Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The End of an Amazing Occupation

 Forty-five years of a Sherlock Holmes society without a major city feeding it Sherlockians. That's a feat.

Word came out this week that the Occupants of the Empty House will be closing its scion doors with a final meeting on Saturday, September 17th. Hard news to hear, but understandable. Organizations age with their membership, and without another generation's Sherlockians to hand the keys to, closing time is just a natural part of their lives. And as the 1970s and 1980s were a boom period for Sherlockian scion societies, we've seen a lot of those close up shop over the past three decades. The Occupants held out as long as they could, especially after the death of one of their most energetic members, but their time has finally come.

While it's very sad news, especially following the passing of Nicholas Utechin this week, we have to pause to look back at everything that was accompished in that forty-five year run. Its members came from all over Southern Illinois, holding dinner meetings at a variety of restaurants. As those restaurants often went out of business, as restaurants do, the Occupants eventually settled at Alongi's in Du Quoin, Illinois, where they held out for a very, very long time. (And where their final meeting will occur.)

Du Quoin, Illinois currently has a population of almost six thousand residents. It's not a big town. It's about an hour and a half from St. Louis and the societies there, and a half hour north of Carbondale, Illinois, the nearest college town. The group's first BSI member, Newt Williams, came from about forty-five minutes east around Herrin or Marion, if I remember correctly. (And I definitely remember spending a birthday weekend at an Occupants meeting in Marion.) It's really hard to convey the distance and amount of two-lane state highways involved in the Occupants existence from the start, but it's what always made the society something of a miracle.

One could get into their long-running monthly newsletter, The Camden House Journal, the many Christmas annuals, their Gasogene Books collection Commanding Views from the Empty House, the various items commemorating various occasions they produced, but as with any club, it is the people that leave the biggest mark on you. The late Gordon Speck and his travel partner Bill Cochran spread the club's goodwill across so much of Sherlockian America, whether it was the New York weekend, a Minneapolis symposium, Dayton, Indianapolis, or many another place Sherlockians gathered.

The Occupants of the Empty House actually spawned at least four other Sherlockian societies from the energies it built up in its membership, giving folks who wouldn't have connected with the Sherlockian world otherwise -- due to living in small towns in Southern Illinois -- a route into the greater hobby. That was always the sign of a really great Sherlock Holmes society, that ability to provide an entry ramp for those who would otherwise never know of the larger hobby, pre-internet. These days, you can just start googling and encounter things. Back in the eighties, you had to see a newspaper account, meet the right person, or just see a sheet of paper on a library bullletin board, and the Sherlockian societies those things led you two were key.

Ah, but time has its way with all of us, and there always comes a point when you have to pause and look back at what a great trip it has been, trying not to be as sorry for the loss as just glad you got to have it all to start with.

Thank you to everyone associated with the Occupants of the Empty House, and all who had a kindly thought in that direction over the years. It was a good run.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Candles of the Canon (and off to bed)

Ever think about the items of Victorian life that we don't really get too excited about in the Canon? Gasogenes? So cool! Basket chairs? Nice! Foolscap? Well, if you have to hand-write something, of course!  And then there are candles.


The red wax candle of A Study in Scarlet, used by Jefferson Hope to illuminate his pill-based judgment of his prey, lighting the murder scene for the contable who discovered it, and left for Sherlock Holmes to consider at the scene.

There's the candle that Sherman the bird-stuffer lights when Watson knocks on his door after two in the morning after driving through "silent gas-lit streets." That same candle is used to introduce Watson to Toby.

Henry Baker seemed to have used many a candle to make his way upstairs after coming home at night, but he is far from the only one in the Canon making their way through the house at night with a candle to light their way. Even if a house was set up for gaslights, it's not like people were flipping switches as they walked into a room as we do now. Candles served an important purpose.

Effie Munro's daughter had "cozy, well-furnished apartment, with two candles burning upon the table and two upon the mantelpiece" at night. Four candles lighting the room was enough light for her to play and for Watson to consider it "a lighted room."

Candles on mantelpieces, candles as clues, Lestrade carrying a couple candles with him when needed -- Sherlock Holmes bending over with candle in hand is the first thing Watson sees the morning "Abbey Grange" begins. But the times are changing. Henry Baskerville's first thought about Baskerville Hall is. to put "a thousand candle-power Swan and Edison right here in front of the hall door" and get rid of the creepiness of the place. But once Watson gets inside his bedroom at the Hall, the Barrymores have filled it with enough candles that, with the brightly colored wallpaper, cheers things up without bringing Thomas Edison into the picture.

There are a lot of candles in a gothic tale like The Hound of the Baskervilles, probably more than the rest of the Canon put together. Candles were an everyday part of life in the Victorian era, yet they change the atmosphere of a room completely for the modern soul.  Even recreating a Canonical scene with candles just seems a little ominous? Four candles lit up little Lucy Hebron's playroom, which is cool enough, but the Tregennis family played their last game of cards by the light of four candles. Creepy, creepy, creepy.

Not sure where a Sherlockian goes with candles, as I'm rather fond of electricity myself and the electric light does make the reading go a bit better. Should we have more candle-lit banquets or other meeting gatherings? Maybe? Just maybe not card parties.

Blog posts I'm not writing tonight

 Way back in 1971, that grand old Sherlockian, John Bennett Shaw, was rejected by The Baker Street Journal for an article titled "To Shelve or Censor," in which he called out some of the more "objectionable" passages of the Sherlockian Canon. "A plumber with a rising business." "He cuddled the misshapen butt." "I went to it on my knees." And, oh, those Watson ejaculations!

It's been a full fifty years since Shaw did his naughty little census of the Canon. He also did it without a search function on a digital Canon, so you have to respect his commitment to reading the entire Canon with as filthy a mind as he could in 1971. Pondering how many things are in our parlance now when it comes to ribald topics, I considered doing a little update on Shaw, grabbing up phrases like "Here you are, doggy!" where Holmes could be appearing to search up classics in the Kama Sutra, but at some point, I realized that whilst certain terms might be common to the fic community, I might not want to go into full blog mode on things like pegging in the Canon. 

It's a different world now . . . people aren't hiding their kinks quite so much.

But do we need a blog post titled "Sexual Positions Named After Canonical Characters?" Probably not from me. (You kids have fun, though.)

Sherlockian chronology is a great topic, right? Ain't it great? Nice, safe Sherlockian chronology. Nobody trying to date cases by Mary Morstan's menstrual cycle . . . oh, dammit, next Watson is trying to work out his wife's fertility calendar and putting his three continent's experience to work, and we're back to, yes, topics I was trying to avoid tonight, to keep my reputation as a dignified Sherlockian elder. (Hey, that spit take wasn't necessary!)

But, I'm a blog post behind in my schedule for the month, and I've got to go somewhere with this.

No tea bags in the Canon, have you ever noticed that? The first tea bags were actually patented in 1903, just about the time Holmes was retiring from detection, so it makes perfect sense that there was no tea bagging in the Canon. Not much to fill out a post there.

Did you realize only one person in the Canon is thirsty without being blood-thirsty or about to die of thirst? That person is in Watson's imagination, of course, as he imagines he and Holmes waiting for a figurative "thirsty beast of prey." Okay, that's mildly sexy, without being too embarrassing to the kids. Except for the part about using slang I'm too old for. Man, Shaw threaded a needle back in 1971, but then, he was doing a talk for a smoke-filled room of chortling old boys, not the whole of the internet.

Yeah. I think I'll stop now.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

"Welcome to Hansoms"

 The Sherlockian society system is a quite complex one, mainly in that there isn't really a system. It's a shame, really, for after watching an episode of Welcome to Wrexham, about two celebrities investing in a soccer team to try to move it up in the English football league system, I have a new dream.

Let's best honest, for starters: Here in Peoria, we once had a top-of-the-line Sherlockian society. Monthly meetings, monthly newsletter, annual banquets, one of the few typeset journals before desktop publishing became a thing . . . all that stuff.  Founded by a New York Times best-selling sci-fi author, the club had a pretty weird name, sure, but the Hansoms of John Clayton was pretty much hitting on all cylinders . . . once.

The fall of the Hansoms of John Clayton wasn't exactly Game of Thrones drama, as with the relegation of any Sherlockian society. Mainly just the loss of a star player or two, some bad management choices with a new head office, loss of enthusiasm by the supporters. And yet, Peoria, Illinois, still has a steady Sherlockian pulse keeping some aspect of the Hansoms alive: A monthly library discussion group and, oh, maybe one Zoom meeting during the pandemic to help the Legion of Zoom aspirants.

Now, if you haven't seen the documentary series Welcome to Wrexham, let me explain the premise.

TV star moneyed Rob McElhenney and movie star moneyed Ryan Reynolds invest in the Wrexham football club with the intention of bringing it back to its former glory -- or at least moving it up the British football league tiers to give the city the football club it would love to have. As sports fans themselves, they know how important a team can be to a city and really want to make it work. And part of that is making a documentary about it to help support the endeavor.

