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  • About that (loose) "canon"...

    Hopefully, this is the appropriate place for this. Dunno, maybe it oughta be Boiler Room...

    Okay, following up on a discussion in the David Fury thread, I'd like to see where the posters here fall in regard to "canon". This started as it applies to Season 8, but as I posted on that thread, I've seen people who refused to watch or discuss anything that happened in Seasons 6 & 7, and deny that there was any such. There are people who take a particular episode (like, "Seeing Red") and not only refuse to watch or discuss anything past that, they refuse to allow anything after that point to even be mentioned in forums they moderate. So:

    1. What is "canon"?
    a. What does that term mean to you?
    b. How do you define "canon" as it applies to a fictional universe?

    2. What determines what is "canon" within a fictional universe?
    a. The creator's decision?
    b.The audience's acceptance of the work?
    c. The mere fact that a work exists, even if someone else wrote it without the creator identifying it as a canon work?
    d. If c), then does that make fanfic canon?

    3. What determines what is NOT "canon"?
    a. Lack of the creator's input?
    b. Lack of the creator's authorization as canon?
    c. The medium?
    d. The storyline?
    e. Presence or absence of your favorite character(s)?

    4. Following up on #3, if you answered c), then why?
    a. Is the medium more important than the story?
    b. If so, does the story matter at all?
    c. Does the fictional universe hold any other interest for you?

    5. Following up on #3, if if you answered d), then why?
    a. Does the fictional universe hold any other interest for you?

    6. Following up on #3, if if you answered e), then why?
    a. Does the fictional universe hold any other interest for you?


    Discuss.
    "Occasionally, I'm callous and strange..." - Willow Rosenberg, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

  • #2
    1. What is "canon"?
    Canon is the "official" stuff for me. If it passes the creators OK for being official/in line with his vision, then I see it as canon. So yes, in my mind what Joss says, goes, at least as far as it refers to events, quotations, characters, relationships, etc. Obviously Joss makes mistakes now and then that should be ignored.

    2. What determines what is "canon" within a fictional universe?
    Again, the creators decision. Fan fiction doesn't even border on canon.

    3. What determines what is NOT "canon"?
    I think mainly the lack of creator approval. I don't think that the creator needs to be directly involved or the genius behind ever idea/decision...BUT he/she needs to OK any changes. This is what I have always understood was "canon"...fan input has nothing to do with it.
    I have loved you. - Ser Jorah Mormont

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Rowan Hawthorn View Post
      Hopefully, this is the appropriate place for this. Dunno, maybe it oughta be Boiler Room...
      Hee! It certainly does get people's backs up. But I think here's just fine.

      1. What is "canon"?
      a. What does that term mean to you?
      b. How do you define "canon" as it applies to a fictional universe?
      a) In the context that I first came across the term, canon was preceded by the definite article and meant Big Important Literary Works Primarily By Dead People Who Are Usually White And Male ("The Canon" is snappier though, huh?). The literary sense of the word still sticks in my mind when I think about fandom usage.

      I can't remember when I first heard the term in fandom (though, since I only really entered fandom in 2003 or so, must be after that). Anyway, to answer b), when canon is applied to a fictional universe, that meaning is inextricably tied up with fandom. Though with a secondary Biblical resonance - rather apt given that people have a way of equating Joss and God. Does that make spin off novels/non-canonical comics Jossverse Apocrypha?

      Back to the question. In the context of a fictional universe, I see canon as the "official" output - but who gets to say if something is official? In the Jossverse, I'm happy to take Joss's word for it in most cases. However, if various Jossverse writers disagreed with him, I might feel more split. Especially if it was one that I thought was a good writer. The Jossverse is, after all, a group effort, and if enough of the other creators waged a war against "heaven", I might be of the devil's party

      So, I'd say canon isn't completely hard and fast, but relies on a consens between both fans and creators that Joss's word goes in terms of what Buffy "is". What Buffy means, however, is completely up for grabs, and I wouldn't take Joss's interpretation over mine or anyone elses if it clashed with what's on screen.


      2. What determines what is "canon" within a fictional universe?
      a. The creator's decision?
      b.The audience's acceptance of the work?
      I think that both have a part to play - and, as I mentione before, the stance of all creators involved, or at least, an interplay between what the creators believe and my approach to those authors. To a degree, it's the audience's choice whether to accept something as part of the fictional universe, where there's ambiguity. NB: I don't think quality is a factor.
      Wolfie Gilmore
      Sad Castiel
      Last edited by Wolfie Gilmore; 27-01-09, 11:38 AM.


