- See also BTW's Policy:Canon on how the issue of canonicity should be dealt with on this wiki.
- 1 Canon
- 2 Apocrypha
- 3 Non-Canon
- 4 Veracity
- 5 Retcon
- 6 References
- For a general definition of the term "Canon" in the context of fiction, see Canon.
Canon, with regards to the Intellectual Property (IP) that is the BattleTech setting as originally created by FASA Corporation but excluding the distinct BattleTech computer games IP (see below), is the sum of all approved official products, publications and rulings that together shape and define the fictional universe that is BattleTech.
BattleTech IP owners and licensees
It ultimately falls to the owner(s) and licensees of an intellectual property (IP) to decide what is part of the same and what is not. Thus, statements, clarifications and rulings made by the BattleTech Line Developer and certain others who are empowered accordingly by the IP owners directly form and affect canon. Fans summarily refer to persons with the power to decide over canon as "The Powers That Be", TPTB for short.
BattleTech was initially created and maintained by FASA. The IP was split when FASA sold its Virtual Worlds Entertainment Group subsidiary, and the rights to produce electronic BattleTech games with it, to Microsoft in 1995. This effectively created a secondary IP for computer games. Although technically neither of these separate IPs is more authoritative than the other, for the purposes of the Sarna.net BattleTechWiki we opt to treat the vastly larger boardgame/sourcebook/novel IP as the primary BattleTech IP; all statements about Canon on Sarna BTW refer to this IP while computer games default to apocryphal (see below).
In 2000, FASA transferred ownership of the BattleTech IP (minus the computer game rights) to Wizkids LLC, who created a new game, MechWarrior: Dark Age (MWDA), in the same setting and in 2001 licensed the game rights to what was now called Classic BattleTech to FanPro LLC. In 2003, Wizkids granted InMediaRes Productions, LLC (IMR) a license to publish electronic BattleTech fiction. FanPro's and IMR's licenses did not allow them to advance the in-universe timeline beyond 3067 where FASA had left off, so that they would not interfere with the timeline of Wizkids' MWDA game which was set after 3135.
IMR subsequently acquired the full, unlimited BattleTech license (minus computer game rights) after FanPro's license was not renewed in 2007 and the MWDA game was discontinued in 2008. Through their Catalyst Game Labs (CGL) imprint, IMR have been the producers of BattleTech and the curators of BattleTech canon ever since.
Topps, Inc. bought Wizkids in 2002; Topps was in turn acquired by Fanatics, Inc. in 2022 and kept as a separate brand. The core BattleTech IP thus currently rests with Fanatics, Inc. and is licensed to IMR, while the computer game rights remain with Microsoft.
- (edited slightly for improved formatting)
|Whatever we establish for research material for the authors is canon.
Currently, that list includes:
GENERAL INCLUSIVE NOTE: There are a few select instances where a story or article appearing even in these sources may be considered non-canon, but generally this is because the material was in error [...], or it was specifically published as a gag [...].
The list does not include:
GENERAL NON-INCLUSIVE NOTE: Despite their non-canonical status, we have not gone into total denial about these sources either, but have simply opted to pick and choose what elements there are "canon" and what are not.
He also agreed to the following assertion by another poster, stating that "it looks like [the author] has the long and short of it right":
|As long as a piece of fluff from an official source (FASA, FanPro, Catalyst, Infocom*, Activision*, Microprose*, Microsoft*) isn't directly contradicted, and makes sense, you can assume it to be part of the shared universe.
(*Fluff from these sources is 'canon' in the sense that the story that takes place in the game happened in canon in the same general broad strokes - Gideon recovered the Chalice from the Matabushi-backed Dark Wing; Jason found the Star League cache and rescued his father, then fought with the Hounds on Luthien; mercenaries helped Carver V become Liberty, FedCom forces on Port Arthur disrupted Smoke Jaguar operations as part of Operation Bird Dog, etc. - but the details are likely to be significantly different than the ones you experienced during your gameplay).
