York in January of this year: vaccination cards, masks, limited events/attendance . . . all the hallmarks of the Coronavirus pandemic. New York City had learned some hard lessons at the start of this thing, and the easily transmissible Omicron variant was spiking hard after Christmas gatherings. Most of the Sherlockians who went came home healthy, but those of us who stayed home didn't feel too badly about the choice.

Dayton, however, was an entirely difference thing. The Omicron spike was over. Masking rules had been taken down in most places at the end of February. And a lot of the midwest was a lot more casual about the disease than New York City. Attending Holmes, Doyle & Friends in Dayton, Ohio this year, you might not have thought the pandemic ever existed.

The first social event of the weekend was a crowded cocktail hour in someone's hotel room, where just walking up to the open door you felt the warm humid air of a crowded, enclosed space. I stayed in the hallway until someone suggested the adjoining room with far fewer people, and even then was a little nervous about my first maskless socializing in a very long time. At this point, those of us who have run the gauntlet and never had Covid (that we know of -- with that mystery symptomless option for the vaxxed folks, you never know), well, those of us who have avoided it would kind of like to stay that way.

It was the first indication of where the weekend was headed. The full-on reception that followed at a nearby hotel was entirely maskless, as was the following day. We talked about concerns in small, private conversations with those whose sensibilities we know and trust, but we knew we were going with the hopeful herd and rolling the dice with the sixty or seventy other Sherlockians who were just delighted to be back in the world we had missed for so long.

Was the mild sore throat I had earlier this week just from Saturday night's karaoke or possibly some milder bug just from being around other humans again after so long? At this point, that's what I'm going with. Is the pandemic over? Well, given the news out of China, I'd say "most probably not," but as we saw last year, when summer vaxxed fun turned into variant surge autumn, seasonal cycles could be our new normal. 

Given the patterns I've seen with places I've gone, we'll probably see more mask-wearing at 221B Con, for sure. Major city airport hotel with a lot larger attendance, and my casual observations at local stores seems to indicate that masks are being used more often by younger folks and more females than males -- which is a goodly chunk of the 221B Con demographic. I've got some good masks I feel comfortable in at this point, and have been sitting in movie theaters wearing them since new movies first came back to theaters, so it's just a part of life now, a mode as easy to slip into as buckling a seat belt.

But I'll admit it, my love of Sherlockiana did override my sensible caution brain in Dayton. I don't think it was peer pressure -- more like just seeing someone else cannonball into the chilly pool and going "Okay, I guess we're doing this!" And we do love and trust our fellow Sherlockians more than random folks at the local Menard's.  (Although those places are so big and airy, it became a favorite place to shop, even in Covid times.) Working for a hospital system, I was very aware of the current numbers, and the odds were very good compared to January, even if the risk was still there. But even with that excuse, it still felt a little foolish . . . but, hey, I'm the guy who will sing karaoke with no decent singing voice.

Which makes it a little funny when you consider how many people are more frightened by karaoke than spreading a disease. Back in Peoria, I masked up this week when around folks at stores, etc., just in case I was carrying the virus, so no one else paid for my Sherlockian indulgence. St. Patrick's Day was this week, and fans of alcohol and cabbage are basically having the spring fling Sherlockians had in Dayton. (Did fans of alcohol ever stop flinging without an actual lockdown? My friends who caught covid pre-vax all got it in bars.)  These days, it's very hard to predict where we'll be in a few months, or even weeks.

Events are being planned, some "normal" is being attempted, yet Zoom and masks are something that a lot of folks have gotten very used to as a new normal. Let's hope we all stay healthy, whatever it takes.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Is Sherlockiana like Pro Wrestling?

 I always wanted to be a pro wrestler.

There are several factors against my pursuing that line of work: a.) Have never been athletic in the least, neither muscular or capable of long-term exertion. b.) Big fear of physical injury. c.) The smell of a locker room is something I can live without for the rest of my days. Yet it just looks like so much fun when you take out the physical factors: Storylines, promos, and just the chance to rant, rave, and shout in public.

I always wanted to be a Sherlockian, too. And I don't think those two desires are completely unrelated.

In fact, I might propose the thought that Sherlockiana is pro wrestling with words.

Instead of "sports entertainment," something like "scholarship entertainment."

