Canon (fiction)

In fiction, canon is the material accepted as officially part of the story in the fictional universe of that story. It is often contrasted with, or used as the basis for, works of fan fiction. The alternative terms mythology, timeline, universe and continuity are often used, with the first of these being used especially to refer to a richly detailed fictional canon requiring a large degree of suspension of disbelief (e.g. an entire imaginary world and history), while the latter two typically refer to a single arc where all events are directly connected chronologically. Other times, the word can mean "to be acknowledged by the creator(s)".

Origin

The use of the word "canon" originated in reference to a set of texts derives from Biblical canon, the set of books regarded as scripture, as contrasted with non-canonical Apocrypha.[1] The term was first used by analogy in the context of fiction to refer to the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as contrasted with numerous Holmes adventures added later by other writers. This usage was afterwards extended to the writings of various other authors.

The term "canon" nowadays refers to all works of fiction within a franchise's fictional universe which are considered "to have actually happened" within the fictional universe they belong to.

Canonicity

When there are multiple "official" works or original media, the question of what is canonical can be unclear. This is resolved either by explicitly excluding certain media from the status of canon (as in the case of Star Trek and Star Wars), by assigning different levels of canonicity to different media (as was in the case of Star Wars before the franchise was purchased by Disney), by considering different but licensed media treatments official and equally canonical to the series timeline within their own continuities universe, but not across them, or not resolved at all. The use of canon is of particular importance with regard to reboots or re-imaginings of established franchises, such as the Star Trek remake (2009), because of the ways in which it influences the viewer experience.[2]

The official Star Trek website describes Star Trek canon as "the events that take place within the episodes and movies" (that is, the television series Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, and the Star Trek film series, with Star Trek: The Animated Series having long existed in a nebulous gray area of canonicity).[3] Events, characters and storylines from tie-in novels, comic books, and video games are explicitly excluded from the Star Trek canon, but the site notes that elements from these sources have been subsequently introduced into the television series, and says that "canon is not something set in stone."[3] One example of a non-canonical element that later became canonical in the Star Trek universe were the first names for Sulu and Uhura, introduced in novels, plus "Tiberius" becoming the official middle name of Enterprise captain James T. Kirk. The name was introduced in the Star Trek animated series, and was later added into the official biography of the character by its mention in the live-action film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).

The Star Wars canon originally existed on several levels. The highest level was the original Star Wars films, and statements by George Lucas; tie-in fiction from the Star Wars expanded universe had a different level of canonicity.[4] The complex system was maintained by Leland Chee, a Lucasfilm employee.[4] After Disney bought the franchise, all material published prior to April 25, 2014 that was not any of the Star Wars movies or the CGI cartoon The Clone Wars was declared in the "Legends" continuity, marking them as no longer official canon. All subsequent material exists on the same level of canon, with the Lucasfilm Story Group being established to ensure no contradictions among canon works.[5]

The makers of Doctor Who have generally avoided making pronouncements about canonicity, with Russell T Davies explaining that he does not think about the concept for the Doctor Who television series or its spin-offs.[6][7][8]

Canon as distinguishing between original works and later additions

In literature, the term "canon" is used to distinguish between the original works of a writer who created certain characters and/or settings, and the later works of other writers who took up the same characters or setting. For example, the canon of Sherlock Holmes consists of the 56 short stories and four novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes.[9] The subsequent works by other authors who took up Sherlock Holmes are considered "non-canonical".

Fanon

Fan fiction is almost never regarded as canonical. However, certain ideas may become influential or widely accepted within fan communities, who refer to such ideas as "fanon", a portmanteau of fan and canon.[4][10][11] Similarly, the jargon "headcanon" is used to describe a fan's personal interpretation of a fictional universe.

See also

References

  1. ^ McDonald 2007, p. 38.
  2. ^ Urbanski 2013, p. 83.
  3. ^ a b "FAQ: Article". startrek.com. CBS Studios. 10 July 2003. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Baker, Chris (18 August 2008). "Meet Leland Chee, the Star Wars Franchise Continuity Cop". Wired. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  5. ^ "The Legendary Star Wars Expanded Universe Turns a New Page". StarWars.com.
  6. ^ Doctor Who Magazine #388
  7. ^ Doctor Who Magazine #356
  8. ^ Davies RT, "The Writer's Tales"
  9. ^ Peter Haining, "Introduction" in Doyle, Arthur Conan (1993). The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. ISBN 1-56619-198-X. Edited by Peter Haining.
  10. ^ Parrish 2007, p. 33: 'fanon.' Within an individual fandom, certain plotlines may be reinvented so many times and by so many people—or alternately may be written so persuasively by a few writers—that they take on the status of fan-produced canon.
  11. ^ The first known use of the word fanon was by Emily Salzfass in a post about Star Trek at alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated on April 1, 1998.

Sources

Apocrypha (fiction)

In the context of fiction, apocrypha includes stories and works set in a fictional universe that do not belong in its canon but may still have some authority within it. The boundaries between canon and apocrypha can often be blurry.

Apocrypha may include tie-in merchandise, such as video games, novels and comics, which is often referred to as the fictional universe's 'expanded universe'.

At times, apocryphal material may contradict the continuity that has already been established by canon. Even when no such contradictions occur, such material may sometimes be deemed apocrypha if it has been produced independently of the universe's creator. For example, Buffyverse creator Joss Whedon has little involvement with Buffyverse novels, has never closely overseen or edited one, and has never read an entire novel through.

Star Trek canon consists of the Star Trek television series and movies. All other Star Trek novels and comics, whether licensed by Paramount or not, are not part of canon, but are classified as apocrypha.

Fan fiction is referred to as fanon.

Bible (screenwriting)

A bible (also known as a story bible, show bible, series bible, or pitch bible) is a reference document used by screenwriters for information on a television series' characters, settings, and other elements.

