Ardy: Hello and welcome to the Baker Street Babes podcast, episode 23. We are joined today by Mattias Boström from Sweden and we are here to talk about New and Old Sherlockians. Hello Mattias!
Ardy: And also here are Taylor, Amy, Maria, Jenn and myself. I’m Ardy. Curly is on hiatus, so sorry that you didn’t get a crazy intro from Curlz, it’s just me today. It’s John Watson’s birthday.
Maria: Oh, yes, it is!
Ardy:… or is it? Maybe.
Taylor: Or is it, yes.
Maria: Yes, it might be John Watson’s birthday.
Mattias: Where is that fact from?
Maria: From the books!
Ardy: There are two dates. There’s an essay that I found online from the Sherlock Peoria, and one of the dates is March 31st and the other date is July 7th, I think.
Mattias: July 7th is Conan Doyle’s death date.
Ardy: Yeah, I think that’s why.
Maria: I’m rooting for March 31st then.
Ardy: But yeah. Happy birthday, John Watson. Maybe.
Ardy: We’re here today because I chatted to Mattias on Twitter about the topic of new and old Sherlockians and we had quite a long discussion. So then we said why don’t we make a podcast episode out of it? So here we are now. We also wanted to have someone from the Sherlock Holmes Society of London to take part, but both Roger Johnson and Carrie Chandler said, “We’d love to do this, but we’re both really really busy this weekend.”
So they can’t be here in person, but they’ve sent us some lovely pointers which I’m going to use for the discussion. Before we get started: Anyone we’ve ever had on the podcast usually has to become an honorary Baker Street Babe. In order to do that, you have to answer certain questions, so, Mattias, are you ready?
Ardy: The first question that we ask is: How did you get into Sherlock Holmes?
Mattias: The first time I read it was probably when I was ten or eleven or something like that. I read it as children read other stories, but I got really into Sherlock Holmes probably 1987 or something like that, and it’s understandable because that’s when the Granada series with Jeremy Brett was aired on Swedish television and it was also the 100th celebration of A Study in Scarlet.
Ardy: Okay. What’s your favourite story in the Canon?
Mattias: The Red-Headed League.
Jenn: That’s a good one.
Mattias: It has both the funny parts and so much humour in it, and a very exciting end. I like it because it’s one of the most unexpected stories in how it evolves.
Ardy: Do you have a favourite adaptation?
Mattias: Yes, of course. Right now it’s hard to say anything else but Cumberbatch and the gang, but of course I grew up on Jeremy Brett, so it’s difficult to say which one of them is the best, but one of them.
Ardy: I feel you there, I feel you entirely.
Mattias: It’s really the Final Problem for me to decide which one of them is the best.
Ardy: Fair dos. If you could take a character from the Canon out for tea, who would you take?
Mattias: Oh. That’s not an easy one. Actually, I would love to meet Dr Mortimer from HOUN because I really want to know why he chose that career instead of the one he could have had. And of course, Dr Watson maybe.
Babes: We all agree.
Mattias: I don’t know if I’d really want to meet Sherlock Holmes because I don’t know how to communicate with him.
Maria: Yeah, and you don’t want him to know ALL THE THINGS about you, right?
Ardy: He’d be really scary, because you’d take him for a tea party and within ten seconds he’d tell you your life story. And you'd be like, "I WAS JUST WANTING TO HAVE TEA WITH YOU!"
Maria: And he would tell you things you never wanted to know about yourself.
Ardy: Yeah. Well, thank you very much, Mattias. You are now an honorary Baker Street Babe!
Ardy: Someone else has just joined us, Sarah. Sarah, are you there?
Sarah: I’m here.
Ardy: Fab. So the topic today is “New and Old Sherlockians” and I think perhaps, to start it off, because you’re a member of the BSI as well, but you seem to participate in online fandom as well and you’re about to publish a book and everything, so maybe talk a bit about what your involvement with the Sherlockian world has been like, your bit of history and we’ll take it from there.
