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Canon vs Fanon vs Who gives a shit?

Wizard World Pittsburgh 121So, with my most recent book I’m reading, I’m getting into a domain of comic book (well, in this case more properly geek culture in general) study that I don’t really know as much about, at least not formally. Fan culture. Specifically, so called “fanon” and “fanfic” communities. I’ve come to really like just posting my random notes and thoughts here for two reasons. One, it’s convenient to me to sit down and just type through some things that have occurred to me to help me organize my thoughts. And two, often people saying stuff in the comments makes me think of other things that I want to look into. Since this is something that I don’t know as much about this seems like a good one to really just ask people for their thoughts.

Anyway, I’m currently reading Playing Fans: Negotiating Fandom and Media in the Digital Age by Paul Booth. The first couple chapters deal with two very unique fandom communities, neither of which I know much about other than a passing familiarity: “SuperWhoLock” and “Inspector Spacetime.” The first is a community that focuses on the shared universe that the TV shows Supernatural, Doctor Who and Sherlock inhabit. For those who are saying “what the fuck? I didn’t know those shows were in the same universe!” Well, you didn’t miss anything. They’re not. Not at all. It’s just that there’s a community of fans who like to pretend that they are and generate memes and fanfic as though they could interact on a regular basis. The second is a fan-community devoted to the Doctor Who parody character, Inspector Spacetime, from the TV show Community. Again, this is a community devoted to documenting the fictional universe of the character.

the_eleven_inspectors_by_carty239-d4b7uy4What makes these two fandoms special, at least to Booth, is the lack of canonical material that they are based around. As I said before, there are no actual canonical crossovers between Doctor Who, Sherlock and Supernatural and the grand total of canonical material from Community that makes up the entirety of Inspector Spacetime’s official continuity amounts to about two minutes of screentime spaced out across three non-related episodes. So in effect, the entirety of the canon that the fandom is devoted to in both cases is specifically non-canonical. Booth relates them to being a fan of the Simpson’s Itchy and Scratchy, but notes that what makes them special beyond that is the completeness to which the fans have filled those universes out, and the the Inspector Spacetime wiki and the SuperWhoLock tumblr imply that he has a point.

But this has gotten me thinking about canon and fandom in general. If you sort of casually talk to any geek about the media that s/he is addicted to, it SEEMS like geeks are highly invested in canon. Comic fans get very upset if Spider-man does something in 2016 that contradicts something he said in 1966. Star Trek fans written volumes on piecing together the working of warp drive, the timeline of star dates and making sure the Klingon language is semantically and linguistically cohesive. I’m pretty sure when Disney announced that 40 years worth of Star Wars novels, comic books and video games were no longer officially part of the canon starting with the Force Awakens and moving forward, some significant portion of the fanbase had immediate aneurysms and died. Fans care about canon.

Except they don’t.

Superman vs. HulkEvery superhero comic book fan ever has had a single very specific argument. Who would win a fight between Superman and the Hulk? Children have hospitalized each other on playgrounds across America over this question for decades. I don’t have any actual evidence to back it up but I have to believe that at least one person has been shot in a fight at a comic book store over this (at the very least I’m sure someone has been kicked out of a Magic The Gathering tournament or something). Forget gun control, campaign finance reform, taxes or abortion rights, I’m sure the answer to this question is the fundamental split between democrats and republicans.

I’ve heard this argument a million times, but the one answer that you never hear in response is “neither, because they’re in different worlds so the fight can never be canon.” And yes, I realize they have met in non-canonical books, but that’s kinda my point!

The thing is, I’m starting to think that geeks care about canon, only in as much as they can use it for source evidence for the fanon that they really care about. Even the non-canonical Marvel vs. DC books primarily serve, I think, as reference material to discuss what fans think SHOULD happen in that fight. For every superhero roleplaying game ever published by Marvel or DC there’s some website out there devoted to publishing the stats for characters from the other company just so that you can get Superman and the Hulk in the same game.

