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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old June 18 2013, 08:35 PM   #61
Idran
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

Christopher wrote: View Post
^Which would be fine if it didn't still simultaneously have a different meaning, leading people to confuse or conflate the two meanings and arrive at some gross misconceptions about how canon works -- like the idea that it's something imposed on both creators and audiences by some nebulously defined higher authority. The problem is that the word is used in multiple different ways at once and that obfuscates the issue.
It's no more obfuscatory than a mathematician referring to something as "normal" when they mean "perpendicular to", or "following a Gaussian distribution". Both situations cause initial problems in subculture/layman interactions, yes, but the solution is to code-switch, not to criticize the subculture for doing what language does all the time. This is how it always works.
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Old June 18 2013, 08:54 PM   #62
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

^It's not about vocabulary. There is so much unnecessary arguing and vitriol about canon based on misunderstandings of how it works, and it's that bitterness and negativity and confusion that are the real problem. I'd have no problem with a shift in definitions if it had a constructive impact or a neutral one, but that's not what I see here. I just lament seeing so many people being angry or frustrated when they don't have to be. It's not about what words they use, it's about the myths they embrace regarding the nature and process of canon, myths that cause all that needless frustration.
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Old June 18 2013, 09:18 PM   #63
Idran
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

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^It's not about vocabulary. There is so much unnecessary arguing and vitriol about canon based on misunderstandings of how it works, and it's that bitterness and negativity and confusion that are the real problem. I'd have no problem with a shift in definitions if it had a constructive impact or a neutral one, but that's not what I see here. I just lament seeing so many people being angry or frustrated when they don't have to be. It's not about what words they use, it's about the myths they embrace regarding the nature and process of canon, myths that cause all that needless frustration.
But what about the people that use canon (by the fandom-jargon definition, which I'll be intending throughout this post) without any anger or frustration? That use canon to mean continuity and don't care when something is out of canon? Most of the fractuous behavior towards canon (in the fandom sense) that you're describing is from the old fandoms when the word was first transitioning over; Star Trek, Star Wars, DC/Marvel, the pre-Internet fandoms largely. It's continued to cause fractuousness in those largely through inertia more than anything. But look at the Avengers fandom, the Buffyverse fandom, Supernatural, Sherlock, Hannibal, the list goes on. Most all modern-origin fandoms talk about canon in the same way as the old guard fandoms, but I've rarely seen anyone worry about something being canon or not the way people do for Trek. The most recent fandoms use canon to mean continuity, yes, but they don't then also embrace canon as the only thing that matters or ignore the worthwhile aspects of non-canon things or fret about what's canon and what isn't. The only time they ever raise the question is when they want to know if a given thing happened in the context of a new story or not.

The anger and frustration you're worried about? It might still happen in some fandoms, but an increasingly vanishing minority. And it's likely in part because of the definition shift, though likely a very small part. I mean, canon=continuity doesn't even really entirely describe how it's used anymore, what with discussion of headcanon and all, people considering tie-in works or even fanworks as on equal footing to them in their own conception of a given fictional universe and all. Describing what "really" happened in a given person's mental construction of the universe. For me, for example, nearly the entire modern novelverse is in canon, while for someone else, it isn't. In the most recently-developed fandoms, canon is far more akin to Grant Morrison's original conception of Hypertime, how each story can pick and choose whatever subset they want amongst all the previous stories for what happened and what didn't, even in a shared universe. Something not contradicting previous continuity, not writing out something that happened before, but rather merely providing a different collection of past events to build from.
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Old June 18 2013, 09:43 PM   #64
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

It still matters to some fans, even outside Trek. It doesn't matter if it's WAREHOUSE 13, THE 4400, UNDERWORLD, or whatever; whenever I do a tie-in book, I can count on getting a few urgent queries from people who really want to know if the books are "canon" or not.

This doesn't seem to be such a big deal on the mainstream side of things. Nobody has ever asked me if my CSI or ALIAS books are canon!
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Old June 18 2013, 09:57 PM   #65
Idran
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

Oh, I'm not saying it doesn't happen any more, it certainly does. I just think that, from what I've seen at least, it happens less now than it once used to. Though granted I'm still looking from the fan side of things rather than the production side.

