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.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

We Need More Sherlock Holmes Blogs!

 Our greatest Sherlockian news source of the last four decades, Peter Blau, passed along a little tidbit this week with his congratulations. A site that promotes blogs for a fee that some of us are much too non-profit to check into had generated a list ranking Sherlock Holmes blogs.

Now, at first glance, it was quite a pleasant thing to see one's blog on such a list. On second glance, my competitive nature from growing up with siblings had its moment and went "Huzzah! I'm Number Two!" On third glance, I celebrated that my friend's blog made the list. And then, at last, I went, "Wait a minute ... is this all there is?"

So I started digging through Sherlockian blogs. Rob Nunn's "Interesting Though Elementary" is out there, probably needing "Sherlock Holmes" spelled out in its banner to attract the ranking site's attention or something. I knew Ross Foad did a video blog called "No Place Like Holmes." And David Marcum had a blog called "A Seventeen Step Program," which hadn't had new posts in a bit. And I went to to see what they had on their "Sharing" page.

Two societies, the Parallel Case of St. Louis and the Sherlock Holmes Society of France, had blogs listed. But that was it. Two societies out of how many? Of course, the Crew of the Barque Lone Star just puts their digital newsletter on their website, so that probably counts. I'm sure some others do as well. And I'm not going to get into Tumblr, which I guess is designed to blog upon? But I never quite got Tumblr, being rather older and a bit limited in my ways, so who knows?

What else were they missing? Give us a link in the comments if you know, to be sure. Rob Nunn already pointed out Shingle of Southsea and 221B Cooee were definitely missing.

I know regular blogging takes a certain purpose, mindset, or just enjoying writing random essays and tossing them into the ether. But one thing seems clear: Sherlockiana needs more blogs! Reading my own blog is not something I really want to do for enjoyment, and Dan Andriacco's new role as editor of The Baker Street Journal is probably going to decrease his postings. But even just one blog post a month can be a wonderful thing. Vincent Wright's Historical Sherlock brings a big smile to my face when that time of the month rolls around, and look! He made number six in the ranking! 

We need more Sherlockian blogs. Everybody is writing essays or stories for collections these days, and do you know what you can do with a blog? Collect them into a book that doesn't have anyone's essays but yours in it! (I would promote The 221B Con Decade: Notes From A 221B Con Fan here, but since it was a con exclusive, that would just be mean.) It's a great time to be a Sherlockian essayist, like that Sherlockian founding father, Christopher Morley.

And it's a great writing exercise to get in before breakfast, like I'm doing this morning.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

What makes a hardcore Sherlockian

 What does it take to become a hardcore fan of Sherlock Holmes?

I don't just mean an "I like it when Sherlock Holmes falls my way at the bookstore, on TV, or in a theater." I mean the level of "If no Sherlock Holmes exists in my life at a give idle moment, I'm gonna put him there." Sherlock Holmes as your primary interest. Sherlock Holmes being such a focus that you'll deep dive into some other subject like Victorian history, Conan Doyle, or forensic science just to keep in the general area of Holmes.

Sure, it's all very interesting. The world is full of very interesting things, 99.999999999 percent of which do not involve Sherlock Holmes.

I recently googled "What is it that we love about Sherlock Holmes?" looking for a particular essay and a horde of headlines popped up. "Why I love Sherlock Holmes." "Why is Sherlock Holmes still so popular?" "What is it that we love in Sherlock Holmes?" "Why Are We So Obsessed With Sherlock Holmes." "Ten Reasons Americans Love Sherlock Holmes." The parade of "why" articles seems endless. But they all focus on Sherlock Holmes himself.

Like an ancient god (or modern one, really), Sherlock Holmes embodies some attributes or gathering of ideas that fill a need in us. He's not a rain god we pray to. But . . . and I hate to say this . . . he's not a person. He's a wish. He's a feeling. He's an idea.

And apparently an idea we need in our lives.