Mattias: When I became a Sherlockian in 1987, the word Sherlockian was not that known. You can understand that it has something to do with Sherlock Holmes, but you couldn’t really find anything about it. There was no internet and it wasn’t that easy to find out about Sherlockians and Sherlock Holmes societies and Sherlockian theories and all this quasi-academic literature on Sherlock Holmes.
I found a few addresses of Sherlock Holmes societies at the end of a Swedish Sherlock Holmes edition, so I just contacted a few Sherlock Holmes societies and found out what it was about. Ffor a long time, the inofficial motto of the Swedish Sherlock Holmes society, the Baskerville Hall Club of Sweden, was that you should really be Sherlock Holmes to be able to find the society.
What I immediately found interesting was to play the Game. Find the errors in Conan Doyle’s writing and pretend that Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes were real… which they were, of course…
Babes: Of course they were! I think we all agree on that one.
Mattias: Yes! But it was something that I had to learn from the beginning. I found it very interesting to try solving the mysteries of how many wives Dr Watson had, and where his war wound was, and so on. It was a teenage interest for me. Normally, with teenage interests, you tend to forget about them eventually and you get interested in other things. But I just happened to get to know so many people through it, made so many friends. And I got a huge Sherlock Holmes collection in my bookshelves—I’m sitting next to them at the moment, so they are looking at me.
Maria: That’s really interesting because I think it’s the same for us, for the Baker Street Babes, because we became friends because of Sherlock Holmes. So, in a sense, it still works.
Mattias: When I visit Sherlock Holmes meetings in Stockholm or New York or wherever, we don’t actually talk that much about Sherlock Holmes. We just have an interest in common which means that we probably will like each other as human beings.
Maria: Yes, that’s true!
Ardy: Excellent. That ties in quite neatly with a question that Roger asked in his email. He wonders whether there is really an age gap or an impression that the societies are for older and/or wealthier people. Do you have an opinion on that? Because I do, but I’d like to let you go first.
Mattias: I think when I speak of “old” and “new” Sherlockians, it’s not an age thing, it’s more about the definition of a Sherlockian. The old definition was maybe just this theory-writing, not always academic, but that kind of Sherlockian. Someone who uses the original stories and works from them. As for the “new” Sherlockians, their original thing is the BBC show.
Mattias: And I’m not talking about maybe you, you Babes, but talking about all the “tumblr Sherlockians”. Their whole world is the BBC show. I really want them to explore the rest of the Sherlock Holmes world: of course read the original stories, but also see the Jeremy Brett series… and both these things are so easy to read and watch, even for the new Sherlockians, because I think they will like that too.
Then they can go on to read pastiche or watch other adaptations. I think it’s interesting to see if the new Sherlockians will ever go further than that and into the area of the old Sherlockians: the theory-writing, the fun with jokes about things like the seventeen steps, which was the stairs up to the apartment on Baker Street. All these small in-jokes. When they mention the deerstalker, it’s “we all chipped in”, instead of “it’s an ear-flapped travelling cap,” which is what I think of when I hear “deerstalker”.
Jenn: No, it’s a Death Frisbee!
Mattias: I think there is so much fun to be had in the old Sherlockian world. I can say that because I’ve had that fun for 25 years and so many find it interesting to be in that world and to do those things. I just want the new Sherlockians to know about it, to know that there is more.
You can have so much fun, for example, when you read the original stories for the third or fourth or fifth time and find the small details. Monday this week I was at a library talking about Sherlock Holmes with a small group of people and I had read a couple of stories for this meeting, which we were to discuss. And when I read REDH, I suddenly realised: “Why is Sherlock Holmes knocking on John Clay’s door? Because, if John Clay is the fourth worst criminal in London, then he really should know the face of Sherlock Holmes.” I had never thought of that before. So every time I read a Sherlock Holmes story I find new things, and I think that is fun. Not all new “tumblr Sherlockians” will think that’s fun, but maybe some of them. I just want them to know that this Sherlockian world exists. Well, that was a long answer…
Maria: Yes, it is very rewarding to not just stick to the one thing.
