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Sherlock Holmes

[META] destinationtoast: 221B Con Fandom Stats slides: Master post Presented by destinationtoast, strangelock, and penns-woods – April 2014 Part 1: Why Stats Part 2: Popularity of Sherlock Holmes in fandom Part 3: Genres of fanfiction Part 4: Shipping and (a)sexuality Part 5: Response to Sherlock Series 3 Full slide deck (you can view the details of slides more easily here)

destinationtoast:

221B Con Fandom Stats slides: Master post

Presented by destinationtoast, strangelock, and penns-woods – April 2014

Part 1: Why Stats

Part 2: Popularity of Sherlock Holmes in fandom

Part 3: Genres of fanfiction

Part 4: Shipping and (a)sexuality

Part 5: Response to Sherlock Series 3

Full slide deck (you can view the details of slides more easily here)

[META] destinationtoast: 221B Con Fandom Stats slides: Master…

destinationtoast:

221B Con Fandom Stats slides: Master post

Presented by destinationtoast, strangelock, and penns-woods – April 2014

Part 1: Why Stats 

Part 2: Popularity of Sherlock Holmes in fandom

Part 3: Genres of fanfiction

Part 4: Shipping and (a)sexuality

Part 5: Response to Sherlock Series 3

Full slide deck (you can view the details of slides more easily here)

[QUOTE] From Noah Berlatsky, Great News: Now Anyone Can Write and Publish a Sherlock Holmes Story

So carving off characters can be a way to comment on the original work—to expand on its themes, to examine what it erased, to update it, to teach folks about it, or just to enjoy it (and surely enjoyment is an important goal of lots of literature, not excluding the Sherlock Holmes stories). Interacting with literature and appreciating literature means, in no small part, talking back to literature. And a big way in which people talk back to literature is by dissecting it, reassembling it, and making it their own.

Again, that deconstruction can sometimes be ugly. Not every use of Sherlock Holmes is going to be pretty, or make the Doyle Estate happy. No doubt there’s X-rated Sherlock/Watson slash fiction out there that would make Conan Doyle rise from his grave, if he could manage it. But to say that it’s a crime against literature to reuse Sherlock Holmes is like saying that Doyle committed a crime against literature by turning Dupin into Holmes. Artists and writers always engage with and respond to other writers. That’s how art gets made. And that’s why it’s a good thing for culture, for literature, and for Doyle himself that it looks like Holmes will finally be completely free to be used, abused, and celebrated by everybody, free of charge.

Noah Berlatsky, Great News: Now Anyone Can Write and Publish a Sherlock Holmes Story

[QUOTE] From Casey Fiesler, Everything I Need To Know I Learned from Fandom: How Existing Social Norms Can Help Shape the Next Generation of User-Generated Content, p173

The idea of fan cultures, or “fandoms,” cultivating fan fiction writers began at the earliest in the 1920s with societies dedicated to Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes, but took off in the late 1960s with the advent of Star Trek fanzines. The negative stereotype of“fans today is that of obsessed geeks, like “Trekkies, who love nothing more than to watch the same installments over and over…” However, this represents a core misunderstanding of what it is to be a fan: that is, to have the“ability to transform personal reaction into social interaction, spectatorial culture into participatory culture… not by being a regular viewer of a particular program but by translating that viewing into some kind of cultural activity.” Henry Jenkins, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and expert on fan culture, likens fan fiction to the story of The Velveteen Rabbit: that the investment in something is what gives it a meaning rather than any intrinsic merits or economic value. For fans who invest in a television show, book, or movie, that investment sparks production, and reading or viewing sparks writing, until the two are inseparable. They are not watching the same thing over and over, but rather are creating something new instead.

Casey Fiesler, Everything I Need To Know I Learned from Fandom: How Existing Social Norms Can Help Shape the Next Generation of User-Generated Content, p735

Update: Now with link to an open access version of the paper and correct page, apologies for the typo.

