Saturday, July 21, 2018

No surprises from Conan Doyle.

This week's out-of-the-blue moments included one sudden twist where a creator on the verge of producing a third installment of a much-beloved series was yanked from doing so due to a scandalous tid-bit from his past.

If you're not familiar with James Gunn being pulled from the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie, imagine it in Doylean terms. What if Conan Doyle was on the verge of writing "The Empty House" when a visitor to his home discovered the manuscript to Angels of Darkness, took it to the publishers of The Strand Magazine, and they went "OMG, we're taking Conan Doyle off Sherlock Holmes, because we can't be seen supporting anyone who ever published such racist attempts at humor!"

Yes, Sherlock Holmes was a creator-owned property, way back before corporations knew "intellectual property" was something they could hoard, so that couldn't have happened to ACD. And even now, authors of original material like J.K. Rowling still have their rights in hand. But the James Gunn firing really brings out the flaw in corporate ownership of creative works.

If J.K. Rowling was suddenly revealed to be an outright Nazi, and wrote a new Harry Potter book which some publisher interesting in profits would undoubtedly publish, we would all be faced with a dilemma: Do we find Rowling's new Nazi-ism offensive enough to avoid new Potter? But the choice would be ours, just as it is with every single Sherlock Holmes book out there. We can't control what creators create, as much as many a fan might like to these days, but we still can consume or not consume media as we please. There has never been so much choice.

And Sherlock Holmes is currently a character who offers us plenty of choices.

There was an attempt or two to make Sherlock Holmes an intellectual property completely controlled by a business entity in the past, and we were lucky enough to see those fail. Whether or not those entities would have tried to take creative control as well as getting their percent of the profits, we'll never know. But what we do know is this: At this point, we're probably not getting any surprises about the character or past behaviors of Conan Doyle.

Should he become celebrated enough at any given moment, the racist attempts at humor and the strong beliefs in ghosts and fairies might get some trending hashtags, but we're probably not going to see Sherlock Holmes and his original stories pushed out of the public eye due to them.

It's actually possible, at this point, to decide for yourself that Conan Doyle was an asshole whose work you never want to read, and still read/watch Sherlock Holmes. And while there are some Sherlockian hardliners who will tell you that you can't possibly enjoy Holmes without reading the originals, that's not really the case. You can deny Conan Doyle completely and still enjoy reading Laurie King, watching Elementary, or just listening to the Three Patch podcast. That choice, however, is yours and yours alone.

I'm a little sad that James Gunn won't get to complete a trilogy for those minor comic book characters he brought to prominence in Guardians of the Galaxy. One hopes someone with the talents of Taika Waititi can fill those shoes adequately. But fortunately, we'll never have to worry about that sort of sea change with the original Sherlock Holmes at this point. (Some modern versions, maybe.)

And Conan Doyle? Really don't think he'll be turning out to be Jack the Ripper at this point.

It's been tried.

1 comment:

  1. I can't take issue with anything you've said here other than enjoying the Mary Russell books, which are not my glass of tea.