5.21.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 23: Crisis of Infinite Canons

"Canon" has come up a lot in the past week. (If you haven't seen STID, proceed with confidence; no spoilers here.) So, let's talk canon: What is it? Is it immutable? Do we need it? Who determines what is or isn't canon?

Let's answer that last question first. Towards the end of 24 Hour Party People, Michael Winterbottom's biopic of the rise and fall of Factory Records, a representative of London Records travels to Manchester on a mission to buy the company. He is proudly shown the foundational Factory document, written in blood, which states that Factory Records owns nothing and that the artists retain complete control and ownership over their music. The rep tells them that regardless of whatever arrangement they have with their artists, if the company paid for the production and distribution of the material, which they did, then legally the company owns everything. Unless they have a piece of paper that explicitly states otherwise, which, to his amazement, they do.

This being the case, a bemused London Records passes on buying the company - and inheriting its considerable debts - and simply waits for it to collapse so it can sign its best artists with minimal baggage. It's a much more complicated (and entertaining) story, of course; anyone who wants more info is encouraged to read From Joy Division to New Order by Mick Middles.
It's a fun anecdote/ great movie, but I only bring it up to establish what I'll call the Factory Rule: Barring a written-in-blood document to the contrary, If You Pay for It, You Determine What's Canon. 

In the case of Star Trek, that means the canon is presently determined by Paramount/ CBS. (For an overview of Star Trek's previous corporate history, see here.) This determination is limited by two forces: the cast/ creators (who could - and did - refuse to partake in things they thought were against character/ beneath them; this, of course, is less of a concern now but could (and probably will) rear its head with the new cast, as well, if they stick with it) and the market, i.e. Trek consumers. Theoretically, they can toss out everything out and revise it as they see fit, as Marvel/ DC has done several times; they own it, they can do what they want with it. But how would Trek consumers react? Would doing so alienate the fan base without creating a new one? As we all know, they opted to establish an alternate timeline and go the re-boot route. This leaves all previous canon - i.e. the throughline of The Original Series, The Animated Series * , The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise (for better or for worse, folks!), and all the movies - intact, and it frees them to re-imagine whatever they want and create a new fanbase.

* I know Roddenberry said TAS was not canon, but I'm including it here, since the officially-canon work references it in several places.

So, by the Factory Rule, we now have a split canon, as bridged by Spock aka "Old Spock." Let's call all-of-the-above Canon One and the Abrams timeline (which now has Old Canon One Spock in it) Canon Two.

It's a good one-time solution. The franchise is presently vested in Canon Two, but for all intents and purposes Trekkies can still go to bed every night knowing Bones and Data walked the corridors of the NC-1701-D, that Kirk died both saving the NC-1701-B and in a rock/phaser fight with Picard in the 24th century, that Sulu, Rand and Tuvok served on the Excelsior, etc. It also locks the performers-to-their-roles for Canon One, with Spock being the only canon-hopper. (Or does it? Will a future film come along that says "This is Canon One, but some new actor is now Spock, Kirk, Picard," etc.? Well, doubtful they'll use my own terminology, but they'll likely just create a Canon Three. And then Canon Four and so on; all will bear the official Paramount/ CBS/ Future Owner factory seal but I doubt we'll see any of them side-by-side with Canon One, is what I'm trying to say, as we do now with Canon Two.)


Does that make Canon One immutable? Sort of. Canon One never exactly had airtight continuity. (Just some examples: Zefram Cochrane was established as from Alpha Centauri in TOS "Metamorphosis," then he was from Earth in First Contact; the location (and number of moons) of Vulcan changed more than once; technologies are utilized then forgotten; the Xindi/ Temporal Cold War; the several different universal-translator theories; the list goes on.) What we've had with Canon One is more or less a set of consistencies as overseen by multiple creators and cast at the discretion of the owners. The illusion of stability and permanence, in other words.

