Wednesday, September 17, 2014

'Playing the Game' - What have I gotten myself into?

In my last post where I reviewed the G2B4 weekend I seemed to have put my foot in it with at least a couple of people.
And now I hope I can defend myself somewhat.

I made the comment, "I came away realizing there is a big difference between Playing the Game for Sherlock, and Playing the Game for Sherlock Holmes, and that it seems unlikely the two shall meet."

And I now seem in need of explaining myself. And, after all, that is what this blog is all about.

I had made that comment in regard to my review of Kristina Manente's talk about fandom for the wonderful 'Sherlock'.

And I still stand by my comment, and think as the most popular fan sites would suggest, it is not hard to get the impression.

First I guess I should explain what 'Playing the Game' means to me.
In it's most broad sense, for me 'Playing the Game' is two fold.
First would be examining the stories as written by Doyle and trying to find clues related to real world experiences. This, to some, would be the  most pure form of 'Playing the Game', researching Doyle's work and coming up with the why's and where-fores of Doyle's material, taken it so far as to even examine Doyle's life. 
This could even take the form of researching the history of things and objects in the Canon. This approach, history of items and things, I do a lot in my presentations. 
I recognize the study of Doyle and his other works as being a very scholarly approach, and one that I am not all that suited for.

The second part for me would probably be the most common, and that is, taking the stories as if Dr. John Watson actually wrote them and that they are true, at least for the time in which you participate in the hobby. I participate in this one a lot at the various groups I attend.

The Canonical Sherlock Holmes is also the way I 'Play the Game' whenever I view or listen to some adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.

And to me, or at least for me, a Sherlockian is someone who pursues Holmes in some manner close to this.

And then we have the problem of 'Sherlock'.
To even have 'Sherlock' in a Sherlockain conversation to some is totally ludicrous in the first place because it is not a work written by Doyle. And you have to give them that.

But we have 'Sherlock' and it is a wonderful show and since it is so popular it is hard not to get caught up with it and 'Play the Game'.

And it is here that my earlier comments are aimed.

For me, 'Playing the Game' with the show is looking for Canonical references and contemplating the characters as portrayed on the show, Canonically.
Just as an example; One point of discussion I would have, 'Playing the Game', would be; Would the Canonical Holmes show up at an appointment with the Queen is just a bed sheet.? (You can come up with your own answer for that one.)
Can you take your version of the Canonical Holmes and make him fit into the Holmes portrayed in 'Sherlock'? Is he still being Sherlock Holmes? 
For me, I think the show is spot on in some areas and way off the mark in others.
This is 'Playing the Game' as a Sherlockian, in my view, if you are willing to let yourself leave the Canon in the first place. One of those lines we draw to make it fit into our way of thinking.

It seems to me, on the most popular 'Fan' sites I have seen, 'Playing the Game' with 'Sherlock' does not require the original stories to be present. Some fans have even stated that they have not read the Canon at all or at least not all of them.
'Playing the Game' with 'Sherlock' seems more about trying to figure out where the story is going to go nest and whether or not Holmes and Watson are or should be lovers. Is Moriarty going to come back? Or will Sherlock once again have a relationship with someone.

Don't get me wrong, if that is how you enjoy the show, Great! But is it 'Playing the Game' as a Sherlockian or are you 'Playing at the Game' with 'Sherlock'. They aren't the same, and often times I think this is where the confusion lays. 

I realize that choosing to view 'Playing the Game' this way is based on personal bias and comfort zones. I am okay with that.

My real point is I still believe there is a blurred line between both camps that is often still misinterpreted and doesn't play well for some folks.

Like I have said before, I think 'Sherlock' is the best thing to happen to Holmes in a very long time and as really opened up the world of Holmes and Watson to many more folks. And you can be both, a Fan and a Sherlockian.

This is only my opinion, and I respect yours. After all, I am also someone who 'Plays the Game' with 'Elementary'.


  1. I agree with you, John. Well put. Sometimes I think it is a problem of nomenclature. Since there is Sherlock Holmes and "Sherlock". One is a character created by Arthur Conan Doyle and exists in that 60 stories were call the Canon. The other is a television show, inspired by Doyle's work and the various movies, TV shows and pastiches that were spun off from Doyle by others, produced by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and embodied by Benedict Cumberbatch. Truly two different things despite commonalities, one such being name of the main character.

    1. I think sometimes it can be a little uncomfortable when the two different camps come together and are not adapt in the other form.
      Once again, thanks for stopping by.

    2. Well put John.

      There is also the problem that some people are very quick to read someone else's opinion and interpret it as opposition rather than observation. There is a (mercifully) small minority of fandom who are as intolerant of what we might term the old-school as they claim the old-school are of them. Almost every question about what they do is interpreted as an attack to which they respond in kind.

      It's true that there are some old-school Sherlockians that don't see the value of what fandom produces but if that's the way they see it that's their business and fandom would be better off ignoring it and getting on with what they enjoy rather than going on the offensive (which is never going to lead to a productive result). After all, I'm sure there are elements of fandom that don't understand and have little interest in the old-school canon scholarship approach.

      Let everyone get on with the approach that suits them best. Live and let live is surely the way forward?

    3. With rare exception, it really all is good.
      I look forward to comments from both you guys. Thanks.

  2. John, thanks for clarifying your position. I think, as you yourself said, that you muddied the waters somewhat by using "playing the game" both in its traditional meaning and also one of your own. If we stick with what you might call the BSI definition - Holmes and Watson were both real people who actually lived, and Conan Doyle had nothing whatsoever to do with their creation - then it's arguable that Sherlock plays that game to perfection, since that is its exact core premise. In fact, Sherlock goes one better (if that's the correct term) since the BSI at least allow Doyle to figure in the game as a peripheral presence, whereas the poor chap has been expunged completely from the BBC show.

    To return to your wider point, I have encountered a good many pre-Sherlock devotees of the characters who were firmly part of the Holmes world but whose knowledge of the stories was either scant or non-existent and whose enthusiasm was founded entirely on movies, TV shows or radio productions. If they were Sherlockians (and they both held themselves to be and were so regarded by the movement in general) then so too are fans of Sherlock. It's all one.

    1. Bret, all good points. You just have to pick the best Sherlockian you want to be.

    2. I certainly can't argue with that.


    3. I consider myself an 1895 Scholar