The canon: From the Bible to Plato to …. Star Wars?

This month at Wired, my buddy Chris Baker meets Leland Chee, the Star Wars franchise continuity cop. Chee works for the licensing arm of Lucasfilm, and is tasked with ensuring that every Star Wars book, comic, game, and movie conforms to the preexisting continuity.

Baker examines, among other things, how fans of genre fiction have co-opted the term “canon,” which was originally used to distinguish the Biblical texts thought to be the inspired word of God from those that were apocryphal. If some SF franchise must one day join Plato in the relevant OED entry (quoted here), I vote The Prisoner or Battlestar Galactica — or, really, just about anything other than Star Wars.

4. The collection or list of books of the Bible accepted by the Christian Church as genuine and inspired. Also transf., any set of sacred books; also, those writings of a secular author accepted as authentic.

1382 WYCLIF Apoc. Prol., In the bigynnyng of canon, that is, of the bok of Genesis. 1591 T. NORTON Calvin’s Inst. I. 13b, What reuerence is due to the Scripture, and what bookes are to be reckened in the canon therof. 1641 J. JACKSON True Evang. T. II. 116 S. Andrew the Apostle..added nothing to the Canon of Scripture. 1870 MAX MÃœLLER Sc. Relig. (1873) 29 The process by which a canon of sacred books is called into existence. 1882 FARRAR Early Chr. I. 98 The Epistle to the Hebrews is not a work of St. Paul, but it is pre-eminently worthy of its honoured place in the Canon. 1885 Encycl. Brit. XIX. 211/1 The dialogues forming part of the ‘Platonic canon’. 1953 C. J. SISSON Shakespeare: Compl. Works p. xviii (heading) The canon and the text.


Also in Wired this month: Steven Levy profiles Neal Stephenson and his new book, Anathem, which clocks in at a career-high 960 pages. In this book, Baker tells me in email, Stephenson’s “done some real Tolkein-style world-building.”

Incidentally, if you missed Baker’s October 2003 guest-blogging stint, check out some of the highlights.


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