"In all my experience I cannot recall any more singular and interesting study"

Roberta Pearson

University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom

Betsy Rosenblatt

Whittier Law School, Costa Mesa, California, United States

[0.1] Abstract—Editorial for "Sherlock Holmes Fandom, Sherlockiana, and the Great Game," edited by Betsy Rosenblatt and Roberta Pearson, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 23 (March 15, 2017).

[0.2] Keywords—Fan history; Gender; Sherlock Holmes; Sherlockians

Pearson, Roberta, and Betsy Rosenblatt. 2017. "In all my experience I cannot recall any more singular and interesting study" [editorial]. In "Sherlock Holmes Fandom, Sherlockiana, and the Great Game," edited by Betsy Rosenblatt and Roberta Pearson, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 23. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2017.1123.

[0.3] In all my experience I cannot recall any more singular and interesting study.

—Arthur Conan Doyle, The Valley of Fear (1915)

1. Introduction

[1.1] The two of us first met in a room of Sherlockians. It was probably 1985. In romantic memory, we each came in from the swirling snow to the annual January dinner of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, and we spent the evening in the warming company of fellow good-humored women. We dined and laughed and enjoyed Sherlockian mock-scholarly papers and skits.

[1.2] The group was consciously female. We came together not only out of love of Sherlock Holmes and his world but also out of an awareness that across town, the all-male Baker Street Irregulars (BSI) were having their annual dinner at the same time. We knew ours was more fun. We had evidence: at the end of their dinner, the men would make their way to catch the end of our festivities, which they described as superior. Yet we rankled at being excluded. We closed the evening singing Sherlockian lyrics to the tune of "The Wiffenpoof Song": "Lord have mercy on B-S-I…Ha! Ha! Ha!"

[1.3] Those who first created an enduring Sherlock Holmes fandom did not think of themselves of fans. They were an exceedingly privileged collection of journalists and men of letters who were, as George Mills points out in his essay in this special issue, themselves engaged in romantic nostalgia for a particular kind of literary engagement with text. As Julia Rosenblatt points out in her Symposium piece, their exclusion of women from the ranks of the BSI likely had as much to do with wanting to avoid questions of who would pay for drinks as it did with any more malicious misogyny.

[1.4] That history, however, bred a legacy of elitism in gender, class, and cultural hierarchy that has made Sherlockian identity and boundary drawing awkward to this day. Several of this issue's Symposium pieces provide firsthand accounts of the gender struggles surrounding the BSI and the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes (ASH). The BSI began to admit women in 1991, but that occasion was far from the end of the story, which only became more complex when cultures of modern media fandom collided with Sherlockian traditions. Some members of the BSI and other Sherlockian societies approached fans who came to love Sherlock Holmes through television and film adaptations with derision that could not be separated from the Sherlockian societies' elitist roots or from the fact these newer fans were predominantly young and female (Pearson, forthcoming).

[1.5] Prevailing attitudes within Sherlockian societies have become vastly more gender inclusive, even enthusiastically so. Although there will surely always be holdouts, the cultural divisions between communities of Sherlockians have also begun to fade. The BSI has taken on many young female members, and the ASH has taken on many young male ones (note 1). The Baker Street Journal, the leading publisher of Sherlockian mock scholarship, has embraced the term "Sherlockian fandom" and eagerly publishes works from newcomers. By the same token, many who began their journeys in Sherlockian societies have come to revel in online fan culture.

[1.6] Terminology aside, are members of Sherlockian societies different from other fans? To the student of media fandom, Sherlockians' approach to celebrating the works of Arthur Conan Doyle seems at once idiosyncratic and familiar. Many Sherlockians produce mock scholarship based on the self-aware fiction of the Great Game (also known as the Grand Game), a tongue-in-cheek belief that Holmes and Watson were real people, that Watson wrote the stories of their exploits, and that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was Watson's literary agent. For example, a Sherlockian might seek to justify Watson's contradictory claims concerning the location of his war wound—as either in his shoulder or in his leg—by considering such factors as the weight, speed, and trajectories of the Jezail bullets shot by the Afghan fighters during the second Anglo-Afghan war. Sherlockians term these lighthearted conjectures the "Writings upon the Writings." The Great Game has few analogs in fandom. At the same time, the other activities of those aficionados and devotees are strikingly similar to other fan activities: they write fan fiction, make fan art, perform cosplay, attend fan meet-ups, and so on, only by other names, and they have been doing so since the BSI was founded in the 1930s.

