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Anatomical Natt


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Anatomical Natt

What's canon? What's not?

I've been meaning to mention this for a while, but I've never been able to convey my opinion properly. I hope this is what I am thinking:

I don't care a whole lot when other people use what's on Rowling's website as canon, but when they talk down to me—for instance, in a review—when I don't use what's on the site or when I use something contradictory to what's on the site, then I get a bit pissy, missy. This fandom comes in many major forms (books, movies, games, the website), and because of that the boundaries are vague, which means we must make personal decisions on what we consider to be the ultimate source(s).

Since I am on the subject, I'm of the opinion that the movies and games cannot be considered canon because they are, in a sense, fan fictions themselves. They are interpretations of an original source, even stray from it on occasion (and because of that it would be difficult to take them into account while still fully taking the books into account). They were not created as extensions of the stories but as showcases of them. They revolve around the stories, but they are not the stories themselves.

As for whether I consider the website canon:

If an artist drew a picture of just a box you would not know what was inside the box. You would be free to interpret its contents yourself. But say the artist came along and told you there was a sheep in the box. Would you be required to believe him just because he told you so? No, because he didn't put the sheep into his artwork; therefore it is up to personal opinion what is inside the box—until the artist actually draws the sheep.

(Excuse me for butchering Le Petit Prince.)

Similarly, there is information on Rowling's website that has not yet made it into her literature; so, until she actually uses it, it is up to personal opinion whether or not it really exists in the Harry Potter universe. Therefore: not canon, not yet.

I'm wondering, whether or not we agree on our boundaries of canon, why some people are so persistent about their own. I have my own boundaries that I like to write from, but it would be silly of me to tell another author why her fic is wrong because she wrote about Legolas-hair!Lucius when I prefer him with short hair. And it would be silly of someone else to tell me I'm wrong because I wrote that Ginny's name was Virginia and not Generva or Genivra or Genderfuck, or whatever Rowling has introduced.

Maybe I'm alone, but I've gotten several reviews on such subjects, and it's quite tiring.

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I'm with you. My canon boundaries comprise the books and only the books. And I agree with you that everyone should choose their own boundaries. If I want to write a story based only on the movies, it's my right (if I'm smart I'm going to add a note on my header, so people who don't want to read this kind of story can hit the x buttom).

If an artist drew a picture of just a box you would not know what was inside the box. You would be free to interpret its contents yourself. But say the artist came along and told you there was a sheep in the box. Would you be required to believe him just because he told you so? No, because he didn't put the sheep into his artwork; therefore it is up to personal opinion what is inside the box—until the artist actually draws the sheep.

ah! that's a brilliant metaphor! thank you for putting it so simply and vividly.

Except that she is busily sketching the sheep, and she's being kind enough to give us a heads-up, so that we don't get too involved in imagining a cow, leading ourselves to disappointment when the sheep is, in fact, revealed.

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I normally agree with that, but when it comes to what creators say before the creation is complete... I don't think so. In fact, when it comes from the creator and is not contradicted by the books, I'd take it as canon simply because it forms part of the inherent shape of the story, whether or not it ever makes it in. There's plenty involved in every book that never makes it to the page. However, in this particular metaphor, we're talking about something not revealed yet (the sheep in the box)--this would be equivalent to Blaise's gender (I never understood why there was an argument about that in the first place, but that's neither here nor there, I guess). You can pretty well bet that now that she's aware of the issue, she'll make an issue of giving Blaise a gender pronoun. I suspect a few of the things she answers on the webpage are specifically for the sake of preventing people from being disappointed at guessing wrong.

In the case of Dean's back story, I don't see any reason to ignore it--she nixed it from the books, but only on time considerations. There's nothing in the books that suggests it isn't so (as opposed to Hermione's nixed younger sister, who would have been mentioned by now). It's true that it might never come up; it's also true that it very well might. It seems to be something she thought through rather clearly in some level of detail.

Generally, if something really hasn't been filled in yet, then sure, go ahead. But once she's gone back and done some backfill? Like it or lump it, it's there, and it's written by the creator of the series, who is the person who has the right to do it. (As opposed to Kloves or Cuaron or whoever, who can make interesting comments on canon, which might or might not be picked up by fanfic writers, but not actually write it.)

*runs with it*

in this case, i sometimes think that the drawing of the "sheep" looks more like a drawing of a cow.

Saying that she's a bad artist doesn't make it a cow.

Yes, but my Spanish professor's drawing of himself in his family tree looks like a monkey. It doesn't mean his drawing of him IS of a monkey, though.

that depends on how far you give authorial intent credit. if the realised work looks like a monkey, some might say it then is a picture of a monkey. mmm semiotics.

No. It would still be a bad picture of a person. To take it to an absurd level, if you were reading trying to read pictograms and assumed that the figure was a monkey, it would end up with an entirely inaccurate reading of the story being told by the pictures. (Now, it could turn into something interesting, in which a human tribe was adopted by a wise spider monkey who had been blessed with the power of speech, and later based all of their traditions on it, but that would hardly be the story that had actually been told... which in this case, is an actual story involving facts.)