Then of course there’s actual fanfic. Obviously with Inspector Spacetime there is far more fanfic than actual content, and in sense there is with SuperWhoLock as well, but I don’t know that that makes it as unique as Booth implies. Without checking, I’m willing to bet that at this point, far more pages worth of Harry Potter adventures have been written by NOT J.K. Rowling than she has done herself. And of course this isn’t limited to that. There are entire epics of intricate fan communities from everything from Transformers to Firefly. Firefly in particular, given it’s relative small amount of official canon material (even counting the comics), probably has more non-canon material produced by the fans. I’ve not really looked into it, but I’m betting there’s probably some that’s pretty respected by their community.

Harley and Deadpool - Baltimore Comic Con 2013-77In a sense, I expect even Cosplay counts here. Cosplay isn’t just about dressing up as the character as accurately as possible, it’s about embodying the character. Portraying the character. Living his/her essence. In particular, every con I go to, the fans who portray Deadpool and Harley Quinn (probably the most common cosplays currently) are quite fond of tying to get the mischievous attitudes and mannerisms as down as possible. But it’s not like they go around the cons, ignoring everyone that doesn’t fit into their character’s normal universe. A big part of the fun is seeing them interact with each other across the normal universe boundaries. Any picture they pose for together is in effect, the fan publishing of a work of non-canon crossover fiction.

I’d assume that in most cases, people sort of privilege the official canon works, except in cases where there isn’t much (Inspector Spacetime) but I’m not sure there. For instance, the Highlander canon is a mess. There is no possible way to fit it together because movies and the TV show frequently contradict each other (Highlander 2? What the Fuck!?!?!?). And yet, it certainly has fans… and I imagine each fan sort of builds their own head canon that works for them. But that’s the case for canons that are theoretically well maintained as well. There’s so much content from the shared universes of Marvel and DC that no one person can possibly keep it straight, and even in the stories that don’t necessarily contradict each other, I’m pretty sure that most fans (and even creators) tend to just disregard which ever elements they don’t particularly care for (Spiderman clone saga? What are you talking about. That never happened!!!)

sl1Certainly, a lot of the fanon is trying to remain as true to the concept as possible (I want to write my own Batman vs. Joker story) but then there are the really weird edge cases. Things that simply can’t happen without specifically accepting a major deviation from the canon as the base premise for your new narrative. Slash fiction fits here. As fun as it might be to theorize a sexy whirlwind love affair between Kirk and Spock, you can’t really fit it into the established storylines and specifically have to throw stuff out to get there. Cosplay mashups are the same here. Disney princesses in slave Leia bikinis might be super sexy, but it just makes no damn sense in any reasonable way, shape or form…. I mean… I like it… I really like it…. like a lot… like in a way that I’m really not totally comfortable with… like, after looking at the picture that I found when I was researching this,  I’m now very afraid that I have some serious psychological issues that I might need to be working on and… ok… let’s just move on… The point is, in order to work with these conceits at all, the author/cosplayer has to specifically ignore established canon from the get-go.

Sometimes, this even works out. Allegedly the character of Felicity Smoak on Arrow was supposed to a one-time extra, but fans responded so positively to her that she was written into the show full time, and from there, the sheer volume of fans shipping her and Ollie online led to her eventually becoming the romantic lead. Similarly, Iceman, in the comics is now officially homosexual — contradicting decades of evidence to the contrary. While I have no idea what actually made Brian Michael Bendis, the writer, make this decision when he was working on Iceman, it is worth noting that fans had been speculating that the character was secretly gay on the Internet since at least the early 90s, so I imagine there was at least some feedback that went into this decision. And I’m sure part of the decision to make the current Sulu gay in the Star Trek reboot has to do with the common knowledge that George Takei, the original Sulu, is a gay man, even though his character was straight.

