Sunday, February 25, 2018

I Have Heard Some Really Extraordinary Stories

Last week's post stirred up some discussion.  I had my own hypocrisy pointed out in the comments section, gatekeeping was discussed on Facebook, and issues were raised on Twitter.  I think having open discussions about our differences is healthy and helps us grow, so the natural progression would be to double down on last week's topic.  But I think I'm going to take a left turn here. 

A lot of comments I saw in different spots had to do with the differences in Sherlockians.  And my guiding principal is that all of our interests stem from the Canon.  (If you're not interested in Doyle's original stories and only want to talk about later interpretations of those characters, then I believe we have different interests.)  And because of that, and we are already two months into 2018, let's revisit how we are doing in The Irregular Canonical Book Club.

One of my goals for 2018 is to read a short story each week, and I'm proud to say that I've stayed on pace so far!  Already, I've read:

The Adventure of the Three Students
The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual
The Adventure of the Reigate Squire
The Adventure of the Crooked Man
The Adventure of the Golden Pince Nez
The Adventure of the Resident Patient

I've mapped out the stories so that the two scions I belong to won't overlap with my Irregular Canonical Book Club reading.  In an interesting turn of events, I've found myself starting from about the middle of the Canon - not a typical starting point.  

And you know what?  It's nice.

When I came up with this plan, I figured January would have me reading about Irene Adler, redheads, short sighted women and Australian criminals, while February would take me to stories about the KKK, beggars, geese and snakes.  That's what you expect when you start to read the Canon.  

Instead, I was reliving academic scandals, mysterious employers and Holmes' origins as 2018 started.  These stories aren't the top stars of the Canon, but are still really good stories.  So are the big hits so popular in some part due to the fact that they are up front  in the Canon?  

Don't get me wrong, SCAN, SPEC, REDH and BLUE are fantastic stories and I love reading them and teaching them to my students, but do they get a little extra boost because they are right up front in the list of stories?  

If Helen Stoner's plight were part of The Case-Book, would it still be held up as one of the best stories in the Canon, or simply just another good Sherlock Holmes tale?  If Baron Gruner's crimes were part of The Adventures, would he eclipse Moriarty in popularity?  

I can't answer those questions, but I can say that I'm looking forward to 44 more weeks of Sherlock Holmes stories in an order that gets me thinking about them in a new light!

How about you?  Those of you out there who are rereading the Canon in 2018, how is your year going so far?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Safe Space in Sherlockiana

A quick follow up from last week: I promised a link to the recap from St. Louis' Noble Bachelors meeting where the St. Louis Sherlockian Research Collection was debuted.  You can find a report with lots of pictures HERE.


A few days ago, I read the School Library Journal article on sexual harassment in children's publishing, and more specifically, the comments section following it where women in the children's publishing industry told tales and named names of sexual harassment they've endured from well-known names in that industry.  As a fifth grade teacher, seeing some of those names really bothered me.  This affects books that I put in the hands of my students and will result in changes to how I choose books to place in my classroom library in the future.

Not these, though.

So, what does all of this have to do with a blog about Sherlockians, you ask?  Well, there are two areas in my life that I am deeply interested in: teaching and Sherlockiana.  As I was reading the SLJ article and comments, I was struck with the fact that if an industry that one could expect to be wholesome, such as children's publishing, can be affected by this, can my other interest?

That thought really made me stop and think.  I'm a middle-aged white guy, so I can be very oblivious to issues concerning other groups until it's pointed out to me.  But this thought really worried me.  Now, let me make myself clear, I am NOT saying that Sherlockiana has a history of sexual harassment, and I am not aware of any such allegations.  But what concerns me is, have we made our hobby an inviting one and a safe space for people who aren't white dudes?

I think the male/female dynamic in our hobby is a fairly stable one, but the generational differences worry me.

Just so you know, I couldn't find anything other than a
white boy for a picture of kid Sherlock Holmes.

One of the most prominent flare ups was in 2012 between longtime Sherlockian Phillip Shreffler and The Baker Street Babes.  Other instances, such as disagreements over gender identification, "fan" vs. "devotee" debates, and how meetings and events should be run continue to happen when two generations exist in the same space.

But as I write this, I'm still very hopeful.  The Baker Street Irregulars weekend and 221B Con are two WILDLY different events, but they both stem from the same root: Sherlock Holmes.  And if you want to break Sherlockians into camps of "old" and "new", there are "new" Sherlockians represented at the BSI weekend, and "old" Sherlockians represented at 221B Con.  Many Cumberbatch fans have embraced Brett's interpretation of Holmes while traditionalists are happy to listen to a anime fan discuss the parallels to the Canon.