[QUOTE] From Mike Masnick at Techdirt, Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Sued To Show That Sherlock Holmes Is Public Domain

A little over three years ago, we had a discussion concerning whether or not Sherlock Holmes was in the public domain. By our understanding of the law, the character absolutely is in the public domain. There is one remaining book — The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes — which contains a few stories that are still covered by copyright, but the characters and most of the written works are in the public domain. However, the legal representatives of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Estate use the fact that one book is still held under copyright to argue that the character is still protected until (at least) 2023. Of course, as with things like Happy Birthday, even if it should be in the public domain, if there’s some corporate entity insisting that it’s covered by copyright, you’d have to go to court to prove otherwise. And most people don’t want to bother.

Thankfully, that just changed when it comes to Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes scholar, Leslie S. Klinger, was working on a book (with Laurie R. King) called In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, detailing “major mystery/sci-fi/fantasy authors inspired by the Holmes tales.” However, the Conan Doyle Estate contacted their publisher, Pegasus Books, demanding a license fee, and saying if they weren’t paid, they’d make sure that no major distributors would sell the book.

(…)

Like too many publishers, Pegasus freaked out and refused to publish the book at all, so Klinger has taken it upon himself to file for declaratory judgment.

(…)

When the estate threatened Klinger, he correctly explained that no license was needed, but he’s still dealing with the fallout from his publisher getting cold feet. Thus, he’s asking the court to state, definitively, that the character is in the public domain. Kudos to Klinger for taking this on. We need more people willing to stand up for the public domain. Also, jeers to Pegasus for not being the one to take this on and for freaking out over the bogus threat.

www.techdirt.com/articles/20130215/15093722002.shtml

[META] And it is always eighteen ninety-five [1]: Reading Sherlockian Scholarship from a Media Acafan Perspective