      -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

      Comment


      • #4
        1. Yep, canon = the stuff that happened in the universe the author(s) created, what they let happen so to say. In a fictional and expanding universe, canon is what the creator writes or otherwise labels as such. He owns the fictional universe he created, so it is his decision what happens in it and what not.

        2. Definitely the creator's decision, because he simply OWNS it. It is his work, his own personal creation. Nobody else can simply alter it, except if he gives that other author permission to do so (and labels somethign as official, for example).

        3. Lack of the creator's authorisation. If he wants to incorporate what someone else has written into his universe, he can of course do so and thereby make it canon because once again, duh, he owns his universe.



        If the audience's reaction defined canon, how were we to determine if something made it to canon status? How many % of fans would have to approve? More than half? More than 75 %? And how can someone else decide the fate of a universe that does not legally belong to him, unless he is licensed to do so?
        Sin is what I feast upon
        I'm forging my crematorium
        Your tomb is waiting here for you
        Welcome to my ritual

        -Judas Priest, Death

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm pretty active over at the Wikia Buffy site. It has a pretty straightforward approach to canon that I more or less agree with. It pretty much boils down to: Canon is what Joss says it is. There are some grey areas where certain things don't contradict confirmed canon but haven't been formally approved, either. But it's his Universe, so he gets to define it -- if he says it is (or isn't) canon, that's how it is.
          Cordially,
          Amuk

          I didn't jump. I took a tiny step, and there conclusions were.
          Addicted to Buffy

          Comment


          • #6
            1. What is "canon"?
            a. What does that term mean to you?
            b. How do you define "canon" as it applies to a fictional universe?


            a. When I think of 'canon' my mind goes to the original usage of the word, which defined officially accepted religious works from Apocrypha. The Four Gospels in the New Testament were eventually decided to be Canon (300 years or more after the last person who helped found Christianity was dead), but there are dozens of other works that were rejected as "not canon". The Gospel of Peter, The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Judas, The Gospel of Mary Magdalen, etc. Everyone had their favorite character and/or version of the story...

            Which is why I find all this argument over Buffy canon so hilarious. I have wild flights of fancy imagining the earliest Christians sitting around arguing about canon (and characters) much the way we are today.

            "No, you don't understand Judas at ALL! He didn't betray Jesus. Jesus was the Son of God, dude. It was all part of his plan, and he picked Judas to turn him in because Judas was his most beloved disciple! It's all right here in The Gospel of Judas."

            "Pfft! Gospel of Judas! That's a bunch of crap, man. You think Jesus liked Judas more than Mary Magdalen? A dude more than a chick? What, do you think the Man was Greek?"

            b. As it applies to this fictional universe I see anything written or overseen by Joss to be canon. That includes the movie, to a certain degree. I think the movie is useful to see Joss' original ideas about Buffy's characterization and to see what kind of ending Joss originally wanted Buffy to have.

            2. What determines what is "canon" within a fictional universe?
            a. The creator's decision?
            b.The audience's acceptance of the work?
            c. The mere fact that a work exists, even if someone else wrote it without the creator identifying it as a canon work?
            d. If c), then does that make fanfic canon?


            I'd have to go with a bit of all of the above. What canon is shifts with time. While Joss is alive he has sole authority (in my opinion) as to what canon is. Eventually, though, there will be no more writers left, and canon will be the sole province of the fans. Once there are no more official writers, then the mere fact that a work exists about the subject is enough to elevate it to a level nearly to that of what we now regard as 'official' canon. Again, to use the earlier example of Christianity, none of the "Canonical" Gospels has any more inherent value than those that were rejected. They're all fan fiction written decades or centuries later by people who never met Jesus and who had no part in the inception of Christianity. But, eventually, the mere fact that someone wrote about Jesus made the work important to early Christianity.

            I know I'm taking the unnecessarily long view of the question, but that's just how my mind works.
            XavierZane
            Book Guy
            Last edited by XavierZane; 27-01-09, 12:20 AM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by XavierZane View Post
              Everyone had their favorite character and/or version of the story...