Sounds like a great plan on paper. Since the show just started (and I don't follow British football news) I'm not sure how it turns how. But here's the thing:

If there are any moneyed Hollywood celebrities out there who haven't allied themselves with a Sherlockian society already and would love to invest in a club with a decent history, maybe do a documentary on bringing it back to . . . well, raising it's . . . or . . . hey, the Sherlockian society system is complex, like I said. Anyway, I would have seven words for such folk:

"Welcome to the Hansoms of John Clayton."

Saturday, August 27, 2022

S.P.O.D.E., P.O.O.P., and now, N.O.P.E

 Remember that time that Sherlock Holmes thought he'd act all crazy to trap a murderer?

"I cannot think why the whole bed of the ocean is not one solid mass of oysters, so prolific the creatures seem."

And then, "No doubt there are natural enemies which limit the increase of the creatures. You and I, Watson, we have done our part. Shall the world, then, be overrun by oysters?"

Somewhere in the misty New York fog of a Sherlock Holmes birthday weekend, Steven Doyle sat at the head of a table at The Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station and convened a new Sherlockian society based on those words. "We have done our part," Holmes said, and that sort of comment, to any Sherlockian, is apt to inspire emulation. And thus The Society for the Prevention of Oysters Destroying Earth, or S.P.O.D.E. was born.

And, as with the Baker Street Irregulars, scions and sub-groups began to spring up. And somewhere in the mix, as typically happens between American and British Sherlockian/Holmesian worlds, a British version sprang up: People Opposing Oyster Proliferation, of P.O.O.P.

Now, that British society really gets to the heart of what these Sherlockian and Holmesian heroes are doing in following that cause Sherlock Holmes felt worth raving about: Using their own bodies to convert the dreaded oysters into harmless fertilizer. There is no greater sacrifice than using one's own body to further a cause, and I salute them.

But at the same time, I find that I must remain a conscientious objector from that human versus oyster battle. It's just too gross a fight for my more delicate sensibilities. And I know there are others like me out there, who might feel lesser for abstaining from service of this cause. With that in mind, I am announcing the formation of a new Sherlockian society.

"No Oysters Please, Eatery!" shall be both our name and out non-battle cry. As with those of us who have refused to indulge in other of Sherlock Holmes's filthy habits, the tobacco, the morphine, the cocaine, this new society, N.O.P.E. shall be for the support and encouragement of those innocent Sherlockians who find themselves at dinner across from S.P.O.D.E. or P.O.O.P members who decide to combat the oyster masses without regard to collateral visual  or other damage.

My own story of one such incident helped inspire this new support society. I was attending what I thought was a normal Sherlockian society dinner meeting when a S.P.O.D.E. enthusiast directly across from me set into his mission with great gusto. A few days later, I was stricken with a variant of Covid-19. Coincidence? Perhaps . . . or perhaps not! Full investigation of an oyster/Covid connection has not been undertaken to my knowledge, so who knows?

Should you choose to join this new society of common case, below is a membership card. You're in. Let others fight those oysters -- we have better things to do with our digestive systems, and probably don't need the mythological sexual potency that such a campaign is said to bestow, anyway.

Hard looks across the Sherlockian web

We've always been aware that our grand Sherlockian society is not without a few clunkers.

One of the things I have always enjoyed about the social aspect of a hobby like Sherlockiana is the way it brings us together under a common interest and all else falls away. You meet new friends at a conference, you go out to dinner, you talk for hours about things you love, and often come away not knowing their job, their politics, their religion, their criminal record . . . . and you just enjoy them for who they are as a Sherlockian. Even the doofuses.

In an information age, however, we're all becoming more Sherlock Holmes and less John Watson, taking in more data about pretty much everyone than ever before. In some cases, like a friend I just saw on Facebook cheering college loan forgiveness, you go, "I always knew they were an all right sort!" and just smile at their agreeable opinion. In other cases, like when you're talking to a friend whose company you've enjoyed and they start speaking positively about a political figure you despise, you kind of weigh the factors in your head, going, "Well, they're nice enough about most things, so maybe they're just misguided on this one thing." And if it's just an opinion, not an action, you might let it slide.

And then there are the really bothersome ones, as when Paul Thomas Miller started calling out MX Publishing on Twitter this week after doing just a little internet digging. Between an editor's online choices of showing us who they are and the questionable work of a particular charity, there were some pretty ugly ideologies being exposed. The kind of ugly that you just don't want to associate with your happy place, especially if you got a little ego-boost from being published in a collection associated with folks involved in those ideologies at some point. It's can be hard to look at. But . . .

A personal hobby is always full of personal choices. Headcanon, what books fill our shelves, who we like to have dinner with -- the Sherlockian world isn't exactly the same place for any two of us. And as much as we like to round upwards and go "Sherlockians are just the best people!" occasionally some of them aren't. Choices get made. Sometimes we're the one making the choice, and sometimes we're the one someone else is making a choice about. But choices, inevitably, get made, for as the old song says, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." (Not the biggest Rush fan, but I've chosen of few of those as friends over the years.)

When you look and see someone repeatedly choosing hate over love, exclusion over inclusion, or general assholery, you get to make choices. We all get to make those choices. And while I'm not going to preach on what choices you should make, feeling that your happy place is also a good place, and you choose for it to be a good place, well, I might leave that as a suggestion for optimal results in a hobby. Our time is limited.

So, good luck out there. I hope you get optimal results from Sherlockiana or Holmesiana, whatever you choose to call this thing.

Thursday, August 25, 2022


 We had a meeting of our local library discussion group tonight, focusing on "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box." I love my local discussion group and their perfect balance of personalities, insights, and just letting everyone talk with no one unknowingly dominating the conversation. And I always come away with such lovely ideas from their insights. Tonight, however, I suddenly had an insight about Mr. Jim Browner that I could not get past.

THIS GUY SUCKS. (Trigger Warning: THIS GUY SUCKS, and if you don't like to read of abusive males, stop right here. THIS GUY SUCKS.)

For a full three pages at the end of "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box," we get to read Jim Browner's verbatim account of the murder of his sister and her seaman friend. Browner's words are very sympathy-inducing, and even though he's a horrible murderer with some really sick ideas on what to do with body parts, his statement has evoked a certain sympathy in many a reader. But as with all murderers getting to tell their story in court or in the press, there's another story we never get to hear: That of the victim. Or, in this case, of any of the victims. Mary Cushing Browner. Alec Fairbairn. Sarah Cushing.

Jim Browner's version is ripe for a pointed cross-examination, from the very start.

He's living with his wife Mary and her slightly older sister Sarah. Sarah is "fine," "tall," and "proud," but Browner says "when little Mary was there I had never a thought of her, and that I swear as I hope for God's mercy."

What kind of statement it that? "I never thought about my wife's sister when my wife was there, honest!"

So he didn't want a three-way, but . . .

"It seemed to me sometimes that she liked to be alone with me," Browner begins his very weird account of a time when he and Sarah were left alone together. According to Browner, they have a restrained Victorian flirty conversation, and Browner just moves his hand toward Sarah "in a kindly way," which she grabs in her hands that are, according to Jim, hot with implied desire. "I looked into her eyes and I read it all there. There was no need for her to speak . . ." And he, being a faithful husband, pulls his hand away.

At which point, Sarah Cushing laughs like a super-villain and hates Jim forever, plotting to make everyone else hate him, make his wife cheat on him . . . all because he wouldn't let her hold his hand.

Now, knowing what we know of men and women, how likely was that whole scenario versus a very different scenario.

Browner says he "had never a thought" of Sarah while his wife was around, and now his wife wasn't around. Was he drinking? I don't trust that he wasn't. Did he try to force himself on Sarah Cushing, who had previously seemed so proud and tall to Jim? That would certainly be a very real cause of the sister hating him and trying to get his wife to see her side of things. Much more likely than spurned hand-holding. 

Sarah avoids him after that incident. "She had some reason to be disgusted with me now," Browner says so innocently, like he just has no idea how that could happen. Sarah starts bringing her own sailor friend in, and then moves out to surround herself with sailors . . . almost like she's trying to protect herself from someone while staying near enough to her younger sister to try to help her.

Browner's tale moves forward, and eventually he sees his wife talking to Alec Fairbairn on the street, then going for a boat ride. He blames what follows on drunken rage, but here's the thing. He stabs two people to death in what seems like a jealous range, but is somehow not thinking of them or blaming them as he IMMEDIATELY starts thinking of Sarah Cushing and how he can send her those ears.

As we've seen a lot in modern politics, there's this little thing called "transference," which someone sees someone else as guilty of the very evil they themselves are doing. Jim Browner claims that Sarah Cushing was out for revenge after he rejected her. But everything Jim Browner is going to jail for seems like the vengeance of a man who was rejected by his wife's sister.

