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Canon is the text of a book, minutes of a movie, pages of a manga, seasons of a television show, or hours of a video game that fanfiction writers base their stories on. Canon is sometimes debated and occasionally ignored in some fandoms, but canon is the source of the fandom that fan fiction writers write for.


Historical Definitions

The following definition dates to February 1999 on cmshaw's Fan Glossary as specific to media fandom:

canon, adj. Refers to facts established by the original fiction. Usually referenced as one might reference a holy text.[1]

The following definition dates to January 2001 and the site Bad Fanfic! No Biscuit!:

that which is sanctioned as being part of the storyline by The Powers That Be (q.v.). Almost by definition, all episodes of a TV series (or all movies of a movie series) are canon. Sometimes, the creator of the series will also declare that certain novels or comic books are also canon.[2]

The following definition dates to May 2001 in the West Wing fandom:

Canon: the things we officially know from the show about characters and events and situations. Anything that's happened or been said on the show is canonical (even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff, like the shooting that apparently took place in both May and August, or Leo being Boston Irish from Chicago). Opinions differ, but generally comments outside the show by the writers and actors are considered helpful information, but are not definitive canon (because they can always change their minds until it's on tape). You're not absolutely bound by canon, but it's generally wisest not to ditch it too much without a good reason. [3]

The following definition dates to the Roswell fandom on June 27, 2001:

canon: the text of the show, and what we know about the characters and situations unseen [4]

The following term dates to December 2001 in the Harry Potter fandom:

Canon: The "central dogma", if you like, of fandom. Canon would be things that every fan knows to be true about the original series ,the timeline, the characters, etc., etc.--e.g. Buffy Summers = the Chosen One on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".[5]

The following definition dates to February 2003 in the Lord of the Rings fandom:

Canon: If a story is based on canon, it is based on the book, whether that be The Lord of the Rings or Unfinished Tales. [6]

The following definition dates to May 2003 in the Combat! and Nash Bridges fandoms:

canon: An adjective referring to a character, event, plotline, etc. which happened "for real" -- the actual professional source material. Note that "canon" is a term used throughout most fanficdoms, not just here. On the Star Trek fanfic forums, this is sometimes jokingly referred to as TDC (The Dread Canon). [7]

The following definition dates to August 2003 in the Sentinel fandom:

"Canon" is the term for facts or ideas that have actually been stated/seen in an episode. [8]

The following definition dates to September 2003 in the Kingdom Hearts fandom:

Canon: Facts that were established in the original book/movie etc. (Ex: Jarlaxle is bald and dresses abnormally for a drow, Inuyasha is stupid when it comes to love.) [9]

The following definition dates to October 2003 and was written by Chantal Gouveia:

Canon: What actually happens on TV shows/ movies. [10]

The following definition dates to May 2004 in the Harry Potter, Horatio Hornblower and Pirates of the Caribbean fandoms:

Canon and Canon Character:
the original story, movie, song, poem, drawing, or other work upon which a fanfic is based; and, the characters from that original work. Generally the word “canon” is substituted for “original” when describing the “mother work,” since the widely accepted term OC, or original character, defines characters created by the fan fiction author, which did not exist in canon.[11]

The following definition is from the Star Trek fandom. It dates from August 2004:

canon = The actual professional source material, wherein you find the "real" characters, events and plotlines of the fandom. [12]

The following term dates to 2005 in the Lord of the Rings fandom:

Canon - A fact established in the movie or book or media. example: Legolas is an Elf. (Lord of the Rings) [13]

The following definition is from cmshaw out of the X-Files, Sentinel, Highlander fandom. It dates from May 2005:

canon, adj. Refers to facts established by the original fiction. Usually referenced as one might reference a holy text.[14]

The following definition is from the MST community and dates to June 2005:

Canon - the official continuity and established facts for a particular title. Ex: in Dragonball, Bulma's full canon name is "Bulma Briefs" [15]

The following definition dates to December 2005 in the Harry Potter fandom:

canon - Facts that have been told to us in the books and in interviews with J.K. Rowling. However, you have to take those with a grain of salt, as she has changed her mind before; in an online chat she once said that she didn't expect to bring Gilderoy Lockhart back, but then she did. Keep in mind that some people also consider things from the movies to be canon,but on FictionAlley's four fanfic houses, we require that fics be consistent with known facts from canon, or that the author note, in the summary or author's note, that the fic is an "Alternate Universe". Canon's counterpart is "fanon."[16]

