Craving Canon

27 minutes
thejaymo.net Blog header post 136

I read a really interesting post over on io9 this week by Editor James Whitbrook: Our Fascination With Canon Is Killing the Way We Value Stories

As the pop culture we love becomes increasingly dominated by vast franchises of interconnected worlds and stories, so does it become dominated by one, singular question from diehard fans: Is the thing we’re about to consume canon to everything else we’ve consumed before? It’s an attitude that’s turning our love of stories into some bizarre, archival competition.

Our Fascination With Canon Is Killing the Way We Value Stories

The piece is a short sharp blast of very fresh air. Whitbrook covers a lot of great points in quick succession which I would like to explore in some more detail. I’m also writing this to distract a little from you know *gestures at everything*.

Whitbrook addresses how some franchise fans use the concept of ‘canon’ to assess if a piece of media Matters or Not. How the concerns around canon influence media commentary and the media ecosystem. How concerns around ‘canon’ breed a toxic attitude amongst fans that ‘leads to things like “filler episode” becoming a derogatory term for stories that don’t advance the larger ongoing plot of a narrative’. It also brings up ‘fandom’ gate keeping by overvaluing facts and information (lore) rather than narratives and emotional responses.

It’s brilliant and a must read if you are interested in story worlds and media.

You’ll notice that if you visit the article the original title of the article was ‘Craving Canon’ and is still visible in the page metadata.

It’s an interesting turn of phrase, given the subject matter. I can see why it was changed in the main headline. There certainly ARE people who crave canon, and use it as a yardstick to measure media produced in/about a story world.

Canon of course is a Biblical term. A set of texts (or “books”) which a religious community regards as authoritative scripture. Western culture however secular it may think itself is deeply influenced by its millennia of Christianity. As we’ll come to later appealing to Authority is a human behaviour that drives much of the obsession with canon.

Canon as a term in literature originates with Sherlock Holmes. The Sherlock canon consists of the 56 short stories and four novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In this context, the term “canon” is an attempt to distinguish between Doyle’s original works and subsequent works by other authors using the same characters.

Canon of Sherlock Holmes (Wikipedia)

If you have been following along for a while, I’ve written (well I say written, they were actually scripts) on fandom, narrative, and problems with where we are with story worlds in 2020 quite a bit.

I’m going to repost links to the full podcast episodes incase anyone wants to take 10/15 mins to get up to speed. If not, then I’ve quoted myself here and there quite self indulgently.

[Media property name] Isn’t Your Friend

People feel so strongly about what happens to characters in fiction worlds owned by gigantic mega corporations because they identity with them. But unlike humanity’s entire history of storytelling, characters that capture the collective imagination in 2020 are owned and controlled by corporate interests. Which means they have no _agency_ within the mythos. In a literal sense people who consume the stories have no ownership over them.

“Deep engagement with mythos should give people agency within those realms. But when our entire cultures narrative is privatised – what can people do apart from fold it into the culture war? We should really start to think about antitrust laws for culture.”

Media property name] Isn’t Your Friend

There has been a sanitising effect on stories. Copyright, the ownership of stories, and the desire for profit has had a disastrous effect on our collective mythos. Whilst I pick on Disney in the episode, the same is true all across the board. Disney profited from the conversion of powerful and dangerous folk tales in to children’s stories.

The meat of this episode however is an attempt to explain why I do not like any of the new Star Wars movies.

“I tapped out the day they announced they were going to blow up the canon.

I’d been suckered.

It was all a waste of time, energy and money. That a corporation can blow up a huge fictional universe in order to sell a new one to other people was gualling. I thought it would all be there forever and suddenly it wasn’t. I’d been betrayed by a corporation and I decided never again.”

Media property name] Isn’t Your Friend

One of the things that really interested me in Star Wars as a kid in the early 90’s was that Star Wars was the fact it was one big coherent world. I used to pour over the Dorling Kindersley Visual Dictionaries. Basically I loved the canon.

I remember reading with fascination in the Star Wars monthly magazine about the guy who worked in the Lucas film archives. It was hard to believe that there was a job solely devoted to knowing everything there is to know about Star Wars. Advising on the history, lore and viability of licensees ideas and deals.

I learnt about the various levels of canon.

  • The word of God (Lucas + the movies) or G-canon.
  • C-canon or Continuity canon: Material from the Expanded Universe including books, comics, and video games
  • S-canon was Secondary canon (stuff that wan’t very good like the infamous holiday special

There were more types, but you get the point. Canonicity in the Star Wars story world was officially nuanced with various levels of ‘truthiness’. Nuance seemingly being something that has dropped off the map now most discussion has moved online.

