The website Sherlockian.net has long been one of the premier online resources for fans of Sherlock Holmes. Started in 1994, it was the first and only Sherlockian site on the internet at the time. Over the years, it grew and grew, becoming too big for just one person to run effectively.
Enter Dr. Liza Potts.
On September 16, 2016, Dr. Potts and her team at WIDE Research at Michigan State University officially became the new caretakers of Sherlockian.net. The past three years have given us a redesign of the site, easier navigation, and scores and scores of new content for newbies and seasoned Sherlockians alike.
But who is the woman behind the site? Keep reading to find out a little bit more about Liza Potts and her views on Sherlockiana...
How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?
Now there’s a term that is far more contested than I could ever have imagined! For me, anyone who is interested in the Great Game can be a Sherlockian. Whether you’ve come to the community through film, fic, canon, graphic novels, television, audiobooks, radio, cosplay, manga, art, or whatever else - you are welcome. And to quote my betters “All Holmes is Good Holmes.”
How did you become a Sherlockian?
My father was a fan of Holmes in all his forms, especially Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. He started with the radio shows, listening to them as a youngster in the 1930’s. He loved science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. He was an older Dad, so I grew up watching older shows (“reruns”) a lot on PBS. I guess you could say I was raised as a true believer in the nerdly trinity of Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, and Star Trek. My mother tried her best, but I was far more interested in canon than soaps (although the latter can lead me into eyebrow arching hysteria).
What is your favorite canonical story?
This question always gets me - we have so many to choose from! I love the mystery and moodiness of Hound and the strong feminist turn in Speckled Band. The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane holds a terrifying place in my heart as someone who has been stung by several jellyfish while growing up in Florida.
Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?
Our lab at Michigan State University is home to a very diverse group of students, faculty, and specialists who work on the site together. Our students are awesome - curious, smart, resourceful, and interested in Sherlock Holmes and the community at large. In addition to reading the latest and greatest works from the community, they all have access to copies of the Adventures. They regularly attend our local scion meetings, The Greek Interpreters. And every year, we bring students to 221B Con to learn more about the community. Their take on Sherlockiana gives me a new perspective on how, where, and why our community is growing.
What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?
I love maps, so visuals of rooms, locations, geography, and even workflows are exciting to me. In my office, I have a massive map of Victorian London and an illustration of the layout of 221B. I’ll happily stare off into space, examining these maps and imagining the possibilities.
What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?
While much of my focus is on connecting digital bits for the Sherlock Holmes community, I am very interested in the spaces and places where Sherlockians meet and participate in memory-making activities - whether these are meetings, cons, events, or visiting story settings in London (which we have done on our study abroad trips). The ways in which our community is changing and growing is an area of my research.
What does a typical day's work look like for Sherlockian.net?
We have a pretty steady workflow for revising content, ensuring that our links are up-to-date, responding to inquiries we receive through our online form, and reviewing new material as it comes along. We meet once a week as a team, and then communicate throughout the week using Slack. A typical day could include fixing a broken link, updating our Watson Wednesday content, howling at a post on Twitter, booking tickets for an event, and editing a new review submission.
As a curator of this hobby, what particular trends do you find interesting?
With over 300 pages and thousands of links, the trends that interest me the most are the ones that will help bring in new community members and sustain our enjoyment of the Great Detective and his Dear Doctor. When new students show up to our Sherlockian.net meetings, our first question is--aside from the ever important “what is your favorite kind of bagel so I can be sure to pick it up for our next lunch meeting”--where did you first encounter Sherlock Holmes and what is your favorite take on the canon? This leads us in so many interesting directions - anime, fan fiction, RDJ films, art about otters and hedgehogs, and more. Right now, we have an fantastic project manager who is a canon devotee and a content writer who knows Holmes only through anime. It’s awesome.
What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?
I love the places that Lyndsay Faye has taken our detective, and Dust and Shadow is tops for me. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s stories about Mycroft are intriguing to me, and I am about to listen to his second book (a delight during long car rides!). Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald gave me the heebie jeebies (that’s a compliment). Finally, I definitely recommend the audio version of G.S. Denning’s A Study in Brimstone. I caught a flu of dire seriousness and didn’t give it much of a chance at first, but the audio version has me laughing and appreciating the exasperated cleverness of his work. Wait...do you mean books that aren’t about Sherlock Holmes? Um...
Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?
Our community is definitely going through some changes, but I am confident that we will continue to carry on, as new generations make Holmes their own. It’s a privilege and a delight to be the caretaker of the great old house that is Sherlockian.net.