19

I'm going to be writing a post for the blog and the subject is: What is canon? And because we're a community, standards of what constitutes canon is going to vary person to person. My goal is not to try and establish any kind of over-arcing, generalized rule that formally defines canon; my goal for the blog post is to discuss canon usefully, in a way that will ultimately impact SFF.se in a positive and meaningful way.

I will read anything you have to say regarding canon¹ and am very interested in how you classify the particular canon of a creative work that you favor. I'm also interested in your thoughts on the importance of different axioms of canon, and how you personally vet the various levels of canon source materials. In other words, what source materials are the most important to you? Which are the least important? Why? For example, my personal Harry Potter canon hierarchy might look something like this:

  1. Seven main Harry Potter novels; three ancillary books Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard
  2. Interviews with J.K. Rowling
  3. Pottermore website
  4. JKRowling.com via the Wayback Machine
  5. Information I remember having once read before but now cannot find
  6. Various Harry Potter fan sites/forums
  7. Harry Potter theme park trivia
  8. The eight Harry Potter films / The HP Wikia
  9. Fan Fiction

ETA: In chat the issue of ret-con came up, which means changing canon long after it has become established. For example, should J.K. Rowling suddenly decide that Dobby the House-elf's name was actually "Barry", and that (spoilers) --

his death

-- never occurred, that would be ret-conning. I really think ret-conning is a legitimate axiom of canon, so I'm trying to figure out where it will fall in my personal hierarchy. Some fandoms are cleaner than others when it comes to continuity errors and ret-conning. Fandoms like Doctor Who and Star Trek have had to deal with significant or confusing ret-con. Anyhow, do consider ret-con for your hierarchy if it's applicable.

It's late so I won't detail my canon hierarchy, but I very much want to know why you choose the order(s) that you do, so please feel free to go into as much detail as you'd like.

Thank you very much. And thanks to the mods for letting me post this.

¹ I'll even accept formal complaints regarding the ridiculously inflexible standards I impose upon Harry Potter canon! Go ahead ... Queue up in the comments section ... No shoving ...

