Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Following Superbaby to see Sherlock Holmes

 In addition to May 4th being Reichenbach Day, Star Wars Day, Cinco De Mayo Eve, and whatever else this year, it was Free Comic Book Day at many a local comic store. I stopped in for a look and wound up picking up a few well-worn issues of Superboy on the cheap just because they had Superbaby on the cover and he makes me laugh.

Just look at that kid! Since nobody knew who Superman was yet, nobody was going, "Hey, that baby is dressed just like Superman!" so Ma and Pa Kent could kinda keep his Kryptonian origins secret. But one particular issue from April 1964 had a little surprise inside that wasn't a baby flying out of a serving platter as the cover showed.

The letters page of that issue had a certain name that popped the minute my eyes scanned the page.

"But in one sequence Lana Lang was able to summon Sherlock Holmes from the past. How was this possible? As everyone knows, the great sleuth Sherlock Holmes was a fictional character," wrote Richard Walls of West Des Moines, Iowa.

WHAT? There was an issue of Superboy that had Sherlock Holmes in it? To the internet!

Yep, "The Surrender of Superboy" from issue 110 in January of that year. And copies were to be had a reasonable prices on eBay, if one wasn't too concerned about condition (and I was not). They weren't slabbed and graded in plastic, either, as is the current trend on collectable comics, so I could get in and have a look at Sherlock's appearance.

And not only was it a Sherlock Holmes appearance, it was a Sherlock Holmes team-up with Edgar Allen Poe! Oddly enough, even though summoned from the past, Sherlock Holmes seems to know all about Superboy and how Lana shouldn't mess with him. 

It's only one page, as Lana sends Holmes back to the past after he barely does anything, but still -- a really neat treat for the Sherlockian comic collection. All thanks to that wacky Superbaby!

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Diary of a 221st Southumberland Waffleer

 "In the year 2023 I took my menu at the Waffle House of Peachtree City, Georgia, and proceed to order the courses prescribed by the waitress at the counter. Having completed my breakfast there, I was duly attached to the Two Hundred and Twenty-First Southumberland Waffleers as an assistant transporter."

-- From The Reminiscences of Brad A. Keefauver, EmDee (like a lower level of emcee)

That first Waffle House breakfast, April 14, 2023.

I shall never first my first Waffle House breakfast. At the tender age of sixty-five years old, it was like I had waited my whole life to finally cross that threshold, at a time when my body wanted to retire from all work and just eat breakfasts. (I still haven't allowed my body that comfort.) Still, the inspiring words of the leader of the 221st Southumberland Waffleers, that modern day Horace Greeley of breakfast, Steve Mason pushed many of us to the waffle front that year. We were not the first. We would not be the last.

The 2023 British Invasion

With Paul Thomas Miller commanding the first table of Waffleers that campaign, I was relegated to the counter, where a kindly waitress explained to me all of the workings of the Waffle House menu. I ordered the "All-Star Special," which is said to have a calorie count that only an orderly and a pack-horse can bring you safely away from. I landed back at the hotel with my waistline irretrievably ruined, but permission from my marital government to spend the next eleven months in attempting to improve it.

Eleven months later, it had not much improved, but the call went out, and I answered. This time, the location was Englewood, Ohio, which some call "Dayton."

March 23, 2023

This time, I found myself in the company of the officers of our company and a local commander. There are not many encounters where you can relive past glories like you can at a Waffle House, and again the All-Star Special came at me, and again it was summarily dealt with. 

A successful endeavor done!

I returned with one of our junior lieutenants the very next morning to find the site had been completely occupied by our forces after the success of our scouting party the previous morning.

Waffleers Ho!

But such successes on the battlefield of breakfast inevitably cause one to go too far, to attempt to take on more challenges than one's forces might be capable of holding and not gaining another ten pounds. Not a full month later, the Waffleers encamped in Atlanta, at yet another airport hotel, this one in the actual city its airport was named for.

The 8AM Campaign, Friday, Peachtree City 2024

It was April 12, 2024, a Friday I will not soon forget. As the change from Central to Eastern time caused our commander to delay our sortie until 8 AM, I was awake and ready when time came to assemble at our departure point. I plotted our route and got us back to the site of my previous year's first encounter with the WH waffle. I held back in my efforts and went with the "Two Egg Breakfast & Bacon," foregoing the waffle to preserve my energies. Little did I know what fate had in store for me.

Upon returning to our encampment at the Atlanta Airport Marriott, I found Waffleers who had missed the first call to forks, just as I had missed ordering a waffle during that early mission. There was only one answer to solve all our problems.

A waffle.

Back we went, shocking the waitress as two of our number were back at the same table we'd sat less than two hours before.
The 10 AM Campaign, Friday, Peachtree City 2024

At this point, waffle madness had begun to set in. Saturday morning, 8 AM, another Waffle House, this time in Fairburn, Georgia because our leader was tired of driving past six Waffle Houses to get to the one where my past glories had occurred. My ability to take photos was decreasing with my growing girth. And again we went, Sunday morning, 8 AM, taking up two troop carriers with the sheer mass of our forces.

Taken after stumbling out of my fourth WH visit in three days.

Was it all over? Was it all done? The call came for one last photo by the Waffle House sign to mark our last campaign of spring 2024. We gathered. We surrounded the sign. And just as the picture was about to be taken, the manager of the Waffle House and our waitress ran out. The manager offered to take the picture, the waitress handed me a handful of Waffle House hats to adorn our heads. We had not just invaded this Waffle House. We had emerged victorious. 

