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Can Anyone Use Sherlock Holmes

author
James Lee
• Thursday, 03 December, 2020
• 8 min read

If it “does literature a great disservice” to carve off bits of it, then how does that not apply to, say, the film version of 12 Years a Slave, which is (inevitably) quite selective in its use of its (public domain) source material? I certainly wish that Brian Amarillo had never gotten his clammy oven mitts on Wonder Woman, and that DC Comics hadn't decided to make a mess of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen.

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Contents

(For examples of this line of argument, just scroll down through the comments in this National Post story about the legal battle over Sherlock Holmes.) Tom Stoppard, for instance, took two minor characters from Hamlet and put them at the center of his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in order to contrast major tragedies with minor ones, and think about the way even stories in the margins can matter.

Similarly, in Longhorn, Jo Baker retold Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the Bennet family servants in order to think about the way that class erases some people's stories. Numerous fan-fiction stories take characters like (ahem) Holmes and Watson and put them in homosexual relationships, revealing and reveling in erotic tensions denied or buried in the original work.

Along the same lines, Alan Moore and Melinda Debbie's Lost Girls turned Wendy of Peter Pan, Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, and Alice of Alice in Wonderland into rutting bisexual fantasies in a pornographic fever dream. Rick Riordan's massively popular Percy Jackson series makes extensive use of Greek mythology, including appearances by Hera, Zeus, Poseidon, and numerous other figures who, of course, are carved off from their original context.

Noah Blavatsky edits the online comics-and-culture website The Hooded Utilitarian and is the author of the book Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Mars ton/Peter Comics, 1941-48. Sherlock Holmes has been around for over one hundred years, and the rights to the characters and stories have gone through a roller coaster.

Created by Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes first appeared in A Study in Scarlet in 1887 and quickly became a hit. In total, there are four novels and 56 short stories documenting the cases solved by Holmes and his friend and biographer John Watson.

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Sherlock Holmes impact and popularity has remained strong for decades, even inspiring other authors to continue his adventures, and with many of his stories being adapted to TV, films, video games, and more. Continue scrolling to keep readingClick the button below to start this article in quick view.

Nonetheless, being in the public domain certainly makes adaptations easier, and Sherlock Holmes popularity is such that he will remain one of the most beloved characters in pop culture no matter how many versions are made for TV, film, stage, and more. She is an Audiovisual Communication graduate that wanted to be a filmmaker, but life had other plans (and it turned out great).

Prior to Screen Rant, she wrote for Pop Wrapped, 4 Your Excitement (4YE), and D20Crit, where she was also a regular guest at Net freaks podcast. But also Caps and Leafs), or wondering what life would have been like had Pushing Daisies, Firefly, and Limitless not been cancelled.

You may not, however, freely describe Dr Watson's own athletic background, the juicy fact of his second marriage or the circumstances of Holmes's retirement. A US district court in Illinois found itself wading into the details of the fictional detective's imaginary life this week in a copyright ruling on a forthcoming collection of original short stories featuring Holmes characters.

An editor of the new book, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, asked the court in effect to enlarge the elements of the Holmes story that are in the public domain. Details from the last ten stories could still be subject to copyright claims by Conan Doyle's descendants, Judge Rubén Castillo ruled on Monday, in a decision that went unnoticed until Friday.

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Castillo cited a 1989 case in which CBS corporation tried to stop a Broadway adaptation featuring Amos 'n' Andy, the central characters of a wildly popular radio program that debuted in 1928. Whether it’s a reimagining in modern dress (like the BBC’s Sherlock or CBS-TV’s Elementary), vigorous interpretations like the Warner Bros fine Sherlock Holmes films, or new stories by countless authors inspired by the characters, people want to celebrate Holmes and Watson.

Linger sought a declaration in the case after his publisher, Pegasus, delayed his book's release pursuant to a legal threat by the Conan Doyle estate. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who died in 1930, introduced Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, which was first published in Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887 and released in the United States in 1890.

Conan Doyle died in 1930, and while the majority of his writing is in the public domain, 10 of his stories about the famous detective remain under copyright in the US. The lawsuit, brought against Netflix, the film’s producers Legendary Pictures, the Nola Holmes author Nancy Springer and others associated with the adaptation, argued that Conan Doyle created “significant new character traits for Holmes and Watson” in the 10 stories still under copyright in the US, which were written between 1923 and 1927.

