Fantasy universes have always been a world that only lives because of its supporters. The Star Wars Extended Universe surely contributed to what the franchise is today. It seems that the owner of the brand decides what's canon and what's not, but where is the logic in that? If I throw money at Disney and decide that episode 4 features Jesus Christ, would that be considered the real story by the fans? Of course it wouldn’t. I understand that if you know what's canon and what's not, you know what to expect from a future official production, but if this changes so frequently all the time, who cares? So is there reason to specify what's “real” in a fictional universe?


The question was and is specific about SF&F. Is the canon obsession here healthy? Canon also sometimes doesn't explain things that content that got out of canon previously did. So would you answer non canonical or is it irrelevant to begin with? Also as stated in the comments, people often disagree on what's canon or not; you have to remember that there are stories where the creator/owner didn't bother to specify a canon. So, does it make sense to keep on discussing what's canon and what's not, and shouldn't there be a solution from SF&F? Something like a box you can check whether you care about canon or not canon. Also my question is about content that could reasonably be seen as canon (Like the Witcher games to the books), that doesn't include crappy written fanfic.

  • Related: meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/q/2027/51379 – Adamant Oct 26 '16 at 12:48
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    I’m voting to close this as off-topic. It’s a really interesting question, but it doesn’t seem to be about this site (Science Fiction and Fantasy) in particular. If you could edit it to be about the way we treat canon on this site, it might be rendered on-topic. If you do so, though, make sure it’s not answered here, for example. – Adamant Oct 26 '16 at 12:50
  • In short, because the more you flesh out and define your universe, the more you limit your own options for telling stories if you get a better idea later. The best writers don't flood their universe with bad ideas, or find ways to make story ideas work regardless. Franchises... don't, and make stories to make money until they can't, and then it becomes a canon issue, or time gets erased, or some other universal reset button gets pushed. – Radhil Oct 26 '16 at 12:59
  • This is something that I’d be happy to discuss in chat, though. – Adamant Oct 26 '16 at 13:03
  • @Adamant I mean you could see it as offtopic. Adamant i apprecciate your work here so go on and do what you think works best for the site. – Meerkat Oct 26 '16 at 13:12
  • Don’t worry: the question won’t be closed unless four other people agree with me. Anyway, here’s chat if you want to discuss it. – Adamant Oct 26 '16 at 13:12
  • @Adamant I had this discussion so many times in the past. My question is, should I give enfasis in lets say answers on this site or is this even a reason to downvote a post because its non canonical – Meerkat Oct 26 '16 at 13:15
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    (agree with @Adamant; fascinating question, not a good fit for meta). I'm slightly confused, though; are you holding up the Star Wars EU as a good example of franchise development that isn't under the control of the brand? Because if so, that's really not a correct interpretation – Jason Baker Oct 26 '16 at 13:26
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    @Meerkat - technically speaking, up/downvotes are personal decisions and you can use any reasons (or a Rand'al'Thor number generator) to decide to vote. However, for many (if not most) people on the site, the spirit of the site is about studying works of fiction in the context of canon. As such, people will frequently upvote an answer that demonstrates deep knowledge of canon, and downvote an answer that isn't based on or backed up by canon. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 26 '16 at 13:50
  • Some duplication here; What does “canon” mean? – Valorum Oct 26 '16 at 17:20
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    @Valorum - I think this should be closed. It’s not about why canon is important to our site, it’s about why the concept of canon is important, in general. It’s like the question, “Why is Science Fiction important?” An excellent question, but not about SFF:SE itself. This is the meta site for Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange, not for science fiction and fantasy as genres. – Adamant Oct 26 '16 at 18:03
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    @Adamant - I honestly think the question stands. We spend a lot of time discussing canon and whether an answer has canon sources, etc, etc. The question of why we're canon-obsessed is a valid one. – Valorum Oct 26 '16 at 18:37
  • @Valorum - I completely agree with that. But that is not what this seems to be asking. I encouraged the OP to edit to make the question about this site, but so far that is not the case. – Adamant Oct 26 '16 at 18:44
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    @DVK "Rand'al'Thor number generator" - it took me far longer than it should have to get that :-) – Rand al'Thor Oct 26 '16 at 23:21
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    @Adamant OP lives in a different time zone and was sleeping :) But he did now – Meerkat Oct 27 '16 at 7:14

So is there reason to specify what's “real” in a fictional universe?

I assume that you're asking this in the context of SFF.SE and not life in general. As such, the answer is a definite "Yes", there is a reason. Because:

  1. That's basically what many, if not most, users come to this site for in the first place.

    The spirit of the site is about studying works of speculative fiction in the context of canon.[0]

    The reasons for that vary and may be worth exploring in a separate Meta Q&A or a blog post, but the margins of this answer are too small to fit that discourse.

  2. Because if you don't use canon, you don't have a basis for workable StackExchange Q&A site - there is no objective way to score whether an answer is "correct" or not, "good" or not.

[0] - There are other things that the site is also for - such as dissecting the genre history and *sigh* story-identification - but those comprise a much smaller use case.

  • Precisely this. Without a clear definition of what canon represents to fans, we'd have a free-for-all with users posting rubbish from fan-fic. – Valorum Oct 26 '16 at 17:21
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    I agree with Adamant that this question should be closed, but nonetheless this is a good, concise answer, so +1. :) – Slytherincess Oct 26 '16 at 19:31

Canon is especially important when it comes to shared universes or very large bodies of work.

What happens is that timelines, continuities, and even the way the universe works can all be contradicted at various levels of canon. Determining a primary canon allows users to be on the same page about the fictional universe, in a way that's internally consistent.

Users tend to prefer a certain level of canon, because going beyond that can get too messy, or seem like professional fan-fiction (such as the *What if?" line Marvel comics). It also helps to decide which media to consume, or to focus on when becoming an expert. Harry Potter experts needn't read every line of flavor text from the official video games, as that's not a level of canon most users are particularly interested in.

So, as you see, it's useful for both engaging objective discussion, and guiding users and experts to relevant material.

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