Public domain mythology

Last year I read “Lonesome Dove,” by Larry McMurtry. It took me much of the year. It’s a looooooong book. Then we watched the series. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed many Westerns.

After finishing my mini-Lonesome Dove binge, I got to thinking about shared mythology and folklore. 75 years ago, the US had Westerns, and we exported those to the rest of the world. Anybody could create a story featuring Wyatt Earp as hero, or set in Dodge City, and plug into an existing framework.

You didn’t have to pay for it, or ask permission.

Now our shared mythology is all Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, LoTR and the Marvel and DC superhero universes. It’s all owned by big companies. Creators and fans are sharecroppers on other people’s land.

Sure, Westerns were racist, imperialist, sexist, and heteronormative. But we lost something valuable when we traded them for corporate licensed intellectual property.

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