Just to keep the theme with my last post, though, and out of my own curiosity, I would ask; have you ever similarly gotten any people saying that your works are canon to them? (Outside this thread, at least, since I've already said as much myself. :P ) That is, that they consider it as real as the original source material, or something along those lines? And even if not, how would you take that, if I can ask?

And I know you meant it lightheartedly, but honestly that is an interesting observation too. I wonder if it's perhaps because mainstream shows like that don't precisely have a fandom in the same sense? It's less subculture and more just culture? Although BBT is the most popular show on TV right now and it still has something of a fandom alongside (if a good deal out of proportion to its size as compared to other works).
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Old June 18 2013, 10:32 PM   #66
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

Idran wrote: View Post
On the topic of the use of "canon" as synonymous with "continuity" in fandom circles: To be fair, if a large subculture of people use a word with a given new definition in such a way that the intended meaning communicated by that word is understood by everyone within that subculture, then hasn't the definition of that word simply shifted as a subculture-specific jargon term, diverging from the original term as language always does? Couldn't it be that fandom isn't using the word "canon" wrong per se, but is simply using it as a jargon term within their subculture as a derivation of its original meaning outside fandom?
Sort of how Trek fans habitually misuse the word "remaster," which has to do with preserving an original work, not the adding of new content (the exact opposite of what the word means).
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Old June 18 2013, 10:42 PM   #67
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

Idran wrote: View Post
Describing what "really" happened in a given person's mental construction of the universe.
When you put it that way, it makes the obsession over continuity seem even more silly. When you end up wasting neurons trying to keep track of the "real" fiction vs. the "fake" fiction, it's probably time to find a new hobby. Contrary to what Trek fans want to believe, both canon and non-canon Trek stories are equally fiction. There are no separate levels of fake-ness. Neither is more real than the other.
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This doesn't seem to be such a big deal on the mainstream side of things. Nobody has ever asked me if my CSI or ALIAS books are canon!
And if you happened to mention to them they're non-canon, they probably wouldn't even know what you were talking about.
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Old June 18 2013, 10:44 PM   #68
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

Idran wrote: View Post
Most all modern-origin fandoms talk about canon in the same way as the old guard fandoms, but I've rarely seen anyone worry about something being canon or not the way people do for Trek.
I've seen the discourse between fans of other fictional universes that have been very much along the lines of what Star Trek fans talk about.

I've come across so many fans on this forum and the Star Wars forums taking pride in either of these fictional universes managing to have "One definitive reality" and watched subsequent despair at the coming of a Canon Doomsday Machine in the shape of J.J. Abrams.

Doctor Who fans have been given perfect justification for accepting all the books and audio stories that were produced between the old and the new show as being relevant with an explanation that a Time War may have done funny things with the main character's personal timeline. Despite such generosity on the part of one of the TV show's producers, there are still fans who bend over backwards needlessly to diminish or change the perception how much the novels and audios should be considered to count. One author suggested that such practices as derisively calling these works "Fan Fiction" is a form of censorship-bullying.

I personally am okay with fans considering supplimentary works of fiction however they want to, and even arguing it good-naturedly. I don't care much for elitistism that dismisses things out of hand. I myself have loved DW, ST and SW novels, and been fine with the TV stories and movies that have subsequently overwritten them. I experienced them both, so they both matter to me, despite being contradictory. It's no different to me than the existence of alternative re-telling the stories of Robin Hood, King Arthur, or Superman.

I was going to give the ST ongoing a try, but it's early issues were too close to the original episodes. What really puts me off is a contradiction between different medium: the ST Ongoing comic doesn't match up with things like Kirk saying he hasn't lost anyone, but these are not justification for dropping the comic, whereas details like these are part of the justification for scrapping the publication of the original novels that were written for the J.J. Abrams continuity? Lame. I would like to read those books, which seem more interesting than the comic.
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Old June 18 2013, 10:47 PM   #69
Idran
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
When you put it that way, it makes the obsession over continuity seem even more silly. When you end up wasting neurons trying to keep track of the "real" fiction vs. the "fake" fiction, it's probably time to find a new hobby. Contrary to what Trek fans want to believe, both canon and non-canon Trek stories are equally fiction. There are no separate levels of fake-ness. Neither is more real than the other.
Which is why Bart Simpson is always running into Itchy, Commander Shepard teams up with Blasto, and Jack O'Neill ran a mission with Colonel Danning.

