Dear friends, I survived GridLOCK DC 2015! In this post, I am going to attempt to review the experience, from soup to nuts, as far as I can. I just returned home tonight, and I want to do this while I’m relatively in the moment of the experience, but that might mean there will be a few ETAs over the next day or so.
(For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to leave travel details until tomorrow. They may be quite relevant to others in the future, but they aren’t germane — for the most part — to my convention experience.)
Rather than approach this chronologically, I’d like to go by “The Good, Bad, and the Ugly.” Which is really “The Awesome, the Good, and the Questionable.” Let me also say that while I have attended many scion-related events, I have never been to a Sherlock Holmes convention. I have been to many comic book conventions (most notably San Diego Comic Con and New York City Comic Con), however.
This is long, and there is no teal deer.
- Location: The Hyatt Regency Bethesda was really lovely for me. The staff was helpful and cheerful, even as I was experiencing technical difficulties projecting my presentation (the GridLOCK staff was excellent as well, but more on them later). Bethesda is lovely, and ScarletSherlock and I added an extra day to our trip to take advantage of touring Washington DC. So overall, gold star.
- Several Panels: While there were some pockets of time where there were no panels of interest to me, there were several I attended that were really excellent.
- Julianne Burke gave an excellent presentation titled, “Sherlock Holmes in Pennsylvania- What Really Happened in Valley of Fear.” First, much of the information Burke delivered was new to me, but — maybe even more significant — she was personally invested in the history being (mis)represented in VALL. Burke is passionate and engaging, but also funny and wry. I came away wanting to hear a LOT more from her (I feel like this hour just scratched the surface!), but I also felt a mandate to go visit the real Valley of Fear and see the land for myself.
- “The Game’s Afoot: Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare” featured AitB’s own ScarletSherlock and Abby (queerwatson). This panel made me really appreciate the excellent attendees at this convention. We had a very lively discussion that was at once academic with quotes and literary connections, and simultaneously hilarious. I dearly love mixing learning and laughing, and I was so impressed by how much the audience was ready to participate with humor and enthusiasm.
- “The Greatest of Granada” was my first opportunity to sit down for an hour and hear people wax poetic about that excellent series. There was laughter and some misty eyes as the panelists and audience members shared favorite episodes and scenes. Maybe there wasn’t super film analysis going on, but it felt like a warm communal FEEL of epic proportions.
- Amanda Mills is becoming one of my favorite presenters. She was one of the two presenters on a powerful panel called “Neurodiversity in Sherlock.” This might have been my favorite panel (even including the two in which I participated!). I really appreciate the way Mills approaches subjects that can be confusing or even unknown to people, such as autism and other examples of neurodiversity, such as bipolar disorder and sociopathy. She speaks clearly, concisely and with authority, but she is quick to contextualize her responses with relevant peer-reviewed data and the caveat that she can only speak for her own experiences. As an audience member, I felt very welcomed to ask questions and contribute ideas (mostly I just clapped and laughed and hummmmmed in interest).
- “McKellen’s Mr. Holmes” — now, I’m not just happy about this panel because I won a poster. BUT I DID WIN A POSTER! Lynne (Meirigal on Tumblr/Twitter) gave me some serious ideas to ponder regarding the film (I did not like it on first viewing). ScarletSherlock also did a wonderful job on the panel, and I hope she’ll help me develop a post here about the connections between “Mr. Holmes” and SCAN, because, as I said on Twitter that moment, my mind was BLOWN at that suggestion!
- Vendors: I’ve seen some criticism that the vendor’s room was pretty one-note, and that’s true. It was pretty much wall-to-wall BBC Sherlock. So, why did I love it? Because of the individual artists and craftspersons themselves. I collect Holmesian artwork — it’s my crack. I can’t help myself but want to lay down hard cash. It’s not a huge secret, though, that I do not lurve BBC Sherlock, so at first blush, I was pretty crushed by the vendor’s room. I was initially excited, because I knew there would be a slew of artists, and I was pretty bummed to see that everything was one big Cumberbatch. HOWEVER, I started walking around, and I was so impressed by the level of skill. Truly breathtaking. Several artists were offering commissions, and I gingerly approached them. I walked up to a table with a sign that said “Cumbertrash,” and I asked the artist to create her own idea of Sherlock Holmes, as long as it wasn’t Benedict Cumberbatch. I think I stunned her at first, but she seriously couldn’t have been kinder to me, or more enthusiastic. She asked me if I minded if it was a contemporary Holmes, and I said that as long as it was her unique vision of Sherlock Holmes, I would be in heaven. A few hours later, when I picked up my treasure, I couldn’t have been more pleased. Absolutely precious, beautifully done, and utterly one-of-a-kind. With his hair bun, pink scarf, flowers and personal bee, he’s literally gorgeous! I can’t wait to put him up next to outsider artist Gus Fink’s Worm Holmes on my wall! I was able to get another commission as well — again, a very unique Holmes that feels very personal to me. Just because it wasn’t overt didn’t mean that these talented people couldn’t create phenomenal works just for me. I came away thoroughly thrilled.