Sarah Cushing never gets to tell her story because she's traumatized by the whole thing into "brain fever," which was a catch-all name that probably covered all sorts of post-traumatic issues. Like the abuse and constant dread of learning a man she feared had finally acted out as she feared and was likely coming for her next. Because that guy sucked.

I'm even kind of angry with Watson for getting lazy and just including Browner's bull crap story verbatim in his own story, without verifying any details or even attempting to talk to Sarah Cushing. And with Sherlock Holmes for just taking in that story and going "What is the meaning of it, Watson?" and just being all whiney about the state of humanity instead of looking for the real truth of the matter.

Because Jim Browner? THIS GUY SUCKS.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Watson's Crowd

 Doctor Watson having one very famous friend has really unbalanced his being in the eyes of the rest of humanity. I mean, think of any one friend in your life, your best friend, even . . . now think of your life if everyone saw it in only terms of that one other person, and cast you as someone who practically wouldn't exist without that one person. Even if you don't consider John Watson to be Sherlock Holmes's one true love, he still winds up being Holmes's One True Friend, despite all evidence of problems in the relationship -- and there is plenty.

One of the most intriguing lines we have from John Watson about his life outside of Holmes comes from "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box," as Watson, still living at Baker Street, writes, "Everybody was out of town, and I yearned for the glades of the New Forest or the shingle of Southsea."

So just who was "everybody?"

It really speaks to Watson having a regular group of friends he'd hang out with. He follows that with "a depleted bank account had caused me to postpone my holiday, and as to my companion, neither the country nor the sea presented the slightest attraction to him." So if Watson had a well-stuffed bank account, he'd have plainly gone to the planned trip to New Forest or Southsea. And he wouldn't have gone with Sherlock Holmes. Watson is actually kind of depressed that he has to stay in London with Holmes.

Who would he have hung out with on vacation? How many of his friends went to the same location in New Forest or Southsea to do that hanging out? And if Watson was yearning for those places, it would seem to indicate he had either been there before or just heard so much about them from his friends who did vacation there.

Colonel Hayter, Thurston, Lomax . . . the list of non-Sherlock friends who might have been in that "everybody" is very short. And if you search up Watson's well over two hundred uses of the words "my friend" in his writings, they all tend to be about the guy he lives with. Even the hundreds of instances of the words "your friend" seem to focus on the guy Watson was forced to live with for financial reasons.

Was "everybody" a real social group, or something Watson just yearned for in his hot August blues as he yearned for those vacation spots outside of London?

It remains yet another of those Watson mysteries we shall be forever wondering about, like his wound, his bull pup, and his wives. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

John H. Watson Society Meeting Planning Committee Meeting

 With Saturday being the monthly Zoom meeting of the John H. Watson Society, and just four short days away, it was imperative that the John H. Watson Society Meeting Planning Committee get together and plan Saturday's meeting. And yet, there was a problem.

A big problem.

Much like that Holmesian society of great renown, the Shingle of Southsea, the John H. Watson Society Meeting Planning Committee typically had only one attendee. And that person's mind had been much diverted lately with the cares of unwanted work travel. No Zoom link had been placed on the website, and no topics had been discussed at the previous meeting. True, the bull pups and friends never really needed a topic to palaver on for an hour or two, but a topic seemed to legitimize the proceedings as some kind of actual society meeting, since no other real agenda was ever held to, especially once we ditched the toasting of the first few meetings.

And so, four days prior to the meeting, is was time again to start thinking of John Watson. His life, his loves, his body parts . . . well, maybe not all of his body parts, as tempting as those discussion points might be toward the titillation of the congregation.

And then, the specter of Nigel Bruce rose. up from the mental ether.

Nigel Bruce. Seen by so many as the ultimate Watson fail. The man who turned Watson into boobus britannicus, the bumbler extraordinaire, the Watson whom it seemed no Holmes should ever have tolerated. But was he really that bad?

Perhaps the time has come to test that theory, and perhaps find some redemption for poor Nigel.

And thus, it was decided, as these very words were typed into the blogosphere -- Saturday's topic for the August meeting of the John H. Watson Society?

The Tournament of Worst Watsons. 

Bracket will be built. Head to head matches will be randomly selected. And a worst Watson will be crowned. Will it be William Nigel Ernie Bruce? Or another.

Drop any suggestions for a "worst Watson" other than Nigel in the comments below and I'll see about adding him to Saturday's competition! 

Because we have a meeting topic!!!! And a meeting:

Monday, August 22, 2022

Cannibals of Two Canons

 Ah, how times have changed. Or not.

This past Saturday, Heather Holloway and Crystal Noll delivered one of the finest presentations on history and Conan Doyle that I've heard in a while, exploring the racism and British empire mindset reflected in "The Adventure of the Wisteria Lodge." In the next to the last paragraph of that tale, there is mention of cannibalism, that marker for calling anyone out as the lowest of humans. And when I found myself in a hotel with free Showtime the very next night, I started a semi-binger of Yellowjackets, the series about a high school girls soccer team that descends into cannibalism. And that put me in mind of two things:

First, the Andaman islander Tonga from The Sign of the Four, who gets referred to as a cannibal from a cannibal tribe multiple times.

And, second, that most modern of our fictional cannibals, Hannibal Lechter, the cultured psychiatrist and serial killer.

Tonga performs in side shows. Lechter goes to the opera.

Tonga is a sidekick. Lechter makes the hero his sidekick, more than once.

Appearing in books a hundred years apart, it would seem that cannibals have come a long way . . . well, except that Hannibal Lechter is . . . Lithuanian. Is Lithuania as far off and strange to a modern American as the Andaman Islands were to a Briton of the 1880s?

Hannibal Lechter has certainly been a much more popular cannibal than poor Tonga, getting several books and even an origin-style prequel. It's not surprising that there are racist differences in cannibals, like everywhere else, that sort of "Yeah, but he's our cannibal!" tribalism.

Which is just one weird statement. It's been a long day, so I think I'm shutting this one down early.

Don't eat people. It's a good rule to live by.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

A night without Sherlock

 Soooo, a person decides to write a blog every day for the month of August. Then a busy day comes, a person winds up in a place without laptop, library, or Canon … well, there’s still the web right? A world of inspiration still at the fingertips. 

But then … what is this …? A …

Tomorrow, then.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

The fifteenth year of the Scintillation of Scions

Today one of the long-running Sherlockian events had its fifteenth installment. "A Scintillation of Scions," traditionally held near Baltimore, Maryland, has kept itself going through the past few years with three on-line incarnations, and their most recent slate of speakers was both strong and full of familiar faces. 

The big difference between an in-person Sherlockian symposium and a Zoom version similar to the difference between watching a movie on TV and going to a theater to see a movie. Nobody "multi-tasks" in a movie theater, a bad habit many of us have gotten into as work meetings on Zoom or Teams started to interfere with our ability to get jobs done. Nobody comes to remind you that clothes need to be moved from washer to dryer in a movie theater. And, while you can always step our for popcorn at a theater, it's not the same as having your whole kitchen available to you at any given moment.

No vendors, no side chats with a new Sherlockian friend, none of those extras we get at an in-person Sherlockian weekend, which is why the Scintillation folks are quite anxious to get back to in-person gatherings.  Holmes, Doyle & Friends in Dayton found their sweet spot between variants in April of this year and managed an in-person event without seeming to spread much virus, but my recent infection from an August Sherlockian weekend trip definitely made me appreciate the Scintillation's abundance of caution.

 But let's get to the program.

Chris Zordan started the day off very strong with an investigation into the country Watson wrote of as "San Pedro" in "Wisteria Lodge," taking us to a place we have never been before.

Rich Krisciunas paid tribute to Jonas Oldacre in rhyme, Bonnie MacBird got interviewed by Karen Wilson, Ira Mateskey rolled out his knowledge of Doyle's American publishing, and then things really got good.

Madeline QuiƱones, in what might have been her first presentation at a Sherlockian conference, made a case for a younger Holmes than traditionally viewed with one of the best slideshows we saw all day, featuring her own art.

Heather Holloway and Crystal Noll, whom I usually associate with just throwing the best party in Sherlockiana, 221B Con, showed their full genius with a very learned discussion of Conan Doyle's representation of "voodoo" type religions. Their presentation rose to a whole 'nother level, though, when they compared those religions to Doyle's own spiritualist beliefs and the amazing amount of cognitive dissonance he was showing. A real highlight of the day.

My old friend Rob Nunn, then, had tough acts to follow when he got to talking about Colonel Lysander Stark as an amalgam of Canonical villainy that Conan Doyle would return to again and again, but he pulled it off with a solid presentation, and I was very glad he made that hurdle without breaking a leg.

