Sunday, December 31, 2023

New Year's Eve, Sherlockian and Six Hours Early

Sherlock Holmes didn't have any New Year's Eve stories, now did he?

It's kind of hard to tie him to New Year's, other than he starts thinking about buying a new almanac for the new year each year. That much we know about him.

But this year, the Sherlock Holmes and New Year's Eve wires crossed in my head in a way I can't unsee.

What were we looking at as the powerful opening chords of the BBC Sherlock theme came on to our TV screens? The London Eye ferris wheel.

And what was the centerpiece of Britain's New Year's Eve midnight explosion of fireworks, a greater fireworks show than anything I can remember? The London Eye ferris wheel.

Click. Click.

New Year's Eve and Sherlock Holmes clicked into place. London was Sherlock's city. He loved that town, loved how well he knew its streets, hidey-holes, and inner workings. Sherlock Holmes had that sort of torried relationship with a city that meant he had to remove himself from it completely whenever he needed to rest or retire. This year, vis CNN and the good Carter's channel selections, Sherlock Holmes's city's midnight festival of skyrockets and lightshows turned my new year six hours ahead.

Sure, Times Square has some ball that had six hours to drop. Sure, Times Square had that big-ass confetti that then had people write on this year. I've been to Times Square post-New-Year's and seen remnants of it still blowing around over a week later. Yet Times Square, it's light ball, its confetti . . . all suddenly seemed so provincial and old-timey next to the show put on by its much older urban cousin.

I texted "Happy New Year's" to my best British pal, since it was his midnight. (Yeah, of course, it was Paul.) And then I just sat in wonder as the London show went on for a full fifteen minutes.

As American Sherlockians, we do tend to Anglophilia, the Holmes stories giving us a great interest in the lands that Sherlock Holmes walked. But we're still very American, always trying to prove Watson was from here, or that Sherlock went to college over here, both of which I've done. But I swear, I actually think I may start celebrating New Year's on London time after this year.

It is easier to manage after all, for us older sorts. And damn, do they put on a good fireworks show.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

John Watson and Taylor Swift have something in common?

 Some of us can't shake being a Sherlockian, even when the topic at hand is far from Holmes.

Listening to my standard Saturday morning podcast today, I heard the discussion turn to Time's Person of the Year, Taylor Swift, and just went, "It's John Watson" all over again.

It's their sexuality, you see. Both have a large contingent of fans that accept them as gay. Both have public evidence of being in a heterosexual relationship. And both get a measured, "Okay, they're bi," from those of us not invested enough in either side and willing to accept duality.

Governess Mary Morstan and NFL tight end Travis Kelce are characters almost as far apart as two people can be, but they find themselves in the same role: Unlikely love interest standing in the way of fans hopes for their significant other. While Taylor Swift doesn't have a Sherlock Holmes dominating her life, creating a relationship rival for Travis Kelce, there are still qualities she shares with Watson that have put her in this space.

John Watson lets his writings speak for themselves telling their stories. He's made the choices for what stories he records, but still comes off as an everyman in the telling, remaining back just far enough to let the reader imagine they're present for the events happening around him. Taylor Swift seems to do the same, letting her songs tell their stories, not distracting from them by putting any personal distractions out front. 

Have there been any articles in The Baker Street Journal or The Sherlock Holmes Journal, the two traditional pillars of Sherlock Holmes fandom, digging as deeply into John Watson's sexuality as topics like which trains he rode where? Something that goes in without an agenda and examines his reactions to both men and women, his moments of emotion, and definitely goes deeper than dwelling upon "an experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents." (How often we forget the "many nations" part of that quote.) I'm very forgetful about what I've read over the years, so I'll need to be reminded if there is such a piece.

While Taylor Swift will one day probably reveal her truths, in a memoir or candid interview, we're definitely not going to see that from John H. Watson anytime soon. Like the chronology of his cases or the extent of his wounds, we will just have to keep posing the questions and working out our own answers.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Five Weeks Until The Dangling Prussian, But Let's Talk About Poe

 Five weeks out until virtual pub night at the Dangling Prussian, our little virtual soiree for those left adrift on the night of the New York dinners in honor of Sherlock Holmes. We know the limits of Zoom, which serves up neither the intimacy of a party, where even in a crowd you get little breakout conversations, or the proper audience feel of a theater where you hear all the reactions of your fellow patrons, laughing and clapping together. But we still gather and make do as best we can.

Why the "Dangling Prussian," that hypothetical inn proposed by Sherlock Holmes after the threatened lynching of Baron Von Bork in "His Last Bow?" 

Because it's Sherlock Holmes being imaginative and clever, and, c'mon, there's a bit of a bawdy way to look at that pub name as well. And if one is claiming a pub night can exist on Zoom, hypothetical is completely it. And it's a bit like the box holding Schrödinger's cat, isn't it? We don't really know if Von Bork was alive or dead after that trip back to London, now do we?

So, he wrote, about to change the subject, I finally pushed my way to the end of The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix tonight, just because it needed to be done. Grim, dark, weaving Poe's story bits into a modern tragedy of wealth and power, it was all about reminding you of what Edgar Allen Poe is most famous for.  The reliably solid Carl Lumbly (I watched all of M.A.N.T.I.S. back in the day.) plays a character named C. Auguste Dupin, who bears the same name as Edgar Allen Poe's detective, once called "a very inferior fellow" by Sherlock Holmes, but The Fall of the House of Usher is no detective story.

The darkness of Usher, representing Poe's work, makes one think hard on the contrast between the works of Poe and the works of Conan Doyle, who was inspired by Poe. Doyle wrote some horror, to be sure, but it was never what he was most famous for, just as Poe was not most famous for his detective. And even though his inaugural mystery, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" delves in analytical reasoning used to solve crime, that murderous orangutan that turns out to be the villain seems quite the horror in his way.

One comes away from a Sherlock Holmes story in quite the opposite mood of a typical Poe horror tale. We want Sherlock Holmes to leave the world in an ordered, sensible state for us when all is said and done, whatever darkness was passed through along the way, be it family demon hound curse or creepy country estate with snakes in the vents. And that's what we hope for from any Sherlock Holmes tale, which makes those supernatural Holmes pastiches a little less attractive to some of us.

The night of the Dangling Prussian virtual pub night, we'll be seeing a Sherlock Holmes mystery play out, as four recruits demonstrate just how Holmes, Watson, Gregson, and Lestrade might work their way through a murder mystery, Dungeons and Dragons style. And when it's done, hopefully we won't be in as dark a mood as if we'd done Edgar Allen Poe role play. More details and a link can be found here.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Taking a Moriarty Day

 Early this morning, I recieved one of those odd e-mail that makes one wonder if an attempt at hacking is being foist upon you. The sending address was but a number, the subject line blank, and the content a simple JPEG image. Gmail claimed to have scanned it, and the preview looked a bit like Paul Thomas Miller with a bit more hair than last I saw him. Still, I just didn't want to trust it enough to double-click for full view. And then, while at the theater waiting for a matinee of Napoleon to start,  I received a query with the same image from another friend.

I examined it more closely. Paul Thomas Miller was holding a copy of an extremely rare monograph on Professor Moriarty, that was only known to exist in Michigan, far, far away from Plymouth and Paul's usual environs.

Suddenly, pieces fell into place. A known defender of Canonical criminals from Michigan had been in possession of two copies of that black item, and had recently been heard of in London. Had Rich Krisciunas met up with Paul Thomas Miller? It seemed so. I knew Talon King was due to have a meeting with Paul tomorrow about certain Moriatian plottings, so I made a mental note to ask him.

While all this was going on, I had finally let the ongoing encouragement of Madeline Quiñones to listen to the Audible Moriarty audio drama push me to do that thing. The alternate universe of Moriarty: The Devil's Game, created by Charles Kindinger, is a splendid little drama which lays out a quite different origin story for the professor than we normally expect for "the Napoleon of Crime." And watching a movie laying out the career of Emporer Napoleon in the middle of listening (and considerations of Moriarty as any sort of successor to Napoleon) made for a stark contrast in Moriartys.