So what I guess I’m wondering is how do people reconcile canonical vs. non-canonical fiction in their heads? Do you read both? Do you privilege one over the other? What do you do when official canon contradicts itself? I guess I’m especially interested in how people consider themselves fan creators of some type (cosplayer, fanfic writers) make these decisions (but I’m interested in other people’s as well). If you’re a cosplayer do you strive to interact with other cosplayers that fit within your fandom (Look, we’re all Avengers!) or is it more fun to interact with others in ways that can’t normally happen (Iron Man vs Predator). Is it better to try to accurately mimic the source material or is it more interesting to adapt it as a mashup or otherwise mutated version? How do you decide? Same thing for fanfic writers (and readers). How do you decide what parts of canon to keep and what to ignore when you write a story? How do you decide what pieces of other fanon to adopt into your own work? What makes these changes special and worthwhile? And for people who DON’T appreciate these sorts of changes (either when making their own fan works or just reading something someone else did or looking at cosplayer costume modifications) why not? And if you don’t like  the Leia Disney princesses something is wrong with you… well, ok…  probably not… Oh god… what have I become?

43 comments for “Canon vs Fanon vs Who gives a shit?

  1. avatar
    July 31, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    People who might have specific opinions on this or know people who do:

    Laura Valentine, Amber Love, Fred Holt, Nicole Marie Jean, Wayne Wise. Probably others I’ll think to tag later.

    Would love to know what you think.

  2. avatar
    July 31, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    My personal experience is that the more canon exists as a structural and emotional whole, the less fanfiction and fanon tends to grow up around it. Even well-managed canons have a lot of fanon (which is, I suspect, highly correlated with general level of fan activity *by women and queer people*), if they have gaps or implications-about-their-universe in them. Star Trek and Doctor Who are two extremely gappy canons, as are most comic book universes.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      not really relevant to the whys, but if anyone is wondering what mav is on about here is some stuff from my tumblr:

      http://jacquez45.tumblr.com/tagged/headcanon-accepted

      these aren’t “fanon”, really — they are proto-fanon — but you can see how people construct things that fill in the gaps.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      yeah, I expect if we were to do some sort of demographic survey, the fanfic community of fandom, at least in certain instances, is likely to be far more non-cis-white-male than the community as a while.

      I sorta kinda expect that if we extend fan-authored texts to include cosplay, that this distinction normalizes a bit, though.

      But I’m just guessing. I don’t know that it’s actually true. It’d be an interesting thing to track.

      Assuming it is true, I expect that it’s likely an attempt to fill in the non heteronormative gaps to make them more appealing to the fan-creators who are doing them. If you’re a straight white male who is into big boobed women in tiny outfits, you don’t have to invent your own storylines in order to read them, so you only do it if you really want to.

      But the gap thing is more what I was wondering that made me ask the question in the first place. Star Wars, as you pointed out, is very gappy. Dr. Who is gappy by the very nature of the concept. But on the other hand, I don’t feel like most comic universes (at least from the big two) are. In fact, if anything, they’re probably overpacked with continuity. Even ignoring alliterate continuities like the movies and cartoons and such, Spiderman has lived far more life on the page than is realistically possible given his age.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 2:22 pm

      there’ve been fan demographic surveys, which can be pretty interesting. the old story was that it was mostly straight ladies. it might be, but there are LOT of bi/pan/queer ladies involved. Like… a LOT. Let me dig up some refs for you

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Maybe Henry Jenkins, “Normal Female Interest in Men Bonking”, or something else from Theorizing Fandom: Fans, Subculture, and Identity.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      It would be kinda neat to see a long-running superhero universe where people actually age in realtime and die and don’t get rebooted every few years. I don’t imagine the market would sustain such an ambitious project though.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 6:07 pm

      And then Game of Thrones is wildly popular and has very little fanfic, comparatively. I see a lot more meta. The canon is damn near gapless (apart from Gendry, who’s still rowing).

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      Max: real time comics are rare for the reason you mention pretty much. That said, there are a few.

      Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon has more or less progressed in realtime since 1992. There are a few weirdnesses in order to make that conceit occur (he used to be in a shared Image Universe and then moved to a parallel universe where the rest of the original Image characters weren’t there so that Larsen could get him out of continuity. But over the course of the series he has aged, and had a son who has grown to be 18 and is currently the primary star of the book (whereas the original character is now a supporting character). So 24 years of realtimeness plus some sporadic appearances that are of caring continuity in the 10 years before it. In any case, this is probably the longest running superhero story that does this.

