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  • Re-writing the canon?

    I have always been troubled a bit by the fact that the Technomage Trilogy, of which JMS noted on 3/21/2000:
    >Who's writing the Technomage Trilogy? Are you getting/did you get
    >manuscripts for the Psi-Corp, Centauri, and Technomage trilogies to ensure
    >they're canon?

    Jeanne Cavelos, and yes, they're all run past me and our reference editor, Fiona Avery.

    jms
    Flatly contradicts what we have all known to be "canon" (i.e that which we see) in a minor but crucial bit: in the show ("what we see") the transport which is nominally carrying the TMs beyond the rim makes it through the jumpgate, but in the book is destroyed before it gets to the jumpgate.

    This is a major plot element in the book, though it isn't really in the TV series (and would have been quite cool and unsettling in the TV series, when you think about it).

    However, given that JMS in 2000 is actually endorsing as canon a scene that differs from what he has previously indicated is the "gold standard" of canon, I have to wonder: to what extent is the B5 canon now "fluid?" Is that particular scene just an example of a case where JMS and Fiona didn't catch it (in which case I will apply for the job of reference editor! ) or has JMS reconsidered the "gold standard?"

    Could be an interesting question now the B5 is in play once again. Thoughts?
    I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

  • #2
    JMS's depiction of the destruction of the Minbari cruiser Black Star in the TV movie prequel In the Beginning contradicts all of the earlier descriptions of the incident when it is discussed in the second and third seasons. Zathras's appearance in the conference room after one of the time-flashes in "War Without End" does not square with the description of the same event in "Babylon Squared". Kosh apparently extends one of his squid-like flippers as if it is a human hand in The Gathering, but is never again shown as having any such extremities or accomodations for same in his encounter suit (until both he and Kosh II "wrestle" while outside their encounter suits.) The next time Kosh has a need for a grasping appendage (when he collects the data crystal from Abbut) he extends a mechanical claw from his suit.

    The show contradicts itself all the time in small ways. The character of Senna in ItB does not really accord with Senna in the Centauri Trilogy - or with Senna in the Peter David's novelization of the TV movie. The fact is that when it came time to tell the full story of events on CP JMS decided against creating another female Centauri character and instead elevated Senna, who didn't even have a name in the ItB on-screen credits, to a major role because the TV movie had already made her familiar to fans - and because the movie was sufficiently ambiguous about her position at court that the part she plays in the novels isn't an obvious contradiction. (Whereas the novelization necessarily gets more specific about her, and makes it clear that she was merely a servant when first conceived.)

    Regards,

    Joe
    Joseph DeMartino
    Sigh Corps
    Pat Tallman Division

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Joseph DeMartino
      JMS's depiction of the destruction of the Minbari cruiser Black Star in the TV movie prequel In the Beginning contradicts all of the earlier descriptions of the incident when it is discussed in the second and third seasons.
      You mean the fact that ONLY the Dra'La'Fi (sp?) is shown being destroyed in ITB, and yet other ships are described as being destroyed in the discussions? That qualifies as "taking place offstage" and so doen't contradict what we see onscreen.

      Zathras's appearance in the conference room after one of the time-flashes in "War Without End" does not square with the description of the same event in "Babylon Squared".
      Dealt with at length by JMS, and so we can assume that Zathras, in "canon" is first found beneath the conference room table (if it matters).

      Kosh apparently extends one of his squid-like flippers as if it is a human hand in The Gathering, but is never again shown as having any such extremities or accomodations for same in his encounter suit (until both he and Kosh II "wrestle" while outside their encounter suits.) The next time Kosh has a need for a grasping appendage (when he collects the data crystal from Abbut) he extends a mechanical claw from his suit.
      Depicted as a major plot point by JMS, and therefor no violation of canon at all, but rather a deliberate plot point.

      The show contradicts itself all the time in small ways.
      I am not aware of them. JMS and crew are pretty careful about such things, it seems to me, which is why blatent contradictions seem to be worthy of not. To me, at least.