The final Waffleer shot of our spring 2024 campaigns.

Returning to our base camp at 221B Con, it would be some time before I took that Waffle House hat off. One of the vendors who sold Waffle House earrings converted some of them to necklaces, and I wore that the rest of the weekend when the hat did finally come off. What does any of this have to do with Sherlock Holmes? 

I do not know. But it's too late to even ask.

A Waffleer.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

The Hallmark of a Scandal in Bohemia Romance

 During our recent discussion of "A Scandal in Bohemia" at our local library, we came upon a realization that couldn't be unrealized: "A Scandal in Bohemia" has all the makings of a Hallmark movie.

There is the prince, of course. Hallmark movies love their princes. The fairy tale come true.

And our Hallmark adaptation of "A Scandal in Bohemia" starts in what is typically the last act of of a "girl meets prince" story. Irene Adler in finishing her final performance with the Imperial Opera of Warsaw, her vocals providing the soundtrack for the opening credits as Wilhelm Gottsrich Sigismond von Ormstein watches adoringly from his box, fiddling excitedly with a small box, that we eventually see has a ring in it.

Irene's performance finishes and she rushes backstage, immediately asking her best friend/costumer if the bags are packed. Her pal replies that of course they are, and already en route to the station. Irene is returning to America and her roots after finding Europe just too traditional and trapped in its history. They leave the theater and start to get into a waiting four-wheeler only to find the handsome and charming King Willie inside. Irene is angry at first, but he wins her over, convincing her that her American ideas are just what Bohemia needs and if she agrees to marry him, they will show Europe that new ideas are possible.

Cut to three weeks later, with title card saying "Three weeks later . . ."

Willie, sitting cowed with his mother and his ministers, telling Irene that his royal duties must take precedence over his personal desires and that he cannot be with her. His mother states that travel arrangements have been made and that she has passage booked to America, and that the Bohemian royal guards will now escort her to a waiting ship. As they leave the palace, however, Irene eludes her escorts and leads them on a merry chase, finally taking refuge in the British Embassy.

Here we meet the slightly awkward but endearing Godfrey Norton, who at first tries to talk her into going to the American embassy, but eventually sees the menacing-looking Bohemian guards outside the embassy searching for her and agrees to help her escape.

Norton has some emergency documents they keep at the embassy allowing Godfrey and Irene to pose as a Canadian couple and leave Bohemia by train. A lot of cute stuff goes on here, and at one point in the journey Irene accidentally sees this awkward Brit with his shirt off and realizes what a hunk o' man he is, as Hallmark movies tend to go with. She is recognized by a fan at some point, and the King of Bohemia's agents start making trouble, stealing her luggage (which makes her wear charming local garb so Godfrey can see that she's just a normal American girl and not a fancy opera star), and attacking twice with Irene and Godfrey working so naturally together in fending them off that it brings them closer together. A mystery man is watching them as well, but they don't notice.

News of the King's impending marriage comes to them, and Irene sends the King a telegram telling him to call off his agents or she will send the photo of him and her to his fiancee's family. Godfrey and Irene were getting pretty close, but Godfrey is put off by the fact Irene still has a photo of her and the King, thinking feelings still exist.

At this point, the Watson-written part of "A Scandal in Bohemia" kicks in. Irene has settled temporarily in London, and Godfrey is preparing to return to embassy duty in Europe, when he is summoned to Whitehall by one Mycroft Holmes, who wants to know why he's helping this American woman screw up an important alliance-cementing European royal wedding. Godfrey tries to tell Mycroft that Irene is a good person who has authentic feelings for the King and a broken heart, but Mycroft then tells Godfrey that his best agent had been watching Godfrey and Irene since Bohemia (the mystery man mentioned earlier) who steps in to report that Irene Adler is plainly in love with Godfrey, not the King. Mycroft points out that if Godfrey were to marry Irene, she would pose no threat the the King, and Godfrey awkwardly wraps up the conversation and rushes out.

Godfrey and Irene have their big moment, ending all confusion and admitting their love for each other, and we soon get all the rush to get married part with Sherlock Holmes as their witness that we know so well.

The story concludes with Godfrey and Irene happy and headed for America, Willie and Clothilde happily at their Scandinavian royal wedding, and Irene's costumer friend having a meet cute with Dr. Watson.

The final mid-credit scene of the movie is Sherlock Holmes visiting his brother Mycroft and comparing notes, with Mycroft alluding that he actually solved the problem and that Sherlock wasn't needed. And that maybe Sherlock should see about finding a wife of Irene's caliber, which Sherlock nopes in some funny fashion that may or may not involve Watson.

The End.

It's the spaces in between what we know of the King, Irene, and Godfrey that make "A Scandal in Bohemia" true Hallmark movie fodder. Watson's different, distant POV only gives us the most scant outline of the romance that lies beneath the King and Sherlock story, and neither of them is the true lead character of "A Scandal in Bohemia."

I really hope Hallmark does adapt the tale one day and bring it to its true potential. And let Godfrey Norton finally have his due and his Irene.

Friday, April 26, 2024

The Blood and Bone of Sherlockiana

 During some recent conversations about The Watsonian, the journal of the John H. Watson Society, I started thinking about the body of the Sherlockian party and its two most important parts: the blood and the bones.

