Are you a Sherlockian?

So when do you become a Sherlockian? This is essentially the question posed by the Baker Street Babes in what they themselves describe as a rant. They quite rightly condemn the closed minds of some who fear the younger generation of fans (either on the grounds of age or gender) and see them as not being proper Sherlockians.

To the generation who feel this way I say only this – you were the younger generation once. If you were treated harshly on your way up by the (then) older generation it is no reason to do it as well. It’s like the bullied becoming the bully. If you were treated well then you should extend this same courtesy to those following you. It’s as simple as that.

I personally sit in the middle ground. I am too old to be part of modern 20-something fandom yet I am too young (in my late 30s) to be part of the old guard. Perhaps this helps with my perspective (and maybe it doesn’t depending on how much twaddle you think I’m spouting).

I see a parallel between Sherlockiana and medicine. In medicine all would-be doctors need to know a certain amount of common stuff. Then they branch off into different areas – cardiology, neurology etc. but, importantly, they are all doctors.

In Sherlockiana I think it is important that all know the basics (the key characters, where Holmes lived, a basic understanding of the canon – achievable in about 30 minutes or less) and then after that you go your own way. Some people may even consider those criteria too strict but would you take someone seriously as a Sherlockian if they couldn’t tell you where Holmes lived or the names of the key characters? I think a basic grounding is not an unreasonable expectation and I fully believe that the majority of young “fandom” have that.

After this, regardless of your area of focus, you are all Sherlockians.

Well done you've passed!

However, to some out there, this is not enough. They have the attitude that being a Sherlockian (or Holmesian) is akin to a formal qualification (perhaps making my earlier medical analogy an unfortunate choice). It is a qualification they believe that many members of the young “fandom” have not achieved. Hence they do not take them seriously.

But they are clearly wrong. A qualification does not exist, there is not a body that has laid down agreed criteria for being a Sherlockian. Until one exists (and I hope it never does) no one can say really that you either are or are not a Sherlockian. 

The decision is yours.

For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

The Norwood Author is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Waterstones UK, Amazon UK,  Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon Kindle, iBooks for the iPad/iPhone, Kobo Books, Nook.

Close to Holmes is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USABarnes and NobleAmazon UKWaterstones UKAmazon KindleKoboNook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

Eliminate the Impossible is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.


  1. Well said, Alistair. While I am of the older generation of Sherlockians, I am but an infant in the actual participation in the game. I came to the Sherlockian world late, through Jeremy Brett, having rediscovered Holmes and Watson through him. It's been a mere 17 years since I became actively involved; just before Brett's untimely death.

    I find the attitude that someone else can define the validity of someone's "qualifications" in Sherlockian fandom absurd. Shame on whomever would sit in judgment over another person's enjoyment or involvement in what is essentially a hobby. A great, fun hobby through which I myself have met some of the "best and wisest" people I have ever known, but still essentially a diversion. Where is the scale of validity? I somehow managed to miss such judgment because I am "of an age," I presume, but truth be known, I am sometimes more comfortable in the company of newer fans.

    Frankly, I find a great deal of the enthusiasm of the Babes and other young Sherlockians to be contagious. Their excitement over the recent films and television shows heightens my own, and adds to my enjoyment and appreciation of what the original stories have sparked. Though I am as old as their mothers, if not grandmothers, my Sherlockian heart is young. I celebrate young Sherlockian fandom and delight in it.

    The Baker Street Babes don't need me to stand up for them; they are quite capable of holding their own. They have every right to enjoy Sherlock and John, or Holmes and Watson, in any manner they so choose. They don't need anyone's approval or blessing. But I stand alongside them and hope to learn from them as we all share our enthusiasm for those two gentleman from Baker Street.

    And the naysayers can continue to judge and measure imaginary qualifications, and miss the entire point of "playing the game." Such is their loss.

  2. I don't consider myself a Sherlockian. And if the word means participating in RL-events of Sherlockiana, I probably will never be, as I don't intend to do that. I'm a Sherlock-fan. My participation in fandom is internet based and will most likely stay that way.

    And, quite frankly, I don't think just liking this or that show or movie makes you a Sherlockian. For me the term means being well-versed in ACD's canon and while I'm on my way to this, I don't intend to play 'the game', nor am I especially interested in it. For me it's a curiosity, nothing more.

    Therefore I can understand that people who are Sherlockians of many years watch the recent influx of newcomers, who have nothing but their enthusiasm for one of the new shows or movies, with a bit of suspicion. Internet fandom is very fluent and who's to say that those fans now celebrating 'Sherlock' or 'Elementary' will still be there when those shows are gone? Most likely they'll turn to the next shiny thing. It happens all the time.

    That doesn't mean they should be treated rudely when they turn up to an event with the oldtimers, but neither should they make a stink when they're not welcomed as the new Messiases. For they are not.

    It takes a while to be taken serious. If they're still there when the shows and movies are long gone, let's talk again.

  3. I think the rant from the Babes was more focused on the assumption among a few people that if a person is young, especially if they're female, and they got into Sherlock Holmes from a tv show, then they -aren't- going to stick around when their show is gone. They don't give them the chance, and make no effort to introduce them to other aspects of Sherlockiana. The new generation don't want to be worshiped, they just want to be accepted. Many want to be taught. There are a few people of the old generation who dismiss them out of hand, because of the ridiculous assumption that anyone who is a 'serious' fan of Holmes must fit their particular definition.

    And even if the 'fangirls' do turn to the next shiny thing when their show stops... so what? Who's to say they'll stop loving that show? Maybe when the show is gone, they'll turn to books or other media. Granted, there are a lot of people who watch "Sherlock" because "smart is the new sexy". But you can't tell if a person is going to stick around or not by looking at them, or their internet site.

    I have never been to a Sherlockian event, though I would like to go. But I imagine that everyone who goes is probably just as excited about Sherlock Holmes, no matter what incarnation, as everyone else. And that's what really matters in the end. If a person has a love for the character and world(s) of Sherlock Holmes and will discuss them with enthusiasm, then why on earth shouldn't they be taken as serious as anyone else?

  4. @KateM

    "... the assumption among a few people that if a person is young, especially if they're female"

    From what I have now read (both Shreffler articles and a dozen angry refutes, which he will probably never see as I suppose he's of an age where he's not on the internet that much) Mr Shreffler objects not to the age or gender, but to the vulgarity of many of the new people flooding his elite circle of devotees. And that is his prerogative.

    When looking at pictures of former BSI events and in comparison of the "Daintiest Thing Under a Bonnet"- ball I can't say I entirely disagree with him.

  5. @Silke

    I was referring to the reason for the Babes original rant, which was in response to a friend being dismissed because of her gender and youth.

    And you are right, Mr. Shreffler can disapprove of people all he wants, but we are clearly coming from entirely different understandings of what constitutes 'vulgarity'. The ball hosted by the Babes was designed to be an entirely different sort of animal from a BSI dinner. No one who participated had any illusion of it being any sort of formal affair.

  6. I'm sorry, KateM, obviously I took the fact that it was named "a ball" for it to be a ball. And the balls I have so far attended have been pretty formal, so the misunderstanding. If it was meant to be an informal affair, I apologise for my assumption that it wasn't a very classy gathering.

    Sorry, Alistair, but hope you'll still publish my reply.


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