      The character of Senna in ItB does not really accord with Senna in the Centauri Trilogy - or with Senna in the Peter David's novelization of the TV movie. The fact is that when it came time to tell the full story of events on CP JMS decided against creating another female Centauri character and instead elevated Senna, who didn't even have a name in the ItB on-screen credits, to a major role because the TV movie had already made her familiar to fans - and because the movie was sufficiently ambiguous about her position at court that the part she plays in the novels isn't an obvious contradiction. (Whereas the novelization necessarily gets more specific about her, and makes it clear that she was merely a servant when first conceived.)
      What you are describing is called "fleshing out the charactor" and happens all the time (see: "Lt Corwin"). I am aware of no contradictions between the way Senna is presented on the screen and in the books, just a changed viewpoint and emphasis.

      My concern is for a flat contradiction. I note that you didn't adress that at all.

      Regards,

      Joe
      Regards,

      grumbler
      I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

      Comment


      • #4
        About the destruction of the Black Star, in the series it's mentioned that the battle takes place in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter, whereas in ItB, it's pretty clear that, while they are in an asteroid field, it's nowhere near Earth.
        They'll let anyone use a modem these days, won't they?-jms

        Comment


        • #5
          whereas in ItB, it's pretty clear that, while they are in an asteroid field, it's nowhere near Earth.
          Absolutely correct - and therefore the timing of the incident and Sheridan's proximity to the Battle of the Line is also changed.

          The Minbari didn't get near enough to Earth to even probe or raid into the Sol system until very late in the war. So if Sheridan mined the Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter (as is stated in the series) he had to have done so very close to the final battle for Earth - which would probably have put him and his ship on "The Line".

          Instead Sheridan's action in ItB takes place nearly three years before the Line, and the fact that it does makes it plausible for him to be assigned somewhere outside Sol when the final battle takes place, and therefore not making him one of "the Heroes of the Line" on top of everything else.

          Regards,

          Joe
          Joseph DeMartino
          Sigh Corps
          Pat Tallman Division

          Comment


          • #6
            Could be an interesting question now the B5 is in play once again. Thoughts?
            Only that canon is severely overrated.

            My concern is for a flat contradiction. I note that you didn't adress that at all.
            Listen to JoeD. Canon is rarely ever perfect. That was his point, and it does address yours, just not in the way you'd like.

            If I had to make an actual judgement call as to what was canon for that particular event - I'd call the book version canon. And how do I come to that conclusion?

            More dramatic stuff happened in the book.

            I rest my case.
            Radhil Trebors
            Persona Under Construction

            Comment


            • #7
              B5 Canon versus Trek Canon

              You know, you'd never see this topic discussed and addressed by Trek's Berman and Braga.

              Over at our ISN forums, back in 2002 or so we used to have Jeanne Cavelos discuss and answer questions about her Technomage trilogy. At least she made an effort at continuity. Ever read some of the gazillion Trek books out there? :eek

              So there are minor problems in B5 material...so what?

              One must not become a Nitpickers Guide To Babylon 5-aholic.
              Visitor from another time-space-distortion-anomaly...

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Radhil
                Only that canon is severely overrated.
                Without it what would we discuss?

                Listen to JoeD. Canon is rarely ever perfect. That was his point, and it does address yours, just not in the way you'd like.
                I never said that the canon was perfect. What I would say is that JMS spent a fair amount of time explaining what was canon and what was not - and what changed in the canon and why. The shift of the Black Star incident from the earth system to "somewhere out there" was one of them.

                If I had to make an actual judgement call as to what was canon for that particular event - I'd call the book version canon. And how do I come to that conclusion?

                More dramatic stuff happened in the book.

                I rest my case.
                Yes, I agreee - and now we are back to my original point, which is that the canon appeared to be in play in 2000 and so may be in play once again. Remind me, please, what you are disagreeing with me on?
                I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I never said that the canon was perfect. What I would say is that JMS spent a fair amount of time explaining what was canon and what was not - and what changed in the canon and why. The shift of the Black Star incident from the earth system to "somewhere out there" was one of them.
                  Allright, then it's fair to say that he does have some explaining to do with the technomage incident. To be honest though, I wouldn't care. True canon to me is which characters had which personalities, their reasonings, their relationships and saintly acts and terrible crimes and how those weave against the backdrop of plot. What we're talking here - in fact every example of canon conflict on B5 - are minor details in the setting behind the plot. To me that's not worth any serious discussion - it's like Trekkies claiming there was some evolutionary leap in the Klingons forehead ridge because the makeup budget changed. Either the Technomage ship blew up in hyperspace or it didn't - either way, Sheridan never showed sign of it in the show when he should have, and the truth of canon is simply that the extended story of the Mages was never there at the time.