      Garth Ennis wrote a Punisher series in the 2000 called Punisher Max where he had the Punisher aging in realtime. He maintained the Punisher’s original origin that he was a Vietnam Vet, so this version of the Punisher was in his 50s and in order to make this work, Ennis more or less ignores other Marvel characters so there aren’t many crossovers. But pretty much every other writer has ignored the series since then and now depict him as a dude in his 30s (and assumed vet of one of the Iraq wars)

      If you move away from superheroes, there are quite a few. Love & Rockets has characters aging over time. I don’t know that you can safely say it’s “real time” since there are so many unrealted/semirelated character arcs and it jumps around. But it’s certainly something more approaching it that what most comics do.

      Judge Dredd, Conan and Cerberus all had the passage of time in something approaching real time.Since they’re not in our world/timelines it’s less obvious. But the characters do age from their earlier appearances to their later appearances in a manner consistent with the passage of time for the reader (at least originally. though Conan and Judge Dredd have also been rebooted, I think, since their original runs)

      And if you include comic strips instead of just books, there are a couple of really notable examples:

      Doonesbury characters age as they relate to real life political events.

      For Better or For Worse had characters aging in real time from 1979 until 2008 (and then had two years of “reruns” with updated content of the earlier strips before finally being cancelled).

      And most importantly there’s Gasoline Alley. The main characters all age in real time and have since the strip premiered in 1918. The original main character, Walt is now a 100 year old great grandfather and the strip mostly focuses on his descendants. All the other oringal main characters (including Walt’s wife) had died over the years. There is a weird bit of magical realism to Gasoline Alley though, wherein minor characters DON’T age. So for instance, the neighborhood garbage man is the same dude now that it was in 1918.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      Lauren: Is GoT fanfic really that rare? I mean, I expect it to be rarer than Star Trek or Spiderman just because its a newer series (and its large scale mainstream success only runs back 5 years and not even the 20 of the book.

      But I still feel like there’s significant fanfic out there, and certainly cosplay. Maybe less than other more popular “geek” properties, but certainly far more than non-geek media.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 7:09 pm

      I read somewhere that Martin actively discourages fanfic…whether anyone listens to him, who knows?

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      Chris Maverick http://archiveofourown.org/media/Books%20*a*%20Literature/fandoms#letter-S the books have about 20,000 works and the show has about 13,000 works, which is on a par with Les Mis. Considering that GOT is a cultural juggernaut on a par with Harry Potter (over 100,000 works, and vastly undercounted on the site) and far more popular than Sherlock (90,000 works) I do think it underperforms in written fan work.

      Cosplay is different and I know very little about that world.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      Lauren: That’s a really interesting way to do analytics here. I like it.

      Though I think it’s ever so slightly misleading to compare Sherlock. I do like Les Mis as a base, but it’s had 150 years to build a fandom, and there’s obviously a lot of popularity for it with the various adaptations.

      Sherlock on the other hand is interesting because even though the 90K works have 85K associated with the TV series, the base concept just has way more to work with than GoT does. There’s plenty to draw from even if the real show hasn’t addressed it. So if someone wants to write about The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot in the vein of Cumberatchsherlock instead of Doylesherlock they sort of have a starting point.

      I’m also not convinced that it’s actually more popular. It’s hard to tell because HBO reports their ratings on a per episode view, but doesn’t account for multiple viewings by the same person. They lump their air date, on demand and streaming all together (and no one cares, since there’s no ad revenue). So they are claiming 25M per episode right now. But Nielsen is reporting that they’re pulling in 7.7M on average on first viewings. Sherlock on the other hand is pulling in about 18M per episode on first viewings (6.5M in the US and 11.5 in the UK). So they might actually be on par.

      Where I think it gets more interesting is to compare GoT to other fandoms that have been around for the approximate amount of time and air consistently with it.

      So The 100 just finished season 3 and they avg. 2M views per episode, and they only have 17000 works on the site total. Pretty on par. Arrow with season 4 is down to 12000. Buffy, with 7 seasons which have been completed for over a decade is only at 23K (that seems WAY low to me, honestly).