And really, that's all that canon ultimately is, an illusion, its gatekeepers determined not by philosophy or from beyond but by economics/ power structure. (If I want to get really broad, I'd say the very same applies to all human dogma. Canon/ dogma is largely ad hoc, isn't it? What we believe are permanent truths really exist at the mercy/ convergence of several factors beyond our individual control, and as circumstances dictate.)


In terms of Trek, when those factors converge on something that is "un-Trek-like," and that un-Trek-like product is mega-profitable, well, you don't have to be an Emeritus of the Vulcan Science Academy to see that nothing is sacred.

 

Some would say this is what's going on with the Abrams movies, but I'd disagree, if only for the Canons One and Two distinction. But it's really rather amazing that we've had any consistency at all with a "main" Trekverse, especially when compared to the characters, concepts and continuity of Marvel or DC or other franchises. As mentioned above, Canon Two could just as easily have wiped everything out, but by going about it the way they did, Canon One was preserved. (Literally preserved, as in placed in amber.)


So, getting back to the overall concept itself, if canon (and orthodoxy by extension, but that's beyond our scope here) is just an illusion, why do we spend so much time arguing about it? These things grow wild and need to be weeded, but who wields the weed-wacker and who watches the wielders... big questions. I think it was a good one-time solution to create Canon Two, but with each subsequent creation, the probability of a Crisis on Infinite Earths-style leveling somewhere down the line slowly approaches "1."


The reaction to Into Darkness has been interesting in this regard. Should Canon Two even bother with things from Canon One? If so, does it need to do them the same way? Is it an insult to Canon One if done in a different way?

The bottom line is, there will always be those who care about these things, and there will always be those who don't. Whose viewpoint will be privileged with "official canon?" Whomever shells out the most money; it doesn't seem Paramount is too pious in this regard. Trek has gone from a "hey, wow, these Trekkies will shell out mucho dinero if we give these nerds what they want" to a "we have the potential to make a billion dollars on every film if we pitch it as broadly to the international market as possible, nerds be damned." Seems a very un-23rd-century attitude, but these are very un-23rd-century times.

What happens when that profitability outweighs such paltry concerns as staying true to the Trek vision/ bearing some semblance to Canon One?

As Asia once sang, Only Time Will Tell.

NON-CANON aka MEMORY-BETA

Thinking about all of this got me thinking about all of the Trek that's already been produced that is considered "non-canon," i.e. all of those Trek stories that were not considered part of Canon One but have proliferated in its wake. Each of the entries below establishes precedents or backstories or expands/ follows up on concepts that set it apart from the "official" Trekverse.



The link provided above gives pretty comprehensive overviews of each. (And you can read expanded reviews of at least a couple of them over at Where No Blog Has Gone Before, should you want even more.) These are from the 70s, that home-video-less era where Trek's future was in no way assured. (So odd to think about now!) Perusing the timeline of events from these books is a fascinating glimpse into a Trekverse that never was.

(I wouldn't memorize any of those birthdates for Trek Trivia night; you'll just get into a shouting match with people who have different dates from different continuities. And they won't want to hear anything about how many different Trekverses there are; trust me on these points.)

These books are separate from the Pocket Books, which are far too numerous to give you a covers gallery for, alas, or for me to cover in any depth. I thought about doing so, when I thought there were "only" 30 or 40, but once I realized there were several hundred (and with more coming every other month,) I surrendered pretty happily to the idea of leaving them alone. (I may cover one or two or the ones I already have, or I might not. We'll see.) These are the books printed under Simon and Schuster's imprint, i.e. the "official non-official books." They are separate from fan-fic and from the comics. Again, though, it's interesting to consider these as taking place in an alternate universe (or several alternate universes.) It is in here you'll find tales of the Enterprise's second five-year adventure, the death of Janeway, the resurrection of Trip, the promotion of Chekov, all of Peter David's Trek work, as well as the Vanguard and Starfleet Corps of Engineers series.

Technically part of the Pocket Books is what has become colloquially known as "the Shatnerverse."