Moriarty's stationmaster brother being called "J.J." in Moriarty: The Devil's Game, when just two days ago I got to see a certain family member of that same moniker fit right into the theme of things, which was the omnipresence of the professor. After more listening to the audio drama, I dropped in on the Theatre-Goers Homeward Bound and their viewing of They Might Be Giants, which features continual references to Moriarty until his leads face him at the film's mystifying finish.

"He's out there somewhere," George C. Scott's Sherlock Holmes says of Moriarty as they head toward the supermarket on their late night mission to find him, before his Watson deduces the final clue that leads them to their weird final face-off. (Which is such the early seventies sort of . . .  well, this is one of the reasons Star Wars was such a hit. Not doubts about that ending!)

A little break for the return of David Tennant to Doctor Who, and I was back to finishing up Moriarty: Devil's Game before bringing the day to an end. And after that finished, one thing was left, one bit of Moriarty mischief to manage. And that, shall be here in the morning . . . when it will be someone else's day.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Older than Sherlock Holmes


The 1980s verson of me, reading current me on Bluesky, would have thought it was sacrilege to refer to Sherlock Holmes, the world's first consulting detective and first true master of the detective arts, as "that boy." But that was back when Sherlock was Rathbone-old, and I was in my twenties. But time does weird things.

Sherlock Holmes is, ninety-nine percent of the time, a lot younger than me now. I can call him "Sherlock" now. I can go, "Ah, that kid! He's just amazing!

The last time we see Sherlock Holmes, in "His Last Bow," his is only sixty years old, by most folks reckoning. At that age, had he been in America when I graduated high school, he'd only have been too young to date my younger sister. Not that he'd have wanted to, of course, him being Sherlock Holmes and all, but you get the point. Sherlock Holmes being historical at this point doesn't stop him from being a punk kid once you get to a certain perspective on your personal timeline.

At the age of seventy, Sherlock Holmes's creator did a little cartoon he called "The Old Horse," depicting himself as a weary equine, burdened with all the accomplishments of his life's work. Conan Doyle's perspective becomes more relatable as one transitions from Holmes's age in "His Last Bow" to Doyle's age in "The Old Horse," but I can't help but think Sherlockians over the years have found Sherlock Holmes a relatable figure in their retirement just because he used to be a lot older, all the time.

Even though Watson documented himself and Sherlock Holmes as young men, Hollywood really wanted to depict a man of Holmes's intellect and wisdom as an older man for a very long time. It's almost like no one wanted to allow a young man to be depicted as that much smarter than his elders. Even as Holmes grew younger on cinema and TV, there was often an urge to give him some deficiency to balance out his gifts. The age of the super-cool guy who does it all has pretty much passed. (Poor James Bond can't even deal with an evil lair these days without blowing himself up after spending a lot of time with a broken heart.) But I digress.

Admiring the accomplishments of the young is just one of the joys at passing into older generation status. And whether its our fellow Sherlockians or Sherlock Holmes himself, that's just part of the fun.

Because that kid really is pretty amazing, even now.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Watsowrimo In Decline, and Other Complaints of Sherlockian Distraction

 Today marks the two-thirds done point for "Watsowrimo," my attack on National Novel Writing Month working out a Watson-based character and his Sherlock(s) as they live out their lives in electronic document form. (Typing words on to actual paper might have been just as vulnerable to loss as an electronic document, but had its more satisfying moments.)

Ten days into this venture, at the one third point, it became plain that I'd only typed half the number of words to keep pace for reaching the goal by month-end. And with that realization came the thought that if I wasn't going to make it, I might as well get a few other things done instead of giving the novel priority. Nanowrimo is a master best served by the young or retired and otherwise unencumbered. And once I started giving focus to those other efforts, the goal 50,000 words in November was doomed. Oh, I was going to probably write 50,000 words this month, just not in that one document holding the novel.

Like right now, stopping to write a blog post.

But working on a podcast or two, putting out a chronology newsletter, planning something for the next meeting of the John H. Watson Society or an annual Sherlock Holmes birthday Zoom . . .all that is not conducive to the writing of long form fiction when one has a job filling at least forty hours of one's week. But life is all about choices, no matter what your philosophical take on free will.

All that said, I was still writing on the novel this morning, just prior to this post, and still enjoying the characters and looking in on what they're up to. The thing about Nanowrimo that makes it different from running a marathon is that when a marathon is over, the course tends to revert to its former function, often a road travelled by cars and trucks. You can't stop halfway and keep running the marathon later from the same point at which you took a break. When a marathon is over, it's over. 

Writing, thankfully, is not running. You can take as long a breather as you'd like and get right back into the race, if your brain can hold on to the course and what you've done so far. Maybe just getting a little more done each day, even if not enough to reach that lofty goal of a 50,000 word November, is enough.

Sometimes, "enough" isn't such a hard goal to achieve. Perhaps "Watsowrimo" becomes "Watsowriye" and it just continues on past November.

And gives me time for one more blog post . . .

Saturday, November 18, 2023

The third January option, back again and planning some fun!

 Ah, January! The invitations are out. Plans are being made.

The Baker Street Irregulars, and invited guests, will be dining at New York's Yale Club on that Friday closest to Sherlock Holmes's celebrated birthdate.* Friday, January 12th, 2024, is the appointed date.

The uninvited guests, those who choose to use electronic devices that evening, and other Sherlockians in New York City at the time have the opportunity to go to the revitalized Gaslight Gala on January 12th as well. Always a good time.

For the rest of us in an American evening friendly time zone, who for whatever reason cannot be in New York that night, there remains the Third Annual Pub Night at the Dangling Prussian on Zoom. Now that virtual gatherings are a part of Sherlockian culture, there has to be an online alternative, and our tradition continues. 

As in previous years, the five to six hour online event will be welcoming both drop-ins who pop in to say "hi," and die-hards who want to hang for the full five to six hours of socializing, fun, and the one meeting of the Montague Street Incorrigibles every year with its arcane membership ritual for all in attendance to earn their Presbury-thumb-printed certification as an MSI.

This year's event will feature a brand-new live Sherlock Holmes mystery, in which Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and Inspectors Lestrade and Gregson will tackle a manor house murder investigation that will require your help to make Sherlock as brilliant as they need to be to solve the mystery. (Did you notice that Sherlock's pronoun there was "they?" Our great detective is probably not going to be a middle-aged male this time.)

Here's the current full schedule:

6:00 PM Eastern/5:00 PM Central -- Happy Hour, Welcomes, and Ice Breakers! 

You can come in silent and off camera, but if you come in with your camera on, we're going to introduce you around and ask you a question or two. (We'll be doing this later, too, but if there's some other program going on, we might miss your arrival.)

7:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Central -- The Official Annual Meeting of the Montague Street Incorrigibles!

Toasting, membership rituals, official monkey business. Getting it out of the way early!

8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central -- The Adventure of the Partie Carrée

A Sherlock Holmes mystery that starts with a client coming to 221B Baker Street in need of help, played out in a sort of Dungeons and Dragons style, where no one knows what might happen. Sherlock Holmes, however, will be brilliant!

10:00 PM Eastern/9:00 PM Central -- The Sherlockian Underground Reports!

As always, we will have our spies in New York City, some risking their very reputations for slipping us information via banned channels. We'll be finding out all the news we can as quickly as we can, and you'll hear it here first! Twitter isn't what it used to be, and we'll be using all our sources.

With the Gaslight Gala happily back in action, decreased Covid fears, etc., the need for online events has lessened somewhat, but the Zoom must go on!

Join us, if you can! Here's the registraton link again. Because ya just never know.

Friday, November 17, 2023

I unfollowed you on Twitter . . .

 Okay, I've been pulling on a certain plug for weeks, and I'm about to completely yank the cord and removed that connection. It started with just unfollowing every single person and entity that I follow on Twitter. It's not the app it was, by any stretch of the imagination. When it first went south, I remember a few diehards planting their feet and saying, "I shall not go," but I never felt that impulse whatsoever. 

