Some Clarifications

I’ve had some private messages sent to me with questions in regard to some comments I made in previous blog posts.  I’ve checked with the individuals who asked the questions (whose identities will be kept anonymous), and they were amenable to me answering in public forum.  I do it this way because I figure someone else may have the same questions.  Besides, it’s good to engage in discussion, don’t you think?

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On the post Take My Money, Disney, I discussed what I’d heard about the new Disney streaming service to be introduced in 2019.  I freely admit I have no hard facts about anything.  No one does at this point.  Disney is still hammering out the details behind closed doors.  This blog is purely speculation on my part as to what that may look like.  Further suggestion I’ve heard since I posted that is that Disney, being the evil and greedy geniuses they are, may in fact be launching several streaming services: one for Disney / Pixar, one for Star Wars, one for Marvel, and so on.  Again, I don’t know.  Trust when I say I’m keeping my ear honed to all news and gossip on this one.

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On the post Henry VI, Part I, I apparently stirred up some controversy in regards to my personal sentiments of England vs. France.  One reader asked me to clarify my statement / elaborate upon it.  I wrote:

If the war between England and France plays between Shakespeare and Joan, and if I must pick a side based solely on these titans, then viva la France.  Admittedly, that’s no way to judge the entirety of two nations at any given point, and one can make the argument that at least Shakespeare wasn’t fighting a war.  But hopefully you get the point.

Up front, let me just stress that as an American who knows his history, I have a deep love / hate relationship with both England and France.  As a medievalist, I respect both lands and all they’ve offered.  That said… I’m not declaring for either country here.  I’m saying that if I were to choose sides between William Shakespeare and Joan of Arc, I’d choose Joan.

I have a great deal of respect for the dramatic talent and wordsmithing of Shakespeare, which is why I spend the time trying to deep dive into his work and make a somewhat substandard attempt to decipher them as best I can.  I have very little respect for the man behind the plays as a human being.  He can make some amazing speeches about the nature of Chivalry and honor, but near as I can tell based on his biography, he has very little of these ideals in his own character.  The man cowered in fear over his religion, took cheap shots at Queen Elizabeth through his plays, and apparently sued his neighbors over petty matters.  I’m sure there’s more I could load into that cannon to fire at him, but the point is made.

On the flip side of that, the Maid of Orleans is listed as a dynamo of human virtue by friend and foe alike.  That’s why the English were scared of her.  In addition to being fantastically gifted in the ways of military science, she set a moral code within her camp and on the battlefield that she expected her troops to adhere.  And they did.  More than that, during her trial, this uneducated young lady ran legal and spiritual rings around those learned men who would condemn her at her ecclesiastical trial.  Say what you will about her mental state and her nature as a religious zealot, she was a freedom fighter with the most noble intent and, by all accounts from those who knew her, a good heart.  There is ample evidence to this that turned up to exonerate her at her retrial some 25 years after her execution.

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Over on the post about The Unique Blogger Award, I seem to have angered and/or confused a fan of BBC’s Sherlock.  The reader in question has asked me to discuss the meaning of the term “Sherlockian.”  To recap, here’s what I said originally:

To this day, I’m bored to tears with the average mystery story; Holmes ruined it for me because he’s too awesome for words.  And it got to the point that I’m so impressed by the character and situations that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle bequeathed to us that I regularly shun both modern pastiche / reinventions of the character and the term “Sherlockian” as applied to fans who don’t have the first clue what that really means (if you’ll pardon the pun).

I know how fans can get possessive of the characters and shows they love.  Believe me, I know.  So if I ruffled some feathers, I do apologize.  I could have written that better.  Thing is, I am a long time fan of the Great Detective, and I, too, am rather possessive about my characters.

Taking a completely objective stance on this and identifying the term as originally used, the term “Sherlockian” applies to those loyalist of Sherlock Holmes who play “The Game.”  What I mean by this is that they operate knowingly under a conceit of false pretense.  They treat the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories as biographical, and as such, they treat Holmes as a real person.  Watson is the biographer, and ACD is the editor.  Yes, it’s fantasy, and they know it too.  Think of this as the Sherlockian version of Dungeons & Dragons, nearly a century before role-playing games were a thing.  This is how it’s been done since the beginning, and nothing is going to change that tradition.  A “true” Sherlockian will not engage in pastiche, adaptation, alternate retellings, or anything else of that nature.  There is the “canon” of the original four novels and fifty-six short stories, and everything else is beneath their notice.  The Game persists to this day.  Members of the various worldwide chapters of The Sherlock Holmes Society will gather together, perhaps over dinner, and one of their number will take the role of Dr. Watson and regale his audience with tales of his old friend, and the result is high society dinner conversation within that framework.  It’s pretty intense, but as an RPG player myself, I can appreciate the idea behind it.  This is but one example.  You’d have to get an insider to explain it further, but I hope this provides a platform for mutual understanding in regards to this topic.

The term Sherlockian was appropriated by modern fans of the BBC’s Sherlock series, largely because much of the same audience was able to apply the term Whovian to their Doctor Who fandom.  It’s similar terminology, and it helped that the connective tissue is the showrunner, Steven Moffat.  I’m not going to quibble about Whovians; I’ll let the Whovians out there debate it out amongst themselves.  Going back to calling oneself a Sherlockian, fans of that series can call themselves whatever they like, but in the grand tradition of the character, the term does not apply to fans of the television series.  This is not my call to make, it’s simply as it has been for many decades before I was born.  And I happen to agree with it, mostly.

There was a followup question in regards to where my own fandom might rank on a Sherlockian scale, given the explanation I put forth.  That’s a fair question, I think.

Let’s take the scale of 1 to 10.  1 is “I’ve seen BBC’s Sherlock and very little else but haven’t read the original stories.  10 is “Diehard Sherlockian: there is nothing beyond the sacred canon.”  5 is a well-versed appreciation for all things Sherlock Holmes regardless of medium or presentation.  Sound fair?  On this scale, I’d rank probably an 8.  I am not a huge fan of most other authors’ work when it comes to Holmes, I do enjoy certain specific adaptations into TV or film, and I know well enough not to address him only by his first name.  Not even Watson gets to do that.  So by this reckoning, I can talk shop with the most puritanical Sherlockians out there and probably not offend their sensibilities.  I also know that many of them rank between a 7 and a 9 on that scale as well, so I feel comfortable using the term with caveats.  Where I draw the line is that I wholeheartedly reject the works of Laurie R. King and others like her who take wild liberties with the characterization of Holmes, and I reject almost any version of Holmes that sets him in a time period other than his original Victorian / Edwardian era.  There are always exceptions, but those are few and far between.  The classic Basil Rathbone films come to mind, being World War II propaganda.  I’m also extremely picky about stories where Holmes encounters the supernatural.  This is just my personal taste.  I love what I love.

By the same metric, love what you love, and call yourself what you will.  Just understand that there is a tradition in play, and there are others out there who will challenge assertions that do not fit the accepted rules of The Game.  By and large, they don’t really acknowledge any other version of Holmes, excepting when it brings new members into their circles of fandom.

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That’s all I’ve got for now.  I hope this has helped on some level.  If anyone has questions about anything I’ve blogged about (or haven’t and should), please feel free to drop me a line via the Contact Page.  I’ll be more than happy to answer privately or in a blog post like this one (your choice).  Or if you just want to comment directly on a specific post, that works too.  Thanks, all.

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