The bones of Sherlock Holmes fandom are old and solid, over a century old. The original Canon. The Victorian era. The Sherlockian societies. The pseudo-scholarship, studying Holmes as if his were historical. Traditional Sherlockiana.

The blood of Sherlock Holmes fandom are hot and fast-moving, surging and receding. The movies. The TV shows. The popular Sherlock in any medium, getting people excited, inspiring them to write, to draw, to create . . . and to learn more about Sherlock Holmes.

And like any body, we need both to keep Sherlockiana alive.

The bones might look at the blood and go, "This blood was not here last year and will be gone next year. It does not have the importance of bone. It flows here and there and does not stay in one place as bones do. Bones are secure. Bones give comfort."

And the blood, the blood just looks at bone and goes, "Boring old bones. Never changing, not moving on the way blood does. Blood is life, blood is energy, blood powers action, creativity, joy."

When BBC Sherlock came and hit Sherlockian fandom, there were many on the side of bone Sherlockiana who were a little afraid of blood Sherlockiana flowing in and replacing their cherished tradition with a tide that would ebb. They set up walls and went "this is a literary hobby," knowing full well that Sherlockian cinephiles have been with us as long as movies. And the new blood so often replied in kind, not having the patience to deal with those old dry bones and their stiff traditional structures. And yet, there were still old bones who welcomed the energy of new blood, and new blood that saw the value in old bones that had been holding up Sherlockiana before they came.

Sherlockiana, like any body, needs both to endure. New Sherlockians rarely come from reading Victorian literature for entertainment without being led to it by some more modern text, be it written, filmed, or otherwise made to intrigue the mind of today.

The John H. Watson Society and its publications have long had one foot in both worlds, publishing both fanfic and the most studious of papers on Dr. Watson's life. Not every publication has the bandwidth or audience to do that, we've been lucky that way. Exploring a man with so much mystery and depth as John H. Watson takes both research and imagination, treatises on the Battle of Maiwand and fic explorations of how his character would live as a leprechaun cohabitating with a pixie Sherlock Holmes. There is something to be gained from looking at all sides of this gem of a man.

The blood and the bones of Sherlockiana. Together they make us whole and bring this hobby to life, every single day.

Monday, April 15, 2024

221B Con 2024: The Penultimate 221B Con?

I was a younger man when 221B Con started eleven years ago. That's my primary excuse for not keeping up with ongoing blog reporting as the weekend went on this time. Also, I'm not sure how I found the time in the past . . . or the wifi connection? In any case, my lack of ongoing reportage is not because there are things to report. And I did try, as you will see. 

So let us return now to Thursday of last week . . . 

Here’s the initial pro tip for attending 221B Con: Arrive on Thursday, if at all possible. Also, don’t spend the entire day driving, if you can help it. My sweet spot itinerary is to get the to eastern side of Nashville by Wednesday night, then make the scenic drive down through Chattanooga Thursday morning, lost that hour in the dreaded time zone crossing, stop at the Georgia Welcome Center, then get to the Atlanta Marriott Airport mid-afternoon before rush hour fills up the ring road.

After checking in and settling down, the hotel has a really nice area for watching the familiar faces roll in, and those initial hellos are one of the best parts of any Sherlockian weekend. Giving them a little extra time in never a bad idea.

Last year I made the mistake of becoming a dealer’s room dealer and didn’t get to bounce around the con like usual, but the one thing I did get in during 2023 was an early meeting of what was initially called “the Southern Waffleers.” That Waffle House based Sherlockian society has grown immensely since we dragged Paul Thomas Miller there last year for his and my first time at the classic southern eatery, where the waitress was more shocked that there was an American of a certain age who had never been there before than an Englishman. So when the Waffleers headed out at 8AM Friday morning, I was with them. And when we returned and found my friends from the John H. Watson Society had slept late and still needed an alert Waffle House driver, I decided a second Waffle House visit was needed.vAfter returning to the same table and freaking out the same waitress two of us had served only an hour before, I settled into the waffle I skipped during first breakfast. A second good time was had.

And then back to the hotel, yet again, where we ran into Marilynne McKay, one of the original fiver traditional Sherlockians who had been there at the first 221B Con eleven years ago. Getting the big table near the entrance, my fellow podcast bullpups from the John H. Watson Society and I recorded our weekly review of Sherlock & Co. with Marilynne as our guest. Soooo, podcasting taking precedence over blogging . . . another excuse from me for not getting this out sooner.

Late afternoon is registration time for the con, and the numbers of Diogenes Club (lifetime con attendees) in their registration line was longer than ever. This con has a very dedicated core following. A quick circle of the dealer’s room, which was still getting its tables filled when it opened at five, and I was off to the first set of panels, already in progress.

The room for “Adapting Sherlock Holmes” was full, so instead of creeping in to a corner there, I headed next door to the 25th Anniversary of The Phantom Menace, which a certain person had encouraged me to attend due to a bit of a debate we’ve had over that film. That room was so cold, however, that I went to my room to retrieve my sweatshirt, which turned out to be still in my car. When I eventually made it back to the con area, I ran into Rob Nunn which . . .


As I type this in the “221B Con Redux” panel reminscing about past cons, we just got the announcemnt that next year will be the last con. The BBC Sherlock surge that made a con of this size financially possible has faded, so I had started to wonder about such things. And while the news is sad, I’m sympathetic, and the fact they’re giving us one last year to go out with a last hurrah is definitely the way to go. 