  • 2
    JKR was a senior consultant on all of the films. That makes them the same level of canon as the books... (Richard pulls pin and withdraws to a safe location) – Valorum Jul 2 '14 at 23:38
  • 3
    @Richard -- Well, first, can you provide definitive documentation that J.K. Rowling was "senior consultant" on all eight of the films and exactly what that role entails? Naturally, I disagree. Plot lines were drastically changed; characterizations altered; dialogue appropriated from, for example, Dumbledore to Hermione (CoS "Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself." (paraphrase)); romances misrepresented (Cho/Harry; naked!Harry/Hermione; DancingInTheTent!Harry/Hermione); spells that appear only in the films (Oculus Reparo, for example). So, respectfully, no ;) .. YMMV. – Slytherincess Jul 3 '14 at 3:26
  • 1
    Per this interview; collider.com/… she was given access to the script read-through, and was "partners" with the screenwriter. She evidently had a right of refusal on everything that happened in the first 4 films, visited the set, provided "rich full answers" to technical questions. – Valorum Jul 3 '14 at 6:00
  • 1
    Orson Scott Card was given full access and acted as a consultant on the Ender's Game movie, which got him a "producer" credit, but he had zero creative input or authority. As such, he went on the record to say that the story was not "his" Ender's Game. That an original creator is consulted does not mean that they approved everything. – phantom42 Jul 3 '14 at 19:11
  • @Slytherincess For one, if I remember right, she made them put Kreacher back into the 5th film, after the screenwriters wanted to leave him out. This was before the final book was released, so they hadn't known his importance yet. – Izkata Jul 3 '14 at 22:10
  • @Richard - Thank you for the link; I will read it tonight. I thought of something else yesterday, as well. I just bought Harry Potter: Film Wizardry, the revised edition, and I would be very surprised if it doesn't mention JKR's role in the making of the films. I know she was involved, but the books and the movies have such major discrepancies -- how are we to categorize such disparate works? They're not equivalent. – Slytherincess Jul 4 '14 at 19:57
  • @Izkata -- Another example would be this: The writers wanted to put in a scene where Dumbledore is consoling Harry (or something like that) about having a broken heart, and they assigned some kind of waxing-philosophical-ish soliloquy to Dumbledore where he shares with Harry about a time he was in love with a girl once who broke his heart, etc. JKR had to scrawl Dumbledore = GAY on a piece of paper and hand it to, I believe, David Heyman. I think it was supposed to be in Half-Blood Prince. – Slytherincess Jul 4 '14 at 20:05
  • @phantom42 - Yes, that is exactly the point I'd like to make. Because JKR consulted on the films (and it makes total sense that she would) does not mean she approved every minute detail. It was no different on the publishing end for JKR at the beginning of her career -- she didn't want to change "Philosopher's" to "Socerer's" for the American market, but ultimately did, because she was a new author, didn't have the leverage to insist the title remain as is, and I would guess her contract was contingent upon it (just a guess). – Slytherincess Jul 4 '14 at 20:12
  • "naked!Harry/Hermione" - you jave just successfully Rule34-ed Meta.SFF.SE. BADGE! – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 5 '14 at 0:27
  • bows Thank you, thank you very much! I'll be here all week ... – Slytherincess Jul 6 '14 at 5:17
  • I personally would change the order slightly. The ride is official, right? So it should come before fan discussions and things that you might have read in fan discussions. The movie applies as well. Though, for both, since they are different media, with the movies directly contradicting the books in some (small) places, I'd be okay with leaving them out of the book canon altogether. But, if you do include them, they should be higher than the fan discussions. I still think the fans theories are more likely to be disproven by a subsequent work. (My order is thus 1234[78]569). – trlkly Jul 13 '14 at 16:43
  • @trlkly -- Thanks for commenting. I want to be clear that I was not asking for people to dissect my example of what canon might look like to me, but rather to leave an answer with their own example of what a canon construct might look like to them. In other words, I would love to see what your particular canon looks like, in any fandom. :) – Slytherincess Jul 13 '14 at 19:02
  • Ah. I misunderstood your final sentence, then. Though I will say that, since my ideas for Harry Potter is so close to yours, I did not feel I should make a whole new answer. Especially since I already posted an answer that is far more general. Also, since the Answers usually include the reasons for their canon list, I'd love to see yours as well. Not to critique them, but just to better understand your own thoughts about canon. – trlkly Jul 13 '14 at 19:13
  • @trlkly - That's a good point about explaining why one puts a certain axiom of canon above or below another -- why is a certain aspect of canon more or less important to us? That's a rhetorical question, of course, but I'm happy to elaborate on my axioms of canon for you, no problem. I'll try and get to that today. Besides, I did say I would listen to anything anyone had to say about canon, so let me reiterate that this holds true. I want to know what people are thinking and want to listen to what they have to say. :) – Slytherincess Jul 13 '14 at 20:44
10

As a Tolkien fan, and particularly as someone who has read all of the Middle-earth works Tolkien published in his lifetime but not all those published posthumously, this is difficult for me.

The Silmarillion, for example, was published after Tolkien's death, by his son. Perhaps not "canon"? But then again, much of it was from material that Tolkien had submitted for publication, or at least considered submitting for publication, in his lifetime. So, perhaps "canon". But then, it may include things that Tolkien might not have considered ready for publication, and things that Christopher Tolkien added (or subtracted) for editorial reasons. So perhaps not "canon". And on and on.

Personally, with respect to Tolkien, I'm not sure I'm ready to use the distinction "canon"/"not canon" with all Tolkien work, since I'm not sure that he had arrived at a distinction between the concepts by the end of his life. There were ideas that he never published and seems never to have considered for publication; ideas that he published in The Hobbit, and then things that were revised in The Hobbit in light of The Lord Of The Rings; there were things that he kept working on even after that—concepts that appeared one way in The Lord Of The Rings but got changed in writings afterwards; even things that he apparently never came to a final decision about (like the back story of Galadriel).