Like pro wrestling, where we often see real athletes from some other sport or Olympic event cross over into the staged contests of the entertainment, so to do we often see real academics cross over into the less serious works of Sherlockian fun. And just as pro wrestling actually requires real athletic ability combined with a flair for the dramatic to hit its peak, Sherlockiana at its finest requires real literary skills mixed with showmanship.

The research that goes into working up even the silliest of Sherlockian talks matches the actual hours of training that go into building up a body for a wrestling match. Two masters of either art can be as entertaining talking up their disagreement as they might actually staging a contest. And, as with wrestling, some of the most skilled, reliable workers never attain superstar status, yet stick around for a very long time, seen by the those who care enough to actually look.

Sometimes it seems like we're dominated by a single brand, yet there are a legion of smaller outfits out there keeping the heart and soul of the thing alive. Both endeavors have hit a point where breaking kayfabe (or not playing the Game) isn't as concerning as it might have been in years past. Adults tend to know the joke to each pretty well. Egos can get in the way, petty disputes happen, but overall there remains a community that often can think of itself as an extended family.

But that applies to most fandoms. 

There is just something about the mixture of reality and fantasy in wrestling that will always remind me a little bit of Sherlockiana. And as with Sherlockians who are also Trek fans, I know there are enough Sherlock-and-wrestling combo fans out there that it's not just me with an overlap.

Do we need bigger title belts in Sherlockiana? Something you could strut into a banquet room, wearing it around your waist or holding over your head? I suspect there are a few Sherlockians out there who aren't into wrestling but would still cherish the opportunity for such a garish display of their Sherlockian accomplishments. And I can think of at least one entertaining Sherlockian whom I could see holding a microphone and putting them in their place as they did.

Usually, we try to be a bit more mild-mannered in these circles. But every now and then, the glasses do come off, the dress shirts get ripped open, and . . .  well, the fun starts.

Yeah. I never needed to be a pro wrestler. I've got Sherlock Holmes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

That BSI membership process, again with the BSI membership process!

 As Sherlockians gathered in Dayton this weekend, I had one moment that was worth pondering. A Sherlockian from that distant land out east came up to me and said, "You're that guy who doesn't go anywhere and complains about everything." 

The truth of that comment is that there definitely is one place I haven't gone lately, and one thing I do complain about a couple of times a year. And while it's not everything to me, it is to some people, so I can see where I might deserve that remark. That one thing?

The annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars, specifically its invitation and investiture process.

In the last few decades, the BSI has ramped up their publishing business, their archives, their oral history -- so many innovations, so many changes, so much to be proud of. And yet the invitation/membership process remains in the "benevolent dictator" mode, where if the one guy has some personal reason not to like you, or you just don't meet his view of who a BSI should be, you get ignored until the next regime change. We all talk about this in private, but few mention it in public print, which is where one gets the reputation of someone "who complains about everything." Especially if you bring it up at least once a year as a person with an ongoing blog might do.

And let's be honest here: It sticks in my craw more than most because I got burned early on in my Sherlockian career for complaining about how the benevolent dictator process was keeping women out of the annual event and the recognition that comes with it. Once the gender restriction wasn't an issue any more, the biases against particular individuals wasn't as obvious, as the biases of an individual human will ebb and flow. Someone who might be on the outs this year can be forgiven and blessed a few years from now. The flaw in the system is not nearly as obvious when the patterns aren't as clear, as it was when a whole gender was being kept out.

Everybody enjoys the recognition that the annual BSI dinner provides. And the newly-minted members can be the most ardent enthusiasts for the mechanism that got them that recognition. But taking a long view, there are definitely improvements that could be made to this particular part of the organization, just as improvements have been made to every other part of the organization over the years.  The old "It's Joe's party, Joe gets to decide who comes!" argument might have fit when it was just a dinner party, but the Baker Street Irregulars is much more than just a dinner party at this point.

There's no simple answer to replacing the old system. Balloting requires nominations, and nominations mean known losers, which would not be good. An elected committee to quietly make the choices might alleviate some of the bias and give a little institutional transparency, as well as still let the members feel invested without being particular buddies with the head guy. It would just be nice to feel like the subject could actually be considered and discussed in public without concern over getting on the current regime's bad side. Which is the major flaw of the "benevolent dictator" system -- one individual can have a bad side. And that can lead to missed opportunities as well as poor choices pumped up by those who want to stay off said bad side.

