RSA vs Paramount

After asking some published Star Trek writers for answers and not getting the answers he wanted, RSA decided to call out Paula Block by name (click here for a PDF version of the original exchange which took place on the TrekBBS forums). Paula Block, in case you don't know, oversees all Star Trek licensing for Paramount. It's pretty hard to think of someone who would be higher up on the food chain.

DS2GK (RSA): For Paula Block

Hello,

Some of the Pocket Books folks posting on this forum noted that you sometimes post here as well. I was hoping to trouble you with a couple of quick questions.

1. As Senior Director of Licensed Publishing at Viacom Consumer Products, you are to Pocket Books what Harry Lang is to Perpetual (makers of the Star Trek Online game). Is there anyone in such a role to Paramount Digital Entertainment, maintainers of the StarTrek.com and Paramount.com websites? If so, who might that be?

2. According to Jon Ordover and Marco Palmieri, none of the Star Trek books are canon. However, non-Pocket resources still list two of Jeri Taylor's several novels (Mosaic and Pathways) as being canon, and Jeri Taylor and Jon Ordover in older interviews confirmed that she intended them to be canon.

Assuming for the moment that they aren't held as canon by Paramount or VCP now, how would such a change come about? I see a few possibilities:

A. Viacom Consumer Products received a directive from Paramount Communications or Berman or what-have-you which explicitly decanonized the materials.
B. Viacom Consumer Products received a directive from Paramount Communications or Berman or what-have-you that did not specifically include the novels as canon.
C. At Viacom Consumer Products, the books were considered to have been decanonized after Taylor's departure.
D. At Viacom Consumer Products, the books were considered to have been decanonized after certain events in Voyager seemed to contradict the novels.

Just wondering how the change would have come about. I presume something like that would require explicit decanonization, but it never hurts to ask.

Thank you in advance for your answers. They'll help me improve the page I ever-so-shamelessly plug in my sig below ;)
-----
Author of Google's #1 ranked page on "Star Trek canon"

Several authors responded that Mosaic and Pathways were definitely not canon any more, including Keith DeCandido, Dayton Ward, and Christopher Bennett. None of them cared to address RSA's bizarre assumption that there must be some kind of formal "decanonization" process, as they work with the editors and all that matters is that they are definitely not canon. Paula Block responded as follows:

Paula Block: As Gilda Radner might have said, Mr. DSG2K, you ask a lotta questions ...

Had I seen this a couple posts earlier, I might have given you a lengthy reply. But I see that most of those answers have been covered by your helpful compatriots. To give you a quicky response:

1. Re Paramount Digital, actually there's a guy down there – Tim Gaskill – who used to work for me at VCP, overseeing some of the Star Trek publishing. He's not the only one at PDE, but he's one of several Star Trek experts down there. Not sure what else you're asking here.

2. Okay, none of the books are canon. That's 100% true. While Jeri Taylor was actively involved with Star Trek, we allowed the licensees to treat her two books as quasi-canon for their projects (because the folks at Voyager weren't likely to contradict them in their episodes). And that worked pretty well for a while. After she left Voyager, however, the other writers on the show pretty much did what they wanted (I doubt they ever read her books), so the books eventually stopped being even quasi-canon.

This doesn't mean that the fiction writers working for Pocket can't use Jeri's books as background for their stories. It's a free country. But they're not "canon". Nothing that wasn't onscreen (tv or movie screen) is canon. You guys are so into this "canon" thing. It's just a word, guys. It's not the ten commandments. All it means is that we try not to let people contradict the stuff that was on-screen, but we don't care if all the fiction authors contradict each other's books. Sigh.

I hope this has enlightened you!
best, Paula

Notice the key points here: RSA assumes that there is some sort of strict hierarchy of who is authorized to say what, when it comes to the people who run the website. That is clearly not the case, and Paula is obviously puzzled at the nature of his question. RSA also assumes that the people at Viacom take "canon" as seriously as he does, and they quite obviously don't, as Paula Block makes very clear. That's why there is no formal "decanonization" process.

