Arthur Conan Doyles’ Sherlock Holmes series was one of the first pieces of literature I read directly in English. So it figures that these great detective stories, and all their contemporary iterations, are particularly dear to my heart.
Since summer 2010, re-reading Sherlock Holmes has had a new purpose beyond improving my language grasp: figuring out what Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat would include in their next BBC Sherlock series.
The Baker Street Babes podcast, blog and community of Holmesians has been a key part of my (often unsuccessful) attempts at forecasting spoilers.
I asked Kristina Manente, one of the founders and the main editor of the podcast, how she kept abreast of the latest news in the Holmesian world, how much work went into each show and her thoughts on the recurrent sexism charges levied against the Holmes stories.
As Series 3 of Sherlock was being broadcast in the UK, you recorded and published episode-centered podcasts really quickly. Run us through your process to do these?
It’s a little different based on the episode. I managed to see all the episodes before they aired through either screenings or being given access, but we’re a collaborative podcast, so we couldn’t record until everyone had seen it.
For The Empty Hearse and His Last Vow, we recorded the day after, as early as many of us were able to do it. This gave us enough time to digest the episode and possibly re-watch it a few times to get all the nuances and little tidbits that we wanted to talk about. As soon as we finished recording, I went into speed-editing mode and would immediately go through the recording, taking bits out that weren’t necessary and putting it all together. We managed to get The Empty Hearse episode out within twenty-four hours of it airing. His Last Vow took a little longer, but it was definitely out within a day and a half.
The Sign of Three was different because we were given access to the episode for review purposes a few days before it aired. So we were all able to watch and rewatch it a few times and then record the episode before it had even aired. That’s a luxury, but it was really useful as we could put up the written review and our podcast review right after it aired. People were amazed at how fast we were…I didn’t spoil the illusion for them!
Now run us through how you pick your topics and prepare your podcasts when there is no series being broadcast?
It’s based on what we’re interested in talking about or if there’s something happening in the Holmesian world. We’re in post-series interviews at the moment and we’ve got a few set up. It’s nice to talk to people involved in the production of the various adaptations when it’s off air because they usually have more time and can talk freely about it since everything has aired.
We keep trying to go back to the canon as much as we can and like to do character appreciation episodes. We had our followers vote on who they wanted us to talk about and Lestrade won the first round. Mrs. Hudson is up next.
We have a massive list of things to talk about, and a lot of the time they get pushed to the side because something else will happen, whether it’s a new book or a Kickstarter that’s relevant to our interests, etc.
The Baker Street Babes website also hosts a blog where you write about all things Sherlock Holmes. How do the writing and podcast complement each other, both for the reader and in terms of how you prepare them?
Our Tumblr blog is constantly pouring out content. It’s on a queue most of the time, though if certain episodes are airing or we’ve done a podcast about something in particular, we’ll manually blog in relation to that.
Our website blog is more tailored to complement the podcast itself. We do a lot of reviews on the website and if we’re having an author on the show we get the review of their book out before the episode airs, to drum up interest and give people the chance to read it if they haven’t already.
We haven’t written a huge amount of articles at the moment, but a few are planned, and we always take guest submissions.
There are quite a few of you on the team. How do you split the workload?
In general, I handle most of the social media and general PR. There’s a Tumblr team (Lyndsay, Maria, and Kafers). We have a dedicated review team who write all the reviews (Amy, Liz, Ardy, Sarah, and Maria). I’m the chief editor, but a few of the other girls are trained in audio editing. Kafers and Liz handle some of the graphic and video work, though we also have a selection of graphic artists we use who have volunteered from fandom. We’re good about sharing information and asking for help from others and pitching ideas and deciding things as a collective body. We operate in a very flexible manner, I think.
If it’s a piece of Sherlock Holmes news, you cover it in the podcast. There’s been podcast dedicated to Mastermind, Elementary, comic books, more recently the Finger Slip webseries Kickstarter campaign etc. How do you keep track of the news and what is your relationship with PRs?
We get sent things quite often actually, which is nice. There’s a joke amongst us that I sort of know everything that’s happening all the time. I think it’s because I’m so addicted to Twitter and everything seems to appear there first, so it’s a nice surprise when we’re sent something I haven’t heard of. Since I’m head of PR and responsible for setting up a large portion of our interviews, I do inquire after a lot of things. Also, a lot of tips come in from our followers and listeners who are like, “oh, have you heard about this?”, suggesting we do an episode or write about something. It’s really nice to have that input.
How has The Baker Street Babes evolved since its first podcast in May 2011?
We’ve gotten bigger! We started with seven and now are up to eleven. Some members have left and others were invited to join. I think we’ve all grown a lot in terms of presenting and especially interviewing. I cringe listening back to some of our earlier episodes. For the past few months I’ve been doing an MA in Radio and I have learned so much, so I’d like to think the actual audio quality and editing of the podcast has gone up quite a bit. We’re experimenting more too now, doing live reports from conventions, adding some music in… It’s constantly evolving, and it’s a giant learning experience as well as edging towards a professional one, which is lovely. I can’t believe it’ll be three years this May.
You’re incredibly active across social media platforms, Twitter, Tumblr etc. How does it fit in with your podcasts and what’s your strategy for them?
Interaction with followers is the big thing. We love that, and we keep Twitter and Tumblr particularly active in order to facilitate that relationship. Also, those platforms the best ways to spread information and share news because of how easy things are to spread. We obviously share our podcasts through these mediums, but we also ask for topic ideas, questions for interviews, feedback, etc. They’re very open channels, so it’s easy to get responses and I think it’s mutually beneficial.
Organising fan-aimed events seems to be an increasingly important part of The Baker Street Babes. What was the motivation behind starting and how are you planning to evolve it?
I always loved throwing parties, so it just seemed like the next logical step to throw fandom parties. We started with just meet-ups for fans and it quickly evolved to things like Sherlopolooza (Sherlock Series 2 screening in Leicester Square) and the Daintiest Thing Under A Charity Balls (raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project during the Baker Street Irregular Weekend).
SherlockeDCC was insane and it was so much bigger than I thought it would be. When we started planning, it was just going to be a little meet-up, and then it just kept… growing. I underestimated how massive SDCC was, and suddenly we were being listed in all these event guides for what to do at SDCC and I felt the pressure of just needing to deliver. I think we did. We sold out at 400 people and Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, Mark Gatiss, and the PBS and BBC Worldwide teams showed up, as well as quite a few other big names in the geek world. It was an absolutely mad night, but we’re doing it again and want to make it even better. We have lots of ideas planned, but as ever, timing and how to raise the money are always the two big things to figure out!
There have been many accusations of sexism levied at Sherlock Holmes, whether the original short stories and novels or the BBC scripts. As the only women-only Sherlockian podcast what’s your reaction?
The original stories were written in a time when women were seen as sub-par, and as Sherlock Holmes was written as a contemporary hero, one can hardly blame him. He’s a product of his time. He didn’t wholly hate women though, he just distrusted a number of them. It’s because we’re so crafty and think differently to men on many levels. It was something that I don’t think Holmes could wholly understand.
As with the BBC series, I don’t personally see it. I know some of the other girls do on occasion. It’s all subjective and personal and it’s good that we have a chance to discuss these things. I’ve had conversations with some of the girls and we’ve debated and agreed to disagree or have changed each other’s minds. It happens. We’ve experienced sexism quite a lot, and we’ve risen against it, we’ve debated it and posted about it and we’ve come out stronger for it. I think the important thing is to not only to discuss it, if you think it necessary, but to come out stronger. It’s a fight we’ll all, as women, have to continue fighting, and fight we will.