I suppose they should be called "The Shatner-and-Reeves-Stevens-verse," but that's a bit unwieldy. I'm currently listening to The Shat read these things to me on audiobook, God help me, so I'll save my thoughts on these for somewhere down the line. I'm enjoying them a lot more than I thought I would, though. Like John Byrne's and DC Fontana's work for IDW, they take the established continuity in some interesting directions. These veer off from post-Generations continuity, so were we to consider it its own universe, all would be the same up until that movie, then things get quite different.

Brannon Braga created a minor (very minor) controversy a few weeks back when he tweeted this:


I probably won't do an entry for the Story Records of the 1970s:


You can actually watch/ read these things on YouTube, or listen to them/ read about them at the link provided. Comics fans might be interested to learn the artwork was done by Neal Adams' Continuity Studios and feature several stories written by Cary Bates. I vaguely recall having one or two of these when I was a kid, and I briefly considered covering them as part of this series. But decided against it. No real reason, just time and energy, really; I've still got so much other stuff to plow through. Still, given the amount of differences between the Trek presented in these things and the official Trek, they certainly come across as some weird alternate version of Trek.

Moving onto the comics:

I seem to bring up the Gold Key comics an awful lot and then say "I won't be covering these." So, it's time I stop kidding myself. I'm reading them all now and will have that entry ready to go next week sometime.

Here's a placeholder; that's our good Captain in afro-disguise on an away mission.
They are also a fascinating glimpse, though, into a Trek that never was. They started coming out while the show was on the air and continued being published until Marvel got the license for Trek in 1979. Speaking of:

Yeah, I'll be covering these, too. I might combine my overview of Marvel's Trek with my overview of
...which I'm still convinced is where the "Saavik is half-Romulan" idea originally comes from.
Marvel's Trek comics aren't very good, it must be said, but they're interesting relics of the era between The Motion Picture and Wrath of Khan. Likewise, DC's, at least at the beginning, depart from continuity into their own weird dimension following the events of TWOK. So, they fit my criteria here, of mapping out alternate realities, similar but different. One alive, one not, yet both in pain... wait. Scratch that last part. 

DC had the license a long while and published Next Generation comics, as well as original Trek stories and a whole bunch of movie adaptations. I won't be covering all of them, but I wanted to mention that the one for The Final Frontier, written by Peter David, corrects Kirk's monumental slip of memory at the end of that film, when he says "I lost a brother once. Lucky for me, I got him back."

Way to remember Sam Kirk! Peter David's memory is apparently better than Shatner's. I asked him about this once on Twitter; a few days later, he had a stroke. Coincidence? (He's recovering well, and we here at DSO wish him the best, of course.)
I wasn't planing on covering any of the following, either, but things change, my friends. All will be given their own entries down the line, but as they each veer off from official canon, they garner a mention here.

First, we have the former Star Trek New Voyages now known as Star Trek Phase 2


These are interesting. On one hand, they resemble home videos, the kind of things my friends and I would make with camcorders and edit on-camera/ on-the-fly in the early 90s. On the other, they feature several members of the original cast, as well as scripts by Trek luminaries (DC Fontana and David Gerrold) as well as stories originally commissioned for Phase 2, the stillborn Trek series of the late 1970s. They're officially not canon, of course (hell, Chekov dies in one of them! And he doesn't have a katra, so...) but they're definitely a cut above what I thought they would be. I'll get to them in more depth later.

Ditto for Of Gods and Men.


Crikey, check out that cast! That'll be covered, too.

Finally, I should mention Star Trek: Aurora, which is according to my brother, a well-written saga dealing with emotional trauma in a complex and mature way. I probably should cover it, as it doesn't seem like too much of a time investment.