Personally, I can look at the time I attached first attached myself to Sherlock Holmes, puberty hitting hard at the same time I lost a father. And then the time when I doubled down on Holmes, that point in later college years when the great unknowns of adulthood lay in front of me and I was about to step into the abyss. Both were times when one's mind is desperately search for solid ground.

And there was Sherlock Holmes. The idea of solid ground. The idea that there were answers to all of life's mysteries if one was clever enough. And, having had a little evidence that I could be clever at times, he gave me hope. He's a fiction, a dream of what a person could be, but a dream that Conan Doyle shared with us, and we share with each other.

It makes me a little sad that Sherlock Holmes's creator tried to run away from Holmes as his writing career went on. Doyle himself created Holmes at a point in his life where he was uncertain where his profession would take him, and once he became successful, Doyle felt Holmes had no purpose in his life and wanted to leave Holmes behind. He wasn't really thinking about what other people got from Holmes, because I think if he truly understood it, he wouldn't have cared about spiritualism or fairies or any of those other causes he felt were so much more important than the best thing he ever did for humanity.

Some of us never give up on those things Holmes represents. Our better selves. A world where things make sense. The phrase "true believers" has always been an apt description of hardcore fans, because that's the level we must be at to devote as much time, energy, and money toward this idea called Sherlock Holmes. Because we believe he has something we need in life, something worth holding on to, because we came to him at some point in our lives and he delivered.

In a way, the hardcore fan of Sherlock Holmes is a bit like one of his clients -- we came to 221B Baker Street and Sherlock Holmes provided an answer for us. And even though he retired in the early 1900s, he is still working for us today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

What We Know About Conan Doyle's Next Sherlock Holmes Story

 Ummm . . . nothing. Conan Doyle is deceased and not writing any more stories.

And yet, "What We Know About Conan Doyle's Next Sherlock Holmes Story" is pretty much on par for internet headlines, preying on fan hopes for a new season of BBC Sherlock, that third Robert Downey Jr. Holmes film, anything that will draw a decent number of fingers to mouse-click on the link to their post of "No news here!" of just a quote from someone being asked an obvious question.

"Hey, Michael Keen, head of the Baker Street Irregulars -- Is Conan Doyle going to write a new Sherlock Holmes story?"

"I don't think so. He's dead."

And then the exciting headline follows: "Leading American Sherlockian Reveals Possibility for New Canonical Tale!"

Yes, no possibility is still a statement of possibility.

It's a crime so small that it will probably never have a law against it, a fraud so minor that we don't rank it worthy of shutting down, but stealing moments from people's lives just to get click numbers on your ad-laden web post just by luring them with false hope is kinda evil when you think about it. I have to wonder how much revenue it actually generates for advertisers when people associate their product or service with the disappointment of a nothing story topped with a hoped-for headline. Not something I would want as an advertiser, for sure.

I remember when vacuum-cleaner Sherlockian collectors would clip and paste any mention of Sherlock Holmes in print media in scrapbooks, because everything Sherlock was collectable. But I can't imagine anyone is collecting click-bait stories, unless they're doing a study of the form.

Here's the thing though: "All The Details About The Next Jeremy Brett Sherlock Show," while pure clickbait at the moment, could be an actual thing in the future. The technology exists to map the late Jeremy Brett over Basil Rathbone in Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman to create a "new" Jeremy Brett film. The fraud has the potential of going next level and one day giving us something we hope for, but not in the way we truly hoped for it. The problem is that people are getting more and more used to technology being a magic wish-fulfilling genie (Trust me, I work in IT. They really are.) and the stupidest idea you can think of is going to come up on someone's wish list.

But you don't want to read that AI generated Conan Doyle tale, even if it does have a definite site for Watson's wound and a clear date for the story. We've set a million monkeys to that task already and not gotten Shakespeare out of their keyboard poundings. (Oh, hey, pastiche-writing friends -- you weren't the one I was calling a monkey. That was you-know-who. You're doing great.) And yet, it will be tried.

