Friday, October 27, 2023

Grasping Sherlockiana with One’s Mental Tentacle

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Nanowrimo versus AI

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

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

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

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

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

It's the same with writing.

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 16, 2023

The Third Annual Pub Night at the Dangling Prussian

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

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

Well, most of us.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 5, 2023

So Pika-Sherlock has a Watson now?

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

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

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

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

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

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