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April 22, 2001

JMS Speaks

THE ZOCALO JMS SPEAKS

JMS ON CRUSADE

How do you think you did with Crusade, now that we are through half the 13 episodes? Do you have a favorite episode?

I still think the first five produced were our best of the ones we shot, in terms of the ones I wrote. The best scripts of mine per se would probably be the two that didn't get produced but which were made available via bookface.com, To the Ends of the Earth and End of the Line. I think they would've kicked over the table and shown where the production, and the story, was going. They're also the ones I wrote after "Apperances," which is where I decided, "Fuck it, fuck TNT, fuck the notes, I'm just gonna go back to what I was doing for the first 5 and write what I want." I got pissed, and sometimes I write best when I'm angry about something.

Weakest of my scripts...probably The Long Road, which started out as a good idea, and is still about 70% a good idea, but it's over-written and it feels...I dunno... stagey, somehow.

You actually happened to hit me with this question on a reflective night, so I'm taking a bit more time than I normally would with this.

I was talking to a friend recently, and I mentioned that in looking at the Crusade episodes on SFC, something about them bothers me...not the performers, who are all great, or the direction, which was generally quite good (with some lapses), but the writing. They didn't seem to me to have the same level of energy as B5.

To which I was told, "You want to know the truth of it? I was glad when they shut down Crusade." Now, as you might expect, I was kind of taken aback by this, and asked for clarification and what this had to do with my original statement.

The reply: "You were *exhausted*. You did five years of backbreaking work, you were averaging 3-4 hours sleep a night if you were lucky, you lost your hair, your health, and a good-sized chunk of your sanity...you were *tired*. The best thing would've been if there had been a year break between B5 and Crusade, to give you a chance to catch your breath. Would it have made a difference to TNT's decision? No. They changed their mind about the show based on their new ratings surveys before you ever shot a frame of film. But you wouldn't be sensing that lack of energy in the episodes now.

"Look at the stuff now: the Rising Stars screenplay is getting fast-tracked, the studio and the network love (title deleted until press release is issued), it's some of your best work ever, and Rangers has the energy that B5 always had, that Crusade didn't. It's still better than 95% of what's out there, but it's not you writing at the top of your top form."

"So how come you didn't say this at the time?" I asked.

"Because then you couldn't have heard it, wouldn't have listened. Now you can."

Hearing something like that is very difficult, because we all like to think we're invulnerable. In retrospect, I think there's a measure of truth to it. Maybe more than a measure.

Crusade is a good show. It got beaten down after the first five, stayed kind of beaten down through network notes and my own fatigue fighting fights that I shouldn't have had to fight, then picked up with the two post-fuck'em scripts because my energy was gearing up again at that decision. But overall it was a good show.

Not that it made any difference to Crusade's eventual fate; that had zero to do with the writing, acting, or directing, and everything to do with an internal corporate TNT decision about SF in general. Even written at 100% of my energy level, even if it had been a GREAT show instead of a very good show, it STILL would've met the fate it met. Of that there is no question.

It was starting to pick up speed again with those last two scripts. I think we would've eventually progressed in quality to where it needed to be.

But I had just enough energy to get it started, to write and produce it, but not enough to go through all that AND the day-to-day battles with the network. Having gone through five years of hell on B5, I could handle any two of those three, not all three.

And I'm wondering now if, in the long run, maybe it was the best thing that could have happened. If it had not gone the way it did, I almost certainly would never have been in a position to do the things I'm doing now...a (still classified) high-profile and high-budget TV series for one network, a B5 TV movie that will almost certainly go to a series on SFC, and the Rising Stars feature film in addition to a bunch of other stuff. And it's all fresh, with energy, there's fun there, and I think Rangers will have the fun and energy and cool stuff that is emblematic of B5.

I've always tried to be very forthright in my appraisal of my own work...I know where my strengths are, but I also know where my failings are, and I think one needs to be blunt about both. So I tend to be pretty merciless when looking back at this kind of thing, but I think it's necessary.

It's weird to think that I'm actually in a *better* position now, in terms of my career and the quality of my work, with Crusade having gone the way it did, than I would be if it had continued...but there it is.

It's a funny old world, you know...?

Schedule/Workload

Q: Isn't the workload of all the upcoming projects going to be a hard one?

Not at all, because I haven't been doing the B5 production fandango for the last 5 years nonstop. And the workload, at least at this point, looks like it's going to dovetail quite well....

We shoot the Rangers MOW May/June. The other (still TWCBN*, alas) series would begin prep July/August, and (labor relations permitting) shoot right after Labor Day (I just realized how appropriate that is...that's damned funny).

Shooting the 20 hours involved in The Other Project will take us through January, maybe into early February. If Rangers goes as a series, we'd probably start shooting in February/March. We've even discussed having crew going from one project to the other, and just rotating between them.

*That Which Cannot Be Named

Projects outside of Sci-Fi

Q: What kinds of material do you enjoy writing outside of the sci-fi genre?

A: Not that terribly much anymore, to be honest. Most of what I used to do in other areas came by way of journalism...used to work for the LA Times, the LA Herald Examiner, San Diego Magazine, TIME Inc., the LA and San Diego Readers, Writer's Digest and others...varyingly as columnist, contributing editor, special correspondent...doing features, reviews, columns, interviews, that sort of thing.

At the moment, in my copious spare time, I'm writing a medieval play (which I've been working on for quite some time, and will which probably continue to take a good long time to finish because it's that kind of play) and I'm about 150 pages into writing a mainstream novel, which I figure I'll be able to finish during the coming writer's strike (which doesn't cover prose).

One of my mainstream stories to come out recently is "We Killed Them in the Ratings," which though horrific isn't technically a horror story.


Q: What is your writing process?

A: When I sit down to write, I go over and revise the previous day's work. This lets me catch up mentally with where I left off, and condenses the revision period so that by the time I'm done...I'm done. So I'm constantly tweaking, trimming, revising, and otherwise mucking with the words. Once it's done, it's pretty much done. This is especially vital in TV which doesn't leave much time for going back and revising; you finish it, slit your wrists, and go on to the next script.


Q: How has your vision changed over the intervening years?

A: There are a couple of factors in the questions you ask. First and foremost, my comments about getting the heck out came at a time when I was emotionally, physically and psychologically exhausted by the demands of telling this particular story. People who know me, know what it did to me.