              Again, to use the earlier example of Christianity, none of the "Canonical" Gospels has any more inherent value than those that were rejected. They're all fan fiction written decades or centuries later by people who never met Jesus and who had no part in the inception of Christianity.
              Not to be all doom and gloom, but lets not bring religion into this, even if that is where the word "canon" was originally used. Plus, you are incorrect in saying that a] they were written by people who 'never met Jesus', and b] that the canon Gospels had no more inherent value than those that were rejected. I have heard plenty of strong evidence to disprove the rejected "Gospels".

              Anyway.


              Personally, I disagree that fan fiction may at one point become 'canon'. If Joss was to die tomorrow, sure, some of the writers might finish up the BTVS comics to provide some closure. But if someone cooked up a new Buffy movie, I wouldn't consider it canon because I HIGHLY doubt that the actors would be interested in something created by someone not-Joss. When Joss finally lays "Buffy" to rest, that will be it for us. Write all the fanfic you want...the canon story of Buffy will end when he leaves it.
              I have loved you. - Ser Jorah Mormont

              Comment


              • #8
                1. What is "canon"?

                Canon is the official continuation of the story.

                2. What determines what is "canon" within a fictional universe?

                The creator saying that it is the official continuation of the official story.

                3. What determines what is NOT "canon"?

                I'd say usually a combination of both 'lack of creators input/lack of creator's authority in stating something is canon." Only because usually if the creator has no input whatsoever in a story chances are he or she hasn't given that story the canon stamp, though this is not always the case.

                As long as the creator says it is canon, it is canon, end of story really. Doesn’t mean someone has to follow it but it does mean they are no longer following the official continuation of the story.

                ~ Banner by Nina ~

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                • #9
                  What is canon?

                  Canon is the set of texts a community accepts as authoritative, what they quote from in arguments with one another.

                  2. What determines what is canon within a fictional universe?

                  In communities formed around fictional texts (like this one), there does seem to be a presupposition that if the author says a new piece of work is part of the canon then it is. However, if its the case that the community continues to discuss the original work (citing it as canon) and that the community chooses to not accept the new work, the creators can scream until they are blue in the face, the new work isn't functioning as canon in that community.

                  There could well be a split in the Buffy fandom over this: with one part taking the comics as canon, and another part not. I don't think that's fully settled. But it's a possible outcome.

                  3. What determines what is not canon?

                  Same answer as #2. The creator probably has extra authority, but the community gets the last word.

                  Another way to put my basic point is that there is some meaning to "canon" as defined by the author. But that's not necessarily the same thing as the canon that actually functions as canon in a given community.

                  Last point is that cross-community conversations about this are never fruitful. You can dismiss communities that have rejected the comics as canon. You can insist on maintaining the comics as canon in this community. But you can't go over to those other communities and expect them to be moved by your argument that the comics are canon because Joss said so. If they don't want to read or adopt the comics as canon there is nothing you or Joss can do about it. That's what I mean when I say that the community has the final say.
                  sigpic
                  "I don't want to be this good-looking and athletic. We all have crosses to bear." Banner Credit: Vampmogs

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                  • #10
                    Well, the community can certainly decide to ignore the author's continuation of the story. But they can't thereby make it fan fiction. I might be influenced by having a Master degree in law , but to me the idea that a group of people can decide the status of something they don't hold any rights over is pretty much outrageous. Nobody gets to decide the fate of someone else's property.

                    The author may be influenced by his audience in his decision how to continue the story (because sales figures, duh ), but once he has continued it, it's canon, and from my legal viewpoint the audience's reaction can't determine if it is official or not. That is for the author (and copyright owner) to decide.


                    That original movie is a difficult thing, of course, since it does not really fit into the TV shows' 'verse. I guess it counts as some published draft version, just like there are published draft versions of Tolkien's works about (check out the History of Middle-earth series). I don't think Joss names it as part of his canon as it is today, or does he?
                    Sin is what I feast upon
                    I'm forging my crematorium
                    Your tomb is waiting here for you
                    Welcome to my ritual

                    -Judas Priest, Death

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Bloodsucker View Post
                      1. In a fictional and expanding universe, canon is what the creator writes or otherwise labels as such. He owns the fictional universe he created, so it is his decision what happens in it and what not.

                      2. Definitely the creator's decision, because he simply OWNS it. It is his work, his own personal creation. Nobody else can simply alter it, except if he gives that other author permission to do so (and labels somethign as official, for example).
                      Amuk said: But it's his Universe, so he gets to define it -- if he says it is (or isn't) canon, that's how it is.
                      This notion of ownership is an interesting one. Perhaps we could define canon in terms of "product" ? story-as-official-merchandise? There's definitely a capitalist implication in canon, an implication of a certain kind of power and authority within a system of buying and selling that comes with producing something that other people want to buy/consume. Just as people often trust a brand, Joss is a trusted brand (mostly! Obviously not by everyone). Perhaps people who have ceased to trust in "brand Joss TM" don't take season 8 as canon, because they don't accept the authority of the creator any more?

