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.


  1. I find that one thing leads to another and the world is full of rabbit holes. I let the connections take me away and sometimes I end up with PG Wodehouse and wonder how did I get here?

  2. As an ancestor of an ancestor of mine once said, "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations." I also ascribe to the Everything in Moderation, including Moderation school of thought.

    My guess for the R and F is
    R = Royalist
    F = (people who eat) Funyuns