Tag Archives: canon

Canon vs Fanon, Who Cares?

(I may have harped on this before. It’s still relevant, lol.)

Fanfiction is pretty much older than dirt–I would argue Homer was writing fanfic of the Trojan War since it was a) way before his time, b) he made a Turkish city Greek, and c) he brought in legendary heroes from a bunch of time periods together. But the point is, a lot of people accepted Homer’s stories as fact, without even questioning it.

They had accepted Homer’s story as their new canon, making it now what is commonly referred to as fanon.

For those who have no idea what I am talking about, canon means the information that comes directly from the source material. Now, what counts as source material can vary. Some people narrow their view to one specific source, such as the film series but not the comics or cartoon spin-offs. Others cherry pick, accepting all sources but not all episodes or facts. A lot of people you just have to ask or read their notes to figure out what they are treating as canon for any particular discussion.

Fanon has two separate meanings, depending on context, and I’m going to look to my Homer example again. The first definition is Homer’s work itself. Homer’s particular combination of characters, setting, and events is its own fanon. In his playground, you have both Ajax’s and yet more contemporary heroes, and the Trojans are a traditionally Greek society. Now, when a group of people argue that they are going to adopt Homer’s fanon as their own, that’s another–and the second meaning–of fanon.

Fanon can be over something small, such as one character having a particular hobby. Another fanon can be a lot bigger, such as how one character feels about another or even about themselves. Sometimes a consensus about names for background characters happens, and the rest of us are left confused. (Looking at you, Miraculous Ladybug with the concept-art Quadatic Kids or whatever they are.)

The trouble that fanon seems to run into is when the fans who create it forget to leave their fanon at the door when new material becomes available. Whether that’s the next movie in the franchise, new books set in the same world, or just a new season of the show, it’s hard on the fandom to make their own fanon and the new bits of canon to mesh sometimes. Long hiatuses make this worse, fyi. It’s why whenever I write fanfic for an unfinished series or I’m reading something in a fandom that is always evolving, I try to keep that in mind. It prevents me from being completely disappointed. It also gives me a refuge if the writing jumps a shark or two. (I refuse to acknowledge Season 8 of Game of Thrones unless it is to call out the mess and bad behavior and how nothing has changed. I literally only watched the series for Dany.)

So what can we interpret this all for as writers? Well, for one thing, it’s gonna happen. You just have to accept it, be amused by it when people ask you questions about it, but otherwise avoid participating in it. The other? Know where to have an answer and where to back away, which comes back to my Law of Writing: never lie to your fanbase. If you haven’t thought of a particular aspect of a character, admit to that if asked, and say it hasn’t come up yet and you wouldn’t want to make a decision without all your notes in front of you. Admit if something is a spoiler for later if it comes up. Some fans hate spoilers with a passion and want to see things in context. And too many spoilers, not only does it raise expectations to unrealistic level, but the fanon can work against you and come up with stuff waaaaay better than your own. (Again, looking at you Miraculous Ladybug and Zag.)

Or if it’s a fun detail that hasn’t come up yet in the books and is just extra, or you happen to know it…tell them. Yes, it’ll feed the fanon or maybe contradict it, but like I said, it’s going to be there regardless. The little facts can create whole spin-offs of ideas and thoughts, especially if your series is finished but you are writing in the same world. But J.K. Rowling has made a name for herself as being the worst example of this. Know when to back away and go, “You know, this is inappropriate for the age demo of these books,” or in her case, I swear she’s just making random stuff up as she thinks it up, which is hell on the rest of us since very bit takes away from the magic that we grew up with and makes it…more like the dirty reality we live in.

Anywho, that’s a whole bag of salt to unpack on another day. I just wanted to take a chance to talk about something I’ve been seeing on tumblr in a couple different fandoms. I’ll be back next week with…something, not sure what yet. Maybe review the new Fast and Furious spin off? It has Hobbs, I’m bound to be amused…


Forum RP: To Follow or Ignore Canon

So, all of my forum RPs are based off of other worlds, making them almost collaborative fanfic as much as they are RPs. My current ones are a Harry Potter, X-Men, Firefly, and Avengers. Now, what makes this relevant to this post is…all of these have a LOT of different versions of them. I mean, dear lord, Marvel has HOW many different universes now? I gave up keeping them all straight a long time ago, and just kinda wade through them the best that I can. But because there are so many takes on the same worlds, sometimes it’s hard to pick what your RP treats as canon and what it politely ignores.