Desert Kris wrote: View Post
Idran wrote: View Post
Most all modern-origin fandoms talk about canon in the same way as the old guard fandoms, but I've rarely seen anyone worry about something being canon or not the way people do for Trek.
I've seen the discourse between fans of other fictional universes that have been very much along the lines of what Star Trek fans talk about.

I've come across so many fans on this forum and the Star Wars forums taking pride in either of these fictional universes managing to have "One definitive reality" and watched subsequent despair at the coming of a Canon Doomsday Machine in the shape of J.J. Abrams.

Doctor Who fans have been given perfect justification for accepting all the books and audio stories that were produced between the old and the new show as being relevant with an explanation that a Time War may have done funny things with the main character's personal timeline. Despite such generosity on the part of one of the TV show's producers, there are still fans who bend over backwards needlessly to diminish or change the perception how much the novels and audios should be considered to count. One author suggested that such practices as derisively calling these works "Fan Fiction" is a form of censorship-bullying.
To be fair, all of those are pre-Internet fandoms that happened to carry into the modern day. I was referring largely to post-Internet fandoms. Even in those cases, I haven't seen as much of that sort of attitude from those that came in with Abrams' Trek or New Who. Something to keep in mind, also, is that there's a big difference between worrying about what counts and asking what counts.
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Old June 18 2013, 11:19 PM   #70
Greg Cox
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

Idran wrote: View Post

And I know you meant it lightheartedly, but honestly that is an interesting observation too. I wonder if it's perhaps because mainstream shows like that don't precisely have a fandom in the same sense? It's less subculture and more just culture? Although BBT is the most popular show on TV right now and it still has something of a fandom alongside (if a good deal out of proportion to its size as compared to other works).
Part of it may be just that the fans of the mainstream stuff are less interactive--or may just pay less attention to the tie-in books. In general, I get a lot less mail (as in practically none) about my mainstream books than for the sf/fantasy/horror stuff.

We'll see how things go where LEVERAGE is concerned . . ..
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Old June 18 2013, 11:47 PM   #71
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

Desert Kris wrote: View Post
I've come across so many fans on this forum and the Star Wars forums taking pride in either of these fictional universes managing to have "One definitive reality" and watched subsequent despair at the coming of a Canon Doomsday Machine in the shape of J.J. Abrams.
Even though The Clone Wars has been contradicting prior works for years -- notably the preceding Clone Wars "microseries" and the novels by that author who wrote about Mandalore a lot. Not to mention that a lot of the earlier books/comics that got grandfathered into the Expanded Universe had contradictions that had to be ignored or retconned away to allow the pretense that they "really happened" -- like the early Marvel annual with a flashback to a joint mission undertaken by three Jedi: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and Luke's father.

For that matter, I gather that Dark Horse has recently begun publishing a comic set in between the films of the original trilogy, and I have the impression it's not bothering to stay consistent with the original Marvel comic.


Doctor Who fans have been given perfect justification for accepting all the books and audio stories that were produced between the old and the new show as being relevant with an explanation that a Time War may have done funny things with the main character's personal timeline.
Although, of course, the original series had an enormously loose continuity long before there was a Time War -- for instance, presenting three separate, incompatible versions of the fall of Atlantis. They never really bothered much with consistency on that show. What really provided a retroactive justification in the new series, more than the Time War, was the Cracks in Time storyline in Moffat's first season, which explicitly established that history could be rewritten and the events of past episodes (including some of the cataclysmic events in Russell T. Davies's episodes) erased from the universe's memory altogether.