Ardy: It definitely is! There are a couple of things in your answer that I’d like to touch on, and that ties in with something that Carrie wrote. Carrie Chandler from the SHSL wrote quite a massive email and one thing that she said was that she wonders how relevant it is to play the Game, as in, pretend Holmes and Watson were real? To what extent do people still do that? That’s a question for everyone to answer.
Also, she mentioned that there are changes in the meaning of the word “Sherlockian”. That’s something that I can definitely attest to as well. It used to be that a Sherlockian was somebody who played the Game, and also “Sherlockian” was the American expression and “Holmesian” the British word for the same thing. But recently, I’ve seen it used to mean that a Holmesian is a fan of the original stories and the Victorian world, and a Sherlockian is a fan of the BBC show. It does make sense but there’s a shift in meaning going on there, and I’m not sure where the words are getting pulled.
Amy: From what I’m seeing, I feel like the words are somewhat interchangeable at this point. Obviously the word Sherlockian doesn’t really have any connotation other than Holmes, it doesn’t mean anything else. I’m seeing a lot of the BBC fans on tumblr appropriating it, I also think some serious Holmesians are using it, so I think it’s a fluid meaning at the moment.
There’s something really interesting going on with the new Sherlockians. They’re entering with the BBC show, but then you’re starting to see memes and things that apply some of the new jokes from the BBC series to the Canon. You’re starting to see some quotes from the show on pictures from the Brett series or other adaptations, or Conan Doyle quotes floating around. I’m always really amused to see that they’re going backwards in that sense: entering at a different point, but, for some of them, still ending up in the same place. And I think it’s also great that it’s sending them back to the original.
Taylor: It’s definitely interesting to see. I think it comes out a lot with where we are in the BBC Sherlock series at the end of The Reichenbach Fall. We’re at this point where there’s all this speculation about Sebastian Moran, and a good percentage of the people in that group don’t even necessarily know who that is. And then other people are like “oh yeah, I wonder who it’s going to be, who is going to play that part when it comes and how they’re going to do it.” I think that’s one of the points where you start to see who has at least even a vague idea of the original Canon as opposed to the people who are purely BBC Sherlock fans.
Amy: I do think there’s a lot of people who still play the Game. Doing the book reviews for the BSB has been a really interesting experience: to see different levels of traditional and non-traditional pastiche, obviously, but I’ve gotten the distinct impression that there’s a fair few people alive and well who do still play the game. Even new people coming into it. I think fanfiction is a way for people to incorporate the story into their own lives and to do that in a very new and modern way.
Ardy: Yes! And also, as for playing the Game, I have three words for you: Believe in Sherlock. For me that’s the prime example of, yes, we are pretending this character was a real person and that he is, well… not alive and well, at the moment at least, but you see what I mean.
Amy: MORIARTY WAS REAL!
Ardy: But that’s a very different way of doing that, rather than debating whether Holmes went to Oxford or Cambridge and searching for clues in the stories.
Maria: I think it has to do with the fact that the BBC uses London, contemporary London, so well. It is pretty much the city that you can actually go to and visit, even though they changed a few places. But it’s essentially set in the real world, as the books were set in real-world Victorian London. So it has something to do with that, that it seems really real because the modern adaptation is very close to what real life would be like. That helps to think of the modern Sherlock Holmes as a real person.
I was just talking briefly with Ardy about that. For me, growing up with a different Sherlock Holmes— probably literary Sherlock Holmes, but also going to Meiringen to the museum and seeing the statue there— there was always a Sherlock Holmes figure which seemed real. There were letters addressed to him in the museum and everything, so he is kind of a Santa Claus figure but for me, he is a real character, somewhere out there. Not really approachable, but he is real for me personally.
Taylor: What the new series has done is make him contemporary, so, for those of us who do play the Game and are under the impression that Holmes is real; unlike Victorian Holmes, it’s something real that’s now literally happening at the same time that you’re alive, during your time period. He becomes a contemporary of you rather than a historical figure who may or may not have existed.
