This was written in response to Asher Elbein’s Atlantic article, “Enough with the Canon.” I agree with what I believe to be the essence of his argument – namely, that trying to assert an authoritative version of a fictional story in order to marginalize alternate perspectives is wrong. However, the article fails to consider both the functional aspects of canon, and the way it allows for a particular type of storytelling that would otherwise prove impossible.
Medium almost certainly qualifies as one of the more overlooked aspects of storytelling. When it comes to pop culture, stories are regularly told once on paper and, should they prove popular enough through that medium, they are told again on screen; those that prove exceptionally profitable on screen might even be retold again. When it comes to extended universes, however, different chapters of the same story might be told through several different mediums. In some cases, this may lead to one branch of the story controlling the rest; in other instances, the variety of mediums only serves to strengthen the story as a whole. We’ll look into the many mediums of Star Wars and Harry Potter to see how their multiple methods of storytelling affect their respective extended universes.
When attempting to create a cohesive extended universe, what qualifies as part of the story is often just as important as what is excluded. Enter the notion of canon: the portion of the narrative that is considered official and definitive. By properly employing canon, a storyteller can provide parameters for what will be included within the narrative – an essential element of extended universe building. Let’s look at Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and George Lucas’ Star Wars to see how delineating what qualifies as canon creates the boundaries of an extended universe. Continue reading “Other Worlds Than These: Extended Universes 201”