I wanted to build off the ideas which I presented in my last post on canon and why we care about it.
While canon certainly matters to us, it seems to have one exception in our minds… the what if? From parallel universes in Star Trek to “what if we killed Hitler?” such as in Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards.
A “what if” story is different from canon. It also usually needs the label of an alternate storyline or timeline before it feels acceptable. If a story that was previously canon is suddenly made “uncanon” we feel cheated, or like they were erased as I described. But instead if a story starts out as being labeled an alternate universe then we feel like it’s acceptable and entertaining.
In some ways though, the what if is not the exception to the canon rule. It’s simply a story of a universe within a universe, or when applied to real life it can be a “canon” of it’s own. While these stories aren’t officially canon they feel like a canon offshoot a story which can exist on it’s own, in it’s own canon world. While it might not be official to the primary canon story we know, we still are ok with it.
There may still be an inch in the back of one’s mind that it’s not “real” or canon in the way the main story is, but we still allow them to if you will. Are they stories that exist because they ask politely? I’m not so sure. Writers have been using the phrase “what if?” since the first story was ever imagined, and an alternate story like this is merely an extension of that. I believe that the what if stories, the parallel universes are in fact canon in their own right. They’re sub pockets of the realities we imagine and want to exist, and can be just as real to us as the many deaths of Games of Thrones.