I hate to jump in time, from Friday to Saturday, but the news and a break between panels sent me into retail therapy mode in the dealer’s room. (Operating on five hours of sleep, for reasons to be described later, and I’m a little more emotional than I would be on a full night’s sleep.) Some good artists that I haven’t seen before have some nice stuff, and while I’m not a Johnlock shipper, there’s a parody of the classic Sidney Paget train art of Holmes and Watson that has them bending forward for a kiss that’s totally delightful in both execution and rebelling against tradition. After years of admiring the wardrobe vendor’s wares, I went for a shirt and vest that were very reasonably priced. Conversations happen about the last-con news as I move through the dealer’s room, and even after I drop my purchases off in the room and hit the food truck outside, 

But let us now return to Friday eve. I had run into Rob Nunn just before he was sitting on his first panel -- on Sherlock and education, which I then attended. While I hadn’t signed up for an panels this year, the “Arthur ‘Continuity’ Doyle” panel had a panelist who couldn’t make it, so I was asked to sit in, having done it many years before. So 6:30 found me in the Georgia room, discussing all the little continuity issues, primarily about Watson -- wounds, wives, knowledge of Moriarty, all the raw materials Sherlockians have let their imaginations run wild on for over a hundred years.

The Victorian manners panel starts a bit later after than, and following that, I suspect I settled into conversation somewhere, as one does at 221B Con, and missed a panel or two after that. Some 11 PM pizza in the bar, more socialiizing, and eventually hitting the already full-force karaoke party at 1 AM. Rusty Mason used his influence with the DJ to get me a spot on the already full song list, and a couple of songs later, I wind up bellowing my go-to, “Flagpole Sitta.” And suddenly it’s two in the morning. A mere five hours sleep followed, as I had to be up for another Waffle House trip at eight.

By the end of Saturday, the “Southern Waffleers” were officially renamed the “221st Southumberland Waffleers” by the head waffle (or whatever position Steve Mason holds). Yes, it was my third Waffle House visit this trip in 24 hours. Does that make the Waffleers a cult? As I write this on Sunday morning, I’m actually wearing the paper WH hat from our most recent trip -- our waitress had actually run outside with a stack of hats for us as we posed for a photo by the roadside sign, which was handy when Ashley Polasek suddenly expressed the need for one during the later BSI scion society panel.

Back the con, the first panel of the morning for me was not “Mycrofts through the Ages,’ but "221B Con Redux," a panel about past con memories, where the announcement of next year’s final 221B Con came out. After that, I went to the dealer’s room to tell a few friends the news.

A lot of bouncing around between panels and the food truck followed. The Sherlock & Co. panel was one of the best panels of the con, with four enthusiastic panelists who introduced themselves as Coat, bullpup Maddie, bullpup Starlight, and Jones. (Hint: The editor of The Watsonian, two cohosts from The Watsonian Weekly, and artist 4thelneyj0nes, from my POV.) Jones turned out to be the artist whose work I'd already admired in the dealer's room, and finding out that some of the art I didn't recognize what his visual interpretation of the Sherlock & Co. audio characters, I had to go buy some more art.

At that point, I'm not sure what happened in the haze of con stuff, but I missed the Dynamics of a Podcast "From Baker Street to the Holodeck" panel. Some panels moved around on Saturday night, so things got a little more hazy as I write this two days later. There was a Sherlolly panel, a fan fiction workshop panel, Victorian soda fountain creations . . . and some other Sherlockian things I definitely missed.

Eventually it lead to hanging out in the bar, the Saturday night dance party and all of us dressing up in whatever we had on hand for "prom" photos that the official con photographer Christ has somewhere. We wound up in Mrs. Hudson's lounge at some point, for more chats with different folks, but I forced myself to end the evening at 1 AM this time to try to get a little more sleep (this weekend had a few necessary naps in it).

But since this is 221B Con, Sunday is still a day of programming, and after a nine-Sherlockian trip to Waffle House yet again, there was a queer interpretations of Canon panel, an "ASH, BSI, and Other Sherlockian Orgs" panel, one on Young Sherlock Holmes, a nap break, Ashley Polasek and Curtis Armstrong in full academic gear doing a "Skippable Canon" hour of entertainment, and finally the "Our Last Bow" panel at which our con hosts let the attendees ask questions and offer appreciations. With the news of next year being the final con, this eventually turned into a "How do we keep this going?" discussion, as diehard 221B Con Bees brainstormed, suggested, and wondered about how to keep next year's con from being the last.

Was it just working through the "bargaining" phase of the five stages of grief? Or will something catch fire and somehow keep 221B Con going? The next year will tell that tale. And just because something goes away, as we learned during Covid, it does not necessarily mean it won't come back in some form. The alchemy that created 221B Con might not be a recipe that works as well in 2025 as it did in 2015, and sometimes that's just life. BBC Sherlock gave us an energy that's worn off at this point, and one questions if CBS Watson will even be a small jolt -- CBS's Elementary never had the presence at con of its British counterpart, and media representations are a big part of 221B Con. But as we learned Sunday afternoon, it's easy to do sports-type analysis of what coaching can make the team have a successful season next year.

I think I'll leave it at that, because it's Monday and I now need to pack up my car to start driving home. Had a great time, as always, and wondering how long the infinity symbol "temporary" tattoo is going to be on the back of my left hand. More blogs to come . . .

