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The View from Sherlock Peoria (139)

January 30, 2005

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Who's Getting Into The BSI?

While it might seem a bit late to discuss this year's inductees into the Baker Street Irregulars, that grandpappy of Sherlockian societies, this year's group was a particularly fascinating one and I've found myself reflecting upon it more than once. The demographics of this year's set of honored Sherlockians is as mixed as any we've seen, and very representative of Mike Whelan's reign as Wiggins. Or is it?

Six Sherlockians were made members of the Irregulars this year, and I'm going to do something rather unpardonable here and not name them. I'm simply going to list them by a crudely-chosen demographic. Lord knows there is much more to each of these people than what I'm going to list here, but . . . just for fun . . . let's reduce them to a single attribute.

Number One: The Sherlockian Not From North America or England.
This has been one of the most obvious patterns in the choices of the current Wiggins. His predecessors tended to stick to English-speaking countries, and while you would occasionally see an ardent Japanese Sherlockian or beloved Brit on the list, European B.S.I. were not all that common. During the current administration, Sherlockians from afar account for as many as twenty percent of new members.

Number Two: The Woman.
Once the B.S.I. started letting women in during the Tom Stix era, it became rather unthinkable to have a year's new members without at least one woman in the group. You'd hate to call it "affirmative action," but being female probably doesn't work against one in getting in the club these days, if all other factors are equal. Still this only accounts for close to one fourth of new members, so you can't say the feminine factor is being pushed to an unfair degree.

Number Three: The Author/Literary Figure.
Once upon a time, the B.S.I. included some paragons of entire literary genres in its membership: masters of mystery fiction, a man whose name virtually meant "science fiction," and others. That changed over time, but in the last five years, we've seen what looks almost like an active literary recruiting drive to get some authorial celebrity back into the B.S.I. It's a good thing, I guess, but one wonders if the minor lit celebs are asking to join the group, or if the group is asking them to join. The latter surely can't be healthy in the long run.

Number Four: The Minnesotan.
Okay, maybe I've just included this category because I like the Minnesotans, but I don't the I'm the only one. The Norwegian Explorers have been a reliable source of very active Sherlockians for a long time, and the fact that they seem to show up on the new Irregulars list more than any other non-East-coast locale reflects that. More power to 'em, I say.

Number Five: The Canadian.
What is it about Northern climates breeding Sherlockians? If Minnesota Sherlockians weren't Minnesotans, they'd have to be Canadians, I think, and vice versa. Have a major Sherlockian function, Canadians are there. Induct new BSI, Canadians are there. It wouldn't be Sherlockiana without them.

Number Six: The East Coast Guy.
The Baker Street Irregulars of New York had their beginning as an East Coast group, and now, even though they attract members from all over the world, they still have an East Coast heart. Roughly a quarter of new Irregulars still hail from the East, as opposed to the very small number who come from the West.

That's who got into the Baker Street Irregulars this year, and I think it's a good sampling of the way the B.S.I. membership is headed these days. It would be interesting to compare the demographics of the hand-picked Irregulars with that of your average "whoever shows up" group, an internet group, or the attendees of a good Sherlockian symposium. When all the stats finally came in, there might be some new quotas put in . . . or not. I don't know what those quotas would be, but in considering them, I've come up with my own roster for some future new six-pack of Irregulars:

Number One: The Crazy Internet Sherlockian. Imagine a B.S.I. dinner with wi-fi internet connections for all, and a number of Hounds of the Internet or WelcomeHolmes regulars sending posts straight from the dinner, a live AOL chat direct from the dinner, or some web-page blogger like moi throwing web-page updates through the night (it happened during the presidential debates and was surprisingly fun). The day is coming, trust me.

Number Two: The Resident of a Big Warm State. With the greatest Sherlockian publishing event in decades recently occurring due to a citizen of that big, warm Western state, perhaps it's time for those unconventional Sherlockians from the other sides of America to get their due. It's easy to be a reading-and-writing literary Sherlockian when it's cold and miserable outside, but Sherlockians in warm, pleasant states have an uphill road with no winter to keep their noses to the grindstone. They deserve their due.

Number Three: The Laurie King Fan. Hey, they're Sherlock Holmes fans, too! While they might not like the comments of stubborn classicists and vice versa, it's new blood. And Sherlockiana can always use a fresh infusion.

Number Four: The Very Irritating Sherlockian. Among his other fine qualities, Tom Stix had this really great tendency when he was head of the Irregulars. He would get extremely angry with someone, and then, in the next year or two, change his mind about them and make them a member. Nobody's irritating to everyone, and everyone's irritating to someone. (C'mon, everybody ticks off somebody -- even nice people are annoyingly pleasant sometimes!) It'd be nice to give these poor folks a break.

Number Five: The Hollywood Actor/Rock Star. Literary celebs are nice, but when you come right down to it, even bestselling authors want to be movie stars or rock gods. It's Sherlockiana at the next level. Superstar Sherlockians. Yeow!

Number Six: The Democratically Elected Irregular. Haven't you heard? Freedom is on the march! The Iraqi people are having their first democratic election ever this very day . . . why shouldn't Baker Street Irregulars get their shot at checking a ballot?

Ah, well. What will be will be.

Your humble correspondent,
Brad Keefauver