The View from Sherlock Peoria (46)
April 20, 2003
Sherlockian Word of the Day: Gafiate
I dont know how many other Sherlockians have spent much time with other fandoms, but it definitely brings insights. Marrying a Trekkie during the peak years of classic Trek fandom, I got a solid dose of that culture, and my vocabulary picked up some words and phrases along the way that I might otherwise have missed. And a few of them are handy for use in Sherlockian circles.
When talking about pastiches, I can classify a story as "slash" or "a Mary Sue" all odd subgenres of fan fiction that gained their titles in Trek fandom. And every now and then a fellow Sherlockian will "gafiate," and its nice to have a word for what theyre doing, even if not too many other people understand it.
"Gafiate" is almost as old as organized Sherlockiana, but it comes to us from science fiction fandom, a culture which had loved acronyms from long before computers taught us, "Acronyms, theyre not just for the military any more!" The acronym at the root of "gafiate" is "Getting Away From It All." In science fiction fandom, a hardcore fan would occasionally and abruptly get fed up with their hobby and leave it all behind.
Sherlockians gafiate, just as Trekkies and other sci-fi fans do. I could name a dozen ex-Sherlockians who were once as avid and active as anyone (or moreso), who now dont seem to give Holmes a second thought. Some Sherlockians gafiate for a few years, or even a decade or two, then return to the fold, rested and refreshed.
There are a lot of reasons for a gafiation: A particularly nasty fight, a personal slight of some sort, or just plain burn-out. Belonging to a Sherlockian list serve group like the Hounds of the Internet or WelcomeHolmes can even inspire one to gafiate. The power of 24-7 Sherlockian input over months and years of solid activity can overwhelm even the most crazed fanatic. Discussions never, ever stop, endlessly cycling over the sixty stories as list personalities appear, blaze with life, and burn out. What once would have been a lifetime of Sherlockian mental output can be spent in a few short years. Been there, done that, on to the next thing. One more hobby passed through as we float down lifes stream.
Why would anyone involve themselves in a hobby so intensely that they have to totally get away from it at some point?
Well, maybe a clue to that lies in the classic "FIAWOL versus FIJAGH" debate from other fan cultures.
FIAWOL stands for "Fandom Is A Way Of Life."
FIJAGH stands for "Fandom Is Just A God-damned Hobby."
The FIAWOL crowd typically put their particular interest above all else in their lives. They live for conventions, they base life decisions around fan concerns, and fan culture has all the power of a major religion in their lives. As a result, they can get very serious about their hobby.
The FIJAGH group are, as the name implies, basically an often-angry reaction to the seriousness of the FIAWOL group. The phrase "Get a life!" was inspired from a FIJAGH point of view.
On one side, Sherlockians might gafiate from sheer over-exposure, on the other, they might just wander off, being more easily distracted from "just a hobby." And any conflict so over-wrought that inspires someone to cry out "Sherlockiana is just a ding-dang hobby!" is liable to inspire gafiation as well.
Sherlockiana has both sorts, just like any other fandom. I had e-mails this week from two very different correspondents that showed still more reasons for gafiation, good and bad.
One, from a neophyte Sherlockian looking for a point of entry into Sherlockian society, observed that Sherlockiana seemed clannish and almost closed to the casual outsider. From the outside, the hobby can look initimidatingly FIAWOL, full of scholarly brainiacs who have Doyles works memorized and crazed Sherlock Holmes believers who are attempting to prove his reality real fandom as a way of life stuff. Thats not the case, of course, but appearances are not always what they should be.
Is there a reason for gafiating in clannishness? A hint of unwelcomeness goes a long way, and it has been known to happen with some of the more restricted groups that have dominated some of our older Sherlockian cities.
My other e-mail, from a long-term Sherlockian, included some comments on how members of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York have traditionally been people of some accomplishment in all sorts of fields. Science, literature, law, and medicine are among the fields of accomplishment . . . all areas in which accomplishment requires much more than one could give if fandom was more than just a hobby.
On this side of things, Sherlockians can wander off just because careers of accomplishment demand a lot of time.
The entire idea of needing to "get away from it all" suggests in itself that one has immersed one's self in a hobby pretty seriously. And since any hobby worth its salt is going to have some participants who do immerse themselves in it that totally (and God bless 'em!), "gafiation" is probably going to be with us for a long time to come.
Your humble correspondent,