So there you go, more of me complaining . . . or perhaps gently suggesting . . . as I always do. But I did go to Dayton this weekend, so I do have that going for me, in the going somewhere category.

Monday, March 14, 2022

The Levels of Sherlockian Classification

 Spend enough time in the Sherlockian fandom, and you start to notice classify the human strata of our community . . . and those who move between.

There was a little talk of that this weekend at Dayton, which put the thought in my head. I used to think there were just two levels of Sherlockiana -- local and national. Being a simple, small town lad from the midwest, I didn't really think internationally, much less globally, and those folks who wandered back and forth across the Canadian border didn't seem quite as "international" as those who crossed the ocean. Heck, my grandpa went fishing in Canada every summer.

Considering it now, I'd define our layers as

1. Local -- Sherlockians who socialize with others in the city or general area that they live in.

2. Regional -- Sherlockians who will travel less than a day's drive to an event, and will actually go to other city's scion meetings on occasion.

3. National -- Sherlockians who will attend events anywhere that doesn't require a passport, from New York to Seattle, from Santa Fe to Tampa Bay.

4. International -- Sherlockians who cross oceans to visit London, New York City, or points beyond.

 But the thing is, now that Zoom has us connecting digitally, we still see some influence of the old layers in who attends a given online gathering, especially in the cases of scion societies that moved online by necessity. And regional familiarity does affect who shows up at some meetings. But we're seeing societies like the Crew of the Barque Lone Star evolving into a more geographically diverse group, and groups like the John H. Watson Society and Five Miles From Anywhere that never had a geographic center to begin with. The fact that those groups meet at middle-American mid-day so California and Europe can both attend make them almost more time-zone based. None of us have figured out a way to Zoom with Australia or Japan yet. (Okay, Legion of Zoom -- put that on your goals list!)

So does the internet give us another region to consider? There are definitely Sherlockians, like those folks in the Legion of Zoom, that we now see all over the on-screen meetings, and a whole lot that we almost never do. And would the digital realms break down into something like:

1. Local Zoom -- Sherlockians who just stick with the Zoom of their local club.

2. Regional Zoom -- Sherlockians who stay with time zones close to their own.

3. Waking Hours Zoom -- Sherlockians who will attend any zoom during their normal awake hours.

4. Global Zoom -- Sherlockians who will forego sleep to cross distant international boundaries on Zoom.

In any breakdown, those folks you see at level four can always be found at levels one, two, and three as well. And threes at two and one, etc. But no matter what the level, it is always grand to see a familiar face again, both in a place you did not expect, and in places you did.

It's not a competition, after all. It's a community. And, happily, not a simple one, at that.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Holmes, Doyle & Friends 2022 -- The Final Wrap-up

 I realized, putting a podcast together, that I've been calling this conference by the wrong name. It is, according to the program, "Holmes, Doyle & Friends: 2021-B." 

Get it? 2021 proper got cancelled, so "B?" Of course, you got it, but I just enjoy that someone came up with that. So. Where did we leave off?

There were two more speakers on Saturday, Maureen Mascha giving a very in-depth, scholarly analysis of the roles of women in the Canon, where villains as well as victims roam, and their motivations and portrayals. After Maureen was Lise Sherwood-Fabre, back for a second time with the real facts about opium dens, which were a lot different from the tropes portrayed in "Twisted Lip" and other Victorian fiction. I was up and down a lot by that point, as those banquet hall chairs are never meant for a full day of sitting, especially with my back -- an issue I have at every full-day conference.

I missed the gift basket raffles, and made sure I knew the way to drive my carload to Company 7 BBQ for our casual banquet of toasting and conversation. There was plenty of BBQ and sides for all, and after a while we all wandered back to the hotel. I dragged my laptop and microphone to the bar to record a little bit for the Watsonian Weekly, which you can find here:


And that quickly came to an end when the DJ arrived and started karaoke night for the handful of patrons, who, I was delighted to find, were not those karaoke star types . . . no, this was my sort of karaoke night, where folks with nothing to prove were just having a good time, off-key or not. And let me tell you -- anyone who's ever not worried about their voice enough to do a weekly podcast for a few years straight, well, that person probably isn't going to have a problem getting up in front of folks with a microphone and looking foolish. Probably not the best idea to sing your throat raw with the possibility of Omicron still floating around out there, and even at that . . . well, fingers crossed.

