Current Canon And Other Variations

Reading up on the fandom can be an enlightening experience. Sometimes though, it can be exasparating. Picture in your mind the one person who continues defending their argument in the face of overwhelming evidence, going on and on about the grandosity of their viewpoint when they have been proven wrong over and over again. One subject matter where such arguments frequently arise is the issue of canon, what is and what isn't true in the world of a certain game. This post is my personal attempt to make clear what canon and its related terms actually mean.

On Canon

The term 'canon' at its basis is a very simple concept. It describes the provably right facts about a game and/or its world, what events happened and what did not and even the personalities of the characters who live in that world. How exactly to define what is canon is another matter, and can spawn some heated arguments.

There are two generally accepted ways to define what is canon, those of published canon and extended canon. Published canon only considers facts and events that were included in the product itself to be canon. These people generally argue that if it did not make it to the game, it was not worthy of being considered canon. Under this way of thinking, things such as background revealed in guidebooks and game leaflets are not considered canon, and most certainly not anything else. Extended canon takes all of these into consideration, taking the stance that everything that comes from official sources one way or another is canon. These include the aforementioned guidebooks and leaflets, and also such things as developer interviews, with one caveat. If a finished product published later on contradicts this extended canon, it is abandoned. Indeed, this approach could be considered to be 'living canon', as it is constantly changing based on new information, either from developers or from new products. The published canon approach may take products published later into account, but quite often proponents of published canon refuse to consider even them, defining as canon only what can be deducted from the first published product. They become proponents not only of published canon, but its subcategory, 'canon to (product)'.

On Fanon

For the purposes of this post, let's leave that for the moment and define another term - fanon. It is the counterpart of canon, and describes facts and events that did not officially happen, but instead are facts and events a fan says happened, or are considered to have happened for the purposes of fanfic and other such fanworks. Why I bring this up now is because the further a fan defines themselves what should be and what should not be canon, the closer to fanon their 'canon' becomes. At the point where you add events or facts not present in either the product or its extended sources or reject events or facts from the product itself, you have gone over to fanon for sure.

Lately, the term 'personal canon' has been circulating some gathering places of fans. I would argue that this term is flawed, for defining by yourself what is and isn't canon regardless of the source material is by very definition fanon. It bears noting that for some people this flawed term has given entitlement to claim that their version of 'canon' is the true canon. I would recommend the term 'personal fanon' instead to conform to the established definitions of the terms and to prevent such confusion from arising.

Arguably, there are definitions of 'canon' that fall somewhere between actual canon and fanon. One such definition could be the afore-mentioned 'canon to (product)', where a person rejects all canon that comes after and/or alongside the product itself. Sometimes these go so far as to reject corrected translations, opting instead to go with old flawed ones that sometimes have even gone so far as to change the meaning of entire scenes in older games where the quality of translations wasn't yet up to current levels. It is hard to draw a line between canon and fanon in such cases. One way to look at it is to consider it 'old canon', where you follow either the published or living canon of a set point in time from the past, rejecting any new information. What commonly leads to such rejection is retcons or perceived retcons of established canon in ways that the person doesn't agree with. However, it is important for people who follow old canon to be aware that their version is not actually canon to everyone else ('current canon').

In Conclusion

Hopefully this short posting has brought even some clarity into the convoluted matter that is canon. As for myself, I follow current living canon, the same as what this site itself considers to be canon. This means canon is what is in the products and its accompanying material, including developer comments on what's meant with the cryptic and unclear bits. It also means that this canon is constantly updated as new information comes to light. I feel this is the best approach to bring variety and life into the fandom.

JGwinters


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