Sure, over about fifteen years I got the followers built up to four digits -- that kind of ego-salve is hard to give up. But it was one person's massive ego that really ruined Twitter in the first place, and that seems a bit of a lesson and warning in itself. And lets get real here -- that follower number is largely due to the BBC Sherlock explosion of last decade. Most of those folks have probably drifted off, and ninety percent of them never clicked the links to go to any of the blog posts or podcasts anyway. It was a pretty number while it lasted, but for practical purposes, not worth much.

Sherlockiana has never been a large numbers field for most of us, as the highly collectible nature of its books, monographs, and other limited creations will attest. If you can reach a hundred Sherlockians with a non-pastiche bit of writing, you're doing good. (And probably even with a pastiche -- those things are the true oysters of Sherlockiana that a modern Sherlock Holmes could babble about whilst pretending fever.) The internet has connected us more, given us more range, and Zoom has done some wonderful things, but we still have a lot to learn about its best uses. We're evolving.

Whilst none of us know what path the future will take with this stuff Bluesky has really become the best tool for weaning one's self from Sherlockian Twitter. (If you need an invitation to that and I know you're a real human, let me know and I'll send you one.) And Facebook is still the eternal Facebook it always was, just as problematic but wonkily useful.

So if I unfollowed you on Twitter lately. Sorry about that, but you do what you gotta do.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Eight-Three Men Who Gave Us Sherlock Holmes

 It's not often I feel compelled to write a blog post that's a direct sequel to someone else's blog post. One would expect that such a post would be an argument against points made in the earlier post, but in this case the inspiration comes from both the other new blog post and the fact I was rewatching Into the Spiderverse for a while this afternoon.

The post is Rob Nunn's latest "Interesting though Elementary," entitled "The History of this Terrible Business." Go give it a read, if you haven't already.

In his conclusion, Rob points out that the tragedy of the bloody breakout and mutiny that destroyed the prison ship Gloria Scott was part of the chain of events that led to Sherlock Holmes becoming a detective. Without all the horrible events of that dire place in Canonical history, Sherlock Holmes wouldn't have become the hero we know today.

The 2018 film Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse, which dealt with multiple universes where different Spider-man stories occurred, had a concept called "Canon events" which were moments that had to happen in every Spider-man's life, no matter what other circumstances surrounded him. Parts of his origin, later tragedies . . . the story of each depended upon certain events to keep them "Canon" and not destroy their entire world. (Ruining the story, one might say.)

So if the destruction of the ship Gloria Scott is a Canon event of importance to Sherlock Holmes lore, that means eighty-three people must die in every universe to create one Sherlock Holmes. We are given the full tally of people aboard the ship: 

"She was a five-hundred-ton boat; and besides her thirty-eight jail-birds, she carried twenty-six of a crew, eighteen soldiers, a captain, three mates, a doctor, a chaplain, and four warders. Nearly a hundred souls were in her, all told, when we set sail from Falmouth."

Nine people are known to have survived the tragic end of the Gloria Scott. The math is pretty straightforward. Eighty-three men died to create one Sherlock Holmes on November 6, 1855. And think about that for a moment . . .

There are those who would like us to believe that Sherlock Holmes was born on January 6, 1854, based on some party-animal's love of his brother's birthday and some suspect year calculations. But didn't we just say that the event that made Sherlock Holmes who he was occurred on November 6, 1855? A date which birthed a man whose utter fascination with crime and criminals, some criminality in his own soul, and a desire to fight against those same criminals. 

What if the Gloria Scott was releasing the souls of eighty-three soldiers, sailors, and criminals into the ether at the exact moment a baby came into the world needing some soul matter of his own, and through some strange and spooky spiritual event that would have been right up Conan Doyle's alley, Sherlock Holmes became the reincarnation of eighty-three men, with the strength in mind and body of multiple men and the desire to occasionally dress up like a sailor.

'Tis a pity that November 6 has already passed us by this year, for it might just have cause to be a new Sherlockian holiday. Thanks for that, Rob!

Friday, November 10, 2023

Sherlok (sp) November

 Ten days into "Watsowrimo," as I'm calling National Novel Writing Month this November, the writer's block has officially hit. My tale of Sherlockians dealing with a mystery has played out to the point it has played out before and come up dry. One of the characters went to Walmart -- that's how bad things got. Sherlockians go to the Mysterious Bookshop, they don't go to Walmart. (Well, a lot of us probably do, but not in our Sherlockian mode . . . I mean, what's the last Sherlockian item you heard of being at Walmart?)

So here I am taking a little blogger break. But, then, what do I have to blog about?

How about a copy of Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters?

Masters was a law partner of Clarence Darrow who originally aspired to be a poet, writing poems about the local folk where he grew up in the middle of Illinois where the Spoon River winds around through a bunch of small towns. Working my aunt's antique store during an annual event called the "Spoon River Drive" I took a little interest in Masters and picked up this book. And what is its marginal tie to Sherlock Holmes that makes it blog material?

Its bookplate.

In 1965, this book was owned by a guy named Sherlok V. Miller. Try googling that and you'll get Johnny Lee Miller every time.  Dropping that "c" out of "Sherlock" is a curious thing. Merely parents who didn't know how to spell? A time-travelling fan of the 2015 Ukranian Sherlok TV show? (And if it's a time traveller, maybe it's Paul Thomas Miller with his brain attic dishevelled by the transit.)

There's a Sherlockian Chronologist Guild newsletter for me to work on, if my writer's block continues. I probably should dynamite the narrative of my November novel to blast the writer's block out of there. If it's anything like past works, it may just wind up in the closet come December, but the exercise is always good. Like many another thing, the journey is the real reward of doing the thing -- something that is definitely going to be lost on the more eager AI adopters, trying to cheat actually being creative. But that's a conversation for another time.

November continues.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Grasping Sherlockiana with One’s Mental Tentacle

 Fellow blogger Rob Nunn likes to ask Sherlockians to define the word “Sherlockian” when he conducts his bloggerviews, and nobody seems to have an issue answering his question. Most of us have an answer to what makes another person Sherlockian in our eyes. But there is a tougher question, one which I’ve seen seriously invested Sherlockians struggle with over the years. Identifying as a Sherlockian is easy. Identifying your current location on the Sherlockian map, however, is something entirely different.

If you go to an amusement park, a zoo, or many another attraction with a landscape, you’ll usually find a map with a “You are here” arrow pointing to your current location. The Sherlockian landscape, the mental amusement park where we spend our fun time, has never had a visual map. It has lands within lands, and those lands have connecting borders. Original Canon land borders Actual History land, Pastiche land, and Literary Academia land. But where does Movie land and its parts and offshoots, like Cast Cottage and Movie Universe Fic Forest, lie? 

And while we might park ourselves in one spot for a time, one can’t help but wander Sherlockiana. People come to be familiar with us along certain paths, other folks in areas we seldom  visit, not so much. And we can get so enthralled with a given attraction in Sherlockiana world that we can even forget, for a time, that there are other people right next to us in our explorations of the lands. Or that people in one area can hear folks in other areas. Folks can get on a Sherlock sort of sugar high and crash into folks as they run through the attractions. Others just quietly do their part in keeping the machinery of the established rides running. A few Sherlockians have such a history with Sherlockiana that they become side attractions themselves when they leave the field. (Jim Hawkins setting up John Bennett Shaw displays comes quickly to mind.)

For a small part of the big outside world, the lands of Sherlockiana are expansive and ever-growing. The “You are here” arrow moves a lot, even if you’re just sitting on a bench. And so we wonder. And wander. And wonder.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Nanowrimo versus AI

 Next month is National Novel Writing Month, the annual challenge for writers of all genres and levels to attempt getting 50,000 words under their belts in the month of November. It's been going on since 1999, and I've participated a few times with varying results. Going to try again this year, but there's one thing that's a little different this year . . . AI.

This is the first year that we're all painfully aware that a computer algorithm is out there that can write a 50,000 or more word novel in a much, much, MUCH shorter period of time. At this point, it's not good enough at it to write a great novel, or probably even a good novel, but you know there are already doofuses out there with no scruples or talent having AI write them novels and trying to sell them. Trying a self-published book by an unknown has become much more risky.

So a computer program can write a book . . . and one day, we can imagine, it might be able to write a book as well as a lot of us. Why should we bother writing novels at that point?