Hope springs eternal. And therein lies marketing's hopes to take advantage of our hopes as well.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

The rest of the world catches up . . .

 So an add came across my feed on Facebook, as ads do, for a prop can of shaving cream crafted like the one in Jurassic Park, used in the movie to smuggle dinosaur DNA. And, I thought, "Oh, cool, something for the Jurassic Park fan who wants to connect in reality with their favorite fiction." And then I thought, "Wait, Sherlockians have been doing this forever."

Only our favorite fiction isn't movies. And our reality items aren't usually props.

Sherlock Holmes was so well wrapped in the Victorian era by his creator that we've always been able to touch Holmes's reality by collecting regular antiques. Nobody had to carefully hand craft a new gasogene or an antimacassar like Star Trek phasers were made in the 1960s and 1970s. And if you wanted to recreate Sherlock Holmes's sitting room? Just get some furniture and stuff, shop the antique stores, arrange it just so. And even hansom cabs exist, if you want to get crazy.

As the years passed, however, those antiques have gotten a little harder to find. Reproductions have become available of some things. It's been one hundred and twenty-two years since the end of the Victorian era -- time is taking its toll. And we have entered Hollywood prop re-creation world now as well, since Sherlock Holmes now has a 221B Baker Street home set in the 2010s. A very rich or very dedicated Sherlockian could actually recreate two 221Bs in their home and time travel over a century just by going down the hall.

We're lucky, I guess, that a single sitting room will do it for us. Recreating Isla Nubar, or even just the main tourist center or InGen lab from Jurassic Park would take some actual construction. We don't have to hope for a Sherlockian John Hammond or Walt Disney to recreate Baker Street and populate it with clones or animatronics. 

But one can always dream, even when we've had so much of Sherlock Holmes's reality available to us for as long as we've had Sherlock Holmes. Bringing dreams into reality is just a part of who we are, both as fans and creatives.

DISCLAIMER: Do not invent time travel just to surround yourself with the world of Sherlock Holmes. You might not be ready for the lodgings, food, restrooms, or general smell.

Friday, July 14, 2023

From Diamonds in the Garbage to a World Where It Is Always 1999

 Wayyyyy back in 1975, I read a comic book where the hero was on a world where clowns were digging through rubbish and occasionally finding diamonds. The writer Jim Starlin was, I seem to remember, doing a parody of the comics industry, but today that story (from Strange Tales #181) came to mind as I scrolled through Twitter and saw all the nice Sherlockian bits in stark contrast to the general garbage that flows more freely there these days. It made me a little sad that my friends had to rely on what has so quickly become the lesser choice among social media channels.

Sherlockians have always made the best of whatever channels were available to us, be it mimeograph machines or Prodigy message boards. The amount of Sherlockiana that has come out of "publish on demand" technology is a flood that I don't think we fully see the depth of yet . . . or the effect it is having upon the hobby as a whole. Sherlockians may not always leap to the forefront of new technologies, but once we understand it's out there, Sherlock Holmes is going to be all over that medium.

So, while we're not quite there with Threads, the newest spin on mass communication, we'll get there. (Never fully leaving the other thing behind for quite a while, if ever. Welcome Holmes may have finally vacated Yahoo!, but the Hounds-L listserver still runs.

Virtual environments have always been a tougher terrain for Sherlockians to invade, with our numbers not quite legion enough, nor abilities appropriate enough. We tend to be people of words, and sometimes art, but virtual reality communities . . . well, maybe one day when the AIs provide such things for us. (Was there a corner of the Matrix re-creating Sherlock Holmes's London to keep the human batteries in the pods with fans happy? Or did they just have to live as Sherlockians in that constant 1999 world that the Matrix used as its optimum human environment?