(Emblematic of the toll it was taking...it's pro forma to insure actors at the beginning of each season so that if they are injured or killed or otherwise incapacitated, the show is insured against that loss. Production staff -- writers, producers, others -- are almost never similarly insured. But after season 2, seeing what it was costing to get this show made, the powers that be insisted that I be insured, so that if I collapsed or dropped dead the show would be insured. I'm always reticent to talk about that kind of thing, because it seems really indulgent, but that's the truth of it.)

I've had a bit of time to catch my breath since then -- though none of my hair has grown back -- so I think I'm in the biz for a bit longer. I figure I've got another couple of shows in me...but I can't let any of them be as dramatic an effect on my life again, it's just too debilitating.

The other factor in all this is that, in doing 5 years of B5 and one of Crusade, I became very attached to this universe. I like visiting it. Even when I'm not working in it, the characters are there, in my head. So there's the lure of kind of going home again.

NEW SERIES INFORMATION

Q: Can you give us a sort of timeline on the production?

A: Writer's strike (if it happens) would be triggered on May 2nd, which is why the script has to be totally finalized before then. The actor's strike (ditto) would take place July 1st. We'd be finished well before this.

Q: Has an airdate been determined yet?

A: Airdate hasn't been finalized yet.

Q: Filming begins in mid-May. What happens then?

A: General rule of thumb for any kind of TV movie: 8 weeks prep, 6 weeks post, anywhere from 17-24 days shooting. Any network can hold any show for as long as they want, though the longer they hold said show, the more difficult it becomes to hold cast, crew, sets, stages.

Q: With Netter Digital no longer in existence, will you be hiring or forming a new CGI team to handle the Ranger film?

A: Yes, we'll be looking to employ a new EFX firm, probably in the Vancouver area.


Q: Will it be shot for high-definition TV?

A: We've already discussed shooting it in wide, and *editing* in wide (rather than 4:3 as we did on the B5 series) and then *compositing and creating cgi* in wide, so that however it gets initially shown, it'll exist from the git-go in a true wide version.


Q: Will you resume your relationship with the Jet Propulsion Lab to keep the science as accurate as possible in the new series?

A: It's certainly something I'd pursue when it comes time to do the series.


Q: With comics and other projects, how will you keep up?

A: You've gotta understand...I've always done multiple projects. While I was story editing Twilight Zone, I wrote and sold my second novel, was writing a monthly column for Twilight Zone Magazine, and hosting a two-hour weekly talk radio show on KPFK-FM Los Angeles, Hour 25.

At the tail end of B5, I was handling all the post production for B5, writing the 2 new movies, writing and setting up Crusade, writing multiple outlines for the various Del Rey novels, writing the "We Killed Them in the Ratings" novelette that was published shortly thereafter in an anthology, and writing Rising Stars.

It's just kinda what I *do*.

It's always been that way with me...I like writing in a lot of different fields at the same time because it keeps me from going stale. The more work I have, oddly enough, the better I get...I'm at my worst when I have only one thing in front of me, and I fret over it and second-guess it to death.

I sometimes think I'm the only creature known to modern science whose natural environment is hot water....


Excerpted from JMS posting:
Date: 3/21/2001 11:27 PM Eastern Standard Time

Re: hiring actors/actresses for a few days only:

When you do episodic TV, you look at the days per episode that somebody works. When, for instance, we had Richard Biggs do an appearance in Crusade, it only required being there for a couple of days out of a 7 day schedule.

It's standard in that kind of situation to look at the actor's weekly fee and pay them for the number of days they appear. In other words...and these are totally bogus figures, just for ease of discussion...if Actor X gets 7,000 for a 7 day shoot, then if you only need him on another show for 2 days, you pay $2,000. If you need him for the whole episode, you pay the full $7,000.

That's what we did with Richard, and what we've always done.

On shooting the production in Vancouver:

LOTS of shows are shooting in Vancouver, with all KINDS of budgets. X-Files and Millennium shot up there for years and were *massively* expensive shows.

Our budget for the TV movie is absolutely in line with what's usually spent...and if you actually knew anything about TV production, you'd know that you don't spend the money to fly someone from LA to Vancouver, put them up, and do all the rest...just to use that person for a walk-on.

CRUSADE BROADCAST ORDER

JMS on Crusade's broadcast order:

So the SciFi Channel asked me what order I'd like to air the series in, since the folks at TNT kafuffled the airdates and schedule based on what I'd originally had in mind. The theory is, you start out with general episodes to introduce the situation, characters and story, then you focus on individual characters. The first five we shot, intended to produce this effect, got shoved to the back of the line and we then had to air the individual-themed ones *first*...essentially inverting the order.

So SFC asked me what the preferred author's order would be...and that's how they've structured it, costume change be damned. Yes, there will be some dialogue glitches now, because we looped a few things to try and do least violence to the chronology of previously shot shows...but from an overall story perspective, this is the preferred order (as best I could remember it when they called and asked).

So here is the order in which the Crusade eps will be broadcast:

Mon, April 9 8:00 PM CRUSADE RACING THE NIGHT
Tue, April 10 8:00 PM CRUSADE THE NEEDS OF EARTH
Wed, April 11 8:00 PM CRUSADE THE MEMORY OF WAR
Thu, April 12 8:00 PM CRUSADE THE LONG ROAD
Mon, April 16 8:00 PM CRUSADE VISITORS FROM DOWN THE STREET
Tue, April 17 8:00 PM CRUSADE THE WELL OF FOREVER
Wed, April 18 8:00 PM CRUSADE EACH NIGHT I DREAM OF HOME
Thu, April 19 8:00 PM CRUSADE PATTERNS OF THE SOUL
Mon, April 23 8:00 PM CRUSADE THE PATH OF SORROWS
Tue, April 24 8:00 PM CRUSADE RULING FROM THE TOMB
Wed, April 25 8:00 PM CRUSADE THE RULES OF THE GAME
Thu, April 26 8:00 PM CRUSADE WAR ZONE
Mon, April 30 8:00 PM CRUSADE APPEARANCES AND OTHER DECEITS

DVD NEWS

Here's the latest from JMS on the DVD release of The Gathering:

"The release of the first DVD of "The Gathering" and "In the Beginning" has been put back a month, at my request. There was apparently some misunderstanding about which version of The Gathering to put out, and they were going to do the original version rather than the re-edit (which would go for the European market). They had already invested about $100,000 in copying costs when I found out about this, and I asked if they could please reconsider and do the re-edit instead. They finally agreed, which is commendable in the extreme. It'll add one month to the release schedule, but I'd rather have the best version out there and wait the addtional 30 days.

I have to really thank WB for taking the time and spending the money to put out the right version.