Sherlockian musical expert Josh Harvey, still suffering a covid infection, served as the clean-up batter for the day with a talk on the Sherlockianly inspired Gregory House, his lineage, and then to the lineage of another Sherlock Holmes related fellow, composer Patrick Gowers whose family ties connect him to Joseph Bell. Josh dug deep into history for the ties of medical men who may have inspired Sherlock Holmes along with Bell.

Since I didn't open up my laptop, and just ran the Scintillation on my big screen, nobody knew I wore my Holmes and Watson t-shirt in honor of the day, nor did they have the steady, hard rain that kept background for it. Thinking about movie theaters, though, got me wanting some popcorn, so now that it's done, I'm off to my favorite theater for the murder mystery Bodies Bodies Bodies, if the storm lets me do same. It's been a good Sherlockian day, and I'm very appreciative of all the work that went into it by the presenters.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Sherlockian explaining meme

 I don't usually do memes. You see them trending, folks try to have a little fun and play along, catching the heat from the meme's fifteen minutes of fame. They're so often just cheesey and silly. And then came this little beauty, an old photo of a girl named Denu Sanchez in a club in Argentina, explaining something to her then-boyfriend.

She just seems so earnest in her delivery, and perhaps a little drunk. It's in a club, so you know she has to be shouting over the music. And people began using it in the best way, as I watched it rise: To have her deliver quotes. I think the first one I saw was a particularly poignant Buffy the Vampire Slayer quote from an episode called "The Body." Song lyrics followed. "I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere" got in on the act, as did some other podcasters I follow. Some used it to deliver their own bit of explanatory knowledge of something, but it was the quotes that called to me.

So after an initial foray with a Sherlock quote, I dove all the way in and had her reciting Vincent Starrett's "221B." 

I mean, there are some lines that are thrust upon us time and time again in Sherlockian circles, and the idea of one of up being a little tipsy in a club and just shouting the poem at some poor trapped audience seemed oh-so-likely.

One can easily envision her as an incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, shouting pronouncements at her Watson. I later fancied her as a drunken Conan Doyle telling William Gillette, "YOU MAY MARRY HIM, MURDER HIM, OR DO WHAT YOU LIKE TO HIM!" because Conan Doyle in a crop top at a club just makes me laugh.  But I had to stop after that. Her work was done.

Memes are such a peculiar thing, catching a feeling in that "picture is worth a thousand words" way, then adding the few perfect words to give that picture a conext. The two guys arguing from the old reality show American Chopper have gotten more mileage than their motorcycles ever did, with more opinions coming from their mouths than their brains ever held. And now we get this young lady whose brain now seems to hold all knowledge, wisdom, and cleverness the world contains.

So, of course, she have to have Sherlockian uses. Nobody is that smart without reminding us of Sherlock Holmes at least a little bit. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Desperately Seeking She-Rlock

 Okay, okay, I really can't write a Sherlockian blog post about the new Marvel Studios TV show She-Hulk, Attorney At Law, no matter how much I like it, because there's nothing Sherlockian about it, right?

I mean, we have this established character, Bruce Banner and that Hulk-thing that sets him apart from the rest of us, and then bring in a female relative who seems to be better at the whole Hulk-thing than he is. Sherlock Holmes never had anything like that did he? Wellllll . . . .

Ah, Eurus. So good at disguise that she can be both John Watson's potential affair and his therapist. Somehow unable to fit into society, yet sliding so easily into role after role as she wanders in and out of Sherlock and John's lives. Just too pure a mental hulk for this world, that Eurus . . .

Of course, we still have Enola, who has a decade or so to catch up to Sherlock and is liable to be the better consulting detective when she gets to his age. But none of that gives me fodder to write about Jen Walter's, the She-Hulk, whom I've enjoyed in comics from Day One. She was a member of the Fantastic Four for a while, did you know that? Of course you did. Sign of the Four, Fantastic Four . . .

Could Jennifer Walters have an connection to Walters the Wisteria Lodge constable, who got freaked out just by seeing a cook of abnormal size? Well, we all have a few folks in our line we might not be so proud of. 

And as much as Watson liked Clark Russell sea stories, the good doctor never used the word "hulk" in his writings so much as Russell did -- in fact, Watson didn't at all that my little search engine can find. There's a "she-devil" in the Canon, of course, in Kitty Winter, but definitely no she-hulks. And the "she-devil" in Marvel Comics lore is a jungle gal named Shanna, in any case, not Jen Walters.

No gamma radiation in the Canon, just backgammon. No super-strength, just "super-imposing."

Ah, well, sometimes we just have to enjoy something with no Sherlock Holmes connections whatsoever, right?

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

A literally inflammatory post

An unhappy author on that home of unhappiness known as Facebook was complaining that critics seemed to want to burn a book of theirs a little while ago. I stayed out of that fray, but as an experienced book-burner, I cannot leave the topic alone. So let's inflame another bit of the digital interspace with some talk on that subject. And remember a choice Canonical villain along the way.

Do you treasure books? Post memes about your love of books? Can picture nothing better than your own shelves and shelves and shelves of books?

You need to burn a book.

Just once, not as a habit, not as an attempt to wipe a certain author's writings from the face of the planet -- just to free yourself from the possession of that demon and show it who's boss.

Now, I know, I know, it's hard. I didn't come to this place on the road easily, you understand. There were several steps on the road to burning my first book and the freedom it brought.

First came my aunt's antique store, where my dear aunt knew my love of books would make me work her warehouse bookroom with delight and stock her shelves with appropriately priced tomes. She and my grandpa would buy box after box of random books at estate sales for me to go through, looking for treasures. And we built up quite a stock. Only, my good grandfather, a welder before his retirement, knew tools better than anyone. But books? Their conditions, their potential collectability, that maybe once the rain got them, you didn't really want them? Not in his wheelhouse.

When the antique store years came to a close, and we were cleaning out before the final auction, I got good practice throwing old textbooks from a second story window into a dumpster. And that was just round one of that effort. And not the last time, I would be involved in book disposal. Charity booksales can only donate their remains to so many other charity booksales. There has to be a bottom at some point, an Island of Misfit Toys for books whose supply far, far, FAR outweighs their demand. But it's a little like that farm up north where certain pets go to . . .  

So during one cool autumn evening, when we found ourselves in possession of some of the utter dregs of bound literature and human verbosity, we were standing around a bonfire in the country anyway, and, oh, how wrong what was to come next felt. And yet, freeing, somehow.

It wouldn't be the last time. And there was a full novel of my own creation that no one will ever see. Now, I could easily claim I was re-enacting a scene from the Canon itself.

"In the first place, you must give back the manuscript."

She broke into a little ripple of laughter and walked to the fireplace. There was a calcined mass which she broke up with the poker. "Shall I give this back?"

Ah, the greatest unsung villain of the Canon, Isadora Klein. Gangster, book-burner, user of men. She somehow even managed to get Sherlock Holmes to act all racist and distract the world from her crimes. Don't think she didn't do that on purpose, y'all.

All London knew Douglas Maberly, that manuscript's author -- that's a book of his would have sold some copies! The manuscript might have eventually gone for millions. And yet, there were its ashes in that fireplace, gone forever as Isadora Klein freed herself from its power with a laugh.

I'd have liked to have met Isadora and spent an evening shooting the breeze. We might have had a thing or two to discuss.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The First Time That Sherlock Holmes Had Sex

 Do you remember Sherlock's first time?

No, I don't mean some pastiche or article claiming he went for Victor Trevor's sister who died, or some boarding school romance . . . no, the first time that YOU ever read a tale in which Sherlock Holmes had sex. In the BBC Sherlock fanfic age, many a younger Sherlockian has entered that moment with full awareness. And there are even Sherlockians of old who found that paperback entitled The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and had to know it was coming.

But for a good many of us, it came as a surprise.

I mean, Sherlock Holmes is not a guy you just expect to suddenly start having sex in one of this novels. There is no indication he ever did in the original ACD Canon. (Seriously? You're gonna claim that was Holmes having sex? C'mon.)*

For me, Holmes's first time was with a London School Board member seven years his senior -- even though he was hardly young himself, probably in his early thirties. That sure doesn't sound all that spicey, does it?

But there was more to it than that -- and perhaps it was just Watson and I who mistook something else for sex. But reading The Case of the Philopher's Ring by Randall Collins at the end of the 1970s, it sure seemed like Sherlock Holmes and Annie Besant were going for it underneath a fallen Chinese screen. All in the service of raising enough psychic energy to intensify Besant's visionary powers, of course. Nothing in the name of recreational romance for Holmes, even then!

It was one of those unexpected pastiche turns that catch one by surprise in one's early readings. The Case of the Philosopher's Ring was one more attempt to emulate Nicholas Meyer by tossing mobs of Victorian celebs into a Sherlock Holmes mystery, as was the fad in those days. But usually it was still Watson one expected to bed a celeb, not Holmes. 

So who was Holmes with the first time he had sex in your experience? Someone from the Canon? Someone from history? Some previously unknown sort? Was it a surprise?

