Thoughts On Canon, Part II: How To View New Stories

You may have heard there’s a new Star Wars movie.

Something something something Dark Side.

You may have also heard that there’s new novels, too.

Something something something fully gay lesbeans.

And I did a post a few weeks back about the false historicity of canon in terms of pop culture — we feel that it’s all very real, all a history rather than a story someone just made up, and we like to know what’s TRUE versus what’s FALSE in terms of the fictional historicity of the work. It’s both seductive and a little bit dangerous.

While I was at NYCC, at both panels I was at and also in person, folks wanted to talk about the EU and Legends. Politely, to be clear — I was not harangued by anyone. (If you go to the Del Rey Star Wars books Facebook page, you’ll find the same polite responses and requests — and you’ll find some of that haranguing.) Some folks generally have this sense of, if it’s not the thing I grew up with, if it’s not the thing I expect, then I don’t want it. You start to get that talk of childhoods being killed and all that fun stuff, as if people have traveled back in time to someone’s adolescent years in order to Fahrenheit 451 all their EU/Legends books, but only just before karate-kicking their original Star Wars VHS tapes into a cloud of plastic particulate matter.

While there at the con, I hit on a metaphor I like as to how to overcome this feeling that OLD IS BEST and NEW IS BAD and SOMETHING SOMETHING FIRE THE CANON CANNONS.

And I’m going to share this with you now in the hopes it helps you understand the silver lining, here — this is me trying to turn this feeling from a drain into a fountain.

You know Matt Groening, right? The Simpsons creator.

Well, once upon a time as some know, he did a comic called LIFE IN HELL. Amazing comic. Subversive and socially powerful, and also deeply absurdist fun. He hit on things with childhood and work and school and relationships — I still go back to read them from time to time.

In one of the comics, the one-eared rabbit boy, Bongo, is coloring with crayons.

And a bully comes along.

The bully then proceeds to break all of Bongo’s crayons in half. Snap, snap, snap.

Bongo, for many panels if I recall correctly, stares down at his crayons.

And you think, he’s upset.

He’s a kid.

A bully just broke all his crayons.

How could this not destroy him? Someone came along and destroyed the things he had in his hands. The things that he loved. He can’t create anymore. His crayons are ruined.

But then Bongo says: YAY.

And why does Bongo say yay?

Because, he explains, regarding his bounty of broken crayons: NOW I HAVE TWICE AS MANY.

You think someone broke your stories, your universe, your canon.

Instead, maybe envision it instead as YAY, NOW I HAVE TWICE AS MANY.

And then read it all greedily and happily, in glorious gulps and swallows.