I’m not talking about the weapon, which is spelled CANNON. This one is missing an ‘N’ and gets thrown about a lot. What is it?
Canon– A list of works connected to an author, world, or character that are established as the ‘real’ continuity. All others are either their own universe or considered alternate versions of the main timeline.
Keep in mind that this is my own definition that I’ve taken from just how people use it in conversations. For example, a new story may come out that involves retelling a character’s origin. People will ask if the original or new version is ‘Canon’. This means that the audience wonders which version needs to be more acknowledged going forward. The other one is considered an alternate and may take a few more stories into a side dimension with it. Of course, the author gets final say here . . . usually.
There’s another type of Canon that one can run into, which is a newer concept even though it’s been around for a long time. This would be:
Head Canon– The plot elements, explanations, and interpretations that the audience has created in their own heads. There can be evidence of these being possibilities, but these pieces are not stated by the author.
As you can tell, this involves your fan theories and explanations. Leaving an ambiguous ending or letting readers come up with their own reasons for something happening will result in this. Authors do this to stir conversation and mystery, which helps draw in readers and convince people to read the books again. It also causes Head Canons to emerge and get spread throughout the Internet, but that’s definitely a part of the conversation.
Is Head Canon a bad thing? Not really. It’s fun to come up with these scenarios, but it can go dark. Some people will cling to their Head Canon so much that they refuse to believe anything else, including the author. They like what they came up with because it implants a piece of themselves into a world they love. Now, they’ve added to the creation and those pieces being disproved can hurt. It’s not that different than an author getting a bad review, which is odd since a jilted Head Canon person may leave one of those if they’re upset enough.
There are times when an author may read a Head Canon idea and turn it into Canon because they like where it’s going. It can also be that the audience guessed correctly and what they believed would happen comes true. This shows that Head Canon can be transformed, but the opposite can’t happen. You can’t take something that was explained and then turn it into an audience-built theory. Canon can only fall into alternative history or possible Alternative Canon. Not sure if there’s a term for it, but the point is that these things are surprisingly fluid.
What do you think about Canon? Have you ever come up with a Head Canon theory for a story you enjoyed?