                  Soviet Revisionism, as Joe would say. And the latest revision is usually canon.

                  Then again, what is canon is entirely dependent on perspective - on what you consider in the story to be important. Video game buff here, if you might recall, and one of my favorite games (Lunar, to be precise) has been remade several times, ending up with at least three different versions of the overall plot. Now there's some canon conflicts for you. For the most part, the creators have answered any confusion about which is the "real" story with, "Which ever telling of the story you liked best". Of course, the only reason they can get away with that is because few take the story seriously - it's a standard adventure yarn, malleable as they come, and only the character's themes in the tale truly important. You couldn't extend that to B5 entirely - the plot is so entertwined with the characters and their themes as to be nearly inseparable - but the lesson does apply.

                  So you can understand why I'm kinda ambivalent about the whole "canon" thing in the first place. JMS's done a remarkable job, compared to some, in keeping his universe logically intact, and to sweat minor details where he expands that universe is... just kinda useless when it all comes down to opinion anyway.

                  As for the canon being in play again with B5.... sure. It probably is. If this ends up being the telepath war saga that everyone's speculating about we have at the very least Lyta's, Bester's, and Garibaldi's continuity and canon at stake, and probably the canon of the Psi Corps books. I'll put money on the fact that there'll be at least one misstep that conflicts with the Book 3 finale in some way - it just makes sense, it being the future in reference to the tale, and the future's always a little off. Yet, I'm not too worried that JMS will step on his own toes a little bit, so long as what he tap-dances out is another master story.
                  Last edited by Radhil; 05-18-2004, 07:56 AM.
                  Radhil Trebors
                  Persona Under Construction

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A few things to consider:
                    • In order to be considered "aesthetically pleasing" (i.e., *enjoyable*), an "addition" to a fictional universe has to be substantially attuned to that universe. If it's meant to harmonize, to look like it could've been there all along, its creator has to be very aware of the universe in order to make his addition blend in. If it's meant to be jarring, satirical, a willfully-divergent look at the universe, it's still parasitic upon the universe's concepts, still dependent on its creator's ability to assimilate the details and larger meaning of that universe in order to succeed. If it's not, then whatever its own merits as fiction, the addition has no business being in that specific fictional universe.
                    • Hardcore continuity debate in a fandom usually results (and certainly seems to've resulted in cases like the Star Wars and Star Trek universes) from a critical mass of thoughtful fictional additions and not-so-thoughtful fans that creates internecine warfare between the various sides.
                    • Aesthetic judgments are generally and rightly considered to be subjective. Most of us oldtimers pioneered "hardcore" SW/ST/B5 analysis, no matter which side they're on with regard to certain controversies. That too is subjective: what it says about the differences in our aesthetic priorities is suggestive, but by the same token, many cannot discuss this topic with a couple of the more religious Lucas- or Roddenberry-zealots (assuming anyone even wanted to) except at the most abstract level: "This saga is deficient in such-and-such departments, which rank high on my scale of aesthetic values"/"It is strong in areas which are less important upon that scale of mine, than in yours."
                    • However, once the participants are agreed that a specific fictional universe has merit (read: "entertainment value," which includes the capacity to sustain further speculation and additions to its structure), one has an objective basis for aesthetic discourse: does "x" or "y" *work* as a dramatic situation in that universe, or work as a plausible and interesting explanation of anomalies in that universe?
                    • And here is where continuity becomes relevant: if an addition doesn't seem to work, it's because some aspect of the universe is tripping it up, showing that it doesn't fit. Hardcore analysis is not the only tool for determining an addition's ability to "fit" the Babylon 5 "pattern," but it is a basis for discovering what perceptions can be agreed upon, what the "common denominator" of B5 is, and why certain anomalies in the series itself or in the secondaries affect us as discordant and displeasing.
                    "Canon" is an especially heinous term -- historically speaking -- because it presumed fans are too stupid to engage in reasonable, speculative conservations regarding an entertainment franchise of choice. Beginning with avid followers of superhero comics and Tolkien books, the disturbing introduction of the "canon" concept to fiction often stems from a fan overcompensating for an intellectual deficiency when it comes to meaningfully critiquing of a piece of work. This pathological need to be master of some bit of knowledge leads to an obsession with trivia at the expense of criticism, a hostile front towards challenging questions, and the blindered, near-deification of the original creator(s).

