Age of Sigmar - Lexicanum:Canon
The term "accepted sources" as used in the Lexicanum describes the body of source material that an Editor is permitted to use when creating or editing articles in the Lexicanum wiki. These sources are sometimes also referred to as official, legitimate or canon sources but the term that should be used with reference to any work within the Lexicanum is nevertheless accepted sources (see also further down). Only accepted sources can be used in the compulsory citation process as a legitimate source.
We are aware that even accepted sources might contradict each other, but within the Lexicanum there is no "hierarchy of sources" - i.e. no accepted source is considered more valid than another official source. More recent sources do however take precedence over older sources. This does however not mean that the old information is considered "wrong" and non-acceptable and has to be deleted altogether - this is definitely not the case! It is an explicit goal of the Lexicanum to also reflect potentially outdated information - with appropriate disclaimers and explanations (see here). For the general problem of the concept of "canon" see further on where this is discussed.
For practical purposes this discussion is of minor relevance (although it is interesting to keep its main points in mind). Simply because - and let us be quite clear about this - it is not the mission of the Lexicanum (or any other encylopaedia) to make sense of and try to align conflicting data. The Lexicanum explicitly limits itself to documenting (sometimes with appropriate explanations on the context of certain problems) the available lore. No more, no less.
Therefore as a rule of thumb all material ever published in whatever form by Games Workshop, its subsidiaries and license holders is considered an acceptable source. The only requirement being that any Editor must be able to prove the existence and content of any cited source he/she uses. Obviously the following lists are non-exhaustive and there might sometimes be grey areas that can and should be discussed with Administrators and/or Bureaucrats with a view on their status.
Examples of accepted sources
The following list is non-exhaustive:
- White Dwarf Magazines
- Black Library Novels, short stories, audiobooks...
- Games Workshop, subsidiaries and license holders websites
- Games Workshop licensed computer games based in the Warhammer Age of Sigmar universe
- Collectable Card games licensed by Games Workshop
- Games and background material published by Cubicle 7 (under license)
- etc. etc.
If an Editor is not sure if he/she is allowed to use a specific source, please submit your request here, thank you. Any resolved status question will be subsequently included in the list above (if it is not already there).
Examples of unacceptable sources
The following list is non-exhaustive:
- other Lexicanum articles
- other wikis
- forums, blogs, message boards, mailing lists etc. (with the possible exception of individuals posting in an official capacity, see "grey areas" below)
- fan-made content or fanzines
Examples of grey areas requiring evaluation on a case by case basis or specific disclaimers
The following list is non-exhaustive:
- private homepages, blogs, forum posts etc. by authors, artists or other individuals working for Games Workshop, its subsidiaries or license holders
Such cases have to be submitted and discussed here.
What to do in case of conflicting Accepted sources
Due to the reasons given above and below this paragraph it is clear why sometimes one Accepted source might partially or completely contradict another. Some people call this "Canon conflict", but as the term "Canon" itself is problematic (see below) in the Lexicanum such occurrences should rather be called Conflicting sources.
When Accepted sources contradict each other this should be discussed in the Trivia section of the corresponding article as described in the Trivia Help article.
Why the term "Canon" or "Canonicity" is problematic
Wikipedia defines the concept of "Canon" in fiction as follows: "In fiction, canon is the material accepted as officially part of the story in the fictional universe of that story. It is often contrasted with, or used as the basis for, works of fan fiction. [...] Other times, the word can mean 'to be acknowledged by the creator(s)'." For more information on this topic, see "Canon" as a concept in fiction.
The passi "officially part of the story" and "acknowledged by the creator(s)" in a nutshell already highlights why using the term "Canon" in conjunction with Games Workshop is somewhat difficult. Some reasons for this are:
- the immense wealth of available publications stretching back to the 2015 across several editions of the Warhammer Age of Sigmar (and related) games
- Games Workshop almost never officially disowning any of the previously published material
- elements that by some are considered retcons or reboots, although these terms strictly speaking do not apply to Games Workshop's modus operandi
- rewriting parts of older background
- dropping parts of older background (explicitly or implicitly)
- reintroducing parts of previously dropped background
- authors ignoring or being ignorant of previously published material on the subject they write about
- continuity errors
- the same names being used for different persons, places or events
- the creation and disappearance of multiple Games Workshop subsidiaries that sometimes seemingly operated quite independently or at least not with a very strict supervision
- multiple license holders (former and present) ignoring or being ignorant of previously published material on the subject of their licensed product
- some Games Workshop publications publishing fan-submitted material that sometimes found their way later on into other publications
- national Games Workshop branches publishing their own material (e.g. for campaigns) or foreign language editorial teams of White Dwarf writing or publishing domestic material
- rearrangement of the spatial or temporal fictional reference systems to allow the insertion of new races, events or products
- so-called "alternative" timelines
- fictional events as described by different protagonists from their "own" points of view
- often non-distinction between (fictional) "facts" and "legends/ mythology/ rumours" etc.
- Games Workshop authors (past and present) sometimes making statements in a private capacity that are then picked up by some readers as "official"
- and many other potential sources for confusion and contradictions
This (non-exhaustive) list of potential sources of problems should make it quite clear why it is impossible to reconcile all material ever published by Games Workshop (and subsidiaries and license holders, further on simply and collectively referred to as "Games Workshop") into one stringent and logical continuity. Add to that the inevitable tendency of readers/ "fans" to consciously or unconsciously add their own spin, interpretation, extrapolation or sometimes plain made-up elements and the problem that most users of the internet do not bother to actually check if something is a verifiable fact or simply a rumour or even lie sold as fact and the mess is complete.
