We begin with the term to begin all other terms - 'Verse'
-Orson Scott Card
The Verse is usually referred to with a show or franchise identifier (such as "Buffyverse", "Whoniverse", "CSI-verse", etc.). It is a crafted combination of setting-elements that define the rules for how the world works and sometimes provides for sharing of characters and continuity across more than one series.
Many 'verses have a thriving life in the aftermarket, spawning books, movies, comics and fanfic.
Thus we move on, to a term coined by... Lucas? Nah.
Expanded Universe refers to everything that is not the primary medium. All that other stuff. This can create a schism in fans.
Some believe the entire Expanded Universe, EU for short, is canon. Others do not. It is usually written so that it can be fit in to the canon without having to alter the canon itself. However, later developments in the actual series can make it definitively out of continuity. For example, the Star Trek The Next Generation novel Dark Mirror expanded on the Original Series episode "Mirror, Mirror", showing an updated version of that episode's Mirror Universe where the mirror-Federation was powerful and had conquered the Romulans and the Klingons. Later, Star Trek Deep Space Nine had characters go to a similarly updated Mirror Universe, except in this version, the mirror-Federation had been conquered by the Klingons and Cardassians long ago.
This Star Trek reference is completely lost on me. I wonder why I never got into Trek... However, its a... good example?
Even if it isn't canon, the Expanded Universe often serves as a place to apply Scotch Tape to the canon through RetCons; this may verge on professional-grade Fan Wank.
Fanwank? I believe I began a discussion on that where no one participated. But this brings into mind just how whacked out the whole concept of EU is, especially in the Starwars side of this thing. Note how a lot of "official" comics and novels before the New Trilogy movie were shoved aside. All that time and effort wasted because George won't even bother to read these professional writer's fanwanks. For shame. More on Starwars continuity in the future. Some great concepts to be had from that franchise.
The term comes from Star Wars, which has an extensive Expanded Universe covering events before, during, and after the films. (However, this particular EU is much better defined than that of most fandoms. A fan can take all or none of it, whereas most EUs require picking and choosing from contradictory sources. Most, if not all, is in fact vetted by either George Lucas or one of his employees who can, and have, vetoed.)
Odd though that a different term is used in a favorite television series of mine called Robotech' - the term for derivative works is 'secondary continuity'. Honestly, the name itself kind feels out-of-date, and has some fairly negative connotations considering that franchise's history. But I digress. Just some fanboy nitpicking - who isn't guilty of that?
Some fun examples of professional grade fanwank, or just plain professional stuff from my source:
- A less well known example is the 1998 movie Soldier, which was written by the co-scriptwriter of Blade Runner, David Peoples. He has stated the movie to be a "sidequel" to Blade Runner, and the movie includes direct and visual references to the earlier film.
- Transformers. A bunchload of comic books. A number of text stories. A handful of video games. And that's not even counting that not all the cartoons are in the same continuity. Many fans are split over what the primary source really is: the original cartoon is named as such by most, but many others choose the original comic series instead, or the British version thereof, with mixing-and-matching becoming increasingly popular. The term canon is hard to apply here: It all happened, but didn't all happen in the same timeline.
- Halo's Expanded Universe is either created by staff from Bungie, the game studio behind the game, or under their control, and is integrated entirely into the overarching plotline. All of it is entirely canonical.
Sometimes an element from the Expanded Universe is so popular (or just so good) that it gets put into the officially continuity of the original medium. This is a Canon Immigrant.
Here's the concept of a Canon Immigrant. A real interesting one, this is.
The Expanded Universe is a wonderful place, where new ideas can frolic without having to worry about fitting into the canon.
However, sometimes an idea is so interesting that the people who create the canon decide it deserves to become "real". Thus, we have the Canon Immigrant, who is a character who was created and nurtured in another medium and, eventually, imported back into the original. Note that, often, surface details are brought in to play off a new movie or TV series; this isn't that. Rather, it's usually a completely new character, who over time becomes more and more popular with the fandom, often filling some niche that was never quite complete before. If they're successful enough, they'll be included in new entries in the Expanded Universe, cross-pollinating concepts.
With a notable example in science fiction:
- Aayla Secura, a blue Twi'lek female Jedi established as a character in the Expanded Universe, got a few appearances in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and a minor speaking role in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, reputedly after George Lucas saw some comic book art of her he liked. This was fairly notable, as the Star Wars universe has strict and elaborate separations between canon "levels" (with the movies at the top, unsurprisingly) that are rarely transgressed.
- Boba Fett first appeared in an animated segment of the decidedly non-canon Star Wars Holiday Special; however, he was probably taken from the then-in-production The Empire Strikes Back.
Purist fans often reject characters and plots not found in the original work but are included in adaptations. A lot of this has to do with perceived quality, while other times it's just the fact that original authors don't always have strong control of adaptations once they sell the rights to them elsewhere. They just learn to deal with Adaptation Decay, and see it as someone else's problem.
Adaptation Decay is the gradual distortion or even disintegration of a world and its characters during its odyssey from original source material to movie to TV movie then to television series then to video game and finally to licensed derivative work. The dramatic equivalent of photocopying a photocopy of a photocopy... Occasionally though, you have a character who is designed by the creator, but for whatever reason, isn't included in the original work. This makes the fan task of establishing canon difficult. The character might not fit in the old chronology, but the "Word of God" implies they have a sort of elevated 'legitimacy'. Mostly though, this is a case of the creator feeling they had a good idea after their work was released, and finding a new chance to use it.
To clear some more mini-terms up, the Word Of God is a statement considered inarguable because it comes from someone thought to be the ultimate authority, usually a creator or executive producer (or creative director).
In the cases of 'Adaptation Decay' (term description above), fans look for the Word Of God to settle "Fanon" disputes. Which in some fandoms (hmm...) has led to even more disputes and schisms from fans. It's a case of "Lucas said so! Or Capcom said so! Or who the hell said so! And sometimes you sit back and realize just how stupid this whole situation is.
So, dear readers, I have given you a couple of terminologies for you to digest. In some ways, the entire fictional world of terminologies based on fictional worlds is just so freaking ridiculous. But considering I am involved in a 'fan project' called Robotech: Rebuild, I will have to get my hands dirty in fishing out stuff to make this thing a success. Good luck to me!