James Swallow wrote:
Of course, a good writer will try to ensure that their tie-in work doesn't ride roughshod over other tie-in works in the same sphere (and if they do, the line editor should pull them up about it!), but that's often down to the writer to police those details.
Well, that depends. Sometimes a given licensee will try to maintain a unified continuity, and sometimes it won't. Pocket's Trek novels have only occasionally had internovel continuity -- there was the loose continuity that gradually emerged in the early to mid-'80s, and there's the current continuity that began in earnest around the turn of the millennium. But in both cases, there were still novels that stood apart from that continuity by design, and in other times, the policy was for each novel to stand entirely on its own, with no regard for consistency with other books. Lately it seems we're seeing a return to continuity-neutral standalones, at least where TOS is concerned.
Meanwhile, we've got IDW Trek comics, where most of the miniseries stand alone and sometimes contradict one another. The only real continuity they've had between miniseries are in ones written by the same people, like the various John Byrne minis or the Abramsverse comics.
Check out Doctor Who fandom; many of those guys have tied themselves in timey-wimey knots trying to create a coherent continuty from the many differing elements of that mythos...
Whereas I've always felt that continuity didn't matter much in Doctor Who
. The original series was breezily unconcerned with continuity, and it didn't bother them to present three different, incompatible versions of Atlantis over the years or to go back and forth over whether the UNIT stories happened in the near future or the same years they aired. And the new series has made it explicit that time is mutable and constantly rewritten by time travellers, which should make it quite simple to rationalize all the inconsistencies in Who
As for canon and continuity- Canon is subjective, and different for everybody. Some franchises have a single spokesperson who decrees what it is, and others don't, but in any case every member of the audience has their own canon.
But that's not what the word "canon" means. It comes from the church, where the canon was the body of religious writings officially approved by the church, while everything else was apocrypha. Referring to an individual's variant beliefs as canon is a contradiction in terms. Canon, by definition, is the version of a fictional franchise as currently defined by its creators or owners. That definition can change over time, as new creators come in or the original creators rethink things, so it's not about uniform continuity; "canon" simply means that which comes from the official source. The mistake that fans make is assuming that "canon" equals "continuity" or "reality," and that's what leads to the mythical and oxymoronic concept of "personal canon."
I can't speak for others, but I love the interconnectivity. The idea that it's the same Spock from "The Cage" through to "Unification", who gave Selar advice in New Frontier, who legalized the Unification movement in Rough Beasts of Empire, who watched his world die in an alternate past in JJ's Star Trek, is mind-blowingly cool. Yes, there are too many adventures for one lifetime (let alone that first five-year mission!), but I can easily suspend my disbelief about that sort of thing.
If it's suddenly different Spocks... it loses something. I'm not saying it's a deal-breaker, but it's something I'd like maintained where possible.
I don't see why it has to be a choice between one or the other. I love interconnectivity too, but I also love seeing alternative versions of the same idea. I enjoy the creative exercise of tying together a large, interconnected continuity, but I also enjoy the creative exercise of coming up with separate, alternative continuities that couldn't possibly fit together. This is true both in Star Trek
and my original fiction. In Trek, I've enjoyed creating a consistent body of novels and stories and offering models that tied disparate threads of Trek continuity together, but I also quite enjoyed writing my unpublished Abramsverse novel and taking on the fresh challenge of approaching Star Trek
as a nearly blank slate. In my original fiction, I've built an extensive future history and continuity that most of my fiction takes place in, and I've enjoyed developing it and its history and ground rules; but I've also created entirely separate universes with incompatible histories and physical laws, and enjoyed the contrasts, the freedom of getting to do something entirely different.
Developing one unified continuity and establishing multiple variant continuities are simply different ways to be creative, and creativity is what fiction is all about. So why limit yourself by wanting only one approach or the other? I'm glad to have both.
I've always found it odd that Star Wars novels are supposed to be canon, when George Lucas is on record saying that the model of Star Trek's non-canon tie-ins were what he agreed to, and that he considers what happens in the SW novels to be a "parallel universe" to the movies.
I think it was a mistake for the Lucasfilm licensing people to use the word "canon" for the novels and comics at all. It was misleading. Although I guess it wasn't much of a problem back when it seemed that Star Wars
as a screen franchise was over. Then, there was nothing to compete with the books and comics, so it was somewhat valid to treat them as the definitive take. But once SW became an active screen franchise again, the "canon tie-ins" concept no longer made sense.