Monday, June 24, 2013

Just some thoughts and a little long winded for me. . .

I saw a recent pole, on another blog, asking; “Is the world of Sherlock Holmes getting to saturated with all the new movies and TV shows?”

Well, actually, yes. . . and no.

It is true that it has been many years, if ever, since the world Sherlock Holmes has had the wealth of material that is available now to draw upon. With new books, e-publishing, movies and TV shows, it doesn’t take much to find a source to feed anyone’s passion for Holmes.
There are many more games involving the great detective. Pastiche and short stories and novels abound to suit whatever form one seeks.

Is it all good? No, probably not. But it does keep the game alive and interesting.

There is often debate surrounding most of the works out there right now. Seemingly most of the debate surrounds the three visual presentations that are for the most part responsible for Holmes’ popularity at the moment; The RDJ movies, ‘Sherlock’ the English TV presentation, and our own ‘Elementary’, which seems to take most of the flack of these three.

Spawned from the popularity these shows and films have produced, are hundreds books and pastiches dealing with the great detective. Some try, whether succeeding or not, to remain faithful to the original, while others go off in any number of directions, from Steampumk, occult and any number of other genre’s you can chose from.
Some of it is scholarly and some, well, not so.

This popularity has even created a debate about whether one is a devotee or fan of Sherlock Holmes. And I think a very strong argument can be made for the need of these two distinctions.
Lines will be drawn in the sand about which side of the line we fall on, while in truth it should not be an offense to be in either camp.
But that is not want I want to discuss here today, but it is relevant.

Let us assume, not rightly or wrongly, but just for the sake of argument, that a Sherlockian (Holmesian) is someone who came by Sherlock Holmes by way, for the most part, of reading the original Canon. Either picking up the books in the beginning or seeking the books after seeing an earlier movie or, let’s say, the Brett series. But, however, the original stories are now the foundation for his or her Canonical love. When all else pales in comparison, a Sherlockian will always seek comfort in the original 60 stories.
The Canon is the source for all debate and reference about anything else that follows, whether in book form or on film.  Stray too far from the Canon, whether we find it fun or not, the Sherlockian will be, at least somewhat, disappointed. It doesn’t mean we won’t still ‘Play the Game’, but the works will hardly seem real relevant.

Now, again for the sake of argument, let’s say a fan is someone who has come into the world of Sherlock Holmes by way of the TV show ‘Sherlock’ (I am going to leave the RDJ movies out of the argument because at the moment RDJ draws from a much larger pool because of his popularity in other movies) and that is the source of most of their knowledge of Sherlock Holmes. These are the ‘Cumberbabes’ and others who find the lead actor the biggest reason for liking the show. (I don’t have a problem with that and feel he is a great Sherlock Holmes, or at least could be). It would argue that the appeal of this show has almost become, to many, cult like, a distinction most Sherlockians would never want attached to their names.  Roll playing if you will.
The appeal of the show has also made for some incredible merchandising. Everything from IPhone covers to the tea sets used in the shows. ‘I am Sherlocked’.

The show has also encouraged some worthwhile debate, and some not so worthwhile debate about the mental state and sexual leanings of Sherlock Holmes.

.And all this is wonderful, and great, for the Sherlockian and the fan.

Where the problem is (and this is just for the sake of argument, because, really, there is no problem) is wading through all the stuff that is out there and taking away, without breaking the bank account, all that is valuable to your chosen devotion to Holmes.
The ‘market’ is just so saturated at the moment, that picking and choosing has become a very time consuming adventure.
A lot this can be blamed, and I am not sure blamed is the right word, on the easy of e-publishing and the advent of blogging and web pages.
I remember when I started my Holmesian pursuits it could be months or longer between new material to add to my collection. There were certain books you had to hunt down, and new material came out rather sporadically.
Now new material, in the form of e-publishing, comes out almost daily and one must choose ones source carefully.

And here is where the ‘Yes’ comes in, in our original question.