As far as "retcon" - the most famous example in the Tolkien canon is the treatment of Gollum in The Hobbit. In the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum is a rather nice, obsequious, though somewhat slimy creature. He offers Bilbo the ring (that Bilbo's already found); then, when it becomes apparent that the ring is lost, he explains what the ring does, and offers to show Bilbo the way out. This of course is far too nice a Gollum for The Lord Of The Rings; when Tolkien had finished that, he re-wrote The Hobbit to make Gollum nasty. Of course, he couldn't do anything about the thousands of copies already in the public's hands with the earlier description. So he wrote the story change into The Lord Of The Rings. He explained that Bilbo lied about how he had got the ring, that he put this false explanation into his diary, and that some earlier copies of Bilbo's manuscript had retained the explanation, but that the story was later corrected in the authoritative copy ("Findegil's copy") of the manuscript. A complete in-universe description of the result of a completely out-of-universe decision. Thus, both "Gollum was a nice character who wanted to give Bilbo the ring" and "Gollum was a nasty character who wanted to use the ring to murder Bilbo" are canon answers—but for different time periods and situations.

As far as Tolkien goes, for me the distinction "posthumous/non-posthumous" works far better than "canon/non-canon".

  • Please feel free to use those terms if you feel they suit your canon better than, well, canon! Another term that came up in chat this morning is "continuity", which some might find to be a useful term when describing the ascension of a given work. I encourage people to use whatever term(s) makes the most sense to them in regard to a creative work. :) – Slytherincess Jul 1 '14 at 14:16
  • I may just do that! A lot of Tolkien-related questions amount to "What did Tolkien say about X?"; and the answer is "Well he said this here, but then he said that over there, and he said this other thing but he never seems to have worked out the implications..." Which is "what he really meant, or what really happened"? Well, they all are - in the right context. – Matt Gutting Jul 1 '14 at 14:20
  • With Tolkien I'm reluctant to even entertain any discussion of "canon", particularly since JRRT gave CT permission to effectively do what he pleased with unpublished works in his will. Excluding obvious things such as fan-fiction and misinterpretations, there is no such clean division in Tolkien and it seems foolish to go looking for one. – user8719 Jul 2 '14 at 10:24
  • Hence my preference for simply "posthumous" and "non-posthumous". I like CT's description of the "longitudinal" and "transverse" dimensions of Middle-earth's history (intro to the Book of Lost Tales, Part 1); that seems to be the only meaningful way of talking about "what Tolkien 'really' meant". – Matt Gutting Jul 2 '14 at 14:25
  • I'd actually argue that JRRT was one of those writers who was obsessed with canon. If something seemed to be contradictory, he himself worked it out just like fans do now. Consider Glorfindel, whose name appears in two different time periods, after Tolkien had already established that Elves tended to not reuse names. Did he just make Glorfindel an exception or say it was a mistake? No, he made Glorfindel get sent back by the Valar. And it was one of the last things he worked on. So I think he, of all people, would want a single (book) canon. – trlkly Jul 13 '14 at 16:36
  • Absolutely agreed; but my point was that what was actually published during and after his lifetime was not in fact consistent, and it's a mistake to think otherwise. – Matt Gutting Jul 13 '14 at 17:08
6

I have never really understood how there can be "levels" or a "hierarchy" of canon. Either something is canon, or it isn't. To be canon, it must come from the "author" or be approved by the author.

