The View from Sherlock Peoria (79)
December 7, 2003
How Many Sherlockian Publications Is Enough?
A few weeks ago, I wrote on Sherlockian periodicals of the past. This week, seven different Sherlockian publications of the present were my mailbox, practically all at once, which makes me think that maybe theres something to be said about Sherlockian periodicals of the present. As much as some of us old-timers like to talk about the "boom" of two or three decades ago, there is definite evidence that things just kept on booming, especially in the land of small-press Sherlockian publishing.
A good indicator of the current health of the little industry of Sherlock Holmes publishing is the "Periodicals Received" section of The Baker Street Journal. If you look in the Autumn 2002 issue of ol granpappy BSJ, youll find thirty-three different periodicals listed. Go back twenty years, to June 1982, and youll find twenty-eight periodicals. Go back twenty more years, to the whole year of 1962, and youll find about five. Go back twenty more years, to 1942, and you wont even find The Baker Street Journal it didnt start up until 1946.
Looks like were pretty healthy to me.
Of the seven periodicals in my mailbox this week, three of them -- The Camden House Journal, Communication, and The Pink Un have all been around since that 1982 BSJ, and very healthy. One of those three, The Pink Un, has the same publisher that it had in 1982, Philip B. Dematteis. (Theres a real man among Sherlockians!)
At least two-thirds of these publications are local club newsletters, largely concerned with meeting notices and other local concerns. They come in all shapes and colors and usually are built upon two or three sheets of paper, some letter-size, some legal-size. Unless one is a great traveler or a completist collector, is trying to monitor the whole of Sherlockiana, or just has about $500 to blow on subscriptions, subscribing to every single local newsletter might be a bit more than one needs to do.
Me, I find that Im on the mailing list of about fourteen of the thirty-three. There are probably more that Id like to get, a few more that I could probably afford to get, but to tell you the truth, Im just too lazy to keep sending in all those subscription checks. Im definitely not alone in finding this a chore, as Im asked about lifetime subscriptions to The Holmes & Watson Report all the time. (A lot of publications will award you with a lifetime subscription if they like you enough, so us lazy sorts should definitely attempt to be as likeable as possible.)
Out on the internet, theres always someone whos willing to tell you what the "must have" Sherlockian publications are, but is any Sherlockian publication truly something that a Sherlockian cant do without? Honestly, I dont think so. The central focus of our hobby is sixty stories from a century ago that never change, so there isnt a lot of earth-shattering news that one might miss. You can keep up with the really big events through any number of venues. So it basically all comes down to what you like, where your friends get published, or if you think a given publications continued existence is somehow important regardless of its content. (And we all hope that last one doesnt happen too often.)
Well, I think Ive wandered in circles long enough about this weeks little topic. I suppose you could consider the Sherlock Peoria web site a publication of sorts, though itll never turn up on any "Periodicals Received" list. The world wide web has added a whole new dimension to Sherlockian publishing, one which we havent fully gotten a firm grip on as yet. Twenty years from now, who knows what the Sherlockian periodical scene will look like, as bits and bytes replace ink and paper. One of the seven periodicals I mentioned above didnt even exist on paper until I printed out a copy it comes via my e-mail mailbox. Once Ive printed it, though, it looks a lot like the others, but how long will I feel the urge to print it out, rather than just store it to a disk of one form or another?
Who knows? But as with the desktop publishing revolution and its effect on Sherlockian periodicals, Im sure well all have fun finding out.
Your humble correspondent,