The spaces between
Last week I wrote about canon, the more or less “official doctrine” surrounding a fictional property. But since then, I’ve been thinking how even the most exhaustively detailed creations will leave holes that the author or authors have failed to fill, or perhaps just haven’t gotten around to communicating yet.
I’ll come right out and say the world of Zombie Ranch is not one I would claim as exhaustively detailed, although it is more detailed than I’ve put forth so far in the comic and even the FAQ. Some of it I could arguably say has been presented without me coming right out and saying it… for instance, can our version of zombies climb? The answer to that should be reasonably apparent by now despite no narration or character explicitly stating the answer. In other cases the answer has been explicitly stated in the comic but not the FAQ, which sometimes leads to people forgetting details like that Popcorn’s bite won’t cause zombification in a person. Would it cause zombification in another horse? Ah, now that’s more interesting, but also not immediately relevant to my story, and so I’ve felt no pressing need to go into the topic.
Which of course, could be an issue should someone out there ever be sufficiently inspired by the setting to attempt some sort of fan fiction. As far as I know none such exists yet, but wherever legitimate gaps in a sufficiently popular canon occur, “Fanon“ will inevitably seek to fill the void. Fanon is, as you might guess, any attempts by a given work’s audience to expand upon a fictional setting, regardless of how simple or complicated those expansions might become. An interesting fact about the Star Wars property is that pretty much anything aside from the movies was always considered non-canon, meaning Lucas licensed out dozens of novels without considering himself bound by anything written in them. The characters, settings, and stories of the EU, or “Extended Universe”, may be beloved by millions of people, but don’t expect Mara Jade or Grand Admiral Thrawn to show up in Episode VII. Not to say those stories are bad, but they still exist in a state of being no more than legalized and highly polished fanfic, and I don’t expect J.J. Abrams feels any more obligation to pay attention to EU material than Lucas did.
Mind you, not every property has such a draconian attitude towards contributions from outside the “official” source. Some welcome them, as evidenced by the fact that there is such a thing as Ascended Fanon. Even my Star Wars strangeness above contains an example because Timothy Zahn, who wrote those EU novels with Thrawn and Mara Jade, was the first man who named the capitol planet of the Empire (and formerly the Republic) as Coruscant.
Two weeks ago our longtime fan Jacky Morris provided us with some new fan art, and I mentioned that way back before we started the comic Dawn had called for some submissions based on nothing more than the vague premise of our setting as I had explained it so far to her. Jacky made a couple of fictional ads based on that, as still shown here and here, and it’s hard to argue she got any details wrong since back then there were precious few details at all. She was working with what she’d been told, which was what Dawn had been told, and had some fun running with it. Did I feel bound to the existence of a Warzone Warehouse Unlimited, located off the second exit of Zombie City on the way to the Zombie Ranch? No, that didn’t really work with what was planned. On the other hand, ZOM CON? Well, if you’ve read the comic you know what eventually happened with that, even if it was just a cameo appearance. Its existence (in name, at least) is now canon, because you know, yeah, why couldn’t there be a hyped up trade show for zombie-related professions? Fit right into our themes, and gave us a nice backdrop for “Wild” Will’s first debut.
I have been thinking about expanding the FAQ a bit though, truth be told. I mean, did you guys know that in this world only mammals can become zombies? Possibly not, because I’ve never actually stated it and it’s also not something I would expect someone to assume. We’ve never shown a zombie that wasn’t a former mammal, but how angry could I honestly get at anyone who might (theoretically) write a piece of fanfic where they had a zombie crow or zombie gila monster? Hell, I don’t even get angry at the people who are somehow convinced Zane and co. are raising their zombies as a food source, and *that* is explicitly refuted at least by the mid-point of Episode 3, as well as the FAQ. I feel entirely more forgiving towards someone who (like Jacky in the early days) is inspired and making honest guesses based on what little they know. And hey, even though I honestly do have a lot of answers for those spaces between, it’s a big, big world, so I always love hearing your thoughts when it fires your imaginations. Who knows? Some of them may continue to inspire us in turn.