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.


  1. i agree. it is a safe place for all. just because i might not be fond of a particular actor playing Sherlock...who am i to berate someone who is? i think there is room for all of us in Sherlock land. frankly, the bottom line is, we all love ACD's magnificent detective. and, from some of the other FB pages i belong too i have noticed that we are all open to helping each other out with information! i have learned a lot!

  2. "where no judgements are passed" says the person who has, for no reason I'm aware of, blocked me and many of my friends on twitter. Yet I've never met nor interacted with you. That certainly doesn't make me feel welcome at all.

    1. The point in your article is to bridge the gap, which I am a huge supporter of. Yet how can we do that when fans, specifically those of us that support a queer interpretation, aren't even considered valid participants?

    2. This is what I’m talking about. I don’t see things until they are pointed out to me. I’ve spent the last year trying to keep politics out of my twitter feed and have inadvertently blocked people because of that. I will spend tomorrow rectifying this. I’m sorry.

    3. I appreciate the apology. I'm not sure I understand why I was blocked in an effort to keep politics out of your feed - neither of us followed or interacted with each other. I would not have been on your feed, nor were you on mine.

      This is an issue I've run repeatedly against when interacting with older Sherlockians. The absolute disinterest and unwillingness to even interact with other fans, simply because you don't understand (and seem to not WANT to understand) our interpretations, is frustrating. It doesn't just cause a rift - it builds a wall between us. Many of us fight every day to have our voices heard, so when we interact in fandom, that's our safe place. That's the space where we're acknowledged and even celebrated.

      Extending that kind of space to include traditional Sherlockiana is going to take a lot of work on YOUR part and the folks in your community. We need to feel acknowledged, at the very least. Blocking a handful of people without even listening to them is just one of the ways that you are further building that wall, making it harder to break down.

      Consider this me pointing out a way you can make your post here a reality. If you think that the middle ground between traditional Sherlockian groups and modern Sherlock fans is the key to this community surviving, then consider perspectives outside of your own. Welcome new ideas, new people. Have an open mind and learn when it is time to LISTEN and LEARN rather than just disagree when something is unfamiliar.

      I understand that this burden shouldn't be placed upon you alone - I'm just trying to relay feelings I've had for quite some time while I've interacted with both groups. It's my hope that you'll be able to carry this sentiment to others who want our community to survive and continue to grow.