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Fanon, canon, and the difference - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Fanon, canon, and the difference
Canon=What's in the books or has been stated by JKR herself

Fanon=What we've speculated based on that

Fanon may or may not become canon at some point in the future--not every speculation is wrong--and it's fun to play with sometimes, but it Is. Not. Canon.

There is nothing in canon (unless JKR has updated her site on the topic sometime in the last eight hours) saying that no Black before Sirius was in Gryffindor. Nothing. Nada. The notion that Andromeda couldn't have been in Gryffindor is pure fanon with no basis, and it wasn't fanon that I found interesting, so guess where I put her? And guess where she's staying until J.K. Rowling says otherwise?

(Well, actually, I probably wouldn't retcon things already up even if JKR contradicted me, that stuff's finished; I just wouldn't write new stuff contradicting new canon.)

Lily being a prefect is sensible fanon--if JKR remembers that she was head girl--but it's not canon, so if you write a story in which some other Gryffindor girl is the prefect in their year, I'm happy to entertain that idea. Draco being actually a nice guy in a bad situation is fanon, but if JKR goes that way, I'll promptly write him as such. Just...

Grrr. Aaargh.



I feel a bit...: frustrated frustrated

39 comments or Leave a comment
titti From: titti Date: February 6th, 2005 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know if everything she says it's canon. I will use it as canon as long as what she says isn't contradicted by the actual books. Sometimes she says things without thinking and they are obviously in contrast with the books.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I was being more generous than I usually am. Stuff on there is probable canon, until it isn't.
titti From: titti Date: February 6th, 2005 09:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's my thoery as well.
arclevel From: arclevel Date: February 6th, 2005 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Because of that, I consider nothing from interviews and her websites to be canon. I may use it occasionally (stuff from her site's incorporated into my lengthy theory of magical genetics), but I don't consider it canon. Middle names and such I've got no problem with, but it seems like nearly every time she explains something, it contradicts my reading of the books (some of which is my own personal fanon, some is canon plus common sense or the filter of my brain, which isn't quite the same as either).

I do agree that some people are a bit confused on what canon means, especially in terms of people arguing rabidly that their ship is OBVIOUSLY CANON. (Okay, that gives us various parents, any other married couples, like the Lestranges, Percy/Penelope in books 2-3 alone, and Harry/Cho in book 5 alone. I think that's pretty much it for "obviously" canon ships.)
titti From: titti Date: February 6th, 2005 10:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gotta love the ship wars based on canon. *laughs* I'm glad that I'm a slasher, but then we all know that Sirius/Severus were the real ship. Theirs was a love-hate relationship. It's so clearly canon. LOL
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: February 6th, 2005 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
same for sirius/remus
or an ycharacter being gay
or ron/hermione
orthe weasleys beign catholic.
or remsu lovign chocolate or biegn addicted to tea.
i htikn bloody NOTHING beyodn what they say adn what harry says/narrates inthe bok is real yfact.
because 'canon is what'si nthe books' is stil proen to have people yel tha even what'si nthe bok is subjetive dependign on what peope seei nthe books.
Personaly i"m heartily sick of the debate about wht is and what isn't. I dont'think i'll givem uch of adam nany more unels i read afic and it gies me very strange quirky feleigns aobut how charactes arep ortrayed. I htn ki' mgoign to like plausible what-ifs. and i'm not goign to rectify stuffi'm writign now if the new boks are goingto contradict it. that's for th enewerstories to play with.
tanks forthis rant.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: February 6th, 2005 09:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I seem to be in the minority about whether things Jo says in the chats are canon- not just in your comments, but everywhere. I mean, it's extremely possible that things we think are Flints- like Flint himself- were intended, were in that fabulous notebook that I want to get my hands on. (If I didn't come across as agreeing with you, then I'm telling you that I do.)

Out of curiosity, what sparked this?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, just an FFN review of chapter 5 of "Of A Sort," in which Andromeda is Sorted into Gryffindor, which consisted entirely of, "sirius was the first black to ever be sorted into gryffindor. so andromeda couldn't have been one." On the same story on the Quill, several months ago, someone said, "I'm sure it's canon that Andromeda was a Ravenclaw."

mafdet From: mafdet Date: February 6th, 2005 10:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Argh. It's probably a case of mixing up a favorite fanfic with canon - and there does seem to be a growing "fanon" tradition that Andromeda is a Ravenclaw - but nowhere in canon is Andromeda's House mentioned. If someone doesn't want to read through all the books, they can go check the Lexicon.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: February 6th, 2005 09:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Word. Though as titti notes, JKR has contradicted herself on occasion, so when in doubt I'll go with the books rather than the website - in other words, Ron's wand is willow, not ash, until JKR clears that one up. :) Otherwise? Yes, canon is all about JKR as she is the author. I get miffed whenever someone tells me that such-and-such cannot be correct based on fanon.