  • Because some materials are written and created by the studio or by other people who were involved in the original writing or production. – Valorum Jul 1 '14 at 6:10
  • I used quotes around "author" because some works (movies) are created by teams. But that doesn't change my opinion. Either it's canon, or it isn't. – Donald.McLean Jul 1 '14 at 12:29
  • @Donald.McLean -- By "hierarchy" of canon, I'm asking for users to tell me what value they place upon certain aspects in a canon as a whole. This will vary. Taking Twilight as an example, I'm going to wager that you might consider the books the most important canonical aspect of the Twilight universe, perhaps followed by interviews with Stephenie Meyers, then the movies (guessing, not presuming). You've mentioned you value the novels, but I don't think I've heard you say the same about the movies. I'm asking why does one aspect of canon supersede another in importance? HTH to clarify. – Slytherincess Jul 1 '14 at 14:03
  • @Donald.McLean: Suppose an author (or someone working officially on behalf of an author, like a literary executor) publishes two statements, both by the author, but mutually contradictory. Which is to be regarded as canon? – Matt Gutting Jul 1 '14 at 20:53
  • @MattGutting - The general rule of thumb is that the newest "word of god" is taken as the correct one. – Valorum Jul 1 '14 at 23:58
  • @Richard -- That's good info re: newest = most canon. Is there a source for that rule, though? I'd like to cite it. – Slytherincess Jul 2 '14 at 2:44
  • @Slytherincess - The best example I can give is actually the proper use of canon e.g. where one pope says something that contradicts another the newer statement is the accepted one... – Valorum Jul 2 '14 at 18:10
  • You are clearly not Catholic :))) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 5 '14 at 0:30
  • @Slytherincess I don't consider the Twilight movies to be canon. My hierarchy consists of two levels: 1) things that are canon; and 2) things that are not canon. There is no middle ground. – Donald.McLean Jul 5 '14 at 6:05
  • 1
    Who counts as the author, though? The Star Wars novels were all canon-unless-contradicted-on-screen for a while, but then Disney bought the rights to the franchise and decanonised everything except for the movies and (IIRC) the Clone Wars cartoon -- so what counts as Star Wars canon, now? Did Disney have the right to do that, having paid cash money for legal control of Star Wars? If I paid J.K. Rowling to retcon the Harry Potter books so that Voldemort wins in the end, would that suddenly become the 'real' ending of the series? – evilsoup Jul 6 '14 at 11:23
5

Personally speaking I generally do not pay any attention to things like canon. In this answer I'll put across a few of the arguments against its usefulness as a concept.

It seems to me that canon is used to describe those works of fiction that 'count' (and are somehow less fictional than other fictions?), according to some authority. Things only really seem to develop canon policies when there are works that someone wants to exclude. Gene Rodenberry only created a Star Trek canon in order to mark the animated series as 'non-canon'; George Lucas created his alphabet soup of canon levels so that he wouldn't have to worry about all the tie-in novels conflicting with his movies. Marvel and DC canons exist for similar reasons.

It also seems to be primarily an American phenomena. Warhammer 40,000's canon policy is:

Everything is canon; nothing is true.

...which suits the tone of that work just fine. Judge Dredd doesn't have a canon -- it all happened, even the stuff that is completely at odds with the current tone of the comic. Even that time that Dredd became Sheriff of the Moon. Doctor Who's current showrunner has said that 'It is impossible for a show about a dimension-hopping time traveller to have a canon.' (though if you want to push the issue, you'll find that there is a Doctor Who canon, but that it includes every work of fiction ever written, with the exception of the Noddy stories -- and even that's arguable).

In the past people always used to retell stories that they had heard. This happened in every culture around the world, to the extent that Terry Pratchett once suggested that we'd be better off classified as Pan Narrans -- the Storytelling Ape. It seems to me that canon is primarily a way for capitalist industry to discredit and suppress that storytelling instinct, so that only their profit-making narratives 'count'. DC Comics managed to screw over the creators of Batman and Superman, so now they claim authority over what stories are canon and what stories are non-canon, fake, disreputable -- and all the fans go along with it.

That the fans of these works can get into quite heated arguments about what is or isn't canon is instructive of the idea's destructive effects, I think. They accept it -- because it appeals to the fannish, nerdly desire to collect everything into neat little boxes, as if stories were objective physical phenomena rather than ephemeral interactions between the artists and the audience -- and then they internalise it. To many people, stories are somehow 'less' if they're not canon. Because Daddy says so.

