I think it's time to build a funeral pyre for my copy of Conan Doyle's Stories for Boys.
Every one of the two novels and four short stories between its covers is a Sherlock Holmes story, and after Sunday's revision of "The Empty House," I think we can safely say those stories aren't just for boys any more. I'd add "if they ever were," if not for Conan Doyle's own words:
I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who's half a man,
Or the man who's half a boy.
Conan Doyle is a bit like the Bible in that people tend to pick and choose from his words. They love to cite that "You may marry him, murder him . . ." quote about Holmes as license to get Holmes a'romancing, but Doyle's seeming master plan to give joy to just the male of the species? Not so much.
And oh, how the times have changed. The focus of "The Empty Hearse" was the post-Reichenbach reunion of Holmes and Watson, of course, but this time we're less focussed on the "whys" and "hows" and more on reconciling Watson's feelings on the matter. Watson is plainly more upset about Holmes's treatment of him than he's ever been.
True, that kettle has been boiling with readers for a long time . . . but not Doyle's "boy" readers, whom the publishing industry catered to even just fifty years ago. The literary landscape is a very different one now, where a tween romance novel can kick the ass of anything else on the shelves in sales. The pendulum swings, and the swing is toward adding one more leg to the "Y" in "XY."
Would we have had "Empty Hearse" as it exists, were it not for a largely female fandom, if Conan Doyle's tales were still seen as "for boys?" Of course not, just as we wouldn't have seen Laurie King's Mary Russell series be such a success if there wasn't a desire among readers for a strong female figure in Sherlock Holmes's life. In "Empty Hearse," Watson became the stand-in for a more female reaction to Holmes's leaving without saying good-bye. I'm sure many a guy watching that show was going, "Yeah, the beat-downs are funny, but why doesn't he just get over it?"
Gender identity is a sliding scale, of course, and I realize I'm looking for a beatdown myself in suggesting that anything is more of a masculine or feminine reaction. But as I said at the start, it's definitely not Conan Doyle's Stories for Boys any more.
And it's definitely going to make things a lot more interesting, as it has already.