Most of us only get one first time. Sherlock Holmes, however, has probably had more first times at this point than any other fictional character outside of Mr. Spock. (Yeah, I see you, Treksters.) It's probably not the surprise it once was, but you never know.


* I really have no idea what "that" is -- it's a trap I laid for the imaginative. Go ahead and let us know what you thought "that" was.

Not a fan of Chicago

 If you've ever been a "downstater," you will perhaps understand why someone who pens a blog titled "Sherlock Peoria" is not a fan of the city of Chicago.  And in that, I think I might have found a sympathetic ear in a certain author we know. Yes, he did travel there, and, yes, he probably paid the city a few compliments during glad-handing spiritualism tours, but what we see reflected in his writings?

A telegram with simply the words, "The most dangerous crook in Chicago."

The place criminals, or people who want to be seen as criminals, come from.

"Why, I seem to have read of the Scowrers in Chicago. A gang of murderers are they not?"

Chicago, in its very history, has such ties to crime that modern politics, both at state and national levels, love to emphasize its crime to steer voters to given ends. 

The tale of the dancing men cipher, which resulted in that telegram above, takes place in the late 1890s. After five decades of a criminal reputation so bad that a city-destroying fire in 1871 was seen as a new Sodom-and-Gomorrah-style divine cleansing, Chicago still found a way to re-establish its lawless ways to the point where an 1893 World's Fair in the city is now perhaps best known for its serial killer.

Since he was executed in 1896, Herman Webster Mudgett had left the title of "most dangerous crook in Chicago" open, but at the same time, was he even that at his peak? The killer, also known as "Dr. Henry Howard Holmes" (hopefully no relation) confessed to more murders than he actually did, and was not the sort of gangster Chicago was known for. A kingpin named Vincenzo Colosimo, who came over from Italy in 1895, was a more likely candidate, but even "Diamond Jim" as he was also known, was still on the rise in the end of that decade, not forming "the Chicago Outfit," the gang Capone would eventually run, until 1902. Neither of those men, Mudgett or Colosimo, seemed the sort to chase a woman all the way to England when they had other things to do.

The Canon's most notorious Chicago criminal, Abe Slaney, must have really found a sweet spot to be the city's "most dangerous" at the time of Sherlock Holmes's telegram, but then, Holmes telegraphed a New York City detective about Slaney and not an actual Chicago cop. Could Holmes have gotten a reliable answer from a Chicago cop of that era? Perhaps not.

America's former "second city" has its fans, and even has been considered by some as a second home for Sherlockiana's biggest annual event due to its rich ties to the hobby. But as a Peoria resident, I am probably not going to be dropping in for a visit if they ever do. (Sorry, upstaters!)  

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Two in the morning

 Every now and then, some little aspect of the Canon catches you by surprise. You go looking for some bit of information using a handy-dandy searchable copy of the sixty stories, as one does during the John H. Watson Society's annual August Treasure Hunt. And then suddenly you go, "Why is two in the morning such a thing?"

I mean, technically, the Canon is born at 2 A.M.

Watson only writes the adventures of Sherlock Holmes because John Rance saw a light on at the empty house at number 3 Lauriston Gardens at two in the morning. Had Rance not seen that light, stopped elsewhere on his patrol and didn't hit that spot at 2 AM? Sherlock Holmes might have had his little discussion with Watson about detection, then when the next crime came along, not have been as moved in the moment to invite Watson along.

Two in the morning, and a light in the darkness that starts it all.

And again in the next case. Jonathan Small strikes a match at 2 A.M. Another light in the darkness at two in the morning and downstream, Sherlock Holmes gets a case and John Watson gets a girlfriend. No match lit, no The Sign of the Four.

Alexander Holder gets stirred up at that hour. Holmes catches Joseph Harrison at that hour. Hilton Soames watches for dancing men at that hour. Peter Carey takes a harpoon at that hour. Watson does some stuff. Those Pennsyvania backstory folks do stuff. And there's some other guy and a thing.

Once the Canon is rolling 2 A.M. events become rather commonplace. But those first two, those key cases that set Watson to writing . . . they set the pace.

I won't be staying up to celebrate, though . . .

Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Sherlockian Origins of Famed Wrestling Lines

 Okay, blame the Legion of Zoom. I can't leave yesterday's topic.

What if it was possible that modern professional wrestling was heavily influenced by Sherlock Holmes and his folk? What if everything we now associate with wrestling was all just tributes to the events of the Canon itself? Unbelievable even in concept? To strange to even consider?

Nawwww . . . .

And now, the off-camera semi-Canonical origins of famous taglines of professional wrestling.

"Do you SMELLLLLLLL what the Rock . . . is . . . cooking?" -- Duane "the Rock" Johnson

"Do you SMELLLLLLLL where the Crock' . . . found . . . a vicar?" -- Sherlock Holmes, off-mike in "Retired Colourman"

"I'm Ric Flair! The stylin', profilin', limousine ridin', jet flyin', kiss-stealin', wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun!" -- Richard Morgan Fliehr

"I'm Jonathan Small! The crocodilin', treasure-pilin', canoe ridin', launch-flyin', jewel-stealin,' wheelin' n' dealin' son of the third Buffs!" -- Jonathan Small, tag-team partner of Tonga

"And that's the bottom line, because Stone Cold said so!" -- Steven Jame Anderson

"And that's the bottom-wine beeswing, because Sherlock Holmes said so!" -- Sherlock Holmes, off-mike in "Abby Grange"

"Devon, get the tables!" -- Mark LoMonaco

"Watson, get the constables!" -- Sherlock Holmes, a bunch

"Is that what you think? Is that why you're gonna cross the Rock? [pause for start of response] IT DOESN"T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK!" -- Duane "the Rock" Johnson

"Is that what you think? Is that why you're gonna solve this before the Sherlock? [pause for start of Scotland Yard man's response] IT DOESN"T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK!" -- Sherlock Holmes, abusing Lestrade more times off-mike than you want to know

"And if you're not down with that, we got two words for ya: SUCK IT!" --  Shawn Hickenbottom, Paul Levesque, Joan Laurer, and Richard Rood

 "And if you're not down with your baby dyin', I got two words for ya: SUCK IT!" --  Dolores the Ferguson maid

"The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be!" -- Bret Hart (His ACTUAL REAL NAME!)

"The best and wisest there is, the best and wisest there was, the best and wisest there will ever be!" -- John H. Watson, getting a little giddy in 1894

"Whatcha gonna do, brother, when Hulkamania runs wild on you?" -- Terry Bollea

"What will you do, Mr. Sandeford, when monomania runs wild in Reading?" -- John H. Watson, off mike in "Six Napoleons"

I think I'd better stop now and do something a little more worthwhile. I head the Shaka Sherlockians are up to something tonight . .  .

Friday, August 12, 2022

Most Sherlockian wrestlers?

With the Legion of Zoom presenting "Houndamania!" on September 3, it seemed only fitting that I do a little Sherlockian blogging while AEW Rampage was running on TNT tonight. And as the matches rolled on, I had to wonder: Who should a Sherlockian be rooting for here?

Now, I immediately want to give that roll to Orange Cassidy, because "Orange" is kind of a key word to a great Sherlock Holmes tale. And Orange Cassidy's most impressive feat is when he starts wrestling with his hands casually tucked into the pockets of his blue jeans. And you don't have to go far into the Canon to find "Holmes was standing on the door-step, with his hands in his pockets . . ." Holmes likes putting his hands in his pockets. And is Cassidy's hair too far into the orange spectrum to not qualify him for the Red-Headed League? He could still apply, I'm thinking.

Oh, Parker Monroe just did some bad things to Orange after Cassidy was betrayed by a woman. That just sounds like the name of a potential Canonical villain, doesn't it?

But that closed out tonight's wrestling, so let's consider some other superstars Sherlockianly.

Well, Howard Ostrom would love me to get Dannhausen in here, and I would too, but trying that goblin in human form to Sherlock Holmes is wayyyy to tricky.  The folk in the Canon tend to shriek out their curses, but Dannhausen does his with a silent gesture. So we'll move on from there.

CM Punk? Nothing there. 

Thunder Rosa? Better! She main have no obvious ties to Salvator Rosa, the Italian painter we saw mentioned in The Sign of the Four, but "thunder" is very Canonical. Thunder Rosa's biggest flaw is that she leads us to her nemesis, Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. Canonical last name? Check! British reference in her first name? Check! An "almost M.D." doctor? Check! But ooooooh, I don't want to like her.

Bobby Fish? Bah. Chris Jericho? Good old "Y2J?" Sorry. So many that just don't work.

Though I have to come back to Dannhausen, and the targets of so many of his jests, the sons of wrestler Billy Gunn, who will be remembered for wrestling in the eighties with the words "ASS MAN" on the rear of his trunks. And what does Dannhausen call the Gunn sons to get under their skin?