4

First, I'd like to thank you for spelling canon right. No cannonball-shooting typos in your post.

Second, I'd suggest a few topics to touch on. Official canons, like what Star Wars used to have, where there were various media (i.e. film, TV, video games, books) in the franchise, and they were stratified into various canon levels. Other things like Doctor Who's lack of an official canon, would be a good thing to touch on.

Last suggestion is to discuss 'headcanon' where fans take various elements and remix them a bit to make them more personally palatable. I'm sure there are some notable ones for Harry Potter.


My personal hierarchy? Let's take a ubiquitous franchise, and go with Star Wars:

  1. Stuff in the films and TV shows.
  2. Books (the former EU)
  3. Video games
  4. Information from licensed materials. I used to play the Star Wars card game, which provided a great deal of minutae on various background items and characters. While I used to know this stuff like the back of my hand, it's not so important that I'd consider it more valid than the higher-ranked sources of data.

In general, I'm not a very strict follower of canon. I watch/read/play whatever, and incorporate what I can remember into my knowledge of the franchise. If I notice things that do clash, then it's usually obvious why or how the conflict came into being, so I accept them both as being possibilities of what happened in universe.

In the case of Star Wars, the films and TV series are as close to word of god as possible. Then all the other stuff is licensed, and managed by people who keep track of canon. So #1 is far and away the most 'canon'. 2-4 are varying levels of filling in corners of the universe that they're not otherwise going to cover in #1.

  • I'll add more to this later, to properly address the OP's requests. – user1027 Jul 1 '14 at 5:27
  • Star Wars is an interesting case, with the movies having been edited significantly. How do you view those different versions? In other words, did Han shoot first? – SQB Jul 1 '14 at 14:17
  • @SQB That depends on which DVD I'm watching... >_> – user1027 Jul 1 '14 at 14:21
  • @SQB According to Lucasfilm, the most recently released version was officially the most canon. I'm not entirely sure how everything falls with the new system, but I'd imagine that it's the same as far the films go. – phantom42 Jul 1 '14 at 14:58
  • Even though I've been in Harry Potter fandom for over 10 years, I still checked dictionary.com to assure myself that it is indeed "canon" and not "cannon"! Because that would've been a really inexcusable spelling error >.< – Slytherincess Jul 1 '14 at 23:51
  • Doctor Who not only doesn't have an official canon, but both the current and previous showrunners have stated that the very idea of a 'Doctor Who canon' in nonsensical (and in the classic series it wasn't a concept that would have occurred to anyone, canon being more of an American corporate fiction thing). – evilsoup Jul 6 '14 at 11:18
4

I wrote out a brief canon guide for Star Trek a couple of months back (see below). It might help you to get a handle on the sheer complexity of materials available.

Canon Sources

1) The TV episodes (TOS, TNG, Voy, DS9, ENT) and the 12 films are the highest canon (as well as transcripts, deleted scenes and the Animated Series where they don't conflict with what happened on screen)

2) Original scripts (which may or may not mirror what actually happened on the show)

3) Interviews with the writers and producers, cast and crew (AKA "Voice of God")

4) Canon reference books such as the "TNG Technical Manual", "DS9 Technical Manual", and "Voyager Technical manual". These were originally written as reference manuals for potential script writers.

5) Non-canon reference books such as "Mr Scott's Guide To The Enterprise" and the "Starfleet Technical Manual". These were written by people closely associated with the show but may have been contradicted later. They're usually considered 'canon unless otherwise contradicted'.

6) Official novelisations of various episodes except where contradicted.

Non-canon Sources;

7) Deleted scenes where they conflict with established canon

8) Officially licensed properties such as Star Trek Games, RPGs, Crossovers and Trek Comics

9) Expanded-Universe Star Trek books. Those written by those involved in the show (such as Bill Shatner, Jeri Taylor and Armin Shimerman) are generally considered more worthwhile than those written by people with no involvement in the show.

