A Love Letter to *All* Sherlockians
When I first read Phillip Shreffler’s degrading essay on the “differences” between Sherlockian “devotees” and Sherlockian “fans”, I was tempted to write a snarky, bitter reply to him - to publicly denounce him on his elitist, ageist, and sexist notions, and tear apart his argument limb by limb to show how it simply cannot stand as a valid argument.
Then I realized that he probably didn’t gives two shits about my opinions. Not only am I a self-identified fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories and of subsequent film and television incarnations, I am also under the age of 45, have a vagina, and happen to admire Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting skills. I also haven’t yet had the chance to pore over every original story and every copy of the Baker Street Journal as, Mr. Shreffler implies, I should do if I would like to be considered by white, middle class, educated people (primarily men, by the looks of it) as a legitimate “devotee” to the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Still, the temptation to be bitter and resentful was strong. I started writing a really nasty reply. But about halfway through, I decided that I didn’t want to spend all that energy in being angry. Others here on Tumblr have expressed my own anger so well in their reactions to the article, and I wouldn’t be able to provide better arguments.
So, instead, I spent my energy writing a love letter to all Sherlockians.
If you are not sure if this applies to you, answer this question:
Do you love Sherlock Holmes?
If yes, you’re a “real” Sherlockian.
And this is for you.
My dearest Sherlockians,
I love you. Every single last one of you.
Who cares if we all come from different countries, socio-economic situations, familial backgrounds? Who cares if we all have different sexual orientations, gender identities, education, political views, skin colours, body types, dietary habits, fashions senses, career goals, family values, or writing styles?
We love Sherlock Holmes, and that’s all that matters.
It doesn’t matter if we disagree on our favourite stories, incarnations or adaptations. I don’t care if you like Jonny Lee Miller better than Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Brett better than Basil Rathbone, or dislike visual renditions of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories altogether. I don’t care whether you prefer your Sherlock Holmes in Victorian London, modern-day London, on a holodeck, in New York City, or in a 1930s African jungle safari.
I only care that you want the stories, and the characters, to somehow stay alive.
I don’t care how you choose to express your affection for Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps you research, write articles, host conferences, dress in period costume, tweet, blog, podcast, vlog, draw, write fanfiction, bake, knit, cosplay. I couldn’t be bothered by the prestigiousness of your activities, the level of “intellect” they require, how cultured or refined or acclaimed your efforts are. I don’t care whether you write articles for a journal, teach university courses on late Victorian literature, draw sexually explicit fanart, write angsty canon-divergent fanfiction, adapt theme music, compose cryptic poetry, make silly gifsets and hilarious jokes, or even just provide respectful and awe-filled discussion.
I only care that you let the characters speak to you, and have chosen to use your talents to express your love of Sherlock Holmes. Your contributions (no matter how small) make the fandom a wonderful community. They are all precious to me. Every last one.
I don’t care how you were introduced to the material, or when you discovered it -only that you were. Whether you have loved Sherlock Holmes for fifty years or fifty seconds, I am glad that you exist, that you’ve made yourself known to others, and that you are around to be a part of this ongoing, communal love letter to Arthur Conan Doyle’s universe. I don’t care if you call yourself a “fan”, a “devotee”, a “scholar”, a “dabbler”, or if you believe you are Sherlock himself reincarnated.
I only care that you love the subject matter wholeheartedly, and respect everyone’s right to explore, venerate, criticize, reimagine, and interpret the Sherlock Holmes stories in their own way.
We are all a part of a century-old tradition of appreciating a relatively small canon of literature written between 1887-1927. Some of us are more traditional in our devotion to the Sherlock Holmes canon, and some of us are completely non-traditional.
Years of study and dedication to the preservation of the canon certainly deserve a significant amount of our respect, because without such dedication, the fandom would never have lasted this long. People who have taken on such large tasks form the foundations of the fandom, and provide us with an invaluable repository of knowledge about the object of our affection.
However, there is still something to be said about innovation and experimentation - two values at the heart of the character of Sherlock, who developed altogether unconventional ways of solving crimes - and so, ingenuity and staying ahead of the curve should also garner a certain level of respect. The new generation of Sherlockians should be encouraged, not disregarded, if the fandom is going to continue to exist for years to come.
Most importantly, we should never let anyone tell us that our emotional, intellectual or social attachment to a piece of art is illegitimate or unworthy. Art appreciation cannot be bottled, limited, or controlled. Our differences of opinion, perspective and expression are what help us grow, make the fandom a place worth spending our time and energy, and keep the flame of our passion for the stories alive.
Thank you for existing. Thank you for being around. Thank you for being resilient, dedicated and unfazed by the pressures of mainstream culture. Thank you for working so hard. Thank you for reaching out, exposing me to your world, drawing me in to your community, and constantly surprising me with your generosity, your creativity, and your intense passion for wonderful stories.
My heart is bigger, and my artistic endeavours more fulfilling, because of it.