Saturday, March 30, 2024

The Full Spectrum Sherlockian

 We were discussing pastiches the other night, and it got me to thinking about all the different ways we celebrate Sherlock Holmes. And in considering it, I started to realize there's a bit of a spectrum to it all. And in delineating it out, it seemed to need a coding system to it, and I bet you can guess what the "R" and the "F" stand for. So here's my first draft:

  • R4 - England. (This topic more favored by Americans who aren't living it every day.)
  • R3 - The Victorian period in England, its history and culture.
  • R2 - Conan Doyle's place in the Victorian period, his life and literature.
  • R1 - Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, the history of their creation and publication.
  • F1 - John H. Watson's Sherlock Holmes stories, the history of their creation and publication.
  • F2 - Sherlock Holmes's place in the Victorian period, his Canonical life and career.
  • F3 - The 221B Baker Street period, the non-Canonical history of Canonical people, places, and things.
  • F4 - Any world with Sherlock Holmes in it.

Me, I tend to stay in the "F" end of the pool, where we splash around and play. The "R" side of the pool is where the swim team plays by the rules of their swimming and diving sports. Some ambitious swimmers can do both sides of the pool, of course, being disciplined and staying in the swim lanes for certain events, then coming back to enjoy the water slides and lazy rivers, but that's not to say that the "F" side of the pool doesn't have people working just as hard at their fun as anyone on the "R" side.

Worn that metaphor out yet? I think so.

Anyway, the thing that has kept Sherlockiana alive all these years isn't just that people love that Sherlock Holmes. You can only read the original sixty stories so much, no matter how much of a purist you are. At some point you have to go outside the Canon proper and find something else to do, some other trails to follow. Could be studying Conan Doyle, could be writing your own stories, but they emanate from the same place: that love of Sherlock Holmes that takes you beyond level one, be it in the direction of "R" or "F." 

And here's the other thing -- there's so much Sherlock Holmes out there at this point that there are Sherlockians who didn't start their journey at "R1" or "F1." If you came to Holmes from Robert Downey Jr.'s Holmes, for example, you might have started at F4 and worked back to F1, maybe even continuing the journey to R2 or R3. It's very common to wander around that spectrum in search of a comfy place to settle. And I can already see the problem with a linear view of the spectrum. Where do the people that love to study the history of Sherlockian fandom find a spot on there? How about Holmes film historians? 

Suddenly it seems there has to be an "R2A" or "F4B" for Christopher Morley or CBS's Elementary. Some things just can't be put in a box, no matter how hard you try, kind of like the reason the DSM has had five editions since its inception in the 1950s. (Not to say that Sherlockiana is a mental disorder -- I'll leave that diagnosis to some of our friendly experts in that field.) We don't need to classify our fellow Sherlockians.

But the exercise of pondering a spectrum of Sherlock Holmes fandom is good for reminding yourself of all the varieties of folks and fun we have within this hobby of ours, and taking a panoramic view of just how lovely it is when you step back and look.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Valley of Fear-ly Odd Nudity

 Another Holmes discussion group eve at the North Peoria library, and always some new treat from an old story from one of our regulars. Tonight Dale pointed out the oddest part of phrases regarding how the victim was dressed:

"He was clad only in a pink dressing gown . . ." is a plain enough phrase. The dead guy only had on a pink dressing gown, right? But then you finish the sentence, and find " . . . which covered his night clothes."

Don't night clothes count as clothes? But it doesn't stop there!

"There were carpet slippers on his bare feet." How could his feet be bare if he had slippers on?

And in both cases: Why does Watson seem to want his corpse to be naked so badly? It's almost as if he is giving us hints to the answers to this mystery. The dead man came wearing different clothes and got shot in the face. Then somebody stripped him down, so he was naked at one point, at which point one of the men who stripped him down also got naked. Is there a secret Sidney Paget drawing somewhere where the naked dead man is laying there while the naked live man starts to dress the dead one in his clothes?

Or of the naked live man putting the naked dead man's clothes into the moat before scampering off naked to find more clothes?

Should we even let children read The Valley of Fear with all this shocking implied nudity!?!

And John Douglas went immediately into the hidey-hole of his after the clothes-switch, and Watson never states he was wearing anything but a wedding ring when he comes out, so are we to then surmise that the entire final scene of the mystery has a naked man in the middle of it?

Watson's narration is quick to leave that scene and move on to the flashback part of the novel, possibly so he doesn't have to describe John Douglas finally getting dressed again.

There were a lot of other comments about The Valley of Fear tonight, and the fact that Allan Pinkerton seems to have thought about suing Conan Doyle for turning a private conversation into a novel really fascinates me. But the true surprise was finding out just what the naked truth of this novel was.

It's practically the Poor Things of its day!

Monday, March 25, 2024

Crimes Against Sherlockiana


Gotta love ‘em. Just spent a very lovely weekend in the heart of one of our little "family reunions" as some have called a good Sherlockian weekend. One of my favorite moments even occurred after it was all over and done, when everybody just decided to have their departure breakfast, not in the hotel's free breakfast lounge, but at the local Waffle House. Waffle House restaurants are not that big, but there were fifteen of us, taking up all the booths and seats in the main seating area. Old friends, new friends, and a great spirit of community.