                      I don't think anyone owns a story in anything other than a legal/copyright sense ? that is, stories have an existence separate from the creator. If the creator dies, the story lives on, whether it's "owned" or not. I enjoy Shakespeare, that's out of copyright. Or I enjoy revisionist retellings of classic stories ? eg Angela Carter's "Bloody Chamber" take on bluebeard's castle and other fairytales. Authorship/ownership isn't what gives a story it's life. A story can grow and change in the retelling.

                      But canon, imo, is a construct that's useful in terms of studying a particular fictional universe and building communities and discussions around that universe. It's a metafiction, in a sense ? Joss is bracketing together certain story elements into the "real" story, and we all play make believe that that particular universe is real, and no other version of the fictional universe. Part of the pleasure of a fictional universe is committing to its reality by caring about the characters in it, feeling their deaths as real ? and they only feel real if the world seems to have a coherence. So, having the creator canonize certain elements of the story (where there's any room for ambiguity ? canon only applies where you've got a story that crosses different media, or has different incarnations ? you don't need to talk about canon when it comes to, say, War and Peace). Though there might be an argument for novels that have been printed in different ways ? eg Great Expectations, that has had two slightly different endings in different publication contexts, can't remember the exact process, but he definitely wrote a slightly happier one at some point, possibly in a collected edition rather than as published serially? Sometimes there is no "canon" about these matters, cos the author's not said what the "real" version is. Perhaps the latest-published version? But it's not "official".

                      In a sense, we and the author/creator are creating a mutual fiction that one version of a fictional world is the "real" one, in order to fully enjoy that world.

                      On the whole, it doesn't seem sporting to break that pact


                      -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        1. What is "canon"?
                        a. What does that term mean to you?
                        b. How do you define "canon" as it applies to a fictional universe?

                        a) To me, the term means official.
                        b) Therefore, in terms of a ficticious universe, it means something that counts within the storyline and is considered part of the story.

                        2. What determines what is "canon" within a fictional universe?
                        a. The creator's decision?
                        b.The audience's acceptance of the work?
                        c. The mere fact that a work exists, even if someone else wrote it without the creator identifying it as a canon work?
                        d. If c), then does that make fanfic canon?

                        a. If it's not the creator's decision then it doesn't count in my books.

                        3. What determines what is NOT "canon"?
                        a. Lack of the creator's input?
                        b. Lack of the creator's authorization as canon?
                        c. The medium?
                        d. The storyline?
                        e. Presence or absence of your favorite character(s)?

                        a & b.
                        sigpic

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                        • #13
                          Wolfie, I'd stick with the latest version, in that case, because this is what the author's final decision was, apparently.
                          For just that reason I don't like it when Wagner's Flying Dutchman is played without the redemption moment at the end. Yes, that was the original version, but Wagner changed it pretty soon because he considered the earlier version lacking and wanted it included - therefore that's the "canonical" ending, and wilfully removing it again is ignoring what the author meant to say with his composition.
                          Sin is what I feast upon
                          I'm forging my crematorium
                          Your tomb is waiting here for you
                          Welcome to my ritual

                          -Judas Priest, Death

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Bloodsucker View Post
                            Wolfie, I'd stick with the latest version, in that case, because this is what the author's final decision was, apparently.
                            For just that reason I don't like it when Wagner's Flying Dutchman is played without the redemption moment at the end. Yes, that was the original version, but Wagner changed it pretty soon because he considered the earlier version lacking and wanted it included - therefore that's the "canonical" ending, and wilfully removing it again is ignoring what the author meant to say with his composition.
                            That takes us to an interesting place, then ? since the latest version is sometimes the version that's been hacked at or altered for commercial reasons (eg a happy ending added because the publishers wanted it). But perhaps that takes us to the heart of "canon" ? canon isn't about quality, or integrity. It's about what is the finished product. Though sometimes it's hard to say, since, for example, a book might be published in one form, then rejigged ten years later (not necessarily happened, but it's a possibility!). Oh, I know, say? a director's cut of a movie. Which version is the "canon"? Can both versions be part of the canon, and the viewer must experience the story somewhere at the intersection of the two?