At this point, John Ordover (Editor in Chief of Pocket Books) weighs in:

John Ordover: To paraphrase something Fred Pohl said (I'll quote him directly below) You can only decide what is and isn't canonical for anything once the area is dead. In other words, what is and isn't canonical in the Old Testament and New Testament is something that could be hammered out only after no more testaments were forthcoming (and yes, there were other gospels and other stories left out of the final work for various reasons – it's actually a fascinating subject, what was left in and what wasn't, and why).

So until Star Trek is completely dead – no possibility of further movies or further TV shows – it will be impossible to decide which works are canon and which works are not canon. See how that goes?

A century from now, for all we know, after no new Trek is produced for 100 years and no one is going to (no one is writing more books for the bible either) someone hunting for a Ph.D Thesis will find Trek and go through all the films, shows, books, comics, T-shirts, showlaces, etc. and put forth an argument for what should and shouldn't be part of canonical Trek. That will then spawn dozens of response-thesis arguing against the choices made, and eventually, after a decade or so, a canonical set of Trek will be differentiated from the Apocrypha. Whereupon the whole thing will start again with SG-1. :)

My point being, you cannot determine what is and what isn't canon in an ongoing process while still in the midst of that process.

So to use another, more accurate term, the films and TV shows are the "sun source" from which all other Trek is derived. That, however, does not have the same meaning as the word "canon" does, although they are close in concept. Canon implies that the book is closed – no more entries are being accepted – and while TV and Movie Trek is taking a break now, I can't imagine it won't be back eventually, especially with Bryan S. saying he'd like to take a whack at it :)

As for what Fre Pohl said, he said "The reason you can't define exactly what science fiction is is because you can only define a field after it's dead."

Pretty conclusive, right? I mean he got some real heavyweights to answer his questions, so the issue is resolved, right? He was blowing the issue of "canon" out of proportion, pretending it's some huge formalized affair which Paramount takes as seriously as he does. Taylor's novels were never more than quasi-canon, they certainly aren't canon now, and the concept of what's canon is subject to revision at the whim of Paramount. Should that really come as a surprise? They own the damned thing, they can do whatever they want with it; is this not self-evident? To be honest, I was a bit surprised at some of these revelations myself, but I'm hardly going to argue with people who are so high up in the Paramount food chain. If that's what they say, then that's the fact.

At first, RSA tried to take their responses in stride, not wishing to antagonize the writers after having been flamed in a previous thread about the same subject (although he still seemed to bristle at the idea that the startrek.com website could be in error, even though he was talking to someone who was higher on the food chain than anyone at startrek.com). Someone named "Lightning Storm" explained to RSA that "canon" and "continuity" aren't the same thing, and that it's actually possible for something to be canon and yet not accepted as part of the continuity (this is in fact inevitable when some parts of the films and TV shows contradict other parts). Paula Block followed that up with clarification:

Paula Block: Thanks Lightning Storm and TerriO - you cover the bases quite well. Frankly, I don't really understand why there's so much confusion between continuity and canon. I started working at Paramount while Gene Roddenberry was still alive, so you might say I got canon from the horse's- er, Great Bird's—mouth. Canon is what's produced for the TV and Movie screens. Books aren't. End of story. It's my job to hold licensees like Pocket to that standard. Which is not to say that there haven't been times when canon has contradicted itself—those darn producers and scriptwriters don't always keep track of/remember/care about what's come before. So things can get confusing. But books are never considered part of canon. The only reason Jeri Taylor's books were considered quasi-canon for a while was because licensees really wanted some sort of background structure they could utilize for the Voyager characters (they find it hard to accept statements like "Well, they haven't established that on the show yet .."). So we (by this I mean VCP and folks in Rick Berman's office, whom I consulted with) let them consider Jeri's stuff quasi-canon. It didn't seem to hurt anything.

Another thing that makes canon a little confusing. Gene R. himself had a habit of decanonizing things. He didn't like the way the animated series turned out, so he proclaimed that it was NOT CANON. He also didn't like a lot of the movies. So he didn't much consider them canon either. And—okay, I'm really going to scare you with this one-after he got TNG going, he .. well .. he sort of decided that some of the Original Series wasn't canon either. I had a discussion with him once, where I cited a couple things that were very clearly canon in the Original Series, and he told me that he didn't think that way anymore, and that he now thought of TNG as canon wherever there was conflict between the two. He admitted it was revisionist thinking, but so be it.

