Rating 12 (vaguely obscene food references)
The Sherlock Holmes Picnic this year included a fabulous mystery competition that had us charging all over Regent's Park to solve a murder set in an AU in which Sherlock and John are real. In this AU, the Sherlock RPF picnic also took place in Regent's Park, featuring a cast of deluded and sometimes dangerous fans, many of whom you may recognise from the Fandom_Wank report.
Also present, however, was the world's most clueless Sherlock RPF fan, Miss Mary Sutherland. What follows is her account of the day.
(Note: this fic does not contain major spoilers for the murder mystery. It contains minor spoilers, but only in the way that a haystack contains a needle: as the results of the competition indicate, Mary Sue Sutherland can't spot an important clue if it comes along and bites her on the ankle).
From: Mary Sue Sutherland <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: SherlockHat [e-mail redacted]
Sent: Saturday, 20 July 2013, 22:24
Subject: Re: Sherlock picnic 2013
You said you wanted me to tell you the highlights of the Sherlock RPF picnic, so you could do another one of your parodies, but it was beyond parody this time. Going to a conference on the care of municipal archives sounds a lot more fun; I'd have gladly swapped places with you. But I've been going to the picnic every year, and having signed up for this year's one before Laptopgate, I thought it'd look suspicious if I didn't show up at all. My plan was to go along for a bit and then invent the need for an urgent trip to the Warburg Library if I decided to sneak off early.
I'd managed to keep a low profile online about Laptopgate (helped by the fact that even though I was recruit number 5 to CAMSIC, I'm still pretty much a no-name-fan in most quarters), but I knew I was going to have to take sides at the picnic. Which meant sticking up for Delstalker, even though you know what I think about her and about "Cold and Broken Hallelujah". (BTW, have you got any further with "You Don't Really Care For Fanfic, Do Ya?" It has to be finished, even if you then need to change your name and retreat into your archives for ten years to avoid the resulting flack).
That's the point, after all: Delstalker may have written a fic I loathe, but that doesn't mean she's responsible for people's over the top reactions to it. And I don't think it was trolling: she strikes me as absolutely sincere in her belief that Sherlock getting himself stupidly killed was the best kind of ending ever. (I do sometimes wish I could round up half of all fanficcers into re-education camps and explain to them that a good relationship involves two happy people treating each other without emotional cruelty, and why can't they write something like that for a change?)
But anyhow, you wanted to hear about the picnic. I ignored Annie's request for cupcakes, because there's only so much sugar anyone can eat, and I took along some cheese straws. Not in the shape of anything, because I am a writer, not a baker, and it was hard enough just avoiding burning them. I got there quite early, only to find no sign of Annie. But Del was there, so it was just as well I had my CAMSIC T-shirt on. Only, of course, she said it was last year's T-shirt and why didn't I buy this year's one from the store? I said I tried to make all my clothes last several years, and she said it showed (!!)
And then I got the expected interrogation about why I hadn't left comments on "Hallelujah" and what I thought of it. I gave her some vague reply about never being good at putting things in comments, and that I had found her fic very thought-provoking. I didn't say, obviously, that the main thoughts were "God, how much Sherlock would hate this romantic crap" and "John Watson writes more coherent paragraphs than Del". I really don't see why people want to turn Sherlock Holmes, who I know from meeting him is both brilliant and a prick, into some kind of emotional idiot. His eyes and his coat are really not the most interesting thing about him.
But anyhow, having, I hoped, satisfied Del, who wants acclaim from everyone, even someone she despises like me, I looked around to see who else was there. I spotted a rather uncomfortable looking bloke in a rugby shirt sitting in his own, so I wondered if he was a newbie and needed introducing to people. It turned out, however, that he was the legendary Charlie, who was a lot less appealing than Annie had made him out to be. In fact I can't really understand what she sees in him: he comes across as spectacularly boring. I also can't understand why she had thought it was a good thing dragging him along to the picnic and then abandoning him. Meeting a load of RPFers en masse isn't really a good idea for Muggles, especially when we were all starting to get hyped up on sugar and slash talk. I did manage to do Charlie one favour and divert Kate Kissinger from her obvious descent on him. Definitely taking one for the team, especially as she'd brought along penis-shaped cupcakes. (Don't ask! Please don't ask! I almost joined "They're Just Friends" on the spot from the squick alone).
I got about quarter of an hour of theories from Kate, which wasn't as bad as I expected, because I got her onto Mycroft. Since I've actually talked to him (you remember the affair of the dead cat fic), I'm quite prepared to believe the worst about him, however implausible. And I did quite like the idea that he was actually a lizard, though I'm not sure how that squares with him also being a descendant from the Merovingian royal family. (And frankly, Mycroft's a lot brighter than Clovis or Dagobert ever were).
