The Dissecting Room . . . March 1992
The Wanderings of a Columnist
Every now and again, I get stuck.
The deadline for this column comes and goes. Editor Burr starts making those "gentle nudge" phone calls. And I sit in front of a blank computer screen waiting for the words to flow from my fingertips. Sometimes I even watch my finger- tips, half-expecting actual words to come out of them.
Oh, every now and then I get something going: a Canonical version of Waiting for Godot or something on Doyle and pirates and dinosaurs. But it all only goes so far, runs out of steam and gets shot down by my internal critic. He's a real creep, my internal critic. Some days he sleeps and lets anything pass, and other days he gets haughty and nothing is good enough. The past week had been full of those days.
In the end, I finally decided to bind and gag the internal critic and just tell you what I thought. Sometimes it's a lot easier not to worry about writing a column and just sit down and chat.
So let's talk.
Have you noticed that Sherlockiana in the nineties is taking a different turn? I'm losing a lot of the things I used to whine about in these two pages. Women are in the Baker Street Irregulars. Doyle material is becoming less prevalent in Sherlockian journals. Pastiches are slowly making a comeback. Basically, the fun is coming back to Sherlockiana this decade.
I know, there are those who will say it never left. Sure, there is always a good time to be had somewhere in the world of Sherlockdom. I just think it will be a lot easier to find in the nineties.
Look at the membership policies of the BSI, for example. Women being admitted isn't the only change that's occurred here. Looking at this year's honors list, I was surprised to find that I was familiar with every name on it. Their reputations may have been varied, but each and every one of them had established enough of a reputation as a Sherlockian that a Peoria, Illinois homebody knew of them. It didn't used to be that way.
Doyle scholarship is still going on, but the great upsurge of it in the eighties has given way to old-fashioned Sherlockian scholarship. The prime tenet of Sherlockian scholarship has always been that Watson wrote the Canon (with a little help from Holmes). Watson says he did in the stories themselves, and if you deny that, then you're denying the truth of everything else in the sixty stories. If you deny that the Canon is true, then you can't write any Sherlockian scholarship at all, and you probably aren't really a Sherlockian, so get the heck out of here, ya bum, and let real Sherlockians have fun.
Which we seem to be going to do this decade. Pastiches are coming back. Despite the copyright ban, you can still see them trickling into bookstores and mail-order lists. Pastiches have always been a big target for Sherlockian complaint, and rightly so. Most of them stink. But the more pastiches published, the more good pastiches will appear. The cream always rises to the top, but you still have to milk the cow first. Sherlockians will write and read pastiches no matter what the copyright situation is, even if they have to publish and buy them in another country. New events at the BSI weekend in New York, new workshops both big and small, great new publications like Varieties of Ash and The Sherlock Holmes Gazette . . . there are definitely good things ahead. That doesn't mean, of course, that this particular column will cease to make the occasional heretical suggestion or find something else to whine about. It's a big world. (And why is the BSI weekend held in New York every year instead of floating around like Bouchercon? Doesn't anybody want to go somewhere new? Why do all black-and-white Holmes movies put me to sleep? How can a human being possibly attend all scion meetings within driving distance and still have time to see the occasional movie or write anything of length?)
Which all brings us to the end of another column (big sigh of relief). Thanks for listening.
(This column appeared in the March 1992 issue of Plugs & Dottles.)