That's kind of like God telling you the stuff in that old bible .. well, he's just not in to it anymore. (And please don't take that as an invitation to starting a thread about the merits of the old testament vs. the new. Do that on another bbs.) Anyway, you can see why canon is such a difficult concept. But I always fall back on the first and original rule (call me a traditionalist)--what you see on the big and small screens is canon. Nothing else.

Well, if it's possible to get more definitive than that, I don't know how. At this point, RSA's true nature finally comes out. He tried to be civil for a while, but this is RSA we're talking about. He still thinks that his ridiculous delusion of canon being an "objective" concept is somehow justified, he still refuses to accept that startrek.com (made by PDE, or Paramount Digital Entertainment) can be wrong (even though Paula Block herself, who outranks anyone at startrek.com, just told him they were wrong), and watch this:

DS2GK (RSA): Issue 1: Re: Christopher and Therin's claim that PDE was a licensee -
pmblock: PDE is not a licensee. They're a division of Paramount.
... which is what I'd originally stated and then defended (along with my character) against attacks wherein I was claimed to be less knowledgeable than others as a result of their position.

I think that qualifies as ad hominem circumstantial (because I'm not in the position of author) or an ad verecundium (appeal to false authority), or a smattering of both. Whatever the fallacy, we see that logical rigor has its advantages, even if it's not considered as fun to some.

Issue 2: Re: The official canonicity of Taylor's novels -

(Incidentally, I just found that these are available as eBooks online, but the only one available on SimonSays.com (Mosaic) is broken with completely missing lines. Yuck! The other, obtained at another eBook store, was fine.)

Paula Block has made it clear that the novels were quasi-canonized by VCP due to requests by licensees (and with permission from folks at Berman's offices), and then after Taylor's departure and with perceived contradictions occurring on Voyager this quasi-canonicity was dropped by VCP. (Of course by that point the original licensee need for it was also probably gone.)

Given Voyager's frequent self-contradictions the idea of them being proof of something seems rather unique, but in any case the continuity was hit-or-miss. Henderson demonstrated a few hits above, whereas misses included the oft-referenced "Prasba" Torres name-change. (Of course, "Prasba" rolls off the tongue about as painlessly as burning napalm, so I'd call "Miral" an improvement. Indeed, given Voyager's continuity woes, it's a wonder Torres even had a mother in the post-Taylor show.)

In any case, though, the VCP quasi-canonization and de-quasi-canonization do not really touch on the fact that Jeri Taylor said the works were to be held as canon in 1996.

Thus, amusingly, it seems that the novels were both canon and quasi-canon simultaneously. The latter eventually dropped away, but the status of the former seems to have never been rescinded by any party of equivalent or higher rank, according to the evidence available. I have a statement from Berman in Communicator #154, but it leaves the door pretty open either way.

With no explicit decanonization and with canonicity still claimed by Paramount's official Trek web presence StarTrek.com, a rigorous analysis must apparently conclude that the two Taylor novels are still canon.

(Trust me, they aren't in my little codex, but personal continuities aren't the topic. On the other hand, given the position of "CaptainHawk1" in the last thread (who Christopher seemed to have me confused with), there are fans who do choose to use the official statements on canon as their codex. This is a choice no less valid than any other, so I'd appreciate no further character attacks against those who choose to use it or others like myself who choose to analyze and study it).

Scary how a deranged mind works, isn't it? He started the thread specifically to ask Paula Block about whether the Jeri Taylor novels were canon, because she is in a position to make an authoritative statement on the matter. And when she didn't give him the answer he wanted to hear, he immediately went into his usual dishonest debate mode and declared that a "rigorous analysis" of the "evidence" proved her wrong!

