First of all, the members of the Norwegian Explorers are absolutely delightful folks. I met at least a half dozen of them over the weekend and they were all interesting, friendly, and welcoming.
And the conference itself? Well, it lives up to the hype.
We arrived on Thursday in time for the welcome reception at the hotel. That was very nerve-wracking for me. There were 148 people at the conference, so walking into a room where I knew maybe a dozen or so was tough. Luckily, The Parallel Case of St. Louis was represented with five members there, so I always had someone close at hand.
As the evening went on, I got to meet more people including Peter Blau (which I may have fan-boyed on Twitter about), and it was wonderful to finally meet so many Sherlockians in real life that I've talked with on Twitter or through email. People I've collaborated with over the years or come to respect by reading their opinions or seeing how they treat others online turned out to be just as nice in person as they were in the virtual world. At some point, it was rumored that a local bar had its own Ferris wheel and that's where the after-party was. I ended up in a cab with three Sherlockians I had only known for about twenty minutes, and we were on our way.
|The Red Circle of the Midwest|
|The hotel was... eclectic|
Back at the hotel, I had my vendor table set up to sell copies of The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street, Parallel Case of St. Louis scion pins, and duplicate issues of the Baker Street Journal from the St. Louis Sherlock Holmes Research Collection. Leading up to the conference, I was thinking that it was a mistake to get a dealer's table because I wouldn't be able to socialize and they aren't always worth the hassle. Boy, was I wrong! I met more people at my table than I ever would have if I were on my own. So many people walked up just to say hi! I sold out of Criminal Mastermind, and sold more pins than I had expected. And the Research Collection easily sold more old issues of the BSJ than we ever have in a single event!
Ross Davies gave the day's first talk, discussing "Dark Places in the Empty House." Ross has a knack for detailed canonical maps, and this was no different! Not only did he present, in his words, "perhaps an exhaustively complete inventory" of the possible routes taken in EMPT, but each attendee went home with one of Ross's wonderfully detailed maps for the story. A great artifact, indeed!
Regina Stinson's talk, "Deceptions, Disguises, and Dark Secrets," took us through Holmes' ability to use disguise throughout the Canon as well as other's uses. She also shared an example of some people who aren't very good at telling a disguise from an actual person (*cough, cough* Nigel Bruce *cough*), and ended with this line about The Illustrious Client: "In the end, it was the baron who lost face."
David Harnois was up next with "Boswell's Journey to the Dark, Wicked, and Strange" in which he introduced many of people to his podcast, I Am Lost Without My Boswell, and went through the history of the show as well as the technical aspects for recording. His research is nothing if not thorough, which explains why he had to test out handcuffs on his former roommate. He didn't clarify if that's why the roommate is a former one...
The Friends of the Sherlock Holmes Collections business meeting was after, which included Tim Johnson's talk about the status of the collections. Tim was the keynote speaker at last year's Holmes in the Heartland in St. Louis, and his speech there was unbelievable. Seeing him speak again this year made me realize just what a wonderful person he is. Tim cares for all of Sherlockiana and anyone interested in our hobby. This quote from Tim really sums it up: "We're a little old. We're a little white. We need to be a big tent. We need to expand our voices." It would be a better world if we were all a little bit more like Tim Johnson.
The final talk of the night was given by Jeffrey Hatcher, screenwriter for Ian McKellan's "Mister Holmes." He took issue with some of the clients that come to Baker Street describing some of them as "another really nice person whose been sent to Sherlock Holmes to introduce him to more interesting people." Jeffrey then took nine people out of the audience and had them outline their own Sherlock Holmes play. In all honesty, it was the end of the day, and this part drug on a little too long. It was interesting and funny, but I was ready for dinner.
Day two wrapped up and I had acquired a LOT of new books for the St. Louis Sherlock Holmes Research Collection. (Just a little plug for the St. Louis collection, if you need to do any research on Holmes and you're in the St. Louis area, check it out!)
Anyway, seven of us loaded into a minivan to scour the area for dinner, only to end up two blocks away from the hotel that we started from. A lot of fun was had there, and I somehow promised everyone at the table that I would watch the dreadful Dudley Moore "Hound of the Baskervilles" film. I guess that's what I get for voicing my opinion on Will Ferrell so loudly. And, like most Sherlockian get-togethers, we joined up with other groups back at the bar. The night rolled on, and almost every topic under the sun was discussed before we all headed back to our rooms with Loni Anderson to watch over us.
To be continued...