10) Fan-made properties such as Star Trek: Phase II and fanfiction

  • Thank you, this is fabulous! If you have time, would you mind explaining a bit about how you decided in which order these source materials would go? How did you decide what was most important as opposed to least? If you do decide to expound on it, you're welcome to email your thoughts to me if you prefer not to edit your answer. Thanks again +1 :) – Slytherincess Jul 1 '14 at 23:48
  • @Slytherincess - It largely boils down to 3 things; 1) What the Studio say is 'official/canon' 2) What the studio explictly state isn't canon (or has become non-canon) and 3) You basically know it when you see it. – Valorum Jul 2 '14 at 18:09
2

Chiming in with a more generic answer, geared somewhat (I hope) towards our peculiar environment here on SE:

My general canon hierarchy is:

  1. The primary published works by the original author.

  2. Any publication by the original author of the primary works, in a different medium.

    For example, if the book(s) came out first, then the book counts as the primary, and movie/comics/video games/plays falls under #2 above. In the case of movie remakes, this only applies if the author has direct creative input. Movies made after the author has died, or without the author's support (such as Alan Moore and the Watchman movie) fall into a lower level of canon, #6 below.

  3. Ancillary published materials from the author directly intended to supplement the primary work. For example, special reprints with extra author's notes, tie-in short stories (such as George R.R. Martin's Dunk and Egg stories), etc..

  4. Any published explanation given directly by the author ("word of God" answers), such as interviews or the author's blog.

  5. Officially published materials created by people aside from the author, but with permission from the author.

  6. Officially published materials sanctioned by the license owners, but not necessarily the author.

Note that "author" can be a pretty nebulous term, and in many cases can refer to more than one individual, or even large groups of people, and can have its own hierarchy (for example, the Forgotten Realms setting for Dungeons and Dragons and its various spin-off materials, was created by Ed Greenwood, and then expanded upon by both Ed and Jeff Grubb, and eventually grew until a number of other authors, such as R.A. Salvatore, were contributing major elements of the setting).

For purposes of answering questions here, I consider answers from #1-4 to all be roughly on the same level of authority. #5 follows behind, and #6 is the lowest level of what I consider "canon".

Note that I do not consider unauthorized "fan fiction" to be canon... but that does not necessarily preclude it from being part of a good answer.

From the standpoint of good answers, information from multiple levels of canon can (and should!) be presented, if applicable, even if they contradict each other.

  • Ah, but what about stuff that meets the main criteria and then gets "decanonised"; - E.g. The Star Wars Holiday special... – Valorum Jul 3 '14 at 22:15
  • @Richard I'm not sure what you mean by "decanonised". Did Lucas declare that the show was not an official continuity after it was released? I have to admit, I didn't even know it existed. Regardless, I'd probably still consider it to be canon for purposes of answering relevant questions here on se. Even the horrible Ewok movies can be basis for relevant answers. – Beofett Jul 7 '14 at 13:13
  • He officially declared that it was not part of the continuity and said that he would devote his life to destroying it. – Valorum Jul 7 '14 at 13:50
  • @Richard Just as he devoted his life to systematically destroying my childhood? :P I still say that if there is information in it that directly relates to a question, then a good answer will list it, identify Lucas' position on it as non-canon, and indicate any conflicts with "real" canon sources. For our purposes, it doesn't matter if Lucas considers it canon or not. – Beofett Jul 7 '14 at 14:21
  • I couldn't agree more. I was trying to highlight that Canon isn't as simple as who wrote/made what. – Valorum Jul 7 '14 at 14:39
  • That's a valid point, which was why I tried to do a more general interpretation, as it pertains to SE, rather than focus on a specific title. If, for some unknown reason, I decide that I want to know more about the Wookiee holiday of "Life Day", I don't really care that Lucas is embarrassed by that special (yet oddly enough isn't embarrassed about midichlorians or Gungans). If the Holiday Special is the only work that references that holiday, then, for my purposes, it's absolutely canon. – Beofett Jul 7 '14 at 15:04
  • @Beofett That's because the Holiday Special has been chopped off into its own canon. All works with continuity have their own canon, even if that canon does not fit into the broader canon of related works. Life Day may not be a part of Star Wars canon, but it is a part of the "Star Wars Holiday Special" canon. – trlkly Jul 13 '14 at 16:27
1

