The View from Sherlock Peoria (219)
August 13 , 2006
Well, the great unveiling at the Baker Street Blog came online this past Monday, and it turned out to be . . . a map. To use that simple description really underplays the web device at the heart of it, an interactive map for publishing info about your local Sherlockian society so that travelling Sherlockians can see what societies might be in the area they’re heading to. It takes advantage of a new web tool, the kind of thing we’re starting to see more and more of on the Sherlockian internet. Will the internet eventually change the face of Sherlockiana?
It already has. We’re just trying to see what that new face looks like.
I’ve got a big metal filing cabinet full of correspondence from Sherlockian friends in the eighties and those letters are already looking like antiques. Where life was once incomplete without some little publishing venture coming out of this Peoria Sherlockian’s house, now the weekly Sherlock Peoria sit update has been filling that role for going on five years.
While one’s first instinct is to think that Sherlockiana, with its book collectors and university archives, could never truly go paperless, if one looks at the actual material that has made up the history of Sherlockian culture, it almost seems like we were made for the internet. Why?
Consider how many classic pieces of Sherlockiana are brief essays or look-up reference works – both things that are the mainstays of the world wide web. Those nice little pamphlets that Baker Street Irregulars once had printed up for their annual dinners lost a little bit of lustre when photocopying made it easy to create them from “toner and paper” rather than “ink and paper.” And with inkjet technologies and print-on-demand, even “ink and paper” isn’t the rare and special thing it once was.
Sharing one’s treasures with one’s friends has always been a core tenet of the Sherlockian, whether it was discoveries, ideas, or objects. That’s what a lot of those classic BSI dinner pamphlets were all about, and nothing shares like the web. Holmes ephemera, like those chocolate Easter bunnies that John Bennett Shaw had to use freezer space for, can now be digitally captured, preserved, and shown to the world, all in a matter of minutes. Research can be made available to other Sherlockians anywhere in the world. We stand in an age of easier communication than ever, and we’re only starting to get a handle on it.
It goes without saying that it’s a very different world than the one so many of us started out as Sherlockians in. Holmes fans of the 1940s and those of the 1970s existed in worlds with similar basics – that thirty year gap made little difference in the way a Sherlockian enjoyed his hobby. You still went to old bookstores to find old books. You still wrote letters to your friends and mailed them. Publishing still took some decent resources. But in the thirty years that followed between the 1970s and 2000s, media underwent a real jet-cars and phasers revolution. Where Sherlock Holmes once cried, “Data! Data! Data!” we’re now in a position to scream “Less data! Less data! Less data!”
With that, I’m going to announce my own little countdown clock to something new coming to this site in a few weeks, a new project that will be built as you watch, one that even I don’t know the final shape of yet. It’s the time of year for it – two years ago we wound up with Action Sherlock Brain Theater during the August-September change of seasons, and the year before that, the Dark Lantern League had its all-too-brief run following its earlier incarnation the August-September before that. (Creating clubs has been something I enjoy, but I soon came to realize that I’m no good at maintaining them.)
In any case, the age of the paperless Sherlockians has hardly even kicked in yet, and it’s time to start seeing just where we can go.
Your humble correspondent,