After that, I managed to find I'm Not Your Shipper and SpeedyWoman and we had a nice peaceful chat about gender roles and the awesomeness of Mrs Hudson. Not Your said she was think of writing an AU in which it's actually Mrs Hudson who solves all the crimes using Sherlock as a front, because no-one takes older women seriously. (She thought of it as Miss Marple meets Remington Steele). I'm always a bit twitchy about RPF AUs, but she was making quite a lot of decent points about levels of reality which ties in with your ideas about parody and roman-à-clef as political weapons (because, of course, the personal is always political for women, isn't it? You can't hear the DS Donovan haters without realising that).
Anyhow, we had an intelligent and sensible conversation for quite a long time, which is completely unsuitable for parody by you, and then we got ambushed by Parma Violet, who apparently thinks that trolling online isn't enough and that a true troll works in person. I always find her mind-bendingly frustrating, because she makes one or two good points, but if you agree with her on those she thinks you are ripe for conversion to her whole worldview. There are options in between the people who want to kidnap John Watson and force him to write slash and those who are practically stalking John's girlfriends to prove he's not gay. (I almost suggested that Violet kidnap John and wire him to a plethysmograph to check that he wasn't, but that would be completely unethical. Though I am now tempted to write a fic in which Sherlock does that to John in order to get baseline data for some case and then gets a surprise at how John reacts to him. Or is that a borderline creepy thought? When I hang around too much with the other RPFers, it gets hard to tell).
I had presumed that Violet was targeting people at random, but it turned out she'd read my Clara fic (The Solitary Fish-Cyclist) in which I hypothesise that Sherlock might be asexual. I know I'm not the first person to suggest that, but I think I'm probably the only member of CAMSIC who has done so recently, so she was pleased about that. Until I pointed out that saying Sherlock was asexual when he might not be was no less disrespectful than saying he was gay when he might not be, unless you were automatically thinking that being gay was wrong. At which point we got the usual tedious attempt by Violet to prove she isn't a homophobe. (I always feel she's protesting a bit too much, though I've no idea why. Maybe she secretly lusts after Del?)
Violet lost interest in me after a bit, and I realised that this was because Annie had finally turned up, and the queue to talk to her was promptly developing. This is the bit where I get reminded of school, because Annie is the popular girl this year and you can see it driving Del wild that she's not top anymore. I've always hated that kind of cliquey stuff, so I went off to talk to Natasha. Whom I admire not because she's got a publishing deal, but because she's a genuinely good writer. I do my best not to envy her success, even though there are times when she makes me feel I want to delete all my work and start again from scratch. But our styles are just so different that I'm probably better off trying to write as well as I can as Mary Sutherland rather than be another Sedimentary clone. It certainly took Annie a long enough time to find her own voice after writing together with Tash.
Since I knew you'd want the gossip, I did ask Tash what was the deal about her having to take down her previous stories from the net, and got something of a rant. As you suspected, Annie is refusing to allow her to do that and the sticking point is the shared stories. I suggested to Tash that she just let Annie take the whole credit for them, but that didn't go down well. I suppose since "Sherlock on the Buses" is the fic that first captured Sherlock's voice, it's not surprising that Tash is reluctant to abandon her baby. But I think she will in the end, because the publishers are insisting on it, and there must be some way of buying Annie off (possibly even literally). Tash is sensible enough to realise that, surely?
I decided after a while that I'd better distract Tash from her (justified) complaints about Annie, so I asked her about cupcakes. She said she'd just brought some chocolate ones from Tescos (having had to go herself at the last minute to get them, because her husband had bought chocolate brownies instead). That made me feel less bad about the cheese straws and we got into a discussion of the best and worst of the homemade cakes. I thought the CAMSIC ones had actually been quite clever and I also liked the look of the ones with the green gun iced on the top (though that turned out to be peppermint, when I ate it, which isn't my favourite). Tash said Kiss' penis cakes had been surprisingly good and actually not as worrying as some of the other ones around. That surprised me, because most of the rest of the designs had been relatively tame: red pants and poison pills and moustaches and the like. But Tash said someone had come with a cupcake with Annie's name actually written on it in icing.
I said that must be April, and was she really still trying to get Annie involved in her Mystrade community? I think April must have asked everyone to come and help her with it now: she even tried to get me involved at one point, although I've always made it clear to her what I think about Mycroft. (And yes, that is another reason why I was trying to avoid April even before the laptop affair. Good deduction, that. Because though I do feel a bit sorry for her – she has a rotten time in RL – she is completely unsuitable for any community except care in the community).
I'm sorry, that's getting very bitchy, but Flame's combination of intensity and helplessness always makes me uncomfortable. But Tash was saying that Annie now has another over-enthusiastic follower. I don't know where she finds them all. There was foxycop getting all peculiar about her and then April, and even Parma Violet, in an odd way, is more obsessed than Annie than you'd expect, given that Del's still head of CAMSIC. The new one is called something unmemorable, like Fan29, and no-one knows who she is, but Tash advised Annie to block her when she started posting repeatedly on all of Annie's fics.