Understanding why things are canon in the first place is something I think a lot of people miss, and it leads to arguments over what is and is not canon.

The most basic definition for canon in this context is "If the creator or current writers were to write more in their universe, what would they consider to have definitely happened?" For ongoing works, the value of this is obvious: A subsequent work comes out, and things the creator or writers didn't say are contradicted. For closed works, the value is less obvious, being something else that makes canon valuable: it's what we can all agree has happened in that universe. It makes sense then for that to be what was canon up until the point when the work was closed.

It can get a lot more complicated (as indicated by other answers and even the question itself with retcons.) The fact that there can be multiple canons (due to multiple writers or otherwise considering multiple universes or timelines) But the basic idea is pretty good starting point. For example, it leads to the idea that Silmerillian is canon because it is what the author would have written if he'd been able to publish his ideas.

It even leads to "levels" of canon, as you're rating how likely the author is to reference that information in further works. Obviously official supplemental material is more likely to be used (or "confirmed") in the official work than speculation by a fan.

  • I'm not sure if any writer really works that way, though. The Star Trek people were definitely making stuff up as they went along; Asimov was pretty obviously doing likewise, I think (and that's even before he got to the point where he started welding his worlds together). – evilsoup Jul 12 '14 at 16:56
  • @evilsoup I don't quite understand what you mean. Making up stuff as they go along does not contradict what I said. What Star Trek doesn't do (except in rare circumstances) is say that something that we saw on screen didn't actually happen. Asimov is different, because, as you say, he had separate universes for each work and only later tried to bring them together. But, once he did bring them together, he tried not to contradict himself, which is my entire point. I really do think most authors try not to contradict what they've already said. That's why the concept of fictional universes works. – trlkly Jul 12 '14 at 19:32
  • @evilsoup You seem to think I'm saying that authors start out with an idea of what is canon and work from that. That's not at all what I mean. I mean that, once they do establish something as having happened, they usually do not contradict that. That's how canon exists, and is a fundamental idea people sometimes forget when they get into the minutia. For example, Doctor Who definitely has a canon, no matter what the creators say, since they do in fact consider certain events to have happened. They even had to rewrite history in-universe. – trlkly Jul 12 '14 at 19:40
0

How do we feel about the third radio series of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

In fact, applying the concept of “canon” to Hitch-Hikers is always going to be tricky, as the various incarnations all merrily contradict each other. There are the first two radio series (the primary and secondary phases; fits the first to twelfth), the novels, the TV series (which I haven’t seen), the film (released after Douglas Adams’s death), more radio series adapted from the books after Adams’s death, and various theatrical releases.

  • The actual official policy of HG2G when it comes to canon is "There is no canon, only suggestions.". Douglas Adams was a fan of remixing and changing up his work and considered everything as valid as everything else. Which means HG2G canon arguments somewhat perplexing. Notably, he actually wrote the script for the recent movie, it just wasn't made until after his death. – John Meacham Jul 10 '14 at 21:32
  • @JohnMeacham This is exactly an example of what I mean. HG2G definitely does have a canon. Sure, some canon got changed in the last two books, but it happened in universe. What it doesn't have is a single canon that covers all versions. As is extremely common, each medium it appears in has its own canon. The movie universe is different from the book universe is different from the video game unvierse is different the radio universe is (slightly) different from the TV show universe. There are shows that have no canon, but they also, by definition, have no continuity at all. – trlkly Jul 13 '14 at 16:23

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