The comics are now canon

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by King Daniel Beyond, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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  2. Sxottlan

    Sxottlan Commodore Commodore

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    I read that as Bob Orci doing nothing but humoring Anthony Pascale. It sounded like two guys just joking around.

    But then a breath later, Pascale makes it a serious declaration.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yeah, as long as it includes that rider, "with the caveat that you reserve the right to contradict any of it in a future movie," that means that sticking the label of "canon" on it doesn't really mean anything -- except that other tie-ins would be compelled to agree with it.

    But yeah, I agree, it was just Orci giving an off-the-cuff response to the interviewer's rather aggressive attempt to guide the direction of the conversation. So it shouldn't be interpreted as official Bad Robot policy. Heck, Orci isn't even an employee of Bad Robot; he and Kurtzman now have their own separate production company, Kurtzman/Orci, that's a production partner on the movie. So what Orci says in an interview isn't official policy until J. J. Abrams or Bad Robot itself says so.

    Unfortunately, those realities won't keep Trek fans from overreacting and obsessing far too much on the label "canon" and completely misinterpreting what it means and how it works, just like they always do.
     
  4. Paris

    Paris Commodore Commodore

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    I'm pretty sure "Canon" can only truly refer to what we've seen on screen. I think I've read that on these boards once or twice ;)
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, canon is whatever the creators say it is. Some people have this strange idea that it's something imposed on the creators by some hypothetical outside entity, but it really just means what the creators themselves choose to include, and generally means anything that's generated by the creators themselves and fits into their vision and intentions for the franchise. That's why the Babylon 5 canon includes the Del Rey novels and DC comics, why the various Joss Whedon shows' canons include some or all of their respective comics, and why Jeri Taylor considered Mosaic and Pathways to be canonical while she was working on Voyager but her successors didn't include them. Conversely, Roddenberry used a restrictive definition of canon that even excluded things that were onscreen, such as the animated series, Star Trek V, and selected aspects of TOS (such as the smooth Klingon foreheads). Defining Trek canon is a bit trickier than with other franchises because there isn't a single creator in charge of everything, so the definition has not remained constant over time.

    So the reason Star Trek canon has traditionally excluded offscreen tie-in works is because that's the policy the creators chose to follow -- and more to the point, because the creators of the shows were not in a position to directly guide or supervise the tie-ins and so they didn't represent the creators' vision. But as we saw with Taylor's novels, the current creators of onscreen Trek could choose to count offscreen tie-ins that they directly supervise or generate as canonical, if they so chose. The Abramsverse tie-ins are closely enough supervised by Orci/Bad Robot that they could be treated as "expanded universe canon" if Bad Robot and Kurtzman/Orci chose to do so.

    But I don't think they will. Despite what Orci said when practically browbeaten into it by the interviewer, he previously said that he "arrived in Star Trek where the rules of what is canon had already been established." And he's said that on many occasions before. I don't think one interview is going to change his mind.
     
  6. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In the end canon is just an opinion and not even your own. I tend to ignore the concept because the so called canon tends to contradict itself on many occasions while the majority of the non-canon fix these screw ups and enhnace the even already told stories. I'm a big boy and don't need an opinion spoon fed to me thank you.
     
  7. Admiral Rex

    Admiral Rex Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    So as an author of Star Trek novels, are you enforced to accept ALL on-screen Trek as canon in your novels, or can you ignore and contradict some aspects of on-screen Trek that have been arguable or apocryphal by the different creators and the studio, such as the animated series, Star Trek V, etc?
     
  8. iarann

    iarann Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    This is the important thing to consider.

    Honestly, I don't think we want the books and such to be considered canon, because that would take us back to the days where every book has to leave everything the way it started.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    There's no "spoonfeeding," nor is it really an opinion in the sense you mean. This bizarre notion that canon is something telling fans what stories to accept is nonsense. Canon is the core body of work, the work that represents the vision and intention of the original creators (or their inheritors, in the case of a franchise like ST). Work that they don't directly produce or oversee is apocrypha. That's not a value judgment, just a classification. Naturally the creators will prefer their own vision and interpretation over what others do and thus will not tend to count what others do (independently of their supervision) as part of their creation. But there's no effort made to stop fans from liking or believing whatever tie-in stories they choose, so long as they understand that the creators may end up contradicting those stories at some point. Roddenberry and his assistant Richard Arnold made such an attempt to direct and regulate fan views of Trek continuity for a few years, and that probably created this pervasive myth in fandom that canon is about shaping or dictating fan preference, but that brief phase of activist canon regulation ended over 20 years ago and it's long past time fandom got over it.


