restriction = R = RETI

retcon /ret'kon/

[short for `retroactive continuity', from the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.comics] 1. n. The common situation in pulp fiction (esp. comics or soap operas) where a new story `reveals' things about events in previous stories, usually leaving the `facts' the same (thus preserving continuity) while completely changing their interpretation. For example, revealing that a whole season of "Dallas" was a dream was a retcon. 2. vt. To write such a story about a character or fictitious object. "Byrne has retconned Superman's cape so that it is no longer unbreakable." "Marvelman's old adventures were retconned into synthetic dreams." "Swamp Thing was retconned from a transformed person into a sentient vegetable."

[This term is included because it is a good example of hackish linguistic innovation in a field completely unrelated to computers. The word `retcon' will probably spread through comics fandom and lose its association with hackerdom within a couple of years; for the record, it started here. --ESR]

[1993 update: some comics fans on the net now claim that retcon was independently in use in comics fandom before rec.arts.comics. In lexicography, nothing is ever simple. --ESR]

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Increasingly, and especially with respect to comics, "retcon" also refers to stories which retroactively change the history of a character or fictional world.

In the 1980s, for example, excellent revision of Catwoman post-Crisis on Infinite Earths made her a former prostitute, even though this had never before been mentioned. That retcon has since been retconned out of DC continuity; the character retroactively never was a whore. Her sister, a nun, did not die, but retroactively never existed.

Later still, portions of this history, including Catwoman's saintly sister, were re-established as being part of the DC Universe.

Perhaps the most infamous retcon from American television involved the 1970s series, Happy Days. Chuck Cunningham, older brother of central character Richie, retroactively ceased to exist after two seasons; he was never seen nor mentioned again, and the Cunningham parents spoke only of their two children, Richie and Joanie.

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