Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franchise)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by DigificWriter, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    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.



    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 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 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 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.
     
  2. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Not Batman, but when I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man this summer, as I left the theater I heard a man in the lobby trying to explain to his girlfriend how ASM fit with the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy. Never mind that ASM and Spider-Man have entirely contradictory versions of the origin, that the power set of Maguire's Spider-Man is vastly different than Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man, etc. Yet, this guy insisted that ASM fit with the Maguire trilogy and was trying valiantly to justify that belief.

    The problem with "canon" comes with how the word is used. I see nothing wrong with the was Lucasfilm calls Star Wars tie-in works "canon," because it's true to the meaning of the word -- the books/comics/games are a part of the body of official Star Wars work. It's an objective standard, it just means whether or not it's official. Fandom, however, believes that "canon" means authoritative and inviolate, which is a much more subjective standard.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2012
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    ^Good point. The problem is that fandom has gotten this warped set of beliefs about what the word "canon" means. And I think the fault for that lies with Gene Roddenberry and Richard Arnold. Fandom wasn't really that aware of the term "canon" until those two instituted their crackdown on the tie-ins and issued the memo declaring the animated series non-canonical. Their actions and attitude created the impression in fans' minds that canon was something defined by exclusionism and opposition, something strict and dogmatic and shaped by official dictate. To this day, there are people who actually believe that there are employees at Paramount or CBS or wherever who sit at their desks and issue ukases about what is or isn't canon in the Trek universe -- who don't understand that canon is automatic and usually not even thought about by series creators, because what they create is canon by definition.
     
  4. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Yeah, "canon" tends to be more of a fannish hobgoblin than anything else. As I've mentioned before, back when I editing the FARSCAPE novels, I was in touch with the nice folks at Henson every other day or so, and during that whole time, I don't think the topic of "canon" ever came up. It just wasn't an issue that had anything to do with actually producing the books and getting them out on time and on budget. Likewise, the topic of "canonicity" appears in no book contract or licensing agreement that I have ever laid eyes on. It's an abstract issue, not a practical one.

    It wasn't until I started plugging the books at conventions that (invariably) I started getting the question "But are the books canon?"

    The honest answer: they are until they aren't.
     
  5. Lonemagpie

    Lonemagpie Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    It does- but individuals' definition of what constitutes the core body varies, especially when there isn't a single official authority to define it officially.

    When you don't have an authority who dictates what is considered to be the core body, then everyone else can and does determine that for themselves- personal canon
     
  6. Lonemagpie

    Lonemagpie Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    see my reply above-I do know what the word means.
     
  7. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Regarding continuity, I'll certainly make an effort to avoid contradicting other books in the same series, if I know about them or my editor alerts me to an issue. But I'll admit that there's a bit of sliding scale there. I wouldn't want to contradict a Dave Mack novel published last year, but I probably wouldn't throw out an entire chapter just because (gasp!) it clashed with one paragraph in a Gordon Eklund novel published thirty years ago. You need to keep "continuity" in perspective.

    My general rule of thumb, and this is more of personal preference than Official Policy, is to not invent something new up if another author has already beaten me to the punch. So the description of Khan's flag in my Eugenics books was lifted from an earlier novel by Jeff Lang, and I refered to Gary Seven's mysterious sponsors as the "Aegis" because that's what Howard Weinstein called them in an earlier DC comic book. And so on.

    The way I see it, it's just a matter of professional courtesy, as well as a fun little easter egg for the fans . . . .
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2012
  8. xortex

    xortex Commodore

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Since the creator of Trek - GR - is dead, he's got nothing more so say about continuity so it is once again a generic space opera unless of course you happened to like TOS more than the other incarnations of it. Then consistancy would be an issue. Whether it's canon is irrelovant. But I am curious how say CLB would react if future guy was defined differently by a subsequent writer or his version and reimagining of future history was ignored and contradicted by someone else? JJ's universe can be invalidated by TPTB in a second and wiped clean yet again to make way for a new vision that supercedes it - a better vision or interpretation.
     
  9. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    I can't speak for Christopher, but IDW recently did a Khan comic book series that pretty much ignores my novels about Khan--which is fine with me. It's not like I created Khan or think that my books should be the only version of his life.

    Let a thousand flowers bloom.
     
  10. xortex

    xortex Commodore

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    The source material for Trek is TOS and GR. You can't have TOS without TOS. The rest is a rip off.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    What Greg said. I don't own Star Trek, so I have no business getting proprietary about the ideas I come up with. If someone came up with a different interpretation of Future Guy in a separate continuity from the main novelverse, that would be fine, and I'd be interested to see what alternative ideas they could offer. In fact, to be honest, if I had the chance to do it over again, I'd probably try to find a better way of explaining Future Guy and the Temporal Cold War than I did the first time. I think there are aspects of it that could use improvement.