Jenn: I think that’s the division between the “old” Sherlockians and the “new” Sherlockians. That’s how you’re entering the world. If you go back to Victorian times, when the stories were being written by Arthur Conan Doyle, people thought Sherlock Holmes was real then, too!
Babes: They did, yes!
Jenn: Because it was set in that time period. Arthur Conan Doyle continually got letters addressed to Dr. Watson or to Sherlock Holmes: “I have a problem, could you help me out?” There’s a really great example that I used in an article: a tobacconist wrote in, wanting to get that paper that Holmes did on however many types of tobacco ash, so that he’d have it to read. I think, as you move along in time, up to now, people might read the Victorian stuff but not be able to connect to it. But because the show does set it in contemporary time, people can find a tangible way of feeling that this is now, this isn’t then. I think that’s part of the bigger difference.
Sarah: I see people who really enjoy both. They like to believe in Sherlock and figure out how many wives Watson had, but they also like to analyse it from the point of view of Conan Doyle’s life and they can easily switch between the two, even in a conversation.
Jenn: Most definitely. I think we as a group are a good example of that.
Ardy: That’s also something that Carrie said, that the SHSL was originally a Sherlockian society, i.e. pretending that Doyle was just the literary agent and that Holmes and Watson were real people. That has an impact on how you run a society like that. She said that it took them forever to go to Edinburgh because some people were quite vocal about the Society being Sherlockian, not Doylean. She said that because the perception of what it means to be a Sherlockian has changed, they have to try and accommodate that and not just assume that everybody is playing the Game anymore. Is that something that you have noticed in the societies that you’ve been involved with as well, Mattias?
Mattias: I don’t think we have noticed it that much in Sweden yet, but we are getting more and more new members and younger members but I think we’re still playing the traditional Game.
As for the BBC series… everyone likes it among the traditional Sherlockians, but we haven’t really started quoting from the series or discussing the theories, for example, about what happened at the end of Episode 3, Season 2. But one thing about the BBC series is that we are in the same situation right now as the Victorians were in the 1890s because we can feel it’s a real city outside. The original SH stories in the 1890s were hypermodern literature among a lot of other books that weren’t really that modern. The BBC Sherlock is hypermodern television. There are so many television reviewers saying that this is a really really new kind of showing TV.
Well, I didn’t really answer the question…
I don’t think we have adapted or changed anything in the Sherlock Holmes societies yet but I think that will come. The new Sherlockians have not found their way into the societies yet.
Ardy: Why do you think that is?
Mattias: Well, I think that when the first series of BBC Sherlock was aired there was a new interest in Sherlock Holmes, but the real explosion has come now, with the second series. Do you think the same or…?
Taylor: I personally think that, when you were talking about the terms and about how the terminology is changing meaning, that there’s kind of a sense of intimidation there. People who are younger fans who are not 100% familiar with the Canon, or even people who have read the Canon through once or twice… there’s definitely a feeling of intimidation against the older societies. You feel that you’re not up on it enough, no matter how much reading you do.
Maria: I also think that the necessity isn’t as strictly there, Mattias, as you mentioned. You were looking for something, you were looking for people to talk to about this. But with the internet, you don’t have to actually get into societies. You can have your Facebook groups, you use tumblr, you use twitter, all these things you can use to communicate. So I think the need to go looking for a local group of people to talk to about these things, to do research has kind of been substituted with the internet. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s uncool to be part of societies because it is really really cool, but I think that might be a reason why people don’t search for them as much.
Taylor: I just recently started a Sherlock Holmes group here in Charleston. They’re all younger girls, they’re all BBC Sherlock fans, they’re kind of fifty-fifty on who’s read Canon. I took two of the girls up to Columbia, SC to meet the Holmes society up there for their dinner. And they had a traditional dinner with a toast to Irene Adler and they read 221B at the end of it, which I absolutely adore, and I loved it. And they were like, “We would like to come to one of your meetings.” And it’s kind of hard to say, “Well, we’d love for you to come to one of our meetings, but one of our meetings is more like a group of us sitting around a coffee table, drinking tea and watching The Great Mouse Detective.” And I do mean that seriously because that’s what I did on Sunday.