I am by no means an expert on this, just an observer.  I don't expect the old guard who still subscribe to every paper journal to sign up for Tumblr anytime soon, but places like The Stranger's Room on Facebook creates a nice middle ground.

Last week, I posted about my excitement about Sherlockiana in St. Louis and the upcoming Holmes in the Heartland weekend we have planned for August.  It was a conscious effort on our part to make it welcoming to Sherlockians of all generations.  At one planning meeting, we discussed finding a middle road between the BSI Weekend and 221B Con.  I think this middle ground is the future of Sherlockiana.

Holmes famously said of Moriarty, "He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them."  Why not create our own center of a Sherlockian web, where we can know every quiver of interests out there and investigate the ones that interest us?  Chronologists and cosplayers can coexist in our safe middle ground without judgement.  Elementary fans and Robert Downey Jr. devotees can discuss their favorite canonical tales.  People with grey hair can enjoy a drink with people with purple hair. 

Why the hell not?  We're all here because of Sherlock Holmes, and we should welcome everyone into a safe space where no judgments are passed.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

One (Or Two) Events of Importance in Town

Well, that escalated quickly.

Last week's post, An Open Letter to Steven Moffatt, garnered over 5,600 views as of today.  Wow.  What I had intended to just be a post for me to vent about Moffatt's handling of his viewers and the characters they enjoy really blew up!

And, for the overwhelming amount of you that had nice words to say about the post whether you agreed with me or not, thank you.  I love that there are a lot of us out there that can connect with one another and share our opinions.

And for the few that felt the need to tell me that my opinion wasn't valid, that's your opinion.  And I am happy to give your opinion just as much validity as you gave mine.

Moving on!

I live in Edwardsville, IL, about 20 minutes east of St. Louis, MO.  So, St. Louis is naturally my Sherlockian hub.  And what a hub it's becoming!  We have five active scion societies in the city and suburbs, and a history of others that have come and gone throughout the city's history.  Dr. Gray Chandler Briggs of St. Louis, first identified the real 221B Baker Street as 111 Baker Street on a trip to London in the 1930's.  Other notable Sherlockians such as Philip Shreffler, Pasquale Accardo, and many others have called St. Louis their home.

But I'm not here to talk about the past (although I could listen to the stories about it all day long...).  What gets me really excited is the POTENTIAL of St. Louis's future in Sherlockiana.

Yesterday, the Noble Bachelors of St. Louis held its annual meeting.  Typically, this is a dinner, with a noted speaker, quiz, and socialization.  What we got yesterday was all of that and more!  Instead of the typical venue of the past few years, The Noble Bachelors took the opportunity to use this year's meeting to unveil the Sherlockian Research Collection at the St. Louis Public Library's Rare Books and Special Collections Room.  This collection houses a complete run of The Baker Street Journal, as well as many other texts for research use by ANY Sherlockian who wishes to visit St. Louis.

Although I've talked about the collection before, this was my first time seeing it on display.  And let me tell you, it looks much nicer than when it was in all of those boxes I had to help move!  The Parallel Case of St. Louis blog will have a recap and write up of the Noble Bachelors event and the dedication of the library next week, and I will be sure to link to that story in my next post.

Man, I love Sherlockian gatherings!  I was honored to be recognized as the Noble Bachelor of the Year by the group.  But also, a bunch of Sherlockians got together and talked about Sherlock Holmes!  (It was an added bonus that we were in a truly beautiful library.  Talk about ambiance!)  I knew most of the people in the room, but don't get to see some of them on a regular basis.  It was great to touch base with folks and meet other Sherlockians that I've only known by name.

And this is what I'm really excited for when Holmes in the Heartland happens in August.  The Parallel Case of St. Louis just released the first details for the event, happening August 10-12.  And, I'm a little biased, but I think the lineup of speakers is a very impressive one!  I'm just going to quote the Parallel Case's website here:

Confirmed speakers include:
Tim Johnson,  curator of the Sherlock Holmes Collections at the University of Minnesota
Mary Schroeder, founder of the St. Louis Sherlockian collection and longtime St. Louis Sherlockian
Bill Mason, BSI, author of "Pursuing Sherlock Holmes" and former Head Light of The Beacon Society
Tassy Hayden, fan fiction writer and co-host of the wildly popular The Three Patch Podcast
Brad Keefauver, BSI, blogger at Sherlock Peoria and author of "The Elementary Methods of Sherlock Holmes"
Don Hobbs, BSI, owner of the largest foreign language Sherlockian book collection

C'mon.... tell me this isn't a group you would want to hear speak?  We have a few other presentations that haven't been confirmed yet, so there will be more to announce soon!