JMS ON SCIFI PROBLEMS

A number of problems still persist at SCIFI regarding the broadcast quality of Babylon 5. Here is a comment from JMS:

I'll be posting this to the scifi.com/babylon5 board in a bit, but the jist of it is this....

I sat in the room with the editor while they corrected this error, and the revised copy of the episode that I received on vhs was, indeed, corrected.

My suspicion is that they've put all their emphasis on getting the correct S2-4 widescreen eps delivered to SFC in a comparitively short amount of time, and haven't sent them the new master yet. (The closed captioning that appears there now is a different process.)

I have a call in to WB now about this, but I suspect that the above scenario is correct. I think they preferred at this stage to put all their efforts into getting the big problems done first, focusing on the smaller problems later.

JMS on "Casting Shadows" Date: 26 Feb 2001 19:31:52 -0700 Q: I like the length of the new book. It gives you time to get to know the characters.

A: That's something I was very pleased with when I saw the length of the book. You really need to spend time with the story and the characters for the incidents provided in the outlines to make any kind of dramatic sense or impact.


JMS TV Watching
Date: 23 Feb 2001 20:59:57 -0700

Purely subjective opinion on my part, but the best writing these days seems to be showing up in:

Sopranos
Oz
West Wing
Futurama
Buffy
Angel

Those are my must-see TV programs. I've also been impressed with the improvement in writing on Roswell. I kinda like Ed but I usually end up watching it through parted fingers 'cause for someone who grew up as socially awkward as I did, it's just painful....


Date: 2/28/2001 10:50 PM EST
I'll be posting this to the other thread asking the same question, just to save time recomposing (or decomposing, I suppose)...

Here's my dilemma: there are two definite go projects that I can announce. But I can't announce either of them because it's not within my purview to do so. The studios have to make those announcements.

The problem is that one deal has only recently been concluded, and the other -- a done deal since January -- has been awaiting the studio PR department to put out a press release. They haven't been in any particular hurry to do so since (information deleted) won't start until the Fall.

So I've basically been going insane since January, with Big News to announce, but not being able to say *anything* because it would be a serious breach of studio protocol. If I so much as eep they'll beat the crap out of me (and rightly so, to be fair about it).

So I'm waiting as much as you are...with the exception that as a result of both these projects going ahead, I'm drowning in work and can't spend that much time thinking about how I'm going nuts.

JMS UPDATE

PREPARING BABYLON 5

Q: What did you use during your "pitch" session for Babylon 5?

A: They were given the pilot screenplay for The Gathering, an extensive series treatment with sample stories covering most of the first season, with notes on where the series would go, and lots of sample artwork on the station and the characters.

With some exceptions, it was very close to what became the B5 writer's bible, which was available for a while via thestation.com.

Q: How did you map-out Babylon 5? It's technology, history, etc?

A: I basically took a historical perspective on the story, and just laid out the basic events going about a thousand years back, and a thousand years forward in fair detail, and thumbnailed-out the rest for about a million year period.

I alway figured that Earth would have pretty much the lowest tech level going in, because that would make it more interesting, and preserve some of the wonder of SF storytelling...you only get that sense of awe when somebody else has something you don't.

Latest JMS News:

Rising Star Movie:
"Film-making is a long process. The first draft is in, I'm currently revising it for a second draft. If all continues to go well, and so far it's gone very well, we could film this sometime in the fall or spring of next year, so it could conceivably be in theaters by next fall/winter. Assuming nothing glitches along the way, and you always have to assume those things."

New Writing Panel:
"I forgot to mention in my last post that on March 26th, I'll be doing a panel discussion on writing for the fantastic, which will be carried via satellite to various universities and the two divisions of the Museum of Television and Radio. The panel will feature me, Harlan Ellison, Chris Carter and 1-2 others TBD."


B5 DVDs:

Q: What will be the first DVDs released?

A: The first disk will have In the Beginning and the SE version of The Gathering.

B5 Graphic Novel:
Q: What sort of length will the novel be?

A: My last conversation with them indicated a length of about 100 pages, give or take.

Q: Can you tell us the context of the graphic novel?
A: I think I'd like to do something in continuity with the series, so that it feels like an unproduced episode...but I haven't decided yet, and don't want to go too far down that road until I've talked more to the guys at Wildstorm. They've been great in all this, they initiated the project, and I want to be sure that welcome is treated properly.

Q: Who owns the rights to the comic, WB or DC?

WB owns the rights, which reverted after DC stopped doing the books. They'd rather not go to an outside company for political reasons.


JMS UPDATE

While I'm waiting for permission to talk about some of the big stuff that's going on, some general news....

CRUSADE:
As announced today in a press release from the SciFi Channel, the network has picked up all 13 episodes of Crusade for broadcast this Summer. This will be the first time the series has been broadcast since its brief, original run on TNT.

I received an email the other day from Fiona Avery (B5 reference editor, columnist for the B5 Magazine and script writer for both Crusade and Earth: Final Conflict) announcing that the first issue of her new, original comic, NO HONOR, will be debuting next Wednesday the 21st from Top Cow/Image. (I've seen the scripts/artwork and it's killer.)

B5 GRAPHIC NOVEL
On the topic of comics...I will be writing a one-off B5 Graphic Novel for Wildstorm that will debut later this year. I figure on writing it as soon as I get out from under my current deadlines.

(later post about the graphic novel:)

I think I'd like to do something in continuity with the series, so that it feels like an unproduced episode...but I haven't decided yet, and don't want to go too far down that road until I've talked more to the guys at Wildstorm. They've been great in all this, they initiated the project, and I want to be sure that welcome is treated properly.

One aside...as you know, most viruses that go out these days tend to attach themselves to Microsoft Outlook email address books. Apparently there's an *awful* lot of you out there that have me in your email address books, even though you may not have actually used it in that way. Hence, whenever one of these viruses gets out, as one came out today, I invariably get a bunch of them in my email box. Just as a favor to me...if you don't actually *need* my email address in your address book, can you delete it to help me out when this kind of stuff happens? It ain't like I'm hard to find....

B5 ON DVD

And finally...yes, it's true, B5 will be coming out on DVD starting with The Gathering and In the Beginning, to be released in July. The series will start soon thereafter. I've been going over the artwork and related issues for WB Home Video, and though at this time there's no supplementary material involved, at least as far as I know, it should be pretty cool. (Don't know yet which aspect ratio they'll be using, but my *guess* would be widescreen, now that WB is correcting the earlier versions.)

All of that said...as noted well above, there's some substantial TV-related news sitting out there waiting for me to talk about it as soon as I'm given the go-ahead to do so. Suffice to say that one very large deal has now been set and closed, another is in heavy negotiations (with money now on the table from those involved), and a surprise third project is also coming up fast and furious.

