Kool Kat of the Week: Watson, The Game Is Afoot! Investigating 221B Con with Founder Heather Holloway

Posted on: Apr 10th, 2013 By:

Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes. Painting by Mark Maddox and used with permission.

By Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

This weekend (April 13-14) marks the inaugural edition of Atlanta’s own “all Sherlock Holmes” convention, 221B Con at the Holiday Inn Select Atlanta-Perimeter at 4386 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. The name is a reference to the famous detective’s address at 221 B Baker Street, London, which is a few blocks from one of H.G. Wells’ apartments as well.

Making his debut in 1887’s A STUDY IN SCARLET, Holmes is one of the most well-known fictional characters in history. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective appeared in four novels and 56 short stories written by Doyle, and countless dramatic and derivative works. Holmes fans are legion worldwide, with clubs and societies extant in just about every major city. Currently there are two popular television series airing featuring Holmes and his sidekick Watson in modern settings; the BBC’s SHERLOCK, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes, and CBS’s ELEMENTARY starring Johnny Lee Miller.

ATLRetro spoke with convention organizer Heather Holloway about the lasting impact of Doyle’s creation and to investigate what to expect this weekend.

ATLRetro: Tell me about your personal relationship with Sherlock Holmes. How did you first meet him? What’s your favorite story? Favorite film/television adaptation?

Heather Holloway: Sherlock Holmes and I met about three months into Mrs. Bright’s ninth grade English class.  I was 14, and the assignment was to read “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.”  Mrs. Bright told us how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle always knew the ending of the story before he wrote it so he could properly lay out the deductions and clues. That particular point struck me, as I had never given much thought to the plotting and structure of a story. Afterwards, I decided to read the Canon on my own and was pretty much hooked from there on out!

It is so very difficult to pick a favorite story.  I was recently rereading everything with two of the other directors of 221B Con, and it was pointed out that about two minutes into every discussion I would say ”This is one of my favorites!”  I suppose if I’m made to pick I would go with “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.”  It’s so gothic and creepy, complete with a wronged woman and a man, possibly, buried alive.

Heather Holloway. Photo courtesy of Heather Holloway.

Every time someone asks who is my favorite Holmes, I always say “the one in my head.”  It’s very difficult for me to completely get on board with a TV or film Holmes, because I was first introduced through the stories. I have a platonic Holmes and no one has ever completely lived up.  I suppose that is why my favorite film versions are YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES (1985) and WITHOUT A CLUE (1988).  They aren’t really supposed to be Holmes, so I have no cognitive dissonance.

What about the Holmes stories appealed to you, and what about them has made a lasting impression ?

I think the most important thing I have ever taken from the Holmes stories, and what sticks with me the most, is that prejudice is the death of mind.  Holmes observes, he doesn’t prejudge or allow petty beliefs to interfere with his process.  He takes what he sees at face value and interpolates from there.  If you believe you know the answer before weighing the evidence, you have already lost.  I think it’s a lesson many people today could stand to learn.

It’s been said that Mickey Mouse, Superman and Sherlock Holmes are the most widely known fictional characters in history. More than 100 years later, what makes Holmes relevant to a modern audience? Why has he not only survived, but thrived?

Sherlock Holmes is, to me, the great modern hero. There is nothing immortal or superhuman about his abilities. He has an approachable genius. He never claims others can’t mimic his abilities. While you might not see it at first, after a possibly condescending, explanation you realize that you could have seen it.  Sherlock Holmes will be beloved so long as society admires effort and genius.

Why a Holmes convention?

Sherlock Holmes fans have been banding together for years. The only thing unique about 221B Con is the fact that it is a con.  Most gatherings, while a ton of fun, are more academic in nature; big catered dinners and keynote addresses. The other convention directors and I wanted an event with a more relaxed atmosphere.  We wanted regular fans to be able to speak, not just professors and biographers. Hopefully, we’ve hit a happy medium between fandom and academia.

What will happen at 221B Con? Who are the guests and speakers? How can people get more information?

We have over 40 hours of programming scheduled, including a live podcast by The Baker Street Babes, a performance by the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company and dozens of wonderful panels.  We will be joined by several author guests including the Edgar Award-nominated author Lyndsay Faye.  You can visit www.221bcon.com for more information, or follow us on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

Lucy Liu as Watson and Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes in CBS's ELEMENTARY.

Finally, it all comes down to this, doesn’t it – Benedict Cumberbatch or Johnny Lee Miller?

Benedict Cumberbatch FTW.

Anthony Taylor is a writer and an expert on retro-futurism, classic science fiction and horror films and television, and genre collectibles. He is the author of ARCTIC ADVENTURE!, an official Thunderbirds™ novel based on the iconic British television series by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. His website is http://Taylorcosm.com.

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