Well, we already have robots that can run a marathon faster and further than a human. Why do marathoners still run? 

Because there have always been better runners, even when it was just us humans. Most runners don't run to win. Runners run for the experience, for how it improves their bodies, and a hundred other reasons.

It's the same with writing.

National novel writing month isn't about having a potential New York Times bestseller come December. It isn't really even about testing yourself to see if you can do it. It's about just writing and writing and writing and learning what all that experience will teach you. It might teach you that you can write a novel. It might teach you how to push past writer's block as the artificial deadline makes you learn to first-draft without self-criticism. It might show you parts of your mind that were just waiting to get out if only the other parts would quiet down and let them out. 

Ever watch a kung fu movie where the troubled main character has to go into a montage of repeating and repeating and learning and getting more skilled? Nanowrimo November is that montage for a writer.

Sure, an AI can write a novel or draw a picture for your lazy ass. But it sure isn't going to make you a better human. Remember that movie WALL-E and those lazy lumps that humans had become as the robots did all their work for them? Yeah, that, but for creativity.

As I've mentioned over at the John H. Watson Society website, this year I'm calling my own personal marathon of words "Watsowrimo" and inviting fellow Sherlockians to join in. We've still got over a week until November, so give it a little thought. You will definitely wind up a better person than those AI-using lumps pretending to be creative.

Monday, October 16, 2023

The Third Annual Pub Night at the Dangling Prussian

 Now, if you go to a lot of a certain kind of Sherlockian functions, you're apt to run into folks who ask a certain question: "Are you going to New York?"

Call it the Birthday Weekend, call it the BSI weekend, call it the Pilgrimage of the Potentials, but whatever you call it, the eldest community of Sherlock Holmes fans (by a smidge) spends a long weekend meeting and mingling with their peers. And it's where people go in January.

Well, most of us.

But if you read the headline to this blog post and have seen similar words before, you know that at least one person is committing to sitting in front of a Zoom screen for a long evening on Friday night January 12th. For many a decade, an alternative dinner was held in New York for folks who couldn't get into the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars, and once Covid was done, the idea of taking that spirit to include all those who can't even get to New York (and a few who did, in past years) seemed like a good idea. So here we go again.

It's time for the third annual Dangling Prussian Pub Night. Here's the registration link, if you already know you're homebound come January 12:

Not sure what will make up the six hours. Most all of the folks who might do a presentation are going to be in New York. And it's far too late across the Atlantic for any of our European friends. Also, Zoom -- there are limits.

But after two previous virtual pub nights at the Dangling Prussian, as we call our Zoom alternative, somehow we make it through with a little program, a little gossip, and a lot of just hanging out, enjoying the company.

I might get back to New York City one day, but for now, I'm comfortable hosting a little virtual get together for those who can't. More on this to come, of course, as we figure out just what will happen in those six hours. But as invitations start to go out for the main event with the BSI in New York, it's time to start planning for everywhere else.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

So Pika-Sherlock has a Watson now?

 So I went for a walk this evening, racing that rapidly closing window of daylight that exists between the end of the workday and autumn sunset. And I pulled up that little game I play on my walks sometimes, which I share with several other Sherlockian and non-Sherlockian friends. And then this guy appeared:

I'd seen him out there before, when the movie Detective Pikachu came out, but he wasn't using the magnifying glass so much. And then something different sprang up on my radar for Pokemon I hadn't seen yet.

There were just two new critters out tonight, so one has to suspect their appearance is connected. And if one is a "Sherlock," the other one in the normal sort of hat would seem to be his "Watson."

A little heavier than Sherlock, a little slower than Sherlock, and a different hat. Does that a Watson make?

It seems to be so in the minds of Nintendo, or whatever subsidiary runs Pokemon Go for them. A new game is out for the Nintendo Switch called Detective Pikachu Returns. Is his Watson in the game a Slowpoke type of Pokemon, or is that just something out in the wild for Pokemon Go?

I don't know, but it's time to start tossing those Pokeballs at Pikachus again!

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Be careful what you wish for!

 Sometimes we all wish Sherlockiana was more mainstream.

(Side note for those who disagree with my opening line: What? You don't? Yes, I know you're different. Most of us are.)

Sherlock Holmes, even with that RDJ hit movie and BBC series, just didn't catch on as hard as Marvel superheroes or Star Wars. (Disney didn't open a Sherlock Holmes franchise.) Or even Star Trek or DC superheroes. (Paramount and Warner Brothers's attempts to match the Disney stuff.) And I'm kind of fine with that. Because have you noticed what's happening lately?

Thanks to the internet we all know about some things. And we all want to do the cool things.

Only we can't all go see Taylor Swift. Or blooming cherry trees in a specific place in the spring. Or the BSI dinner. (Yeah, I know, we all don't want to go to the BSI dinner. Some of us are different, more than ever now, for sure.) Going to see a full solar eclipse in the middle of a less populated part of Illinois really drove that home for me a few years back -- the local infrastructure was not designed to handle the mass migration of humans returning home as soon as the eclipse was over. Traffic snarls on two-lane highways with stop signs was insane and made you realize how screwed we'd be in a Godzilla movie just trying to drive away from that big bastard.

But what makes Sherlockiana truly great in our less-than-mainstream fandom is how rare it makes us, and how wonderful it is when we gather. I can go into work and talk about Star Wars or Marvel with fifteen people. (If I can find them -- work-from-home is really messing with us.) The rarity of the hardcore Sherlockian makes finding one an exciting event. Of course, it's still exciting to find someone who likes a mainstream fandom as much as you do, as my friend Madeline recently pointed out to me, finding someone who likes that special part of a larger fandom as much as you do can also be pretty cool.

Is Sherlockiana "niche" enough to be kind of hip and cool at some point? 

Sure, and that leads to eventual larger popularity, and the waves we see around a Seven Per-Cent Solution or a BBC Sherlock, when we see a new influx of Sherlockians. We need those to keep our fandom engine running at a certain level. But do we ever want Sherlock to be NFL football popular? With big-name Sherlockians making millions and you have to pay a hundred bucks to get them to sign your book?


It's hard enough to get into the dang BSI dinner as it is. (Yes, yes, I never go, but someone has to stay home and leave a chair open for the new kids.) Mainstream might not be for us. (Though if Disney was to buy out BSI Inc. and take it over . . . hey, the January dinner might be in Florida! And held at "Baker Street Land" or something like that! Quick, somebody sell the BSI to Disney!)

Insert your comments below . . . I promise the moderator will get to approving them for publication sometime in the next week.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

The Three Watsons

 At the August meeting of the John H. Watson Society, we did a little thing called "the Watson Rorschach test" wherein we took three photos from antiquity and imagined that each was the real John Watson whom we were meeting for the first time. How would we react? To find out what the Watsonians thought, you'll have to listen to the Watsonian Weekly podcast for Monday September 11. If you did, however, here are the three Watson picture discussed there.

Test Watson One

Test Watson Two

Test Watson Three

There you have it, the three Watsons we discussed. (Note: Not real John Watsons. No idea who they really were. Found the pictures in a bookshop that sold old pictures.)

Sherlockian influencers, then and now

 I was contemplating the dinner packets of the annual Baker Street Irregulars dinner this morning and their diverse contents, and it reminded me of how Sherlockiana has had influencers long before the internet and TikTok videos.

The dinner packets at the BSI dinner have long held a variety of things. Christmas cards, promotional flyers, assorted treasures one can never predict, and some regular treasures one can. Why promotional flyers? Sure, there are a hundred or two people you can sell something to if you want to sell a limited number of items to. But marketing-wise, it would seem like a very small market.

But the one thing that the Baker Street Irregulars have long been is a gathering of influencers.

Who are the most enthusiastic Sherlockians in any city, the ones that are probably responsible for the local scion societies, the ones that talk to the most other Sherlockians? Traditionally, pre-internet, they were probably also the people who were a part of the Baker Street Irregulars if they had any means to get to New York in January. They'd go to the annual gathering, then fly home to give news and tales of adventure to the members of their local Sherlock Holmes group, show off any new books they found at the Mysterious Bookshop, and share those things that excited them the most.