More on these when I'm allowed to talk about them. Probably sometime next week.

jms


Date: 13 Feb 2001 08:09:19 -0700

While I'm waiting for permission to talk about some of the big stuff that's going on, some general news....

As announced today in a press release from the SciFi Channel, the network has picked up all 13 episodes of Crusade for broadcast this Summer. This will be the first time the series has been broadcast since its brief, original run on TNT.

I received an email the other day from Fiona Avery (B5 reference editor, columnist for the B5 Magazine and script writer for both Crusade and Earth: Final Conflict) announcing that the first issue of her new, original comic, NO HONOR, will be debuting next Wednesday the 21st from Top Cow/Image. (I've seen the scripts/artwork and it's killer.)

On the topic of comics...I will be writing a one-off B5 Graphic Novel for Wildstorm that will debut later this year. I figure on writing it as soon as I get out from under my current deadlines.

One aside...as you know, most viruses that go out these days tend to attach themselves to Microsoft Outlook email address books. Apparently there's an *awful* lot of you out there that have me in your email address books, even though you may not have actually used it in that way. Hence, whenever one of these viruses gets out, as one came out today, I invariably get a bunch of them in my email box. Just as a favor to me...if you don't actually *need* my email address in your address book, can you delete it to help me out when this kind of stuff happens? It ain't like I'm hard to find....

And finally...yes, it's true, B5 will be coming out on DVD starting with The Gathering and In the Beginning, to be released in July. The series will start soon thereafter. I've been going over the artwork and related issues for WB Home Video, and though at this time there's no supplementary material involved, at least as far as I know, it should be pretty cool. (Don't know yet which aspect ratio they'll be using, but my *guess* would be widescreen, now that WB is correcting the earlier versions.)

All of that said...as noted well above, there's some substantial TV-related news sitting out there waiting for me to talk about it as soon as I'm given the go-ahead to do so. Suffice to say that one very large deal has now been set and closed, another is in heavy negotiations (with money now on the table from those involved), and a surprise third project is also coming up fast and furious.

More on these when I'm allowed to talk about them. Probably sometime next week.


Chris Franke:
Q: You mentioned that you had spoken to several individuals about upcoming projects. How about Christopher Franke?

A: I haven't talked to Chris yet, but I can't imagine doing another project in the B5 universe without him.

NEW B5 PROJECTS AT SCIFI

JMS has a way of popping up when the subject of Babylon 5 arises. This happened recently at the SCIFI/Babylon 5 Message Board. There is always a lot going on there, but JMS dropped over and here's an excerpt from the note he left:

"To confirm what Bonnie Hammer has stated, yes, there are conversations ongoing between SFC, WB, myself and Doug Netter about some new projects. I'm not at liberty at this point to be much more specific than that. Could be a movie in the B5 universe. Could be a series set in the B5 universe. Could be a combination of those, plus a little something else. Suffice to say that SFC wants to become the new home for B5 in all its parts and pieces, and there are several possible ways to accomplish this currently under discussion.

We may have some resolution on these issues as early as next month. To that end, we have verified the availability and interest of those who helped make B5 a success among the crew, and everyone we have spoken to is excited and ready to get going. Same crew, same quality, same dedication.

Beyond that, I can't comment...except to say that if we get the go-ahead on what I think may be coming, it could be a very exciting opportunity to do another kind of story that no one's ever done before in SF TV, just as no one had ever done anything quite like B5 before.

So watch this space, keep an ear to the ground, and stay out of trouble...interesting times are a'coming...."

jms

For those of us who have been on-line with JMS for a while, this has to be some of the BEST news we've had in a LONG time!


Residuals on Babylon 5 Q: Do actors get residuals for the re-run showings of Babylon 5?

A: Actors and writers get residuals each time an episode is aired. The amount of that residual is not based on the ratings, so any actor can't tell how it's doing based on that.

There are three different formulas used to compute ratings, one for network, another for syndication, a third (and the crummiest) for cable. Crummiest in that the amount of the residual is tied to the amount paid for the rights to show the series. Consequently, many of the studios that own cable networks (as Universal owns USA Network, for instance) sell the shows to themselves for the smallest amount possible.

Hence, a residual that, for a third or fourth airing, might bring a couple thousand bucks elsewhere, in that situation brings you literally about five dollars.

This is one of the issues being addressed in the current pre-strike negotiations.


Comic Book Update Q: When will the next issues of Rising Stars and Midnight Nation be out?

A: I've just today approved the last of the colored pages on Midnight Nation 5, and I think this is the strongest issue to date. It gives you a preview of what's coming down the road (again my tendency to show you what's coming at the end, but you don't know the context) and it's just completely kickass, especially the artwork, which is impressive as all hell.

I think it'll be out in a couple of weeks. Keep an eye out for it, it's a good one.

Same deal here, the last of the colored pages came through on Friday, so it should be out in a few weeks.

SCIFI Postings Following the Pittsburgh Post Gazzette article, JMS posted the following on the SCIFI Message Board:

...I'm not usually as cranky as the last few messages would imply. It's...well, there's a joke about a kid who, at seven years old, has never spoken a word. One day, at dinner, the kid looks up from his plate. "The soup's too salty," he says.

The parents are astonished, numbstruck. "You can talk!"

"Of course I can talk."

"Well, why didn't you SAY anything before now?"

"Until now, everything was fine."

That tends to be the dynamic through which I get pulled into situations like this...when there's a problem that needs to be addressed. And then I come in all elbows and angles. So that sometimes becomes the way I can be perceived..."Boy, jms sure is pissed."

No, not really, that's just the only context in which I get seen sometimes...one of those "until now everything was fine" situations.

To those who've wondered...yeah, I do sometimes lurk here, checking out the messages (avoiding anything that looks like a story idea, natch). I don't post here as a rule because I've discovered over the years that my presence can sometimes have a cooling effect on discussions, people can feel hesitant to say something negative about the show if I'm right there.

Truth of the matter is, I have no problem with anyone who has a negative opinion of B5 or anything else I've written. For starters, you can't argue with someone's opinion of something. Their facts, if they're wrong, sure. But not everybody is going to like the same things. I like milk chocolate, I don't like dark chocolate, white chocolate is a contradiction in terms and an abomination in the eyes of the lord. Your mileage will vary. That's okay. It's SUPPOSED to be that way. No matter what you make, there will be a bell curve of people who unequivocably love it at the one narrow end, people who unequivocably hate it at the other narrow end, and in the middle, people who like it or dislike it to varying degrees. As long as the bell curve slants more to the like than the dislike, you're doing okay. But ain't no way everybody's gonna like everything you do. Just not possible.

