When, exactly, is it appropriate to deviate from canon? Is it more acceptable to go against something that is merely implied instead of outright stated?
It depends on what you are talking about. Fanfiction, sure. Canon works? People will freak.
It also depends on how far from canon you deviate in fanfiction and how justified it is. If you're writing Harry Potter fanfiction, for example, and write that someone finds a way to bring a dead person back to live, fully and completely, nicht so gut. That's because it is in violation of one of the most important and fundamental themes of the work. If you're writing a Harry Potter fanfiction that explores Harry having a mental breakdown and divorcing Ginny after Deathly Hallows, it would be more accepted depending on how you handled it.
Good, I was thinking about starting this page myself. I hate canon. I hate everything about this stupid, phony idea made up solely to please fans. Everything about it bugs me: the way it presupposes that some things "really happened" and others didn't when by definition none of fiction really happened; the way it's nothing more than a means for fans to lie to themselves about something that clearly is in a story not being there, or for writers to lie about something that clearly isn't part of the story being there; the way that it adds a nebulous unseen dimension to stories which supposedly dictates what goes into them even though you'd never know unless you heard about what's "in" or "out"; the way that the nonsense known as Fanon Discontinuity couldn't even exist were it not for canon. The way it's a fan-made convention with no basis in either reality or rationality. If something is in a story, it's in the story. If it's not, it's not. You can't just say, "Nope, that part never happened," or, "It happened, but utterly differently from how the story itself tells you it did," because you're no better than a child sticking his fingers in his ears and going "La la la la la, I'm not hearing you!"
Um, it sounds like you're complaining about Fanon. And of coursesomething happened, otherwise you get twenty-six episodes of blank white screen, which, while technically lacking a canon, also lacks something to interest viewers. That's what canon is- what happens onscreen, onpage, ontoy, or in Word of God. Not really debatable, unless you have the Shipping Goggles on too tight.
Not arguable? Exqueeze me?? Are you saying they never use canon to pretend something is in the story when it isn't or vice versa?! So when it became "canon", for instance, that Columbo's first name wasn't Frank even though it was on the ID he flashed in one episode, that was...what exactly? Not even to bring up comic books...I've got news for you: none of it happened. It's fiction. Nevertheless, there is honor in acknowledging what's in the story rather than covering it up with tons of Retcon and Discontinuity that a newbie wouldn't even know about. What are you going to tell the newbie if he/she likes the part that the god of Canon deems blasphemy? That they have no right to like it because it's not really part of the story even though it's plainly there IN THE STORY?? As for Word of God, who says it means anything more than anyone else's word? If everything that was "canon" really did consist of what was onscreen or on page, and never denied the existence of such things, it would not be such a problem, even though the idea is still flawed whether it causes trouble or not: if you didn't establish clearly the world and events of the story the first time, and within the tale itself, you've failed as a writer. There should be no need for canon, but there are two of them: finicky fan demands and writerly sloth.
Ah. You don't mind canon (indeed, without a canon you lose narrative cohesion, and your story turns into a drug trip), you have a problem with retcons. As for why, often, retcons happen because a new writer has come on, and needs to change things in order to tell stories they have planned. In my experience, each individual writer for a work usually changes the official party line on canon very little, its when there is a change in management that it changes. As for the Death of the Author thing, that's fanon territory. Canon is by definition what the writer defines the fictional world as.
"What the writer defines the fictional world as"? If you're going to get that semantic about it, ANYTHING could be canon, as long as it's written. The word doesn't have any meaning or usefulness unless it's defined more narrowly and practically as something that a writer or someone else deems part of the story, which SHOULD NOT BE NECESSARY!
Again, we're getting into acid trip territory here. Most works of any length have several writers, some of whom are better than others, and some of whom write things that contradict the themes or intentions of better writers. There are two choices- have an incomprehensible pile of contradictory facts and faces with no narrative cohesion and an in-universe history like a ping-pong ball in a washing machine, or trim the fat and let the story make sense. Having upwards of ten to twenty authors stay consistent on a theme, characterization, and quality of writing simply isn't on the menu.
It should be. The only real reason it's not on the menu is because they know they can be lazy about it because of the C-word. (No, not that one.) If they knew they only had one shot, they'd make more of a point of staying consistent in the first place. And if they didn't, that just means you shouldn't follow the story anymore. You can't just pretend something wasn't written! It's wrong for the writer and it's wrong for the reader/viewer. (Not to mention the disrespect involved to the other writers by telling everyone to ignore their work.)
So, no new stories can be told, and profitable, beloved characters and 'verses should be abandoned at the drop of a hat? When a comic or a TV show has an exceptionally stupid, lazy, or apathetic author for one episode or issue, all later authors should limit themselves to stories defined by that stupidity, or start anew? The dark and brooding Batman should have Bat-Mite floating around in the background as he angsts over his own tortured psyche? Star Trek humans were giant newts at some point in their past? All Superman movies should be in a world where superman is obsessed with destroying everyone's nuclear arsenal and the Highlander immortals must always have come from Zeist? Canon Discontinuity exists for a reason, both economic and narrative. Its profitable to keep with proven franchises, and its stupid from a narrative as well as marketing standpoint to stick with plot points, characters, and elements that both the writers and fans hate when the story can simply ignore the fact that they ever existed, thereby making more money and telling new and interesting stories.
It's not always the lazy approach, though — sometimes it takes it takes real hard work and effort to fix a character / series / story that has apparently been screwed up beyond repair. To take one example, the production team behind Batman Begins and The Dark Knight didn't say 'screw it, we'll pretend Batman & Robin never happened — to the pub!" and leave it at that; they worked hard to make the movie franchise respectable again after it had fallen into disrepute. Result? Some very popular and critically acclaimed movies.