Check out this 2008 interview with Leland Chee. The ‘Holocron keeper’

To Star Wars fans, Chee is the Keeper of the Holocron, arguably the leading expert on everything that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. His official title is continuity database administrator for the Lucas Licensing arm of Lucasfilm—which means Chee keeps meticulous track of not just the six live-action movies but also cartoons, TV specials, scores of videogames and reference books, and hundreds of novels and comics.

Keepin’ it canonical: Leland Chee, continuity database administrator at Lucas Licensing, maintains the Holocron — a vast FileMaker database that’s consulted to make sure that any new elements added to the Star Wars franchise fit within the existing mythology.

As I explain in the Episode. I felt Disney’s decision to ‘Blow up the canon’ and restructure it to better suit their corporate intentions was an insult to people who had stuck with, and had obsessed over the franchise during the wilderness years. By people I mean me, personally. ‘Facts’ about the universe was one of the things that drove the franchise forwards for decades between the original trilogy and the prequels. The stormtrooper banging his head, other bloopers, the Wilhelm scream. Even the total nerd world of what different length light sabres came with which model of Obi Wan on which card variant with what stickers.

Product knowledge aside. Disney blew up a world I had read about, obsessed over and cared about deeply. All that effort, all the time (and money) was worthless – so I tapped out. [Media property name] wan’t my friend.

I’ve seen the new films obviously, but I have no emotional attachment to them, or in fact the older movies.
As I’ve grown older I don’t even like films as a medium any more, or TV for that matter. The Dark Knight ruined contemporary cinema in 2008. Speed Racer was the much much better movie that year.

Spider-Man’s MCU No Deal Webxit

In the Spiderman Webxit episode: I re-articulated some of my thoughts from the episode above, talked about toxic fan wars and for the first time explored the idea ‘Cultural Fracking’ .

A term which funnily enough makes an appearance in this months Lightspeed magazine by way of Andrew Dana Hudson. He is interviewed about his Voice of Their Generation short story that involves the movie titled ‘Detective Pikachu vs. Predator’

In the interview Hudson sums up cultural fracking succinctly:

“Cultural Fracking”—the capitalist process of endlessly extracting new value out of the sedimentary layers of meaning that comprise mass culture from the past.

ADH – Lightspeed Magazine (Issue 119)

I explored Cultural Fracking in more detail during my talk at Unsound Festival 2019 in Poland. I’m dropping an edit of my transcript below as I’m also trying to write about Cultural Fracking for Holum Press. This blog post seems like an excuse to construct a first draft.

Today everyone knows or gets Simpsons quotes. Even if they haven’t seen the episode that they come from. Or people get that “I’ll be back” is a reference to the Terminator even if they wen’t born at the time of the movies release. Meaning from a time Pre-internet. When there was a high chance that everyone was exposed to the same media. And so society/culture shared memetic grammars.

One of the challenges that a company like Disney faces in the age of the internet is that is becoming harder and harder to make money from them. The reason being; Franchises were created in a media environment where everyone would have been exposed to them and would therefore have shared the cultural grammar.

What’s happening today is that companies sell narrative/stories as a commodity. To extract value from them media organisations have to continually return to or frack the sedimentary layers of meaning. These elements of shared grammar in mass culture in order to continue to make money.

Their business model relies on selling to mass culture. So any new product has to continually reference something from a time when everyone shared the same mass culture still existed. In order for a mass cultural product to be attractive, it is required to meet the shared expectations of the audience.

It’s not that all the reboots, remakes and nostalgic mashups like Ready Player One are unoriginal. It’s that under the logic of a capitalist cultural monopoly, commodity owners have to continually frack the past from a time when a collective cultural grammer still existed to still make money.

SOLARPUNK – Life in the Future Beyond the Rusted Chrome of Yestermorrow
Reappropriated Gramchi Quote
Reappropriating Gramchi

What I’ve just spent the last x mins talking about is people feeling emotionally invested in multinational conglomerates business deals about whether one character gets to appear in someone else’s story. neither of which the folks that consume those stories own.

Perhaps Marcuse was right, class consciousness IS all about aesthetics.

Spider-Man’s MCU No Deal Webxit

At the beginning of One-Dimensional Man Marcuse writes, “The people recognise themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment,” meaning that under capitalism (in consumer society) humans become extensions of the commodities that they buy, thus making commodities extensions of people’s minds and bodies.

Perhaps I have belaboured the point about story ownership. But its something I feel strongly about, and also the only thing missing from Whitbrook’s piece. As the points it raises dovetail so well with thinking about copyright and ownership of cultural property.

I think the reason people value content set in a story world as ‘canon’ is precisely because it is owned and controlled by one entity.