And there's nothing anyone can say about B5 that's harsher than some of the things I've said about it at times as I've slogged my way through making it, imperfections, goofed voice-overs, warts, clumsy lines and all. There are any number of episodes I'm not thrilled with, and one or two that I wouldn't mind if they fell off a pier somewhere. (And most of them are shows I've written.) So I certainly don't take issue with ANYone with similar responses.

Having an open exchange of opinions is important, so I don't usually poke my snout into the situation unless there's a direct need for same. The only drawback, as noted above, is that when I do come in, it tends to be in full avenging angel mode, which is unfortunate because about 99% of what I've seen here, and on other, similar boards, is nothing but terrific. As usual it's the demented 2% who screw things up for the rest.

Before retreating back into the shadows, if you've managed to wade through all this verbiage, a couple of bits to make the long and over-written voyage a little more salutory....

To confirm what Bonnie Hammer has stated, yes, there are conversations ongoing between SFC, WB, myself and Doug Netter about some new projects. I'm not at liberty at this point to be much more specific than that. Could be a movie in the B5 universe. Could be a series set in the B5 universe. Could be a combination of those, plus a little something else. Suffice to say that SFC wants to become the new home for B5 in all its parts and pieces, and there are several possible ways to accomplish this currently under discussion.

We may have some resolution on these issues as early as next month. To that end, we have verified the availability and interest of those who helped make B5 a success among the crew, and everyone we have spoken to is excited and ready to get going. Same crew, same quality, same dedication.

Beyond that, I can't comment...except to say that if we get the go-ahead on what I think may be coming, it could be a very exciting opportunity to do another kind of story that no one's ever done before in SF TV, just as no one had ever done anything quite like B5 before.

So watch this space, keep an ear to the ground, and stay out of trouble...interesting times are a'coming....

jms


Date: 1/16/2001 12:31 AM Eastern Standard Time

A number of items here, of varying timeliness and relevance.

As some have noted, Bookface.com is now an ex-website. For those wanting to get their hands on Tribulations, the book is still available from darktales.com. There are no plans currently to put the book up anywhere else online.

Rising Stars 12 and Midnight Nation 5 came out a few weeks ago (would've made more mention of this but it's been kinda hectic here lately on a number of fronts).

(And speaking of comics stuff, Crusade writer and B5 Reference Editor Fiona Avery wrote the script for the X-Men Annual 2000, which came out last week from Marvel. Her own series, No Honor, will debut from Top Cow late February. Folks can keep up on her stuff at www.fionaavery.com)

My first draft screenplay for the Rising Stars movie went in on Christmas day, and the studio reaction has been EXTREMELY positive. I can't say more about this at the moment, but things are looking very good for the long haul on this.

I've turned in 4 scripts for new City of Dreams episodes, but due to production tie-ups on other projects at Seeing Ear Theater, they won't be up at www.scifi.com/cityofdreams until around the first week of February.

Finally...and you'll have to forgive the vagueness of this...B5 fans may want to keep their ears to the ground for the next few weeks. There are several things that have been simmering for a while now, which I haven't commented on because I wanted them to be realities, not possibilities, before I said anything. I think the former may finally be working out...so keep an eye on this newsgroup for the next few weeks. There may be a number of interesting announcements.


Q: In a recent interview, John Romita, Jr. indicates you may be changing Spiderman in some way. True?

A: The information John cited is not accurate; the spider is too important an icon to the Spider-man mythos to remove.

Coming Strike Concerns:

Q: With the coming writer/actor strike, how will you be filling your days?

A: I've got 3 comics per month to turn out (Rising Stars, Midnight Nation, Spider-Man), plus the weekly Psycomic column, and the City of Dreams scripts aren't affected because radio drama covered any more by the WGA, and I'm writing a new novel, more of a mainstream book, and there's other stuff...I don't generally have or take time off.

Q: What type of writing is not covered by WGA?

A: WGA covers TV and film and is working on covering internet TV productions. That's it.

Only working for WGA covered areas is prohibited during a strike. I can write for my own pleasure all I want (though what that has to do with the nets is anyone's guess).


JMS Update

Very, very busy right now. I kind of let things go by the boards a bit while I was working on the main two projects, the Jeremiah 2-hour pilot for Showtime, and the Rising Stars feature for MGM. The former is now in, and we hope to have some kind of response by mid-December. I'm about 2/3rds done with the Rising Stars screenplay, and hope to have that in by the same time, mid-December.

One of the things that kinda fell by the wayside was The City of Dreams, and now that Jeremiah is in, taking away half of my biggest worries for the moment, I'm working to catch up. I've now turned in episodes 8 and 9, and hope to have the remaining 4 in by the end of the year.

I just last week turned in Midnight Nation 5, "Past Present, Present Tense," and my intent is to turn in the next issue of Rising Stars, #13, probably next week.

Moments before coming here, I turned in next week's psycomic column, this one on writing and characterization.

My first issue of Spider-Man will go in to Marvel around mid-December. It will come out around May/June of next year.

There's more stuff beyond that, but I can't talk about it yet. Probably in the next week or so. A couple of them should be of particular interest to B5 fans.


For folks who've been asking when the new City of Dreams episode(s) would be going up at www.scifi.com/cityofdreams...I've turned in two scripts. The first one up, "The Alpha and Omega of David Wells," should go into the studio in about a week, and will star Peter Gallagher (of American Beauty, and Sex, Lies & Videotape). The second episode, "Dream Police," will go up a bit thereafter.

And for those missed the first few issues of Rising Stars and have been wondering when the trade paperback was coming out...well, it's out. "Rising Stars: Born in Fire" gathers the first 8 issues, plus various covers, with Neil Gaiman's introduction. It hit newsstands this past week.

After bugging the guys at darktales.com, I've gotten them to lower the price a bit for the Tribulations trade paperback, so this may be a good time to check it out.

The Jeremiah pilot movie script is in at Showtime, and we'll know something about the disposition of said pilot in about 2 weeks.

(A non-directly-jms related plug: the friendly folks at factory-x.com have just come out with the secong large pewter sculpture, a Black Omega Starfury, which looks even better than the station figurine. They also have one of the niftier opening menus for the B5 stuff, with music and the B5 logo in various languages (Minbari, Narn, Centauri and others.) You can find the whole shebang at http://www.factory-x.com/B5.html

SCIFI AND WIDESCREEN PROBLEMS

Here's a note from JMS regarding the problems SciFI has been having with the widescreen version of B5.