But, yaaarg, I mean, that picture is ridiculous. I can't stand looking at animation like this, particularly when it's of the Adam Hughes variety. No offense to its fans, no offense to its creator, and I'm sure it is well-written, if my brother's vouching for it, but I see something like this and just cringe. I'm admittedly not the world's foremost animation fan, so things have to look a certain way for me to get into it. When they look like this - i.e. creeptastic 3D videogame porn - it might take Werner Herzog's involvement for me to get over the hump. (No pun intended.)

As an alternate dimension Trekverse, though, I can hang with it.

You know, reading all this over, someone really should do a Crisis on Infinite Earths tale for the non-canon stuff. It'd make a good standalone movie for Canon Two. (i.e. Sulu and Chekov, as a result of a transporter accident, find themselves hurtling from one dimension to the next, ultimately ending up in the 3D videogame porn world, utterly creeped out.)

Please feel free to mention/ add anything I missed in the comments. Maybe I'll make some kind of omniverse map at some point, with a legend addressing the key continuity changes/ differences.

NEXT
 The Voyage Home

15 comments:

  1. Just for the sake of mentioning it, Straczynski made sure to clamp down on canon in his franchise, Babylon 5. In B5, time travel doesn't give the possibility of a reboot or an alternate timeline; there are consequences that cannot be avoided or wiped clean. Time travel seems to be there to serve fate or destiny or the will and whim of the universe itself. It was refreshing and remarkable, and could be seen as an illustration of one theory about time travel, the one about the immutability of the timeline. Trek, on the other hand, is an illustration of another theory, of the fracturing of timelines at pivot points, until there is an infinite number of parallel timelines.

    As much as I dig that Abrams and Co. used Trek's own self-established take on time travel to create their own flavor of Trek, I still wish that Trek had been more firm about its own canon early on. It still strikes me as a cop-out for any franchise to be cavalier about continuity. This is especially true when they allow all manner of licensed and "official"-yet-still-non-canon material to be published. I get that they want to make money, and it would be difficult or even impossible to police all those books and comics for continuity. It seems very exploitative to me: "glad you guys love all those novels, and we sure enjoy all the money you spend on 'em, but hey, none of it really matters when we decide to do something that contradicts 'em."

    That's one of the main reasons I shied away from any franchise fiction. Why get attached to some development in a character's life that gives new insight and impetus to them when the powers-that-be will simply brush it all aside, as if my effort in reading, in giving a damn, is pointless and meaningless? That's also why I prefer the fiction that doesn't deal with the main characters or hot spots - the Vanguard books for Trek, the X Wing books for Star Wars. In effect, they can be looked at as de facto canon because only deep, fundamental changes in their respective universes could invalidate them. Abrams would have to start episode VII off with a flashback to two minutes after the end of Jedi and show Wedge falling off a branch at the celebration party on Endor and breaking his neck to nullify the X Wing books. The Trek powers-that-be would have to baldly state that Starbase 47 never existed, ever, to stomp out the Vanguard books.

    I give a pass to comics, because, hell, much of the fun of Marvel and DC and even some lesser lights is the mutability of reality...OF COURSE I want dinosaur-hided Ben Grimm to fight his later orange-rock-hided self, or young, mature, and old Thor to team up at the end of time.

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    1. "That's one of the main reasons I shied away from any franchise fiction. Why get attached to some development in a character's life that gives new insight and impetus to them when the powers-that-be will simply brush it all aside, as if my effort in reading, in giving a damn, is pointless and meaningless?"

      I know what you mean. I would say it's neither pointless nor meaningless, but it can feel that way. At the same time, I can understand giving fans extra, non-canon stuff, and I can understand disregarding it for the main flagship-canon.

      "The Trek powers-that-be would have to baldly state that Starbase 47 never existed, ever, to stomp out the Vanguard books. "

      Here's hoping they do not.

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    2. p.s. I think your example of Babylon 5 is a good one, and it's commendable that sort of non-canon/temporal-reboot quality is written into the show. (For now, at least.) Trek didn't have the luxury of that, obviously, as it came together over such different circumstances and over a longer period of time.