The owner of a media franchise represents a single sovereign source of truth for that story world. And we know that if there is an entity that gets to claim ‘truth’ of a story world or reality, then it will be appealed to. Again we bring up ‘people of the book’ Christianity, The Bible, and its different relationships to the apocrypha and the gnostic gospels etc.

But the Idea that a single entity gets to say what stories are and aren’t True/Canon in a story world (aside from the church) is a relatively new one.

This is not how stories have worked throughout the rest of human history

Tell me a tale

Here’s ol buddy ol pal Huw Lemmey writing in his newsletter Utopian Drivel on Storytelling last year ($) on Arthurian Legend and Robin Hood:

Tell me a tale. Don’t write me a story. But tell: tell meaning to reveal, to divulge. In story-telling, the stories already exist; the richness, the innovation, is in the manner of their revelation. That’s how it used to be. The internal monologue of the single narrator, the voice, was not the engine of the story, and invention was not the prized skill. Those are characteristics of what came later, when the cheap printed book individualised the story into the aptly named novel.

Before that, stories were collective property, collectively told. The same characters came round and round again in different formations, with different emphasis.

(…)

If written today Sir Gawain would be regarded as part of the Camelot Extended Universe; a set of tales, legends and poems of the court of the fabled ancient British king who resisted against the Saxon invaders, only to be defeated with the prophecy of a future reincarnation when the nation would need it most. Arthur emerged in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s pseudo-history of Britain, Historia Regum Britanniae, although certainly from earlier legends, before becoming part of the Matter of Britain, a cycle of mediaeval and mythic literature about Britain and Brittany. In the process, Arthur became a mythos, a body of mythological works from which new stories could be retold, reusing plotlines, developing competing personalities and histories, adding depth and nuance to characters who go beyond characters to become archetypes. 

(…)

The mythos of shared cultures provides a rich seam for the culture industry to exploit, yet the development through the twentieth century of a punitive and restrictive form of intellectual property has been something of a cultural enclosure of, if not pre-existing mythos, then certainly the tendency to build new ones. The opportunity for any of us to retell Robin Hood in any form we like, shaping the story to teach new lessons and provoke new responses, remains, but the myths created from our previous century — from Superman to Harry Potter — remain trapped in profitable stasis. Of course, anyone raised on them will find the archetypes invaluable for explaining and retelling stories of their own world, but they can remain only cheap analogies — anything with broader implications, with more resonance, with a bigger audience, will end in a visit from the lawyers. 

Story Telling – Utopian Drivel

As an aside, I’m really looking forward to Dev Patel in A24’s Green Knight. I also look forward to (dread) the angry online nerds ranting about it for presumably racist and ill informed reasons. Also I will seek-out folks trying to apply canon rules to the mythos.
I also wonder how folks are going to handle Dev Patel as Sir Gawain launching into the MRA style rant he has in the castle about how he should “attack of all women for their deceptiveness and treachery” (W.Neilson Trans. 1999).

Ursula Le Guin writing in her forward for Tales from Earthsea in 2001 also says something similar to Huw Lemmey in 2019. Of particular note is the argument that characters have to be made safe (sanitised) due to corporate ownership, and how they are treated as commodities.

Ursula Le Guin – Tales from Earthsea – Forward

There are however some story worlds in 2020 that don’t operate with arbitrators of truth. I would be interesting to draw up a 2×2 of worlds in the popular imagine and classify them by the amount of agency fans of the series are perceived to have. This might be fun, but it is an exercise for another day.

In the meantime I’ve picked two off the top of my head that still operates as a story world open to audience agency.

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The Canon-thulhu Mythos.

It seems you can’t shake a stick at anything on kickstarter made by fans right now without a bit of Tentacle or Eldritch horror falling out. Creeping horror our environment and collective psyche aside

There are two reasons for this:

  1. Lovecraft was extremely generous with his own works and actively encouraged others to borrow ideas from his stories, particularly with regard to his Cthulhu mythos. By “wide citation” he hoped to give his works an “air of verisimilitude”, and actively encouraged other writers to reference his creations, such as the Necronomicon, Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth. After his death, many writers have contributed stories and enriched the shared mythology of the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as making numerous references to his work. 
  2. Lovecraft’s work/mythos is out of copyright. Most of Lovecraft’s works that were published in the amateur press are most likely now in the public domain.

The Lovecraft story world IS a collective property. A world in which stories are collectively told. The same characters can come round and round again in different formations, with different emphasis. Without fear of corporate reprisal.

