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.