      I guess all of my thoughts on canon, here, are as specifically applied to Trek, with the other examples I use just as illustrations. So what is true for Trek isn't true for all (although I float that possibility, I tried to leave it open-ended, i.e. just food for thought.)

      With Trek, though, canon is sometimes viewed as less ephemeral than it actually is. I do think there are some sound parallels with orthodoxy in this regard, but that's of course unprovable, just an idea.

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    3. Oh, I know that the discussion was more about the specificity of canon in Star Trek; I just meant the B5 comment as a way of pointing towards an interesting comparison and contrast. Straczynski did a good job of thinking on the fly while maintaining continuity; he could change and adapt the story to stay on-track even when he lost main actors (in one case, the lead of the series - they dumped him at the end of the first season) or had to wrap everything for his 5-season-arc vision in season 4 when the plug was about to be pulled...only to find out he was given a 5th season after all. He even clamped down on the ancillary fiction; he firmly established which books were absolutely canon, and put the kibosh on a bunch of fiction that was slated to be published by a RPG company because he felt they'd overstepped their bounds. My point with all this B5 stuff is that it's interesting to contemplate a Trek in which Roddenberry had been a stickler for continuity, and made sure his successors were, also. I wonder how different that single-timeline Trek would have been?

      Regarding the '70s-era Bantam books, they always struck me as more interesting than the later fiction. For the most part, at least, and only in my opinion, the later fiction began to seem more like fanfic rather than an exploration of the original show's themes and tropes. That said, there is a bit of the air of fanfic in those early books, with the way Spock is glommed onto in the first couple of novels. This is most obvious in Spock, Messiah!, which included what I'm guessing was fan service, so to speak, with a sex scene for everyone's favorite (half) Vulcan. I have to admit that my skin crawled for much of that whole romantic subplot.

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    4. "My point with all this B5 stuff is that it's interesting to contemplate a Trek in which Roddenberry had been a stickler for continuity, and made sure his successors were, also. I wonder how different that single-timeline Trek would have been?"

      I wonder, as well. In my proposed Canon Two story, Roddenberry (or a Roger Corby android of him) could play the Anti-Monitor part. This would amuse me.

      I agree on those 70s-era books (and the Gold Key comics, as I'm discovering, tho in a wholly different/ more comic-book-y way).

      There's a lot in Spock: Messiah! that makes my skin crawl, to be sure, but the Vulcan sex scene is so... odd. Perfectly understandable, given the time/ fan-service, but sheesh.

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  2. Now that is a lot to think about.

    That said, I disagree with the idea of canon as just “illusion”.

    If that were true, if everyone from every age had decided to treat literature or story in general as unimportant because “unreal”, then no one from the middle ages onward would have made such a big deal of compiling what we now call “The Western Canon” a list that includes some of the most important names in fiction such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, Edmund Spencer, Chaucer et al.

    That fact that people have done this, that all these authors have been enshrined as canon speaks literal volumes (har!) of how people regard stories as more than just meaningless illusions (for calling anything, maybe even a person, an illusion is just another way saying they are meaningless and therefore worthless).

    I’m convinced you also make a slip up by equating story canon with dogma. Part of the problem is accounting for just what makes people treat literature as meaningful and why, the other has to do with what’s behind dogma and why it also might have something to say about literature.

    I’m talking about psychology, and the fact that stories emerge from combination of psyche and practical experience. As for dogma, well say whatever you want about it, you still agree that Charlie Manson’s a sicko, right?

    There’s the one thing that’s proven impossible to get behind, you see. While we might be able to dispute the ultimate meaning of literature or life, no one can ignore that fact that literature is a product of psychology or that there is such a thing as sanity and insanity, AND that some of the best literature deals with the meaning of both (as for whether “Into Darkness” succeeds at the same idea, well, I’ve seen better. Six of one, half a dozen of the others).