Doing the daylight savings time change in a different time zone than you own is just as confusing as heck, but everybody seemed to make it down to breakfast at about the same time, a nice chance to see everybody one last time before heading out.

It was a really good weekend, and I have a lot of thoughts which will pop up in future blog posts. It was so good to see people in person again, to talk about those things you talk about in little casual moments that don't occur on Zoom. To laugh together at some little shared experience. To remind yourself how how cool some people are that you only see when in person. High fives and hugs, simple hellos and unexpected comments or compliments. Humans are just a little better when we're together and not on the other end of a digital connection, as useful as they can be.

When I got out of the car at the first rest stop across the state line into Illinois, I was happily surprised that the weather had turned warm again, after snow and temperature drops filled our weekend in Ohio. But, hey, we didn't mind a little outside frigid weather at all this weekend as long as the Holmes fires were burning in Dayton.

Hoping to see you soon, maybe Atlanta, maybe who knows where. 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Holmes, Doyle & Friends 2022 -- Stop Buying Things!

 Coming back from lunch at Holmes, Doyle & Friends, there's plenty of time to wander the vendor tables. And so far, I had kept a careful hold on my wallet, with just a few choice purchases. But as with eating kettle-cooked barbecue potato chips is for me, once I really open up to shopping . . . well, I am open to some shopping. Five paperbacks, two hardbacks, two scion pins, two crafted pins, an exhibit program, a switchplate, a bag of cookies, a loaf of soda bread, and a jar of spiced jam later, I'm gluing myself to my chair, fingers held firmly on the laptop keys, and holding on to the remains of my wallet cash for dear life.

The Dayton conference has always had a nice variety of offerings when it comes to dealer's tables, as I listed in an earlier post, and there were deals to be had. Mike McSwiggin sold my my last impulse buy and asked if I was interested in Solar Pons, as he's the next speaker on that very subject. I replied that I was, back in the 1980s, and was depending upon his talk to rekindle my interest -- no pressure on a speaker there.

Side note: I told my table-mates at lunch that I wouldn't report on discussions of the sex lives of our grandparents, so I won't.

McSwiggin is up to general applause and a few boos(?). It looked like Rob Nunn was the prime instigator the jeers, though, and he's a trouble-maker, if you haven't met him yet. Mike takes us to Sauk City, Wisconsin in 1927, just a little north of Madison, and a kid named August Derleth. The word "syllabically" is pronounced correctly. And off we go with Solar Pons, the Sherlock Holmes of post World War One.

A goodly share of the audience is not familiar with Solar Pons, and I envy them a little bit getting to discover this latter day homage to Holmes (whom Pons would occasionally visit at Sussex Downs). The Dragnet, a February 1929 pulp magazine, was the Beeton's Christmas Annual of Solar Pons paid August Derleth $40 for that first one. Mike continues on from there, how the stock market crash affected future Pons, the way The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes brought Pons back into Derleth's focus, and the Mycroft and Moran imprint of Derleth's Arkham House publishing. Solar Pons has been through a lot.

Mike brings up a Basil Copper chronology crime that actually had me opening a second document to take notes for the Sherlockian Chronology Guild newsletter. His presentation is quite complete and a great introduction to those new to Pons. (And he raffles off a couple of Pons books at the end, which is a great thing to do.)

Ira Matetsky comes next on "Rex Stout and Sherlock Holmes," telling us right off that he's going to speak on Stout's relationship with Holmes, rather than Nero Wolfe.

Right off Ira hits on that theory that Nero Wolfe was the son of Sherlock Holmes, spread by Sherlockians, but never confirmed by Stout. As he moves through the influences Holmes had on Stout's creation of Nero Wolfe, he makes a chronology joke I'll be quoting in the next Sherlockian chronology newsletter.

Wandering through the life of Stout, his ups and downs, Ira eventually comes to the notorious "Watson Was A Woman" incident at the Baker Street Irregulars. British Holmesian S.C. Roberts criticism that Stout's work was the sort that was "ruining the game" is new to me.  Stout attended and spoke at many other BSI dinners over the years, including one where he renounced his earlier premise -- he truly sounds like he treated Sherlockiana with the irreverent tone where it works best.