The job of the artist is to communicate what he or she sees, and if she has done so innaccurately, it's a failure of communication. I'm not big on Post-Modern critical theory (which is a bit of an understatement, actually), and while I do believe that a reader brings something to a book--of course we do; there's no point in becoming attached to a book if you have no, well, attachment to it--you can't simply ignore what it means to do in order to impose your own conflicting view on it. If you want to say something else, then for heaven's sake, sit down and write something else... but it's insulting to the author to just say, "Oh, I don't care. I like it better my way, and I know your world better than you do." As a writer, frankly, I'd rather be called a bad writer than have words put in my mouth (or on my word processor in my name) that I never said and never would say.

To take it to an absurd level, if you were reading trying to read pictograms and assumed that the figure was a monkey, it would end up with an entirely inaccurate reading of the story being told by the pictures.

and that depends on how far you're willing to let the text stand as an object in itself (and that's certainly controversial). on one hand you can certainly say that since the text came out of the author's head and hands, it cannot be fully divorced from what the author was trying to say, and the reader can say "that is a badly monkeyfied supposedtobeaman." on the other hand, if you look at the text only, what the text actually shows is monkeys, then you can say "fun monkey story!"

Yes, but there is a point when the interpretation is just plain wrong based on intent. Though the monkey story is starting to sound fun to me (possibly because it's almost 2am), it would end up being a fernwithy story, and not a laizeohbeets's Spanish professor story.

Now, where it all gets complicated is that I don't believe writers always or even usually are clear on what they're doing until it's done, if then, and some kind of implicit messages are based on assumptions that the writer never even questions ("We question all of our beliefs, except the ones we actually believe," as Orson Scott Card wrote in Speaker for the Dead). For instance, while Harry Potter is overtly concerned with a battle between good and evil, I think its repeated concern seems to be a search for identity, both personal (the father quest) and communal (the mother quest). This can be supported textually without reference to any outside sources, but I don't think it's something JKR sat down to write; it's just something that happened. What do you do with author intent on that? For that matter, what do you do with it when you sit down to write fic on it? That's a bit too broad a topic to actually think about while writing a story (though I've thought about it elsewhere and speculated on Harry's father figures).


hee. to be honest, the monkey story sounds interesting to me too. but that's because i love monkeys and have read and written monkey stories before.

where it all gets complicated is that I don't believe writers always or even usually are clear on what they're doing until it's done, if then, and some kind of implicit messages are based on assumptions that the writer never even questions

yes! i definitely agree with you on that, and that's why the writer-text relationship fascinates me, and why it's so frustrating to try to pin down where one ends and the other begins. eep. sorry for wibbling on at you in hte middle of the night.

Ironically enough, after constant arguing from my classmates that my Professor's illustration looked like a monkey, he told a story ABOUT a monkey. The story about the monkey is completely different from the story about himself. The monkey has no friends, family, or el libro de espanol, which makes him a sad monkey. My professor, on the other hand, has a sister with 6 kids, and HE owns el libro de espanol, so he is NOT sad.

Basically, he's telling two different stories here. JKR's book and website are a "drawing of Harry Potter." It doesn't mean things not included are non-canon, it just means she hasn't finished drawing the glasses or the lightning bolt scar on Harry. It's supposed to look like Harry, even if it LOOKS like a drawing of a wolf in sheep's clothing.

I think it is partly a distinction of what the boundaries are defining. You seem to be saying that you are using canon for determining what to write in your fanfic and do in your art, so you chose to ignore a piece of information. Then it is fine to not extend canon there. You are interpreting and imagining on your own and creating your own thing.

But, lets say, instead of ficcing you are going on a message board and ask "What is Ginny's real name?". This is where I think that if someone says 'JKR's site says Ginevra' it should be considered canonically correct, because we are using JKR's word to decipher her imagination. The only time I doubt her is in 'oh dear, maths'

While I generally agree about limiting canon (as anyone who has dealt with me about the Star Wars novels or those Peter Jackson movies knows... AAARGH), I can't in good conscience--or in my practical nature--ignore what goes up on the website written by the actual creator of the story. The things she's sharing are things that are part of the universe as she's envisioning it, and any one of them could make an appearance in the next two books, because they are the things that the author is assuming about the world. On the moral level, ignoring the author's beliefs about her world strikes me as off--I mean, I'm an author, too, and I wouldn't want people thinking they know more about my universe than I do! (I operate strictly on a "Do not do unto others what you wouldn't have them do unto you" basis with this.)

On the practical level, I rushed to finish Shifts because I knew that once she ruled something out, I would no longer be able to believe in it, and once I could no longer believe in it, I could no longer write it with any degree of honesty. So if she gives plain, practical information that's more than likely to show up at some point, it would be a waste of time to ignore it, because whatever I write with some other assumption would just end up getting obsoleted at some point in the next two books. That doesn't mean that I'd go back and re-do old, finished fics to change them to accord to it, but it does mean that I'd incorporate new info from the author into current projects, before it trips me up. Simple practicality. Anything on that website could at any moment enter the books.