    The job of tie-in literature is to follow the lead of the canon. I don't see it as being "enforced," I see it as the responsibility I agree to take on when I sign a contract to write a book set in someone else's universe. We're supposed to treat onscreen canon as binding and not intentionally contradict it. (And yeah, technically you could say it's enforced because the studio licensing people vet everything to ensure consistency, but I don't want to give the impression that I see that as somehow oppressive. I'm borrowing their toys and they have a right to supervise how I play with them.)

    In the case of a contradiction within canon, we do what the canon itself does, which is to follow the current lead. New canon supersedes old. Before 2001, we would've been obligated to acknowledge that Kirk's ship was the first starship Enterprise; since then, we've had to acknowledge that it was merely the first Federation starship of that name and that it was named for Jonathan Archer's historic warp-5 prototype.

    As for the animated series, again, its "exclusion" from canon was a policy of Roddenberry and Arnold and it hasn't been binding for two decades. There have been multiple allusions to TAS in canonical productions over the past couple of decades, from "Unification" referencing the backstory of "Yesteryear" to DS9 identifying Kor's ship as the Klothos to the 2009 movie's Spock childhood scenes being practically a remake of the equivalent scenes from "Yesteryear." And the tie-ins have been free to include TAS elements for a long time too, from Peter David incorporating Arex and M'Ress into New Frontier to my own recent Forgotten History featuring many characters, species, and plot elements from TAS. Tie-ins published during the Arnold era would've been required to ignore TAS, but tie-ins published since then haven't needed to, because we follow the lead of the canon as it's currently defined.

    As for something like Star Trek V, parts of it (mainly its quick trip to the center of the galaxy) have been ignored by other canon, but most has not, and tie-ins are expected to avoid contradicting anything that hasn't already been contradicted by later canon. I've referenced Sybok in a couple of my novels, Klaa was featured in Howard Weinstein's Mere Anarchy installment, and the Vanguard series made extensive use of Nimbus III.
     
  10. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well that's quite probably the best way of putting it I've seen. I'd even say it needs publishing on memory Alpha/Beta so all the canon waving fanboys might get off their stump.

    Really where's it start and stop? If you ask Berman, Roddenberry, Braga and Jeri Taylor you'd get different answers from all of them. Roddenberry flat out said TAS wasn't canon and I even think I read somewhere he wanted to say the Motion Picture wasn't either. Berman and Braga have said everything on screen is canon, continuity or not, Jeri Taylor has flat out implied her Voyager novels are canon since she was one of the top people in that franchise and Janeway was pretty much her baby.

    So that's where my opinion stance stems from. If the creators can't even agree, how is the casual fan supposed to take what is and isn't canon seriously? Especially when so many "non canon" sources have produced better quality work.

    Of course if there's ever another movie/series they're not going to be bound by the books and such. Being Enterprise proved they coudln't even stay consistant with what -was- already on screen, you can't even unreasonably expect them to work in the non-canon works. But in true Trek cliche if we got a series set in the future that handwaved all the post DS9/VOY/Nemesis novels I'm sure some creative author would explain an alternate universe so they original plot arc could continue if it was still selling. :p
     
  11. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The Final Frontier not The Motion Picture. :techman:
     
  12. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Sean Connery could have saved that movie. :p
     
  13. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Much like Tom Hardy in Nemesis, Laurence Luckinbill wasn't the problem with The Final Frontier.
     
  14. Garrovick

    Garrovick Commander Red Shirt

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    I can certainly understand the need of those who are producing Trek, in whatever medium, to be guided by "canon", whatever that is deemed to be by TPTB, but I do think that some fans take it a bit more seriously than really necessary. I've enjoyed the novels that have been set in the post-Nemesis storyline, but if a new TV series or movie is made that directly contradicts them I won't worry about it or enjoy the books any less. It wouldn't be the first time that it happened.

    I've always felt free, as a fan, to like or dislike any element of ST I choose.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    By not confusing the concept of canon with the concept of continuity, quality, or rightness. It's none of those things. It simply refers to the core work as distinct from derivative works. Any long-running canon will rewrite or disregard parts of itself, so it's not about what's "real" or "right" or acceptable. The continuity asserted to exist within a canon is as much a fictional conceit as everything else, and the creators of that fiction can rewrite or reinterpret it as they feel appropriate to serve the storytelling or the quality of the work.