I personally am okay with fans considering supplimentary works of fiction however they want to, and even arguing it good-naturedly. I don't care much for elitistism that dismisses things out of hand. I myself have loved DW, ST and SW novels, and been fine with the TV stories and movies that have subsequently overwritten them. I experienced them both, so they both matter to me, despite being contradictory. It's no different to me than the existence of alternative re-telling the stories of Robin Hood, King Arthur, or Superman.
Absolutely. They're all just stories meant to entertain. What a lot of people misunderstand is that the reason canon creators don't generally acknowledge tie-in works isn't because of some sort of elitist hierarchy or exclusionism (except sometimes, as with Richard Arnold), but just because it's not practical. They're busy concentrating on creating their own works, and so even when they try to keep supplemental works consistent, like with the early B5 novels or the Abramsverse comics, it generally doesn't quite work out. (I wouldn't be surprised if there were even some inconsistencies between the Defiance TV series and MMORPG, even with the close coordination that's built into them from the ground up.) It's not that the other stories are inferior or unworthy, just that it's harder for the core creators to maintain consistency in works they aren't as directly responsible for.


I was going to give the ST ongoing a try, but it's early issues were too close to the original episodes.
That doesn't last long -- pretty much just the first four issues/two storylines. Since then, it's been a mix of far more radical retellings ("Operation: Annihilate" and "The Return of the Archons") and original stories that have minor plot or thematic resonances with TOS episodes.


What really puts me off is a contradiction between different medium: the ST Ongoing comic doesn't match up with things like Kirk saying he hasn't lost anyone, but these are not justification for dropping the comic, whereas details like these are part of the justification for scrapping the publication of the original novels that were written for the J.J. Abrams continuity? Lame. I would like to read those books, which seem more interesting than the comic.
That's a common misunderstanding. The books weren't abandoned because of continuity issues. It's just that nobody really knew why they were abandoned and a lot of fans speculated that was the reason, and that speculation got repeated enough times that people started assuming it was true. But really, if it had been a continuity question, it could've been resolved relatively easily. I've never really learned or figured out what the whole reason was, but I think it was for other, more behind-the-scenes-ish business reasons.
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Old June 19 2013, 12:55 AM   #72
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

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Although, of course, the original series had an enormously loose continuity long before there was a Time War -- for instance, presenting three separate, incompatible versions of the fall of Atlantis. They never really bothered much with consistency on that show. What really provided a retroactive justification in the new series, more than the Time War, was the Cracks in Time storyline in Moffat's first season, which explicitly established that history could be rewritten and the events of past episodes (including some of the cataclysmic events in Russell T. Davies's episodes) erased from the universe's memory altogether.
Though he is talking specifically about the Time War, this idea was brought forth quite well by Paul Cornell back in 2007, and basically describes exactly what you're saying.

During the 1990s, when the New Adventures were such a source of friction, I kept saying, about my own work, since I was one of the authors, that there was ‘no such thing as “canon”’. The New Adventures were as ‘real’ as any other sort of Doctor Who. (That’s something else of a bullying nature that people on fan forums say. ‘None of it’s real, you know.’ Like the other person thought it was. They’re deliberately confusing the game of ‘it happened’ with the reality of something that actually did.) Now I want to say that again, when the boot is on the other foot. There is no such thing as ‘canon’.

Russell Davies probably could utter a pronouncement about canonicity that would be accepted. If he wanted to. He could declare that only the TV series was canonical, and that the books and audio plays were not. He’s come close, in that he’s said that only what the general TV audience remembers is important in terms of what’s referred to onscreen (I’m vastly paraphrasing here), and also that BBC television dramas must be whole unto themselves, and must not require extra purchases that ‘complete the story’, as per the BBC charter. (And how arcane a rule is that? But one that fan fora make as much ado out of… as probably the BBC themselves do.)
...
To deal with that ‘won’t be bound by’ clause, Russell’s quietly invented something, and I have no idea as to whether or not he realised it could be used for this purpose. (I don’t think he sits up at night worrying about canonicity, except for the times when I’m pretty sure he does.) I’m talking about The Time War. As mentioned often by the Ninth Doctor. Probably between the Time Lords and the Daleks, and it probably ended with both sides being wiped out, probably that being a sacrifice made by the Doctor. (Like I have any idea, I’m just following the hints.) There’s a line in ‘The Unquiet Dead’ (I think) indicating that the War puts all historical events up for grabs. Nothing necessarily happened like we think it did.