The focus of the current issue of media studies journal Flow is acafandom, and most of the essays included share a common theme. At some level, and to varying degrees, each discusses the tensions present in the working life of every acafan: the tightrope-walk of creating scholarship while simultaneously following one’s given fannish ethos, and the constant negotiations inherent in the work of merging and consolidating academic and fannish approaches to knowledge, analyses, and interpretation. More than one contributor cites Matt Hills, who in Fan Cultures (2002) challenges the tenet that academics and fans are effectively doing the same thing, albeit in different circles. Hills points out that as academics we tend to look for ways in which fans do work that is similar or identical to our own academic work, and that we tend to foreground aspects of fan cultures that easily mirror academic cultures; he also makes an argument that academics should resist the temptation to conflate the two. I’m not sure that I wholly agree with the distinction Hills draws between the acafan and the fan-scholar: he defines the first category as academics who engage in fannish activities, and the second as fans employing academically influenced methods to pursue academically inclined concerns; I am inclined to argue that many of us engage in both modes, switching between them situationally or topically, rather than occupying a single narrowly defined identity. However, I do value Hills’ caveat against imposing our preferred methodologies onto fan engagements, as he neither ignores nor negates the reality that many academics share not only the fannish obsession for detail but also the intense fannish affect toward their chosen field. He also does not reject the compelling and bountiful evidence that many fans regularly interpret and analyze media in ways that are strongly reminiscent of literary and cultural academic analyses. And why would he? An academic’s surprise that fans read source materials in that manner would be disingenuous. After all, that’s the way we have been trained to read and interact with texts throughout our educations, in high school, college, and beyond. I am finding the relationship between fan and academic reading practices particularly interesting at the moment because I’ve begun work focused on a fandom that has strong roots in both: Sherlock Holmes. Notable in the field of fan studies, Sherlock Holmes is generally given the nod as one of the first, if not the very first, fandoms. Whether we define media fandom as every form of transformative writing within a shared interpretive community from the Iliad and Odyssey onward or whether we emphasize the well-defined fan community that transforms televisual texts owned by various media corporations, Sherlock Holmes fandom must be acknowledged for its scope, variety, and unbroken history. Well-known and long established, activities like the public mourning of Holmes’ death, ongoing fan pilgrimages to 221B Baker Street, and the long-established convention of writing pastiches set in the Holmes universe continue to be enacted by individual fans as well as by the more famous fan circles, including the Baker Street Irregulars. Sherlockians, however, are unlikely to recognize themselves or their activities in Trekkies, much as a Verdi afficionado might not think of themselves as belonging to the same genus as My Chemical Romance fans. Notably, Roberta Pearson has discussed these very contradictions in her excellent analyses of media fandom and Sherlockians/Holmesians (It’s Always 1895: Sherlock Holmes in Cyberspace [1997] and Bachies, Bardies, Trekkies and Sherlockians [2007]). The project that has prompted me to look more closely at the fannish spectrum of Sherlock Holmes is an upcoming essay collection on the 2010 BBC series, entitled The Transmedia Adventures of Sherlock, which I am co-editing with my friend Louisa Stein. Over the decades, Holmes has prompted fannish affect and obsession across diverse groups of readers with varying forms of fannish engagements. One of the arguments of (and for) the book is the way in which Sherlock is bringing together disparate fan communities with wildly diverging histories, mores, and demographics — and the consequent clashes this may cause. I’m focusing primarily on a particular form of Sherlock Holmes fan, representing a fandom that is tracing itself for a century and that prides itself on its shared traditions as well as its focus on scholarship, in order to make a specific argument on academic and fannish reading practices. Unlike Hills’ distinction between academics and fans, most Sherlockians seem to consider their fan endeavors as fundamentally different from that of other fandoms because their subject matter is: in the best tradition of high brow vs low brow, Doyle’s work is literature (though maybe not necessarily with a capital L) whereas whatever we media fans are using as our source text isn’t. But is that really the central differentiating feature? I think I am most fascinated with the Sherlockian pastime of “the great game” (see here for a good NPR piece on it), in which fans discuss Sherlock as if he were a real person, doing research and analyzing the story as a historical document. I’ll admit to enjoying postmodern historiography and Hayden White’s important insight that the process of selecting and narrativizing facts in order to create history always and inherently requires story telling. But even if all history is a story, not every story is history. Ultimately, Sherlockians know that; however, the fact that “the game” remains a favorite shared way of doing Sherlock Holmes scholarship is certainly noteworthy, and I am strongly reminded of some of the more contentious debates in fandom: tinhats, gen-is-canon, and Rowling’s authorial interpretations are all good illustrations. In my opinion, what these and other wanks have in common is their demand of a single interpretation over all others, whether it’s the one that sees the stories as real, the one that insists their own interpretation is the only valid one, or the one privileging the author’s interpretations of her text. In the end, all of these debates come down to literary theory, scholarship, and the ways that we approach texts. Literary analysis is the bread and butter of literary scholars like myself, but the thing that fascinates me most about the game is that Sherlockian scholarship effectively continues to engage in a form of criticism that was never considered academically appropriate or, at the very best, one that was always highly contested. In the academy, the problem of treating characters as real people is often short-handed via L. C. Knights 1933 essay “How many children had Lady Macbeth?,” which juxtaposed traditional character criticism such as A.C. Bradley’s with newer forms that eventually developed into the more formalist New Criticism. (For a historical account, see here; for a defense of Bradley, see here.) Clearly, given the rapid changes we’ve seen in literary criticism, current academic scholarship is a far cry from treating the characters as real people–if it ever did so. Even though the annotated Sherlock Holmes editions by William S. Baring-Gould or, more recently, by Leslie S. Klinger look a lot like my Annotated Ulysses, I’m not sure the conceit behind these different works is the same. Perhaps all Sherlockians play the game in the same way that RPF fans play within their fandoms; maybe they play at the game with a constant underlying frisson of Holmes’ fictionality, in the same way that popslashers pretend that Justin and Lance were gay and together, even as they know better. (Or do they? ) In the end, academic scholarship extrapolates and interpolates potential information and facts in order to support an interpretative argument, whereas Sherlockians seem to enjoy the data for its own sake. In that they are a lot like media fans: we like to imagine our characters’ childhoods not solely in order to support or explain adult behavioral traits within the text but also simply for the pleasure of the exercise. But unlike the Sherlockian game where evidence is used to winnow information down to a truth, fan fiction writers build up and out from canon evidence to create myriad fictional scenarios, all of which are equally and simultaneously both true and false. By not privileging any supposed reality, single personal preference, or authorial intent, and by encouraging individual extensions that fit canon in varying degrees, media fandom offers a postmodern variant of engagement with and reading of texts that differs from the more modern desire to establish the single authoritative text and sole valid interpretation. I hope that Sherlock fandom will be able to successfully bridge these different approaches, that it can bring together affirmational and transformational fandoms and allow fans to imagine John and Sherlock as real, regardless of whether it is to establish just how much time passed between the events of “The Red-Headed League” and Watson’s account of the story or whether it is to explore one’s favorite Victorian OTP that didn’t just cohabitate in 221 B Baker Street. Literary scholarship has undergone myriad variations since Doyle created Holmes and Watson, and yet the Sherlockian approach to Doyle’s canon has remained the same. Maybe that’s not altogether surprising from a fandom that celebrates the idea that “it is always eighteen ninety-five.” In a way, for me, Sherlockians combine the best and the worst of both academia and fandom, and, as such, are indeed exemplary of the contentious relationship between the two–even as they distance themselves from either. [1] “And it is always eighteen ninety-five” is the final line of the famous 1942 Sherlock Holmes fan poem, 221 B by Vincent Starrett.

