Monday, May 30, 2022

Moments for Sherlockian remembrance

 Sometimes I worry a bit that traditional Sherlockiana is too influenced by money.

America's oldest Sherlock Holmes fan club's main membership requirement seems to be the ability to attend an expensive dinner in an expensive city. Events, subscriptions, and books with prices set for a generation that didn't have the economic headwinds of those who came after. The fact that our love of Sherlock Holmes is often exploited, as with all fandoms, by those who just want a little more profit.

And then I remember the 1930s.

Late in 1929, the Great Depression hit, and life got hard. Nobody had money.

But the previous four decades had flooded the landscape with copies of Sherlock Holmes books, both pirate editions and legitimate copies. Complete editions had just started to come out, and Conan Doyle's death in mid-1930 closed the book on the Sherlockian Canon. And in October of 1930, radios across America were playing Edith Meiser's Sherlock Holmes adaptations for all who could listen.

Sure, the Sherlock Holmes stories had fans before. But that primordial soup of the 1930s, a time when imagination was the one entertainment everyone could still afford, Sherlockiana underwent its most rapid early evolution, a period of influence that folks would look back on for decades after. 

Putting an obstacle in a stream always brings new currents, and we've recently lived through a major obstacle that brought new currents to the old hobby. We're probably going to see some more obstacles in the years ahead. Pandemic limitations, economic limitations . . . who knows what else awaits us?

We can't live in the past. Tomorrow is always coming. 

But there are things to remember from yesterday that sometimes make tomorrow a little more hopeful, despite what may be troubling us at a given moment.


Postscript: As I was writing this, I remembered that once upon a time I was in the same room as Edith Meiser, the great writer of Sherlock Holmes on radio. It was the 1987 Baker Street Irregulars dinner, my first invitation there, and this important Sherlockian lady was toasted at the cocktail hour and then hustled off to the ladies dinner simply because she wasn't male. Someone whom it might have been nice to hear speak, someone whose work with Sherlock Holmes should have been lauded with so much more than a drink. But I was a newb of a Sherlockian back then and didn't appreciate the full impact of that regal looking lady on our hobby amid all the chaos of a first trip to NYC. Sometimes you just don't know the full weight of a moment when you're in the midst of it.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect that we still have the mindset that short print runs mean higher prices, which is true in academia, but perhaps not as necessary in an era of print on demand. Still, in the US at least, making good quality copies and storing them till wanted has tax issues.