Jenn: There is nothing wrong with that!
Taylor: Well, no, but it’s such a different world. To go to one of these very formal dinners where there’s toasts and food and speakers is a lot different from our little new society, which is just a bunch of people who found each other on tumblr and who meet at a given restaurant or at someone’s apartment and just hang out. It doesn’t have that same formal structure, at least not yet. So I’d love for them to come down and come to one of our meetings, but it’s probably not what they’re thinking of when they say, “I want to come to one of your meetings.”
Jenn: Although they may realise that one of your meetings is going to be different anyway. With all the Sherlockians that I’ve been meeting here in New York, between ASH and going to a few events at BSI weekends—they understand and they get that I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes in a different way. It wasn’t that I picked up a book, I read Canon, I found a scion group and joined that way; they understand that it was different. They’ll ask you, “How did you get into it?”
I watched BBC Sherlock and thought, well, if those are based on stories in a book, why don’t I go buy the book? So I bought the entire Canon and started reading it, and they get that. They’re also very welcoming to people. You talked about younger people being intimidated. I’ll freely admit going to one of those first meetings, I was like “oh God, they’re going to start quizzing me and I’m not going to know the answer to these and they’re going to kick me out and I’m going to shame myself.” But that’s not the case!
Taylor: Not at all!
Jenn: No! And Aubre, who’s part of SherlockNYC, who’s here in New York—they started their group with BBC Sherlock, but now they’re branching out into introducing Canon to younger people. And she even commented and said, these guys are so welcoming, they really really want you to come in. They understand that maybe you haven’t read all the stories yet, but they want you to! They’re encouraging and very welcoming. People shouldn’t feel intimidated even if they’re fans of Sherlock Holmes but don’t necessarily know everything about him.
Ardy: I can definitely second that in terms of the SHSL. A couple of us went to their meeting last week. We didn’t go to the dinner because that was quite formal and also quite expensive, but we went to the meeting afterwards, and everyone was really welcoming. Even before that, Steven Rothman from the Baker Street Journal came down and we met up with him and a couple of people from the SHSL in a pub. But I can honestly say that if it had been just me, if I wasn’t part of the Baker Street Babes, I would never have plucked up the courage to go to that society.
Now I’ve been there and actually seen them, I’m so glad I went. They’ve all been really nice and really welcoming, we had such an amazing time, and everyone was like “oh, you’re younger people who like Sherlock Holmes! That’s nice, we really want you to stay because we need younger people in the society.” But I think the sense of intimidation is still there. So if this podcast can convince a couple of younger people that the old Sherlockian societies are not actually that intimidating and to just go and turn up, that’ll be a good thing.
Jenn, Taylor, Maria: JUST GO.
Taylor: The whole experience in Columbia was like that, the Hansom Wheels Society up there. When we went up there, I was still kind of nervous, but they were just so outrageously excited that we were there. It was a wonderful welcome, it’s not at all what you expect. You are a little afraid, you kind of think you’re going to be kept on the outskirts, but that’s not the case. At least I personally haven’t had that experience at all.
Mattias: I think the whole new fandom is the most vitalising thing that has happened to the Sherlockian world for ages. I think this is something that all the old Sherlockian societies know about. They feel the same thing. Like you pointed out with the SHSL, there has been a lack of new, younger members during the last 15-20 years. There were a lot of new members when the Granada series was aired on television, but that was sort of the same thing: people had only seen the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes and not really read the original stories, so it’s happening again with Benedict Cumberbatch. But in a little different way, because we have the internet.
Ardy: I also think it’s different because to me, Jeremy Brett is pretty much as close to the Canon as you can get in a filmed version, whereas the BBC show does a completely different thing. So there’s a difference there, do you see what I mean?