[1.7] Sherlock Holmes has become increasingly popular in the last decade, with a boom in screen adaptations—the two Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. Warner Bros. feature films, CBS's Elementary (2012–), BBC Sherlock (2010–), and the recently announced Finnish television program Sherlock North (Jensen 2017), which will portray the Great Detective during his enforced exile from London after the Reichenbach incident, to name a few. BBC Sherlock in particular attracted hordes of new fans to the Holmes franchise, who in turn attracted the attention of fan studies scholars (Hills 2012; Lamerichs 2012; Polasek 2012; McClellan 2014). But fan studies (with the exception of Pearson 1997, 2007) had largely ignored the long-established fandom that had formed around the Holmes canon: the original Conan Doyle 56 short stories and four novels. While fans have occupied an increasingly privileged position within media studies since the early 1990s, Sherlockian fandom remained obscure until the emergence of Sherlock fans who conformed to the field's assumptions about the constitution and nature of fandom.

[1.8] Fan studies began as a celebration of popular resistance to the hegemonic order. As Jonathan Gray, Cornel Sandvoss, and C. Lee Harrington note, "The consumption of popular mass media was [seen as] a site of power struggles and fandom the guerrilla-style tactics of those with lesser resources to win this battle." This early work valorized those fans who engaged in such activities as "convention attendance, fan fiction writing, fanzine editing and collection, letter writing campaigns" (2012, 1–2, 3). As seen in Henry Jenkins's Textual Poachers (1992), the classic scholarly analysis of television science fiction and fantasy fans, there was an overlap between those engaging in those activities and those with lesser resources; this early work focused almost exclusively on female fans. Fan studies has broadened its remit since those days, but some of its initial assumptions still linger, as in a general preference for studying transformational rather than affirmational fans. While affirmational fandom is seen as respecting authorship and the text, transformational fandom is seen as reworking the text, as in slash fiction; it is seen as more semiotically resistant and also, once again, primarily composed of female fans active on sites such as Tumblr.

[1.9] BBC Sherlock fans, being predominantly female and young, as well as transformational in their fannish activities, conformed to fan studies' assumptions. Members of Sherlockian societies, by contrast, have historically been male, middle-aged, middle to upper class, and affirmational. Even today many resist being labeled as fans—not surprising, given the overwhelmingly negative connotations of the term until the industry itself embraced fandom within the last two decades or so. Self-designated fan clubs like, say, the Frank Sinatra Fan Club, existed as early as the 1940s and probably before, but the BSI called itself a literary society rather than a fan club. Other US Sherlockian groups, founded under the BSI's auspices, such as Philadelphia's Sons of the Copper Beeches (dating from 1948) call themselves scion societies. Many Sherlockians of long standing, even some who have happily welcomed fan-oriented newbies into the Sherlockian fold, still eschew the term "fan." As Andrew Solberg and Robert Katz write in their Symposium piece, "'Seasoned (i.e., old) Sherlockians must swallow before we admit that what we do for/with our love of Sherlock Holmes fully fits in the fan domain…. We like to think of ourselves as aficionados or devotees."

[1.10] This issue of Transformative Works and Cultures seeks to address that perceived gap in the fan studies literature by extensively engaging with the Sherlockian fandom that dates back to the 1890s. The essays in this issue shed additional light on the explosion of the fandom by taking a look backward, examining Sherlock Holmes fandoms (for they are all fandoms) through the lens of historical context or with an eye to the fandoms' sometimes fraught cultural divisions. Collectively, the essays complicate the too-easy narrative that Sherlockian communities are all inherently the same or inherently different. They may also contribute to a new wave of fan studies that embraces highbrow and middlebrow culture as well as the avowedly popular.

2. Theory and Praxis

[2.1] The issue begins by acknowledging that by the time organized Sherlockiana began in the 1930s, Holmes had been a popular character for more than four decades and had inspired a sort of individual fandom that seems familiar even today, in an age of transmedia promotion. Ann McClellan's "Tit-Bits, New Journalism, and Early Sherlock Holmes Fandom" traces the roots of participatory fandom to the participatory promotions and transmedia storytelling of the Strand magazine's sister publication, Tit-Bits, which contained cross-promotions for the Strand's Sherlock Holmes offerings. McClellan's analysis provides both a theoretical and practical bridge between historical fandoms and contemporary fan cultures. Early fan precursors to later fan practices are also at the heart of Katharine Brombley's essay, "A Case Study of Early British Sherlockian Fandom." Brombley contextualizes the practice of writing to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle seeking Sherlock Holmes's autograph. Brombley argues that the practice both reflected its time in history and manifested the reality-blurring attitude that gave rise to the Great Game.

