2008-09-06

Canon Just for Writers? No.

Another recent discussion on Trek canon featured a re-iteration of an old line I'd seen before from the anti-canon crowd.

No, 'canon' is what writers in the series have to adhere to when expanding on the official fiction. 'Canon' was never something for the fandom.


This, of course, is fallacy, based on the unfortunate myriad denotations of the term "canon", its confusions with denotations of "continuity", and so on.

However, the easiest way to note the fallacy is to consider the Biblical example. All the major Christian groups have a canon, be it the Catholic canon or the usual Protestant canon or any others that have existed over time (including or excluding Apocryphal works as seen fit).

By definition, this canon is by the 'fans', and regarding material that is not being added to, which precisely contradicts the notion that canon is only for the writers.

Of all the various books, letters, and other writings of the time referencing Jesus, only some have been recognized as New Testament canon, or official Jesus facts. Various stories from the Apocrypha, such as the "infancy gospels" of Jesus raising magical hell as a child, are not counted, though some may have read them and believe them in their "personal canon", or even go off and form a new sect or whatever on the grounds that they want their personal canon to be considered the objective truth for all.

Similarly, many fans and fan groups try to either find out from the makers what counts, or else create their own idea of such. As I said to the anti-canon guys:

And do you really think that there would be any improvement if there was no canon for people to fall back on? It would serve as an end to discussion. There are posters here at TrekBBS who reject much of the live-action Trek we've seen. How could you possibly have a thoughtful discussion with someone about, say, the Borg when you get some guy saying "well, I don't think they exist" or "they never came to the Federation, because I reject everything after "Q Who?"" or even "well, in my fanfic I established . . . "?

This is the very reason that religious groups, Sherlock Holmes fans, and a whole lot of other fan groups and producers thereof trouble themselves to make canon policies to begin with. (The idea even appears in soap opera fan pages . . . a group more likely to be female than the male-centric list above.)

Now I agree that the idea of a canon policy . . . itself a uniting influence . . . can be taken too far when people seem bent on meddling with one's personal canon. However, I'm not attempting to meddle with your personal choices about what you want to accept. My purpose with the canon page and with my messages in this thread has been to clarify what that third-party uniting influence actually says we're uniting towards.


That's the canon for fans, and when fan relations talks about canon to the fans (whether it's Steve Sansweet, George Lucas in interviews, Star Trek guys in interviews, or StarTrek.com), that's precisely what they're supporting.

A canon policy isn't just something for writers, though the writers have one (as do different writing groups, such as show-writers versus licensed novel writers). A canon policy is the objective basis of discussion for all the fans.

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