Needless to say, this incredibly arrogant response left the various editors and authors flabbergasted. Here is a typical response:

Christopher Bennett (author): This is completely self-contradictory. DSG, Paula told you outright that the novels were never really canonical to begin with – only treated as "quasi-canonical" for the purposes of other books. It makes no sense for you to acknowledge that they were only "quasi-canonized" at best, and that said quasi-canonical status was then dropped, yet subsequently claim that they're "still canon". How can they "still" be something that, by your own acknowledgement, they never were in the first place????

Folks, this has got to be one of the saddest applications of the Gutenberg Principle in recent memory. DSG2K continues to place more faith in one outdated entry on a website than he does in the mutually reinforcing corrections of that entry given to him by the highest possible authorities on the issue (short of the ghost of Roddenberry himself). I wonder – if that entry were removed, as it should've been years ago, would it change DSGs conviction? Or would he just find some other way to rationalize the facts away so he can cling to his misconceptions?

Several others posted similar comments, to which RSA fired back immediately, clearly feeling that he was riding high in his debating saddle (never realizing that this entire subject was not a matter for debate at all, since he was asking the ultimate authority on the subject for a definitive answer, and he got one).

DSG2K (RSA): (Sigh) ... You know, I don't want to be utterly rude here, but I cannot avoid commenting on the fact that it's ironic that novelists would have such astonishingly bad reading comprehension.
Posted by Christopher: "This is completely self-contradictory"
Christopher, your claim that I contradict myself is based on ignoring the middle of that section of the post and thus claiming contradiction based on your own incomplete reading. While I should simply direct you back to the post with instructions to re-read it, I shall type out the principle more briefly for you:

I accept the VCP quasi-canonization and de-quasi-canonization Paula explained. However, Taylor also canonized Mosaic herself, a canonization which has never been known to have been rescinded. Thus, for a time Mosaic was canon in two ways simultaneously depending on who you asked, only one of which is no more.
Posted by Christopher: "I wonder – if that entry were removed, as it should've been years ago, would it change DSG's conviction? Or would he just find some other way to rationalize the facts away so he can cling to his misconceptions?"
If I wanted to respond in kind, I'd say:

"I wonder – does mischaracterizing people you don't agree with make you feel better? Or is it that you simply don't have the ability to maintain logical rigor to actually address their real points, and thus must resort to "straw man" misrepresentations of what they say mixed with character attacks?"

... oh, but wait, I'm supposed to "lighten up" when my integrity and character are attacked. My bad, silly me ... how dare I even think to respond in kind?

As for the claim buried within your silliness, the website's statement is icing on the cake, demonstrating that the canonicity continues. However, even if StarTrek.com falls at the end of December, the fact that we have no explicit decanonization of Taylor's novels will still exist.
Posted by KevinK: "these novels were referred to as "canon" on a website run by a division of a company which is a licensee of the Star Trek franchise."
The consistent claim that PDE is a licensee is, at best, a case of "terminological inexactitude".

PDE is a division of Paramount (per my analysis and confirmed by Paula Block), and is the official Paramount web presence for Star Trek. Are you suggesting that you think Paramount is a licensee of the Star Trek franchise? How, praytell, does that work?
Posted by KevinK: "Although this has been identified as an error"
When and by whom?
Posted by KevinK: "and consistently refuted by the professionals involved in producing Star Trek written fiction many times,"
... who, unfortunately, are not of sufficient rank to override Taylor on the matter ...
Posted by KevinK: "this 1996 error continues to be cited by many sources."
"1996 error?" Are you referring to Taylor's 1996 statements regarding Mosaic being held as canon, or the StarTrek.com information which (so far as I know) didn't appear until circa Nov. 2000, long after Taylor's departure and the VCP de-quasi-canonization?
Posted by KevinK: "Paula Block, who is that final authority on all things Trek, period."
I have the utmost respect for Paula Block, but she is not the final authority on all things Trek and, unless I missed her name bumping Roddenberry/Berman off the screen, never has been.
Posted by KevinK: "To quote her quote of Gene R.'s position: "Canon is what's produced for the TV and Movie screens. Books aren't. End of story."
Your claim that the above is a quote is unique, given that PB gave no such indication in her message.

---

Now, to both of you:

Issues like the ones pointed out above ... the straw man misrepresentations of others, the BS character attacks, the terminological inexactitude, and quoting other people based on reports/paraphrases of what they believed ... are the very reason the debate goes on.