    As someone who’s gone through therapy and learned something of the basics of psychology (something I took an interest in long before that, to be fair) it’s clear enough that certain decisions and ways of thinking are as bad for mental health as bad food for physical, and therefore out behavior seems to carry certain mental consequences. It’s more or less become clear to me that when people talk of dogma, or morality, they mean more or less the experience throughout history of dealing with mental illness in all its forms.

    What’s all that got to do with literature, though; after all it’s just make-believe? Well, so is the value of money, but that’s never stopped someone like Donald Trump, and besides, personally I’ve read enough books on psychology to be convinced that literature deals with things more tangible than cold cash; like mental health for instance.

    If fact, I wonder is part of the reason people bother over canon in the first place is because a lot of it stands as a good example of what mental health and insanity are like. Also, don’t forget that comment on C.G. Jung, it’s the one of best defense for the keeping of some kind of canon that I know of.

    I’m not making much sense, am I?

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    1. "That fact that people have done this, that all these authors have been enshrined as canon speaks literal volumes (har!) of how people regard stories as more than just meaningless illusions (for calling anything, maybe even a person, an illusion is just another way saying they are meaningless and therefore worthless)."

      We might be making the same point, here. I'm certainly not suggesting that stories are meaningless/ worthless. But using the example of western lit canon could not prove my point more. When western civilization agreed on it as one thing, it became "canon." But since ww2 (and really, right before) it's undergone many, many changes. Canon is decided by economic and power structure factors; nowhere illustrates that more than academia/ the literary canon.

      And I think the same with sanity/ insanity. And orthodoxy. It's a fluid universe with a free play of signs and signifiers, and we change what we observe. If literature is a product of psychology (which is an interesting theory but I'm not sure I'd accept that as an axiom) what is psychology a product of?

      I do hear what you're saying, but I just want to make sure I'm clarifying that one point: canon is the illusion of permanence; stories are eternity. What is sane to one is insane to others, and what determines how we view which is which is that to which power structures/ economics indoctrinate us. I do believe in benchmarks (or, to use a term I know you enjoy, "archetypes,") i.e. certain spiritual ideas which animate mankind, but that's a different story altogether.

      Anyway, if you don't dig on the story canon/ dogma equation, that is of course your prerogative. I for one feel it's an illuminating comparison.

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    2. p.s. The idea that literature/ mythology can deal with mental illness better than money is a good one, and I don't disagree. I think stories speak to the eternal within us. That's a cornerstone of my approach to canon, actually, as everything can be reduced, somewhat, to us telling ourselves stories about ourselves in an attempt to learn, and we constantly re-define the lessons we need to learn/ teach, etc.

      Good stuff, guys, I appreciate such thoughtful feedback.

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    3. Yeah, well, as far as being an English major goes, I seem to have hit the jackpot!

      I also see where fundamental differences lie. I never saw the idea of canon as a matter of personal politics, and the for the very same reason Steve King uses in “It”: Politics always change, good stories never do.”

      Still, some clarification is in order. For me, the one book that sums up the nature and origin of all politics might raise a few skeptical eyebrows, mainly on account of it’s being Richard Adam’s Watership Down.

      What most might fail to realize is what exactly the story in that book does, or rather its themes are. What the book does is implicitly imply that all politics has its origins in things that are fundamentally, by their nature, apolitical. In fact, the basics of the story is incredibly simple idea of setting up a decent enough home life; that’s it, there isn’t that much more to the story than that other than the fact that no one is concerned about politics except as mere means to ends (which is SUPPOSED to be the proper role of all politics, but then again, sanity and insanity). In fact, there is a sense in which politics is viewed as incidental to the characters.

      The book even has a helpful suggestion about literary canons and their relation to politics. There’s a segment in the book (which I think might be a satire on Marxism, something along those lines) where it’s revealed the characters have their own folklore, one they regard as canon and in some ways necessary for a well-developed life, yet it’s looked down on by another group of characters and all because of the “system” they live in. What is happening is a folklore which is by its nature apolitical is being denigrated for the very reason that it is apolitical, yet it’s treated as important by the main characters.

