The View from Sherlock Peoria (57)
July 6, 2003
A BSJ-CH Double Event
North Americas two "national" Sherlockian journals arrived in Saturdays mail: The Baker Street Journal and Canadian Holmes. Since Canadian Holmes was celebrating its 100th issue by reverting to a goldenrod tone from earlier days, the sheer weight of the yellow journalness coming out of my mailbox was astounding 64 pages for BSJ and 52 pages for CH.
This "double event" as old Frankland was wont to say, almost begs for a comparison/contrast essay, even though, as Chris Redmond writes in retrospective on Canadian Holmes, "not all Sherlockian magazines are consistently good." Not that Im dismissing either of these as bad issues just pointing out that quality variations are bound to occur in any periodical, especially those which have run for a very long time.
Looking at these issues of The Baker Street Journal and Canadian Holmes for what they exemplify of each journals usual tone, one thing comes quickly to the forefront: Canadian Holmes is, and always has been, about Canadian Holmesians. While Canadian Holmes has printed every sort of Sherlockian writing in its hundred-issue run, the thing that I always remember about it is all the people that I see in its pages. Attending events, getting their pictures on the covers and inside, writing about personal experiences . . . Canadian Holmes has long been a people journal. Even if youve never met most of them, the names become very familiar as time goes by.
Of the fifty-two pages in this Canadian Holmes, Id say about fifteen are devoted to Sherlockian scholarship matters. A few are dedicated to book reviews. But the rest are people, people, people-oriented. If one doesnt get some sense of what Sherlockians in Canada are doing from all this, one just isnt paying attention. Retrospectives, memoriams, news notes, regular event reports . . . all sorts of people material.
Across the border, at The Baker Street Journal, the people bits, seem well corralled in the back five pages of the issue. What fills the rest of its sixty-four pages? Ten articles, a poem, a cartoon, and a few pages of ads. With this many articles, youd have to find something worth reading. Its ironic that both the lead editorial and at least one (maybe more) of the articles is about collecting, because the Journal almost seems like a mini-collection unto itself. Mini-themes like Mycroft or the "James/John" Watson question get a couple viewpoints along the way.
Now heres where this article takes a weird turn. All this reading, and what do I consider my most Sherlockian moment of the week?
Cowboy Bebop is an animated Japanese TV series that recently had a movie version making the rounds of American theaters, finally coming to DVD. Cowboy Bebop is about this lanky, hip bounty hunter in a hard-boiled future, a sleepy-eyed loner named Spike who wanders the city streets looking for answers. His partner is an older, ex-cop with cyborg alterations . . . in other words, a vet-with-a-war-wound sort of fellow.
Cowboy Bebop reminded me of something that may have been missing from Sherlock-stuff of late: a sense of Sherlock Holmes as a really cool guy. Somewhere between the sensationalistic doper Holmes of Nicholas Meyer and the Jeremy Brett years of humanizing and adding tics, our friend Sherlock started being the annoying weirdo to some folk, and he lost a whole lot of cool.
Looking back at this latest issues of Canadian Holmes and The Baker Street Journal with this perspective, one notices something very interesting: Canadian Holmes, as Ive said, is mostly about Sherlockians. The Baker Street Journal has articles on female detectives, Sherlocks brother, Watsons name, the non-Holmes characters of "Musgrave Ritual," Colonel Moran, collectors, manuscripts, and . . . after all those articles without much Sherlock Holmes himself . . . a tongue-in-cheek article about breaking ones Sherlockian addiction.
Not only is Sherlock having problems staying cool these days it almost looks like Sherlockians are slightly ashamed of their former favorite subject matter. I suppose this might all just be a big coincidence, but then again . . .
Your humble correspondent,