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 . . .


  1. Thank you for the account. I was wondering how it went. Sorry to hear it may be ending, but as life no longer seems to accommodate travel for me, it was never likely I'd be able to attend. Glad you had a good time & many waffles.

  2. Thanks for the account. I was wondering how it all went. Sorry to hear that it may be ending but glad folks are still loving it & having a good time.