new canon vs novelverse: worst case scenario

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by King Daniel Beyond, Jun 1, 2012.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    You were comparing the status of "Threshold" to the status of "Alternative Factor," and you said the latter "is canon" as though that were somehow indicative of whether it "counted" or not. My point is that something can be part of a canon and disregarded at the same time. "Threshold" is part of the canon too, but it's equally ignored.

    Part of the mistake people make about canon is thinking that it's written down in some official ledger somewhere -- that because Braga was embarrassed by "Threshold" and made a statement disowning it, that means there's some official piece of paperwork at Paramount declaring that as doctrine. That's not so. The people who actually make the shows don't bother to think much about canon, because what they make is automatically canon so it's a non-issue for them. And what they count as "real" -- as "canon" in the less precise sense of "what gets counted" -- is not a matter of official doctrine, but of the preference of whoever's running the franchise at the moment. There's no official file for "Threshold" with a "NOT CANON" stamp across it in red ink or something. There's just the guy who made the episode and produced the show deciding it was a stupid episode and he was going to ignore it, just like every Trek producer has ignored "The Alternative Factor" and just like DS9 and VGR ignored the 20-minute commute to the galactic center in TFF. Not official doctrine, just the everyday working choices of the people making the shows and films. So there's really no difference between the status of "The Alternative Factor" and the status of "Threshold." The only difference is that Braga publicly admitted that he was embarrassed by the latter episode.


    It's compatible with any subsequent book that doesn't mention Kirk, which is most of them. For quite a while, it was theoretically possible to reconcile the Shatnerverse with the main novel continuity. But in the last trilogy, there were significant divergences between the two in their assumptions about the timing of certain events -- like Bajor not being a UFP member in the Shatnerverse years after it joined in the DS9 novels, Titan taking a year longer to end its Romulan relief mission and start exploring, and Janeway still being alive well after her death in Before Dishonor.


    Well, it's not entirely fair to assume that such mistakes can only be the result of laziness. If they are, that is shameful. But even careful, attentive, professional creators can still overlook the occasional detail, especially in a continuity as huge as Star Trek where it's virtually impossible to remember every little detail. You can work hard and be as careful as you can, but still overlook some little thing until it's too late to fix it. It happens all the time. Even with multiple sets of eyes going over something multiple times, it's possible for even a glaring error to get overlooked. Trust me, that's a truth every published writer has to live with.
     
  2. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

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    Christopher, your latest post, in which you assert:

    had me going something like this:

    :eek::cardie::scream::alienblush:

    as in, shock… disbelief… denial… "Holy shit, it's true." :techman:

    No, but seriously, up until now, I had been operating under the assumption that Paramount actually had a written policy/statement somewhere to the effect of "The following works of fiction are to be considered the canon of the Star Trek franchise: the original Star Trek series, the animated Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, and [insert some fancy language describing the 11 films]. All other materials, including novels, reference works, comics and fan films are not canon." I was sure I had heard of such a "ledger," as you put it, but I take your word for it. (Did they used to have such a document?)

    Hmm, after doing some digging, I'm wondering if I might be misremembering this announcement:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20070706...ek/view/features/specials/article/66895.html?

    On the other hand, there is this FAQ dated from 2003, which pretty unequivocally states that TAS has "traditionally not been considered part of the canon.":
    http://web.archive.org/web/20080719...trek.com/startrek/view/help/faqs/faq/676.html

    And this 2006 article ends with a discussion on how TAS may or may not be canonical:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20090310...rtrek/view/news/editorials/article/17178.html

    Finally, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek_canon#cite_note-5, Ron D. Moore is quoted as saying in 1998:

    The full chat can be found at http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Memory_Alpha:AOL_chats/Ronald_D._Moore/ron126.txt

    By the way, if you google that quote, minus the stuff in brackets, you get some... in-depth discussion. This one particularly caught my eye: http://www.canonwars.com/STCanon.html Actually an interesting read, though I'm sure it looks insane to anyone who isn't a Star Trek fan.