    So the key is not to treat it as a value judgment, or as something like a history class where you have to get the right answers to get a passing grade. It's just stories people tell, and one of the things that makes fiction different from reality is that its "facts" can be rewritten. Continuity is simply a storytelling device, and if it has to be adjusted to serve a new story, that's just part of how fiction works and it's not worth getting up in arms about.

    I like to say that canon is defined more by broad strokes than details. The creators of a fictional work in progress will adjust the details as they go, but they maintain the conceit that the overall whole is a common reality. So canon isn't about whether scene X in episode Y or movie Z happened in a certain way. It's about the common background that the entire series is meant to share, even if individual parts of it have conflicting details.


    Enterprise didn't contradict prior Trek any worse than any previous Trek series or movie did. Heck, TWOK had enormous continuity errors, like Khan's followers going from multiethnic to uniformly Nordic and somehow being in their mid-20s despite being stranded as adults 15 years earlier, or Kirk saying he'd never faced death despite having lost his brother and sister-in-law, two loves of his life, and his unborn child.

    Again, it's the nature of fiction that continuity is flexible, especially when it comes from different creators with different interpretations. No two people see Star Trek in exactly the same way. There are plenty of inconsistencies within Trek canon and always have been. It's just that over time we learn to gloss them over. It's the nature of the way the mind works that we construct patterns out of fragments, and so we build the perception of a uniform whole even when the pieces don't quite fit. So the newer incarnation of Trek, the one we haven't had time to incorporate into our mental model, feels like it has more inconsistencies than the previous stuff. But that's just an illusion resulting from the imperfections of memory.

    Just imagine what it would've been like if the Internet had existed in TOS's first season back in 1966-7. "Why are they suddenly calling Spock a 'Vulcan' when he's really a Vulcanian?" "Where'd this 'Star Fleet' nonsense come from? They answer to Space Central or UESPA!" "This 'Federation' retcon is political correctness run amok! Canon has clearly established that the Enterprise is an Earth ship!" "The incompetents running the show should be fired for forgetting that Captain Kirk's middle initial is R!"


    I don't know about that. In the past, the novels have had to follow the lead of new series. There was a Pocket novel continuity that emerged in the mid-'80s, but it had to be abandoned when TNG came along. On the other hand, Trek Lit at Pocket has by now established multiple alternate timelines, and there are certainly franchises that allow coexisting timelines in their tie-ins, like Marvel Comics or Transformers. So it's hard to say what would happen.
     
  16. zarkon

    zarkon Captain Captain

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    The only thing Orci's probable joke even has in favour of it is cap'n data.

    Something's got to start him on his inexorable path to Commodore damnit
     
  17. PowderedToastMan

    PowderedToastMan Commodore Commodore

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    He was not kidding. Ask him yourself. He and I have been talking about this for a while. He even noted in our 'is movie character canon' game (see my previously posted interview) that if they put a movie character into the comics before the release of the movie does that make them already canon, which we agreed yes but not part of the 'original canon'.

    So no, this is no joke. Although I suspect CBS needs to get on board for it. As noted in the interview, Paramount are already in agreement that the game is canon. I suspect IDW would also welcome it.
     
  18. Enterpriserules

    Enterpriserules Commodore Commodore

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    Countdown was fine, but I chose to ignore for the book timeline
     
  19. PPatters

    PPatters Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    From the interview, I didn't get the idea he was goaded or kidding, but I think Christopher brings up some good points. Canon is different from continuity and quality. AND, canon has been ever-changing in Trek for a while now. (This is similar in any long-running show -- look at M*A*S*H, one of the most well-regarded shows ever -- out of necessity, they had to contradict themselves only because they didn't know how long they'd last. That said, M*A*S*H is regarded no less for its quality because of that.) At the end of the day, the only people who need worry about "canon" and what is and isn't canon are the very people that set it and those that need work within its framework. (At the end of the day, then, I would say that Trek authors, such as Christopher, are the ones that have to truly care -- they don't get to decide what is and isn't canon, but also aren't allowed to go around contradicting it.)

    Star Trek is an entertainment franchise, intended to entertain its fans. Whatever makes Star Trek more enjoyable for you as a fan, accept that as part of your "canon" (though, again as Christopher has eluded, that wouldn't be the appropriate word -- but it is the word most fans attribute to the concept for themselves) and whatever doesn't, ignore :)
     
  20. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

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    since i don't even count the last movie as canon, i don't care about the crappy tie-ins for it.