One last note Ira makes is to compare Conan Doyle's "To An Undiscerning Critic" and Rex Stout's later poetic letter in defense of his mystery fiction, the latter of which is new to most of us.

Q&A follows, among the Qs "best portrayer of Nero Wolfe?" According to Ira, the "Wolf Pack" likes the A&E show. The new Goldsborough's quality comes up as a controversial question.

And on to our next break! NO MORE BUYING THINGS! [slapping own hand]

Holmes, Doyle & Friends 2022 -- Late Saturday Morning

First, the results of the Conan Doyle trial for the murder of Sherlock Holmes, announced by Bill Mason: 

57% Guilt of murder
23% Not guilty
19%  Guilty but insane

The largest share of attendees though Doyle did it for artistic liberation. Bill Cochran tried to claim there was no murder, as no corpse was ever produced.

Our next speaker is Rich Krisciunas with "Could the Crown Convict Sherlock Holmes?" -- a great follow-up to Bill Mason's talk by a speaker we've heard on Zoom. As his presentation gets into explaining the hearsay rule and direct evidence, Rich uses some photoshopped examples casting Regina Stinson and Dan Andriacco as his victim and criminal, which quickly warms up the crowd. He works his way through the availability of witnesses to Holmes's crimes, and even discusses Watson's ability to testify.

Watson is a complex key to any prosecution of Holmes, according to Rich, and offering the doctor immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony has issues, which he illustrates from his own experience. Watson's credibility is brought to question, just from those notorious Canonical inconsistencies. And those vexing dates of the cases just make matters even worse.

Rich comes to the final conclusion that the Crown would decline to prosecute Holmes because the case was just too hard. A few comments like "He's wonderful!" can be heard from behind me as we applaud after the talk wraps up. The Q&A after brings out some of the knowledgeable folks in the audience, one of whom will be speaking later in the program. 

Regina Stinson, a second Michigan Sherlockian of note, is very familiar to Dayton regulars -- I remember how she used to win the hundred question brain-buster quizzed of long ago. Her talk is next, "The Legend of the Deerstalker." She reminds us of Holmes's original non-deerstalker hats in early artistic representations going back to his first appearance, and as with Bill Mason, Regina's commentary on the historical facts has more than a few good quips.

Sidney Paget first placed the deerstalker on Holmes's head, well before Holmes's death at Reichenbach. (Is that Holmes's deerstalker falling off his head in Paget's drawing of Holmes and Moriarty wrestling on that cliff?) Paget to Steele to Gillette and all that came after shaping that deerstalker's iconic image are discussed, but in the end, Regina gives Paget is due. In the lively Q&A, we get into how Holmes would wear the hat if Amish, Arthur Keller and "Boobus Britannicus Watson."

I managed to pass along a goodly number of non-Sherlock Conan Doyle books to new homes since Bill Mason lauded Doyle's writing. We've gotten done with the morning program a little earlier than planned, and Dan asks for announcements of future events from those present, and we get to hear about a few (too quickly for me to type up here, sadly). 

On to lunch!

Holmes, Doyle & Friends 2022 -- Starting the Day

 Have you been to a Dayton Sherlock Holmes weekend before? A lot of folks have over the years, and the Agra Treasurers are good hosts, which you know immediately from the familiarity of most of the attendees at the sign-up table. Of course, first there was all the breakfast-room Sherlockian chat at the hotel, waiting for said sign-in table to open.

Once the event room opens, there's a hour to peruse the dealer's tables and chat up anyone you haven't talked to already. Steve Doyle and Mark Gagen have the Wessex Press table. Monica Schmidt has the BSI Press table. Dan Andriacco has his books table next to Carolyn Senter's table of non-book Sherlockian wonders, and then Lorraine Reibert's variety of books, marmalades, and breads. Of course, Regina Stinson's Sherlockian jewelry on the other side of the room is a must-shop stop. Joe Eckrich, Mike McSwiggins, and the Agra Treasurers themselves all have a good selection of Sherlockian books and other works to fill out holes in your collection.

Lorraine Reibert and Ann Siefker kick off the program with a welcome and a few notes with must applause for all those local folk who work to put this on.