      But then I look at the non-geek shows and I see E.R with 400 works (same as The 100, despite a run 5x as long) and none of the various Law & Order shows are over 2300.

      So GoT seems on par with Buffy, and that ain’t bad… I wonder if maybe Harry Potter is just WAY popular? But also, I think we can’t discount Laura Valentine’s note about the non-heteronormativity. And not even just that the heteronormativity but variety in general. In the primary extant texts of Rowlingworld, you are introduced to a very rich wealth of characters that clearly have lives and motivations, but for the most part we are limited to the perspectives of three majors (Harry, Hermoine, Ron) and 3 minors (Snape, Dumbledore, Voldemort). All the other characters from Malfoy to Neville to Ginny, despite their importance, tend to wander in and out of the narrative with only hints as to what they’ve been doing since we last saw them. It’s just a limited world view. In Martinworld we know ever insignificant detail of Jon, Dany, Arya, Bran, and a billion other people’s lives. We know the family lineage of the stable boy. Maybe there’s just not as much to explore.

      That said, in that context, 20K+13K doesn’t seem that bad.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      Buffy’s way low, in part because a lot of Buffy fanworks predate the archive and are hosted elsewhere. That’s also why that Harry Potter count is low — a LOT of HP fic is hosted elsewhere. Mary Ellen Curtin was doing some quantifying work on fanfic in the late 90s/early 00s; don’t know if she has any relevant numbers or has kept up with is.

      But there are some really active het fandoms out there. The first one that comes to mind is Beauty & the Beast (1987). There’s almost none at AO3 and the fandom is very stuck in the hand-coding days, but there’s a lot of it out there, plus an active zine scene.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 8:52 pm

      There are some pretty notable canons where the amount of fanfic doesn’t reflect the amount of fan activity — I think both GoT and Babylon 5 are in this category.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Probably if one were to do a serious study here it should involve a survey of multiple archive sites. It’s entirely possible that her cis white males who are super fans of twilight zone just like a different site than trans lesbian Asians who love the outer limits.

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 7:09 am

      tagging Mary Ellen Curtin in case she has anything to add. 🙂

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 7:14 am

      Chris Maverick you have to be careful also because when there are different versions of the same story, ppl often tag both versions if they align with both canons. Like if you do a Cersei and Jaime story, you tag both because their canon is the same in both TV and book. If you are writing Yara/Daenerys though, you would only tag TV bc Yara is named Asha and is straight in the books. That’s why I didn’t add the two categories together straight up.

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 7:27 am

      Lauren: Understood. I don’t think I’m ever going to go so far as to actually do that analysis. But yes, you bring up interesting points.

      And really that returns to the overall point of privileging the canon. And deciding which canon to follow.

      In Bob’s GoT fanfic, he might have started writing based on the TV show. Maybe it’s a lovely story about how during her travels back to Westeros, Arya teams up with a strapping young knight named Ser Robert of Marysusios. Robert and Arya then, hearing of Sansa’s rape, go on a killing streak getting revenge for her sister against anyone affiliated with the Boltons. Since Sansa isn’t raped in the books, that means we’re squarely in TVland. But during the course of Bob’s story, Bob brings in Lady Stoneheart, who doesn’t exist on TV thus putting us squarely in Bookland.

      This seems incongruous, except when you realize it’s neither Bookland or TVland, because Ser Robert of Marysusios doesn’t exist in either. We’re really in Bobland and it has it’s own unique continuity that while pulling from both of the others, is bound to neither.

      Or basically, it makes as much sense as SuperWhoLock. OR even Spiderman since over the years Spiderman’s official canon is even more confusing, even if you just stick to the books, and then you have to throw in the movies and cartoons and such.

  3. avatar
    July 31, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    I’m not sure I understand the question, but here are some thoughts.

