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Schrödinger's Canon

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So, you've got a work with an impressive Expanded Universe, lots of cool and interesting characters, events, places, and things, and new supplementary creators coming in and out all the time adding more and more awesome toys to the pile. But the primary creator is still working on the work in its primary medium, and is under no obligation whatsoever to include these extra bits in the next main installment. They may not even be aware they all exist. In really large and ill-overseen Expanded Universes, even bits of the expanded material may be self-contradictory. Two characters who got on great in the main story may become romantically involved in a comic, while in a novel they grow distant, while in a video game they just remain friends. Which, if any, "actually" happened? We'll have to wait until the next primary installment to see.

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That's Schrodinger's Canon. Officially licensed and created works taking place within the same 'Verse as another work, tying in with its events and characters, and intended to be actually canonical at some level, but whose actual canonicity is in question until the next installment of the main work in its primary medium is released. The events, people, places, etc. exist in creative superposition, both canonical and not canonical until the main work acknowledges them as one or the other.

It is not Fanon, which is speculations by the audience. Nor is it Alternate Universe, where stories are specifically written with an intentional "what-if" bent (though Schrodinger's Canon "observed" to be false may be shunted into an Alternate Universe). It is not Shrug of God, where creators decline to give clear-cut answers, either to preserve mystery or because they don't know yet themselves. Rather, it's when actual, intended-to-be canonical works may or may not be canonical until the main work confirms or denies them. Similar, but distinct, from Loose Canon, where elements are created that are known to be largely independent from the main work in its primary medium. Canon Discontinuity is what happens when canonicity set up in the main work is ignored by the main work itself, or when particularly popular pieces of Schrodinger's Canon are observed false. Ascended Fanon is what happens when Fanon becomes Schrodinger's Canon that is then observed true. Finally, Canon Immigrant is what happens when a particularly popular character (and character only) from a "lesser-canonical" work migrates into the main work in its primary medium. Compare Filler and Pseudocanonical Fic.

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Do not confuse for Canon Marches On, where supplementary material is definitely contradicted and rendered non-canon by a later installment of the main series.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Do to the long-running nature of American Comic Books, most connected universe comics are very much this in a nutshell. When printing new stories, the events considered 'canon' with them may not always be consistent; stories printed decades ago may be just as canon as ones printed last year, they may be erased and ignored in favour of the newer stuff, or they may be deemed the 'actual' canon with more recent stuff ignored and erased. And, with the prevalence of retcons, even the actual events within those stories as originally told may not be accurate to what is ultimately canon. For everyone's sake, its probably best one not try to take continuity as a binding law, and just try to enjoy each story as it is, to save one a serious headache.
    • This especially affects origins. Every so often, a character's origin story may get retold, often updating details for modern settings (IE, an origin set during WW2 or the Vietnam War may be changed so it instead took place during the War On Terror). However, the canon status of these origins falls under this; if the origin is told as part of an ongoing story, than its canon within that story, but it may not remain canon following that (especially if the book changes creative teams), or it might become the current agreed take on the origin. This is especially so if the origin retelling is just a miniseries or one-shot rather than part of the 'main' book; as it's not directly tied to ongoing stories, it may be left as its own stand-alone story without any continuity connections, or it may be adopted as the official version of what happened.
  • DC Comics' approach to canonicity was very much this. Everything is canonical somewhere, and writers are given free reign to pick and choose canonical elements when telling individual stories. Unless DC is making a concerted effort to create a standard canon free from Continuity Lockout (a la The New 52), any given story within the DC collective is a case of Schrodinger's Canon.
    • Even more so with the Vertigo Comics line. Originally stated to be fully canonical with other DC comics, it has drifted farther and farther until it's basically its own separate universe, from which elements may sometimes overlap with other DC continuities. Which elements these are are unknown until they appear in a "mainstream" DC story.
    • Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC tried to eliminate the "everything is canonical somewhere" policy because the old "Infinite Earths" continuity was thought to result in Continuity Lockout. Thus, for a long time, it was established that there were no other alternate Earths or dimensions. Naturally, it didn't take long for writers to completely disregard this.
    • Later on, DC started reintroducing the concept of its multiverse. The first attempt started in The Kingdom, which introduced "Hypertime", which was explicitly stated by its creator to be this trope (every story, even the ones just in your head, are canonical somewhere). This, again, was abandoned after it was deemed too confusing for readers, which led to DC once again limiting its multiverse. Until, finally, Convergence completely undid Crisis On Infinite Earths.
  • The Marvel Universe (or, more specifically, the Marvel Omniverse) works on this principle. Every "What-If", every Alternate Timeline, every "Imaginary Story" happened in a separate universe. Unlike DC, Marvel also avoided a complete Cosmic Retcon (until Secret Wars (2015)). After that story arc, some universes were destroyed (such as Supreme Power) while others were merged with the mainline universe (such as Ultimate Marvel).
  • Marvel Comics has published a number of Merchandise-Driven comics featuring Marvel characters interacting with some licensed character. Most of these stories fit in the main Marvel Universe continuity, as the events of their stories still happened. Due to the cost of further licensing, these licensed characters may not show up again, though they are assumed to still be hanging around somewhere in the Marvel Universe.
  • Dark Horse Comics' Aliens comics. Written after Aliens but before Alien³, they follow Hicks, Newt, and (eventually) Ripley, many years after their escape from LV-426, confronting a new Alien menace. Then Alien³ premieres, and suddenly Everybody's Dead, Dave. The stories were patched and retconned to follow Suspiciously Similar Substitutes Wilks and Billie (and an android who thought she was Ripley) instead.
  • The DC YOU version of Starfire is somewhere between this and Canon Discontinuity—it brings back her older characterization and doesn't reference her controversial time in Red Hood and the Outlaws, but it does not firmly Retcon it, either; it's up to the fans to decide if the two stories connected.

    Film 
  • In Batman & Robin, Batman mentions the existence of Superman, but there is no further information on this version of Superman in relation to the Batman film series, and whether this is the Christopher Reeve Superman, the Superman from the cancelled Tim Burton movie, or a different Superman exclusive to this continuity that has never been shown. Likewise, Green Lantern movie mentioned Superman in a Deleted Scene, but there is no confirmation on what version of Superman this is supposed to be. As for the rest of the Green Lantern Corps who ended up being cut from the movie, there is no way to confirm their presence in continuity as the movie's sequel was never made.
  • A deleted scene for The Lost World: Jurassic Park had John Hammond dying shortly after the events of the film take place. As it's a deleted scene, its canonicity is in question, until Jurassic World shows the John Hammond is indeed dead by the time the events of the film take place (and supplementary material places his death around the time as The Lost World's deleted scene does), observing that piece of Schrodinger's Canon as true.
  • Solo:
    • Solo renders two parts of Han's Legends backstory from The Han Solo Trilogy canon, in that he's been living on the streets and running scams since childhood, and he enlisted to become a pilot in the Imperial Starfleet for some time before deserting to become a smuggler instead. (The movie does change the precise circumstances of his departure from Corellia significantly, however.)
    • The planet Mimban originally appeared in Splinter of the Mind's Eye, arguably the first Legends work. However, because of the perspective we see it from and the brief time the plot spends there, it's unclear just how similar it is to the earlier version (though it is foggy and swampy, two things the book version had in abundance).
    • Qi'ra mentions being trained in Teräs Käsi, a martial art prominent in Legends continuity. The particularly eagle-eyed and informed will immediately raise an eyebrow that Qi'ra can use it, will understand L3's shock, and will not be quite as surprised at a later reveal and by how Qi'ra "can't leave Crimson Dawn behind".
    • While very different, the Maw has also been recanonized (albeit as one large black hole in a nearly-unnavigable nebula, instead of a large cluster of black holes).