The first speaker is Bill Mason, who has done so many very entertaining presentations at Sherlockian events over the years (and played my Watson in the very memorable "Hee Haw Holmes" show from a Chattanooga event long past). He's putting Conan Doyle on trial this time for the killing of Sherlock Holmes. Early on he's critiquing the choice of Reichenbach Falls for the murder site and getting everyone laughing, and quickly moving on to a John Kendrick Bangs piece from the time of the murder. Bill goes deep on Doyle's motivations, all the documented comments from Doyle and his peers, presented with a range of comment from the comic to the tragic. (Conan Doyle killing Holmes out of guilt for Holmes taking time away from Doyle's dying wife. Or revenge for same.) Some Sherlockian speakers just get better and better the more they present, and Bill is definitely in that category.

Dayton has always been a site for inspiring presentations, and I would rank this among them. We've been given ballots to give our own verdict, "Guilty of the Crime of Murder," "Guilty, but Insane/Otherwise not Responsible," or "Not Guilty/Justified in the Killing." There is also a list of Doyle's motives, all of which have come up in Bill Mason's talk, and our votes will be tallied and revealed later.  Me, I'm voting guilty but insane. (Your definition of insane may vary from mine.)

In the Q&A after, Bill promotes the non-Sherlock Conan Doyle work, which is particularly ironic as I brought a whole box of Conan Doyle non-Sherlock books to offload this weekend. 

Break time!

Friday, March 11, 2022

Venturing Back Into Humanity, Dayton Edition

 Tonight was the opening volley of "Holmes, Doyle & Friends 2022" in Dayton, Ohio, the latest in their long-running string of conferences going back to Al Rodin's original November 1981 event. It's been through a few organizers since then, but some of the faces have remained the same for decades, with some very notable appearances by very notable Sherlockians over the years.

Just arriving at the Clarion Inn that was ground zero for the weekend, I immediately encountered Sherlockians from three different states, Texas, Tennessee, and Iowa, as I checked in. And that range of attendees was going to increase almost immediately. New York, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, and Chicago (not a state, but if you're from central Illinois, close enough!) were represented, and I'm sure I've forgotten a state or two already.

The weekend typically starts with a simple social reception, hosted by the Agra Treasurers, with a splendid array of food and drink. Finding the time and place of that reception wasn't the easiest thing this year, as a few of us wandered three different hotels looking for it, only to fine it wasn't to start for another hour and a certain Ohio author was hosting a happy hour up on the third floor in the in-between time. But find things we did, and quickly learned that Zoom meetings definitely do not show you how very tall a particular Sherlockian you met there might actually be. 

Particularly notable at the reception were the little beehive cupcakes and honeycomb cookies that someone came up with for a Sherlockian connection. But little sandwiches, veggies, and platters of other goodies served as a fine light supper for those of us that hadn't eaten yet. We got to chat up old friends and a few new ones, hear all sorts of stories of Sherlockians past and present, and generally enjoy ourselves before winding up at the hotel bar for a time.

It was quite a drastic change from the world of only a couple of months ago, and all the maskless socializing definitely makes one wonder if some remaining vestiges of the virus might be present in our midst. No one seemed to be holding back, hugs were common, and rooms were filled up. Folks are more than ready to get back to life as it once was, and that was definitely what was happening this evening, but having lived through the past couple years, it was hard not to wonder if we are all going to come out of this without an infection or two. ("And infection or two . . ." -- five years ago those words would have sounded like there was some really wild times going on!)

But for the moment, Sherlockians have gathered and are generally enjoying themselves as Sherlockians do. More to come.

The Greatest Holmesian Hugger of the Canon

 Ah, it's International Hug A Holmesian Day again! What will 2022's holiday bring? Who knows, but once again it's time to look at the great huggers of the original Canon of Holmes.

We usually look to Hall Pycroft on this day, as he plainly became a fan of Sherlock Holmes after the events of "Stockbroker's Clerk," and we know he was a self-confessed hugger:

"You can imagine, Dr. Watson, how pleased I was at such an extraordinary bit of good fortune. I sat up half the night hugging myself over it . . ."

Pycroft's amount of self-hugging definitely reveals his propensity for hugs, even in the absence of another human being, as well as inspires us to immediately hug ourselves today if we haven't already? (Have you? Get to it!)

Yet I have always considered there to be one greater than Pycroft as the patron saint of International Hug a Holmesian Day . . . maybe even two. And I know there are a lot of folks out there who just want it to be . . . well, let's just get to it.