Which kind of made them influencers, right?

We have the big ol' internet now, and our connecting points are a lot more random than key publications and important events -- which are still there, and still do the job, of course. But we are so wired in for the latest and greatest that our influencers aren't limited to those channels. And now we have more specialist influencers -- look to your favorite part of the hobby and you'll probably find someone whom you look to for all the good tips on a given area of Holmes specialty.

Sometimes it's still just that certain friend who is plugged into more connections than you. We all have our private circle of influencers whom we just call "friends" to be sure. People who like what we like are always going to draw us in certain directions. But there are also those people outside our inner circles who shine their light on books or collectables and suddenly make us find ourselves on Amazon or Alibris, etc. looking for an item we hadn't thought about before.

I don't know of anyone who has the phrase "Sherlockian influencer" in their bio, but I'm suddenly curious to see who those folks would be. "I'm not really a Sherlockian scholar, but more of an influencer." But, as I say that I'm realizing some definitely existed in the past. For example, I don't want to say John Bennett Shaw wasn't a scholar or a man of letters, but hot damn, was that man an influencer of the top level! Entire Sherlockian societies began due to his influence as he Johnny Appleseed-ed his way around the U.S. 

Who are our biggest influencers of today? I can think of a couple of candidates, but is that title something they would find complimentary, with the social media image that the term conjures? (Do we have Sherlockian Kardassians?) Don't want to insult anyone, of course, but it is something to ponder upon, on a Saturday morning, as one does.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Sherlock Holmes Fails The Funko Test

 Now that we're pretty well past the BBC Sherlock surge in the popularity of Sherlock Holmes, here's something to consider about our favorite detective: As legendary as he is, as much of a cultural icon as he is . . . no Funko Pops.

"BUT . . . BUT . . ." one might start to protest, "THERE'S A . . ."

No, Deadpool isn't Sherlock Holmes. And, like I said, we're past the BBC Sherlock surge, so not even new Funkos from that show. As popular as Robert Downey Junior's movies were at the time, they were too early for Funko Pop figures and that popularity didn't hold long enough for them to get one.

Funko Pop figures are, perhaps, the greatest marketing success of all time. Artistically, they're near worthless. Blobs of plastic with just the most basic identifiers of a fan favorite character or celebrity of some rank. Football players, cult TV show characters, music sensations . . . 

Funko Pops aren't real heavily based on literary figures. Harry Potter and crew have those movies to boost them up. Edgar Allen Poe has a figure, but he's a Goth icon. Conan Doyle doesn't have a Funko, but Jane Austen does. Bram Stoker now has an exclusive one, but Mary Shelley does not.

Funko scrambles to tap any collector impulses that are out there, but they still haven't come knocking on any Sherlockian doors past BBC Sherlock. No Jeremy Brett. No Basil Rathbone. No Sidney Paget.

Now, I know a few Sherlockians will put on their fancy, pinky-extended, "We're above that sort of thing" face and pooh-pooh the Funko. Funkos are eminently pooh-pooh-able. They're plastic blobs that don't even stand up right pretending to be action figures. But you've seen what Sherlockians collect. We've all bought worse, been gifted worse. And Jane Austen has one. JANE AUSTEN.

As fandoms go, we're pretty niche if Funko doesn't even acknowledge our existence. Or else it's our demographics -- we do trend a little older than their market. How many Sherlockians do you know with major ink? (As in tattoos.) Those generations don't make up the bulk of our numbers yet.  

Perhaps it's a blessing our collectors don't have walls of fifteen dollar Funko boxes. They can focus on books and building their wall of MX and BSI Press series tomes. (Which might actually be bad for their backs -- at least Funkos are lightweight.) But if you ever start thinking that Sherlock Holmes is popular enough to cash in and make some money, stop for a second and consider that Funko hasn't gotten to Holmes since Benedict Cumberbatch left our televisions. (And don't say "Deadpool." I already said he doesn't count.)

But Funkos aren't over yet. So we shall see.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Annie Harrison's Italian Heritage

While I hate to start a blog post with a trivia question, let's begin with this: Can you name the Italian women of the Canon?

Emilia Lucca of "The Red Circle" will immediately come to mind.

Lucretia Venucci, spoken of in "Six Napoleons" will be one you might search out.

And, of course, Annie Harrison of "The Naval Treaty."

Now, Mr. Rich Krisciunas, he who was this year's Treasure Hunt Master for the annual John H. Watson Society Treasure Hunt, will tell you otherwise, being a legal scholar and lover of Latin (What does that have to do with this? Well, wait until a certain test has answers revealed). But let's take a look at Miss Harrison through Watson's eyes:

"She was a striking-looking woman, a little short and thick for symmetry, but with a beautiful olive complexion, large, dark, Italian eyes, and a wealth of deep black hair."

Annie (easily short for "Angela") had a brother named "Joseph," the English version of "Giuseppe," the most common male name in Italy, according to Wikipedia. Angela's brother Giuseppe is a bit of a villain, of course, and attempts to make off with the titular naval treaty, regarding Great Britain's policy toward the Italy-Germany-Austria/Hungary alliance and what England might do if the French navy overpowered the Italian navy in the Mediterranean Sea. Something that would be of great interest to Italy, one would surely think.

Now, a superficial reaction to Annie Harrison might be "But her name is 'Harrison'! That's not Italian at all!" Harrison is a truly English name, meaning "son of Harry," of course. Really English. The kind of English that an Italian spy trying to insert himself into British society might take on to replace his true last name, just as "Giuseppe" could so easily go with "Joseph."

And why not encourage one's sister to meet and develop a high-ish level government official, if one were such an agent of the Italian government?

"She and her brother are the only children of an iron-master somewhere up Northumberland way," is the cover story Watson hears about Percy Phelps's fiancee. Not that John Watson does not call Percy her fiance, after he has gotten details about the relationship from his friend. No, Watson says "she stayed on to nurse her lover." Watson does not tend to use that word "lover" unless there's something about a relationship he doesn't approve of.

Clearly Annie and her brother are working at cross-purposes at the time of "Naval Treaty," but even siblings (if they truly were) working undercover as Italian agents in England could be very competitive with each other. And sticking close to Percy Phelps was still bound to have more rewards to come for an Italian agent, even if the naval treaty was important enough for Guiseppe to make a run with, if he got the chance.

There is a lot of evidence for Angela "Annie" Harrison (if, indeed, that is her real last name) was actually very Italian -- and truly a bella donna, if you are into the Italian language as much as Italian beauties.

I leave it to the jury of my fellow Sherlockian legions to decide, should this issue raise it's fine Italian head at a later time. But the evidence seems rather strong at the moment.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Mortality of Sherlock Holmes

 The good Carter and I were contemplating eternity over dinner the other night. Eventually the conversation drifted to Sherlock Holmes, of course. I can't help myself.

Something in us likes to think things can somehow last forever. Even the most practical and irreligious of us probably has some corner of our mind where we skip pondering our refrigerator going bad, or some other instance of things just not staying the same. Life and death may be where we focus our deepest deliberations upon brevity versus eternity, but everything has a "best if used by" date when you look closely enough . . . even Sherlock Holmes.

We have heard the phrase "the immortal Sherlock Holmes" many a time, and the classic Vincent Starrett line, "Who never lived and so can never die," of course. But even Sherlock Holmes has a date with Neil Gaiman's Endless goth girl at some point. We'd like to think otherwise, for to contemplate Holmes's finish is a very, very big thought.

Sherlock Holmes is woven into human culture, human legend, human iconography. But it is very possible to envision his departure before the extinction of humanity itself. A little bit of a dark age. The fall of Western civilization followed by a purge of its cultural remnants. Humanity existed for a very long time without Sherlock Holmes before 1887. We might find someone to replace him come 3784. 

I think its important that we see Sherlock Holmes as the fleeting blip in cosmic chronology that he is, for one simple reason: It reminds us to just enjoy the hell out of him now. 

The spirit of Oingo Boingo's song "No One Lives Forever" was introduced to me at a dance party once, and it's manic energy lined up with a grim reminder speaks volumes. "Celebrate while you still can, at any second it may end . . ."

