In fiction]], canon is the material accepted as "official" in a fictional universe. It is often contrasted with, or used as the basis for, works of Fan fiction. The term "canon" can be used either as a noun, referring to "the original work from which the fan fiction author borrows,"[1] or as an adjective to describe whether or not certain elements are accepted as authoritative parts of the fictional universe.[2] Fan-fiction would be described as "non-canon," while an event from the official source material would be "canon." The alternative term mythology is often used, especially to refer to a richly detailed fictional canon requiring a large degree of suspension of disbelief]] (e.g. an entire imaginary world and history).


The use of the word "canon" in reference to a set of texts derives from Biblical canon]], the set of books regarded as scripture]], as contrasted with non-canonical Apocrypha]].[3] The term was first used by analogy in the context of fiction to refer to the Canon of Sherlock Holmes|Sherlock Holmes stories and novels]], written by Arthur Conan Doyle|Sir Arthur Conan Doyle]]. Ronald Knox used the term in a 1911 essay "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes" to distinguish Doyle's works from subsequent pastiches by other authors.[4][5] It has subsequently been applied to many media franchise]]s. Among these are science fiction]] franchises such as Star Trek]], Star Wars]], Halo series|Halo]], Fallout (series)|Fallout]], Mass Effect]] and Doctor Who]], in which many stories have been told in different media, some of which contradict or appear to contradict each other.[5]


When there are multiple "official" works or original media, the question of what is and what is not canonical can be unclear. This is resolved either by explicitly excluding certain media from the status of canon (as in the case of Star Trek), by assigning different levels of canonicity to different media (as in the case of Star Wars), by considering different but licensed media treatments official within their own Continuity (fiction)|continuities]] but not across them (as with Battlestar Galactica), or not resolved at all. The use of canon is of particular importance with regard to Reboot (fiction)|reboots]] or re-imaginings of established franchises, such as the Star Trek (2009 film)|2009 Star Trek film]], because of the ways in which it influences the viewer experience.[6]

The official Star Trek website describes Star Trek canon|Star Trek canon]] as "the events that take place within the live-action episodes and movies" (that is, the television series Star Trek: The Original Series|Star Trek]], Star Trek: The Next Generation]], Star Trek: Deep Space Nine]], Star Trek: Voyager]], Star Trek: Enterprise]], and the List of Star Trek films|Star Trek motion pictures]]).[7] Events, characters and story lines from tie-in novels, comic books, video games and Star Trek: The Animated Series]] are explicitly excluded from the Star Trek canon, but the site notes that elements from these sources have been subsequently introduced into the television series, and says that "canon is not something set in stone."[7] One example of a non-canonical element that later became canonical in the Star Trek universe was the name "Tiberius" becoming the official middle name of Enterprise captain James T. Kirk]]. The name was introduced in the Star Trek animated series, and was later added into the official biography of the character by its mention in the live-action film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country]].

The Star Wars canon|Star Wars canon]] exists on several levels. The highest level is the six Star Wars films, and statements by George Lucas; tie-in fiction from the Star Wars Expanded Universe|Expanded Universe]] has a different level of canonicity.[5] The complex system is maintained by Leland Chee, a Lucasfilm]] employee.[5] The makers of Doctor Who]] have generally avoided making pronouncements about canonicity, with Russell T Davies]] explaining that he does not think about the concept for the Doctor Who TV series or its Doctor Who spin-offs|spin-offs]].[8][9][10]


Fan fiction is almost never regarded as canonical. However, certain ideas may become influential or widely accepted within fan communities, who refer to such ideas as "fanon", a portmanteau]] of fan and canon.[5][11][12]

Fanon is a common feature in large Media franchise|franchise]]s and fictional universes where there are many canon and non-canon works, as in the Star Trek universe|Star Trek universe]].

See also

  • Reset button technique]]
  • Alternative universe (fan fiction)]]
  • Continuity (fiction)]]
  • Expanded Universe]]
  • fictional universe
  • Parallel universe (fiction)]]
  • Buffyverse canon]]
  • Canon of Sherlock Holmes]]
  • Middle-earth canon]]
  • Star Trek canon]]
  • Star Wars canon]]
  • Whoniverse]]


  1. Meredith McCardle, Fan Fiction, Fandom, and Fanfare: What's All the Fuss, p.3
  2. Parrish 2007, p. 32
  3. McDonald, Lee Martin (2007). The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission and Authority (Updated and revised 3rd ed.). Peabody, Massachusetts]]: Hendrickson Publishers. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-56563-925-6. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  4. Peter Haining, "Introduction" in Doyle, Arthur Conan (1993). The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. ISBN 1-56619-198-X.  Edited by Peter Haining.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Baker, Chris (18 August 2008). "Meet Leland Chee, the Star Wars Franchise Continuity Cop". Wired. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  6. Urbanski, Heather (2013). The Science Fiction Reboot: Canon, Innovation and Fandom in Refashioned Franchises. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6509-5. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "FAQ: Article". CBS Studios. 10 July 2003. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  8. Doctor Who Magazine #388
  9. Doctor Who Magazine #356
  10. Davies RT, "The Writer's Tales"
  11. Parrish 2007, p. 33: 'fanon.' Within an individual fandom, certain plotlines may be reinvented so many times and by so many people—or alternately may be written so persuasively by a few writers—that they take on the status of fan-produced canon.
  12. The first known use of the word fanon was by Emily Salzfass]] in in a post about Star Trek at alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated]] on April 1, 1998.


  • Rebecca Black, Digital Design: English Language Learners and Reader Reviews in Online Fiction, in A New Literacies Sampler, p. 126
  • Parrish, Juli J. (2007). "Inventing a Universe: Reading and writing Internet fan fiction". CiteSeerX: 
  • Urbanski, Heather (2013). The Science Fiction Reboot: Canon, Innovation and Fandom in Refashioned Franchises. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6509-5.

Category:Canons (fiction)| ]] Category:Continuity (fiction)]]

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