Mattias: Yes, but there was a fandom formed around Jeremy Brett, too. I remember at least in the first years when there was internet, there were a lot of groups concentrated on Jeremy Brett. I remember those discussion groups on the internet. There were the Hounds of the Internet which was around everything Sherlockian but there was also something around Jeremy Brett and there was the Mary Russell group, which was also sort of fandom.
Amy: I just want to put in, all this is really making me wonder about what the changing face of Sherlock Holmes societies is going to be in the next few years. Obviously we don’t know where the BBC series is headed or what the longevity of the series is beyond Series Three, but things are bound to change when you have an influx of virtually thousands to millions of young people suddenly entering a fandom.
Obviously, they won’t all stick around and become dedicated Sherlockians, but I think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when two worlds collide—where you have what Taylor was talking about, you have the world of the formality and it’s very fun and very welcoming, but it’s obviously different from how the internet generation relates in an informal, hanging out kind of way. I’m curious what the end result is going to be of the combustion of those two worlds; whether one is going to predominate in the end or whether we’re going to get something that is a mixture of the two. I’d love to see where that goes, even in the next few years.
Ardy: Yes! And that links with something that Roger wrote to me: “The Sherlockian world as a whole needs the energy, the new ideas and the fresh perspectives that youth can bring just as much as it needs the experience, the judgment and the accumulated knowledge that sometimes come with age. But are we doing enough to encourage the new Sherlockians to stay?”
Mattias: The basic question is, do the new Sherlockians know about the old Sherlockians? And if they know about them, are they afraid or not interested in joining them? I think that you Babes have an important mission here in combining these two groups of Sherlockians and many more of us.
And the traditional Sherlock Holmes societies as well! Why not arrange Sherlock Holmes days where you put on a couple of speakers—not just about how many wives Watson had, but some official arrangement. That could be a task for a lot of the local Sherlock Holmes societies, maybe in combination with libraries or something like that?
I noticed that when I’m out speaking about Sherlock Holmes, there are a lot of younger people coming to these lectures. They mainly know about the BBC series, but that makes them come anyway. I think we have to help them with enlarging their interest if they want to and to let them know how much more there is in the Sherlockian world.
Ardy: Do you also think it’s necessary to build a bridge the other way? Like Taylor was saying, when the Hansom Wheels asked about coming to one of the meetings of the younger group and they find out that it’s basically…
Mattias: … it’s a meetup.
Ardy: Yes, it’s more like the meetups that people do in London and elsewhere, where you just put a time and place on the internet somewhere and then people show up.
Mattias: That’s a little bit like what we do in Sweden here in Stockholm. We have meetings but a lot of the time, it’s more like a meetup, in a pub or somewhere. It’s not that formal every time. I think it depends a lot on which local society you go to and how traditional they are. But I think there are definitely ways to build a bridge the other way and I think we need to do that. There are always people among the older traditional Sherlockians that are interested in coming to these meetups because they like everything Sherlockian.
Jenn: I think that’s the important point. No matter what group you’re a part of or if you’re the older Sherlockian groups that want to visit a new group and vice versa, you’ve all got one thing in common: you enjoy Sherlock Holmes. I think it’s a fact that makes Sherlockians great all around, that we all love Sherlock Holmes and that’s what it simply comes down to.
Mattias: And the BBC Sherlock is so true to the real Sherlock Holmes. The characters and the plots and so many things in the BBC Sherlock are so true to what Conan Doyle originally wrote. We like the same Sherlock Holmes but we don’t really know about it.
Amy: I was just going to say, going back to the idea of the meetups versus the more formal meetings: I think that’s something that happens in every area of interest that people have. I’ve noticed a similar thing with my knitting group. Our older members, it drives them insane that for us younger people, it’s more like “oh, we’ll send you a text message or we’ll put it on the internet with a couple of hours to spare: we’re going to be here at this time, this place.”