That collection of Sherlock Holmes books you've stocked your shelves with? It's never going to have anyone else enjoy it as much as the person it was built for by the person who knew what it needed.

Those friends who've shown enough interest to actually choose to spend some time with you unasked? Roll out the carpet, as those hours will pass and you'll have to get back to your chores.

Yes, yes, carpe diem is an old concept, we all know that. And the thought of Sherlock Holmes as immortal is not limiting our fun, but adding something to it -- his immortality gives us some feeling that we ourselves will be remembered. Since Conan Doyle's writings have outlasted the man for almost a century now due to Sherlock Holmes, and Sherlock Holmes fandom is about a century as well, there is a feeling that our writings about Holmes might continue to exist past our time. He gives us the idea that our fun might be remembered, clipped to his coat-tails. Sherlock Holmes just feels like forever.

And as humanity goes, and even fictional humanity, Sherlock Holmes  is a fairly young guy. Robin Hood has been with us since at least 1370 . . .  he's seven times as old as Sherlock! And then there's folk like Hercules and his clan, which might come in at about twenty-seven times as old as Sherlock Holmes. And  King Gilgamesh, whose story is definitely that old. Will little Sherlock Holmes make it as long as those guys? Now, let your fannish knee-jerk "YES!" subside for a moment before you answer. What do those other stories offer humanity that keeps them going forward, despite changes in language, despite changes in their story, moving through time beyond their original text.

Time is a fascinating thing, and history as well. And while concepts like "immortal" and "forever" give us both comfort and security in our loves (and are actually simpler to think about than the life journey through time that even a candidate for legend must go through), we can miss things by holding them too dear.  Something to ponder, as Sherlock Holmes always has been.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Networking the Sherlock

At this point, it's pretty much clear that one overly-wealthy man-child decided to trash a social network site for petty reasons. As that network had a fairly robust Sherlockian community where even a one-topic blogger like myself could build over a thousand followers, seeing it getting bruised and battered has not been a happy thing. Many bolted for the doors. Many stayed put and hope to keep the connections they built there. And some even scattered themselves across multiple outlets, just to make sure they were covered.

So now the top of my favorites bar looks like this: 

Some of those are probably dead already, like some of the Discord channels that have been attempted over the years. And some day I'll get back to trying to figure out Tumblr after it defeated me a decade ago. 

So where do we go, what do we do to connect with fellow Sherlockians? Long gone are the days when The Baker Street Journal acted as the central hub for American Sherlockiana once per quarter. Things are moving a little more quickly now. (And quarterly is so long a period that I actually didn't notice I hadn't resubscribed and wasn't getting issues until late summer. There's just enough other Sherlockian channels that you can be distracted from such a thing.)

Podcasts are nice (he said as a podcaster) and I like a weekly update podcast. I wish we had a something like The Watsonian Weekly that was a little more "current news and events" which I had originally intended for that podcast, but as much as I hate to say this about ol' Johnny boy, he isn't really a good lynchpin for a Sherlock Holmes . . . oh, wait, he's Watson. He should be a great lynchpin. I'm an idiot.

The thing of it is, we just have so much available to us now. And while the internet connects us, it's also a vast landscape where we're spread out as well. We've now learned how easy it is to connect across oceans, but haven't quite figured out how to bridge cyberspace territories.  And where do we focus our attentions? 

Their are definitely levels of closeness with our friends: texting friends, Facebook friends, e-mailing friends, friends we see on certain Zooms, etc.  All our personal networks are varied levels of a variety of connection means. We use what tools suit us, and those tools are not always stable these days.

But as Watson said, "We can but try." (I always want to give Holmes credit for that, since he dressed it up with "Compound of the Busy Bee and Excelsior.") And on we go.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

What's Going On With This Picture?

 Okay, so this picture:

Holmes and Watson taking a three hour stroll in "The Resident Patient." In some versions of the story, it's been a hot 90 degree day, but Holmes says there's a breeze, hence the walk. But they're all bundled up and Watson even has his face wrapped in a scarf. Because Sidney Paget drew that picture for a the original version of the story, where, when asked to stroll, Watson "gladly acquiesced, muffling myself nose-high against the cold night air." But when Watson's agent decided that "Cardboard Box" should be retracted from public prints, but also wanted to keep that 90 degree day mind-reading section.

So there's that.

Looking at it once again during our local Peoria Sherlock Holmes library discussion group, though I saw something else. In the original text, it's clearly stated that "Resident Patient" is in October of the first year that Holmes and Watson were sharing rooms. Watson says he didn't want to go out in the autumn wind all day due to his "shaken health." And that makes sense, because he's not all that long back from Afghanistan. And he's wearing that muffler, to keep warm, even if Holmes does keep him out FOR THREE HOURS.

But Watson isn't the weird thing in this picture. Look at Sherlock Holmes.

He has a cane and he's got his arm wrapped over Watson like he's using the doctor for support. Put those two things together and it betrays a potential infirmity more than simple shipping. Look at Watson -- wound or no, the guy looks solid and upright. He's not leaning on Holmes in any way whatsoever. Holmes is actually hanging on him.

Was Holmes the one who was suffering from some weakness in autumn 1881, still recovering from some ailment? (Like residual effects of an infected dog bite that initially put him down for ten days?)

Still, a three hour walk is no simple thing. And maybe the cane is a youthful affectation. And his was keeping Watson close for whispering comments about passers-by on the street. That look on Holmes's face has mischief in it, while Watson is staring straight ahead a little too intently as if trying to pretend he didn't react to whomever Holmes is quipping about. That guy in the weird hat that you see between their own heads? The lady they just passed?

And how is that hansom cab not running over anyone, especially that little boy?

There's a lot going on there. But just as we don't know for sure just why "Cardboard Box" got pulled and then used to abuse the weather of "Resident Patient," we can't be sure how deep the tale this picture tells goes. Or doesn't go, but you know how we like to ponder our Holmes bits.

Even in his pictures.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Of course, we started another Sherlockian society!

 Some occasions bear a special commemoration. A dinner in someone's honor, a rare guest in a foreign land, or . . . well, Sherlockians. We should always especially commemorate Sherlockians and any of those fine moments we spend together. So when Monica Schmidt offered that she and the notorious Greg Ruby might passing through Peoria on a Tuesday and were available for lunch, I quickly decided that it was worth taking the day off and doing some proper hosting. I mean how often do we get both a Two-Shilling Award winner and a One-Shilling Award winner here on the same day?

But what to have for lunch, what to have for lunch? What would Sherlock Holmes do?

"He cut a slice of beef from the joint upon the sideboard, sandwiched it between two rounds of bread, and thrusting this rude meal into his pocket he started off upon his expedition." -- "Beryl Coronet" 

So off to Alwan's meat market for an English roast, I went, found some decent brioche buns, and the menu was started. This being the midwest, a good old seven layer salad and baked beans were a quick addition. And not too many people know that somewhere after Sherlock Holmes and cinema, I do love pie. Eating pie, making pie, serving pie to friends. So I asked, and Monica suggested peach. Usually an apple pie guy, but I always enjoy trying out something new. And it does go so well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Monica and Greg arrived in good time and we immediately set to filling plates, talking Sherlockian stuff, and just enjoying the rare late-midweek Sherlockian company. But as we paused for everyone to finish sandwiches, etc., before cutting into the pie, we had one more thing to do.

There are now Sherlockian societies for eating oysters, breakfasting at Waffle House, eating at Culver's . . . so why not one for eating as Holmes did in "Beryl Coronet?"

Membership certificates were at the ready, Peter Blau had been made aware for his list, and the inaugural meeting of "Roast and Rounds: A Rude Meal Society" took place. I had always been intrigued by the thought that Sherlock Holmes once had a meal that could be somewhat re-created at the local Arby's, so what is now described as a society for "Ill-mannered roast beef sandwich dining" on Peter's list just had to come into being. ("Ill" being short for "Illinois," among other meanings.) 

Of course, this being an informal sort of organization, the certificates were a little more formal than necessary. Any time Sherlockians gather over roast beef and bread, membership certificates scrawled and witnessed on napkins will work just as well -- and I had considered making special napkin membership certificates for the occasion, but time was short.

