Saturday, November 25, 2023

Taking a Moriarty Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Older than Sherlock Holmes


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

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

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

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

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

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

Because that kid really is pretty amazing, even now.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Watsowrimo In Decline, and Other Complaints of Sherlockian Distraction

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

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

Like right now, stopping to write a blog post.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 18, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's the current full schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 17, 2023

I unfollowed you on Twitter . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Eight-Three Men Who Gave Us Sherlock Holmes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2023

Sherlok (sp) November

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

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

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

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

Its bookplate.

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

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

November continues.