[2.2] The history of Sherlockian mock scholarship is doubtless inextricably related to the development of Sherlockian fan cultures. George Mills explores this relationship in "The Scholarly Rebellion of the Early Baker Street Irregulars." Mills analyzes the early institutional history of the BSI, shining a light on how the romanticism of the organization's founders and their relationships with emerging practices of literary criticism shaped Sherlockian practices even as they exist today. Kate Donley's "Early Sherlockian Scholarship: Non/fiction at Play" traces the history of Sherlockian mock scholarship, starting with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's playful relationship between fact and fiction in the Sherlock Holmes stories and developing into a series of interrelated textual forms with modernist and postmodernist elements that persist today across eras and types of Sherlockian fandom.

[2.3] A number of the issue's Theory and Praxis essays focus on the complicated nature of distinguishing among different kinds of Sherlockian fans and fan works. In "Authorship and Authenticity in Sherlock Holmes Pastiches," Sanna Nyqvist notes the idiosyncratic way in which the term "pastiche" has been used in Sherlockian fandom. Nyqvist conducts detailed analyses of three Sherlockian pastiches that fit the more traditional critical definition. Each reveals a tension between homage and criticism that might be analogized to the tensions between different modes of Sherlockian fandom. Ashley Polasek's "Traditional Transformations and Transmedial Affirmations: Blurring the Boundaries of Sherlockian Fan Practices" considers affirmational Sherlockians, who identify with a preexisting interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes canon, and transformational Sherlockians, who identify aspects of themselves in canonical source material and transform the material to highlight those aspects. She describes certain cultural differences between affirmational and transformational fans, and describes instances in which boundaries between the communities blur and overlap. Finally, Betsy Rosenblatt draws parallels between Sherlockians of two eras, identifying similarities in their respective rebellions against copyright owners' alleged control over the character of Sherlock Holmes. Her essay, "The Great Game and the Copyright Villain," demonstrates commonalities between fan communities that some have characterized as divergent and hypothesizes some historical roots of this fan-led resistance.

[2.4] Two essays explore the changing demographics of Sherlockian fandom. Timothy Johnson and Cheryll Fong's "The Expanding Universe of Sherlockian Fandom and Archival Collections" discuss the challenges faced by archivists as the universe of Sherlockians grows and Sherlockian fan production expands in type and medium. Their essay draws both parallels and distinctions between older and newer Sherlockian fan works to demonstrate how, as Sherlockian fan production grows to include (for example) more diverse voices, born-digital works, and pseudonymous creators, the role of archivists becomes more important, along with the scope of their responsibility. In "'The Florals': Female Fans Over 50 in the Sherlock Fandom," Line Nybro Peterson explores attitudes toward age and gender among fans of BBC Sherlock. The fans in her study used Sherlock fandom to inspire a high level of productivity and creativity, experience a younger subjective age, and experience a positive view of older felt age.

3. Symposium and Review

[3.1] While many of the Theory and Praxis pieces strive to draw parallels between types of Sherlockian communities, the Symposium pieces explore a variety of manifestations of Sherlockian fan practice, reminding us that, parallels or not, there are many different ways of being a Sherlockian. In "Sherlock (Holmes) in Japanese (Fan) Works," Lori Morimoto explains how commercially published BBC Sherlock pastiches written by Kitahara Naohiko typify a blurred line between fandom and commercial media production in the Japanese fan/producer cultural context. In "The Fan-Judges: Clues to a Jurisculture of Sherlockian Fandom," Ross Davies identifies circumstances in which US judges encourage their litigants to be Sherlockians. In "Fandom, Publishing, and Playing the Grand Game," Andrew Solberg and Robert Katz explore the mode of Sherlockian fan phenomenon of writing, editing, and publishing in the tradition of the Grand Game, telling their own stories of discovering publishing as a fan pursuit.

[3.2] Finally, a trio of personal accounts shed light on the history of women and the BSI. Peter Blau and Evelyn Herzog, in "A Duet: With an Occasional Chorus," recount the events of January 1968, when several ASH members picketed the annual dinner of the then all-male BSI. Both Julia Rosenblatt, in "From Outside to Inside," and Patricia Guy, in "GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously)," provide personal reflections regarding the BSI's shift from a male-only society to one that includes women.

