The View from Sherlock Peoria (9)
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The Dark Lantern League arrives . . .
One more column about the Dark Lantern League, and then Ill be quiet about it for a while . . . I promise. This week our new adventure in on-line Sherlockian role-playing actually took flight, in a humble, but promising first two days.
While movie-makers may look for millions of theater goers to jump on their bandwagon in the first two days of a film, creators of a Sherlockian society have to set their sites a little lower. So far, the Dark Lantern League has actually inducted less members than were on the original planning committee. We had an even dozen on the committee, and only seven have signed on as club members so far, but actually thats not too surprising. The committee agreed on a membership requirement, and fulfulling requirements takes time and energy.
Not too many Sherlockian societies have membership requirements beyond writing a check for dues once a year. Those that do demand a paper or talk out of their members tend to have a lot lest members. Were not all talkers or writers, and thats usually okay. Somebody has to be in the audience.
But with the Dark Lantern League, to actually be in the club (which in the world of Yahoo! Groups is the only way to reading the posts on the web site) requires one to take on the persona of a Canonical character. Which means first, you have to pick a character. And second, you have to do enough reading to know something about that character. Sure, we could allow anybody entrance to the list and let them pick later, but pretty soon some whacko is going to wander on and start going "Hoo-hoo, Im Sherlock Holmes! Its tax time and time for me to start making deductions! Watch me pull a kilo out of my hat!"
Better to have a simple membership requirement. The requirement for the Dark Lantern League is that ones Canonical character have a letter of introduction from Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson. (Ive repeated these words a lot in the past week.) A simple written display of Canonical knowledge and the ability to play this new Sherlockian game, at its most rudimentary level (pastiching Watson).
But even that simple task takes time, and were all busy people. (You dont hear people telling Sherlockians to "get a life" very often. Most of us have some pretty great ones.) So, the League could be expected to have a slow start.
And once you become a member, choose a character, and get access to the list/site, things dont get any easier. If youre going to post on the list, you have to do so as a different person, a denizen of Victorian England, and be writing from some time during the period of Holmes and Watsons partnership. This means you cant just knock off your immediate reaction with a carrot-quoted snip of the previous post. You have to write a letter as your character would, from an appropriate time in that persons life. It gets very complicated very fast.
So even the postings to the list have been a bit slow.
But you know what? Even with few members and fewer posts in the first two days of the group, theres a magnificent sense of promise in what goes on there. A simple interchange between Inspector Lestrade and Francis Hay Moulton on the Jefferson Hope case showed all sorts of new angles that an exchange of letters between characters can go, across time, across lands. Old Mr. Frankland from The Hound of the Baskervilles started telling us of his life, as people with the word "old" in front of their name are wont to do. Suddenly, something different was showing up on old Yahoo! Groups . . . the first semblance of the sort of virtual Sherlockian community that the modern age can offer.
Looking at the first two days of the Dark Lantern League was a little bit like watching Alexander Graham Bell speak to Mr. Watson in a nearby room maybe not that amazing a result in itself (Bell could have yelled and accomplished the same thing), but a hint of greater things to come.
There was a xeroxed homily that an old co-worker of mine used to keep taped to the door his overhead cubicle bin. It read, "None of us is smarter than all of us," and the Dark Lantern League is the happy result of that sort of thinking. From the first notion of such things with Chris Redmond, to my inviting a few on-line folk in, to Joan Moores naming of the group, and on through all the great ideas offered up by everyone on the founding committee, that notion was once again proven. No single one of us could have put together the Dark Lantern League as it now exists, and no single one of us could create what this new role-playing experiment will hopefully turn into.
Thanks to everyone involved, and David Richardson especially for coming up with our rallying cry, with which Ill end this weeks diatribe.
"Raise the dark lantern!"
Your humble correspondent,