Trek fans are pretty smart, as a rule, and are willing to ask questions ... these "shell game" answers like Christopher's won't cut it, and clearly they haven't cut it since people keep asking.

Meanwhile, I have provided you with the bases for my analysis, links to my page wherein this is all given more thoroughly, and so on. If you insist on trying to dissuade others from my position, then why don't you actually address my position?

If you guys really want to prove that Taylor's novels are non-canon, then why don't you give me something solid (such as, for example, directions to a quote of Berman or Braga) where the canonicity is disavowed?

While it's somewhat amusing to see him turning his usual dishonest long-winded high-handed holier-than-thou debate techniques on a bunch of Star Trek writers and editors, this is definitely reaching into the realm of the absurd. He rants and raves that their arguments are not airtight and that they are not addressing his arguments but he fails to understand that this is not a debate. These people know the current canon policy because they need to use it in their jobs, so when they say that something is not canon, it's not canon. End of discussion. There's simply no room for debate there. But nooo, he doesn't like what they're saying, so he starts arguing with them. It's like losing in court and arguing with the judge about your verdict.

He treats all of these canon-related statements from various people as if they're quotes from the Bible and he's a fundamentalist: he acts as though they are Gospel Truth. So when Taylor says that her novels are canon and Paula Block says (10 years later) that her novels are not canon and that this is the policy which must be followed by all Viacom licensees, he does not simply accept that. Oh no, he argues quite schizophrenically that they must both be right, and that Paula's statement cannot contradict Taylor's statement: an interpretation which is so bizarre that I suspect most of the people reading the thread could not really believe he even said it.

He assails them for not taking the care to construct airtight arguments but he he misses the real point completely. This is, of course, his longstanding modus operandi, as anyone familiar with his work can attest. But to see him behave that way toward people who are legitimate authorities on the subject matter in question is a level of arrogance that surprises even those who know his history. At this point, many of the other participants pretty much wrote him off as a lost cause, but KevinK took the time to respond to his latest spew:

KevinK (author): Okay.

Last time before I take my own advice and walk away from this train wreck.

First and foremost, DSC2K (do you go by any other name?): At no point have I used any sort of strawman misrepresentation of you or any of your positions. I have used quotes which were in context. I have not impugned your character at any time. I HAVE pointed out that the flimsy constructs you keep calling rigorous logic stands only if you deny facts.

Of course intelligent people ask questions. But intelligent people also listen to the answers to those questions. Wise people accept those answers even when those answers aren't what they were hoping they'd be.

Are you sincere in your misunderstandings about licensing? Paramount can only produce Star Trek material under license. Each division does not have a separate license. Paramount has a license. Its divisions are covered under that license. Anyone who tries to produce Star Trek without a license is breaking the law. The statement that the digital entertainment division of a company which produces Star Trek materials under license does not have its own separate agreement with Viacom should not be taken to mean it is in some way excused or exempt from the licensing agreement that binds the parent company.

When I said "1996 error", I meant the misconception that the novels were canon in any context other than as guides for writers working on the show has been around since 1996.

As Paula Block stated, VIACOM had no problem with the show's writers regarding them as canon because they felt it simplified their jobs. Any elements of those novels which were incorporated into the scripts themselves of course became canon because they then became part of the live-action TV show. To misconstrue this to mean all aspects of these novels are therefore canon is akin to saying that because all presidents of the United States have been white males all white males are President of the United States. (Yes, I know that's a silly example. It is, however, as rigorously logical as any syllogisms you've presented in the course of this discussion.) As has been pointed out, after Jeri Taylor left the show, the writers stopped referencing her books.

That regarding these books as canon is an error has been pointed out repeatedly. Your "When and by whom?" question is simply silly. You can not pretend you've never heard that before. What you refuse to acknowledge the authority of the people who point out the error. That is an issue of personal belief systems, not logic.