- Cosplayers: As I said, I’ve been to many comic cons, so cosplay is nothing new to me. I actually love looking at other people’s creativity and craftsmanship, even though I have never participated (and have no plans to do so). Much of the cosplaying in the Sherlock fandom is derived from fandom, and even more specifically, from Tumblr (I’m looking at you, John’s Red Pants, John’s Jam, Cake!Croft, and TunaLock). That can make it rather confusing and off-putting for old school Sherlockians. And yet, once again, good people overcome awkward circumstances. All day on Saturday, I kept seeing a young person dressed in beautiful, historical regal garb, complete with crown and cape. It seemed, though, that their face was powdered pale, and they donned a curly black wig. So, obviously Cumberbatch!Holmes in … what? HUH? Finally, Saturday night, they were walking past me and I lept at the chance. I ran over and said, “Excuse me, I just want to say that your costume is gorgeous but I have absolutely no idea who you are and could you please help because it’s sort of driving me crazy?” They smiled and laughed, and thanked me. They’d actually handmade the costume off of a pattern, using that gorgeous plum color like the BBC costume and black/silver in the doublet. Un-flipping-real. Then they said they were “Prince Sherlock,” just because they could be. And I was completely charmed. I took a picture and a little video of them posing and being totally in character.
- Fellowship: Visiting with old and new friends is priceless. Most scion events that I attend run only a few hours, and there’s so much to pack into those hours that I always think, as I head home, “Oh hell, I didn’t even say howdy to him and her!” Conventions like GridLOCK gives me a chance to enjoy the company of other Holmesians for hours, nay DAYS, on end! That’s pretty excellent. I’ve known ScarletSherlock for about 12 years now, but it’s still a rare opportunity for us to see each other in the flesh. I met several new folks at Scintillation in June who were there at GridLOCK, and now I’ve met even more cool cats here at GridLOCK. We got to share digs, meals, panels and shopping together at our leisure. Irreplaceable.
- Sherlock Holmes Goes Burlesque: On Friday night, many of the GridLOCK attendees had an opportunity to enjoy a fantastic burlesque show! Now, the organization of getting to said show, and the fact that we did not have actual seats at said show, was challenging. I would definitely want to have excursions like this be more finely tuned in the future. However, I am a hardy gal, and once the ladies, Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty started getting their groove on, I was screaming myself hoarse. My personal favorite was Ms. Irene Adler, but Watson’s face as Mary took it (almost) all off was worth its weight in gold. 😀
- GridLOCK Staff and Volunteers: All in all, I thought the staff and volunteers did a really good job. I felt that I was being supported as a panelist and that I was regarded as a valuable attendee.
Ethos: I’ve seen this being discussed on Facebook, and I’m glad that I’m not alone in my concern. I’m not entirely sure what this convention wants to be. There are many overt clues that this con is essentially a celebration of BBC Sherlock and fandom. That certainly wasn’t how it was billed — if I would have thought that to be the truth, I most likely wouldn’t have attended. My Holmesian interests are far and wide; I cannot be contained! The reality is that there was enough variety at GridLOCK to hold my interest almost the entire time.
- There were certainly pockets of time where I had no interest in the panels being offered. There were, however, several panels (as listed above) that were fantastic and left me feeling entirely satisfied. The two panels on which I participated were not focused on any one adaptation. Given that this is only the second year for this convention, I think that’s pretty damn good.
- The issue: Does GridLOCK want to be an all-purpose Holmesian experience? If so, things may need to be different for next year. For example, there was only one “Elementary” panel, and that was a last-minute inclusion as another panel was scrapped. Now, the last-minute panelists did a good job, and it turned into a very engaging panel. Helen Davies (from “She-Her-lock” the web series) raised some really interesting points about the show that I rejected at first, but I’ll be damned if she didn’t convince me by the end! If the issue is that those types of panels are simply not being suggested, then I (we, us) need to get on the ball and start dreaming up cool ideas for 2016! I made only one panel suggestion this year, because I’m new to this and I wanted to test the waters. Well, as far as I’m concerned, the water is just fine. It’s time for lots of people to jump in.
- If GridLOCK does want to skew towards BBC Sherlock, however, and diverse panels will be rejected outright, suppressed or sublimated, I want that to be made clear upfront. There are some groups and organizations in this Holmesian community who claim to serve all Holmesian iterations, but they really skew one way or the other. That’s disingenuous and aggravating. Personally, I hope GridLOCK is just a little toddler of a con, growing and developing into something Holmesians from all walks of life can enjoy (within reason – you can’t please all of the people all of the time).
- If it’s a matter of the staff not getting a plethora of panel suggestions, and a slew of applications to be on those panels, I think that can be helped. I’m no fan of turning this con into an “invitation” based event, where “celebrities” are VIPed in to school the kids. The seeds of awesome are already there. This is only Year Two. Patience is needed, if GridLOCK wants to grow. That’s up to them, and in addition to a written vision statement that lists inclusivity as an objective, I want to see the staff apply practices which encourage and support said inclusivity.
My bottom line: I really enjoyed GridLOCK DC 2015. I think the good absolutely outweighed the less than awesome, and I feel extremely positive about future conventions. I would love for the Powers That Be at GridLOCK to speak clearly about their vision for this convention, so I can know if and how I can be of service in the future. Just two days off of the 2015 con, I really, really want to start planning for 2016.