    • The Falcon's designation as a YT-1300 transport, and that it's a Corellian design, is first mentioned onscreen here. It had been known as such for decades in Legends, but this is the first time it's been said on-screen.
    • Similarly, Corellia's capital is mentioned to be Coronet, as established in Star Wars: Galaxies.
    • Enfys Nest is the leader of the Cloud-Riders, a Swoop gang which first appeared in the original Marvel Star Wars comics.
    • Carida, an Imperial training world first introduced in Legends, is mentioned by an Imperial recruiter at the beginning of the film.
  • Superman Returns is supposed to take place after the original Superman II, which is basically Bryan Singer's way of removing III and IV from the continuity. So from Superman II, you could either accept that it got Denser and Wackier and that Kal-El eventually confronted Nuclear Man or that he left Earth for half a decade and came back to discover that he has a son.
  • Venom (2018) is this in relation towards the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has been officially stated that it is not part of the MCU, as Spider-Man is only part of it through collaboration with Sony, however the film's continuity is apparently based on the events of Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Venom could become potentially integrated to the MCU if Marvel Studios and Sony agree.

    Literature 
  • Star Wars and its Expanded Universe(s) are the Trope Maker. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and moved forward with their sequel trilogy of Star Wars films, the decision was made to remove all previously-made Expanded Universe material (except The Clone Wars and the 6 theatrical Star Wars films) from official canonicity. However, a great many things from the old EU have served as inspiration for people working on canonical projects within the new continuity, including the new Expanded Universe novels, comics, etc. As such, the canonicity of any place, person, event, item, alien race, and so on from the old continuity is in an undetermined state until the new films (or new EU) either pulls it in from the old EU or dismisses it completely. Some elements from the expanded universe have been "observed true" as early as The Phantom Menace: Timothy Zahn originally named the Capital World of the Empire and Republic before it Coruscant, and Kevin J. Anderson originally created the double-bladed lightsaber. Other elements were "observed false", mostly anything relating to how the Clone Wars actually played out. Many more are still either/or.
    • At least one character from the old post-Jedi Expanded Universe, Grand Admiral Thrawn along with the rank, uniform, and (with modifications from the original description) his race, now falls under "observed true" with his addition to Rebels. The novel Thrawn, by Timothy Zahn, reestablished large parts of his original backstory as well.
    • Knights of the Old Republic fell into this because Star Wars: The Old Republic is still in active production, despite the Disney ruling (and the fact it's so far back in the timeline as to not directly affect the new films). There have been several easter eggs referencing the game's setting, but no direct word about it's canon status.
    • See Film and Western Animation entries for other Star Wars projects for more details.
  • The continuity of Harry Potter is debated within the fandom, but The Wiki's stance (which, to the best of anyone's observation, is also Pottermore's) is that the eight books, the appendixes (Fantastic Beasts, etc.) and Word of God constitute the highest tier of canon, below which are the Harry Potter movies and then the video games. This means that information introduced in the movies or the games may be canon unless a higher-ranking work on the scale says otherwise, even if the events they depict are not. For instance, this means that such spells as "Lacarnum Inflamari" probably exist in the canon universe, even if the characters didn't use them the way the films show them to.
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    Live-Action TV 
  • After Doctor Who was taken off the air in 1989 it developed an extensive collection of tie-in novels, comics, audio plays, etc., all of which frequently contradicted each other and all of which faced an uncertain status when the TV series was revived in 2005. The revived series has held off from making a blanket determination of the tie-ins' status, while occasionally incorporating specific concepts, such mentioning as an alien race from the novels or a former companion from the audio plays. Even concepts from a one-off spoof made their way into the canon, most notably the Time Lords' ability to regenerate into the opposite sex. One particular spin-off whose status was watched carefully by fans was the earlier failed revival starring Paul McGann; the revived series has confirmed as canonical the existence of a Doctor with McGann's appearance while avoiding addressing any of the controversial plot elements of the failed pilot.