I was just noting in my LJ the other day how we have no canon evidence that Potions has always been a Slytherin subject, and noting that the Fat Friar was well-qualified to be a Potions Master because medieval monks knew brewing, winemaking, and herbal medicines as a matter of course. (Monks and nuns ran the first hospitals.) Having the MWPP-era Potions professor be a Snape-like Slytherin may be fanon, but it sure isn't canon. Just for once, I'd like to see MWPP's Potions teacher be a pretty, cheery Hufflepuff.

And I also wrote Andromeda as a Gryffindor. I don't see why she couldn't have been one. In fact, her defiance of her family and determination to marry whom she chose was pretty brave of her.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that's what I thought, as well.

I haven't had a MWPP era potions master yet, but I'll keep a cheerful Hufflepuff in mind. (That would drive Severus purely mad in his best subject, wouldn't it?) I did have Albus's potions master be Nicholas Flamel.
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: February 6th, 2005 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have to say that that is something that always bugs me in MWPP fics - that Potions is always taught by someone nasty. Just because Snape is a git, it doesn't mean that has been the way eternally. The "cheerful Hufflepuff" suggestion made me laugh a bit because in one of my fics I have actually had a cheerful Hufflepuff as Potions Mistress in Molly Weasley's time - she also happened to be Remus' mother. ;)
bethan_b_bad From: bethan_b_bad Date: February 8th, 2005 07:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had a gorgeous, pleasant-if-prone-to-sarcasm (albeit Slytherin) Potions Teacher in an old Marauders-era fic. She married the Charms teacher, who was Head of Hufflepuff, I believe. Either that or it was a Gryffindor DADA teacher she married.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: February 6th, 2005 09:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Don't let people who take fics as canon too personally; heck, I had a friend who got flamed for writing Remus/Sirius (even though it wasn't supposed to be) and was told "The only one for Remus is Tonks." Well, obviously I am a R/T shipper, but I respect people who ship other things! *Rolls eyes*
mafdet From: mafdet Date: February 6th, 2005 10:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
*SMAX's reviewer for giving my ship a bad name* I ship R/T too, but it's not canon and it won't be unless JKR says so. Ditto R/S. I've come across more than a few militant "puppyshippers" too.

It's one thing to say "Arthur/Molly is a canon ship; therefore if you write a fic where Molly leaves Arthur and the kids to run off with Lucius Malfoy it's not canon (and grossly OOC as well)" but a pet ship is just that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 10:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exctly. Severe headthwap there.
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: February 6th, 2005 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the line between canon and fanon is one that often gets blurred. I have seen an author get told off for not making Remus allergic to silver - a fanon fact that I personally won't accept unless JKR says so, simply because I don't like the obsession with the silver hand idea for Remus-protective reasons ;)- when it has not been mentioned or even implied in canon that silver will affect a Potterverse werewolf at all - in fact, Remus has possibly handled silver in canon without ill effect. In fandoms, certain things can be taken as "fact" and widely accepted and reused but personally, I'm in the "if it's not in the books, it's not canon" camp. I'm selective about whether or not what JKR says in interview is canon - mostly I say yes, but she does sometimes contradict herself.

My two'peneth, anyway. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd include her website at a much higher level than a chat, since the website is vaguely thought out, whereas chats are spontaneous and given to error.

And I agree about the silver thing. I'm not a big fan of the whole "Fear The Silver Hand Of Doom" theory, at least Remus-wise. Although fearing the really, really strong hand that can crush a twig to powder with a pinch seems a sensible precaution...
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: February 7th, 2005 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm heavily influenced by fanon for lycanthropic details, I'm afraid. I read a fic where he has super-human strength (and I really love ThrowingSiriusIntoADoorAndThenBeingAshamed!Remus), and I agree, and then I read another where he thinks that idea is horrendously funny, and I agree with that. Same for silver. I'm too persuadable.