Including previous Doctor Who.

Doctor Who fans, we like to think it all fits together. In our book about continuity, The Discontinuity Guide, me, Keith Topping and Martin Day suggested that, following the events of the story ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, a story where the Doctor is deliberately trying to change history, and says he succeeded in doing so, previous Dalek stories may not have happened, in the universe of Doctor Who, as they were seen onscreen. This theory has gained no ground at all. It was met with a resounding silence. Fans like to think that what they’ve seen remains ‘real’. (No abuse implied, I’m using ‘real’ in the way they’d intend.) Probably because if it doesn’t it makes fun with continuity that much more difficult. (But not impossible, and the game is surely worth it.)
...
There is, of course, and I wouldn’t want to put a stop to this, an entirely benign sort of canonicity discussion, in which a writer, such as Lance Parkin, enters into a game of where and how everything might fit together, if it did. That’s just fun, and the authority assumed is only that of a stage magician, because the intention isn’t to hurt anyone. Also, recently, message board posters have tried to declare a truce by use of the term ‘personal canon’. That is to say, we all have our own version of ‘what happened’. That’s entirely lovely, to say that canonicity is ‘an ecumenical matter’. But I’d like us all to go that one step further.

Because when you say ‘the books just aren’t “canon!”’ or ‘the books “happened” and the TV show can’t ignore them!’ you’re not saying something like ‘for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction’, you’re saying something like ‘the South will never surrender’. You’re yelling a battle cry, not stating the truth. Because there is no truth here to find. There was never and now cannot be any authority to rule on matters of canonicity in a tale that has allowed, or at the very least accepted, the rewriting of its own continuity. And you’re using the fact that discussions of canonicity are all about authority to try to assume an authority that you do not have.

In the end, you’re just bullying people.

Because in Doctor Who there is no such thing as ‘canon’.
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Old June 19 2013, 02:20 AM   #73
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

^The part of that I like is the reference to "the game of 'if it happened.'" That's basically the essence of tie-in writing as well as the effort of fitting tie-ins and canon together: it's a game, a fun creative exercise. People who worry about the "realness" or validity or authority of it, who use it to try to define hierarchies of inclusion and exclusion, are missing the quality of play that underlies it all. It's all just about exploring possibilities and testing ideas.

Heck, I've never felt there had to be a single "right" answer to what was acceptable as part of the "reality" or not. I've been putting together interpretations of Trek continuity and chronology for maybe 3/4 of my life at this point, and I've never felt that my version was the "right way" that anyone else had to follow; it's just my own creative exercise based on my own preferences and standards, and I assume any other person's would be different. What's more, I have little problem with changing my own chronology in light of new information; I've done so dozens of times over the years, sometimes in response to new canonical information or new books coming along, sometimes just because I reconsidered something and changed my mind. I know there will never be a final, right answer, and I don't really want there to be, since I enjoy the creative exercise of exploring different possibilities. That's what fiction is ultimately about -- not unshakeable truth, but exploring possibilities.
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Old June 19 2013, 05:06 AM   #74
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

I think we basically agree in the end, then, since everything you said is near exactly what I was trying to get across, just in slightly different language. Just with the additional bit that a lot of the time when someone in fandom is talking about the canonicity of something, about if something is in canon or not (in the fandom sense), they're basically doing that same sort of play. There's no stress intended behind questions like that a lot of the time, they're just doing that in a different manner but with the same intentions. Weighing out the default perspective, finding the starting point to start building their personal canon from.

I think in the end this was one of those "two different positions that aren't actually different after all, merely miscommunicated" situations, since you all but plucked my intended meaning right out from my head in that post.
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Old June 19 2013, 03:50 PM   #75
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Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

^Sure, if that's all it is, that's fine. But the problem is when people think of canon as something that some authority is imposing on them, or on the creators, and make a fuss about how unfair it is that they're being oppressed by this completely imaginary authority. Or when they embrace the idea of being controlled by that authority and refuse to let themselves read or enjoy any story that isn't part of the canon. All I'm trying to point out is that canon is not a value judgment or an arbiter of worth, not a basis for condemnation and exclusion, simply a classification.
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