My take on the website is that it contains information that would be in the books if Rowling could just find a non-gratuitous way to work it in. Dean's background, for instance, may have fallen by the wayside in favor of developing Neville, but it was still apparently important enough to her that she felt the filmmakers needed to know.

So, yes, if the artist says there's a sheep, I don't see any reason to believe that she didn't actually go to the trouble of drawing it. It's just hidden by the box.

I'm one of those people that voraciously reads anything outside of book-canon. Interviews, chats, private letters to a colleague/lover/what-have-you. I don't trust movies, because... well. The third movie would suggest Harry and Hermione are omgsoootogether, which I don't see in canon. At all. Whatsoever. By ANY means.

BUT. If it is on the website, it can be 100% taken as JKR's word. Of course, some people have issues with Remus's birthday being March 10 or the twins' birthday being April 1 (Which would make them OMG ARIES INSTEAD OF GEMINI!!!11!! OH NOES!), but since JKR said those are their birthdays, they are their birthdays.

As far as you refuting that Ginny Weasley's name is Ginevra, she never ONCE said Ginny's real name was Virginia, and she was clearing up the fandom confusion. In fact, telling the fans that Ginny's name is Ginevra actually opens up a lot of doors for those who want to look into names and see if there's something there in the name that wasn't. Besides, I know I'd personally get pissed off if someone constantly said my name is Jessamine and refused to call me otherwise, when my name is, in fact, Jessica. The fact that people call me Jessi more often than not is irrelevant. The point is, my name is not Jessamine, and Ginny's name is not Virginia.

For another example, I absolutely hate Arwen and Aragorn in LOTR. Hate hate HATE. It seems such an unfounded relationship in the trilogy, based just upon Aragorn thinking Arwen is one hot babe. He seems better fit to Eowyn, reading the book-canon at face value. BUT, reading the appendix of LOTR (which was not included in the first publishing), I understand the underlying relationship that was there, and I accept that they're together for a reason. Doesn't mean I LIKE the pairing, but at least I've been given an acceptable reason for WHY they're together.

Also, on a Tolkien tangent, I eat letters and appendices up like soy ice cream bars. The hobbits are very loosely covered in the books and not explained in full like the elves are in The Silmarillion. I LOVE the hobbits, and I want to know more about them. Tolkien wrote letters to a friend detailing Rosie Cotton and why she was such an admirable hobbit for Sam Gamgee to marry. There is very limited information on the hobbits in book-canon, and new information is very welcome.

Basically, what I'm saying is this: There is not enough room in a novel to get every piece of information out that the author needs to say. It extends the ending too much, leaves loose ends untied, etc, and just may not work with the initial product. However, it does not mean it's not canon. If the author says as much, for the time being, it is canon unless proved otherwise.

Here from DS:

I'm one of those people who tries to avoid things like author commentary as much as possible. Not that I give authorial intent no weight at all--I think it does have weight, but what weight is there is what is evident in the text. That needs to be able to stand on its own.

I mean, the simple fact is eventually authors die and texts don't, and that's what people are going to be reading in years to come, hopefully. It'd be silly to think that you needed to have this other person giving you a running commentary on the text in order to really get it. In general I'd always give what the text itself says more weight than what the author says it says, if the two contradict each other.

The thing about authors, too, is they grow and change, and more importantly, they change their minds. They get involved in some new thing and sometimes want to go back and rewrite stuff to reflect that--that's hardly authorial intent as we understand it, since we're talking about somebody who is trying to now say something different than they were saying back then. Imo, in Star Wars, Han shot Greedo first. It was not Lucas' intent at the time to have Greedo shoot first, because he did not do that. Going back 20 years later and sticking in an extra shot does not, for me, become canon in terms of surplanting the orginal shot, nor does the "they're shooting at the same time" version on the DVD, though eventually people might forget the original. Similarly, I think Spielberg changing a line that mentions terrorists and taking out the guns in ET does not fall under authorial intent. The line about the terrorists doesn't even make sense aschanged. Or for another example, I'm pretty sure if you look up every time Pete Townsend got asked who gets killed at the beginning of Tommy, his father or his mother's lover, he's given a different answer at different times.

Once a book is written an author is naturally going to grow beyond it and develop a different relationship to it, but I don't think anybody really wants works of art to be an ongoing expression of whatever an author is doing at the time. Obviously that's not what JKR is doing here, since she's still writing her story. Some things she's saying in interviews may be hints to things that will become canon, some will remain extra treats for those who care or just commentary on the text that doesn't wind up ultimately playing out. But as far as I'm concerned, I'll know that when I get there. Sometimes it's good to know things that are cut out of the story if it sheds light on what's there; sometimes it's a bad idea, imo, because often ideas are rejected for a reason-because they're not true to the story.

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