"The Ass Boys." The sons of Mr. Ass. Now, this would seem like a very unlikely qualification until you dig into the Canon Holmes, where only two men self-describe as "an ass." One in "Reigate Squires" and one in "Bruce-Partington Plans." Want to venture a guess as to who the Canon's "ass boys" are?

You know who it had to be, to rate mentioning Dannhausen's "Ass boys" in this blog: Holmes and Watson. The Victorian "ass boys." Going strictly by the Canon.

I still gotta go with Orange Cassidy, though.

Sherlock Holmes and 3:30 AM notes

 Who starts writing things at 3:30 AM?

Well, Stanley Hopkins for one. With a high-society murder that he knew would get Sherlock Holmes heading for Abbey Grange before dawn to come investigate. 

Also, bloggers who finally caught the dread virus after two and a half years of avoiding it, thanks to Mr. Sherlock Holmes and missed their Blogaugust goal of a post a day. (Does 3:30 AM on Friday still pass for Thursday? Probably not, but I made this goal, so I'm making the requirements. It's still Thursday night in Blogaugust.)

How can I blame Sherlock Holmes for my own indiscretions, which led to the catching of said virus?

Well, he just places such tempting lures in our path. "Come on down to a college town the weekend the freshmen are all rolling in and see something of me you've never seen before!" he whispers. "Oh, and here's a social event at a pub that doesn't know how to seat a large group, which folks you haven't seen in years . . ." 

Such lures. In these times when you never know if you're the carrier or the receiver, and the lion's share of the population, including now the CDC, going "Ah, just go for it!" I suppose it was inevitable. My eighty-something-year-old mother and step-father both caught it and made it through okay, having vaxxed to the max, as I have. But now I have to worry about the people in my life who aren't quite as healthy as me, and the damage I might have inadvertently done there before the second test proved that this just wasn't a touch of flu.

But, hey, Sherlock Holmes.

He's always been the carrot at the end of a stick I hold in front of myself to get me to move, whether it was to travel to some distance city or to ask a girl on a date for the first time. (A story for another time.) The detective has been woven so thoroughly thru the experiences of my life that I have to actually wonder: So, maybe this isn't the thing that kills me, but will the thing that finally does end me be Sherlock Holmes related somehow?

Well, of course, everything is related to Sherlock Holmes does at some point. Unpublished writer Douglas Maberly died of pneumonia before Holmes took up his case, and how many people does that wind up being the end of? Kind of doubt I'll get harpooned, but getting shot is rising up the charts, and . . . whoa, why so grim, Brad? Sure, it's the wee hours of the morning and you've got the cursed virus, and you're ticked that you missed getting a Thursday date on this post from all the distraction of testing positive earlier "this evening." (Sticking with my story.)

I should write about my good fortune in forming a JHWS Treasure Hunt team and giving them a document to work before all this hit. Going to have to contribute something to that effort this weekend to keep up my street cred. But maybe, for now, I should just go back to bed.

Good idea.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The never-ending chronology

 Sometime in the late winter of this year, I sent my friend Vincent Wright the image of a book cover.

It was the intended cover of my long overdue book on Sherlockian chronology, which I had close enough to being finished that I felt it was okay to tease Vincent with that little pic. Another couple of months and it would be out and done.

Welllllll . . . .

Shortly after that, I came up with the idea of "The Sherlockian Chronology Sorting Deck" for a little workshop at 221B Con on that very topic, and it was I was Warner Brothers and that thing was a Batgirl movie at budget time. I basically turned my mental apple cart over, dumped the apples and kicked them around the room. And to add just a little kick to all of that, fellow chronologer Bruce Harris came out with his chronology book It's Not Always 1895 a couple months after the time I had planned to release mine. Even if I had my act together, it simply would be bad form not to wait until 2023, just for history's sake. (For the five future Sherlockian chronologists who will care.)

We are a limited niche of Sherlockian culture, after all, but an ever-growing niche.

Since we began the Sherlockian Chronology Guild and started fanning that fire, we're finding more and more chronologers out there, and their encouragment for the ongoing monthly issues of the guild's monthly newsletter Timelines has distracted me from my own efforts as well.

But I've known several writers who have gotten well into writing a history book, gotten to a point that anyone else would call done, but feel there is still so much left to explore that they just can't call the book "done," and publish. Sherlockian chronology is definitely history work, and its many avenues and side alleys will never be definitively and completely explored. It's just had to find a stopping place.

But I'm just making excuses, aren't I? I had a full day off work Monday, and what did I do? Well, everything else. I did tidy up my chronology shelves. (Yes, there are two now.) And I started this blog post as the day drifted off . . . and never got to finish as some virus I picked up in Bloomington, Indiana kicked in the very next day.

Will I ever be finished with Sherlockian chronology? These days, I'm starting to wonder.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Neil Gaiman and Conan Doyle

 With Netflix running a long overdue adaptation of some of Neil Gaiman's classic Sandman works, and Neil being very near to our Sherlockian world, with at least one classic Holmes-based tale and a few appearances at Sherlockian events ("appearances" more in the realm of sighting an other-worldly being than the typical celebrity arrangement) . . . well, it made me start thinking of how unlike Conan Doyle he is.

Both writers like to do horror. But Conan Doyle's most popular take on horror, The Hound of the Baskervilles, takes us to the brink of the demonic, then pulls back: "Oh, no, this was just the scheme of a disgruntled heir using an abused dog." Neil Gaiman like to go to that same brink and then go, "Oh, do you think that's all there is? Here's so much more."

I feel like Conan Doyle liked keeping Sherlock Holmes grounded in the real world, because Conan Doyle believed that fantastic spiritual things were already in the real world and he didn't want his fantasy hero touching his "reality." Doyle was fascinated by history and was a student of same. Neil Gaiman, so far as I can tell, seems very grounded in reality, yet is fascinated by the myths and legends of the world, and delves further and further into them because he isn't shackled by a side mission of proving to the world that fantastic beings are real. It's a very different sort of history.

Am I making any sense here?

I know there are experts on both authors out there who could make some much better comparing and contrasting observations, and undoubtedly note an error or two in the above. Doyle did write fantasy on occasion -- he wrote a little of everything, really. And I'm not conversant in the full Neil Gaiman catalogue, just wandering through things like Anansi Boys, American Gods, Stardust, and, of course, Good Omens among them, along with all his comics.

Would it be better to compare Dream and Sherlock Holmes? They do both have a certain other-worldly quality to them. And at least one very powerful sibling. And seeing Stephen Fry show up in Dream's world after being said sibling to Sherlock, well, that connection had to make a Sherlockian smile. (I mean, it's Stephen Fry. I think I'd smile anyway.)

But no spoilers. You know how our minds drift back to Sherlock Holmes no matter what we're enjoying.

Monday, August 8, 2022

A little something for my friend, the Indiana fly

One always makes a few new friends at any Sherlockian gathering. This past weekend brought a very unexpected one my way, and I thought I'd write a blog post especially for them.

My new friend, whose name I don't properly know, is a fly that somehow wandered into my room at the Cascades Inn through the door to the outside. Just the one. My fly friend would sit quietly at the top edge of my laptop and watch me type. Then they would go sit on the mirror in the morning and watch me shave. After a few attempts to swat them, I decided to go a little more Zen and just let them be, even going so far as to set out some McDonald's french fries for them as a treat. (Apologies if that pronoun was a bit confusing in number, but I don't want to gender my friend out of hand. It was a singular fly.)

So let's talk about their British cousins, or whatever of their lot inspired words from Watson's pen.

There was a fellow some decades past who printed a monograph series on subjects on the Canon, The Sherlock Holmes Natural History Series. His name was Donald Girard Jewell, and even though I did not pick up copies, my more sensible friend did, and they found their way to me. So this morning I thought I'd turn to Butterflies & Blind Beetles, the fourth volume in the series, as doing text searches for "fly" or "flies" in the Canon would yield far too many results. So what does Mr. Jewell say about flies?

His chapter "Flies in the Ointment" immediately heads for "Black Peter" and the flies and bluebottles who were Peter's friends after his passing. He points out the redundancy in Watson's words, as bluebottles are flies, and a graphic of them shows that most of us probably could not single them out in a room full of flies. He gets into fly eggs and meat safes, but let's not go there.

Instead, let us talk of those folk of the Canon whom my Indiana fly friend would love: those charming people who could not hurt a fly.

Flora Millar. Grace Dunbar. James McCarthy. Charles Augustus Milverton?

Well, that last fellow was serving as his own reference on the matter, so I don't know that we'll trust him.

Apparently the most prized flies in Victorian England were the ones found in the amber of old pipe-stems, proving that the amber was true amber -- so says Sherlock Holmes in "Yellow Face." "A fly in the amber" has come to be the idiom for a "strange relic or reminder of the past" in Britain, according to an online dictionary. And now that we've moved on to the web . . .

