Do you know when "canon," like as a concept, became like a standard nerd thing?
The amazing thing about
the term “canon” is that it didn’t bubble up from the undifferentiated mass of
fandom (who actually knows who came
up with memes?). We know exactly and specifically where the word comes from when used in this context: an
essay written by a Sherlock Holmes fan in 1911, who compared the wild and
crazy veneration that fanatical Holmes fans have for the original stories, to holy writ.
Another name for the books assembled in the Bible was the canon, as opposed to other books that, for various reasons, were
left out of the Bible and “didn’t count.” In other words, the term was
originally used ironically and in a self-deprecating way to talk about the almost religious intensity of Holmes fans.
Part of the reason the
term canon caught on was because, even in the 1910s, the public was so mad for
Sherlock Holmes that there were all kinds of illegal imitators and non-Conan
Doyle authors and knockoffs, and yes, there were even amateur works that were distributed by mail (what today we’d call “fanfiction,” some of which even survives today), so a crucial distinction began to arise between the stuff
that was “official” and the stuff that wasn’t. So, here we have the three
things that we need to even have the concept of canon as we define it: 1) a group
dedicated enough to actually care, who can communicate, 2) a necessary
distinction between “official” and not, particularly due to the presence of amateur works (what today we’d call fanfiction), 3) a long term property that could
sustain that devotion.
Now, of the three, which
do you think was the one that was absent from a lot of science fiction fandom’s first few decades? It’s
actually 3. Canon only matters if it’s something other than just a single
story, which the business model of the pulps discouraged. Like TV in the 1960s, every story had to be compartmentalized and serial storytelling was mostly discouraged.
One fandom, big from the 1930s to the 1960s was E.E. Smith’s space opera Lensman series. The Lensman stories were so popular
that it received 5 sequels, all of which were planned from the outset. Some Lensman
fanfiction from the 1940s is actually still available for reading. Part of the reason the Lensman stories were so popular is that it described a consistent world with consistent attributes: Inertialess Drives, aliens like Chickladorians, Vegians, Rigellians, pressor beams, space axes, Valerian Space Marines, superdreadnoughts, “the Hell Hole in Space,” the works. It was way easier to get sucked into this than it was with the usual “one and done.”
Take for example, this amateur guide to the Lensman series, with art by Betty Jo Trimble.
Canon “policy” as we know it today, as a part of a corporate strategy, started with Star Trek: the Next Generation. Before that, there was no “multimedia property” big enough to necessitate it; Star Wars just didn’t care, which is why pre-Zahn “expanded universe” stories like the Marvel comics were so bonkers. There was no reason to believe that the Trek novels, including good ones by John M. Ford and Diane Duane, were anything else than totally official. Roddenberry, though, was deeply angry about losing control of the film series, and due to his illness (hidden from the public at the time), his canon policy was enforced by his overly zealous attorney. In Star Trek canon, for a long time, the only thing that counted was what was on screen. And not even that…the Star Trek animated series, for several decades, was decanonized. (It wasn’t until Deep Space 9 that animated references crept back in, and today, it’s as canon as everything else).
I don’t want to scare anyone, and this is hearsay, but I’ve heard from three people who were there that Next Generation writers, at least as long as Roddenberry and his attorney were around, were encouraged to not think of the original series as canon at all. References to Spock and even an episode that had an appearance by the Gorn were rewritten.
The Star Trek canon policy was so harsh and unexpected that rules were invented deliberately to kick out popular reference sources, like the rule that starships could only have even numbered nacelles, which meant much of the Franz Joseph guides, published in the millions and praised by Roddenberry and others as official, were vindictively decanonized.
Star Wars canon is interesting because it was entirely created by the West End Roleplaying Game. It was the only major Star Wars product printed in the Star Wars Dark Age, the 5-6 years between 1986-1991 when all toy lines and comics were canceled and the fandom was effectively in a coma or dead. The Roleplaying Game was the first place that information was collected from diverse sources like the comics and novels. Every single Star Wars novelist read the West End game because it was the only time all this information was in one place.
Marvel Comics canon is a very interesting example because it was a harbinger of things to come: superhero comics were one of the earliest places in geek culture where the “inmates started to run the asylum”…that is to say, fans produced the comics, guys like Roy Thomas (creator of the Vision and Ultron) who started off as a fanzine writer. Because of the back and forth in letters pages, there was an emphasis on everyone keeping it all together that didn’t exist at DC, which at last count, had 5 (!) totally contradictory versions of Atlantis.
What just blows my mind about these anti-climate nuts is that let's imagine for a second that everything they say is true, global warming is a hoax and a con. What's the down-sides to moving away from dirty energy? Less air and water pollution (which kills millions every year globally), appliances/cars/houses with higher efficiency (aka lower cost to run), energy independence (no more oil wars), healthier and more productive citizens (and in turn economies) - like the list goes on and on and on.
I love the Emoji line that Disney does! So I made them for the Avatar Characters because… Well, I mostly wanted a crying Zuko. Also: Kataang Gif was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do (lololol) Shipping Wars flashbacks. Get These Products until December 31st on Patreon
There will be nine types of Star Wars fans coming out of the movie theatre on December 15th...
