For more than 100 years discussion of fiction has been improperly saddled with the term canon. When considering what’s thought canon is primarily a mechanism to preserve the suspension of disbelief, the use of the term becomes almost ironic.
We owe this word’s improper use to the original Sherlock Holmes drooling fanboy, Ronald Knox, who wanted to draw as thick a line as possible between the oeuvre of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other authors who subsequently undertook the Detective’s chronicle.
Canon both designates the authoritative elements and helps in establishing continuity. For writers it can serve as a tool (sometimes called a bible; also not exactly appropriate). For fans it is the timeline and the answer book for geek-cred quizzes. Keeping track of who’s who and what’s what is important for both but “continuity” should be a completely effective term for both author and audience.
The need to have the story straight is likely as old as storytelling. We may imagine arguments at pub between Knox and other followers of Holmes’ adventures but such conflicts are probably as old as storytelling.
“If Pylaimenes was killed by Menelaos, how could he be there to see his son Harpalion die?”
As I research the novel concerning the life and times of the famous seer Teiresias (A Song Heard in the Future) – I discover quite a few problems with the body of Greek mythology. There are many chronologies and each is based on different assumptions and starting dates. The dramatis personæ don’t always align or include the all of the same people.
When it comes to the Star Trek book I’ve more recently begun writing (All We Now Hold True), the complications are actually greater. The number of voices in the oral tradition of Greek myth can never be known but the record comes from only a few. A listing of writers of Star Trek episodes, films, and novels now includes hundreds.
An Uncertain Enterprise
Even before the first episode of Enterprise the cry about the continuity minefield Rick Berman and Brannon Braga seemed to be rushing into went up from many fans, myself included. In the premiere of that series, we were shown they were going to play a bit fast and loose with “canon” as we knew it.
In the second season they began contradicting what I feel most fans of the Vulcans held true. For example, it had been presumed for nearly 40 years that each member of that (yes, fictional) race had the ability to mind meld. Forty episodes into Enterprise we were asked to accept not only that it was a rare talent but also those who engaged in it were subject to social stigma. There is no word for scoff in Vuhlkansu (the Vulcan language).
And Deeper into Darkness
But since 2009, who cares — right? The new director of Star Trek, J. J. Abrams, made no secret of the fact that he couldn’t get into the original shows. I think he meant they bored him. So nevermind Spock’s efforts at unification of Vulcans and Romulans. In fact, forget the planet Vulcan entirely when all is said and done. If those in charge reject canon, aren’t we free to?
The above image is my take on a lirpa, an ancient and traditional Vulcan weapon. It does not precisely replicate those seen in the original series (TOS) or in Enterprise (ENT). That’s by design. The calligraphy built into the blade is the Vuhlkansu word kau – or wisdom. Since continuity is the issue and as “All We Now Hold True” is my effort to splice back the fractured Vulcan narrative let it be a symbolic scalpel rather than an axe.
I do intend to have True published in a capacity where it can stand its best chance of being considered “canon”. Will it be fanfic? All Star Trek should be written by fans of Star Trek.
Note: Due to working to place Pandora’s Pets in more brick-and-mortar locations, this week’s post was delayed. Thank you for your patience.