  • Tina Minoru on the Marvel Cinematic Universe series Runaways has an unclear character history, based on her prior (technically canonical) appearances in Doctor Strange and a tie-in prelude comic to that film. In the film and comic, she's established as being a Master of the Mystic Arts with heroic motivations, but on Runaways, she's more villainous, and no mention is made to her time as a Sanctum Master. Nothing has outright contradicted either characterization, so it's possible they're both still canon.
  • Arrowverse: Of the five live-action DC Comics shows developed by Greg Berlanti and co, two of them began with questionable links to the others.
    • Supergirl initially aired on CBS and its place within the Arrowverse continuity was sketchy — for one thing, none of the characters in Arrow and The Flash (2014) had ever heard of Superman. It was eventually established that Supergirl was set in a parallel earth within the multiverse (specifically, Earth-38), and once the CW picked up the show and production moved to Vancouver, crossovers became a semi-regular occurrence.
    • Black Lightning, as of its first season, has not crossed over with any of the other shows, but the producers haven't ruled out a crossover in the future. Working against the idea is that Black Lightning films in Atlanta, while all the Arrowverse shows film in Vancouver.
  • The Star Trek original timeline and Kelvin timeline have a few blank spots where the present status of the continuity is unconfirmed. The rebooted timeline in Star Trek (2009) assumes the timeline was altered due to Spock and Nero travelling to the past, but this doesn't explain differences from the original timeline that are unrelated to time travel, such as Star Trek Into Darkness and the IDW comics. Star Trek: Discovery is supposed to be set in the original timeline, but is unclear about why there are so many differences, such as advanced holographic technology existing before the original series takes place. The original timeline may be further influenced by the Kelvin timeline for aesthetic reasons, such as advances in special effects, with no in-story explanation given. note 
    • The tie-ins (novels and comics) for Discovery have had significantly more involvement from actual production members than the prior Star Trek series have (while then-Voyager showrunner Jeri Taylor wrote two novels, expanding the characters backgrounds, these were very much the exception, not the rule, and not compatible with later developments after her departure from the show), to the point that the first novel was actively requested by the original executive producer, Bryan Fuller, the writers have actively acknowledged that these are "canon until they're not," meaning they don't consider themselves bound to the events in the Discovery novels and comics, BUT, until and unless there's a contradiction, they can be viewed as such. Indeed, the novel "The Way To The Stars" dramatizes an event that is referenced in an episode that aired a couple of months after the novel's release - but the first novel, published shortly after Discovery premiered, is not compatible with season two, as it involves the USS Shenzhou and the USS Enterprise working together, while season two says that Michael Burnham and Spock have been estranged for years.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Games Workshop has stated that everything you read in any Codex or rulebook is not necessarily true, but rather propaganda, either by the Imperium of Man or whoever the Codex is being written about. Thus, Games Workshop's own published, official canon is Schrodinger's Canon by default, since it's all subject to interpretation and contradiction in later works (the contradiction itself perhaps being incorrect). While this allows Games Workshop incredible freedom to retcon away things the fans really dislike, it also means that no one, true vision of the Warhammer 40K verse is completely, objectively correct.
    • A sterling example of this comes from the Sisters of Battle. Much is made about how strong the Sisters' faith in the God-Emperor is, complete with rules allowing them to weaponize that faith on the tabletop. It is said that none of the Adepta Sororitas has ever fallen to Chaos, except Miriael Sabathiel, and even her story contradicts the "only one ever" line by having her corrupt several other Sisters sent to get rid of her. Other pieces of fiction have entire convents of Battle Sisters falling to Chaos routinely. Whether or not it's metaphysically possible for Sisters to fall to Chaos, and how frequently it may or may not happen, is a source of some contention among Sororitas fans.
  • It's an established fact of RuneQuest's setting that all versions of a "myth" are equally true. Sometimes god-talkers will see Humakt courteously persuading Eurmal to give him the Sword of Death; sometimes he steals it. Sometimes the characters' names aren't Humaxt and Eurmal at all! Only the broad strokes of the plot remain constant.