    Being "on the inside," both at Pocket Books and in the sci-fi tie-in industry at-large, how likely do you think this is to happen? Is the marketability of Star Trek strong enough that TPTB would feel comfortable taking what must be somewhat of a risk?
     
  3. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    Richard Arnold was often asked to list "what is canon". (I think it came up a few times in the "Star Trek Communicator".) He made a point that he did not include stuff unless it was "live action" (therefore, not TAS). Neither did he count unfilmed script scenes, nor live action material filmed on the actual Paramount sets, for games such as Klingon video board game, the un-released "Borg Q-uest" game (which probably morphed into "Star Trek: Borg"), "Star Trek: Klingon", "Starfleet Academy", "Klingon Academy", and the so-called 4D ride footage used at Las Vegas. He never made a projection about restored "director's editions", which suddenly created more than one version of "live action aired footage".

    But lists, such as the one you propose above (not by Paramount or the Star Trek Office), often featured in fannish venues, created and updated by fans, based on pronouncements by people like Richard Arnold. I did a quick Google; Usenet and GEnie used to be full of fascinating posts like this:
    http://www.totse2.com/totse/en/ego/science_fiction/tnglist.html

    He and Richard Arnold (who, of course, was vetting tie-in proposals and manuscripts on GR's behalf).

    Before 1989, Roddenberry had often made quite inclusive remarks about TAS. In early interviews, and in Lincoln Enterprises' fan club newsletters for TAS and then pre-TMP (reporting on plans for a return of live-action ST), he often seemed to approve of TAS. The departure of DC Fontana and David Gerrold from TNG - and their lawsuit against GR - probably encouraged him to distance the ST phenomenon from TAS, which was suddenly treated more like a licensed tie-in, and thus as non-canonical as the novels, comics and RPGs. Not to mention the winding down of Filmation and the fact that TAS had not been seen on TV in some time.

    But yeah, the first new TAS reference (to Phylosians) was in the novelization of "Unification" by Jeri Taylor, just a few weeks after GR's death.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    See, the only thing you're overlooking here is that all those links pertain to the assumptions about canon made by StarTrek.com. A lot of fans make the mistake that StarTrek.com is the same entity as Paramount (or now CBS) and that whatever it says about ST is straight from the horse's mouth; but it's actually just a licensee, a promotional website about ST. So those posts only apply to how StarTrek.com itself chose to categorize the animated series, which is a separate question from how the actual producers of the shows chose to treat it. ST.com's content has been at odds with the producers' view of canon before; it continued to claim that Jeri Taylor's Voyager novels Mosaic and Pathways were canonical even though Taylor's successors on the VGR writing staff ignored those novels and contradicted Pathways in multiple respects. And ST.com still claims that Star Trek: The Motion Picture takes place in 2271, as per the old ST Chronology, even though it's been years since VGR: "Q2" made it canonical that the 5-year mission ended in 2270, so that TMP (at least two and a half years later) is now generally accepted as occurring in 2273.


    And that's the crux of it right there: canon isn't some formal doctrine, it's just whatever the current makers of the franchise choose to count. And that's subject to change as the showrunners change.


    I have no idea. I'm not that much "on the inside" -- I'm just a freelance writer. The people who'd make that decision are the folks at CBS Licensing, and I've generally only interacted with them through the mediation of my editors. It seems plausible to me, given the fact that there are now two canonical timelines and given how much the books have developed their own identity in the interim (and given that the books weren't required to conform to Star Trek Online's continuity even though it has a larger audience), that the adoption of an official "tie-in multiverse" approach could happen. But there may be other factors affecting the decision that I can't assess or predict.
     
  5. newtontomato539

    newtontomato539 Commander Red Shirt

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    I consider something in my personal canon (TAS, Gold Key, Power Records, DC, Marvel, etc) unless it sucks.

    Paramount doesn't control my mind. Since when did we ever need Paramount to tell us what to like?
     