It also (to my mind) seems to be treated differently from the canon craving world of Sherlock Holmes. There IS a list of lovecrafts work, but as a fandom (eugh I really hate that word) they prefer to focus on the ‘Greater Cthulhu Mythos’. A poster on reddit a few years ago craving canon asked the following question.

Q: New to the Cthulu Mythos, how do you decide what’s canon or not?
Isn’t anything not written by Lovecraft technically just fanfiction, no matter how well known? What distinguishes the accepted books from something on fanfiction.net?

This line of thinking was quickly disabused and diffused wonderfully:

A: The Cthulhu Mythos is a shared universe. While Lovecraft’s work is indisputably at the center of it, he was constantly sharing ideas with other writers and encouraging them to join in. It grew from there, and continues to grow.

I personally don’t concern myself with what’s “canon” or not at all. What’s important is how entertained I am by what I’m reading.

I personally don’t particularly like Lovecraft (I know I know) and its world, I’ve never really seen the attraction. But I have always liked seeing the world re-conjured and remade with every person that plays in that world. whether it be RPGs, short collections, film, art, or whatever.

The Cthulhu Mythos’ popularity in 2020 (in my mind) however has nothing to do with the enduring themes of the world itself, and can instead be almost solely be attributed to the lack of copyright in the later part of the 20th Century. And most importantly the lack of permission needed to explore/play in its story world/mythos.

Grimdark

In my estimation, since the D-day explosion of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The story world of Warhammer 40k owned by Games Workshop is possibly the biggest coherent story world of any franchise in the world.

the god emperor of mankind

It is of course owned by a single entity, but as a company they have a very laissez faire attitude towards canon. They approach things with an eye toward what is true ‘In Universe’. Given that in the world of 40k there’s 10k years of history, most of it lost. Means that its ALL myth, rumour, and unreliable narrators. As fans, who read the books, and rulebooks etc. We know more about the universe of 40k than its inhabitants.

Whitbrook again:

It’s an attitude that has become predominant not just within fandom circles itself, but in the media commentary that has developed around these fandoms and the blockbuster franchises that dominate our popular culture. Critics and fans alike are now less interested in actually interpreting a piece of media thematically or to engage with why they liked or disliked it, but instead to pick it apart and break it down to the base components of what are, essentially, its pure, unflinching facts. Google Star Wars or the Marvel movies and you will likely see as many articles and videos with headlines like “X Confirms Y is Canon,” “X Questions Answered By [New Media],” or “X Things We Learned About Character Z in This New Book/Movie/TV Show” as you will critical essays about these stories, if not more.

Our Fascination With Canon Is Killing the Way We Value Stories

The concern with canon of course is present in the Warhammer 40k community online too. So when you read a 40k novel or whatever there’s plenty of published material that contradicts other material. This definitely winds up a certain segment of the fanbase no end. As they expect the world to operate like the MCU or something. You only need to search ‘canon’ in the 40k lore subreddit to see how obsessed some elements of the quote unquote ‘fandom’ are.

Interestingly enough this topic is seemingly in the air. Youtube Loremaster Luetin09 posted a 24 minute long video today on the subject of Canon in Warhammer 40k. “The notion of canon is a fallacy in 40k”.

One of the most important points in the io9 essay I think is the following:

But this craving for it above all else is a toxic attitude, not just to the way we talk about pieces of media from a critical perspective, but in fan circles as well. The hunger for facts above all else leads to things like “filler episode” becoming a derogatory term for stories that don’t advance the larger ongoing plot of a narrative or don’t include some shocking new revelation that someone can add to a list. It predicates the gatekeeping act of being a fan that is built on how much you know about a thing over whether you actually enjoy that thing or not.

Our Fascination With Canon Is Killing the Way We Value Stories

Games Workshops world of warhammer 40k isn’t supposed to have a canon. It grew out of a RPG and is a story world primarily concerned with allowing people to play their own games, and tell their own stories inside their world.

As far as I’m concerned: All fan fiction for Warhammer is basically unverified canon. It’s just as valid as the official stuff tbh. All the deaths of main characters on the table top due to poor dice roles is canon. Roboute Guilliman the Primarch of the Ultramarines has died a 1000 times across 1000 tabletops. And he will continue to die over and over again. My Ork Nob from Gorkamorka ‘Ardy Ed Nutter’ was brutally cut down in glorious chaos multiple times, and he was alive again the next week to try again.

There is something horrible awful about folks that like to think their knowledge of a story world is proportional to their love of it. I get/appreciate the tendency. But you don’t need to be a fanatical twitcher to love birds.