[META] Fans, geeks, wrestlers, and Sherlock Holmes: links roundup

Henry Jenkins, ARGS, Fandom, and the Digi-Gratis Economy: An Interview with Paul Booth, author of Digital Fandom: New Media Studies (link goes to the first part of the interview; see also part 2 and part 3). Here’s a confession: I tend to think that ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) have attracted a disproportionate amount of attention in transmedia and convergence culture circles relative to their significance (my pet theory is that academics like talking about ARGs because they experience academic research as an ARG). So the last thing I was interested in hearing about was ARGs as a model and metaphor for online fandom, and I’d originally skipped this interview when it popped up in my feedreader. But the third part of the interview caught my eye, with some interesting discussion on rethinking the gift economy model of fandom, gender, and database culture. And it turns out that the whole thing is worth reading, with some detours into Doctor Who, fan fiction, and mashups.

Matt Hills in Sherlocking, Sherlock, Knowledge and Fan Sites: Speaking of database culture (and Doctor Who), Matt Hills has a nice piece on perhaps the most contemporary aspect of the new BBC series Sherlock — the displacement of mastery of specialized categories of knowledge in favor of proficiency in tracking down relevant information on the fly. Hills of course says it better: “Because in a world where all forms of knowledge can be archived and accessed via cloud computing, Conan Doyle’s provocative hierarchies of knowledge melt into air. This Holmes doesn’t need to know in advance what he needs to know, because he’s networked – he can consult digitally at the scene of the crime.” All this, plus a bonus quote from a great Franco Moretti essay! Ironically, an ensuing debate in the comments suggests that Sherlock Holmes fandom still privileges the contrasting mode of authority through encyclopedic command of canon….

Louisa Stein in Antenna, Mad Men vs. Sherlock – What Makes a Fandom?: In a provocative piece, Stein notes the insta-fandom that sprung up around BBC’s Sherlock, “which, with two episodes aired at the time of writing, already has a full host of communities, fan fiction, vids, and fan art”, in contrast to the paucity of similar fanworks for Mad Men. Yet Stein argues that Mad Men fans have generated a wide variety of creative works which don’t fall easily under the more familiar fanworks model and arguably have a broader cultural influence.

For bonus Mad Men musing, see Michael Newman’s I would so get her pregnant, the latest in his excellent Season 4 posts, this one mapping the narrative’s various ironies.

Elsewhere, In Media Res hosts a theme week on professional wrestling. I totally blame the first piece by David Ray Carter, A History of Violence: politics, profits, and the changing face of the WWE, for drawing me back into watching WWE’s RAW this week after taking a post-Wrestlemania break. All of the posts are well worth reading, touching on issues around the production of performances, personae, and narratives that have broader resonance for media and celebrity fan cultures (e.g., Cory Barker’s Making the scripted more real? Pro wrestling and Twitter).

Meanwhile, Jason Tocci of Geek Studies examines the geek chic backlash in Scott Pilgrim vs. the Cultural Critique, while Kristina Busse looks inward in Geek Hierarchies, Boundary Policing, and the Good Fan/Bad Fan Dichotomy.

For more links on fan-related topics, see OTW’s links roundup. And finally, if you’re looking for some light reading for the weekend, Jezebel discovers Marx/Engels slash.