    I tend to think fanfic makes more sense in continuities that are fractured and/or episodic. Transformers, for example. The minute it existed there were already three official continuities (show, comic, box) that were mostly irreconcilable. Within a year, the show had already contradicted itself enough to count as more. Which is all fine; Transformers is a toy, you’re SUPPOSED to make up your own stories and it helps that the official canons don’t tie you down too much. Episodic TV like Star Trek is in a sense fanfic already. Gene Roddenberry didn’t write every episode. So as long as you follow the old TV rules and restore everything to the status quo at the end of the episode, you can write as many stories as you like.

    On the other end of the spectrum are stories that are consistent and not episodic. (These might theoretically inspire greater anger from the fandom when adaptations are untrue to the source material.) Take Lord of the Rings. Every moment of Frodo’s life is pretty much spelled out in the books. And there’s never really a status quo to return to; the story is in progress the entire time, the world at the end of the novel is not that same as the world at the beginning. Now, there’s plenty of room for good stories set in the world, but it seems to me (not that I’m any sort of expert on the subject) that fanfic writers seem to be more fixated on characters.

    This last thought is less well formed and I don’t have time ATM to turn it into any sort of argument…it’s just something I find interesting. Now look at Star Wars. After the original movie, there’s a vast universe to explore. Write as much fanfic as you like! And semi-canonical works flooded the world. The after Empire, suddenly Star Wars is about SHOCKING FAMILY TWISTS. Canonical material floods the world for three decades spiraling around these central characters and introduces new ones who have their own SHOCKING FAMILY TWISTS but then suddenly that’s all wiped out because we have new movies, and what do we expect from these movies? SHOCKING FAMILY TWISTS. So much so that even though we have Kylo, everyone wants to know who Rey’s mom and dad are even though there’s no reason they have to be anybody in particular. It’s an expectation of the franchise. It’s kinda silly. I think if I had a point here it might be something like, SW fanfic can’t really feel like SW unless it has this element, but it can’t have this element pertaining to known characters without violating canon. So…I forget, what are we talking about?

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      The special case of transformers destroying all notion of an official continuity from the jump is a good one. And your knowledge there was specifically why I tagged you.

      The LOTR stuff seems to tie into what Laura Valentine was getting at in her thread above re: filling in the gaps.

      You raise an interesting point about Star Wars. So you’re arguing it’s not so much the world building that makes a star wars story… uhhh… starwarsian… but that the theme of family dynasty is sort of implicit in the makeup of a star wars story at this point… for better or for worse (at least I think that’s what you’re saying).

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      Something like that. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m arguing anything. And the point about episodic fiction ties into something I’ve been thinking about more broadly, which is how the new breed of good TV in many cases just doesn’t have a status quo anymore, which IMO makes for much better storytelling but fewer outside-canon opportunities. So no matter how much I want it, there’s never gonna be a spinoff series of Arya and the Hound traipsing across Westeros killing folk. And it’s better this way. No matter how much I want it…

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 7:02 am

      Certainly a good point. Episodic narratives, be they in comedy or drama do lend themselves to story based narratives. Fanfic is harder because you now have to find a specific place where the new story “inserts in” rather than just saying “this happened to”

      I agree, it is a good trend for the shows in general.

  4. avatar
    July 31, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Characters with enough years behind them like Spidey are IMPOSSIBLE to reconcile. They’re married. They’re not. It’s magic. It’s just too much for me sometimes and rarely am I that attached to care. I care Way more about the quality of the writing/editor decisions. The Spidey example, it was such GARBAGE. And it was a real shame because they had JMS who is a brilliant and you shouldn’t piss off a talented person you’re paying, in my opinion. I don’t get into fan fiction at all. My only foray was for the reality show Who Wants to be a Superhero where a bunch of us made our own characters and gave each other permission to write stories about them. We’ve had reunions/meetups but I’ve only made it to two. And as cool as it is to have cosplay themes, only when I was dating a female cosplayer did we really do partnered cosplay like as Wonder Woman and Donna Troy or Ace and Queen. More commonly, I’m the one dressed as a complete oddball that doesn’t match whatever group I’m hanging out with (being the only superhero with the Star Wars troops). Last year I did I guess it could be a fan-fic if you think about it, dressing as Leslie Knope running for president with my bf as Lex Luthor running for president but like 2 people in all of New York actually got the joke.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      So, yes… I agree, continuity is more or less impossible to reconcile in those cases. I was getting at that. I think in reality most fans sort of “choose your own adventure” with the continuity. For instance, since the Peter/MJ marriage was reset, a reader can simply read AF #15 and this months most recent issue and sort of assume that it never happened. It doesn’t matter. And there’s any number of stories like that that can be drawn into the totality of the narrative in your head. Didn’t read Spider Island? No big deal.