Right now the world of Sherlock Holmes, I believe, is too saturated for the Sherlockian. The Sherlockian who is wanting to keep up with what is relevant to his or her world of Sherlock Holmes, without having the wade through a lot of chaff to achieve that goal.
I think with so much out there right now, some really bad stuff is getting too much attention, while some really good stuff may be being missed.
Such is the game I guess.

But here is also where the ‘No’ comes in, in our original question.

For the fan, the ones seeking anything new on Sherlock Holmes the world is not too saturated yet. They can’t get enough at the moment, especially if it is something that puts Sherlock Holmes in a different light from the original stuff. Their Holmes can be a sociopath, or Bi or Gay, and their Moriarty can be way out there in left field. And that’s OK.
They are the ones, at least for the time being, that are keeping Holmes in the public eye at the moment.

If we really think about it, it is only to much, or ‘Yes’,  for those of us (and I put myself into that category) who like our Sherlock the way we have him pictured in our minds and don’t want to ‘defend’ or argue that anymore except to those we deem of like mind, Sherlockians.

It is ‘No’ for those who can’t get enough, in whatever incarnation, of Sherlock Holmes and prefer him less ‘Victorian’ than us ‘Sherlockians’.

The true answer to the question will only come in a few years, when RDJ no longer makes another Holmes movie, and ‘Sherlock’ has run out of steam because Mr. Cumberbatch has too many movie projects going on, and ‘Elementary’ no longer pulls in the ratings, when we see a mass exodus to the next popular icon.

The true test will be measured when the we see how many ‘fans’ keep ‘playing the game’ when ‘Sherlock’ is only in reruns.

If they then maintain a love of Sherlock Holmes, in whatever form they wish to pursue him, I think then we can call them ‘Sherlockians’.

At the moment it seems the ones who deem themselves ‘Sherlockians’ are almost putting the ones they deem ‘fans’ into the camp where we put ‘Dr Who’ fans.

I think there are several interesting things to observe over the next several years will be.
One, has the number of societies, scion or not, increased. And if so, once the current popularity dwindles, will those societies survive

Has the membership in existing societies increased or does the modern Sherlock Holmes fan not need the society structure that was once the cornerstone of the Sherlockian world. (I think this is something that can be discussed for many organizations now-a-days.)

And lastly, are the older societies open minded enough, at the moment, to welcome ‘fans’ into their world, hoping eventually to create another ‘Sherlockian’.

I know I have Sherlock Holmes in a place I am comfortable with. But I also know I don’t mind exploring with him in other possibilities, that I am also comfortable with. I have my lines I don’t like him to cross, and I won’t go there with you with him.
But I consider myself pretty open minded . . . .  some what.

But that is only my opinion. And I look forward to yours.


  1. I like your sentiments. You should think about posting it on the Google+ site.

  2. A good post indeed. I know that the membership of the SHSL grew a lot in the wake of the RDJ movies and "Sherlock" but despite that we didn't see a rush of these new members attending meetings. It appeared that they were content to join but remain at arms length. I recall one meeting when two young ladies turned up who we'd never seen before. They were fairly clearly there because of "Sherlock" and seemed quite confused by what they found. Did they have expectations that the SHSL meeting would be revolving around "Sherlock" or was their confusion due to something else? No idea but I've not seen them since.

    Traditional societies will perhaps be like oil tankers and be slow to alter their course to be more embracing of the new wave but turn they must. However the new wave need to be prepared to come half-way and accept that some of us are not ga-ga about "Sherlock" we just enjoy it as the latest adaptation.

    1. Our local society had the 'slow to turn' mentality to their own detriment not welcoming with open minds several potential new members. Even today not understanding the changes they need to make to continue to grow.

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  4. I want to thank you Mr. Duncan for that first-hand anecdote. Sherlockiana is first and foremost an appreciation of the genius of Doyle's Holmes stories. I think almost all Holmesians will welcome new members inspired by the RDJ movies, "Sherlock', and "Elementary" who are interested in the Canon. For those interested primarily in the canon of BBC "Sherlock", for example, I sure they will form their own societies or websites devoted to Cumberbatch, Freeman, Moffat, et al, and produce their own scholarship and higher criticism, much like Trekkers and Whovians before them.

    (The perils of dyslexic proofreading.)