Think about that constant 1999 Sherlockian world for a moment: Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century is constantly on TV in the Matrix. Les Klinger would forever be one of the last new members of the Baker Street Irregulars. Angelica Pickles in a deerstalker would be a mainstay at your local Toys R Us. Laurie King's fifth Mary Russell novel, O Jerusalem, would be in hardcover on the shelves at Walden Books. There's no BSI Manuscript series, but at least there's the published manuscripts of "Dying Detective" and "Lion's Mane" from Calabash Press. You could go to St. Louis for "Holmes Under the Arch: Weekend at Baskerville Hall" in September, even if Holmes was never actually under the St. Louis Arch. And Michael Caine would be the last big screen Sherlock Holmes you remembered seeing in a theater over ten years before.

I don't think we want the machines taking over just yet, if they think that 1999 was the optimum environment for human satisfaction. Still, they might do better than tech billionaires at such things.

Sherlockians will adapt, though. We always do.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

A Visit to the Parallel Case

 With Holmes in the Heartland coming up later this month, and a rough work week behind me, I decided to spend the day rolling down the road and then visiting St. Louis's most active Sherlockian society (not to insult any Harpooners with that claim, but they are, technically, a St. Charles scion). Between the meeting proper at the Ethical Society, the after-meeting hang at Spine Books, or the after-after-meeting hang in Rob Nunn's library, I got a full fix of relaxing discussion of Sherlock and Sherlockians.

I always enjoy meeting my fellow Illinois-sider, Rob, and riding into the city with him as warm-up to these gatherings, and was able to entertain him with a little Sherlockian history I'd recently learned, gathering up his insights along the way. We arrived right on time for the meeting to start, and after a few giveaways were set out, the meeting began with news of a brand new book, Emissions of a Brain on Sherlock Holmes by Mary Towell Schroeder, with cartoons by Art Schroeder, available now at all sorts of places online. (Thrift Books might sell it the cheapest.) Mary, a familiar St. Louis Sherlockian going way back, had collected up past writings for a tidy little volume, and the one author collections are definitely my favorite these days. (I still get a good multi-author collection, don't get me wrong. Both have their place.)

Some other announcements were made, and we were soon off to discuss what many considered the worst story in the Canon: "The Adventure of the Three Gables." (We did debate it's badness against that of "Mazarin Stone.") It always takes a while to get over the overt racism that begins the tale, to get to the other bad parts of the story, but we made that journey, and many present were definitely of the opinion that the story sure seemed like someone other than Conan Doyle may have written it. A fascinating comparison to "A Scandal in Bohemia" was made, which I shall remember, even if I don't remember who said it. (I bet Rob does a meeting recap over at . . . where did I ever see a Parallel Case recap? I thought . . . hmmm.)

It's interesting when a story discussion goes back and forth between "What was Conan Doyle thinking?" and "What was Watson thinking?" because it gets to the full range of Sherlockian thought, on both sides of our reality. And the "Three Gables" discussion definitely did.

I'll leave off the Isadora Klein/Isadora Persano rabbit hole that we went down at one point, which I contend did not kill the conversation on the story, as someone who announced we had exhausted the tale might have claimed. As "bad" Sherlock Holmes stories go, "Three Gables" is rich in weirdness for discussion, to be sure.

But I was left with one big question, that I didn't voice until the ride home: What dollar figure would need to be offered to you to leave your home and all your possessions behind, as was made to Mary Maberly? It's a bit like a non-sexual version of the old movie Indecent Proposal, where a couple was offered a million dollars for an infidelity, another very wealthy person coming into the life of an ordinary person and buying something that no one would think of selling. 

Sherlockians have collections very dear to them, it is true, but the chance to start fresh, with enough money to travel, and see and shop the entire Sherlockian world anew? That might not be such a bad deal, and definitely has a dollar figure I, for one, would think would work for me.

Because then I'd get to go to all the Parallel Case meetings. And the Nashville Scholars meetings. And the Illustrious Clients meetings. And the Minneapolis Explorer meetings. And the Sound of the Baskervilles meetings. And the Barque Lone Star non-Zoom meetings. Annnddd I might even get to Chicago and the East Coast society meetings too at some point.