We also wanted to hold some optional events on Friday and Sunday to allow for people's different travel plans.  Friday night will be the Welcome to St. Louis Blues Carbuncle and 221BBQ Night, featuring a tour of the National Blues Museum and dinner at Sugarfire Smokehouse in downtown St. Louis.  And Sunday, there will be a high tea at The London Tea Room and a tour of the Becker Medical Library on the campus of Washington University.

I can go on and on about how much I'm looking forward to this event and how great the people planning it are, but this post has been long enough already.  Registration for Holmes in the Heartland opens in May, so mark your calendars.   Please come at once and join us there. A jemmy, a dark lantern, a chisel, and a revolver are optional.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

An Open Letter to Steven Moffatt

On Thursday, Radio Times gave Steven Moffatt another opportunity to dangle the possibility of more Sherlock to the show's fans.  And the internet took another vague statement from him as a definite confirmation that BBC's update of the Sherlock Holmes stories will be back in 2020 or 2021.

I would like to formally address Mr. Moffatt and his recurring hints about returning Sherlock to TV:


Please stop.

You've done enough.

Mr. Moffatt, you have taken Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories and brought them to a whole new generation that has created such an outpouring of emotion for The Great Detective that will not be rivaled again in my lifetime.  Sherlock Holmes has been around for over a century, and your take on him created a groundswell that was revolutionary.

Season one was some of the finest television I've ever seen in my life!  After season one, the cultural revolution was on, and you were of course going to adapt three of the most popular of all the Holmes stories: Irene Adler, Professor Moriarty, and The Hound.  You went down the tried and true pastiche road of over-inflating Moriarty and Adler's roles in the Sherlock Holmes world, but your episodes were great, so I forgive you for that.  And the cliffhanger of season two?  Hoo boy!  (It's not too soon to talk about spoilers yet, is it?)

And then came season three.  Gotta say, I didn't love it.  For me, the show became more of "This is Steven Moffatt's character and not Conan Doyle's character, and Steven Moffatt will do what Steven Moffatt wants."

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Okay....  I wasn't totally sold on season three.  I still bought the blu-ray when it came out, but the show was very different from the brilliance I loved in season one.  And then there was quite a bit of a hiatus.  But to appease the fan base, we were given a Victorian Christmas special. 

Oh My God.  Look at how good this looks!  All doubts I had after season three were gone.  Mr. Moffatt, you told us that this wasn't going to have to do anything with the arc of the contemporary Sherlock series, that this was just something fun that you wanted to do with the characters.  I'm sold!  I even got my wife to sit down and watch the Victorian special with me, and she has NO interest in Sherlock Holmes.

When Mycroft said his line about "a virus in the computer," I cringed.  Oh no.  We'd been sold a bill of goods.  What had promised to be a fun throwback to a different time ended up to be a crazy convoluted fever dream.  At one point, my wife looked at me and asked, "Why do you like this show?"  I couldn't come up with an answer to that anymore.

But, like the Sherlockian fan that I am, I came back for season four.  Admittedly, I didn't have high hopes, but Culverton Smith is a great character, and I looked forward to seeing what you could do with him.

And I got what I deserved.  Four and a half hours of crap spread over three weeks. 

The aquarium scene:

John punching Sherlock:

And Eurus?

The show had taken a hard left turn in to Crazy Town, and Steven Moffatt was the giddy mayor out to prove that he could do whatever the hell he wanted with these characters, because he's Steven Moffatt, dammit.

It's been over a year, and the last episode still makes me angry.  What kind of shitshow was that supposed to be?  Did you forget that you had 60 stories of Conan Doyle's to work with and decided that you really liked the SAW movies instead?

BBC's Sherlock started out as one of the greatest things on TV and turned into complete trash.  But you can't leave well enough alone, can you?  "Maybe we'll come back..." "There's more stories to tell..." "Sherlock and John grow old together..."

Please, just admit that you are done bastardizing Sherlock Holmes and move on to other projects.  Dracula.  King Arthur.  Blackadder.  Red Dwarf.  Monty Python.  Big Brother.  Go stick your grubby little hands into some other British intellectual property and leave Sherlock Holmes alone. 

I will be forever grateful for the great television that your first two seasons brought us, and even more thankful for the great fans that it produced and introduced to Conan Doyle's stories and the Sherlockian world at large. 

We've got it from here, Steve.  Those of us who revel in the Canon more than you obviously do are happy to take the BBC fans and discuss the original stories with them.  And there's a great fan fiction community out there for fans that want to keep telling stories about Sherlock, John, Molly, Mystrade, otters, and whatever else they can think up. 

Mr. Moffat, You've done your part.  It's time to move on.