People craving canon IS really toxic. In addition to being a tool for gatekeeping, it also prevents people from speculating on, or reflecting on the material. Themes, Cultural Critique or even pointing out that a characters arc is very similar to another archetype or borrowed greek myth is frowned upon by those who crave canon. When you read online posts, or watch commentary on youtube of films etc, it seems that the motivations of characters in a story world are only allowed to exist within their own closed story ecosystem, blind to the context of culture at large.

You are not allowed to say “I think Batman installing illegal and hidden surveillance software on everyones phones in Gotham is extremely bad” without being shouted down. And believe me when I say I have been on the receiving end of the shouting.

I agree wholeheartedly with Whitbrook again when he points out:

It’s an attitude that in turn feeds the equally unruly and constantly growing spoiler culture because a fandom that values pure details above all else puts weight in the knowledge of those details. The need robs discussions about the stories we get of nuance and interpretation, because who cares what you think happened when there’s an answer from the Word of God to that question you might have had? And more sinisterly, beyond the way it shapes our discourse, it’s a craving that further enmeshes our love of a world not to the world itself, but to the masters behind that world.

Our Fascination With Canon Is Killing the Way We Value Stories

I could double the length of this already bloated post by really getting into spoiler culture and spoilers. Instead I’ll point you towards Whitbrook again. and just say.

Spoiler culture is insane.

I really don’t care about spoilers at all. Why does anyone care about them? or not knowing whats going to happen? This 2014 article by Hestia Peppe on spoilers is really great:

It recently occurred to me that the whole thing about spoilers is that they pretty much constitute a gag on critical discussion of narrative in public. This happened at an academic conference panel on ‘sitting with uncomfortable ideas’ in which a popular Netflix series was raised as a point of intersection between two complex ideas and was met with literal screams of “No Spoilers! Please!” and the discussion instantly and by consensus ceased entirely. As someone who’d seen the series in question and was mourning the lost opportunity to triangulate a rather disjointed conversation, I turned to my friend and said, “can you imagine that happening in a discussion of English Literature?”

The Shimmering Go-Between – Lee Klein

I was talking about the plot of the previously mentioned Green Knight movie in the pub (back when we were still allowed outside) and several friends at the table got cross about spoilers. I’m really not sure that you can shout “Spoilers” or spoil about a 14th-century Arthurian poem that has a deep ongoing influence on European culture. I would even go as far to say (IMO) that any hard boiled crime or cyberpunk hero has a bit of Sir Gawain in them. In the poem he has no inward, moral, emotional, and spiritual qualities and there is little evidence in the story that any inward qualities matter much to him at all. Just like ‘DOOM guy’ tbh.

The same also happened to me with Dune. It’s a 55 year old book??? But apparently because it’s going to be a movie this/next year I’m not allowed to talk about one of my favourite books.

In almost all cases, (I believe) narrative and the types of worlds those narratives are situated in are enriched by foreknowledge and pre critique. throughout all of history it would have been the same stories re-spun by someone with a good imagination and loud voice over and over again. Everyone round the campfire or in the pub would have been familiar with stories being told. And in the more recent past it would have been the stories and parables of the Bible. It blows my mind that people don’t immediately see the story of the Nativity In Children of Men, or the Christ Allegory in Robocop. Anyways…

Spoiler culture and the associated ‘post eventum’ craving for facts do indeed rob discussion of stories of nuance and interpretation.

For example going into the new Dune films knowing that the whole damn thing is a critique of power, and the savour narrative would benefit everyone. Especially the hot take discourse that has already even started before the movie has come out about saviour narratives. The author told us explicitly what this story was about.

It’s only possible to consume media like this if you thinking in a post modern mode. Spoiler Culture, and Craving of Canon are in many ways children of Derrida. There is ‘Nothing Outside the Text’. And yet, the ownership of culture as a commodity is still in a Modernist mode.

The rise and rise of Table Top and DnD role play I think is one of the first green shoots in this regard. It is/was a return to collective story telling that grew up alongside Drama’s deletion of the performer spectator divide in the 1970’s to create something that was in fact premodern.

So What Do?

The ownership of culture by corporations and the lack of agency that the people who love and consume that culture in the modern world is a problem that needs solving with some urgency. How do we do that? What does it even mean to have agency in a story world?

I’m obviously going to bang a Solarpunk drum in the closing paragraphs of this #GNDN blogpost. Perhaps fortuitously timed as a small/short response to Paul Graham Ravens recent and extremely thoughtful post on solarpunk.

Solarpunk is a Memetic Engine

Solarpunk is a collective ‘memetic engine’. A cultural construct or media tool to power and provide the ‘re-futuring’ of our collective imaginations.

This is narrative as a battleground. Guerrilla war against those who get to tell stories of the future, what kinds, and who gets to own them. Solarpunk as genre (or mode) is an Memetic Engine to spin out new futures int he minds of people who encounter the genre. Designed to self-replicate.