The older members come from a world without that kind of instant communication, so it’s sometimes hard for them to adjust to the informality of that. They want a schedule six months in advance: where are we meeting, when are we meeting, what exactly are we doing. It frustrates them so much sometimes.
I think as younger people we need to build that bridge both ways, we have to say, okay, we relate in a different way, we communicate in a different way, but maybe we can adapt that to be a little friendlier to the needs of those that didn’t grow up in the same world that we grew up in.
Mattias: I think one way to start, if you are interested in knowing just a little bit more about what’s more than the BBC Sherlock, start for example with Steven Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes for Dummies. That is actually a really good book. Steven Doyle is a member of the BSI.
Jenn: And part of the Baker Street Journal, which is our podcast sponsor.
Mattias: You get a little bit of everything in that book. It gives you a short introduction to all the different parts of the Sherlock Holmes world: the original stories, the London of Sherlock Holmes, pastiches, parodies, the films, TV series, the societies, the different quasi-academic theories, and so on. I think you have to start somewhere, so why not start with a book?
Ardy: Sound advice! One thing that we kind of touched on but that I just want to wrap up a bit more is, is there a difference in the way that people enter fandom that is coloured by who first embodied Sherlock Holmes for them?
I was just talking with Maria and she said the first physical Sherlock Holmes she met was a statue in Meiringen, so that will be forever her physical incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. For me it’s Jeremy Brett.
Then there is a very select group who saw Douglas Wilmer in the Sixties. I mention that as a specific group because those films are very hard to come by. There was a limited video release, there are maybe DVDs floating around in the US but there has never been a UK release, so it’s very much a thing of “you had to be there.” And if you haven’t seen it you only have the word of the people who did see it as to how good it was. So they’ll say it was amazing and you can smile and nod but you really have no access to that world. So do you think there are differences because of that and what’s the impact of it?
Mattias: I think that each generation, each time, needs their own Sherlock Holmes. It depends on trends in society and how people are. At the moment, we really need this BBC Sherlock because it’s not nostalgic, it’s just modern. But in the 80s, maybe we needed the more nostalgic or “original” version of Sherlock Holmes because of all the parodies that came out in the 70s: Sherlock Holmes in New York with Roger Moore and so on.
We always need a new Sherlock Holmes and if we don’t need the modern version, we maybe need the “parallel Holmes”, which is Robert Downey Jr. That’s more the old kind of matinee star and a sort of steampunk Sherlock Holmes. And in the Sixties they needed another kind of Sherlock Holmes and in the 40s they needed Basil Rathbone. I think it’s hard to say what’s really good from the past because it depends on the society around it.
Amy: I think the differing opinions are really interesting. I read Sherlock Holmes when I was really young, so I read it long before I was aware of any other Sherlock Holmes media. I am old enough that there was not internet readily available at that time, so any Sherlock Holmes that I watched after that I’m measuring up against my own Sherlock Holmes, the Sherlock Holmes I saw in my mind.
I find it really interesting to relate with people who did come into it just with the BBC series, so for them, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes is their Holmes. When they go back to the Canon, they measure the Canon against what they’ve seen on the show, and I think that’s a really different experience from that of somebody going in with the Canon first.
Sarah: I’d like to say something to connect what Mattias just said to what Taylor was saying about Sherlockian societies. He said every generation gets their own Sherlock Holmes, and I see a lot of people saying that if you like the Ritchie movies, you’re not a real Sherlockian. Or you’re not a real Sherlockian if you haven’t read the entire Canon. And that’s just ridiculous. Like Taylor said, the people who are actually BSI members or ASH members aren’t taking that attitude at all. Whatever Sherlock Holmes you like is your Sherlock Holmes.
Jenn: It’s just a matter of that you love Sherlock Holmes.
Mattias: I don’t think it matters which Sherlock Holmes you like. I like the Ritchie movies, I think they are great fun. I also think that it’s kind of nice that Hollywood has done these films for us Sherlockians to see. There has always been this kind of “parallel Holmes”. Already in the 1890s, there were parodies and other authors writing about Sherlock Holmes. Even the Sherlockians themselves are making fun of Holmes. One of my absolute favourite films about Sherlock Holmes is Without a Clue with Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine—that is way out when you think about it!