Today I went to a meeting at Warner Bros. technical support, where we went over the problems detected in the SFC widescreen airings. I now have some answers and some information on this. I have to say up front that the WB folks have been nothing but helpful and determined to fix the problems.

In "Midnight on the Firing Line," wherein a teapot is shown instead of a starship when the audio indicates the latter...the editor explained that it resulted from a pause/freeze frame during assembly, and when he restarted the equipment, it jumped shots. This will be fixed.

In "Covictions," wherein a comp shot of several monitors doesn't show the surveilance footage, but rather shows just the original babcom logo...they had missed this on their list of comp shots, and will go back and insert the proper footage now that they know the problem is there. (They QC everything, but often with the audio down, so they had no way of knowing that they were talking about camera footage, and figured that it was okay since there was something -- the babcom logo -- in the monitors rather than totally blank screens.)

In "Inquisitor," wherein the west end/east end audio correction wasn't made...they were going off the original PAL audio transfers, which in this case didn't work because we made that audio correction *after* broadcast and replaced the audio for that shot afterward. They're going to go back to the revised 24 track audio and insert the proper audio.

Here's what's going to happen beyond this.

1) WB is going to go back to using *only* the original 24 track audio stems for the dubs.

2) Seasons 4 and 5 as it turns out are already in proper wide versions, as is season 1, so the only ones that need to be addressed are seasons 2 and 3.

3) WB is going to run cassettes of the whole series in the new version and I'm going to personally go over every damn episode personally looking for any potential problem areas (such as comps that may not have been recognized as such by the WB editors). It's possible that I may miss something here and there, because 110 hours is a LOT of TV to watch...but it'll certainly help.

They were *extremely* helpful and apologetic at WB, and are determined to do everything they can to fix the situation as fast as possible.

As for the audio...the audio transfers are being done directly off the original clones (either the original PAL, digibeta or 24 track stems), and QC'd. So what they suspect *may* be the problem is if the SFC is running the digital tracks through a dolby decoder. If you try to decode Dolby that isn't there, on a digital track (which doesn't need Dolby because it's digital) it can make the audio crunchy or lead to drop-outs, pops and other problems. I've sent word to SFC to have them check that at their end of things.

So the situation is well in hand.

NETTER DIGITAL AUCTION

Q: Given the fate of Netter Digital, do you have any plans to sell scripts in some other fashion?

A: No, not at this time. Be advised, btw, that anyone selling copies of scripts other than the actual ones used during production, which are multicolored, is ripping you (and the writers) off. It's patently illegal and constitutes copyright infringement.

Q: Will remaining scripts in the Fan Club inventory be available for sale?

A: That is not feasible. Only a few scripts were on hand in the fan club offices, so while those might be in play...under the WGA separation of rights provision, the writer of a script owns the rights to the actual, physical script, so that would be me and whatever other writers worked on B5. Nobody can authorize the sale of such scripts but the writer.

LETTERBOXING AT SCIFI

Just to let folks know...Doug and I have gotten into the situation, and have been working with both WB and SFC to straighten the situation out. WB has finally backtracked the problem, and will be taking steps shortly, as in the coming week or two, to fix it and begin the process of providing new (and proper) widescreen copies.

There will be some delay on the physical delivery of the tapes, because the original prints are all in cold storage, and you literally have to allow them time to defrost before you can run them through, and then there's the duplication time involved...and we haven't yet determined if new copies will be provided from S2 ep 1 and on in that order, or if they'll try to nail the next ones up in the airing schedule to get the corrected versions on the air sooner...but either way, we have been given assurances that the problem is now being dealt with.

SFC has been very helpful and patient in this situation, and it looks as if there was an error at the duplicating lab contracted by WB, literally a case of loading the wrong prints into the system, because the S5 eps are in proper widescreen, so we're looking at errors in S2-4 only.

To further assure that these errors are not perpetuated, we will have teams of Democratic and Republican observers present to...oh, wait, sorry, wrong crisis.


JMS ON ELECTIONS

Date: 13 Nov 2000
Okay, I'm going to separate out my general opinions from the meat of this, because they shouldn't be occupying the same space at the same time.

With any luck, this will be my last word on this for the time being, because this group really should be discussing B5 stuff, as many folks have requested.

I've never been a straight-party voter on any side of things. I was more than happy to vote McCain because I thought he was the best man in the race at that time. When he fell out, I felt that the best man in the race at that time was Gore, and voted accordingly.

Somebody asked if I'd accept Bush at the end of all this if the votes go his way. It was, and is, a silly question. I will accept *whoever* the vote ends up favoring on either end of the spectrum. (Not that it's up to me to accept anybody, it's a legal process that has nothing to do with me.) I had serious reservations about Nixon's performance as president, but I never questioned his *legitimacy*. I just thought he didn't make a very good president.

As I said elsewhere, I cannot imagine *anyone* on hearing proof positive that one side or the other engaged in illegal maneuvering, not wanting to take whatever time was involved to investigate the situation and ensure that those responsible be dealt with under the law.

And I equally cannot imagine anyone, on hearing proof positive that the election results were arrived at in a legal and proper way, not accepting as final and conclusive the results of that election.

If Bush, at the end of the day, is legally the winner of all this, no voter fraud involved, then one cannot question his legitimacy. That's the way the system works.

Do I think he will be a *good* president? Honestly, no. But I have always been willing to give any new president the time and space needed to prove otherwise.

I would hope that both sides would agree with this sentiment, whatever their own personal assessment of the individual in question.

That aside...I've been ruminating on this whole situation, and have come to the conclusion that this is a massively good thing for the country as a whole. Why?

Several reasons.

In recent years, we have been a fairly uninterested nation as far as politics and the mechanisms by which politics are carried out are concerned. If you asked any group of people a few weeks ago to explain the electoral college, few could've done so. But you cannot now walk into a restaurant or a bar without hearing people debating the relative merits of the electoral college, discussing the validity of butterfly ballots, and the role of the judicial system in the implementation of votes in the executive branch. It is, for the most part, healthy, productive, energetic and *informed* discussion.

An involved, excited electorate -- even a pissed-off electorate -- is an *informed* electorate, and that cannot but bode well for the future.

A month ago, a lot of people didn't bother to vote because they didn't think it would make a difference. Now, with states teetering on going one way or another by as few as 17 votes, nobody can think that way and a LOT of people are kicking themselves for not voting. I suspect that in four years, this will lead to a massive turnout of people determined not to make the same mistake twice.