    I've been reading Star Trek novels since before Pocket even had the license, so my perception of Trek tie-ins has always been that they encompass a multitude of distinct interpretations of the universe rather than just one. There have been occasional continuities here and there among the tie-ins, but there's never, ever been a single overarching one, and I've never wanted or expected there to be. And having multiple contradictory portrayals of the same event or character has been a part of Trek tie-in lore going back decades. Perhaps the earliest instance would be the depictions of McCoy's daughter and his divorce backstory in the '70s; the Gold Key comics presented one version, while Joe Haldeman's novel Planet of Judgment offered a different one. (And then Enterprise: The First Adventure offered yet another one that later novels tended to conform with, even while disregarding other elements of that novel.) Then there's E:TFA and DC's first Trek annual telling different versions of Kirk's first mission as Enterprise captain within a year of each other in 1985-6 -- and then Pocket and DC telling different versions of the end of the 5-year mission later in the '80s. And that was even before the new shows came along and conflicted with what the novels had established about the Klingons, the Romulans, the Trek timeline, etc.
     
  12. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Does Shadows on the Sun use one of those back stories for McCoy? I haven't read it myself, but the back cover blurb on Memory Beta says McCoy runs into his ex-wife so I'm assuming their history must come up somewhere along the line.
     
  13. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

    Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Did someone state otherwise?
     
  14. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    I've officially given up trying to talk sense into people over on the TFN boards. I took the comments you guys left here and reposted them (with appropriate credit given), and yet it seems to have accomplished nothing, as people are still arguing about the exact same things vis a vis the SW EU and E7.
     
  15. Slurms MacKenzi

    Slurms MacKenzi Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    I keep reading that thread in the hope that common sense will prevail. Alas, it seems a lost cause.

    Good effort on your part, though.
     
  16. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    And more recently, your 2012 novel DTI: Forgotten History portrayed a completely different set of circumstances surrounding the end of the five-year mission than David R. George III's 2006 novel Crucible: McCoy - Provenance of Shadows. So that tradition continues even today, of presenting multiple interpretations of major events in Trekverse history.
     
  17. James Swallow

    James Swallow Writer Captain

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    My point was that while you may not feel continuity matters much in Doctor Who and even though the show itself provides a get-out clause, there's still an element of DW fandom - and indeed some tie-in writers for that franchise - who have constructed elaborate theorems to explain things such as how the multiple Atlantises (Atlantii? :confused:) can co-exist, why two different Doctors have done variant versions of "Shada" or the "Human Nature" stories, and so on and so on.

    At the risk of this turning into the endless debate on the nature of continuity and canonicity in fictional worlds, perhaps the best rule to stick to is: "Your Mileage May Vary."
     
  18. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Such as three different ressurection stories for a certain pale android.
     
  19. Jim Gamma

    Jim Gamma This space left blank intentionally. Premium Member

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Not an author, but I suspect that a similar "issue" cropped up when the original TOS movies and TNG-era stuff first aired. There was this great mass of literature by people like Michael Jan Friedman, calling the Klingon homeworld Klinzhai, and a whole heap of speculation about Klingon and Romulan culture. Almost all of it is now defunct, because it was overruled by the new continuity being established.

    Check out the Signature Editions of some of the Trek novels to see how things have changed... I particularly recommend "Worlds in Collision" (a collation of two Reeves-Stevenses' novels) and "The Hand of Kahless" (a combination of one by John M Ford, and one by Friedman) as perfect examples of this. They even have forewords by the authors reflecting on the stories after however many years it's been since the novels were published. Extremely informative, they are. :)

    On the subject of the Star Wars EU, frankly I'm OK with them overwriting the novels. It's just a story, no matter how great I think it is, and where the novels take things is different from where the films will, is different from where I would, or you would, or anyone else would. I love reading/hearing about other possible directions for stories - else why would I be reading the old novels? ;)
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Essentially everything since Enterprise: The First Adventure, including SotS, has used the basics of what McIntyre established, such as that McCoy's ex-wife was named Jocelyn. I think they've all stuck with the idea that it was Jocelyn who got custody of Joanna in the divorce (although the earlier Crisis on Centaurus said that Bones got custody).


    Oh, yes, I'd forgotten about Crucible. And there's also a version of the end of the 5-year mission in Strange New Worlds 10, the story "Empty" by David DeLee. That makes seven different versions to date that I know of. (Maybe eight, depending on how you interpret Black Fire.) That may be a record for the number of different retellings of the same event in professional Trek tie-in fiction.


    It can be a fun creative exercise to try to concoct such rationalizations. The problem is that some people take it too seriously or get too invested in a single interpretation.