There's a lot of love in Sherlockiana. But at the same time as I was enjoying this weekend's festivities, another friend was going through the opposite side of the coin. Because Sherlockians may be the best people in the world, a fact we will state easily after a good weekend like the one I just had in Dayton, but we also have our assholes and we also have our tempers. We discuss Sherlock Holmes, not politics or religion for the most part, which is our lovely common ground. And most of us have the good sense to steer away from politics or religion when those come up. Texans and Californians can sit down at a Sherlockian dinner table and get along just fine.

But occasionally, one of us will get all fired up with righteous anger at some matter or the other that has nothing to do with the Sherlockian world (or within it) and cause a hard break with another Sherlockian. This has happened twice in the last six months with different folks that I know of, and it's something that happens in communities. Fighting, when it doesn't get physical, isn't necessarily a crime. And being an asshole in itself isn't a crime. But when we get put in a situation where we have to start deciding who our better friend of two Sherlockians is . . . it almost starts to feel like crime and punishment, because oftimes, somebody is going to get ostracized from part of the community, or exile themselves rather than put up with a certain person. Either way, we lose.

As a Sherlockian who has behaved badly upon occasion (and still can blunder into that realm on occasion), but still considers himself a sweet and lovable soul, I really hate to see when this stuff happens to other people. Nobody wins, even if one of the parties gets a whole "God is on my side!" self-righteous thing going and won't let go of it. (Been there, done that.) Because once you start @#$%ing with people's friends, they may not come at you directly, but you can start getting quietly left off guest lists and other such things.

I'm seriously thinking about dropping a person off a certain list I manage right now, for going after one of my friends. And I hate that. It's been done to me, and I don't want to be that person. Nobody wants to be a gatekeeper, even if that gate is only for one individual. (But, goddammit, you don't go after people's friends.) We should all know better, or at least learn that at some point. And we might be at a point where someone needs to learn to do better, because no matter how right you think you are, when you do damage in our Sherlockian community, more people are gonna feel it than you realize. And you might just rob us of some talent we really enjoy, which is definitely a crime.

Sherlockiana is a great community, as we know. Communities as a whole, are a key part of the human experience. But living in a community does not come without some work and some responsibility. We have to actively work on being our better selves, forgiving a few moments of bad choices now and then, and taking serious care when deciding that someone needs to be excommunicated from our personal version of that Sherlockian community. While nobody has the power to completely banish someone from Sherlockiana, even with a full cancellation campaign, a lot of folks will decide to leave due to one asshole treating them badly, or one incident where they got triggered to behave a little badly themselves. 

We miss those people. Our numbers are not so large that we don't notice new gaps. And we're always glad to see a familiar Sherlockian face turn up at a gathering just like a surprise "221B" sticker on a bumper in a parking lot, or a bunch of folks at a Waffle House.

So be careful out there. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends: Nine

Outside of the BSI weekend in New York, I don’t think any. place has hosted many Sherlockian weekends as Dayton, Ohio. Decades and decades of weekends, organized by different generations of hosts and hostesses, have brought Sherlockians to Ohio for both scholarship and fun in about any way you can imagine.

My day began very early, as I wanted to join the latest gathering of the Southern Waffleers

After an hour or so of dealer’s table browsing and socializing, David Harnois began the program with “Setting Up Camp: How I Build A Scene.” Using the classic tent joke for his example, David showed us the layers of building an audio scene in Audacity. I learned a few things for my podcast work, which may or may not be a good thing, depending upon your view of the proliferation of podcasting at this point.

Kira Settingsgard came up next, starting with a disclaimer that her talk titled “We Love Sherlock ... but Would Sherlock Love Us?” would not involve diagnosing anyone in the Canon or not. Would Shelrock Holmes come to Sherlockian events? What were his attachments based on? What were his attachment styles? We soon learn it’s “dismissive or avoidant” . . . and suddenly I’m feeling very called out as we get into what that means. Her analysis of Holmes’s friends is fascinating and shows us just how real Sherlock Holmes was as a character.

I like a talk where I get details of the Canon I had never thought about before, and Kira’s point that both Watson and Victor Trevor bonded with Holmes at a time when they had a dog is very interesting.

A break follows, and time to dash around and see what the other vendors have to offer, which is tricky when you have a dealer’s table to man, which I did this year.

After the break, Texas Sherlockian Tim Kline starts his talk singing, and quickly gets into talking about games and Sherlock Holmes’s appearances in them. Did you know the very first Clue game had Sherlock Holmes’s name on the box? Yes, Doyle’s kids didn’t like that very much and made Parker Brothers take it off. There are more games with Sherlock Holmes on them than you ever imagined, and Tim rolls through more weird and wacky bits about Holmes and games than I can easily mention here. Another great talk -- the variety this year is far-ranging and enjoyable so far.

Madeline Quinones follows time with a history of Sherlockian podcasts -- can you believe we’ve had enough podcasts and time with them passed to have history? Starting with “I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere,” the grandpappy of Sherlockian podcasts” (which is a weird thing for me to say for such young show), Madeline walks us through more podcasts than any of us knew existed, and makes me realize that these weekends are going to be more and more a source of learning just all that exists.

That brings us to lunch, and I have to say -- Madeline did a good job of holding my interest and winding up before hunger started distracting me!

After a quick sandwich lunch, more dealing and shopping in the dealer’s room, David Harnois and Mike McSwiggin portrayed Holmes and Watson in a little “playlet” reminiscent of a certain Abbot and Costello routine. A recent Dayton staple, Ira Matetsky, educates and entertains us on Liberty magazine and its time running later Sherlock Holmes stories. A memorable key fact toward Doyle’s motivations for his last run of stories for Liberty -- adjusted for time and inflation, etc., Ira estimates Conan Doyle was making about $85,000 per story.