      I didn’t know you were on Who Wants to Be a Superhero? Did you make air? That was before I met you, but it’s been so long that I barely remember any of the people on it.

      I think Cosplay is effectively storytelling in general though. That’s why I included it.

      I am curious though. Do you feel as though there is some sort of cognitive dissonance when you are being Wonder Woman next to a Captain America that goes away if you’re standing next to a Batman? or does it not matter.

      And the Knope and Luthor thing is hilarious.

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 2:22 am

      I never auditioned. I came close when they had them in Philly but chickened out. We just all met online.
      Except at cons, no one knows Captain America and Wonder Woman are from different universes. It’s like Santa next to the Easter Bunny.

  5. avatar
    July 31, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Morgan Jan would be an excellent addition to this conversation

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 2:22 pm

      Thanks, Josie.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 7:07 pm

      Thanks, Josie. I still read fan fiction and I have to honestly say that I sometimes forget what is canon and what is fanon. My approach to fandom has always come from the more creative side, which some have said is more prevalent among female fans such as the predominantly written by women Kirk/Spock fan fiction that contemporary fan fiction directly descends from. As such, canon has mostly been privileged in one way in my fandom experience–shipping. I have seen fans ( mostly young women) savagely tear into each other over which character relationships they believe will become canon (Edward v. Jacob is nothing compared to some ship wars). The most vitriolic cases tend to occur when one of the ships is same sex, such as with Legend of Korra shipping when the rhetoric, intentionally or not, often became homophobic. Otherwise, my area of fandom (fan art and fan fic) loves the original stories, but prefers using them as launching points for our own imaginations. The only other exception beyond shipping when fans in my community tend to get upset is when a female or POC character is made into a white guy, as these fans tend to also be more social justice oriented with their fandom.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      Morgan: as you said, I think you’re being more or less on par with what Laura Valentine was getting at in her above thread. And I’m definitely starting to think that maybe something is there.

      I am not quite as clear on what you’re saying at the very end. Are you saying that there’s a standard thing where people take “the black girl” in book X and in the fanfic decide “nope, thats a white dude now” or are you saying fans get upset when the tradition happens from one official media to another (like book to tv)?

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 8:54 pm

      Chris Maverick I’m talking more about adaption such as how movies constantly make Asian characters white. However, there is some of this in the fan art community. For example, Artemis Crock from Young Justice is half Vietnamese, but fan artists often draw her with pale skin. Similarly, when people create “fan casts,” of actors they wish would play characters, they often cast white actors to play POCs.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Hmmm. Part of me wonders on Artemis if they just weren’t paying close enough attention. It’s not always super obvious from the show. But I catch your drift.

      The fan casting angle is a kind of text that I hadn’t considered. But I think it’s definitely worth thinking about. There is certainly a creative aspect to it that involves engaging with the text.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      Well, to be fair the artist for the companion comic didn’t even realize Artemis wasn’t white, but I think most fan artists do know, particularly because her mother and sister are much more clearly Vietnamese.

    • avatar
      July 31, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      Oh yes. I’m sure there is definitely some bias there. I was just saying (like I think you are) that the canon representation wasn’t exactly as obvious about her being Vietnamese as it is about Aqualad being black (and I’ve seen people color him way too light too)

  6. avatar
    July 31, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    You might also find this interesting. It is a fandom with, essentially, no canon whatsoever. It’s very small, very niche, started as a joke. http://fanlore.org/wiki/Ghost_Soup_Infidel_Blue

  7. avatar
    August 1, 2016 at 6:05 am

    While the original wiki is gone, there was a Penny Arcade related Wiki dedicated to a fictional book series that one of the characters was reading called “The Song of the Sorcelator”. They made an ENTIRE wiki detailing plots, characters, etc. in this fictional book series that only appeared in a single panel. It grew legs very quickly and a few months later the Penny Arcade guys did an actual strip further detailing the “canon”. It’s very similar to Inspector Spacetime fanon I’d assume, but it was just interesting to see “fanfic” be done through a Wiki as opposed to any actual writing. It was a HUGE community effort that sprung up over the course of a week or less.