      The people who live in the “system” by contrast have this vague kind of poetry which in its own way is a kind of propaganda.

      In this way, Adams seems to imply that not all canon is propaganda, but is instead more inspired by psychological experience outside politics, and it's an idea that make more sense to me than the idea of canon as politics.

      Don't know if this was any help, though.

      ChrisC

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    4. I've never read Watership Down. I tried once, but it was all Greek to me. I've heard great things, though, and it's on the one-of-these-days list.

      It could be that we're describing the same sort of thing, i.e. there is this universal-human-field-of-archetypes that speak to us and animate all our mythos that SHOULD be considered "canon." Or can be considered a REAL canon, divorced from power/ propaganda, etc. But that is demonstrably NOT the case with academic canon, or really any kind of canon/ written history.

      But particularly with Trek, what is canon is the official throughline of TV and movies, and what is under that umbrella is inconsistent. So all I've attempted to do, here, is establish Canon One and Canon Two and examine them / compare and contrast them to the non-canon stuff. I feel it's a worthwhile exercise, but perhaps I kid myself, ha.

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    5. It's definitely a worthwhile exercise, and for anyone who is genuinely invested in a franchise like "Star Trek" it is 100% necessary to do SOME version of this sort of thing. Maybe not AS in-depth; or maybe way more in-depth. But the serious fan really has no choice but to wrestle with it in some way.

      And personally, I find it to be quite entertaining.

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  3. Speaking of literature/mythology dealing with mental illness, bro, well, there's Jung. :-)

    I think you raise some interesting points, btw! Why do folks argue so much over canon???????

    As for Star Trek: Aurora, yeah, it's definitely 'uncanny valley' territory but I did enjoy the story. It's not like it's a treatise on trauma or anything but it's a nice, fairly simplistic story with some good emotion to it, IMO. I liked it. It can be a challenge to get over the 3D porntastic/creepy vibe, though!

    -BRAD

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    1. Well, that's the ultimate jackpot lottery question, isn't it.

      The most obvious immediate answer is probably the emotions a story causes. However if emotion is all the value a story has then all questions of canon are meanngless.

      That leads to the second fact, people seem to find something valuable in all the best stories, some element in the stories themselves maybe, that causes us to preserve them and get defensive when/if we're convinced a masterpiece or "canon" is being tampered with.

      As to what makes stories valuable, well, I still say archetypes. The other phenomena connected with arguments over canon is somewhat related to it.

      I'm talking about the experience of a reader who's engrossed in a book, likes it, and then says this or that bit, or maybe this turn of the plot could've used more work.

      Has anybody ever had that experience? I know i have several times now, recently with the ending of a Neil Gaiman book, great lead up let down by middling pay-off, could've used work yet the book, I'll swear is good.

      My theory is the same value people see in stories is also responsible for a kind of liking that likes a story enough to point it's flaws, or argue about what is and isn't canon.

      For Trek I think the original isn't going to really go anywhere, and that this reboot is always going to probably be second rate in most fans opinions. Maybe.

      I'll tell you what I'm worried about, Abram's take on Star Wars.

      ChrisC

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    1. Your Canon One/Cannon Two system sounds good enough to me. The best way to wrap your brain around the Abramsverse is to think of it as an alternate universe, rather than a divergent timeline. Much like DC's Earth -1 and Earth-2, where things are very similar but can have certain differences (ie: very similar Superman and Batman, totally different Flash and Green Lanter). Therefore in the Abramsverse, it's totally possible Khan can be a pasty-faced Englishman (makes as much sense as Uhura now being Brazilian, and Sulu Korean). It's totally OK that the USS Kelvin (from the 2009 film) looks decidedly more advanced than Christopher Pike's Enterprise from "The Cage." Heck, why not place the entire "Enterprise" series neatly into the Abramsverse as well - quite a few of us never accepted it as a prequel to "our" TOS anyway (and there is that reference to "Admiral Archer's beagle" in the 2009 film).

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