  • X-Wing Miniatures is set in a mash-up of the Legends and Disney Star Wars versions of the universe. You can have, for example, Manaroo and Sabine Wren in the same army, or a ship with Mara Jade on it picking a fight with Poe Dameron.
  • In the early days of Magic: The Gathering, a number of tie-in novels and comics were published by other companies. When the Weatherlight saga began and Wizards of the Coast started its own novel line, the continuity was revised (this is commonly referred to as "The Revision"). Any material in the old publications is considered canonical unless new material directly contradicts it.

    Video Games 
  • Dawn of War:
    • Soulstorm: The game's lack of quality (especially the Space Marine campaign) made it Fanon Discontinuity, with most fans believing the Imperial Guard campaign was canonical. When Dawn Of War II was released, it was confirmed that the Space Marines had indeed been defeated on Kaurava, though there was no information on which faction was responsible or won in the end.
    • Chaos Rising: The identity of the traitor in the squad is slowly unveiled, but there is no difference in their interactions until then (the traitor is determined by character's corruption ratings, which is decided by the player). Retribution establishes the canonical traitor is Avitus.
  • Star Trek Online is pretty much all this. It takes place after Spock "was killed" after failing to stop the supernova from destroying Romulus (creating the divergent timeline of the 2009 Star Trek film). It continues telling stories in the "Prime" universe after this point, involving just about everything from every era of Star Trek ever, because the chances of new fiction being produced in that timeframe are vanishingly small. The developers take unmitigated glee in their "unobserved" canonical status, creating anything and everything they want in this timeframe, since the new, official continuity is in an alternate universe anyway. But there are some attempts to make new shows in the "Prime" continuity, continuing that timeline forward, which would if successful collapse poor STO's wavefunction.
  • In the Touhou franchise, the 4Koma manga Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth was written by Toshihira Arata as opposed to series creator ZUN (Who was only loosely involved), and happens to be a Gag Series, so as a result it occupies an ambiguous place in canonicity compared to other side works. Most fans take the story in Broad Strokes, though it's been referenced somewhat in later works written by ZUN.
  • Attack the Light and Save the Light are ostensibly canonical to Steven Universe, as they currently don't contradict any of the show's lore and were made with some input from the show's creator. The show itself, however, doesn't directly acknowledge any of the events that occurred in them—the closest it gets is mentioning a gem of the same type that was introduced in Save the Light.
  • Mortal Kombat X starts a new timeline based on the old timeline, whiling adding in backstory that may or may not have happened in the past of the original timeline. Since the original timeline is no longer active, those details are not about to be confirmed.
  • Pokémon's canon is usually very straightforward when it comes to what is canon with the main series games, the handheld RPGs that everything else is based around. Spin-off games tend to borrow elements from the main series while the main series games are often self-contained apart from very brief references (for example, the Poke Finder from Pokémon Sun and Moon is a reference to Pokémon Snap, but doesn't mention the game otherwise).
    • However, the canonity of the spinoff duology Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness is in a bit of a limbo. On one hand, they are RPGs for the Nintendo GameCube that can link and trade with the Game Boy Advance games - on the other hand, they were developed by a separate studio with minimal consultation from Game Freak and are markedly distinct from the main series titles in aesthetics and tone. Apart from trading connectivity, no references to Colosseum or XD or its events are made in any successive main series games. This is most noticeable in the sixth and seventh generation games, which make more explicit and frequent references to past games and have since established that all of the games seemingly take place in a sort of Multiverse (the Hoenn region in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire canonically exists in its own reality separate from the one in the 3DS remake games, hence Archie and Maxie's radically different appearances and personalities in those games vs their more traditional look in later cameos). The Orre region is the only region that has never been mentioned once in any of the main series games - Pokémon traded from there are merely listed as being "met in a distant land". That certain prominent names in Game Freak have reportedly spoken disfavorably of the games (claiming they don't match the "vision" of the series as a whole) seems to suggest that they're considered an Old Shame and are deliberately ignored.