  6. Fer

    Fer Commander Red Shirt

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    Ahh, okay. Thanks for clarifying.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    See, this is the kind of misapprehension that comes up when you mistake the word "canon" for the concept of "what is real/acceptable." That's just not what it means. Canon is not about telling the fans what to accept. Fans can accept or reject whatever they want. Canon has nothing whatsoever to do with the fans. Nor is canon about telling the makers of the shows and films what stories they can tell, because the makers of new canon are free to retcon or ignore past canon. The only people who are actually restricted by canon in any way are people like me, who write tie-in works, because we're obliged to conform to it and don't have the freedom to ignore it. (At least not in the licensed fiction we write. As a fan, I build my own personal continuity that includes a lot of non-canonical tie-in works and excludes some canonical episodes.)

    And nobody is trying to "tell you what to like" except you. CBS (not Paramount anymore) doesn't want to tell anyone "You can't buy these stories anymore because they don't fit with these other stories." That would be self-defeating. I mean, think about it. Why does CBS (formerly Paramount) produce Star Trek shows and movies and license Star Trek tie-in books and comics and games? To make money. The more stuff you buy, the more money they make. So they want you to buy all of it, regardless of what continuity it's in. They're not going to tell you not to buy something that's not in continuity anymore, because that would be against their own financial interest. Indeed, having multiple continuities is good for them financially, because that means they can appeal to a wider range of audiences, since someone who doesn't enjoy one continuity can still be drawn in by a different one.

    And most of the audience doesn't worry that much about continuity; they just want to read adventures of the characters they like. If different adventures are inconsistent with each other, big deal; they're all made-up stories anyway, all equally unreal, so all that should matter is whether they're entertaining. It's only a small minority of fans who think that canon and continuity have a bearing on what stories they should enjoy. That's not Paramount or CBS imposing anything on you. That's just you imposing a set of assumptions on yourself.
     
  8. Dimesdan

    Dimesdan Living the Irish dream. Premium Member

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    Why does it bother you so much Chris? You seem to expel a lot of energy on these exercises.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Why do you assume it "bothers" me? It puzzles me when people assume every discussion on a BBS must be somehow personal or emotionally motivated. A lot of discussions are simple matters of fact, and this is one of them. Lots of fans have assumptions about canon that are simply counterfactual, based in false and misguided beliefs, and they get themselves worked up or worried or angry when they have no need to. Why wouldn't I want to help them free themselves from that needless worry or frustration by explaining to them how irrelevant canon actually is to their experience as fans? And why wouldn't I want to provide accurate information when I'm able to, just on general principle? I just see that as being helpful.
     
  10. Dimesdan

    Dimesdan Living the Irish dream. Premium Member

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    You come on here and contradict people over sometimes trivial matters, write walls of text outlining why in very detailed ways that they're wrong.

    So yeah, maybe you don't mean to come across as you do, you may actually believe you're not making it personal, but given you directly quote people and often write walls of text, it doesn't come across like that and given you always seem to contradict someone regarding canon/continuity/whatever when the topic comes up, it does give the impression it bothers you.

    If it really doesn't matter to you, why spend so much time and energy trying to educate people on differences that rather frankly doesn't matter.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2012
  11. ICW

    ICW Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I tend to agree. I think Christopher means to give factual information but it comes off as if he's very irked, rather than just providing factual information.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, I'm sorry if I give that impression, though I'm puzzled by the assumption that there's a correlation between "walls of text" and irritation. I'm just prone to analyze things in detail; it's intellectual, not emotional.

    I said it didn't bother me. That doesn't mean it doesn't matter. As I said, if I think people are misinformed, I want to help clear up their misunderstandings, and if they're getting themselves upset or worried over nothing, I want to help them ease their worry. Of course it matters to me if other people are having problems that I can help them solve. Why wouldn't I want to help? If I sometimes seem frustrated over the way people get so worked up about canon myths, it's because I see them driving themselves crazy over nothing and that's sad to see. My message is that they should just relax and not worry about it so much. Though I can see how the depth I go into as a matter of habit could seem to run contrary to that message.
     
  13. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    You know Christopher, you could probably collect everything you've written on canon here and sell it in book form. :techman:
     
  14. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

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    That is very true, and a point that I overlooked. Again, I had assumed at the time that StarTrek.com was getting their "canon policy" directly from whomever at Paramount (separate from the writers/producers) was responsible for decreeing such things. Obviously, such a person has not existed for some time, if they ever existed in an official capacity at all. In any case, however, I failed to re-examine that assumption when using those articles to support my point. Mea culpa.

