The Dissecting Room . . . July 1995
Sherlock and Me at the Holiday Inn
For the last few years, I've spent my Memorial Day weekends in Lansing, Michigan. Sure, the big action is a few hundred miles south at the Indy 500, but I don't go to Lansing for cheap thrills like fast cars and infield parties. I go to Lansing for spiritual balance — a retreat, if you will, where I can get back to basics for a few days and rediscover my roots.
If that sounds like nature and camping to you, then you obviously don't have the roots I have. For me, the basics are a Holiday Inn and a couple thousand people of every possible persuasion blended into a fan club primordial soup called MediaWest*Con. There are Trekkies there, of course. And Phantom of the Opera fans. Rat Patrol afficionados. Vampire lovers. Han Solo impersonators. People who like actors with big noses and people who like some odd gay British action television series. Fans of all sorts of things.
And yes, there are even Sherlockians there, as well.
Which is why I go, partly. The rest of why I go is for the panels on Highlander, X-Files, and whatever else currently strikes my fancy. I enjoy a lot of such stuff, but there's more to it than that. Seeing fans of new characters getting worked up over the latest fictional figure of note helps put my own hobby in perspective. Why am I a Sherlockian?
Not because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a literary genius and I love reveling in his elegant prose. Not because historical research into the Victorian period is both fascinating and pertinent to the modern condition. Not because opportunities to meet intelligent and friendly people abound in Sherlockiana. Nice side benefits, 'tis true, but I am a Sherlockian for one reason alone:
Sherlock Holmes is cool.
There, I said it. And at Media-West*Con, a whole lot of people whothink a whole lot of things are cool all get together and tell each other how cool everything is. What could be more positive an experience than that?
And what does one do on such a retreat into random?
Well, this time out, the first thing I did upon settling into my lodgings at the Holiday Inn was to assemble my room-mate. I had picked up his pieces on my way out of Peoria, and with the help of a little Elmer's glue and a couple of Bienfang project display boards, Sherlock Holmes was soon making his first appearance in Lansing. As I used a Paget drawing from ENGI to grow my now six-foot-tall Sherlock, the detective was pouring me a welcome glass of brandy and water.
I repaid Holmes's hospitality by placing him in front of my window, to attract passing air-gun bullets, and retired for the night.
The next morning the convention proper got underway, and the first order of MediaWest-Con business, Sherlockian or no, is shopping. A book dealer on the fourth floor had autographed copies of Ms. Holmes of Baker Street, and my first purchase was made even before I had gotten to the convention registration desk.
When I did finally get down to register, I was rewarded with my first familiar face — Kevin Parker, the editor and publisher of Roving Reporter, one of the world's few perfect fanzines. Even though RR is devoted to the adventures of Sarah Jane Smith, spunky companion to Dr. Who, Kevin was quick to mention that the latest issue featured a Sherlock
Holmes story. Soon I had made my second purchase of the convention.
The fanzines of MediaWest*Con are perhaps the most impressive monument to the enthusiasms running rampant at the con. Sixty-four new ones made their debut at this year's convention, and business was still good on the thousands already in print. Eight and a half by eleven, velox-bound, with hundreds of pages between their artful covers, the fanzines are filled with fiction ranging from amateurish to undiscovered pro —- all tales the writers and readers of the 'zines wish they could have seen from the original source of their fandom.
My favorite, of course, is 221B Baker Street, put out by Gina Martin and the other Lurkers of the Empty House. For three years running, Gina and the crew have put out a collection of Holmes stories at each MediaWest*Con—something more traditional Holmes groups never seem to attempt. Perhaps it's because the critics in Sherlockiana are much harsher than those in Trekiana or Starsky-and-Hutchiana. Which is sad, really.
We're all Sherlock Holmes fans when you come down to it, and even the most degreed and pedantic literary sort is really a Sherlockian for one reason and one reason alone: Sherlock Holmes is cool. Otherwise, they'd be off studying Shakespeare.
Next month: The Lemmings, the Snake, and the Rest of the Story.