The following definition dates to December 5, 2005 in the Thunder Cats fandom:

canon: Refers to the history of the characters as laid out by something official - for ThunderCats, that would most likely be the 130 episodes of the TV series. Accepting that as canon means anything that happened in the show is acceptable to assert as probable in a fan fic. Of course, most fics go off-canon by their very nature but many writers find canon as a helpful reference when trying to lend their story and the characters in it the 'feel' of the show.
Arguably, other things like the comics, can be considered canon as well. But those notions vary from fandom to fandom, and really, the ThunderCats fandom has pretty much decided their canon is so full of plot holes and inconsistancies that anything goes.[17]

The following definition dates to April 15, 2006 in the Angel fandom:

Canon - Canon is a term used to describe things that have actually happened on the shows (BtVS & AtS in this case) or been specifically referred to as having happened in the past. This means that Buffy and Angel consummating their relationship exactly one time (in this universe, not the I will remember you-verse, put down that flame-thrower) is canon. Angel having been in Rome is canon as well, as it was shown in flashbacks, Angel being in the Tower of London at some point is also canon even though it was never shown, just mentioned in the Pylean Trilogy. There is some debate about events that take place in the BtVS and AtS novels being canon as Joss Whedon has told many a soul he pays no attention to those whatsoever, meaning Angel could have a butt-baby in the novels and it would have no relevance to the show. I will be compiling an Angel novel Timeline over the summer and I will leave it to the masses to decide if it shall serve as canon or not.[18]

The following definition is was written by Jane Leavell and updated in June 2006:

CANON: Anything which appeared in the actual series/movie and therefore can be "proven" to be a genuine aspect of the show or character. If we saw the character eating cats in an episode, it is canon that he/she/it eats cats, no matter how much we dislike the idea.[19]

The following definition dates to September 2006 in anime fandom:

Canon - a set order of events in a series. [20]

The following definition dates to November 2006 in the Harry Potter fandom:

Everything J. K. Rowling has written or said about the series. [21]

The following definition is from GAFF and dates to December 2006:

Canon: The officially endorsed facts of a fandom. Information that appears in the actual books/films/comics/episodes/games themselves. Compare to Fanon. [22]

The following definition dates to March 2007 in the Pokemon fandom:

canon - The canon is defined as the sum total of all of the facts and works that come directly from the original source of a fictional universe. In the example of Pokémon, events in episodes of the anime or facts from the video games would be considered canon, whereas a fan-written story would be non-canon. Sometimes, there are cases of conflicting canon, especially in large universes that are controlled by multiple organizations. For example, Misty's Song, from the 2BA Master CD created by 4Kids Entertainment, is oftentimes used as evidence for romance between Ash and Misty (see "shipping," below). However, because the song was written by 4Kids rather than the company that produces the anime, it is oftentimes considered non-canon, even though 4Kids has held claim to many aspects of the Pokémon universe. Canonity becomes important in determining the extent to which a character becomes out of character (sometimes abbreviated as OOC) in a fan story, as discussed further in CHAPTER. [23]

The following definition dates to 2008 in the Superman fandom:

Canon - All of the events which expressly happen in the fandom. Meaning everything, every person, event, statement, that happens in the show, movie, or book is canon. For example, Smallville being in Kansas is canon because it expressly says in Superman the Movie that it is. Everything that happens in the show or movie is canon. This is sort of used like a law for fan fiction. Alternate universes are where an author deliberately ignores, goes against, or stops paying attention to canon in order to create their own canon. [24]

The following definition dates to March 2008 in the Sailor Moon fandom:

Canon - Normal pairings (Relena/Heero, Usagi/Mamoru, etc.) [25]

The following definition dates to May 2008 in media fandom:

Canon -- refers to elements established by original source material (TV show, book, movie, etc...) itself for either plot, setting, or character developments. The official details, as it were. See also: 'Fanon' [26]


Harry Potter

Some parts of the Harry Potter fan fiction community consider the movies to be canon. Some do not. JKR's interviews are frequently considered to be part of the canon as they help explain things, such as what Ginny is short for.

Star Trek

The Star Trek fan fiction community has traditionally had some issues determining what is canon. Some people consider the books by Jeri Taylor to be canon while others do not. The argument that they are canon stems from the fact that Jeri Taylor was an executive producer for Star Trek: Voyager.

The position of the powers that be in the Star Trek corporate office, according to their website, is:

"As a rule of thumb, the events that take place within the real action series and movies are canon, or official Star Trek facts. Story lines, characters, events, stardates, etc. that take place within the fictional novels, the Animated Series and the various comic lines are not canon.
There are only a couple of exceptions of this rule: the Jeri Taylor penned novels 'Mosaic' and 'Pathways'. Many of the events in these two novels feature background details of the main Star Trek: Voyager characters. (Note: There are a few details from an episode of the Animated Adventures that have entered into the Star Trek canon. The episode 'Yesteryear', written by D.C. Fontana, features some biographical background of Spock.)" [27][28]

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