I don't want to believe the Silver Hand of Doom theory either, because I DON'T WANT REMUS TO DIE. I don't think it'll happen, but I'm really optimistic. I don't think Harry's going to die either, and so many people do...
midnitemaraud_r From: midnitemaraud_r Date: February 7th, 2005 06:12 am (UTC) (Link)
"Fear The Silver Hand Of Doom"

Actually, if you want to take it one step further, there's nothing in canon that says the hand is made out of the actual metal silver. Could Harry really tell the difference between silver, platinum, titanium, stainless steel, etc? I agree that the color of the hand is silver - silver is, after all, a color. But as for it's composition...

*g* Just food for thought :)

tiferet From: tiferet Date: February 7th, 2005 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)


Draco being nice in a bad situation is not uncanonical unless he's being nice to someone he's always been nasty to in canon--we have no idea what he's like with people he likes.

Fanon, to me, is something that people think of as canon, but isn't. Like Ron/Hermione, OBHWF, Leather Pants Draco, Remus/Sirius, Harry/Hermione, Tom Riddle's eye colour being green or blue, Andromeda Black being in Slytherin (doesn't seem likely to me, either--I always put her in Gryffindor and usually put Narcissa in Ravenclaw, because she seems to be so inwardly-directed and you know my house theory I think)...

None of these things has happened yet (and I'm not going to argue about how likely they are) so they aren't technically canon, but a lot of people believe in them, and who knows, they might happen.
piperx From: piperx Date: February 7th, 2005 04:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...huh?

Actually, FYI, we do have some insight to how he treats his "friends". When Harry and Ron were polyjuiced in CoS, Draco was bossy, snappish and insulting to Crabbe and Goyle ("if you were any slower, you'd be going backwards"). True that this is just one isolated instance but it's all the canon we have on the subject so it speaks loudly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 7th, 2005 04:37 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...huh?

And also not the point--fanon doesn't mean that it's wrong, only that it's not canon, not something that's established in the books.

As it happens, I think that ActuallyNice!Draco is a dull bit of fanon that I would hope doesn't become canon, but the issue of Draco's true inner nature is not one that has been addressed in canon. PureEvil!Draco is speculation as well. What we know from canon is that he's an ass to Harry and his friends, and is bossy with his cronies. And that's all we know. Any widely accepted theory about his true nature is fanon, even if it ends up becoming canon later.
sistermagpie From: sistermagpie Date: February 7th, 2005 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...huh?

Draco sounds like plenty of guys I know talking to his friends in that scene--"If you were any slower you'd be going backwards," is something I can imagine them saying to each other--especially if said friend was suddenly asking questions about things that should be common knowledge to him. Guys who are perpetually out of it tend to get jokes about it from their friends, in my experience. If a guy was talking to his friend and mentioned Abu Garib and the guy didn't know what it was, I think they'd get a similar response.

I presume Draco is less casually insulting to friends who are higher up on the hierarchy pole, and they can be more insulting to him. And he probably speaks differently to Pansy as well. I do think we get glimpses into how Slytherin friendships work (they're more of a hierarchy) and I like it when authors use that well, but I don't think it implies they're never nice to each other or aren't really friends. I still consider the Trio friends despite Ron and Hermione bickering all the time and both of them walking on eggshells around Harry for a lot of OotP.
piperx From: piperx Date: February 7th, 2005 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...huh?

Hmm, does Draco have any other friends who are "higher up"? We've seen him talk to Theodore Nott after the Death Eaters' names became public but I think that was an unusual occurrence. I think it's clearly implied that they were discussing their fathers' names being dragged through the mud.

It doesn't matter how you want to justify his behavior, my point is that it's canon for Draco to be bossy and rude with his friends. And yes, they are definitely friends. I didn't mean to imply that they weren't. Your presumption may be true, but it doesn't have any basis in canon that I can think of. Am I forgetting some canon here? I do agree that he might act differently with Pansy for the sole reason that boys act differently with girls than with other boys.

While this hierachical type of friendship is interesting, I really don't see it illustrated in canon. It seems to be more of a fandom invention. Not that there's anything wrong with that. :)
sistermagpie From: sistermagpie Date: February 8th, 2005 03:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...huh?