Biblical canon

A biblical canon or canon of scripture is a set of texts (or "books") which a particular religious community regards as authoritative scripture. The English word "canon" comes from the Greek κανών, meaning "rule" or "measuring stick". Christians became the first to use the term in reference to scripture, but Eugene Ulrich regards the idea as Jewish.Most of the canons listed below are considered by adherents "closed" (i.e., books cannot be added or removed), reflecting a belief that public revelation has ended and thus some person or persons can gather approved inspired texts into a complete and authoritative canon, which scholar Bruce Metzger defines as "an authoritative collection of books".

In contrast, an "open canon", which permits the addition of books through the process of continuous revelation, Metzger defines as "a collection of authoritative books".

These canons have developed through debate and agreement on the part of the religious authorities of their respective faiths and denominations. Believers consider canonical books as inspired by God or as expressive of the authoritative history of the relationship between God and his people. Some books, such as the Jewish-Christian gospels, have been excluded from various canons altogether, but many disputed books—considered non-canonical or even apocryphal by some—are considered to be Biblical apocrypha or deuterocanonical or fully canonical by others. Differences exist between the Jewish Tanakh and Christian biblical canons, although the Jewish Tanakh did form the basis for the Christian Old Testament, and between the canons of different Christian denominations. In some cases where varying strata of scriptural inspiration have accumulated, it becomes prudent to discuss texts that only have an elevated status within a particular tradition. This becomes even more complex when considering the open canons of the various Latter Day Saint sects—which are usually viewed as divergent from biblical Christianity (and moreover, Judaism)—and the scriptural revelations purportedly given to several leaders over the years within that movement.

Crossover (fiction)

A crossover is the placement of two or more otherwise discrete fictional characters, settings, or universes into the context of a single story. They can arise from legal agreements between the relevant copyright holders, unauthorized efforts by fans or common corporate ownership.

Fan fiction

Fan fiction or fanfiction (also abbreviated to fan fic, fanfic, fic or ff) is fiction about characters or settings from an original work of fiction, created by fans of that work rather than by its creator. Fans may maintain the creator's characters and settings or add their own. It is a popular form of fan labor, particularly since the advent of the Internet.

Fan fiction is rarely commissioned or authorized by the original work's creator or publisher and is rarely professionally published. It may or may not infringe on the original author's copyright, depending on the jurisdiction and on such questions as for whether or not it qualifies as "fair use" (see Legal issues with fan fiction). Attitudes of authors and copyright owners of original works to fan fiction have ranged from indifference to encouragement to rejection. Copyright owners have occasionally responded with legal action.

The term "fan fiction" came into use in the 20th century as copyright laws began to delineate between stories using established characters that were authorized by the copyright holder and those that were unauthorized. For earlier works with similar characteristics, see unofficial sequel or pastiche.

Fan fiction is defined by being both related to its subject's canonical fictional universe (often referred to as "canon") and simultaneously existing outside it (au or Alternative universe (fan fiction)). Most fan fiction writers assume that their work is read primarily by other fans, and therefore presume that their readers have knowledge of the canon universe (created by a professional writer) in which their works are based.

List of fictional presidents of the United States (N–R)

The following is a list of fictional United States presidents, N through R.

Reboot (fiction)

In serial fiction, a reboot is a new start to an established fictional universe, work, or series that discards all continuity to re-create its characters, plotlines and backstory from the beginning. It has been described as a way to "rebrand" or "restart an entertainment universe that has already been established". The term has been criticised for being a vague and "confusing" "buzzword", and a neologism for remake, a concept which has been losing popularity in the 2010s.

Reset button technique

The reset button technique (based on the idea of status quo ante) is a plot device that interrupts continuity in works of fiction. Simply put, use of a reset button device returns all characters and situations to the status quo they held before a major change of some sort was introduced. Typically it occurs either in the middle of a program and negates a portion of it, or it occurs at the beginning, or very end, of a program to negate all that came before it. Often used in science fiction television series, animated series, soap operas, and comic books, the device allows elaborate and dramatic changes to characters and the fictional universe that might otherwise invalidate the premise of the show with respect to future episodes or issues continuity. Writers may, for example, use the technique to allow the audience to experience the death of the lead character, which traditionally would not be possible without effectively ending the work.

Squidbillies

Squidbillies is an American adult animated television series on Cartoon Network's late night programming block, Adult Swim. An unofficial pilot for the series aired on April 1, 2005; the series later made its official debut on October 16, 2005. The series is about the Cuyler family, an impoverished family of anthropomorphic hillbilly mud squids living in the Georgia region of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The series revolves around the exploits of an alcoholic father (Early), who is often abusive in a comedic way towards his family. His teenage son, Rusty, is desperate for his approval; his mother and grandmother, known in the show as Granny, is often the center of his aggression; and Lil, his sister, is mostly unconscious in a pool of her own vomit.

There have been a total of 114 episodes during the show's 11 seasons. The series also airs in syndication in other countries and has been released on various DVD sets and other forms of home media.

The show was renewed for a twelfth season, set to premiere in early 2019.

Virtual season

A Virtual Season or Virtual Series is a fan-driven continuation of a television program. While they are typically written for cancelled programs, they sometimes run concurrently with programs that are still airing original episodes. Virtual Seasons can be written by a single author, by several collaborating authors in a fandom, or even reproduced episodically in a single video or series of videos. These series can be written in screenplay or prose format.

What If (comics)

What If, sometimes rendered as What If...?, is a series of comic books published by Marvel Comics whose stories explore how the Marvel Universe might have unfolded if key moments in its history had not occurred as they did in mainstream continuity. What If comics have been published in eleven series as well as many stand-alone issues since the 1970s.

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