(…)

Solarpunk as a collective is ‘worlds’ first. Possible worlds, desirable worlds, or worlds in which humanity works feverishly to avoid other ones. These are all worlds that we can step into for a moment at any time. It is a set of narratives and stories / books second. The only canon is the tale of the tree you planted, or the cover crop you sowed.

One of the key words in the Solarpunk community is Polyphony. Above all one cannot speak for other Solarpunks, only be in dialogue and occasional chorus with them. Dissonance brings texture to this world.

The solarpunk community as I see it talks about the worlds it creates as being concerned with the “struggles en route to a better world”. It does not reduce climate change to a singular event but understands it as an unfolding process or crisis and opportunity..

Within Solarpunk you will find a diversity of opinion on what ‘better’ even means. It isn’t one total future or world. Its many many local ones.

This frustrates many of its critics. But thats ok. Living with indeterminacy is the biggest feature of all our futures real or imagined. It is not a bug. 

Solarpunk as Memetic Engine – Jay Springett – Unpublished 🙁

I’m not entirely sure that I personally have any concrete proposals other than encouraging others to write, tell and create their own stories. Build worlds with friends and colleagues. Play in them, test them, and discard them if they don’t work for you.

But pick a story world you would like to spend some time in and walk backwards facing it until you reach today. This also includes your street, window sill and community etc.

Or pick multiple futures and worlds that could be possible. Find fellow travellers who likes the destination and and set off together.

Craving Canon (Redux)

Update!

Following a brief DM thread with Matt from xenogothic.com regarding the several off hand allusions to the influence of Christianity on the craving for canon. I explored it a little bit more during this weeks podcast:

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15 responses to “Craving Canon”

  1. […] (and consume IP) made by monolithic IP owners in the context of participatory internet culture. See Craving Canon for tensions between IP creators and fans and Rusted Chrome for issues around legacy IP owners […]

  2. […] 35 and a huge Starwars fan and throughout my life George Lucas has continually tinkered elements of the original trilogy. […]

  3. […] that continuity though. This seems to have something to do with what Jay Springett calls ‘cultural fracking‘ and the extraction of every last drop of combustive element from a […]

  4. Grim 'alkun avatar
    Grim ‘alkun

    ‘In 2014, Disney declared the Expanded Universe was no longer canon. It became ‘Legends’. What do you think of this, seeing all of your work suddenly become non-canon?’

    “Those of us writing the EU were always told, all along, from the very beginning (have I stressed that strongly enough?), “Only the Movies are Canon.” Sure, it was disappointing.”

    ~ Kathy Tyers, EU author [Truce at Bakura, Balance Point] Interview, 2018

    http://starwarsinterviews.com/various/authors/kathy-tyers-author/

    ..

    Podcast Interview with Steve Perry, Author of Shadows of the Empire from the Expanded Universe –

    Interviewer – ‘So what are your thoughts about your book and all the ones that came other than this last year are no longer part of the Official Star Wars Canon ever since Disney took over?

    Steve Perry – “Ohh they never were! Nothing was ever canon other than the movies.”

    The Ritual Misery Podcast with hosts Amos and Kent, 2015

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2569&v=opbMcVJolSA&feature=emb_logo

    “I get asked all the time, ‘What happens after “Return of the Jedi”?,’ and there really is no answer for that,” he said. “The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that’s where that story ends.””

    ~ George Lucas, Flannelled One, May 2008, “George Lucas: ‘Star Wars’ won’t go beyond Darth Vader”, interview with Los Angeles Times

    ..

    “I think people over emphasize the importance of the canon level. The intent of the canon levels was, as the main intent was ‘if someones looking for the ships from a film, they can than use those fields to check for them only in the films,and thus seperate that from what was in the EU. So we can look at it case by case. I think there is an over emphasis of what those fields mean and what they represent”.

    ~ Leland Chee, Continuity Database Adminstrator for Lucas Licensing

    “That ‘level of canon’ thus helps in terms of bookkeeping. Those ‘canon levels’ are for the holocron.”

    ~ Pablo Hidalgo

    ForceCast #273: The Galaxy Is Reading – Interview with Leland Chee and Pablo Hidalgo, 2013 Approximately the 1 hour mark so 1:00 – 1:02 mark

    http://www.forcecast.net/story/home/ForceCast_273_The_Galaxy_Is_Reading_154431.asp

    ..

    “There’s this notion that everything changed when everything became Legends. And I can see why people think that. But, you know, having worked with George I can tell you that it was always very clear — and he made it very clear — that the films and the TV shows were the only things that he considered Canon. That was it.”