After pie and ice cream, we went upstairs to the specialty rooms of Sherlock Peoria's home base, the Star Trek room and the Sherlock room, where another rare bit of business was about to happen. A lot of us have had that pleasant experience of first visiting another Sherlockian's study, but this was a visit to not only a Sherlockian study, but the podcast studio of The Watsonian Weekly and Sherlock Holmes is Real. So with the advance permission of our guests, I opened up the microphone and recorded the first half hour of their looking around the room just to see what it would sound like. And if an edited down version of that would make for interesting podcast content. That will be coming up on the next Watsonian Weekly, so we shall see.

Another hour or so of lively and fun conversation followed, including a little consultation on the mystery of an anonymous piece of mail I received a month ago. Monica and Greg did not prove to be Holmes and Watson, or Watson and Holmes, on that case, but we don't have enough seamen with tobacco-stained fingers in our lives these days to make mysteries more easily solvable. Eventually it came time for them to return to the road, en route to the twin cities of Champaign/Urbana, where my own Sherlockian journey began in 1978 when the good Carter discovered the Double-Barrelled Tiger Cubs and connected me with the organized Sherlockian world. And from there,  our visitors were heading on to Indianapolis and all the Sherlockian celebrations that that city has to offer.

Having Sherlockian friends come to visit is always a treat, and Monica bringing Greg along on her familiar drive down I-74 was actually quite an event here in our big little river city. One of these days, we shall organize something worth getting a few more folks here all at the same time . . . but maybe not all in my study at once after I make pie for all of them. 

In the meantime, if you've got roast beef sandwiches and Sherlockians, there's a new society you can fly the banner of. I'll send you a PDF of that membership certificate you can even all sign, just as we did.

It's been a good Thursday.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The old Sherlockiana and a new Sherlockian's path

 One thing I really enjoy about the Sherlockian world of 2023 is less insistence that one must read all of the rare old collectable works before doing one's own analysis of the Holmes Canon. Suggesting that anyone go on a never-ending quest to study the history of the field before being able to contribute is more than gate-keeping -- it's throwing a fresh soul into a maze of ever-increasing complexity and going "When you get out, only then will your ideas be worthy."

The downside, however, is that when anyone gets out of that maze, they will be so imprinted and so worn into the shape demanded by the maze, that any fresh ideas they might have had are gone. "Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people," some wag once said, and there's a grain of truth to that.

Now, I'm not saying I'm happy past Sherlockians passed. And I'm not saying there's nothing to be learned from older works. But the thing about Sherlockiana is, so much of it lies in our own discovery of what's around each corner. A lot of the older works are just compiling the facts that exist in the original Canon itself, wherein the writer was just documenting their own journey through the lore, cataloging and compiling. A good share of our reference works are just that -- someone who took notes as they read and then was able to publish them.

This really became clear as some of us started to focus in on the order of Holmes's cases as they occurred in Holmes and Watson's lives. There's a natural desire by folks to line the sixty accounts up to form a natural biography of Sherlock Holmes, and almost every person who attempts to line them up does it before reading the ever-increasing number of books on the subject. We've been discussing that topic a bit in the past few years, and no single must-read work had risen to the surface. The original stories are all we appear to expect anyone to have read, and fresh reactions to that data is what seems most desired.

Old Sherlockian works are fun to find and dig into once one has fully embraced the hobby of Holmes, but outside of actual historical studies, biographies, and the like that collect extra-Canonical facts related to our favorite subject, Sherlockiana is always about someone's enjoyment of pondering the classic works and their stars captured for us to enhance our own enjoyment. And the thing we tend. to enjoy most is seeing someone new to the hobby exuding their own love of Holmes -- especially when they've got a fresh take.

Even Sherlock Holmes had his "There's nothing new under the sun" moments. His study of crime both helped him solve new cases AND bored him to tears once he had been around the track enough that criminal originality started seeming rarer and rarer to him. But he had to actually solve crimes for people, we don't have to solve Sherlockiana. It's the journey that we're all here for.

And a great journey it is, whether one was doing in early in the twentieth century or now.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

The Opposite of Con Drop

 Okay, I'm not going to start this one by telling you what a great Sherlockian weekend I had a little while back. We all have those at a certain point in our fan life. And we know what comes after. Since Sherlockians didn't really have cons before ten years ago, we didn't call it "con drop," but that rough landing upon returning to real life after a weekend in the land of fellow enthusiasts is something that you just get familiar with. The higher you fly, the harder you fall . . . but not always.

There is another post-event effect that hits a lot of folks, and if you can fan the embers of that flame, it might just keep your balloon afloat for long enough to chart a new course. (Should there be hot air in this metaphor? You can judge as I go.) And that's inspiration.

Mixing with your fellow Sherlockians, listening to their talks, comparing notes at dinner or in the bar, you can pick up a lot of ideas for your to-do list. Some combination of things that never occurred to your before, some avenue of investigation or learning that tripped your trigger, some new friend with a plan they're pulling you in on -- there are a myriad of ways to come away with an exciting new project or past-time from a weekend surrounded by like minds.

And if you can fan that flame, it helps fight the con drop or other everyday ennui upon your return. But there's also one more thing to consider, that I think we forget sometimes.

Remember that person you were during a weekend of fellow Sherlock Holmes fans?

Open to new people and new ideas, maybe a little less judgmental and more accepting, possessing that happy knowledge that everyone there was one of your tribe? 

We're all better people when we're in that vortex of enthusiasm that comes from a weekend among our fellows. We like to say "Sherlockians are the best people," but, really, everyone is the best people when they're among their fellow fans (except for certain hooligan-based enthusiasms, of course). If you go to about any convention of people who truly enjoy a special thing, even if you don't know that thing, you'll find the best people there, because it isn't just the people. It's about who we are when we're happy and feeling accepted.

Is it possible to take something of that back to everyday life? To come back a little more open, a little more accepting, and possessing at least some measure of understanding that we're all in the same community and are together in this life?

Real life can be a miserable thing at times. Jobs suck. Families can be trying. It's never just the same as a weekend getaway. But sometimes, seeing that person we have it in us to be, after spending time in an environment that encourages that person . . . well, it can light a little flame in us that goes beyond inspiration for just something new to do.

Hold on to those lights when they come, protect them against the winds of everyday chores, and maybe the drop doesn't have to be as bad, waiting for that next time we get to spend time with our fellow Sherlockians.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

The Real Reason Holmes Had To Retire? Sheer Throughput!

 Sherlock Holmes, as we all know, had a mighty, mighty brain.

And we all know he retired from consulting detection in the early 1900s after only a couple decades at the job. By modern standards, that seems pretty young, but in the Victorian era one has to wonder if it was younger still. We have glimpses of why it was that Holmes retired, but not his full explanation. Rheumatism, boredom, Watson's "desertion" . . . surely there was something more to his choice to leave London and investigation.

While I am not going to compare my brain to Holmes's, the effects of my own age and our modern age combining are definitely giving me one theory as to why he gave it up: The sheer throughput.

I find myself becoming more and more forgetful these days, missing things in my e-mails, losing track of projects, but there is an obvious source aside from the subtle effects of age, and that's the sheer amount of data that has been rushing at me, both on the job and off. Sherlock Holmes, we know, was all about grabbing up as much data applicable to his profession as possible. He read all of the newspapers, he studied all of the topics that might be useful to him, and the ever-flowing parade of London criminals that he tried to keep aware of in a growing city? The city added two million residents between 1881 and 1901, not counting suburban growth!

Sherlock Holmes (like many a Sherlockian of the Ron DeWaal sort) set himself impossible goals in his youth and a never-ending path of information gathering. The amount of material that passed through that racing engine of a mind of his had to be astounding . . . and, eventually, unmaintainable.

Sherlock Holmes eventually had to retire just so he could quit being the Sherlock Holmes he had decided he was to be, early in life.