                    Unfortunately, "canon" is also a convenient term used to describe a single continuity from which more level-headed fans can pursue more interesting paths of discussion. Consequently, the otherwise healthy hardcore debates draw off the same language and tone of the trivia-pissing contests, adding wrongful legitimacy to what reasonable people should agree is an unproductive, juvenile, and vapid activity.

                    To sum up...relax. You'll live. It's just another series. That people like or hate the novels, comics, films, TV series, et al, and are unlikely to agree should have no impact on one's life.

                    So you can understand why I'm kinda ambivalent about the whole "canon" thing in the first place. JMS's done a remarkable job, compared to some, in keeping his universe logically intact, and to sweat minor details where he expands that universe is... just kinda useless when it all comes down to opinion anyway.
                    Agreed. Don't freak out if one or two teensy weensy tiny details don't happen to jibe with one another -- as Joe DeMartino pointed out, the TV series was itself oftentimes self-contradictory, and it ain't bothered me one scintilla this whole time. Wanna know why one NEVER sees the tit-for-tat "canon wars" amongst B5 fandom that one often witnesses in the Star Wars or Trek fora? One man's investiture in the farming-out of storylines to such an extent that everyone agrees upon what is constituent and what ain't.

                    (Then again, having JMS utter the word "canonical" on-camera in that last DVD set is an unprecedented step by a creator in the media-SF world, as far as I know...)

                    As for the canon being in play again with B5.... sure. It probably is. If this ends up being the telepath war saga that everyone's speculating about we have at the very least Lyta's, Bester's, and Garibaldi's continuity and canon at stake, and probably the canon of the Psi Corps books. I'll put money on the fact that there'll be at least one misstep that conflicts with the Book 3 finale in some way - it just makes sense, it being the future in reference to the tale, and the future's always a little off. Yet, I'm not too worried that JMS will step on his own toes a little bit, so long as what he tap-dances out is another master story.
                    Maybe, maybe not.

                    Before he sat down to write the upcoming feature's screenplay (this is assuming that it is the "Teep War" tale), Joe undoubtedly would've conducted some nominal research into the Psi Corps' history and what the film would be connecting with in the form of J. Gregory Keyes's final novel (plus that short story he wrote). Yeah sure -- it's still his universe, and he can still farshlugginer everything Keyes wrote, but...I highly doubt that'll happen.

                    There were entire reams of "cross-reference" material compiled by Fiona Avery for continuity purposes, both during and after the original production runs of B5/Crusade, and I'd bet a bottle of brivari that Joe has his own personal copies of every tiny thing she came up with. Presumably, all he'd have to do is go right over to his bookshelf. Or pick up the phone. Either way...one or two wee *little* things might slip through the cracks, but it's not something that I'm losing sleep over. He made a covenant with fandom on this whole thing long ago, and he ain't gonna up and break it now.
                    Last edited by Leto II; 05-18-2004, 12:52 PM.
                    "Listen up, boy, or pornography starring your mother will be the SECOND-worst thing to happen to you today."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Well, It's been months since I read the PotTM, so I can't exactly remember the situation, but I believe my take on it was that the ship shown making it through the gate was the one that acutally did. I don't know if this contradicts what we know about known ship types and what not, but whatever.

                      Secondly, B5 canon is a swimmer amid a sea of bellied up fish. Ever read Star Wars Expanded universe publications? I have read almost all of them and some characters have 3 or 4 backstories. One of the main things that made me stop reading comics was continuity. People die, they are alive. They die again. Nine issues later, they're alive! JMS has done a superb job on keeping it all together, all things considered.