    1. I don't imagine that we'll see societies in the traditional sense. I think the web tends to be the natural home for the fans of new adaptations. You often see Twitter used to coordinate gatherings around the world but these sound like relatively informal affairs.

      I guess it's a case of..wait and see.

    2. As I have noticed, good or bad, with the advent of 'social media' and internet the need for social groups like Sherlock Holmes societies and others are not needed as much as they once were. Where the telephone only served a purpose of communication, it was not very good for sharing bigger ideas and thoughts, so was only good for getting dates and times.
      The same can be said, the need no longer is as valid, of printed newsletters. Many groups have gone away from them to save costs, while losing the printed record of their groups.
      We use to need them, societies, to share our interests and to make plans and to gather. It is not the case as much anymore.

  5. Good points both, John and Alistair. A new age with new media which has the potential to be both inclusive and exclusive. I think the inclusive example would be, from what I read of it, the 221B Con in Atlanta this year which was fueled by the internet and podcasts and included the broad range of what could be called "Sherlock Holmes". One could apparently find just the type of "Sherlock" that suited them. Of course, a "con" is an "old" form of social networking or social medium, having its origins in the first third of the 20th century.

    Instead of newsletters, mimeographed and snail-mailed to like-minded souls, we have blogs that are available to all on the web who seek them out, but can be so narrowly focused in subject as to be read by a very small group. I think that one of the things that groups like Sherlockians share is the deliberate pace and the tactile sensation of holding, reading and savoring a quarterly or bi-yearly journal. Sherlockians, are by and large, readers, and that type of person has not changed from Morley's, or Watson's, time, although they might now have a bigger tool box to play with. Both Sherlockians and non-traditional, web based groups feel the need for "face-time", whether at a con or a scion. And both are members of the 21st century and can indulge in more immediate media to sate needs. Whether such web groups last longer than an internet meme is anybody's guess. But, I think, they have much to offer their "users", and perhaps something for those on the outside looking in.

    1. What I miss with the weakness, at the moment, of our society is the once a month social aspect of the gathering, and not having to wait for an 'event' that I can afford to go to that is not to far away. We made friends in our society that lasted beyond Sherlock Holmes and went in other directions.
      Although I do like the web based media as I use it, I miss a more structured monthly gathering.

  6. I fear the decline and perhaps even loss of the more traditional society. The SHSL runs its meetings in a nice formal fashion which has echoes of the Victorian era that we, as Sherlockians, like to retreat to. There is, for me, a sense of escapism when I go somewhere like the House of Commons or The National Liberal Club (two very Victorian buildings) for meetings/dinners. I don't think you can appreciate the original Holmes in quite the same fashion in a modern building. A modern building (or medium) is, however, perfect for an event revolving around any "modern" Holmes.

    1. 'There is, for me, a sense of escapism when I go somewhere like the House of Commons or The National Liberal Club (two very Victorian buildings) for meetings/dinners. I don't think you can appreciate the original Holmes in quite the same fashion in a modern building. A modern building (or medium) is, however, perfect for an event revolving around any "modern" Holmes.' you said.

      I agree.

  7. That, sadly, leaves us Americans (or any non-Britons) in a bit of a quandary. We can not meet in a building that Holmes and Watson might have visited. Some people live in an area that might not even have buildings of an appropriate era. While it maybe possible to find a building or meeting place of any age that has a suitable "Victorian" atmosphere, I think I'll have to reject the premise "I don't think you can appreciate the original Holmes in quite the same fashion in a modern building" as too limiting. If you have a love of the characters and the work of the author, that sense of escapism and echoes of the Victorian era are constructed around you when you discuss, and especially read, the Canon.

    That will have to be my opinion until such time I ever spend more than two hours between flights at Heathrow.

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    2. Well, Alistair did say, "for me (him)". I must say I pretty much feel the same way as Alistair. But atmosphere in the Canon as always been the key factor for me, so I do kinda require it in most of my meetings.
      Our society first started meeting in a local 'British' pub, run by an Englishwoman. And since leaving the location our membership has never been quite the same.

      But sometimes we can't be to picky about where we meet and don't have a choice.