Collecting books is nice, but collecting memories is a pretty cool thing too. Despite the regrettable beginning of "Three Gables," that round-the-world trip that Holmes got for Mary Maberley as payback probably raised her to the Big Winner of all Holmes's clients.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Yeah, I miss print media . . .

 As what seems like a real challenger for Twitter popped up this week with "Threads" spinning off Instagram, which is a part of the Facebook conglomerate, which is . . . heck, I don't want to take the time to try to run all this down . . . oh, and the Discord invitations . . . wait, this sentence is going all over the place, just like . . . 

Welcome to social media in the summer of 2023.

Being an online Sherlock Holmes fan is an interesting space, because our core old school fans don't move very quickly. We have our explorers, our champions of online existence, but we also had a head of America's major Sherlockian organization who was practically Amish until a few years ago. We trend older. Facebook is a major thing in Sherlockian spaces. And keeping one's Twitter properly trimmed up worked for a while for keeping the app usable for the most part, if one avoiding the "Trending" column.

One hates to be an "old," but at the same time, if you live long enough, you're going to be nostalgic for something that doesn't exist any more. 

It's a little crazy to think of how U.S. Mail was once our only social media, where your followers were folks who read the local Sherlock Holmes society newsletter that you produced and sent out to a hundred or so folks. And the way we connected to those newsletters was by going down the "Sherlockian Periodicals Received" list in The Baker Street Journal every three months to see which ones we didn't get. But it sure was easy to keep track of.

And you didn't hop from USPS to Fedex and hope people signed up for Fedex so they'd get the random letters you send out.

The thing is, you can love the current tech and convenience and our new levels of connectivity and still wish things were like they were back in the day, imagining a sort of steampunk mash-up of both worlds into some happy middle ground. We're probably not going to ever see that. The Baker Street Journal probably isn't going to recommend who to follow on Facebook or Twitter (or Threads) for a while. But who knows?

Generational change is a thing, and Sherlockiana will evolve as all things do. Or fade, as all things eventually do as well. For the very confusing moment, however, we just have a little bit more to figure out.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Declaring independence can be tough

 It's Independence Day here in the United States, a time when we celebrate our nation breaking off from its mother country, the land of Sherlock Holmes. As Sherlockians, we find ourselves very dependent upon Victorian England for our pleasures, for the most part: Its history, both that documented by Watson and more reliable historians, its literary legacy, and its ties that that modern island nation where magical creatures like Paul Thomas Miller reside. But there are often parts of our own Sherlockian culture that we still need to declare our independence from.

One of the most common ones can be the depth of our nostalgia for those Sherlockian things that tripped our  triggers early on. That one book, movie, or TV series that we want to go to our graves declaring "This was the One. All must enjoy this as I have to truly be called 'Sherlockian.'" It comes naturally with the enthusiasm, and can be forgiven if one doesn't start denying everyone else's favorites in one's zeal to trumpet one's own. Every generation gets its own Sherlockian treasures, and further than that, every individual gets their own Sherlockian treasures. 

But declaring one's independence from being an asshole about what's good can be learned. The world rewards you for getting along with folks.

What's harder sometimes is getting over the shitty things that happened in your past. Even in the bright and happy land we call Sherlockiana there are dark moments, as in any human endeavor, and they can leave us with unresolved grievances, lingering regrets, and even a few emotional scars. Time doesn't heal all wounds, especially if they altered your entire journey through the hobby you love. But what time does do is give you some distance, a longer view, and removes reminders as the years pass.

The subject of oral histories came up a while back, and the fact that some stories will probably never make it into those records. We want to remember the good times. We want to let the bad times fade. "Those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it" sounds good, but in truth, we're humans, just as those who came before. We tend to make the same mistakes for the same reasons. We can be helpful guides for those coming after, but maybe we don't need to keep reliving our own bad times just to be the town crier for the new members of the community.