This whole situation has brought into clear focus the still-remaining problems with ballots and the methods of balloting in any number of states, problems that have never really been dealt with before because until now there was never a *need* to deal with them. Now that they have been brought to light, this will almost inevitably lead to reforms and clarifications.

Some people have referred to this as a "constitutional crisis." But it's not. This IS the system working, using all of the various permutations set in place at the federal, state and local levels, at the polling place and the court house. What this says is that WHATEVER the problem, sonuvagun, there are peaceful and statutory means set up to deal with them.

If the system didn't work, if this were a constitutionsl crisis, there would be no other option but violence. And that ain't the case here. Either side going the legal courtroom route isn't going outside the system, the courts are a PART of the system, part of the chain of checks and balances that keep the whole together.

Out of this will come precedent and changes that will be useful the next time something like this happens.

Government and situations like this are part of the process of considering new contingencies and developing ways of working around them. If you look at the Constitution, you see a group of bright people who sat down and considered every possible variation or contingency that could be foreseen at that time, and who wrote down what to do in this event or the other. Most of those are still utterly applicable today, and the ones that don't address the problem directly still set up the parameters by which they can be addressed in other ways.

The Constitution is a living document, and this current situation is simply one more opportunity for growth and learning.

At the end of the day, whatever means or methods are used, and whatever one may think of the person involved on either side, we WILL have a new president. We will have one with legal validation, and that president will come into office in a peaceful transfer of power.

That is the very *core* of the Constitution and the system that has grown up around it. It *is* the process. The process has not broken down.

Whenever there's a situation like this, everybody says not to push things, that the system can't take it. The system survived Watergate and Vietnam and the Civil War and the fight for Civil Rights and two world wars and a bunch of smaller ones. It will survive this quite handily.

Over time, barnacles, moles and pocket fluff accumulate on any system of government. From time to time, something must occur to shake loose the growths and dust off the lint. This is such a moment.

It is not a crisis. It is a good thing.

jms

BABYLON 5 AT SCIFI

There has been a LOT of comment about SCIFI's airing of the show. Most people can't stand squishing the credits at the end; there have been problems with audio and video. Here's a recent comment from JMS on the situation.

Nov. 13 from JMS:

I expect that we will have some kind of resolution on this situation next week. I've been in discussions with several people from the technical division at SFC, giving them the information they need to backtrack with WB and figure out what happened. They had no idea there was a problem until several second season eps had aired because there was no reason to do any kind of check against the regular aspect ratio episodes since all of season 1 was correct.

We know they're ALL in widescreen in PAL format because we worked closely with WB to ensure they were all fully conformed when B5 was completed. And a number of us visited WB technical ops and also went to Laser Pacific to view eps from two later seasons during season 5. (We made the field trip so we could evaluate how the cgi comps were transferring to PAL in order to make some minor adjustments to color value balance in future comps, which sometimes showed line trading. And I received confirmation from WB at that time that they were finishing up the last of the widescreen deliveries.)

Anyway, as stated we should have some reading on this next week.


The Science Fiction Channel has been getting a lot of guff about the condition of the letterboxed episodes, and while the guff is *correct*, it is not correctly *aimed*.

Insofar as I know, SFC has nothing to do with the conversion of these episodes. They run what WB gives them to run. If there are audio or video glitches, the eps came that way.

The audio is a good example. A number of people have voiced concerns about how the eps sound, and I think I've figured out what the problem is there.

When we mixed B5, we used the full dynamic audio range. We came close to illegal audio every so often -- y'know, when your subwoofer threatens to explode during a shadow battle -- but we never crossed the line. Nonetheless: it's a VERY dynamic mix.

I suspect -- I don't know but I suspect -- that when they did the transfer of eps, they didn't go back to the original stems. They probably just transferred the eps via a standard duplication system which has built-in audio limiters that look for excessive (for TV standards) highs and lows and damp them down.

The result is that the audio becomes "crunchy," if you will, or static-y, because you're losing frequency waves at either end.

What they're doing to the video, I don't know.

But SFC is getting a bad rap on this, and it's undeserved.

Craig Engler, Executive Producer of SCIFI.COM posted this note recently at the B5 message board:
The short version is: The programming department at SCI FI is trying to figure out what's going on with the letterboxing for season 2. The first we heard of any problems was a note from JMS saying that the fans were concerned. Right now the programming department is in the midst of looking at episodes to see what the cropping situation is, etc. Once I know more I'll let you know. Thanks everyone for bringing it to our attention, and apologies for any inconvenience.

RATINGS

The ratings are holding rock solid on B5. For the last five weeks, they look like this:

0.7
0.8
0.7
0.7
0.7

Prior shows in that timeslot averaged .4 to .6 (and oddly enough we've doubled the ratings for kids and teens in that timeslot) and it bumps up every time from its lead-in.

For some kind of comparison, the most recent list of SFC shows that I've seen puts B5 in the top 10 (#4 to be exact), well ahead of most of SFC's original programming.

New Projects

The Scripts for Jeremiah and Rising Stars is due soon. How are they coming?

A: The final draft of the Jeremiah script has to be in by December 1st for a production decision; my goal with the Rising Stars screenplay is to get it turned in at the first-draft stage on December 1st, get notes and revise over the holiday break.

The first draft on Jeremiah went to various parties about a week ago, and has thus far met with very positive response. There's still a ways to go, but the signs are positive thus far. There are layers and layers of bureaucracy when you're back at the networks.

JMS On The Elections

A: Well, it looks like the jury is still well and truly out...talk of irregularities and missing ballot boxes in Florida....

Haven't had this much fun since good old Mayor Daly and the ballot-stuffing boys of Chicago....

If you check out cbs.com and abc.com, you will find reports of police cars outside polling centers in mainly black communities in Florida ticketing people who showed up to vote for minor offenses, intimidating african-americans...a so called "computer glitch" which gave the Socialist candidate -- who was polling literally 1 or 2 votes in every other county -- nearly 10,000 votes in *one county* that may have been for Gore...the 10,000 Gore votes that disappeared from Vusalia (sp?) county after they had already been logged into the computer...

Not to mention the GOP calls to older people telling them they couldn't vote unless they *specifically registered* for this election, and best of all, the call that THEY GOT ON TAPE AND GAVE TO THE FBI from a GOP phone bank saying that people had to bring their voter registration cards with them to be eligible to vote, and if they didn't, it could cause them legal trouble.

We're looking here at some massively serious allegations of vote fraud, intimidation, and more.

The GOP has literally tried to steal the election.