To be a Holmesian you have to love and admire Sherlock Holmes. And I would argue that the first Holmesian, by those standards, was not John Watson, but Sherlock Holmes himself. That guy plainly loved being who he was, at least on some days. And who is well know for hugging it out with Sherlock Holmes?

Yes, yes, John Watson "dashed from my chair, threw my arms round Holmes, and together we lurched through the door" in "Devil's Foot." But that wasn't affection, that was medical treatment. Watson had just seen Holmes's face looking like that of a dead man, and gained the strength to save them both by getting them out the door. The minute they're out that door, they're laying side by side on the grass. Watson may be the Holmes-hugger supreme outside the Canon, but inside it? Maybe not. As Yoda would say, "There is another."

And don't worry, I'm not going all hetero-normative. Sherlock Holmes was a hard hugging target, especially for the ladies. In fact, to get a good hug on Holmes, you about had to plan it with a criminal mastermind's strategic genius. Which is pretty much how it worked.

"He drew no weapon, but rushed at me and threw his long arms around me," Sherlock Holmes reports of the surprise physical affection of Professor James Moriarty at romantic Reichenbach Falls.

The fact that Moriarty showed up without a weapon after cunningly herding Holmes to an isolated, beautiful spot like the falls has always troubled Sherlockians trying to understand how a criminal genius would think that was the best route for vengeance. Holmes simply says Moriarty was courteous and they "exchanged some remarks." Those remarks, that prelude to a hug which Holmes had to just Japanese wrestling moves to extricate himself from, were probably too awkward for Holmes to recount, even to Watson. The admiration. The statement that certain feelings were not returned. And then that last, desperate attempt to show affection from Moriarty. It's all quite sad, really.

But Moriarty tried. Moriarty went for the Holmesian hug, even though it killed him, thus making him the truest saint of International Hug A Holmesian Day. At least in my mind. I will leave final judgement to the founder of the holiday, Mr. Paul Thomas Miller.

Any other candidates for the greatest Holmesian hugger of the Canon? Let us know!

Sunday, March 6, 2022

The Everything Meeting

 This afternoon the Crew of the Barque Lone Star met as they do every month on Zoom. I was having a great crash after four solid days of hard household labor, unhealthy eating, and probably too much caffeine. The nature of Zoom being what it is, when a meeting has over sixty attendees like the CoBLS does, one can turn off camera and microphone, hide in the corner, and just let it wash over you.

As they moved from live meetings to Zoom, the Crew took their local meeting activities with them, the story discussion, the quiz, etc. And then they took advantage of Zoom's reach to pull in speakers. And added a whole Conan Doyle wing. At this point, the Crew of the Barque Lone Star's meetings have become the "everything bagel" of Sherlockian meetings. And the quality of the bagel has been holding up.

In the olden times of the eighties, you really had to go to a major banquet of one of the better societies to get the content you got at today's monthly Zoom of that one society. Tim Johnson, today's main speaker, gave a wise and enlightening talk that could have graced any venue we have. Steve Mason is planning and executing these meetings with the grace of a seasoned master of ceremonies at this point, and while it's still a little early to look back historically and see just what has occurred here, the Crew of the Barque Loan Star is a great example of the best of what we've gotten from a major societal handicap of the past couple years.

I don't want to even appear to diminish all of the other great Zoom gatherings that have risen to the challenge, but our Texas-centered friends have really gone for it, and deserve much praise for going "Yes, and . . ." to all the possibilities that have arisen from our new mode. Embracing opportunity rather than worrying overmuch about guarding traditions is always the way our hobby moves forward, and the Crew has certainly done that. 

Next week, the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends 2022 symposium will be bringing people together, live and in person, in Dayton, and it will be great fun to see many of the new friends we've made over Zoom in person for the first time, as well as those lovely old faces we know so well. But Dayton comes but once a year. The other eleven months?

Well, we've still got the everything society, and all those other flavors out there.

Friday, March 4, 2022

That time when something more is needed

 This month brought a moment that was a little sad, but a familiar part of Sherlockian life, nonetheless.

Good old Three Patch Podcast, the massive once-a-month dose of fannish thoughts, has made the hard choice to shake up their format, and with it, move to less Sherlock-centered content in general. They've been moving in that direction for a while now, as BBC Sherlock recedes in our rear-view mirrors, and the choice makes sense, as the pace of new media content featuring Sherlock Holmes slows. And Three Patch has always been good with whatever topics they've chosen each month.