I was handed some pieces of information recently that I put off exploring until today, mainly due to my own issues with all parties involved. Somewhat interesting, but just adding the details to something one could pretty much figure out just knowing said parties. But, like the age of dinosaurs, that time is past.

There is so much of Sherlockiana that is all about the past, but there are times when we need to declare our independence from some parts of it for our own good. There's a whole word out there here and now that awaits, and there's a reason windshields are bigger than rearview mirrors.

Happy Independence Day, my friends.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Just Desserts for Professor Moriarty

Every good Sherlockian weekend needs a time to get to meet and mingle with your fellow students of the Holmes schooling you're about to enjoy. And "Holmes in the Heartland 2023: Arch Enemies," the last weekend in July in St. Louis is no exception.

On Friday night, after you've found your own favorite dining spot and feasted, back at the hotel we'll be having a little dessert and drinks reception we're calling "Just Desserts For The Professor," because . . . well, it's just desserts. And drinks (a cash bar for those who need something as stiff as the professor post-Reichenbach). But that's not everything.

What would a Moriarty-themed reception be without a few nods to London's greatest criminal mastermind of all time?

You might not be Porlock, but you still might want to have your Moriarty organization alias handy. You might get to see a display by Professor Moriarty's favorite post-Greuze artist. (And maybe a Greuze or two.) Will the Professor have an evil scheme in play beneath the cover of a simple welcome reception for attendees of Holmes in the Heartland? Or will he accept his "just desserts?"

It's planned to run from from 7:00 P.M. to 10:00 PM that Friday eve, so if you're attending Holmes in the Heartland you will have an excellent chance to find out. Unless Sherlock Holmes decides to inconvenience, incommode, or absolutely hamper our plans, it should be a great start to a great weekend!

Find out more about "Holmes int the Heartland" here:

Also here:

And actually hear about it listening to . . .

And talk of it in recent and coming episodes of  . . .

It's like one of those movie previews you just can't escape until the movie is finally released! Accept your fate and sign up while you still can! Seats are running out!

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Not Your Usual Pub Trivia Night!

 Been to a pub triva night? Tables of eight, ten questions per round, answers on paper, all that?

Well, that's one way to do pub trivia. Is that the way we do it at an Alpha Inn Goose Club Pub Trivia Night?

Maybe kinda, sortaaaaaahhh . . . well no.

At an Alpha Inn Goose Club Pub Trivia Night, we do have teams, but they're a lot bigger than eight. And we don't make you write your answers secretly on paper. No, when your team's chance to answer comes up, you can discuss out loud, make a consensus choice, or even sometimes be their champion and deal with a question on your own. Because at the Alpha Inn Goose Club, we play a bit more like game show rules.

Yes, questions will be grouped by Sherlock Holmes-based topics, and you may decide you want to see what questions my goose-ish co-host has for you.

"I hope a wild goose may not prove to be the end of our chase," observed Mr. Merryweather, gloomily. (REDH)

And that whole "keeping track of points" thing? Well, if you remember the tale from which we draw inspiration, you know that at the Alpha Inn, it's all about piling up the pence. Each correct answer gets you a shiny new souvenir pence. (Note to Greg Ruby: A new version!)

"This year out good host, Windigate by name, instituted a goose club, by which, on consideration of some few pence every week, we were each to receive a bird at Christmas." (BLUE)

But those aren't your only chances for some reward for your efforts. Like any game show, you might have a chance for go a little further and burglarize the countess's jewel-case for treasures. (Hint: This case has no actual jewels.) 

"The question for us now to solve is the sequence of events leading from a rifled jewel-case at one end to the crop of a goose in Tottenham Court Road at the other." (BLUE)

Hmm, what else, what else?

"If you have the goodness to touch the bell, Doctor, we will begin another investigation in which, also a bird will be the chief feature." (BLUE)

Like to ding a bell? That might happen at some point. Want to see a goose cough up a completely sanitary, non-throated blue carbuncle? (Canonical secret: Mrs. Oakshott's breed of geese had pockets under their wings that they only called "crops." Our goose is of that breed.) Want a shot at winning by doing nothing at all? You just never know for sure what might happen at an Alpha Inn Goose Club Pub Trivia night, except for two things: Having fun and learning at least one or two things you never knew before.