Ardy: It does a similar thing to the Ritchie movies in that it completely subverts the Canon and takes the whole playing the Game and Watson being the unreliable narrator to a whole new level. Sometimes, when people say that the Guy Ritchie films aren’t Sherlock Holmes for them, I kind of look at them and think, “Well, yeah, that’s the entire point of them.”
Mattias: I saw a play recently that was supposed to be about Sherlock Holmes, but they didn’t really care about Sherlock Holmes. They had just taken the clichés and made a play, and it was so not interesting at all! It can be as true to the original as it wants, but if there is no love in it—not like a love story, but love for Sherlock Holmes—I don’t like it because it’s quite boring. Some of the most true adaptations throughout the twentieth century are actually quite boring because there isn’t that little extra.
You have to play. You have to have some fun with Sherlock Holmes, even if it’s very true to the original. Conan Doyle himself had fun with Sherlock Holmes. You can’t take it too seriously.
Maria: I absolutely agree that it’s much more interesting for everybody if the making fun is made out of love for the characters and stories. I think it just shows if something is made with love. If it’s just spiteful, then it’s not comfortable and not really nice for anyone to look at. All the satires and funny versions of it are funny to us because they are still made with love.
Mattias: Has anyone of you seen the YouTube clip “Wassup Holmes”?
Mattias: I love it. It’s not nice to Holmes or Watson but it’s so much fun. I think Sherlockians feel a little privileged if someone takes the Sherlock Holmes character and does something more with it.
Ardy: I think that’s also where things like fanfiction and fanart and that whole thing comes in which is quite different from playing the Game. I think Laurie King said in an interview that she and Les Klinger have quite a different approach to the Canon: his is you take it and write footnotes about it, whereas hers is more like you take it and run and play within the world, make up a story within the universe. Is that something that maybe creates a divide, could those two sides be talking more to each other?
Mattias: I think both things are Sherlock Holmes. Some Sherlockian friends of mine don’t like pastiche at all, they just read the original stories. I think that’s okay. I really don’t read that much pastiche but I have a lot of it in my bookshelves. I don’t dislike but there is so much being published, I can’t read it all. You can do whatever you like with Sherlock Holmes as long as you’re not boring with it.
Maria: I think it comes down, for one, to personal taste and to accept that everyone else has different approaches to it and not be elitist and dismiss people because they like things that aren’t Canon. You can like the stories and nothing else if you want to but I think it’s wrong to be elitist about the entire thing. Everyone can do with Holmes what they want and like whatever they want.
Amy: Didn’t we have a question come through on the Facebook account asking what the difference was between fanfiction and pastiche? I remember we had a long conversation about that because that is very hard to define. I think when you try to make hard lines about stuff like that, you make artificial distinctions. It really does come down to personal taste and what works for you.
I’m not a huge fan of Holmes put into paranormal situations, but I’ve just read Shadowfall by Tracy Revels for a review. And can I just say, that book was actually really fantastic. It’s expanded my viewpoint of what Sherlock Holmes can be. So I’d say, as long as it’s not boring and it’s well done, go for it!
I think Laurie R. King is an amazing example of someone who has broached so many things that were beyond the Pale and yet she’s so popular and successful because it’s the heart of it, it’s the love that she has for the character and the universe that shines through. It doesn’t matter how far it goes in one sense because she’s true to the spirit of it. I feel like that’s the important thing.
Ardy: Great! I think we’ve covered Old and New Sherlockians pretty well in this podcast, so thank you very much for coming!
Mattias: Thanks for having me and making me an honorary Babe! I just want to say I love all the new fanvids and fanart and fanfic. I think this is a new era for Sherlockians which is coming, and even if the BBC Sherlock ends, I hope this new generation of Sherlockians will stay Sherlockian in their hearts.