  • The Ultima and Ultima Underworld games form a main story. Spinoff games and side materials could have possibly happened, or represent alternate timelines/universes from the main games, but their status in relation to the main series is not confirmed.
  • This is basically the status of all original Hearthstone characters who have not appeared in the larger WarCraft universe. Since Hearthstone is supposed to be an in-universe card game, it's not known which of these characters exist in the "real" Azeroth and which ones are in-universe fiction. Some of Hearthstone lore is definitely not canon, but now that two fairly outlandish characters originally invented for Hearthstone (Sir Finley Mrrgglton and Skycap'n Kragg) have appeared in World of Warcraft, along with the tortollan race, just about anything not explicitly contradicted by Warcraft canon might be up for grabs if WoW developers happen to like it.

    Western Animation 
  • The Fairly Oddparents had this happen with the three live-action movies, which depict a completely different future than what the ending to Channel Chasers did, and they're considered to be Loose Canon. Basically, Timmy's future either involves him eventually parting ways with Cosmo and Wanda, getting married, and having two children who get Cosmo and Wanda as fairy godparents, or Timmy's future involves him stagnating his life (such as remaining in fifth grade) so that he has Cosmo and Wanda even as an adult, getting to keep his fairies for life, and eventually becoming a fairy himself after a Heroic Sacrifice), although most fans would prefer the former.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars occupies an interesting slot. At its inception, it was EU canon, though the highest tier of EU canon. As such, it was free to incorporate, modify, or ignore lower-tier EU works. After the Disney buyout, all EU material except The Clone Wars and the 6 Star Wars films were declared Legends, meaning The Clone Wars retroactively observed true, false, or both many aspects of Legends for the new Star Wars canon.
    • Notably, Ryloth had long been the homeworld of the Twi'leks, and this, along with some of their Proud Warrior Race aspects from the X-Wing novels, were observed true. However, Ryloth in Legends is tidally locked, one side permanent scorching day, the other side permanent frozen night, and only the small band of twilight at the terminator comfortably habitable. Ryloth in The Clone Wars seems to have a normal day-night cycle.
    • Lightsaber crystals had long been an important part of Legends, and are the focus of the younglings arc.
    • The Nightsisters of Dathomir were prominent villains in some Legends works, before appearing here. Sadly, they don't get to ride rancors.
  • Like The Clone Wars before it, Star Wars Rebels uses, alters, or discards elements from the Legends continuity as it sees fit:
    • A news report the Ghost crew listens to mentions the "Base Delta-Zero Initiative." In Legends, Base Delta-Zero was an Imperial code phrase for orbitally bombarding a planet so thoroughly as to destroy all life on it (the Star Wars equivalent of Exterminatus).
    • The Imperial Inquisition, charged with hunting down Jedi and other Force-Sensitives not troublesome enough to draw the attention of Darth Vader himself, were detailed in various Legends works, notably as antagonists in assorted tabletop role-playing games.
    • Lightsaber crystals (renamed Kyber crystals) appear.
    • Interdictor cruisers were a popular tool in the Legends canon, especially of. . .
    • Grand Admiral Thrawn, who appears at the start of Season 3 as an antagonist for the Rebels.
    • The ISB, the Imperial Security Bureau, was detailed in a few Legends works, where it was Palpatine's initiative to keep the Empire completely under his personal control (drawing parallels between various institutions in Nazi Germany, like the SS and Youth Groups, to instill the Nazi idealogy into everyone). How much of a State Sec they are remains unexplored thus far.
    • The Code of the Sith and Malachor, both introduced in the Knights of the Old Republic games, have been brought back. Like in Legends, the Battle of Malachor occurred thousands of years ago that resulted in the planet being devastated by a superweapon with massive loss of life. However, unlike in Legends, the planet is called Malachor instead of Malachor V, the war was fought by different parties for different reasons and the superweapon functioned differently.differences 

Alternative Title(s): Canon Until It's Not, Canon Until It Isn't

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