    Dave Filoni interview on ‘The Star Wars show’ [41.40 mark]-

    https://youtu.be/hcNXPNXOv2A?t=2500

    ..

    “While Lucasfilm always strived to keep the stories created for the EU consistent with our film and television content as well as internally consistent, Lucas always made it clear that he was not beholden to the EU. He set the films he created as the canon. This includes the six Star Wars episodes, and the many hours of content he developed and produced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These stories are the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align.”

    ~ Lucasfilm, 2014

    https://www.starwars.com/news/the-legendary-star-wars-expanded-universe-turns-a-new-page

    ..

    “And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn’t at all what I would have done with it. The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn’t come back to life, the Emperor doesn’t get cloned and Luke doesn’t get married.”

    ~ George Lucas,Total Film Magazine Interview, 2008
    https://ibb.co/x5q1RrQ

    ..

    “But Lucas allows for an Expanded Universe that exists parallel to the one he directly oversees. […] Though these [Expanded Universe] stories may get his stamp of approval, they don’t enter his canon unless they are depicted cinematically in one of his projects.”

    ~ Pablo Hidalgo, Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion, 2012

    ..

    “There are two worlds here,” explained Lucas. “There’s my world, which is the movies, and there’s this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe – the licensing world of the books, games and comic books.”

    ~ George Lucas, Cinescape, 2002

    ..

    “What George did with the films and The Clone Wars was pretty much his universe ,” Chee said. “He didn’t really have that much concern for what we were doing in the books and games. So the Expanded Universe was very much separate.”

    ~ Leland Chee, Continuity Database Adminstrator for Lucas Licensing, SYFY WIRE Fandom Files #13 Interview,Jan.2018

    https://ibb.co/r2SvbBP

    ..

    “I don’t read that stuff, I haven’t read any of the novels. I don’t know anything about that world. That’s a different world than my world. But I do try and keep it consistent. The way I do it is they have a Star Wars encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it and see if it has already been used. When I said other people could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have TWO universes: My Universe and than this other one. They try to make THEIR universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions.”

    ~ George Lucas Starlog Magazine Interview, 2005 – https://ibb.co/Km1CcNs

    ..

    “Lucas’ canon – and when I say ‘his canon’, I’m talking about what he was doing in the films and what he was doing in The Clone Wars – was hugely important. But what we were doing in the books really wasn’t on his radar.”

    ~ Leland Chee, Continuity Database Adminstrator,SYFY WIRE Fandom Files #13 Interview,Jan.2018

    ..

    ‘Q: ‘Hi Mr Chee! I’ve got a question about continuity – are all the various different media of Star Wars (the films, TCW, the video games, the EU) intended to form a single universe, or is the EU intended as a parallel, alternate universe? I realise that fans tend to each have their own personal preferences, but I was wondering what the official Lucasfilm company policy regarding this was? Many thanks!’.

    “The dual universe question comes up often. I know George Lucas has mentioned it being two universes, but that’s not how I see it. His vision is definitely not beholden to ours, but ours is definitely beholden to his.”

    ~ Leland Chee, Continuity Database Adminstrator, Facebook chat, August 2012

    https://ibb.co/7JX07GC

    ..

    And what goes in the blank timeline spaces of the Film Only universe – can we never know the history or background of that Star Wars universe like we can in the EU Star Wars universe?

    “Nothing. That’s why it’s film only.”

    ~ Leland Chee, Continuity Database Administrator for Lucas Licensing,StarWars.com, Jan. 2nd 2007

    https://ibb.co/84z7rwM
    —-

    ..

    “I did not have direct contact with George about Star Wars continuity. Dave Filoni, who worked on Clone Wars, definitely did. So for me, the spirit of George’s work is what’s in the films, and it doesn’t go too far beyond that.”

    ~ Leland Chee, Continuity Database Adminstrator,SYFY WIRE Fandom Files #13 Interview,Jan.2018

    ..

    “I didn’t have any direct contact with George about Star Wars. – I would see some notes based on the interviews or the meetings. But I did not have direct contact with George about Star Wars continuity.”

    ~ Leland Chee, Continuity Database Adminstrator, SYFY WIRE Fandom Files #13 Interview, January, 2018

    ..

    ‘Does LucasFilm Ltd. itself actually have a Canon Policy?’

    “No. I’m not exactly sure what the existence of such a thing would actually mean. Beyond the merchandise and online, I don’t see how or where it would be applied. It’s not like there’s a document that exists that says “these are the things that are canon” that everyone in the company can look at.”