  8. avatar
    August 1, 2016 at 6:13 am

    As for my personal tastes, I used to read fanfic in high school, it was a short lived experience but still fun. I even got to do a book report on a fanfic because it was the “Early Internet” and nobody knew any better.

    I’m a huge sucker for canon though. If something isn’t canon, it’s harder for me to care about it. I bought all of IDW’s X-Files books, and then Fox announced the ACTUAL next season and I just dropped the books immediately (granted, the books weren’t that good.) While this sort of trails off your point a bit, I think it’s also very rewarding when the “prime source” of canon (TV show, movie, etc.) makes a reference to some “secondary canon”. For example, Star Wars Rebels bringing Thrawn onto the show, who was a character that was wiped out from canon when Disney got hold of the franchise.

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 7:06 am

      Hmmm… interesting… so you’re saying “as a fan”, to you, the primary point of fanfic OR other media content is just to get more content. So therefore you’d be drawn to Firefly or Babylon 5 or I Love Lucy, just because that’s the only way to get it. Whereas Game of Thrones or Arrow or Sesame Street, you don’t need that for. And as soon as you have an in-universe alternative that trumps the need for the fanfic goes away?

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 7:33 am

      Basically. It’s very much a “beggars can’t be choosers” thing for me I guess. Once there’s a lack of material from an official source, I’ll seek it out elsewhere. If something gets some “seal of approval” from a show runner (for example the Dark Horse Buffy & Angel comics) that bumps it up above “fanon” to “canon”. But like with the books and the new Star Wars movies, once some official source says “Hey, that stuff you were reading is all bogus and doesn’t count.” I’ll usually drop it.

      I think it comes down to a sort of “does this count?” thing. I guess it’s less of entertainment and more of “Well, what happens next?” if there is a next to be explored.

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 7:41 am

      Interesting. So does that mean you used to care about the Star Wars expanded universe but don’t anymore?

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 7:50 am

      I actually got into Star Wars VERY late (I didn’t understand the appeal as a kid, I thought most space stuff was boring, even with mind powers and laser swords) so I didn’t have a chance to care. I think I’d still be able to enjoy that stuff though on a small case by case basis.

      I don’t think I’d ever be interested in reading about the adventures of the original cast’s children and all the “direct” sequels. Although I always thought those felt “fan fic-y” for some reason.

      I’d totally be fine reading something like “Coruscant Nights” which is a Noir detective thriller set in the Star Wars universe that has absolutely nothing to do with anything or anyone important. Or something like “Death Star” that details what all the regular folk on the Death Star were doing when the rebels attacked it during the first movie with the occasional appearance of Tarkin or Vader or a short stormtrooper. That same internal logic is applied to pretty much the entire “The Old Republic” era of books that predate the movies by thousands of years so it might as well be its own separate continuity/canon.

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 7:53 am

      Ok, so now that there are awakening forces ad stuff, do you care about those things less? Or does the separateness of them from the main narrative still make them valuable to you?

    • avatar
      August 1, 2016 at 8:00 am

      I think because they’re removed from the main narrative I’m still able to care about them, their value isn’t really diminished. In Star Wars’ case I suppose it’s more about how much the “prime” source discounts/discredits those old stories, then I’m likely to care less about them and disregard them entirely.

      This hasn’t happened with anything major yet, so I’m unsure how I’d react if it was something I cared that deeply about though. Like, let’s say Star Wars Episode XII entirely discounts that Ahsoka from Clone Wars/Rebels ever existed. I don’t think I’d just roll with that because I like Ahsoka so much.

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