Anyway, last night I did take half an hour off writing to watch the deleted scenes on my shiny new SGA season 4 boxed set. They're making my brain hurt. Are they canon? What is canon? "Canon is what we've seen in the show." Yes, but are some things more canony than others? Do some not-technically-canon things rate higher on the canonicity scale than others?
Take a scene that was written, filmed, and then cut, but which is widely available to fans either through a deleted scenes feature or in an extended edition DVD. It was written and filmed, so it could well be inform the way the writers and the actors interpret the character in future. Most fans will have seen it too. So is it canon? Not-canon? Not-quite-but-very-almost-canon? If something was revealed about a character in that scene, how would readers react to reading a fanfic that expressly contradicted it? Would their emotional reaction be, "But that's not right!"
What about a scene that was written, was cut before filming… but is then printed in a companion book or a writer's blog etc. Slightly canony, but less so than above? Of course, this would also be influenced by whether the scene is a little character snippet cut for space, or something that was actually rewritten in a contradictory fashion in the finished script. I certainly wouldn't want my "oh, help, I've written them into a hole and need to rewrite the whole scene!" discarded first drafts to be seen as canon in my stories.
What about information on character bios on official websites? The official SGA website contained character background about Sheppard that's been contradicted by the show, so presumably this isn't to be taken as canon. But, all other things being equal, should we take information on the website as at least the front-running guess? If you want to refer to McKay's childhood pet, and the official website says he had a gerbil, should you go for that on the grounds that there's nothing anywhere else to the contrary? If we all use the gerbil, does it not add to the verisimilitude – the illusion that these people are real?
What about official novels? They do fairly often contradict canon, but, again, if they come up with some background for a character that isn't contradicted in the show, should we tend to default to this?
And what do we do when in-show canon contradicts itself? I have a strong attachment to canon. I want these people to seem real, so outright contradiction in canon makes my poor little brain go "Error! Error! Error!" and want to explode. Too many contradictions, and my love for the show falls down like a pack of cards, because I can't believe in it any more. But if there is contradiction, and there really is no way to rationalise it within the fictional universe, which one stands and which one falls? Can we pick and mix the canon we want to believe?
What about when canon doesn't explicitly contradict itself, but there is still some mis-match, say between two writers' take on a character. When everyone in "Trio" says they hate Zelenka, must I take this as true, even though my reading of their interactions with him over four seasons is rather different?
I do have quite an excessive attachment to canon, I feel. To me, the appeal of fanfic is taking what we're given – even those bits that I don't like – and working with it. I try hard to avoid incorporating fanon in my stories (though this is my own personal preference, and I'm entirely happy for others to treat it differently), although I'm sure I end up subconsciously influenced by prevailing fanfic characterisations.
The reason I say "excessive" is because I'm really reluctant to make up things about the characters' background, and I think I probably should. I don't mind making up little things that will never be proved wrong, but I don't want to, say, name Sheppard's mother, or refer to siblings for Ronon. The danger of this, I feel, is that small things in canon can end up assuming too great a significance in fanfic. In a show like SGA, when snippets of character background are dispensed very sparingly, those few snippets we have are pounced on by fanfic writers, and characters muse about them and angst about them and think about them all the time, simply because canon hasn't given us anything else to play with.
So maybe it's something I need to work on myself, and become less bothered by. Maybe I should stop worrying about whether something's properly canon, slightly canon… and just get on with the writing.