Canon Fodder

I’m something of a grinagog, and certainly reading onward would give one that impression. I recently made these comments at TrekBBS regarding the Star Trek novels and what constitutes “canon” Star Trek, and for posterity’s sake decided to archive them here because I thought they were both amusing and informative.

Thank you, Roger Waters [poster at TrekBBS], for filling me with the desire to go and bash my head in the floor. Yes, I mean exactly that. Bash my head. Into the floor. Bash. Bash. Bash. Right into the floor.

No, not in that thirty-five dollar, crap way.

Why, you may ask? Why engage in such a painful, ridiculous behavior? Like bashing one’s head. Into the floor.

Because you wrote, and I quote:

If you want it to be canon, then it is. What books are canon should be a decision for each reader to make on their own.

Thank you for stating such a blatant oxymoron. Personal canon? Do you even know where the word “canon” originates? What it means? Originally canon was defined as a body of work on which everyone could agree was the basis of christian religious belief. Admittedly, the term has grown in scope somewhat since the fourth century CE, from the “canon of Western literature” to the canon of Sherlock Holmes, to yes, even the canon of Star Trek. Canon is what is generally agreed upon to be authentic, official, the point from which discussion can begin, the bare minimum of knowledge required. In other words, canon isn’t a belief that one holds, it is a belief that all hold.

Which is why the term “personal canon,” or even the mere conception of such, makes me want. To bash. My head. Into the floor.

This assumes that the books are not contradicted on screen. To me the DS9 relaunch is canon, so it is. It’s my life, I get to make some of the rules.

And that’s fine, but don’t confuse your personal belief with the term “canon.” The two terms are on the opposite ends of the linguistic spectrum. Personal and canon.

As for my own belief on what matters and what doesn’t, I’ll take everything, even the stuff I haven’t read, like the Gold Key comics, because somewhere in the Trek multiverse (and it is a multiverse, as seen in “Parallels”) the events happened. There are worlds where every novel “happened.” There are worlds where the Voyager was never lost, where Sisko fought Dukat and the Pah-Wraiths and lived to fight another day. There are worlds where the Enterprise-D still flies, worlds where Kirk retired, lived to be eighty-five, and died peacefully in his sleep. There are worlds where the sky is burning, and the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, somewhere else the tea’s getting cold.

It’s my own belief, but I’d never call it canon.

Because it absolutely is not.

Needless to say, this was an issue that touched a number of buttons for me.

The term “canon” is irrelevant. It matters only to the extent that there’s a common ground for all Star Trek fans to approach the program.

Why the frell does it matter whether or not the novels are “official Star Trek canon”? Many ask the question as though the novels’ legitimacy depends solely upon the blessing of others, that the novels have no intrinsic value in and of themselves as stories or art.

I have been buying and reading the Star Trek novels since 1984. It doesn’t matter to me one bit whether or not anyone at Paramount references the novels in an episode or a film, because the stories told in the novels matter to me. For me the most affecting scene in all of Trek history comes in Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens’ novel Prime Directive, when Spock addresses the Federation Council. It’s a scene I’ve envisioned vividly in my mind, I can hear Spock speak the words, I can hear the outraged cries from the Council benches, I can see the thousands in the room as the doors open at the end and the Ambassadors enter the hall. I don’t need someone else to tell me that this scene is a part of Star Trek lore, because for me it already is.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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