Come one o'clock on Sunday, it was time for the second panel that I had worked on for this year: "Creating Your Own Baker Street Timeline." And that was exactly my goal for everyone who attended -- starting them off on creating their own timeline of the sixty original stories of Sherlock Holmes.
The panel started as panels, do with RabidSamFan/Cindy Dye and I discussing the basics and basic problems of putting Watson's works in a sensible order: the varieties of date references, the marriage issues, etc., etc. It bears a little similarity to the "Arthur 'Continuity' Doyle" panel as the problems with the continuity stories are also the problems of Sherlockian chronology. But the title was "Creating Your Own Baker Street Timeline," and that's what came next. Everyone got handed a Sherlockian Chronology Sorting Deck, sixty cards with each of the sixty cases represented, as well as a few explanatory cards.
The card system had indicators of which cases were published before the hiatus ended, which was our first sort of the deck, and any date references from the stories, which was our second sort. Accounts with references to Watson's marriage had a dotted line border on their cards, stories with references to other stories had those notes on their cards, basically the cards condensed any basic details for dating the cases into what would fit on a card so you could make your first attempt to put the stories in order without re-reading the entire Canon.
Since this one hour of chronology sorting would get you about a solid third of the Canon worked out, yet lead you into wanting to finish, the brilliant suggestion was made that doing something like this at the beginning of a weekend, then reconvening to discuss results later in the weekend would be an ideal way to explore individual chronology choices, and I loved that. The deck was an experiment, after all, the first draft of the idea, based on a thought I've had since diving into Sherlockian chronology -- it's a topic with many rather dull books on it, but that's only because it's a game you play, not one you watch from the sidelines. The cards just make the playing a little easier.
After that hour came another lunch from the Füd Trück -- a meaty pulled pork sandwich and a caesar salad this time. The weather was pleasant enough to sit out at the hotel's outdoor area surrounded by green, a nice spot not everyone knows about. Steve Mason, the good Carter (who had missed a lot of the weekend from not feeling too well), and I got to talking and didn't realize the next panel we wanted had started at 2:30 instead of three, so we were then late for Curtis Armstrong and Ashley Polasek's hour of Sherlockian movie analysis and other stories. This had a rather odd result.
Are you familiar with the Mandela Effect, where some fact of reality runs counter to something you've held in your brain, and for a moment it feels like you've wandered into an alternate reality? Well, I had one of those upon learning that Charleton Heston actually did "Crucifer of Blood" as a TV movie and not just a theatrical play. Steve actually had to google it and show me that such a thing was real. I suspect our local cable didn't carry TNT in 1991 when it came out, and the movie was so bad no one ever went "Oh, you have to see this!" in the past thirty years. But that wasn't the only weird part of the Curtis/Ashley panel.
As the hour came to a close, Curtis gave a signal and the entire audience stood up and did an arcane sort of dance and chant, as if they'd been in some secret cult all along. Having come in late and not knowing having heard any reference to any sort of odd dance routine the whole time, this was a second reality-bending moment, as most 221B Con panels -- well, none really -- have ever ended with a spontaneous dance-and-chant moment.
We had a little break to recover, as the room reset for "Our Last Bow," which is always 221B Con's final panel. The room fills up and the con's organizers, Kath, Crystal, Heather, Taylor, and . . . well, I hope the con's volunteer organizer will forgive me for not remembering her name here, as the newer member of the team -- I should take notes . . . all sit up on stage and take any comments, questions, or kudos on the weekend we all just experienced. Kudos always outnumber complaints, some good suggestions always get made, and we get to learn reasons for certain choices or ways the hotel worked, as well as the fact that the hotel staff enjoyed us as a group and had no complaints at all about us.
It's always a really nice hour and fine way to wave good-bye to the con itself for the year.
After that, everyone goes their separate ways, finding dinner, getting little room parties going, having a Zoom call with the John H. Watson Society, etc. This year a goodly cluster of folks made a last stand in the hotel bar in the midst of the incoming sea of folks for some Monday convention about medical devices or something. Sunday nights can be pretty sad at the end of 221B Con, as one sees the magical time of a hotel full of Sherlockians shifting back to the real world of a regular hotel full of strangers, but that little "circling the wagons" in the bad made for a nice place to stop down for some final chatting and a chance to say good-bye, before Monday morning departures start.
It was really tempting to stay in the bar until the last person left, but after two very late nights, I really needed the sleep so I could handle Monday's driving. (After waiting out rush hour, which I now am.)
Next year is the tenth anniversary of that glorious first 221B Con, and, man, what a ten years it has been! Sherlockiana has long had weekend workshops, thanks to John Bennett Shaw's inspiring lead in that area, but no full-on conventions. It took BBC Sherlock to light that fuse and the courage of those original five founders of 221B Con to give us something completely new to our ancient fandom. And we'll definitely be celebrating that next year.
A lot of "old school" Sherlockians still haven't tripped to the con yet, and a few have dropped in, not enjoyed the fifty percent of things that don't focus specifically on Sherlock Holmes, and fled the scene. But as BBC Sherlock's light has faded a bit, the con has kept half its programming Holmes/Victorian based, which is literally between twenty and thirty different sessions -- more than any other Sherlockian weekend you'd care to name. And that little group of five of us elder Sherlockians who huddled together surrounded by a thousand "youngsters" back in 2013 has grown with each year, as more and more folks learned the secret of Atlanta's Sherlock Holmes convention. It still might not be for everyone, but I would also have to say that everyone is not for 221B Con.
To paraphrase an old line from Marvel's Agents of SHIELD tv series, 221B Con is a magical place. Wonderful, unexpected things happen here every year. (When a durned pandemic isn't halting the world in its tracks.) And every year I leave more than ready for next year, and this year, I am definitely ready.
It all flew by so fast . . .