The key thing is that you don't have to know anything to enjoy this trivia night. 

Where and when is the next place the Alpha Inn Goose Club Trivia Night is going to occur?

Saturday night, July 29, after the Holmes in the Heartland dinner buffet at the Sheraton Westport Plaza and the whole day of fun that precedes it. More on all that to come in future blog posts, but you might want to go ahead and sign up now. 

"What do you think of that?" cried the detective, with the air of a showman exhibiting his show. (STUD)

Thursday, June 8, 2023

50 Days Until Arch Enemies Assemble!

 Boy, do I hate talking about anything that's coming together with some secrets still to be revealed, plans being made, and excitement building . . . though I really do need to share that last part.

Holmes in the Heartland 2023: Arch Enemies, you've heard of this, right?

Just fifty days away, July 28-30, at the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, with a couple offsite field trips. Last night I was spray painting some things in my back yard, tonight I was working out some treats, and discussing, discussing, discussing. You might even hear a little of that discussion on next week's Watsonian Weekly podcast.

You can always go to the website and get the basic details there --
-- but if you know Sherlockian weekend events, you know there is always more behind it than just those raw details. I mean, you look and you see names of speakers, but let me give you a different list, we've got:

One wit who always makes you smile.
One brain who knows more about at least one topic than any of us . . . oh, wait, there's a couple of those.
One bon vivant from a faraway city who is always charming.
One character from a less faraway city that you just have to meet.
One quirky unicorn in human guise you'll remember for a while.
One reluctant cosplayer who'll do anything for Holmes. (Well, maybe not anything.)
Once change in the program that might be an upgrade?

And, let me tell you, if you can identify all of those folks exactly, you're one up on me. As I said on the second item, some of those descriptions apply to more than one featured presenter.

Will it be a party? Yes.

Will you meet someone you've never met before? Yes.

And it's only fifty days away.

I've got a lot to do, so I'll leave it at that for now. But more to come, and, trust me, if you're on the fence, don't wait for that more to get signed up!

Monday, June 5, 2023

In case I didn't mention it, there was this book . . .

 Let me just say this: I am really horrible at self-promotion. 

It's mostly intentional, and sometimes I forget to even tell friends about things. For example, tonight I had at email asking about a book that got a mention in Sherlock Holmes Magazine. So, in answering friend Joe, I figured I might as well explain it to anyone who might bump into that reference. Here's the book:

Sometime last year, a couple of my passions collided. I love 221B Con, as anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, and have been blogging about it since year one. Another, less public dream of mine, came from hearing of some famed BSI dinner long past where each of the attendees were given copies of a book or three. I loved the idea of someone just handing you a book as a party favor. (And there are a conference or two that have do just that.) So for the tenth anniversary of 221B Con, I decided to gather up all of my blog posts in a book with a few other notes and publish the thing to just hand out to all the lovely folk at the con. Even got a dealer's table . . .

We were selling back issues of The Watsonian (which is why you see Beth Gallego as my fellow bookseller) and other books by myself and special guest Paul Thomas Miller. But The 221B Con Decade? That book was getting handed out to every single person who cast a glance our way.

Two hundred and twenty-one signed and numbered copies, all in paperback except for twenty-five hardcover copies especially for the people who put on and worked at 221B Con. With a few rare exceptions, any remaining copies (a few unsigned and numbered beyond the 221, I was surprised to find) stayed with the 221B Con crew.

So at this point, I sure don't have any extras to dispense, as it was 221B Con's book all along. They even have the rights to it, if that ever becomes useful or worth reprinting decades from now. And that was kind of the point -- lately, with publish-on-demand and Amazon, some books will never become collectable or a challenge to find. Some books will just be there, and not be something that marks a special moment in time, which is, truly, each and every 221B Con.