I'm not really justifying his behavior, just saying we probably draw different things from the scene, so if were using it for fanfic it might turn out very different though we were both trying to stick close to canon. We don't have a view into the inner workings of Slytherin so none of that is canon. That they follow a hierarchy just seems clear to me in all the Slytherin scenes we have--that's what I *infer* from canon. It's not canon itself because we don't have this information. Lots of things about Slytherin seem to speak loudly but say different things to different people.:-)

So I'm just saying I think antaniell's point is important if we're drawing the line between canon and fanon. You can not contradict things like the Polyjuice scene and still come up with wildly different versions of how Slytherin relationships work.
sistermagpie From: sistermagpie Date: February 8th, 2005 03:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...huh?

Oh--and I might as well say where I got this so I didn't seem too crazy:Hmm, does Draco have any other friends who are "higher up"?

I wasn't really thinking of his having friends but just that I'm pretty sure there are scenes where Draco is performing for "older Slytherins," and he gets yelled at by Marcus Flint and "doesn't look happy about it" but isn't yelling back. So it stuck in my head that he played up to or took stuff from older kids he wouldn't take or do for lesser (in his mind) Slytherins. Nott is apparently one person Draco considers an equal, according to JKR, and that affects how he interacts with him. (But that scene was deleted, so it's all fanon now.)
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: February 7th, 2005 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...huh?

Why can't Andromeda have been a Slytherin? Yes, she is on the good side, but not all Slytherins can possibly be evil.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: February 7th, 2005 05:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...huh?

Certainly there's no reason why she couldn't have been. Andromeda could have been in any one of the Houses; we have no canon. All a writer has to do is make a convincing case as to why s/he sorted Andromeda into a particular house.
psychic_serpent From: psychic_serpent Date: February 7th, 2005 05:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...huh?

Yes, Andromeda could have been a Slytherin. (JKR herself has shown a list of Slytherin students that included Muggle-borns.) Andromeda could also have been in a different house. But it is strongly implied in canon that Sirius was an aberration and that it was surprising and distressing to her family that Andromeda married Ted Tonks. (If she'd been in a house other than Slytherin they might have "seen it coming," so to speak.) However, the problem with making statements like, "Andromeda was in Slytherin," is that it is not being stated as an opinion or something IMPLIED rather than STATED in canon. I think that a lot of things are fairly clearly implied in canon, but I take care to say, "It seems to me that it is more likely that she is in Slytherin because..."

Perhaps if more folks labeled their opinions accurately that would silence the nitpickers who demand explicitness on everything from JKR. I always thought it was enough that she strongly implied that MWPP were all in Gryffindor and was not at all surprised when she confirmed that. She also does not write about Harry brushing his teeth every day but one assumes that he does it anyway. However, because of this I would still need to write, "One assumes that Harry brushes his teeth, or Hermione would be lecturing him about dental hygiene AND homework..." Implicit writing is simply more interesting than explicit writing, IMO, and I hope JKR doesn't change her methods because of fans demanding more details. When it comes to some things I do think her website and interviews are useful sources (apart from her innumeracy, as in not knowing when Charlie and Bill were born) because it would clutter up the books to include every last birthday, middle name, all background info for Dean Thomas, the Weasleys, etc.

If something is implied in canon or stated by JKR and you write a fic that runs counter to the implied content or to JKR's statements (and you are aware of the possibly contradictory material), it might be useful to include a note such as, "It's not completely clear what house Andromeda was in and I have good reasons for putting her in Gryffindor..." I had to do this concerning the birthdays I made up for Hermione and Ron (necessary to the story and not revealed in the first four books of the series) and that worked out fine. However, I did recently get a t00b sending me a review for something written almost four years ago about Ginny's name being Ginevra rather than Virginia. I think I mind people not noticing posting dates far more than putting their canon interpretation out there as fact, frankly.

Okay, one thing I do mind more--folks directly contradicting canon for their stories, such as putting Lucius Malfoy in the same year as MWPP (rather than putting MWPP in his year) just "for the story." We know, in OotP, what Lucius's age is in Harry's fifth year and therefore know when he was born, roughly. There is nothing in canon (only JKR's rough statement about Snape's and Sirius's ages) concerning when MWPP were in school, so you COULD age them up a little and put them in Lucius's year. It's making Lucius five or six years YOUNGER that contradicts canon and makes my teeth hurt...
mafdet From: mafdet Date: February 7th, 2005 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...huh?

But it is strongly implied in canon that Sirius was an aberration and that it was surprising and distressing to her family that Andromeda married Ted Tonks. (If she'd been in a house other than Slytherin they might have "seen it coming," so to speak.)