Ira winds up answering questions and gets in a good ad lib about not getting a spirit connection from Doyle in the next world, which leads well into longtime BSI George Skornickel speaking on Conan Doyle spiritualism.

A break celebrates Bob Sharman’s birthday, which happened to be today, with a cake with his face on it. My particular dealer’s table went into “going out of business” mode, slashing prices to nil, which tends to move some merch. And then it was time for Max Magee to explain to us one path to becoming a Sherlockian. Where do we fit on his Sherlockian version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? He then illustrates what each step entails, complete with hats. Was Max’s talk so enjoyable for us because he was talking about us? I would not say that was NOT the case.

After Max has explained the levels of Sherlockiana to us, it is only fitting that the last speaker of the day is a top level Sherlockian like Burt Wolder. In lieu of a slide show, Burt gave us all a souvenir card reproducing Conan Doyle’s 1929 drawing “The Old Horse.” Burt’s talk then goes through the various boxes loading the wagon of Doyle’s life in his drawing with well-thought expertise. It’s a novel way to look at Conan Doyle’s time. He brings it back to our own lives in the end. And with that, the program begins to wind to a close.

On to happy hour and banquet time!

Friday, March 22, 2024

Dayton 2024 - The Friday Night Festivities

 The "Holmes, Doyle, & Friends" symposium in Dayton, Ohio each spring is an annual event, and as with any regularly occurring event, traditions will be born and traditions will continue. With Dayton, there are the official parts, like the Friday night reception held by the Agra Treasurers, and the unofficial parts, like certain dining habits or . . . for the third year in a row, some karaoke.

I'm going to limit things to first names here to protect the innocent, even though you might know a few of these folks. I'm a big fan of karaoke for people who don't usually sing. Bars full of good singers are kind of obnoxious, but a bar full of normal folk challenging their limits can just be a good time. And Sherlockians like a good time.

The biggest problem with Sherlockians singing karaoke, I think, is that not enough popular songs have been written about Sherlock Holmes or used in Holmes films. We don't want to hurt ourselves doing "Stayin' Alive" just because Moriarty used it as his ringtone. 

So "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" starts the evening by our Sherlockian champion of karaoke, Ira. Me, I've the courage of a shameless fool, so I'll attempt "Shake It Off" and lower the bar for all that comes after. David, Madeline, Steve, Regina, Ira again, me again . . . and many an abstaining individual, especially those who want to have a voice to do their presentation the next day. 

But there is one song that tradition (and Ira) requires we do on these evenings, and I think this time around we started a new tradition: Ending the evening with that one song, and getting as many people as we can to sing it. That song?

Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street." It's actually not too had to sing, even if you start singing "DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOOOOOO!" along with the saxophone riffs. Monica, Max, Ira, and myself joined for the finale this time, and I hope we get more on Saturday night, as we head back in for another round.

For now, though, it's time to sleep before tomorrow 7 AM Waffle House run . . . another growing tradition, thanks to a certain Texan. 

More to come!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Sherlockiana, the Lower Bar, and Those Two Initials

 One of the great things about Sherlockiana, or any fandom, that you never hear mentioned is the low bar for talent. I don't want to insult anyone here, but let's be honest.

We love Sherlock Holmes and all things Sherlock Holmes. We want to create journals, newsletters, websites, anthologies, events, etc., etc. in honor of that love. And we need content for those things. If you've ever been an editor of anything but one of the top prestige journals, and you're not a complete ogre, you have, at some point, accepted something you might not have taken just to give someone a chance to see their name in print. And that's a good thing.

We all have to start somewhere. And we all need to practice what we do and build our skills. So that acceptance of beginners' work is a good thing. Many a skilled writer or speaker of today got their start in a fandom. I would hesitate to call myself "skilled" at this point, but everything little thing I know about writing, I learned from practicing on the Holmes field in little newsletters and journals. If you do something enough, chances are you're going to get somewhat better.

Enter that cursed non-human thing we call "Artificial Intelligence."

It's not our friend, whose feelings we don't want to hurt. It's not an original artist whose skills we want to encourage by giving it a pass when it can't draw hands or plainly steals from better artists. It's software to provide an easy tool for performing a task that was previously done by humans, that will be exploited by those who don't have talent and don't want to learn actual skills.

Our fannish enthusiasm is going to draw a lot of Sherlockians to AI, and already has. If you love Sherlock Holmes, you want more Sherlock Holmes, and if a machine will churn out more Sherlock Holmes for free, an ardent fan is going to use that machine. And an ardent fan is probably going to be willing to overlook a few flaws in the final product, just as we've done for years with human-produced work. But when we did that in the past, we were always inviting another human into our community by accepting their work.

Do we want to invite ChatGPT into our community? Do we want to see it at events, have dinner with it, enter its name on our club rosters and get excited if it gets a BSI shilling some future January?

No. No, we don't.

So we probably shouldn't lower the bar for AI just because we want more content and want to encourage it to do more work. That space that it fills in a journal could be filled by someone who may eventually become a dear friend, rather than a collection of bits and bites . . . who, admittedly, is trying to become people's chatbot friend in many a venue. You might even be able to sit alone in a restaurant with your device and have dinner with that software pretense of a human, but you aren't going to invite other people to join you and that thing are you?