Since BattleTech is set in a fictional future of our (nonfictional) world, it is implicitly assumed that real-world history is "canon" for BattleTech unless where it is explicitly contradicted or overruled by the canonical fictional history. The fictional timeline begins to diverge at some point after ca. 1985.
- For a general definition of the term "Apocrypha" in the context of fiction, see Apocrypha.
"Apocrypha" are products, or the information contained therein, which are neither clearly canonical nor clearly non-canonical. The word is generally used to describe products that were intended to add to the BattleTech universe, but which do not meet the criteria for canon for one reason or another. Although not recognized as canonical, apocryphal sources are invariably official BattleTech products and were produced under a valid license.
In particular, it applies to the BattleTech products that were explicitly excluded in the above definition of canon despite being official products. They are referred to in the statement above that the IP owners are "not in total denial about these sources either" and that "fluff from an official source [...] that isn't directly contradicted, and makes sense" can be assumed "to be part of the shared universe". Some apocryphal products were considered canonical originally, but lost that status later on.
It is noteworthy that many apocryphal sources have been treated like canon, and much of the information therein has been confirmed in canonical sources since. CGL has even made an active effort to consolidate BattleTech canon and bring as much apocryphal material into the main canon as they can. But that does not raise the original apocryphal sources to canon status.
Products or publications that were produced without a proper license are in no position to add to BattleTech canon, even if they should (illegally) be conceived as commercial products. This includes all fan work (see Fanon below). Even the work of people who normally contribute canonical material is considered non-canon if it is done outside of a (canonical) product.
But even official publications created under a valid license can be non-canon, if they were not meant to contribute to the BattleTech universe in the first place, such as gag products or parodies.
The term Fanon, a portmanteau word blending the words "fan" and "canon", is widely used to describe any unofficial, fan-made content. In this sense, it is frequently used synonymous with "fan fiction" although in the strictest sense of the word, it would only refer to items that have become accepted by the fanbase as inferred through canonical information. Within the BattleTech community, it is widely considered to be synonymous with "non-canon".
Many fan projects (including this wiki) resemble a compilation of canonical information, with little or no original, fan-made content. For the purpose of BTW, such material is called a Meta-source. It should be noted that a meta-source as such remains non-canonical because it is not an official product, even if put together exclusively from otherwise canonical material.
Information about the BattleTech universe is provided in different ways. Not all canonical information is equally valid within the universe. The BattleTech: 25 Years of Art & Fiction tome was the first to spell out the distinction between "Story Fiction" (called "Novel Fiction" in that particular book) and "Sourcebook Fiction":
"Story Fiction": Omniscient perspective
Most BattleTech fiction is written from an omniscient point of view and thus relates objectively "true" canonical information to the reader. However, this is only true for information that is provided directly in this omniscient way. By contrast, information is often given indirectly, for example through a message; in this case, only the existence of the message is canonically true, which says nothing about its veracity (see In-universe perspective below).
"Sourcebook Fiction": In-universe perspective
Sourcebooks and some other publications often take the form of in-universe documents, i.e. they purport to be reports, messages etc. produced by certain people or factions. As such, they canonically exist within the universe but the information provided therein is naturally prone to inaccuracies, ignorance, bias and attempts at propaganda on the side of the alleged author. Any and all such information may be revealed to be misleading or outright false in later publications.
The Interstellar Players sourcebook was the first to specifically present what became known as Canon Rumors. These are myths and urban legends of dubious veracity that canonically exist within the BattleTech universe. Their sourcebook descriptions are deliberately left vague and with several possible explanations, explicitly leaving it to the reader/player to decide what of its content should be taken at face value. It could be said that they provide truly optional canon, although some canon rumors or parts thereof have since been canonically proven true or false in later publications. Others remain ambiguous.