When looking at Holmes's retirement, it's interesting that he chose first to go for a quiet country life, and then next chose to become someone else entirely -- an Irish-American anarchist named Altamont from Chicago. Sure, he says "Strong pressure was put upon me to look into the matter" regarding his choice to turn spy, but there was also surely something attractive about just being someone other than Sherlock Holmes for a couple of years. Hanging out in America, making the social connections that would lead him back to England and Von Bork . . . yes, he was working, but he also wasn't taking case after case, called upon by Scotland Yard every time they got lazy . . . you know they had to bug him in Sussex now and again.

The amount of data flowing through the brain of an Irish-American in Chicago was probably quite a deal less than that through the mind of the London professional consulting detective. And, for a while, he got to quit being all that was Sherlock Holmes, a man of whom magic came to be expected.

I really can understand that these days.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

The shifting tides of the Sherlockian consumer

We do love Sherlock Holmes. We love things that have to do with Sherlock Holmes. And yet, there comes a time when practical purposes take over. And as changing of the generational guard takes place, we're starting to see something different occur. People are cleaning house.

Something you won't see in any of the pre-weekend promotions or much of the post-weekend write-ups about Holmes in the Heartland was the sheer amount of things raffled off, given away, or being sold at bargain prices by Sherlockians passing along things someone had collected whilst in the "I must have everything Sherlock" mode of their fan cycle. A good amount of stuff found new homes, and many things actively coveted by fellow Sherlockians for their rarity, but it gave one pause to wonder:

When is the amount of Sherlock stuff too much Sherlock stuff?

"NEVER!" someone out there is crying out at this very moment. Their heirs, or whoever has the clean the house when all is said and done, might disagree.

Anyone who has lived in the Sherlockian world for decades upon decades remembers a time when finding something with Sherlock Holmes's picture on it, or a new book in the bookstore about Sherlock Holmes was a moment of celebration, because you could go weeks or months at a time without encountering anything Sherlock. So you just grabbed it all. But the internet changed all that. You can now sit at home and buy Sherlock stuff until your bank account runs dry and your credit cards max out. So we've had to become a little more particular.

There are those things that you'd take if someone handed it to you for free, but would never seek out or spend money on. Then there are those books that you'd really like to have that are now running $300, $400, $500 bucks or more on eBay, if they're even available on eBay. And one starts to notice the difference. The "Shaw 100," a basic list by the foremost Sherlockian of the 1980s, was a somewhat attainable goal when it was created, but now? Good luck. Sherlockiana produced when the market for some things was less than a few hundred people is a rarity in a world that has nearly twice as many people and so many baby boomers at the peak of their disposable income.

But we're still seeing things being given away, out of both generosity and just the need to get it out of the house. There's opportunities out there for the young Sherlockian, to be sure. Yet it's also a time to look hard at those who came before you and everything they're trying to get rid of as a guide to what is going to be worth picking up to begin with. We all have our favorite things, those things we treasure that no one else is going to love quite so much as us. And suddenly, a lot of Sherlock things that we might not care so much about. And even new levels of worthless things, like Sherlockian video tapes.

We do love Sherlock Holmes. Sometimes he just gets harder to have around the house so much.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Holmes in the Heartland -- The Morning After

 A lot of times I "live blog" a Sherlock Holmes weekend. 

I type up little notes of what's going on as I sit in the talks, post as quickly as I can, and generally keep friends unable to attend in the know. For Holmes in the Heartland in St. Louis this weekend, I definitely failed in that, and not for any reasons that were actually bad. 

So here we are, coming down on a Monday morning after another weekend of Sherlockian camaraderie as one does. The first two paragraphs of this blog post started on Sunday morning, but as happened so often, when I'd sit in the hotel lobby to catch a better wifi signal than my room would allow, I would just wind up talking to people. Now, I've just got nothing to distract me but the dread of a Monday return to work.

Holmes in the Heartland can, I am very certain, be judged as a success on many levels. Eighty-six or so people attended, and as one person happily told me yesterday "I stayed awake through the entire thing!" That might seem like the bare minimum for praise, but let me tell you, I have sat next to dozing Sherlockians at such weekends. A lot of us are older, and sleep comes very easy to us. And even when I was younger, I'd often skip many a mid-afternoon speaker to take a nice break in my hotel room. Couldn't do that this time -- the speakers were all engaging and on their "A" game. 

I want to especially credit Ray Betzner and Mike McSwiggin for their work in the lead-off morning slot and the first-talk-after-lunch spot. Those places on the roster are key, and both performed perfectly, setting a fun tone and stimulating Sherlockian brains. And while I'm calling those two out specifically, every speaker was worthwhile and did well at the podium: Kristen Mertz, Cindy Brown, Steve Doyle, Beth Gallego, Monica Schmidt, and the Joe Eckrich/Rich Krisciunas/Michael Waxenberg final act. It was a nicely put together mix of folks, over which Rob Nunn served as master of ceremonies.

But, as many of us said, time and again, the speakers weren't even the high point. The high point was just the people, from every corner of America, gathering to just hang out with their fellow Sherlockians. From the Friday night "Just Desserts for the Professor" to the Sunday closing lunch at the Spaghetti Factory for those last hangers-on. We just had a good time being together, talking Sherlockian life, and getting to enjoy the kind of conversations you don't get on Zoom.

Zoom is now with us ongoing, and a great place to encounter folks for the first time, but I think it has actually increased our enjoyment of the live get-togethers. We can get the initial social stuff out of the way there, and the live encounters just get to be next level because of that. And not just Zoom -- the Sherlockian Chronologist Guild has been interacting only by PDF newsletter for two and a half years now, and the prospect of Mike McSwiggin doing a chronology talk (among other things) brought about eight of us together in one place -- an unheard of occurrence!

I could go on and on about Holmes in the Heartland here, but the workday awaits. Sigh.

More notes spawned by this weekend to come.

Friday, July 28, 2023

The St. Louis Preamble

 Technically, St. Louis's Holmes in the Heartland symposium starts this afternoon. On Friday.

But back when planning for this, I accidentally asked for Thursday off, so with a lot of prep to do for weekend, I added an extra day to my hotel stay and just went early. A little extra vacation isn't usually a hard choice. What came as a bit of a surprise was the number of Sherlockians who did likewise.

After settling in at the hotel Thursday afternoon, I went down to simply get my bearings, and immediately saw two Sherlockians in the hotel bar. By the time I took my first sip of a ginger ale and Malibu rum, five more wandered in. Several brave souls were headed out to a Cubs-Cardinals game on a hundred degree evening, but I happily stayed in the nice cool hotel.

Heather Hinson and Olivia Kirkendall were sticking around as well, and since the Westport Plaza Sheraton is a part of a complex of restaurants and shops, we only had to walk outside for about half a block to get to the Trainwreck Salloon, where a bison burger and sweet potato fries awaited. After dinner, I used the ruse of "Anybody want to do crafts?" to get my dinner companions to work in my programs and name badges sweat shop, and by 9:30 we had everything sorted. Time to call it a night, right?

We all thought so, and they went on their way, I turned on the TV and settled in, getting sleepier and ready to change into my bedclothes. But I did not consider the Monica factor.

Doing one last check of Facebook, I saw a message from Monica Schmidt about a cocktail outing earlier in the evening, to which I replied that I was sorry I missed it. Only Monica and Bill had moved their party to their hotel room. You won't see Sherlockian hotel room parties written up in histories of our hobby, but they are a tradition in this hobby. If there are Sherlockians gathering for an event and spending the night in a hotel, there's usually a few cooking somewhere. I've heard the goal of staying up until the Canonical 2:21 AM (2:21 BM is a different thing.) is sometimes a goal, but since I got talked into heading up for drinks at chat around 10, I just made it to 12:30 AM, when a certain pair of gentlemen bid their adieus.

Someone is going to have to remind me of the name of the scion society I now belong to who held a meeting at 7 AM the next morning. Steve Mason will remind me, of course, being the leader of the society for Sherlockians who break their fasts with other Sherlockians at Waffle House. I have only dined at Waffle House with Sherlockians, and you know that in addition to Steve, Rich Krisciunas was at the Waffle House as well, being one of the currently reigning Omnipresent Sherlockians.

After Waffle House, it was back to the hotel lobby where more Sherlockians were showing up, and it's been a consistent meet and greet since then -- I'm almost been unable to finish this! So I will drop it for now.