I read Paula Block's statement how she received the definition of canon (and here I am quoting) "I got canon from the horse's- er, Great Bird's – mouth." to indicate the definition she then cited was a direct quote. I'll grant she did not use quotation marks. But your response that she gave no indication that statement was not made by Gene Roddenberry is again disingenuous. There is not now nor has there ever been any indication from any reputable source that Gene Roddenberry's standard for canon (and here I will attribute the quote to Paula Block) has been anything other than: "Canon is what's produced for the TV and Movie screens. Books aren't. End of story."

She further stated: "It's my job to hold licensees like Pocket to that standard."
That is her job. She's the one everyone else has to answer to.
Your witty remark that you will not accept Paula Block's authority until you see her name bump Roddenberry's and Berman's from the screen does not change the fact that she is the final arbiter- there is no appeal. Again, you are apparently confusing a personal belief system for reality.

Please accept the facts as they have been presented to you.
Your questions have been answered. I'm sorry the answers are not what you wanted to hear.
Please do not continue to accuse those who have taken the time to provide the information of lying, being ignorant, or not having the right to do their jobs.

To be honest, I don't want to bother quoting RSA's next long-winded response, as he's starting to do to the people on TrekBBS what he always did to me and anyone else he debates: slicing up their arguments into little pieces and nitpicking them to death, all the while ignoring the central point which is that the person who decides whether Trek licensed products are allowed to carry the name "Star Trek" just told him he was flat wrong. And that's not a "point" in a debate, subject to his usual attacks. It's a fact, as KevinK repeatedly tried to point out to him. If you really want to see it, you can view the attached PDF file.

Needless to say, at this point everyone began telling him he was wrong, but the following retort was particularly funny:

David Mack (writer):
Posted by DSG2K: "Maybe you've simply seen too many people asking about a canon you'll never be a part of"
Guess what, pal – my work is part of the canon: DS9: "Starship Down" and "It's Only a Paper Moon". And you know what? All the books I've written since? Not canon. Even though I've frequently referenced my prior work on the show, none of my work in print is canon. None of it. Not one damned word of it.

Paula is the person whose word is law on what the books can and cannot be, and on what they are and are not. She says the books are not canon. None of them. Not one. Not a single damned one. Period.

Canon is what's live-action on screen. That and nothing else. Period.

This is simple. This is cut and dried. There is no ambiguity here.

Let go of your rambling diatribes and face the truth: Star Trek books aren't canon.

Hmm, people who write Star Trek books say he's wrong. People who edit Star Trek books say he's wrong. The person in charge of all Star Trek licensing says he's wrong. Even someone who wrote two episodes of the show says he's wrong. All of them pointed out that the instant Taylor left, no one gave a damn about her books. They pointed out that a canon policy (by which they mean "what licensees must respect in order to be granted the right to use the Star Trek name") is a living thing, not some kind of Biblical ruleset which is heavily formalized like some sort of legal code. On every conceivable count he was obviously wrong, even though he obviously thought he could score points by showing that his opponents were not making airtight arguments (as if they must make "arguments" to "support" their case at all, when they are merely describing their own rules which are really not subject to debate at all). But he's Darkstar! And Darkstar is never wrong. Clearly, the rest of us are just stupid, along with all of the writers and editors.

On a side-note, one of Darkstar's key arguments is that he rejects the notion that Paula Block, head of all Star Trek licensing, can overrule the startrek.com webmaster. Of course, he ignores the point (made repeatedly by the writers) that she is actively overruling the startrek.com website by setting and enforcing policies for Star Trek licensees that are inconsistent with the website's claims, so this is a fait accompli. But he also betrays a real lack of knowledge of how a typical business works. Anyone who's worked in a typical business knows that the webmaster is not very high on the food chain. Paramount's real money in Star Trek is made through advertising, syndication, and ... (you guessed it) merchandising, which must go through the product licensing department. Not their website. So when Paula Block says that they don't particularly care about giving an authoritative "canon policy" to the fans and that one obscure entry on the startrek.com website won't change that, this should be the end of the debate. And it would be, for anyone but Darkstar.

"the Trek authors were enraged and silly, making retorts that didn't answer the point." - Darkstar, spin-doctoring this entire exchange on his own website.

Well, he's certainly no quitter. I'll give him that.

Continue to RSA vs Lucasfilm



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