Did you know that blue bottle flies have the rather disgusting latin name of "Calliphora vomitoria?" It's a little fancier fly than "Musca domestica," the "common" house fly, which I think my friend was a member of. So perhaps Watson wasn't being as redundant as Mr. Jewell supposed. And it's good to learn a bit about one's friends. 

And I hope my Indiana fly friend enjoys the rest of their two-to-four week life span as much as I enjoyed my visit to Lilly Library on Saturday, or the Cascades Inn, which was their home. It might have been a long way for them to find their way to their breakfast buffet, but it would be totally worth the pilgrimage for them, for sure.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

The return of the scion dinner

 A lot of Sherlockian societies have resumed their in-person meetings now, and a goodly share of those are dinner meetings. With the Miranker exhibit in at Indiana University and a Saturday organized to celebrate that, the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis held a down-the-road dinner meeting with the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati and representation from about fourteen other midwest scion societies last night at a Bloomington restaurant called the Irish Lion.

And, if you've ever tried to get forty people in and out of a restaurant, you know that such things can go delightfully well, and also . . . well, sometimes be a bit problematic.

Bloomington, Indiana being a college town, and this being a weekend in which students were starting to come back to school, Saturday night was a little busy and parking, as in most college towns, wasn't plentiful. Also, metered using those apps so many places like to use now. And it's August, on a hot and humid summer's eve. And the Red Lion had us up a long flight of stairs which not everyone in attendance was up for, with seating so tightly packed that the eventual eating experience was conducted in a sort of praying mantis fashion with elbows held almost in front of the chest.

So my first Sherlockian society dinner in a few years began hot, claustrophobic, irritated at parking apps, and with another little thorn in my paw of late I shall not get into. Not pure delight. The kind of situation one considers removing one's self from just for peace of mind.

But, eventually, I had a good time. You know . . . Sherlockians.

Steve Doyle ran the meeting in that happy, genial hosting style I remembered from years back, and even though the program was kept to a simple show-and-tell in honor of the library collections we were here to see, and hearing folks speak from the heart on their treasured possessions is always a treat. There was a goodly range of things and stories behind them, from good-hearted gifts to miraculous finds. And all around and in between was very pleasant table conversation, even in too cramped quarters giving the greatest possible virus exposure I've had in years. (And, yes, I'm one of those uncommon folks who doesn't seem to have gotten the cursed bug as yet . . . at least that I know of.)

After a long line of paying checks, most headed for home. I went across the street with two of the Zoom-iest Sherlockians around, Rich and Madeline, for some chat in the lounge of Rich's hotel and a little podcast audio recording for the Watsonian Weekly.

It was good to re-connect with that old Sherlockian tradition and its Indiana representation, but now my own road home awaits. On we go.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Glen Miranker's "Sherlock Holmes in 221oBjects" talk

It might seem weird to talk about books as mere "objects." They're BOOKS, right? Better than plain old objects! Right? Ahhhhh, maybe not. Let's talk about that.

Glen Miranker's exhibit, first displayed at the esteemed Grolier Club for top level bibliophiles, and now being shown at the Lilly Library at Indiana University where the BSI archives are kept, has a whole lot of books in it. Probably mostly books, and yet it is titled with "221 ObJECTS." (Forgive me for all the weird capitalization to get the "b" to pop for 221b.) Spending a few hours in the exhibit (and refreshments room next to it), Glen gave an excellent talk that really revealed the ultimate truth about books:

It isn't the books that are intrinsically special. It's the human connections that emanate from them.

Sure, there's the connection from author to reader. But what Glen Miranker got fascinatingly into in his lecture today was the connections that go beyond that. Author to publisher. Publisher to buyer. Buyer to author for inscription. Buyer to library to another buyer. 

Basing his talk on four particularly interesting volumes from his collection and the exhibit, Glen went into the special details of each, and then his tracing of how those details came to be. Previous owners, lost libraries, crime and punishment . . . his tales of book detection all had the very human stories that always make for a good talk. Backtracking books' paths through the hands of unknowns and powerfully famous has brought Glen in touch with all sorts of people, giving each book a story beyond the one just contained within its pages.

Listening to his talk, going back up to the exhibit to look at the book's he talked about in person again, it all made me eager to get back to my own library and spend a little more time with the odd old volumes in it. Not necessarily due to their rarity, but due to their stories. 

Just on my trip down, I picked up a pastiche titled Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Three Dragons, not because I love random pastichery, but because it was the product of a digital online publisher I'd never heard of, and the author, Luke Steven Fullenkamp, had signed it, meaning it had been in his hands at some point. Did he have a book release signing party? How often did this digital publisher print its books? The book interested me in many ways beyond its contents.

After Glen's talk, he was asked -- by publisher Steve Doyle, I think -- about how he had infected one of the people he was getting info from with Glen's own curiosity for tracking the path of books. Glen replied that in his experience, it was just something thinking people naturally were drawn to. Which brought it back to Sherlock Holmes, in my mind, and the natural curiosity of an active mind.

Glen Miranker's talk this afternoon really gave us all a lot to think about when looking at an old book, along with a lot of fascinating details he had learned from his own investigations. And it also made me think about how much books really are just another object, but one with a few more notable human connections we can see. (How many of us label or sign other possessions besides books?)

It's been a good day so far, and I'm taking a bit of a rest break to write this before proceeding to the two-scion pub dinner to come. More on that soon.

A visit to Bloomington, Indiana

Saturday morning, a destination for midwest Sherlockians, and they're rolling in. A great exhibit, some lovely pastries and treats in a room next door. And this is the kind of thing the minute you walk in . . .

It's the thought that Glen Miranker put into selections for this exhibit that really impressed me. The case entirely of pirate publisher catalogues -- not something the average collector would even think of, but such a key part of the history of the books on display. And the combinations of things -- the first editions paired with a letter from Conan Doyle referencing that book. The art from Page and Gillette, the William Gillette section, everything, so well thought out. Excuse me a second, I have to have a vanilla rose scone with some lemon curd, and a couple tarts . . .

Yes, yes, impressive as heck Sherlockiana and I'm the dog going "SQUIRREL!" But c'mon!

Oh, and there are other people here I should be talking to . . . 

So I will quit typing and taking pics for now .  . ..


Friday, August 5, 2022

Ah, the road . . .

I suspect that the younger version of myself would find this room intriguing and delightful . . . and perhaps a bit sad when he realized how some things came to be in it, and whose loss they would cost. It's a mess of a room -- bookshelves from a house of ill repute brought down by a family scandal, a china cabinet from the dining room of that beloved grandparent sanctuary from childhood, an end table that came directly from a dream, and every bit of it filled with Sherlock Holmes. Time makes wizards of us all and we build our sanctum sanctorums without even realizing the power we eventually give them.

Excuse me, I just watched the first episode of Neil Gaiman's Sandman brought to life, and I'm feeling a bit grandiose. The thing of it is, though, I am due to leave the room above and the rest of that new Netflix series to get in a car of a certain age and drive down some old familiar roads with some old familiar bookstores to a Sherlock Holmes event in Indiana, my state's sideways Canada, today.

And I am, as one would suspect of a nerdish, bookish, blogger and podcaster, not fond of leaving my home base and subjecting myself to the random possibilities of travel. T'were teleportation but possible, I would appear (and disappear at times) at so many places where Sherlock Holmes is celebrated. But without that ability, there is always the road. A full day to Minneapolis or Nashville, half for Chicago, St. Louis, or Indianapolis, more for a leisurely drive elsewhere, and, unlike some, I am all about the leisurely drive. An audio book to make the mile markers pass more quickly than three-per-song radio or playlist, and off I go.

But I do hate to leave, even at the most enticing of Sherlockian lures. This time, I mainly suspect I am going just because it's been three months without an event, and there is a certain random Sherlockian interaction one gets in person that can't be had on Zoom, where a single person can dominate a virtual room of thirty unplanned at times while you watch folks you would love to have a private conversation with sit bored. (Texting on the side can be amusing, but just not the same.)

Watching Sandman this morning, with it start as Dream is pulled away from his realm unwillingly, one can't help but consider how willing one is to leave their own realm and the reasons why.

The road awaits. Off I go to prepare.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

"It is nearly midnight, Watson . . ."

 Ah, midnight. That most magical of hours. The hands of the clock pointing directly to the heavens.

So much power in that one time of the night, beyond any other place on the clock, even over its twin, high noon. Is it frightening? Is it special in some other way? Let's look at it from the world of Holmes and Watson for a moment.

The very first instance we see it come into play is the mysterious narrator of that second part of A Study in Scarlet, who gives us, "Was it some midnight assassin who had come to carry out the murderous orders of the secret tribunal?" Midnight makes that assassin all the more eerie. And in that same tale, the conspirators do plan to act at midnight, "When the Whip-poor-Will calls three times." (What does that bird have against poor Will? There's a whole issue worth exploring.)