I think that whether the above is "strongly implied" in canon is, again, up to personal interpretation. In my reading, Sirius being the lone "aberration" wasn't that strongly implied, or at any rate not strongly implied enough to put Andromeda in Slytherin. On the other hand...something I, personally, find quite clearly implied in canon is that all three Black sisters were/are forces to be reckoned with in their marriages. That's why Abused!Narcissa or Meek!Andromeda drive me wild when I see them in fanfic because I just don't see it. I think that often each reader will see, and/or zero in on, different parts of canon. I didn't "see", and still don't, any indication of Andromeda's House. (I always surmised that Ravenclaw was the House that was acceptable to just about everyone - while a pureblood family might favor Slytherin, I believe they'd be happy with a child going to Ravenclaw, after all, it's where the intellectually curious go.)

There are writers out there who are good writers, who don't deviate from "canon" as we know it, but nevertheless I can't read their stories because how they interpret the characters is so different from how I see them. And the thing is, I can't say they are wrong, or have written the characters OOC, it's that they have a different spin on the characters than I do. There's a Tonks story I read, a really really GOOD one, but this author wrote Ted Tonks as a distant and stern father, which isn't wrong because we don't know what Ted is like, but it bothered me. I'm not about to be a pill and say "You're wrong!" because that would be terrifically wanky of me. But it bothered me. I think you are right, that if more people prefaced their opinons with "This is what I think..." rather than "You're wrong!" we wouldn't demand such nitpicking exactitude from JKR.
From: netbyrd Date: February 7th, 2005 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Fanon things that become so popular that they are thought of as canon really bug me sometimes too. If you dare to write something in a different way, based on pure canon, sometimes people rip you in the reviews becuase they say it is fanon. I think "Malfoy Manor" is one of ones that bug me the most, and also the "cathoic weasleys." Blase Zabini, the "hot slytherin who has a crush on Hermione" is driving me nuts too. I saw a fic flamed once because her Blase wasn't a super suave sexy stud.
tiferet From: tiferet Date: February 7th, 2005 03:10 am (UTC) (Link)
I wrote one of the first Blaise/Hermione fics in 2002 and it always amuses me that people make him such a stud because my Blaise is a geek, who reminds me vaguely of John Nash and missed Ravenclaw by a breath.
From: netbyrd Date: February 7th, 2005 04:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I swear it is the last name. It invokes images of a beefcake of a man with flowing hair and a sports car. Either that, or it sounds like a drag queen. Your descriptions sounds a bit more palatable for me.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: February 7th, 2005 05:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I've always believed that Blaise Zabini owed his popularity (or "her" popularity in the many Female!Blaise fics) to his name. It sounds so very hot, sexy and Mediterranean. A minor canon character named something dorky like "Leonard Stubbs" would probably not get one-quarter of the fanon attention.
bethan_b_bad From: bethan_b_bad Date: February 8th, 2005 08:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh. Link?

I was always one of those bad children who thought of Blaise as a girl, though I never wrote about him/her.
From: pyxidis Date: February 7th, 2005 04:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I think what bothers me the most is the stereotypes that fanon tends to perpetuate. My favorite is "all Slytherins are mean, ugly, heartless people who are incapable of genuine love or friendship, even amoung themselves." Another user mention the sterotype that all potions masters are Slytherins. Going along with that is that all Transfiguration Teachers are Gryffindors.

A long time ago I jokingly wrote a small essay defending the intellegence of Crabbe and Goyle. While canon has made it more and more clear that they are likly not the smartest of the group, I still have to even argue with some of the opinions expressed by characters in canon. Ron say in the first book something to the effect of, "All those who became deatheaters were Slytherins." Yet this is apparently not true, Peter Pettegrew, though never explicily stated in the books, was probably not a Slyterin. Barty Crouch Junior might not have been one either. Even canon should be examined for consistancy and logic.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 7th, 2005 05:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm. I've noticed a lot more fanon along the lines of, "Slytherins are really deep and misunderstood, tortured souls waiting to be redeemed." The whole "Slytherins are way more interesting than those boring Gryffindors" thing. It's really only in fanon that Draco takes on vast importance (though my prediction for HBP is that Draco will come back with long sleeves that he never rolls up, and will have learned some tricks that the complacent Harry isn't expecting to have done to him at Hogwarts).
merrymelody From: merrymelody Date: February 7th, 2005 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I jokingly wrote a small essay defending the intellegence of Crabbe and Goyle.

Ooh. Link please? ;)
39 comments or Leave a comment