    (Still, it is interesting to examine the evolution of StarTrek.com's attitude towards TAS. Another time.)


    Yes, and that's exactly what I meant. I should have stated it more explicitly, but I was offering up the Moore quote to gently push back on your implication that the "recanonization," or simply more widespread acceptance, of TAS occurred once Roddenberry was taken out of the picture. But since Moore said this several years after Roddenberry died, there was clearly some lethargy in the process.

    (And, obviously, my case was stronger when I thought the ST.com articles were "official"! :p)


    On the inside or not, from the way you present it, it sounds pretty plausible to me, particularly given that point about Star Trek Online. And, of course, what you say about CBS' ultimate goal being the possession of our money... (where's a Ferengi emoticon when you need one?)

    Hasn't Bob Orci (does anyone know how to pronounce his surname?) spoken about certain novels about being his favorites? (I feel like Prime Directive was one.) I suppose it would be pointless for them to canonize any of those novels now, since they do not affect the new continuity, but it is interesting to consider that possibility.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, declaring a novel part of canon is unlikely; generally the only times that happens are for tie-ins written or plotted by the showruneners themselves, like Jeri Taylor's Mosaic, the Babylon 5 novels and comics outlined by J. Michael Straczynski, and the Joss Whedon-supervised comics continuations of the Buffyverse, Serenity, and Dollhouse.

    But there's no reason a canonical work can't pick and choose elements from non-canonical tie-ins, like the way Enterprise borrowed bits of Andorian worldbuilding from a gaming supplement, or the way the movies have canonized the novel-originated first names of Sulu, Uhura, and Kirk's parents.
     
  16. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

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    Yeah, that's always cool when they do that. It's a nice way, among other things, to show respect towards people who have put serious time, effort and creativity into the franchise.

    Do they ever have to deal with royalties with that kind of stuff? I know that Tom Paris was originally gonna be Nick Locarno, but the idea was dropped, possibly because of the downsides of having to pay royalties to the writer of "The First Duty," but how do novels fit into that paradigm, particularly if more than one author has used the idea (ie. Uhura's first name)?
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Novelists only get royalties on actual sales of our books. Since our contracts are work-for-hire, everything we create belongs to CBS (and before that, Paramount) and they can do what they want with it without further compensating us. The contracts for scriptwriters are different.
     
  18. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Great responses, everyone! Well, until the canon thing, anyway.

    I totally forgot to put in my two cents:

    If the novelverse were fundamentally contradicted by any new canon, it wouldn't ruin those books for me at all - I still count "The Final Reflection" and "Final Frontier" among my all-time favourites, and events from them can only be imported into the current novel continuity in very broad strokes.

    That said, my enthusiasm for future Typhon Pact-continuity novels, as an ongoing series, would probably diminish. That tie-ins tie-in is a big part of their appeal for me. Knowing the fate of Romulus and Spock enhances my enjoyment of the novels featuring them, as I watch the pieces fall into place. If the books say, "oh, thats not our Spock or our Romulus" it would seem.... diminished.
     
  19. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This is exactly how I feel on the issue.
     
  20. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Honestly, I doubt it will ever even become an issue. The Abrams films are now safely off in their own timeline, and it's unlikely we'll see any new televised Star Trek until they're done.

    And, frankly, if I were to bring Star Trek Prime Timeline back to TV -- and Leonard Nimoy said in a number of interviews promoting ST09 that he thinks the film was so big that Star Trek can never go back to TV anymore -- but, if I were to do it, I'd do another TNG-style time jump and advance us to somewhere in the mid-24th Century. Plenty of time for clever authors to reconcile the Destinyverse 2380s with whatever I introduce. Obviously that's just me, but I do think that the creative advantages of such a time jump -- that you'd be generally free to both play with the same basic toys (the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans, etc.) but also free to establish entirely new relationships among them -- are pretty obvious. There's a reason Gene put TNG in the 2360s rather than the 2290s.