Isn't that exactly what they did with Batman Begins? They cut the previous Batman series and started over. The events of Batman & Robin aren't canon in the Batman Begins universe, but they are canon in the 1989 Batman universe. Batman Begins does act like B&R never happened.
Don't like what the writer is doing? Then just stay away from the series until that writer is gone. Even if Canon Discontinuity exists "for a reason" (like almost every wrong thing in this world), boycotting exists for a much more important and natural one. And if worst comes to worst the writers could just literally ignore the past stories that sucked or were out of sync, rather than call unnecessary attention to them by declaring them erased. (In all fairness, I should mention that this is how the writers typically handle those problems in Professional Wrestling, and it seems to work splendidly for them.)
As far as I know, that's how most writers deal with it. They only declare it formally when someone asks about it in an interview, in my experience.
Isn't ignoring a particular writer's story the same thing as implying it never happened? You seem to be contradicting yourself here.
Ignoring = ignoring. Saying never happened = saying never happened. Ignoring =/= saying it never happened. I honestly don't even know how I could explain a difference so fundamental as two non-synonyms not being synonymous.
Except that from the creator's / executive's point of view, 'stay away from the story until the writer goes away' translates into 'don't buy the product' — which means that they aren't getting any money for it. And just getting rid of the writer might be just putting a Hello Kitty band-aid on a bullethole; the problem looks like it's gone, but it might still be fatally wounded. And if the audience thought the last stuff was rubbish, what incentive do they have to start handing over their hard-earned again just because the writer's gone? Ergo, reassure the readers that not only is the writer gone but that the story they previously loved is becoming quality again by declaring that the rubbish stuff they hated 'never happened'.
What do you say to this: The events of Resident Evil 0 (a prequel, but only by a few hours) in no direct way contradict the events of the original game, Resident Evil. BUT, long, long before Zero was made, there was a series of fan made novelizations of the games. The events of Zero DO contradict the events of the BOOK corresponding to the original game. Wouldn't, then, the answer to this be "See what the creators of the game say"? That is what canon is for. Now, as I understand, your main point is something akin to "Why can't people who notice these difference just deal with it?" and that I cannot answer with anything other than, where's the fun in that? Those of us who look for this sort of thing do it because it is fun.
Holy crap! And I thought I got pissy over small shit. As a comic book artist/author myself, I consider established canon to be useful. It allows my readers to distinguish between my work and a particularly good(or bad, depending on how you see it) fan work, for one. It also allows me, if I wish, to make versions of my stories in a separate continuity. Sort of a "what if" thing, you know? As for retcons, which you seem to be complaining more about from what I can gather in your petulant whining, those are necessary sometimes. Take for example my Jamie comic series(shameless plug, I know, shaddup): When I first wrote it, it was a huge ripoff of JtHM where this bullied kid just goes crazy and starts killing people. As I matured and my art and writing styles got marginally better, I flinched at the idea when I went back to it. So I decided to revamp it and retcon what I had done previously. There was no way for me to magically turn back time and prevent people from seeing it. It was there. I had to live with the fact that, when I was an angsty teenage boy just getting into pot, I created a shitty character. I wanted the character to be deeper than "Somebody makes fun of Jamie. Jamie tortures him to death because the voices tell him to. Then he eats candy. YAY!" So I rewrote it. The previous embarrassing incarnation of the story is still floating around somewhere, and it's still hanging around in the minds of the fourteen-year-old "I'm totally not Emo!" fangirls I managed to attract with it, but whenever they bring it up I just tell them to try and ignore my stupidity. I was young and full of wangst, weren't we all at some point? So why can't the writer, as a result of maturing and wanting to give his or her audience something better to read, toss the crap of their younger days aside and replace it with something that's actually worth your time? We don't have to do that. Jamie didn't have to become a three-dimensional character. Batman didn't have to stop killing criminals without remorse. Sometimes change is good, sometimes it's bad. Sometimes you just need to shut the fuck up and let the author write his own goddamn book! Thank you for your time.
Why is it that some people don't care about canon in the slightest? as I see it, if you ignore some parts of the canon, turn some characters gay, and kill off the other ones, you're not writing a (for example) harry potter story, you're writing a story that's (kind of)inspired by harry potter.
Because they either think "this series would be better if this ship happened or if this something/character was there/acted like this" or they're aware not half as many people would be interested in their stories if they said "it's an original story inspired by the Harry Potter series" instead of saying it's a Harry Potter fanfic as they do. Also for many lazy or uncreative authors, it gives them a pass on putting real effort into making their own characters and world.
Canon is an abstract concept, and, in theory, it's a subjective one as well. Thus, you can't really say that something has a canon or doesn't have a canon. You could say the Mario series has some underlying canon of particularly weird events, but that's a subjective thing, and reliant solely on whether or not you think it's there. Canon is a very weird concept, getting too far into the specifics just gets confusing and borderline existential.
I imagine that Canon can just as easily be setting/tone/characterisation as well as actual events. For example, if a writer on the Simpsons turned in an episode in which Homer happened to be hard-working and industrious whilst Lisa didn't give a damn about her education (and there were no in-universe explanations for this change in behaviour); the showrunners would instantly reject it as non-canonical.
But that's continuity. Is continuity the same concept as canon?
Canon is simply what happens when continuity has a conflict and one of the sides has to win out. That is, they cannot both have happened within the same continuity. This goes to the Star Trek novels vs. TV show idea. The continuity of the novels says things that conflict with the show. So if you're going to make a determination about which of the two mutually exclusive continuities happened, you define and invoke rules of Canon to make that determination. To put it another way, continuity is important when you're trying to decide if the actions from one part of the work make sense in light of others. Canon is when one part of the work cannot work in light of the other, and therefore one of them must be declared to "not have happened" in order to maintain some degree of internal consistency.