So maybe we want to hesitate in welcoming this new non-human writer/artist/"friend" to our Sherlockian ranks in any form for a bit. We'll talk when Mr. Data shows up and pretends to be Sherlock Holmes. But for now?

Let's force that stupid thing to try a little harder.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Most Important Day in Sherlockiana!

 I'm going to do something unusual this week and give you the words that I am going to be speaking into a microphone on the Watsonian Weekly podcast on Sunday night, because I think you need the forewarning to prepare for Monday -- the most important day in all of Sherlockiana! And, no, it's not "Hug A Holmesian Day" on March 11, a week later. In fact, we should really celebrate this entire week ahead of us with all the fervor of that arbitrary January business . . . or more, actually. Why? Well, let me tell you, as I'm going to actually tell those blessed few who listen to the Watsonian Weekly at the start of each week.

So here goes . . . 

March Fourth is here, and I don’t know why we don’t celebrate this day more than some made-up birthday date or Reichenbach Falls day. for March Fourth, most likely the one in 1881, is the day that John H. Watson meets the real Sherlock Holmes for the first time. Not the day he met the man, not the day he met the chemist, but the day Watson meets Sherlock Holmes, the world’s first and foremost consulting detective as they embark upon the case Watson would first call “The Lauriston Garden Mystery.”

Sherlock Holmes has finally explained to Watson what he does for a living over breakfast on March Fourth, and as they finish that conversation, a commisionaire brings Holmes a letter from Tobias Gregson, whom Holmes calls “the smartest of the Scotland Yarders,” with Lestrade coming in a close second as “the pick of a bad lot.” 

Watson reads the letter, and what is his immediate reaction?

“Surely there is not a moment to be lost. Shall I go and order you a cab?”

Watson isn’t even thinking of going along with Holmes, but his first instinct is to help. Not as a partner, not as a chronicler, just as a guy in the same room who knows immediately that what Sherlock Holmes does is important.

Holmes hustles about, getting ready to go, and tells Watson the most critical words in the entire Canon, three words we sadly overlook in favor of that Afghanistan line when the two first met. And what are those three words?

“Get your hat.”

That’s all it takes. The trigger for the creation of the Sherlockian Canon as we know it.

“Get your hat.”

“You wish me to come?” Watson asks politely to confirm the implied invitation. And Holmes, being Holmes, gives a casual, “If you have nothing better to do.”

And he knows Watson has nothing better to do. He also sees how excited Watson is about the whole thing. And we next read those wonderful words: “A minute later we were both in a hansom, driving furiously for Brixton Road."

It is a beautiful, wonderful, glorious moment and one we should all celebrate March Fourth for, by . . . I should think . . . at least following Holmes’s command as Watson did on that day.

Get. Your. Hat.

March Fourth, a date and a homonym that need to be celebrated. March forth, it’s March Fourth! But get your hat first. Because it's the day that all our Sherlockian adventures truly began.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Can a second Sherlock Holmes survive in a free Sherlock world?

Today I stopped in at the latest online meeting of the Praed Street Irregulars, the society dedicated to Solar Pons in the way the Baker Street Irregulars are dedicated to Sherlock Holmes. And there's a reason for that parallel, of course -- when Wisconsin writer August Derleth wrote to Conan Doyle and got a "no," he created a detective who decided to be the next Sherlock Holmes. His own Irregulars, his own "B" address, his own doctor companion, his own landlady whose name ended in "son," the whole kit and caboodle.

When I told a friend about the meeting, and its familiar Sherlockian speakers Peter Blau and Max Magee, they were a bit surprised that Peter was interested in Solar Pons. And then it hit me . . . to a Sherlockian who wasn't in the hobby decades ago, Solar Pons doesn't make much sense. Why would anyone need a detective who copies Sherlock Holmes when we have so much Sherlock Holmes?

I read all of the Solar Pons books back in the 1980s. In an era when the Holmes fan fiction was not coming hot and heavy and published pastiches were months apart, Solar Pons was the thing that got you by, not Sherlock Holmes but close enough and written well enough to do the job. We all read the Pons Canon back in the day. The whole Pons Canon even came in a boxed set of paperbacks.

Solar Pons has had a very loyal following for a long time. The Praed Street Irregulars who first organized in 1966. New stories have been written about him, new books are still coming out starring Pons. But like other ancillary Sherlock Holmes subfandoms, its numbers are a but a fraction of the main man's hordes. Yet they persist, despite never having a movie, TV show, or cartoon. (A character on Twin Peaks did get last-named after Pons, but that's as close as he got.) 

Would a CBS series starring some good-looking Brit as Solar Pons power him up to the next level? Could Pons survive a modern-day adaptation? How would a gender-bent Solar Pons work? Could he be in love with Dr. Parker? And could Solar Pons have his own Solar Pons, like a 1960s detective named Spellman Nonce with a partner named Dr. Halston living at 45B Cable Street?

With Sherlock Holmes free of his copyright chains and able to now morph into a thousand other versions of Sherlock Holmes named "Sherlock Holmes," Solar Pons remains more of a fixed point in a changing age than even Watson can now claim to be. Pons's copyrights are still in force with the August Derleth estate. It makes him unique.

And as today's meeting of the Praed Street Irregulars demonstrated, Solar Pons isn't done yet.