[3.3] In the Reviews section, Anne-Charlotte Mecklenburg reviews Twentieth-Century Victorian: Arthur Conan Doyle and the "Strand Magazine," 1891–1930, by Jonathan Cranfield. Julia Knaus reviews Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die, edited by Alex Werner; Gender and the Modern Sherlock Holmes: Essays on Film and Television Adaptations since 2009, edited by Nadine Farghaly; and The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes. Finally, Ellen Burtin Harrington reviews Fan Phenomena: Sherlock Holmes, edited by Tom Ue and Jonathan Cranfield. The five books, in Knaus's words, "illustrate the breadth of recent engagement with Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes" (¶5.1): they are a study of the relationship between Conan Doyle, the Strand Magazine, and their era; a companion to a Sherlock Holmes–themed exhibition that situates Holmes in Victorian history; a collection of essays discussing gender and sexuality in contemporary Holmes adaptations; a first-person exploration of the Holmes canon and its fandom and history, respectively; and a wide-ranging collection of essays addressing Sherlock Holmes fan phenomena.

4. Acknowledgments

[4.1] It is not possible to properly acknowledge the depth of appreciation we feel toward everyone who has helped make this issue of TWC possible. They have suffered hard deadlines, late nights, and short due dates. As always, we thank the authors in this issue, whose original work makes TWC possible; the peer reviewers, who freely provide their time and expertise; the editorial team members, whose engagement with and solicitation of material is so valuable; and the production team members, who transform rough manuscripts into publishable documents.

[4.2] The following people worked on TWC No. 23 in an editorial capacity: Roberta Pearson and Betsy Rosenblatt (guest editors); Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson (editors); Cameron Salisbury and Francesca Coppa (Symposium); and Louisa Stein and Katie Morrissey (Review).

[4.3] The following people worked on TWC No. 23 in a production capacity: Rrain Prior (production editor); Beth Friedman, Shoshanna Green, and Christine Mains (copyeditors); Claire P. Baker, Sarah New, Rebecca Sentance, and Gabriel Simm (layout); and Amanda Retartha, Latina Vidolova, Vickie West, and Rachel P. Kreiter (proofreaders).

[4.4] TWC thanks the board of the Organization for Transformative Works. OTW provides financial support and server space to TWC but is not involved in any way in the content of the journal, which is editorially independent.

[4.5] TWC thanks all its board members, whose names appear on TWC's masthead, as well as the additional peer reviewers who provided service for TWC No. 23: Ceilyn Boyd, Jonathan Cranfield, Elizabeth Evans, Mary Hammond, Ellen Burton Harrington, Stacey Lantagne, Ann McClellan, and Ashley Polasek.

5. Note

1. Each of us is a member of ASH, and Betsy Rosenblatt is a member of the BSI.

6. Works cited

Gray, Jonathan, Cornel Sandvoss, and C. Lee Harrington. 2012. "Introduction: Why Study Fans." In Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, edited by Jonathan Gray, Cornel Sandvoss, and C. Lee Harrington, 1–18. New York: New York University Press.

Hills, Matthew. 2012. "Sherlock's Epistemological Economy and the Value of 'Fan' Knowledge: How Producer-Fans Play the (Great) Game of Fandom." In Stein and Busse 2012, 27–40.

Jenkins, Henry. 1992. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge.

Jensen, Jorn Rossing. 2017. "Goteborg: Finnish-American Snapper Films Unveils Sherlock North." Variety, February 2. http://variety.com/2017/film/festivals/goteborg-finnish-american-snapper-films-sherlock-north-1201976388/.

Lamerichs, Nicolle. 2012. "Holmes Abroad: How Dutch Fans Interpret the Famous Detective." In Stein and Busse 2012, 150–64.

McClellan, Ann. 2014. "Redefining Genderswap Fan Fiction: A Sherlock Case Study." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 17. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0553.

Pearson, Roberta. 1997. "'It's Always 1895': Sherlock Holmes in Cyberspace." In Trash Aesthetics, edited by Deborah Cartmell, I. Q. Hunter, Heidi Kaye, and Imelda Whelehan, 143–61. London: Pluto Press.

Pearson, Roberta. 2007. "Bachies, Bardies, Trekkies, and Sherlockians." In Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, edited by Jonathan Gray, Cornel Sandvoss, and C. Lee Harrington, 98–109. New York: New York University Press.

Pearson, Roberta. Forthcoming. "A Practical Handbook of Sherlockian Culture with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Female." In The Cambridge Companion to Sherlock Holmes, edited by Christopher Prittard. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Polasek, Ashley. 2012. "Winning 'The Grand Game': Sherlock and the Fragmentation of Fan Discourse." In Stein and Busse 2012, 41–55.

Stein, Louisa Ellen, and Kristina Busse, eds. 2012. "Sherlock" and Transmedia Fandom: Essays on the BBC Series. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.