Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I hate the word "Canon" too.

But its not for the same reason Kevin does.

I'm a crusty old Sherlock Holmes fan at heart who learned "canon" as it refers to the stories written by the person who created the character.

I am absolutely mad for "continuity." I live for retcons. I got into X-Men by the soap-opera-esque cartoon and the Age of Apocalypse crossover and I got into DC Comics with The Return of Barry Allen. What hooked me on comics was tracking down the old story references in those books. I was raised on a strict diet of continuity porn and I'm not about to give it up for anything.

But I fucking hate hearing the word "canon" to refer to it. There's something about the tone of the word. Canon is too solid. Too concrete. Canon is written in stone. Canon is strict and rigid and religious by nature.

"Continuity" is there, but its fluid. It doubles back on itself and then moves forward. It forgets itself and then rewrites itself. Continuity turns around and slips treasures in the seams right in front of your face. It can go Retro for a time or rewind and move sideways. Continuity is very much a superhero comic book word. Continuity is vibrant and growing and changing.

Canon is a dead word. These stories are alive.


  1. I recently saw a comics writer (maybe McKeever? Don't remember) make a difference between the two terms:

    Canon is not identical with continuity but only that part of it that really is remembered and gets referenced.

    If I understand correctly, he would be talking about something like James Gordon running for major of Gotham in the 90s, and his wife being head of police instead. It's still in continuity as far as I know, but writers pretend it didn't happen - not because the stories where bad, but because the last cycle in the "illusion of change" that seems to change the status quo for a while looks a bit silly and embarassing when the wheel has turned once or twice more.

  2. I don't know why I feel the need to share this, but the British term for "continuity porn" is "fanwank", coined by the late Craig Hinton in regard to certain Doctor Who novels. I think the word fanwank is a more accurate one, myself, because it is not the writer providing material for the reader to,; it is the writer, directly, glorying in a story specifically written to establish a certain point as "in continuity".

    Personally, I'm against fanwank myself (while acknowledging its seductive lure, thank you very much Dan Slott for the 'Thing' series), but I think there's a distinct different between not indulging in fanwank and "ignoring continuity", or whatever it is prima donna writers at both companies call it nowadays when they make basic mistakes due to a failure to do any research, and blame the fans for noticing. (I'm looking at you, writer of the 'Illuminati' series...)

    All of which adds up, probably pointless rambling. But remember--"fanwank", good word to use. Trips off the tongue mellifluously.

  3. To me, "canon" is a personal word. It's the stories I say happened, regardless of the many quirks in continuity.

    The Blades arc in LODTK? The one with Awesome!Cavalier? Canon, even if it was never in continuity. The new Silly!Fop! Cavalier? Just plain forgettable continuity.

    And I'm with John Seavey above in being a big fan of the word "fanwank."

  4. FYI, "canon" was reconfigured to apply to fandom specifically for Holmes, by a BNF who was also a cleric.

    It's a very useful concept in that it allows for the distinction between what is fanon, and also for the structure of debate over what constitutes canon and what doesn't (as with the originals!)

    It might not be as useful for a genre like comics, where retcon is a given, but in terms of establishing the who/what/when/where so far as it can be established - and giving a structure to the primordial mush for fans to work within *and* argue against, it's very helpful.

  5. Funny enough, I don't associate the word "canon" with comics. I must not hang around with the more literate comic book geeks - with us it's all "continuity".

    Oddly enough, most of my arguments involving the term "canon" come from D&D, where folks would argue about what is "canon" for various D&D settings - notably Ravenloft and Greyhawk. So my hatred for the word "canon" comes from a different type of fan entitlement, I suppose.

  6. Now that I think of it? Nobody ever said it better than Alan Moore:

    "This is an imaginary story. Aren't they all?"

    (And Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow? sure fits my personal definition of canon above.)

  7. "In fiction, continuity is consistency of the characteristics of persons, plot, objects, places and events seen by the reader or viewer. It is of relevance to several media." from wikipedia. That works for me. Screw "canon"

  8. Bellatrys -- yeah, i knew htat about Sherlock Holmes. The author was dead and most of the "fanfiction" is published as pastiches. It suits that fandom because it suits that source.

    It does not suit comics, because its all wrong from the source. "Continuity" suits this fandom.

  9. Oddly enough, I lost a "friend" to an arguement about Canon, specifically to the arguement that Paramount only regarded live-action filmed Star Trek media as Canon, while LucasFilms regarded their novels, also, as canon.

    Yes, he was a TOTAL putz, and it was only the last straw...

    But I do believe I qualify as a total geek, because of this.

    -Your Loving Sister-Troll, Keeper of Thine Typos