                            -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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                            • #15
                              Finished product is a fairly good answer with anything that is commercialised in the complicated way of our modern world, yes.

                              And there's another problem I see: flaws in canon. What comes to mind is two things from LotR, first, Gildor introducing himself as "Gildor Inglorion of the house of Finrod", which is somewhat strange when you've read the Silmarillion, because the house is that of Finarfin and Finrod is just his eldest son. According to Christopher Tolkien, this was an error that his father missed when changing the names in the appendixes (Finarfin was originally named Finrod and Finrod was Inglor, so the passage should be "Gildor Finrodion of the house of Finarfin"), second when Aragorn speaks of "6 days to Rivendell", which is proven wrong by Christopher Tolkien as well (and he was the one who drew the maps for his father, so he must know), it should have been "6 days to the Last Bridge", if I remember that correctly. Well, in that case the correction probably counts as canon because the son proves that these were mistakes his father made and it was intended to say something else - or what would you say?
                              Sin is what I feast upon
                              I'm forging my crematorium
                              Your tomb is waiting here for you
                              Welcome to my ritual

                              -Judas Priest, Death

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Bloodsucker View Post
                                Finished product is a fairly good answer with anything that is commercialised in the complicated way of our modern world, yes.
                                So, do you think the director's cut of something would be the canon?

                                Well, in that case the correction probably counts as canon because the son proves that these were mistakes his father made and it was intended to say something else - or what would you say?
                                Well, if we're going with the "latest" version, then whatever was published last is canon. But in cases like that, I honestly think that canon starts to break down. Or in the case of continuity errors - Spike saying Angel's his sire, then it turns out Dru was - you have to take whatever makes the most sense in the context and is backed up by the rest of the story (ie Dru's the sire).

                                But once you start doing that, you do have to wonder, where do you draw the line?

                                EDIT: I should probably draw a distinction here, between "canon" in the sense of "the products that make up canon" and "canon" in terms of "canonical events, the events that are part of the primary story universe of a franchise/fiction."

                                While Spike saying "you were my sire, man, you were my yoda" is canon in the former sense, Angel actually being his sire is not, or at least, does not jive with the rest of the canonical evidence about Spike's siring.
                                Wolfie Gilmore
                                Sad Castiel
                                Last edited by Wolfie Gilmore; 28-01-09, 11:28 AM.


                                -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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                                • #17
                                  Yes, well, since the director's cut is what teh creator (here the director) really wanted, I would call it canon (but that's bound to just be longer and not contraict the original version usually, right?).
                                  Let's perhaps change the "what was published last" rule to "what the creator really wanted", though in most cases that will really be the last thing.

                                  And I think Spike saying Angel was his sire can be explained without really considering it a continuity issue: Drusilla was the actual sire, but Angel was Spike's teacher ("my Yoda" ), which is what you would expect of a sire, so in a way he was. Also, he is Drusilla's sire, so he is closely related.
                                  Some things that seem to be contradictions can be explained (or possibly fanwanked), thereby smoothing the continuity issue down, but in other cases... well, then I guess you have to ask yourself what the creator really wanted it to be.
                                  Sin is what I feast upon
                                  I'm forging my crematorium
                                  Your tomb is waiting here for you
                                  Welcome to my ritual

                                  -Judas Priest, Death

                                  Comment


                                  • #18

                                    1. What is "canon"?
                                    a. What does that term mean to you?
                                    b. How do you define "canon" as it applies to a fictional universe?


                                    Canon is what we see on screen or in a continuation of the verse. If the creator says the continuation is canon, it is canon.


                                    2. What determines what is "canon" within a fictional universe?
                                    a. The creator's decision?
                                    b.The audience's acceptance of the work?
                                    c. The mere fact that a work exists, even if someone else wrote it without the creator identifying it as a canon work?
                                    d. If c), then does that make fanfic canon?


                                    The creator determines what is canon. Audience acceptance doesn't factor in to canon at all. Fanfic is not canon.


                                    3. What determines what is NOT "canon"?
                                    a. Lack of the creator's input?
                                    b. Lack of the creator's authorization as canon?
                                    c. The medium?
                                    d. The storyline?
                                    e. Presence or absence of your favorite character(s)?


                                    If the creator doesn't deem the work as a continuation of the story or call it canon then it is not canon.

                                    Whosoever Shall Call Upon the Name of the Lord Shall Be Saved!

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