    Leland Chee, Holocron Continuity Database questions Forum, SW.com., 2005

    https://ibb.co/9y1yLmx

    “I guess you could say there’s an “in George’s head at any given point in time” canon, which no one besides George knows. But you have to remember that this canon is constantly changing in his mind. If it weren’t, George would never have needed to write second drafts to any of the scripts. Nor would you see changes to the films for versions after their original theatrical release.”

    ~ Leland Chee, Continuity Database Administrator, StarWars.com., 2005

    https://ibb.co/Xp0yNBT

    ..

    ‘Sorry Tasty [Leland Chee], a rather long and boring question about continuity, canon and the Holocron…

    Much earlier this year, I participated in a debate in the Can We Get “The Canon Argument” Out of the Way Now… thread on this board and had a long discussion with another poster on the canonicity of the EU.

    The poster had argued that based on George Lucas’s quotes in Cinescape in July 2002 and in Starlog in August 2005, where he mentions the films and the EU and films being “two separate worlds” and the EU being a “parallel universe”, that there are officially two different Star Wars universes or continuities:

    – George Lucas’ Star Wars universe, which is the ‘real’ Star Wars universe, consisting of the 6 Star Wars movies and only those films; the stories set out in the EU do not happen, nor are a part of that universe or story.
    – The Expanded Universe’s Star Wars universe, which is not the same as the ‘real’ Star Wars universe, but is it’s own spin-off universe based on it; it does not reflect George Lucas’ vision of the story of what ‘really happens’ in Star Wars.

    https://ibb.co/jZbDXnM

    When I mentioned your statements about the different canonicity levels in Star Wars, he argued that they were only applicable to the EU Star Wars universe, and didn’t apply to George Lucas’ Star Wars universe. Further more he posited that since Lucas Licensing and LucasFilm Ltd are separate entities, that the statements of Lucas Licensing employees do not and cannot override George Lucas’ quotes, or the quotes of LucasFilm Ltd employees, since Lucas Licensing cannot know or comment accurately about the policies of LFL.

    I on the other hand argued that there was only one official Star Wars universe or continuity, which is made up of both the Star Wars films and the EU and contains materials of different levels of canonicity as described in your blog. I contended that the quotes of Lucas where he mentions “two worlds” were not supposed to be taken literally; he was describing how his work on the films was ‘his world’ and he didn’t get involved in the EU which was ‘a separate world’.

    Additionally, I argued that LucasFilm Ltd and Lucas Licensing, being divisions of the same company, worked together closely and thus each division was aware of and could comment with accuracy on the policies of the other.

    I was wondering which of our arguments were correct? Or are we both off the mark in some way? Many thanks!’

    a rather long and boring question about continuity, canon and the Holocron…

    “The only relevant official continuities are the current versions of the films alone, and the combined current version of the films along with whatever else we’ve got in the Holocron. You’re never going to know what George’s view of the universe beyond the films at any given time because it is constantly evolving. It remains elastic until it gets committed to film or another official source. Even then, we know there’s always room for change. Though the Holocron is maintained by Licensing, it is utilized by folks throughout all the Lucas companies.”

    Leland Chee, Continuity Database Administrator,StarWars.com, Dec.6th 2006

    https://ibb.co/VmPN1fr

  5. Grim 'alkun avatar
    Grim ‘alkun

    Audience #1: You got a rapid fan base, it seems like nowadays the way Disney handles Star Wars canon, very well controlled, very tight, but back in the ’90s when it’s a blueprint of books and games and other things, how did … Do you internally manage —

    “That was one of my mandates, when I began the spin off publishing program it was a sacrosanct rule that everything had to relate to each other, be consistent with each other and be consistent with the movies, ‘which were canon.’

    We were pretty religious about doing that, our biggest problem was a guy named George Lucas, because he didn’t buy into the spin off fiction and the game program and all the ‘alternate universe’ we were creating.”

    We wanted it to be one universe, we felt strongly that that’s what it needed to be, but George as the filmmaker didn’t want to be beholden to somebody else’s creative vision.

    So we would have very interesting skirmishes because we had a bunch of stuff that became, for the fans, pretty much canon [head-canon]* about what happened after Return of the Jedi, what different places in the galaxy were called, lots of different things and if he was proposing to do something in the prequels that contradicted that we would have long debates which usually ended at least after the first session with “I don’t care this is what I’m doing” , and maybe after the *4th or 5th session sometimes “Alright ‘maybe’ we can change it this way”

    Now that everything is controlled by one central committee [Lucasfilm Story Group] we can have canon that applies to everything.

    ‘Messing with a Classic’ — Howard Roffman,President of Lucas Licensing under Lucas, in charge of the EU, Lucasfilm, TV interview, 2017

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMKHgwH-gY4 – [12:40 mark]

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