The estate argued that Holmes was previously depicted by Conan Doyle as “aloof and unemotional”. But when the author lost his son during the first world war, and his brother four months later, “it was no longer enough that the Holmes character was the most brilliant rational and analytical mind.

The suit claimed that Springer’s novels, in which she created a younger sister for Holmes, and the film adaptation starring Millie Bobby Brown in the title role, made “extensive use of the copyrighted stories, which “constitutes willful, deliberate, and ongoing infringement of the Conan Doyle Estate’s copyrights”. I think what they were trying to suggest was, because he was sensitive to his sister and had respect for her, even though he normally in the canonical stories doesn’t have a great deal of time for women, they felt that that was something that they could go with.

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I hope to impart a sense of the importance of these activities, because many of my students will become police officers, attorneys, intelligence analysts, federal agents, and forensic psychologists. Thus, I was delighted to learn about Maria Konnikova’s new book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (Viking).

Konnikova, a psychologist and journalist, writes a column, “Literally Psyched,” for Scientific American. In fact, she goes well beyond anything that Conan Doyle might have known in his day to illuminate Comedian concepts with research from cognitive and neuropsychology.

Konnikova’s point is to use the sophistication of science to demonstrate how, with a bit of mindfulness and discipline, we can all learn to “think like Sherlock Holmes.” Thankfully, there is no attempt in this book, as we’ve seen in recent television series, to set Holmes apart and explain his avoidance of the emotional brain as a “condition” like Asperger’s disorder.

“A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across,” Holmes says to Watson, “so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out…so that he has difficulty in laying his hands on it. Think ahead, clarify your end point, be prepared for options, and develop an effective distancing device.

I’ve been using insights from Holmes for a while, and I appreciate the organized articulation in Mastermind of how any of us can train our brains to emulate the iconic consulting detective. If you wanted to commit a crime, you waited until Holmes was out of town or caught in a potentially fatal battle with Professor James Moriarty before proceeding.

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Sherlock Holmes dedicated a lot of time to “defining the mystery” that needed to be solved. He took all the information he had and created a detailed picture that painted a depiction of what was known, the facts, observations, asking questions, creating list, constructing a hypothesis, analyzing his data, and of course, the unknown.

By creating this list, he made it easier for himself to focus his findings on the facts that actually mattered. Modern law enforcement and private investigators rely on this method today.

When solving large cases, they have boards where each element is lined out and connected, detailed notes that are organized to go back to at a moments notice, and all information found throughout the case saved. Instead of trying to solve irrelevant data that does not pertain to the investigation, Holmes defined the mystery to know which areas to focus the bulk of his energy on.

Nevertheless, whenever he started a case, he approached it with a blank mind, with absolutely no theories formed. A bad detective can develop the lazy habit of relying on patterns and assuming the outcome with little information.

Such assumptions, though based on justifiable data, can easily lead you to the wrong person. Never make any theories until you have collected and analyzed the data on hand.

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To understand the story behind each mystery, you must be able to read the narrative correctly. Fine-tune your detective skills by taking the time to analyze each room that you walk into.

If you believe a person committed a crime, your conclusion must be supported by facts. People who make up a story find it harder to keep the facts in order when they talk for long period of time.

It was only a question of unraveling the mystery behind ‘How.’ As a detective, avoid the mistake of underestimating people. It may be the outcome of uncontrolled passion, ruthless planning, or a combination of both.

Holmes recognized that people were driven by complex emotions, and therefore capable of committing the worst crime given the right stimulus. Assuming that certain suspects do not fit a crime is a mistake many amateurs make.

Of course, Holmes kept the other facts still in his pocket, as you never know when more information is needed. “Knowing how to spot this is the first step to becoming a sleuth detective” says Manhattan private investigator, Darrin Giulio.

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Having a keen eye for detail and strong analytic skills is the key to becoming a good detective. Sherlock Holmes was ruthless at collecting, analyzing, and deducing from information.

Whatever deductions Holmes made, he did it based on the evidence found. As Sherlock pointed out “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence.

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