Truly conflicting information requires two or more omniscient sources to contradict each other, as only information presented to the reader in this fashion is invariably true. Omniscient descriptions naturally supersede any information that is merely presented as a (possibly inaccurate) information within the universe. A conflict between in-universe sources ("Sourcebook Fiction") would be just that, proving that at least one of them must be wrong without proving any particular one to be correct.
More detailed information is generally held to supersede more general descriptions. In cases where it is impossible to reconcile the conflicting pieces of information and neither is clearly in error, in the absence of an official ruling the latest published information supersedes earlier material.
In summary, in the case of contradicting canonical information,
- any in-universe perspective ("sourcebook fiction") may be wrong, and always yields to contradicting omniscient fiction ("story fiction");
- detailed information supersedes broader or more generic information;
- if two equally explicit omniscient sources are conflicting, i.e. provide mutually exclusive statements, in light of the two aforementioned points then in the absence of an official ruling on the matter the later sources supersede earlier sources (see also Retcon below).
- For a general definition of the term "Retcon", see Retroactive continuity
Line Developer Herbert A. Beas II at one point defined a retcon as follows:
|Definition: RETroactive CONtinuity (retcon) - The insertion of material into a work of established canon that explains, supports, or corrects a later development without affecting the greater continuity. This includes adding details to backstory that were not there before (and are explainable as unnoticed or deemed irrelevant at the time), filling in a "blank area" where no information is provided (to back up a present or future development), or erasing/altering a minor detail to accomplish either goal (also referred to as "errata").
However, among the BattleTech community the word "Retcon" is in fact used differently: It typically describes a change in established canon where a previous canonical fact/truth is invalidated, typically by substituting it with another fact/truth (sometimes inadvertently) but in some cases also simply by declaring a given source or piece of information to be non-canon.
The mere addition of non-conflicting information, even for an earlier timeframe, technically constitutes a Retcon under the general definition, but among BattleTech fans it is not perceived as a retcon if it does not alter established canon. Clarifications and the correction of mere errors such as typos is not considered a retcon either.
A retcon should not be confused with instances where a specific in-universe information ("sourcebook fiction") is revealed to be incorrect.
Known Retcons in BattleTech
Because most information pertaining to the BattleTech universe is presented in the form of in-universe reports, few real retcons (in the sense of changes to canonical information) exist for BattleTech. Prominent examples include:
- The original concept for the 3025 timeline postulated that no functional BattleMech factories remained; the Hesperus II factories were described as gutted and merely a spare parts depot. This concept was abandoned early on, when various operable manufacturing centers were written into the fiction.
- In a similar vein, the availability of Star League era technology prior to the War of 3039 and the later Clan Invasion was gradually increased. As a result, the initial shock and awe over the fielding of advanced technology in these conflicts became somewhat hard to explain.
- To cope with the canonical import requirements of certain major worlds, the number of operable JumpShips must be significantly higher than the ca. 3,000 registered vessels mentioned in the Mercenary's Handbook 3055; without providing actual numbers, Strategic Operations postulated a much larger number (by at least an order of magnitude).
- Changes in the construction rules for spacecraft meant that the stated data for several units was incorrect, and impossible to achieve under the new rules. This resulted in a number of retcons such as adjusting the official tonnages of the Monolith class JumpShip (from 380,000 to 430,000 tons) and the Union-class DropShip (from 3,500 to 3,600 tons), while other instances were not addressed.
- The nature and backstory for each of several military units including the Gray Death Legion, the Northwind Highlanders, Hansen's Roughriders and the Amphigean Light Assault Group had several different versions because different authors apparently wrote it independently from and unaware of each other for different canonical products. Ultimately, an authoritative version reconciling the different previous versions was created in each case. This may or may not be regarded as a retcon.
- The original thread was lost in a forum crash; a digest from a recovered version is found in this thread on the new forum
- In this thread on the official BattleTech Forum
- 25 Years of Art & Fiction, p. 6; later also established through Getting Started: As A Reader Of Fiction on BattleTech.com ("Story Fiction vs. Sourcebook Fiction")