                      Something else, easily explained (although easily avoidable, too) was Stephen's reaction to news of the new captain. He could have forgotten him, but it would be kind of hard to forget the man you accompanied on a secret meeting during Earth's biggest war to date. Still, though, I'd take B5 gospel over SW or ST any old day.
                      Recently, there was a reckoning. It occurred on November 4, 2014 across the United States. Voters, recognizing the failures of the current leadership and fearing their unchecked abuses of power, elected another party as the new majority. This is a first step toward preventing more damage and undoing some of the damage already done. Hopefully, this is as much as will be required.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Z'ha'dumDweller
                        Something else, easily explained (although easily avoidable, too) was Stephen's reaction to news of the new captain. He could have forgotten him, but it would be kind of hard to forget the man you accompanied on a secret meeting during Earth's biggest war to date. Still, though, I'd take B5 gospel over SW or ST any old day.
                        I've seen this seen a few times and I still don't see a conflict. His line, if I'm not mistaken, is "So what does everyone think of our new Captain?". I don't really see that as being out of context, or forgetting him.

                        And yeah, as it's been hit up on here, you'd be hard pressed to find a better canon then B5. Most of the "canon" issues tend to be small nitpicking things. Lord knows I still wake up with nightmares about trying to fit all of the SW canon together.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          <<Lord knows I still wake up with nightmares about trying to fit all of the SW canon together.>>

                          ::Switches to Seinfeld voice::

                          Is Boba Fett a guy named Jaster Mereel from Concord Dawn or a clone of another guy named Jango Fett? Did the Clone Wars happen sixty or twenty years before A New Hope? Is Owen Obi-Wan's brother or the son of Anakin's step-dad? Did Hobbie die in the Battle of Hoth or survive to join the newest incarnation of Rogue Squadron? What...is...the deal?
                          Recently, there was a reckoning. It occurred on November 4, 2014 across the United States. Voters, recognizing the failures of the current leadership and fearing their unchecked abuses of power, elected another party as the new majority. This is a first step toward preventing more damage and undoing some of the damage already done. Hopefully, this is as much as will be required.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The concept of "canon" as a source of extrapolation, amusement, and research is much, much older than many of you seem to realize. A famous example of people having "fun with the canon" is the whole Sherlock Homes Society concept: people (some of them famous in their field, like Poul Anderson and William S. Baring-Gould have had a great deal of fun trying to reconcile the rather untidy "conon" of Sherlock Holmes (and if you like the Holmes stories you simply have to cheack out Baring-Gould's The Annotated Sherlock Holmes in which he addresses such vexing questions as how many time was Dr. Watson married and what was the actual date of each of the stories). This is the tradition of "arguing the canon" that I come from. Perhaps those who think those of us who like to toy with the canon "should relax" need to heed their own advice, because they seem to be projecting.

                            Now, it seems to me that there are three viewpoints being expressed here:
                            1. The canon doesn't matter, really. All that matters is that the story at hand works.
                            2. The canon matters, but only in the grossest sense, and anyone who likes to toy with the details "should relax."
                            3. The canon matters, and it is fun to debate the details.

                            Now, those who feel like #1 clearly don't belong in this discussion. If the canon doesn't matter, then surely what others feel about the canon doesn't matter either.

                            Those who feel like #2 above should weigh in when they think a major point of canon is being argued, but should be above participating in the discussion of what they consider "trivia."

                            Those who feel like #3 above (like me) should engage in the debate over the details.

                            Now, JMS noted (6/9/1997) in response to the question "Joe, Which of the paperback books is true to the story?" that "The Drennan book, just hitting the stands now, is 100% canon;
                            the Cavelos book, out for a bit now, is about 90% canon. (Those are books 7 and 9.)" It seems to me that he cares about the details, else "90% canon" would make no sense.

                            So, I guess the question for those dismissive responders to my original post is "why is it worth responding you think my question is not worth asking?"

                            For those of you responding substantively, my thanks. For those of you responding humorously, my even greater thanks.
                            I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Word up, grumbler. You are eloquent with your words. I would have just said "This is an A-B conversation, so C your way out of it."

                              And yes, the debate on canon is old. Canon is a religious term and all of the holy book's meanings have been debated for centuries and entire denominations and new religions have spun off from these debates. Anyone who says that arguing the canon is wrong or unsophisticated is just covering their butt because they're too lazy themselves to research and they feel left out. That, or they think it's "nerdy." What the hell ever.
                              Recently, there was a reckoning. It occurred on November 4, 2014 across the United States. Voters, recognizing the failures of the current leadership and fearing their unchecked abuses of power, elected another party as the new majority. This is a first step toward preventing more damage and undoing some of the damage already done. Hopefully, this is as much as will be required.

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