So, yep, I came out with another book this spring and really didn't promote it outside of waving it in the face of every person I could in the dealer's room at con. (Including walking the whole dealer's room and giving one to each of the dealers, because they might not be likely to leave their tables.)

And really, that's about as much promotional energy as I've ever had. Except to now say, copies are out there, and I'm sure someone has dumped one on their local used bookseller already. Keep your eyes open. 

Friday, June 2, 2023

The Sherlock Holmes Canon-Event

There's a concept that the new movie Spider-man:Across the Spider-verse uses that is very Sherlock-Holmes-relatable. A little surprised we didn't get there first, but Sherlock has always been solidly rooted in the mystery genre, despite notable ventures into fantasy or science fiction, however, so there's a great excuse. And there are other reasons as well.

Sherlockians have long been into the Canon of Sherlock Holmes, no doubt about that. We work out the lives of our favorite characters building upon Canonical detail, try to expand the Canon from our own interpretations, etc., etc. But what we tended to hold fast to was the idea that, even in our pastiche-worlds, there is just the one Canonical Sherlock-verse. When BBC Sherlock blew out the walls of Canon and we started to see Sherlock and John as tennis players, mermen, or whatever variant a Sherlockian enjoyed creating, an up and coming generation of Sherlockians started seeing the potential for a Sherlock Holmes multiverse, but it wasn't immediately embraced by our more traditional venues.

In decades past, it was even fashionable in Sherlockian publications to pooh-pooh new Sherlock Holmes stories that ventured too far from Canon, and folks liked to publish rules for pastiche. No celebrities. No bringing in Moriarty, Mycroft, or Irene. Emulating the original model as much as humanly possible was the way to go. But BBC Sherlock changed all that from square one, and it used the "Canon-event."

Sherlock Holmes was suddenly in the modern day, using a cell phone. And things were happening to him that were Canon, but not Canon. He didn't have to go to Switzerland to face Moriarty in a high place. Irene Adler didn't have to sing opera. And yet we all saw the old Holmes Canon reflected in these new Sherlock Holmes stories. And we even saw a second sort of fanon lock itself in that made a lot of folks unhappy with the way those tales turned out.

Comic book writers, handed characters that existed in World War Two with newer versions created comics had a fall and rise, started playing with the concept of a multiverse in the 1960s. Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, the first in the animated trilogy we're now seeing part two of, took that concept and ran with it. Spider-man did not have to be a story told just one way. He could be noir, he could be cartoony, he could be a totally different character . . . or could he?

That''s where the Canon-event comes in.

Spider-man:Across the Spider-verse goes meta without breaking the fourth wall in ways that make one reflect upon our own fandom and the tales we tell of Sherlock Holmes. What are Sherlock's "Canon-events," those parts of his story that we would definitely retell despite changing time, place, or other Canonical background details? With a comic book character, it's easy -- plant a spider on their chest and give them webs and you've pretty much got a Spider-man. Sherlock Holmes is a little more nuanced.

And while some might just go "stick exactly to the Canon," it's in those new variations that characters evolve and survive through generations. It's in those variations where we truly see what makes Sherlock Holmes what he truly is. If you can rip him out of London, change his gender, and still give the audience a feeling of "Yes, this is Sherlock Holmes," it adds so much more to our culture than a word-for-word retelling of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

On a deeper level, the exploration of Canon in tales like Spider-man:Across the Spider-verse is saying something about seeing the connections between other people and ourselves. We actually love talking about our Canon-events as Sherlockians, those moments in our own origin stories where we came to love Sherlock Holmes. Sherlockians are as different as varieties of spider-based superheroes, yet there is a literal Canon event in each of our pasts that put Sherlock Holmes on our t-shirt or bow-tie. 

For a movie with no Sherlock Holmes trappings, references, or anything else, I sure saw a lot of Sherlockianly relevant work in the tale told by Spider-man:Across the Spider-verse.

And I'll be thinking about it for a while.