I’m going to use the X-Men as my wonderful example here, focusing on my character, a version of Rogue, partly because she’s an adoption and serves as the perfect example. Anyone who grew up watching the 90’s cartoon of Rogue has a very clear idea of the character, the same character that is usually presented in the comics in some way or fashion. But each version has it’s quirks, particularly some of the non-comic affiliated ones. X-Men: Evolution, for example, turned her into a goth. The Ultimates universe gave her a different name than the one we’ve commonly associated with Rogue. And let’s not go into some of the other really weird things Marvel has done over time. But the big kink in all the plans was how Rogue was written in the movies: meek, quiet, and nervous. The exact opposite of the fiery Southern Belle that we all know and love.

Between the actions of the previous RPer and how I set Rogue up in my head, I managed to make the meek behavior into a phase, like all teenagers go through. The fact that, even as horrible as it was, Last Stand gave her the beginnings of a backbone helped a good deal. But there were a lot of set facts about the fandom and comic book canon that I had to decide whether or not to accept them. Mystique adopted Rogue at one point, even turned her against the X-Men. I could have taken that on as a plot point, but I decided against it. Partly because of the fact we were beginning to incorporate bits and pieces of First Class lore without making that movie canon into the RP, but mostly because of Mystique’s reaction to Rogue. We never saw that mother/daughter, strained relationship that even Evolution played with at least a little bit. Besides, I borked her childhood up enough without turning one of her numerous foster parents into a shapeshifting mutant intent on using her for her own plans.

As for her childhood, again, I had a lot of different options. One version of Rogue’s past has her living with her parents, her father being abusive. Another version that is often tied together with the first has her parents as part of a sort of hippie commune. There’s where she was mostly raised by her Aunt Carrie, or by Irene. And then there’s what the movie gives us, which isn’t much to go on at all. In the end, I actually took bits and pieces from everything and threw them all together into a mess, if only because that really gave the character some much needed depths that I wasn’t getting from anywhere else in the RP besides the voices in her head.

I guess the biggest decisions we had to make about the RP as a whole was the addition of other movies, such as Wolverine: Origins, First Class, and now The Wolverine and Days of Future Past. In the end, as a group, we decided to treat the movies a lot like how we treat the comic books and the TV shows. Nothing except for the first three movies is strict, must-be-followed-on-pain-of-death canon. Everything else can be pulled from if we like the bit of information, but it doesn’t have to be strict.¬†(I completely ignore First Class having Xavier start the school that young, for example, or how it contradictorily gets him into a wheelchair at the end of the movie despite him being able to walk after¬†Origins and ugh.) For example, we follow Origins pretty religiously, with some tweaking, but we break bits and pieces of First Class away to use and pretty much ignore The Wolverine. Most of our group has not read any of the comics, with me serving as a weird bridge between the religious followers of them and the ones who haven’t touched them, so we treat them like we do First Class, and the same for the animated series.

By now, I’m sure you’re begging the question as to why the heck we do this. Wouldn’t it be easier to just make everything canon? And the answer is, yes…if things were consistent. But Marvel and consistency don’t belong in the same sentence together most of the time. Even JK Rowling had her blips where she had a contradiction. It’s completely unavoidable, and in some cases just happens to be worse than others. But in an RP setting, there has to be some manner of consistency, if only because things have to be fair for all the players, so the same information has to be readily available, or if it is changed, it’s changed for character reasons and the player at least knows about it.

This doesn’t mean I advocate change in the name of change. Even though a couple members of the group grumbled, I refused to bring in Cassandra Nova, because it made no sense to me. We knew the man at the end of the movie was Xavier’s twin brother. Twin, not part of a triplet. And not only a twin, an IDENTICAL twin. The boys pulled out all sorts of Marvel logic on me. I won only because it has been stated that the brain-dead twin that Xavier takes over when his own body is destroyed at the end of Last Stand is her cinematic double, something they couldn’t argue with because it was canon as we were following it.

I guess my point is, don’t be afraid to ignore something that contradicts what you’ve already RPed that isn’t easily fixed or seems completely illogical. Especially if other material provides alternate solutions that you can pull from or excite you to play out. But at the same time, don’t ignore canon just to get away with doing what you want to do. Canon exists to create a level field for all the RPers, and so as a group, you have to decide what is and isn’t canon and stick with that.

So when most of the group says “No aliens!”, you have to suck it up and deal with it.