I asked the obvious question about whether Fan29 was really a sock puppet of Annie, but Tash said no, it was definitely someone else, because she was obviously more medically knowledgeable than Annie. I asked her how she knew that, and she had some complicated argument about Annie getting details of blood-flow in The Software Engineer's Thumb completely wrong and Fan29 trying to defend her, even though she obviously knew the difference between venous and arterial bleeding. Honestly, if you want to know all the sordid details, you should probably e-mail Tash. I kept on getting the feeling that she had more to spill about Annie if I'd just known the magic words. Anyhow, the main point is that Annie has another huge fan and there will doubtless now be further ructions in the fandom about who is Annie's Best Friend Forever.
By that point I was starting to get a headache, because the whole thing was so complicated that it needed diagrams. You enjoy these kind of fights: I don't. Though I suppose that if I'm in a fandom devoted to a man who is always convinced that he and he alone is right and possessing no social tact whatsoever, I shouldn't be surprised if that influences the fans. I decided I'd sit down and relax and not over-think things, and I managed to find some people who were perfectly happy to discuss Dr Watson's apparent problems in reading a calendar correctly. (What is it with that man and his inability to get to grips with dates? Double-entendre entirely intended).
So I was finally unwinding and then along came the sugary straw that broke the camel's back. Someone had made cupcakes decorated with a crossed out "RPF", alongside an almond. A person conducting a feud via cakes with a nut on the top; doesn't that kind of food fight just sum up Sherlock RPF? I had to get out of there before it did my head in completely.
I didn't even stop to say goodbye to Not Your and SpeedyWoman and the rest – and Annie was still far too busy to approach and thank for organising the picnic. I was across the Clarence Bridge practically at a run, and when I looked at my watch as I left Regent's Park I saw it was 2 p.m. I'd managed fractionally under two hours talking to Sherlock RPFs and I was already worrying about my sanity. I headed for Baker Street tube, staying well clear of Speedy's, and went straight home.
E and E were still out on their cycling trip when i got back, so I did what you've been urging me to do and watched a couple more episodes of The White Queen on the BBC iPlayer. Funny how RPF is suddenly completely acceptable when it's all heterosexual and about dead royalty, isn't it? But I didn't spot the actor you claim looks like DI Lestrade. Are you sure you're not just making that up? I can't believe that any upper class twerp called Rupert and playing a lord is going to look much like the Silver Fox of the Yard. Will have to stop for the moment because it sounds like the cyclists returning and I'd better hear how they got on.
The two Es ended up cycling for 32 miles, though they didn't get a swim because the tide in the Wash was too far out. I'm not sure Big E will ever be able to move again. I just said I'd left the picnic early because I got a bit tired talking to people and he didn't ask further. He's much happier if I don't mention the word "slash" and I know he always worries about me going off to these events. Still, I suppose this year's was relatively uneventful; no bizarre accidents or near-death experiences, unlike previous years. Even Laptopgate seems like a storm in a cupcake now I'm back home. Doubtless if you read all the LJ accounts of the picnic, you'll find there were more arguments after I'd gone, but it's all small stuff. Basically the fandom is about celebrating friendship and dreaming of being clever enough to solve crimes and we can all do that. On that cheery note I'll leave you, and good luck with finding something lurid enough for your next fandom parody.
From: MGH [e-mail redacted]
To: AZ [e-mail redacted]
Sent: Sunday, 21 July 2013, 04:34
Subject: Re: Death of Annabel Keele
I know I told you to get GCHQ checking yesterday's PRISM data urgently regarding the demise of Ms Keele, but why on earth did you send me this? The NSA's algorithms may not be smart enough to recognise that I could not possibly want to read anything by Ms Sutherland, but you ought to know that by now. Even if she had been on the scene at the relevant time, she would not have observed anything of use; she never does.
Let me make this clear: I want accounts by people alert enough to spot what actually happened and I want them immediately. We have to get this death solved before the media pick up on the Sherlock connection. He obviously cannot be involved in the case himself, given that "Death by Squee" is now a recognised phenomenon, and the police have already shown themselves to be thoroughly untrustworthy in this matter.
Provided I can get reports from as many of those present at the picnic as possible, I have no doubt I will be able to solve the case promptly: it is only the legwork involved that keeps me from being a detective genius. Prancing around Regent's Park for three hours in summer is not my idea of fun. What I need now is not sentimental tosh about friendship from a short-sighted academic: send me a gigabyte's worth of RPF gossip and not only will I find the murderer, I may have the opportunity to close down CAMSIC at last. And you know what I'm prepared to do to achieve that.
PS: the above e-mail does, however, confirm that your betaing for Ms Delamare has been a considerable success. I remain grateful that you persuaded her to the "tragic" rewrite of Chapter 96 of "Hallelujah"; we may yet destroy the RPFers from within. That is, if they don't all slaughter each other first!