Games Workshop itself has not been very forthcoming with any helpful statements on this conundrum. But then again why would they? As a company they certainly have no interest to limit themselves by a too strict corset of which parts of their own intellectual property they will use at any given moment - or not. And even if they do not use certain elements at a given time, who is to say said elements might not come in handy at some point in the future? So from a commercial point of view this is a very logical approach even if it is one that can vex readers.
There are nevertheless some insightful statements by Games Workshop on the subject matter. In an older version of their FAQ section Black Library included the following answer to the question if their material was "canonical":
| "Is Black Library fiction canon background material?
The BL editors work with the GW studios to keep the fiction the way that it should (very hard might I add! - RK), though due to the sheer volume of detail involved there can be the odd discrepancy here and there. If you want to consider anything "canonical" then both BL fiction - be it novel, graphic novel, art or background book - and GW fiction - be it White Dwarf, Codex, Army book or rulebook - are such.
Keep in mind Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 are worlds where half truths, lies, propaganda, politics, legends and myths exist. The absolute truth which is implied when you talk about "canonical background" will never be known because of this. Everything we know about these worlds is from the viewpoints of people in them which are as a result incomplete and even sometimes incorrect. The truth is mutable, debatable and lost as the victors write the history ..."
Marc Gascoigne, Publisher and General Manager of Black Library from 1997 till 2008, was even more explicit on the vagueness of the material published. And although he marked it as his personal take on things there is not much doubt that his view would have carried some considerable weight for the authors under his supervision:
|"I think the real problem for me, and I speak for no other, is that the topic as a "big question" doesn't matter. It's all as true as everything else, and all just as false/half-remembered/sort-of-true. The answer you are seeking is "Yes and no" or perhaps "Sometimes". And for me, that's the end of it.
Now, ask us some specifics, eg can Black Templars spit acid and we can answer that one, and many others. But again note thet [sic] answer may well be "sometimes" or "it varies" or "depends".
| "There’s a reason no one ever agrees about Warhammer 40,000, even within the sheltered structures of the fandom, but it’s something so obvious that very few people end up noticing it. One of those “can’t see the wood for the trees” deals, if you get me.
The reason no one ever agrees about this stuff is because of something I like to call “loose canon.”
| "[...]It used to be the case that I had one foot on either side of the fence when it came to the Black Library. By day I was a games developer, evening and weekends saw me in my guise of swashbuckling author. One of the roles of the GW games developers is to liaise with Black Library, answering their questions and generally providing consultation. The BL editors are well-versed in the worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 so it was usually the case that inquiries directed to games dev would concern either very specific questions, or areas where the existing background was unclear or perhaps contradictory. For the most part these discussions revolved around extrapolations by the authors, extending areas of the backgrounds into subjects that were not relevant to the material needed for tabletop wargames – ‘Does this sound right?’ or ‘Is this how it would work?’. It was rare that we would be passed anything that was so hideously off-the-mark that the story or novel was completely verboten (“we’ve had this story about squats…”). Far from being the black jackboot of authoritarianism, I like to think that we provided possible solutions to problems that cropped up. Sometimes an author or an editor might have a situation they need resolved and would ask for background-friendly suggestions. For instance, an author might want orks invading a moon, but was not sure how the greenies would operate on an airless world. Rather than say that would never happen, we would have a think about it and provided some viable answers (probably something with mobile forcefields in this case…). That was the day job.
The ability of an author to write within an established setting isn’t about knowing every single detail of the background (though targeted research is always good), it is about understanding the style and ethos of that universe. With a grounding in the principles of that world, an author can extend the logic (or lack) to cover places, people and situations not explicitly detailed in the source material. That’s sort of the point of tie-in fiction; to expand on what is already published, not simply package it up in a slightly different form.
| "Games Workshop ‘canon’ is often quoted in many a forum argument, and while many game universes do have a strict canonical source that can be quoted as ‘fact’, 40K seems to have a very liberal view of what ‘canon’ is and how the background books, novels and ‘colour text’ should be viewed.
| "George emphasized that Black Library’s main objective was to “tell good stories”. He agreed that some points in certain novels could, perhaps, have benefited from the editor’s red pen (a certain multilaser was mentioned) but was at pains to explain that, just as each hobbyist tends to interpret the background and facts of the Warhammer and 40k worlds differently, so does each author. In essence, each author represents an “alternative” version of the respective worlds. After pressing him further, he explained that only the Studio material (rulebooks, codexes, army books and suchlike) was canonical in that is HAD to be adhered-to in the plots and background of the novels. There was no obligation on authors to adhere to facts and events as spelled out in Black Library work.
Source: Dakkadakka: Games Workshop Group Plc Annual General Meeting 2008 (posted on 19 September 2008) (saved archive page, dated 29 October 2008, last accessed 15 April 2020)
Dan Abnett, one of the best-known Black Library authors, also gave some insights in a 2017 interview with Track of words into how the writing and coordination process for individual books but also sagas such as the Horus Heresy Series actually works.