This is the point where someone needing to bolster their own fragile ego might be going, "Well, they weren't real fans after all, now, were they?" We've seen those guys before, for sure. And we've also seen the part where Sherlockians run out of road at mile marker "60" before, too. Conan Doyle only gave us so many stories. BBC only gave us so many episodes. We run dry of Granada. Downey can't seem to get to another movie. And after watching "Holmes and Watson" about a dozen times, well, even there a guy just has to eventually move on. We're fans, not maniacs.

Some transitions get a little more kindly treatment than others by some. If a Sherlockian's focus suddenly turns Doylean, they get a little bit of a pass. If they turn to Victorian history and become a fan of London's sewer system in the late nineteenth century, they're still acceptable if an occasional reference to the Canon is made. But sometimes, Sherlockians are good enough at what they do that they can still do that thing without keeping one hand on Holmes. How many authors have had a first novel featuring Sherlock Holmes, then moved on to their own characters? Three Patch podcast falls into that category: Creators whose abilities let them expand outside our little pond, rather than doubling, tripling, or quadrupling down inside it. 

We all take the path which suits us best. After forty years at this, I've seen some great Sherlockians disappear from the radar for career or family pursuits for a decade or two, only to return as grand as ever. I've disappeared from certain circles myself for years at a time, and been welcomed back while thinking "I didn't really go anywhere . . ." In this month's podcast on their new future, the Three Patch crew said they'd be back when new Sherlocks were stirring comment, and I've listened long enough to know that day will come. 

The little sad I have at Three Patch's honest statement of their course change is basically a sad at the passing of the 2010s. We had a great surge of Sherlockian spirit and Sherlock Holmes content, along with the new Sherlockians that come with such a surge, that we hadn't seen since the seventies or eighties. But we aren't done. None of us are ever done, even when we're finally done, as new lovers of Sherlock Holmes come along to pick up the torch and carry it forward.

So while I may not be listening to quite as much Three Patch Podcast as I was in their more Sherlock-centered days, I'll be keeping an ear open for episodes that hit my fannish sweet spots until they return to our favorite duo. 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Conan Doyle and War

 "In these days of reaction and exhaustion we have heard much of the terror and the wickedness of war," Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in September of 1924 for the introduction of Brave Deeds by Brave Men. Then things get a little weird. "It is good that we insist upon it . . . war itself has its purposes and its beauty."


A guy who just saw his country go through the trench war mess that was W.W. I is talking about the beauty of war? A man who had seen the wounds and suffering of a medical unit in the Boer War? But he also saw something else.

"Have we not known what it was to rise above personal interest, above the base desire for ease and comfort, and to feel, perhaps for the first time in our lives, that the individual is nothing when weighed against a great cause."

England had to fight for its survival in W.W. I. It wasn't the aggressor, as it had been so many times before. I don't know if all of the figures in the pages that follow were part of a cause quite so noble, as England had been expanding its empire. I think Conan Doyle would have liked the spirit of the movie Independence Day where the world came together against an alien attack, but he probably would have also thought that it didn't teach its lessons as well as history.

"If Fate so ordains it that no great trials come to toughen the fibre of our children, then at least by reading in such a book as this what their fathers have endured and done they will feel shame to sink into a inglorious ease. The need of physical courage may be less pressing, but the need of moral courage is ever with us. . . . To fight for an unpopular cause, to cut through all the shams, to say what you know to be true however it may affront popular prejudice, to work selflessly for the common advance, these also are the duties less spectacular but no less real than the sacrifice of the soldier."

The phrase "world war" has come up a little too often lately, as one country is being directly tested by war, while the rest of the world questions what to do next. The shams, the lack of moral courage that we've seen of late, push Conan Doyle's other point about the need for same. Things are just a little more complicated than his "splendid little soldier book" of 1924 might help with. And, really, they always have been.

Moments of heroism that make good stories don't come often. Most of us just deal with the day-to-day, and try to make things better for those around us. I've heard it said that a lot of folks fighting in a war aren't fighting for creed or country, but their friends, their family, the people standing next to them. 

The tech evolves. Things like communication, the power of the uber-wealthy, and advanced weaponry all grow, but people? People are still the same basic model of humans from Conan Doyle's day, and occasionally it's interesting to let words from the past remind us of that.