Tuesday, November 1, 2022

So Many Sherlockian Cornerstones

 There have been a couple of moments lately when I was forced to stop and think about generational change in Sherlockiana. We always like to cheer "Sherlock Holmes is an immortal figure!" and think about our fandom going on into the future. And I have no doubt it will. Sherlockiana has survived a lot, and it's a pretty scalable hobby. There have been times when, world-wide, we might have only numbered in the hundreds.

But Sherlock Holmes is a part of our culture, one might argue. Those who love Sherlock Holmes are everywhere! This is true, but a fandom's population isn't usually counted in those who go, "Oh, that movie has Sherlock Holmes in it, I'll see it if I have time." No, it's that extra step, that purposeful seeking out of Sherlock material, collecting or creating, going beyond just one more thing you like.

Rob Nunn asks folks "How do you define the word 'Sherlockian'?" in his Interesting Though Elementary blog interviews, and a lot of the answers are a bit of a reaction to gate-keeping we've seen in the past, very inclusive, very open. Anyone can be a Sherlockian. All you have to do is like Sherlock Holmes . . . and self-identify as a Sherlockian. And I think that last part is key. You have. to be aware that Sherlockians (or Holmesians) exist to be able to put yourself in the category, to even think of yourself as one.

One of those gatekeeper-y lines that you used to see a lot was "You can't call yourself a true fan (though the snobs in our crowd hated "fan" and used other words) unless you have read X, Y, Z!" The "cornerstone" works, the one Sherlock Holmes thing that turned you, like drinking a vampire's blood after they bit you, the thing that made you go, "Sherlockians are real and I am one of them now."

Movies don't turn Sherlockians. Novels don't turn Sherlockians. It has to be something that shows you there are others like you out there, not just that Sherlock Holmes is cool. It's your introduction to the community, the cornerstone block that you build your internal fandom upon. A book, a journal, an event, another Sherlockian. It's a process, surely, but we all have milestones along the way, something or someone that made a difference. And those cornerstones are so era-dependent.

One of my great personal cornerstones was a book I found on a field trip to Chicago with my college French class. I had been reading pastiches like crazy, studying the Canon, even writing fic for my own enjoyment, but it was Beyond Baker Street: A Sherlockian Anthology edited and annotated by Michael Harrison that made me realize there were others out there like me. It's practically unknown today, but for me it was a revelation. Do I insist every new Sherlockian I meet has to read it to be a Sherlockian? Of course not. It was a thing of its time.

But it defined Sherlockiana for me in a way that set my course, even before I actually met another Sherlockian in person, at a club that did story quizzes and watched Rathbone films for their meetings. That statement alone seem so like ancient times now, all pre-internet when you found out about things like that from a flyer on a college lamppost. Both the invitations and and the cornerstone moments come entirely differently now. AO3 and 221B Con introduced me to so many Sherlockians who found the hobby and community without ever needing a subscription to a journal or a scion society. Their cornerstones were things I could never have even imagined just a decade before. And even though the BBC Sherlock tide has risen and fallen, those who came to our old structures from those different on-ramps are going to carry different angles and versions of this hobby into its future.

We may come to visit the same stories from Conan Doyle together, but our stories in getting here are all different, and there are a lot more of them than sixty. So many cornerstones that Sherlockians have been and are currently being built on . . . you know that actually might make a readable collection if somebody was to put it together. Hmmm.

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