i have been letting certain nieces and nephews into a secret about star wars… there is only one movie, and anything else you might have heard of is an urban legend

not surprisingly, one of them is disputing this on logical and experiential grounds but eventually gave up on my nonsense and agreed that there might not be other movies because of main character deaths and other things that don’t make sense… essentially advancing a proto-theory of head canon

i sent this to him

Oh, my guy. Without conceding for even a second that there are other movies, that’s the thing about storytelling. Things don’t always make sense in the way we want them to; this is related to two factors (1) no body can remember every detail of anything, and (2) in the real world, history is even more weird than fictional stories can be. And this thing about storytelling is even more true of cross-media properties that have been around for a long time, and have had many creative teams. We will always be able to find details that somehow “don’t work.”

And, for me, this is good. For instance, when the first JJ Abrams Star Trek movie came out, there were a lot of ST fans who were FREAKED OUT because ‘time travel doesn’t work like that in Star Trek’ and they were afraid the story world of the new movie would mean the story world of the original series, and—really—every show, movie, and novel they grew up with hadn’t happened, somehow.

Of course all those shows still existed in the most meaningful way: my DVD of Star Trek: The Motion Picture from 1979 was still sitting on my shelf, safe and sound. Additionally, as I pointed out on a message board, there are several ways time travel works in Star Trek, and there was no reason to think the movie was doing anything to the story world of the original stuff.* Additionally, and most importantly, these are just stories, and the story tellers get to say what happens when they’re telling the story. They have some obligation to link their story with “The Story So Far…” but they cannot be bound by what came before to the extent that they cannot change the direction of the story or reinterpret what came before. That’s called continuity lockout, a phrase with two meanings.

The first meaning is “continuity is so complex that new (potential) fans cannot find a way into the story, because there’s so much back story that they just can’t. So the don’t, because the continuity has locked them out. The other meaning is similar, but is about storytellers, and it’s basically, the story has so much continuity, there there’s no room to tell new stories, because all the narrative gaps have been filled in; the continuity is so total, that it’s just not possible to tell new stories.

*It was also assumed, reasonably but mistakenly, that the JJ Abrams movie would be such a big deal that there would never be Star Trek tv shows or movies set in the original story world. In fact, there have been only 3 JJ Abrams movies (so far, another is in the works), but there have been seven new tv series set in the original story world. Partly because it is an interesting world to set stories in, partly because of the weird history of how Star Trek has been owned by various corporations (sometimes by two at the same time!), and partly because it sort of doesn’t matter. Every story has to stand on its own, and the idea of canon or even continuity is one that has to be held fairly loosely or the story world will just turn into telling the same story every time but changing the character’s clothes.

and his response was “I feel like this is something you’d put in an email or a weblog, not a text message”

heh… that is why this post is up now

if he pursues this, i will see if he actually knows the term head canon

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