But let's get to actual Sherlock stuff! Irene Adler writes a letter to Sherlock Holmes and dates it at midnight. So Irene sat down and started her letter at midnight -- that's when you would date it, right? What does that say about her letter, drawn up in the "witching hour?" The final testament of her powers, even if they aren't properly supernatural, but it does add a little magic to it, doesn't it?

Midnight gets used as a reference point, things happen before and after. We have "midnight visitor" in both "Silver Blaze" and "Golden Pince-nez."  "Midnight drama" comes up in "Musgrave Ritual," and a "midnight tragedy" in "Abbey Grange." But those things that happen right at midnight . . . hmm.

Victor Hatherly says he is being summoned at midnight, but is he just over-dramatizing an 11:15 arrival and a ride to the house after, since at the telling he knows evil was afoot.

Midnight his where the kidnapping trap is set in "Priory School."

In "Beryl Coronet," midnight is the cut-off for Watson waiting up for Holmes -- Watson's bedtime. Maybe I'm biased from doing a Watsonian Weekly podcast each week, but I think that's my favorite discovery from this little midnight exploration. I know I'll sleep better at this midnight in a most Watson-ish fashion now.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The bitter jealousies of the rabid fan

 We really shouldn't speak ill of other people in our beloved hobby too often. The past-time is our happy place, our respite from life's burdens, our mental island getaway. So let us not talk about others. Let us speak ill of the one person in this hobby we know best.

In this case, that would be me. (If you want to write about yourself in the comments, feel free.)

Did you happen to see any pictures of from this past weekend's Bear Mountain conference? Ah, the jealousy I have of all those folks who got to hang out with fellow Sherlockians at a good-looking resort, listening to clever talks, having great conversations about all sorts of things Sherlockian . . . what bits have trickled out on social media definitely made me envy my friends who got to be there.

But travel envy is natural, right? New York, Atlanta, those local scions that are going back to in-person meetings . . . none of us can be everywhere, and, oh, sometimes we'd like to be. Envy is totally natural when it comes to events and places full of people.

But in Sherlockiana, there are so many other things to be envious of, if that emotion comes easy to you. Someone publishes a book that you wish you had written. Someone makes it to Reichenbach Falls on vacation. Someone deep dives into research and finds a hidden vein. This hobby is so full of people doing what they love, about things they love, in so many different ways that no matter what you're into, you're going to be jealous of someone at some point.

I mean, I totally am. All the time. 

"Fan" is short for "fanatic," and you know how far fanaticism can go. It has its own form of greed, as that thing you love is your gold, and you want to hoard it like a dragon. Now, the lay-up right here would be to talk about collectors. But at this point in my life, I don't envy collectors. All that material to care for, lug around, and never quite giving you that same joy as the day you acquired the thing.

And I'm a writer, which means my collection are the things people let me put on their shelves, or in publications they collect. And that collection is rather small, and not as widespread as some others. Does that make me jealous of writers whose books populate my shelves? Oh, yes.

And we Sherlockians have a marvelous history of people to be envious of. 

Helen E. Wilson, who wrote a paper for her college journal in 1989? Yeah, a little jealous. Ronald Knox for giving what might have been the best talk ever. Yeah, pretty jealous. Vincent Starrett and that poem of his alone? Wooooo. Edgar Smith's charming intros to The Baker Street Journal, Baring-Gould's Annotated,  Elliott Kimball's irritating pamphlet Watsoniana . . . yes, yes, yes. But it doesn't stop there. 

I think if my inner fanatic had his way and a genie, you'd see something like the Sherlockian version of the movie Yesterday, where a Beatles fan wakes up in a world in which they never existed and proceeds to write all their songs. Not for the fame. Not for the recognition. Just to live every stepping stone on the road to our current Sherlockian world. It's a level of greed that makes Scrooge McDuck or C. Montgomery Burns pale in comparison.

I suspect there's a level of fandom where you don't just want to do everything everyone in the fandom every did, you just want to be the entire fandom, aggregating the whole in a group mind that is now you, like some Doctor Who villain would do. A horrific monkey's paw scenario where you would accomplish your goal and then realize there was no one left besides yourself to talk to about Sherlock Holmes.

A little envy is good. It motivates us to compliment our friends and appreciate their talents. Too much and you get the bitter old gate-keepers who want to tell the kids to keep off their lawn. And wayyyyy too much, you wind up with . . . well, I don't want to define it too well in case I get there and don't want to tip off my Doctor Who level plans. (I'll leave one of you to talk to, though. I figured that much out now.)

"Blogging: Where future Moriartys are working out tomorrow's plans today."

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

There is no "m-e" in "team" yet. (Or an "a" or "t," really.)

 As you may or may not be aware, this is Day Two of the month-long John H. Watson Society Treasure Hunt, which happens each August. Not being all that fond of Sherlockian quizzery after forty years of testing, I'm finding myself not as motivated as I might have been in younger days. I will shamefully admit that I have downloaded the thing, yet not touched it yet. I mean, I declared this month "Blogaugust" or something like that and committed to blogging all month, so I might even be a little too busy to remember to pay attention to it.

So what do I need? A team.

I mean, ideally, it would be cool to have at least one gruff and driven sort, one charming and persuasive sort, and one maniacal wild thing, a sort of crack quiz commando unit sent to quiz prison for a cheating scandal they didn't commit, but there are enough Sherlockian characters out there without having to get too specific to build a colorful team and drive through this Treasure Hunt with a metaphoric black-and-red van of Canonical expertise. 

See, distracted already by a 1970s TV show. This is gonna be a month.

So I'm going to have to recruit a team to do this darned quiz. I hear Margie Deck has already put together a crew, so I know there's going to be some competition. And we will be starting a few days late, which always adds some extra spice to the Gumball Rally. (Where is my head?)

Want to get in on this team?

I mean, I can't promise much more than a cool name (to be decided once the team has assembled) and a good shot at the title. And a little ongoing reportage of our adventures in at least two mediums. If you think that sounds like something of interest, drop me a DM at @bradkeefauver on Twitter or somesuch.

Was this really a fair blog post to count for Blogaugust? Maybe not, but the one I originally wrote needed to cook a little bit longer.

Monday, August 1, 2022

"I have my revolver!"

A lot has been written about Watson's revolver, for has with any area of Canonical interest, firearms enthusiasts among us do their research. I've even contributed to the literature myself, thanks to an old friend who took me out in the woods for a bit of Watsonian target practice with the appropriate antique. Watson has been often seen as Holmes's muscle, his gun-toting man of action, and we see that from the very first in A Study in Scarlet.

"Have you any arms?"

"I have my old service revolver and a few cartridges."

At that point, they sound more like souvenirs than anything Watson was planning to have some use for. Holmes wisely advises Watson to clean the pistol as his very next statement. 

There have been those over the years who consider an even earlier statement to be Watson talking about his gun. Holmes asks if Watson has any vices when they first meet.

"I keep a bull pup," Watson replies.

Now, calling either a puppy or a pistol a vice seems a little odd, unless you have some unnatural affinity or use for either one. Which brings me back to something that bothered me last week: Watson shoots more dogs than humans in his Canonical records. But let's not dwell on that.

Holmes really doesn't think of Watson as his gun-guy, as he's forgotten whether or not Watson has a pistol between A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four.

"Have you a pistol, Watson?"

"I have my old service-revolver in my desk."

And yet, in 1893, Holmes knows exactly what model of revolver Watson has when he asks the doctor to slip his Eley's Number 2 into his pocket before they head for Stoke Moran in "The Speckled Band."

By autumn 1890 and "The Red-Headed League," Watson takes his revolver with him unprompted. It isn't mentioned at all in the following spring for "The Final Problem," but we can guess it was probably along for the ride (and hopefully not in Watson's disappearing luggage). Since Watson has his pistol in his pocket again for "Empty House" and going to catch Moran, we can pretty well assume it was not. By 1895, Watson is quite comfortable putting his pistol barrel to a sailor's temple to keep him docile in "Black Peter."

"I was right glad to feel the revolver in my pocket," Watson says upon meeting Reuben Hayes in the early 1900s. Age has plainly left Watson with concerns about his abilities as a man-handler in a fight, and likes that metal equalizer a bit more than in the early 1800s when it was more of a souvenir from his mililtary days. Holmes is still suggesting Watson take it along in cases like "Six Napoleons."

But in June of 1902, Sherlock Holmes is pulling one of his own pistols from a drawer to hand to Watson, a real change from past behaviors. Has the wife that Watson deserted Holmes for around that time gotten rid of the old army piece? One has to wonder.

One of the things I enjoy about Sherlockian chronology is the way it brings to life the habits of our friends Holmes and Watson over time and the little insights that can be drawn from a fourth-dimensional perspective.  This blog-glance is just a morning's wander through the tales, and even that light a look provides some points of interest that I hope some student of weaponry takes up one day. Me, I'll be on to some other topic tomorrow.