^Type One- the lucky ones, whose predictions came true (driving home with those that doubted them for two years)
^Type Two- the gracious in defeat ones, whose predictions were proven wrong but they understand the thats how it is and it doesn’t have an effect on the quality of the film
^Type Three- the furious ones, whose predictions were ALL wrong, they feel betrayed by Rian Johnson, will boycott every star wars and Disney product, they race home to angrily spread the word of their disgust online at what star wars has become (after a week and multiple viewers they will cool down and rethink some things)
^Type Four- the innocent unspoiled ones, those that stayed away from every teaser, leak, rumour, and piece of promotion for the film. Not sure what to expect they enter the theatre and are the loudest to exclaim at every twist and emotional scene they HAD NOT PREPARED FOR (that was me for TFA)
^Type five- the living in denial ones, this isn’t what they wanted at all! they cannot accept what they just saw and will live on like it never happened. They will not view TLJ as canon and may leave fandom for a while. As reality sets in they may slowly come to terms with things (much to the anger to other fans they will continue to have the same beliefs they had after TFAs release and find it difficult to move on)
^Type Six- the indifferent ones, whose only thought after the credits roll are “meh”. Maybe they are disappointed, maybe they just expected more after the two year hype train. They just don’t get what everyone else is losing their minds about around them. Over time they may grow fonder of the film
^Type seven- the broken ones, those that stay seated as everyone leaves. They are emotionally destroyed after the inevitable cliff hanger, they are coming to terms with the fact that disney owns their soul for yet another two years, the movie hasn’t answered all their questions in fact it has only raised more. They will be hit the hardest by the sorrows our characters will face in TLJ and will weep silently into their empty popcorn boxes as the theatre staff mutter about who should go check whether you are alright
^Type Eight- the riding high ones, those that are blown away by this masterpiece of a film, regardless of their predictions or thoughts prior to seeing it they will rant and rave about its perfection to all their friends and will not hear any criticism
^Type Nine - the speculative ones, they watched the screen like a hawk taking in every detail, adjusting their predictions as the plot developed and will be walking out in a daze as they speculate further and try to put the pieces together in order to determine what Episode IX has in store for us all (this no doubt will be me)
Obviously, this is a Star Wars (1977) production photo. But I can’t help but imagine it’s from some parallel universe in which Anakin Skywalker, portrayed by David Prowse, turned to the Dark Side but was never physically mutilated on Mustafar.
April 2nd 1982: Argentina invades the Falkland Islands
this day in 1982, Argentine forces landed on the Falkland Islands and
occupied the area, which marked the beginning of the Falklands War. The
war was the product of long tensions over who possessed the islands,
with Argentina claiming ownership and Britain seeing the islands as
British territory. Argentine forces landed on the islands and fought the
British Royal Marines at Government House, leading to British surrender
and thus Argentina seizing control of the Falklands. British Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher responded by sending a naval task force to
attack the Argentinians. The conflict killed 649 Argentinians, 255
Britons and three Falkland Islanders, even though it only lasted 74
days. The war ended with Argentine surrender on 14th June, thus
returning the islands to Britain.
Wonder Woman and the Importance of it’s WW1 Setting
I tried to make this as spoiler free as possible, but feel free to let me know if there’s anything egregious. or if you have your own thoughts on this.
I know that I went into seeing Wonder Woman expecting to be entertained with another riff off of World War Two. That’s when super hero comics really came together as a genre, after all. Captain America #1, with its flag colored hero, came out a few years before America even entered World War Two, after all. All of the classic Golden Age heroes – Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Namor, the Human Torch, Captain America – all were created in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, and solidified their identities as heroes over the course of World War Two.
You can imagine my surprise when Steve Trevor crashed into the Themyscira’s bay in an ancient plane, when the antagonists concoct a gas that will defeat gas masks, when Trevor stumbles over explaining that it’s “the great war, the war to end all wars”.
When was the last time that you saw a World War One movie? I don’t mean an art house foreign film, or as part of a television show. I mean when was the last time that you saw a big budget, Hollywood backed, World War One movie? I would bet that you can’t name a one. If you could, I’ll make another bet that it was “All Quiet on the Western Front”, the most recent film adaptation of which was released in 1979.
Now think of the last time you saw a World War Two movie. Again, a Big Budget, Hollywood backed affair. How many can you name now? Five? Fifteen?
I have a theory about that. World War Two is able to stick into the American consciousness because we can be the heroes of World War Two. We weren’t the Heroes in the Vietnam War. We weren’t the heroes in the Korean War. We weren’t the heroes in World War One. You can go so far to say that it’s nearly impossible to pull a heroic story out of World War One, not the same way we can pull them out of World War Two. World War One was when an entire generation was wiped out physically and emotionally. It was a war where old men sitting safe in their headquarters would send five hundred men to die to gain five inches. It was a war where the blood shed on both sides was as tangible to the victors as it was the defeated.
That is what makes it a perfect setting for a Wonder Woman film. One of the themes within the film is that everything is more complicated than anyone wants it to be, that nothing is black and white. Steve promises to take Diana to the war, but they have to go through so many different stops before they can. Sameer, the Turkish con man, wished to be an actor but “is the wrong color”. Charlie is a sniper who cannot shoot because of his shell shock. The smuggler called “Chief” is from the Blackfoot people, helping a scion of the people that took his people’s land. Diana goes to end the war, and finds it’s not as simple as she had planned. World War One was the product of a maelstrom of events and alliances happening all at just the right time to create a war that enveloped every country it could.
So we have a complicated war to fit a complicated people, to show a new hero that people are complicated, but ultimately good.