Also, MSNBC just reported that 19,000 ballots were *thrown out* because they had two holes punched for presidents, as though somebody had gone through and mass-punched ballots to disqualify them.

Choice of Candidates

Get real...this is the worst you can do in opposition to Bush, who lied to the press about any prior arrests, changed his driver's license number to make it harder to track such arrests (and was arrested at least once or twice more for vandalism and rotten behavior), got his daddy to put him in the National Guard to avoid the draft and went AWOL for 90% of that, never bothering to show up for his tenure there, and may now be at the center of the biggest and most blatant attempt in decades to steal an election through fraud and intimidation?

Yeah, much better choice.

UPDATE ON PROJECTS

JMS Interview

http://www.zealot.com/features/archives/jms/b5.php3 A fairly recent interview with JMS.

B5 COMICS

Q: Now that DC is owned by Wildstorm, is there a possibility for Babylon 5 comics?

A: In theory, yes...WB didn't want to let the book outside "the family" so they wouldn't let anyone other than DC do it, but now that Wildstorm is owned by DC, it's a possibility.

TWILIGHT ZONE MATERIAL

Here's something I thought people might find interesting... It's a site with copies of a few articles written by jms during his tenure on The New Twilight Zone. They're lot's of fun... enjoy:

http://www.thetzsite.com/pages/color/articles.html

PSYCOMIC COLUMN

I got the word today that the revamped psycomic.com site -- owned by USA Networks -- will be going online Monday.

One of the features is a new weekly column by me (each Monday) and a new weekly column by Kevin Smith (each Friday).

My column is entitled "Letters From the Edge," while Kevin's is "Views Askew." My first installment is "I'm Fine, How Are You?" in which I try to avoid writing a mission statement.


October 1, 2000

Boy, has this been a week....

As most folks know by now, the news about Marvel entrusting me with their flagship title The Amazing Spiderman broke on the nets Monday/Tuesday. As a longtime Spidey fan, this is something I'm looking forward to enormously. You can expect to see the first jms-written issue of TMS probably around March or April of next year.

On Wednesday Rising Stars 10 came out (and Midnight Nation 2 is due out in 2 weeks).

Also this week...after writing my first pass on the outline for the Rising Stars feature film (tentatively entitled "Born in Fire"), MGM read the outline, loved it, had a couple of very smart suggestions...and as of Wednesday, I've been put to script.

On Thursday, some friendly folks at Warner Bros. asked if they could take up the banner of my project The World On Fire (formally with Chris Carter) and take it out in the Spring to sell it as a series.

I also turned in the outline for the pilot TV movie this week, and today, Friday, was put to script on THAT project as well. With that hurdle passed, I can now talk a little about it. The network is indeed Showtime, as some have speculated, with Paramount Television the studio attached, and it's for an hour-series (debuting with a two-hour pilot movie) slated for their Sci-Fi Fridays slot. The project is based on an outside source, though I can't yet comment on that. I'm on as executive producer/show runner. In addition, feature film director Joe Dante is aboard also as executive producer, and he will be invaluable in setting the visual and directorial tone of the series. It's been an absolute pleasure working with Joe, and if we get past the next few hurdles -- every series has to go through the stages of pilot outline, pilot script, decision to produce the script and then the go-order on a series, same as with B5 and every other program -- I'm *really* looking forward to working with him on the series.

The Rising Stars movie screenplay will probably be turned in sometime middle or late November; the Showtime TV movie screenplay will probably be turned in around November 1 for production reasons.

It has been just an *astonishing* week....


WORKS ON BOOKFACE

From: jmsatb5@aol.com (Jms at B5)
Date: 9/18/2000 3:01 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Because I've been up to my ears in work the last few weeks, like an idiot I kept forgetting to update the Tribulations info posted earlier.

The entire manuscript of Tribulations, my first new novel in 12 years, is now up at www.bookface.com, having been serialized last month in 4 weekly segments. It's been at the #1 spot now since it first went up, and now it can be read all the way through online for free.

(And for those who want to actually buy the thing -- and be entered in a drawing for the keyboard on which I wrote most of Babylon 5 and other stuff, signed and with a letter of authenticity -- it's available over on www.darktales.com.)

Other stuff still available to be read free online at bookface include: the last two scripts I wrote for Crusade (the arc-starter To The Ends of the Earth, and the planned season one cliffhanger End of the Line), and three short stories of mine, Say Hello Mister Quigley (dark fantasy), Cold Type (contemporary fantasy), and We Killed Them in the Ratings (novelette length thriller).

Aside from my stuff, btw, Bookface has really expanded its inventory of new original works by established and up-and-coming writers...it's fast becoming the place to go to find out what's coming up on the horizon in terms of rising SF and fantasy writers.

JMS ON THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Jumping in with what will probably be my only thoughts on the issue....

I supported John McCain early on, even though I've traditionally voted democrat, because I thought there was a man of great substance up there behind the podium. I don't believe in following party lines, I try to find the best person for the job.

I think Gore is okay. I'm not massively enthusiastic, I think we could've done better on that count, but at the end of the day, he's okay. I think he'll do a decent, reasonable job.

I definitely do NOT want GWB in office, for very strong reasons.

This is a man who said, when he was told that there might be a huge budget shortfall in Texas as a result of his administration's choices, "Well, hopefully I won't have to worry about that." This is not a man who we should put anywhere NEAR the White House.

Further, major corporations put up nearly $100 million bucks, the largest in history, for his primary campaign. Corporations like that don't put up money at that level unless they think they're going to be getting something back in exchange. This is a man who is going to be absolutely beholden to big business, as he was in Texas, where the first things he did was to provide a massive tax break for big oil, and the "tort reform" he lauded later was a bill to make it harder to sue corporations when they do bad stuff.

This is a man who is a total chameleon. When McCain trounced him in one of the primaries as a reformer, suddenly Bush came out with all these banners saying HE was a reformer. He co-opts the other guy's stance when the other guy is ahead because he really has no other stance other than "I want the job."

He was packaged and picked because the party heads think Bush was a brand name they could promote, and because he was well placed to get the southern vote. They picked him because of logistics, not because he was the best man for the job.

He's prissy, arrogant, brittle, not terribly bright, and if he gets anywhere near the White House the damage he will do the country will, I believe, be *substantial*.

JMS ON VOTING

In a previous post, you stated that "Voting is the absolute, bare minimum requirement for being a citizen." Can you comment further?

A: Is it a rule? No, of course not. I was speaking of the matter of honor and of principle and of responsibility, things not overmuch popular in a time of "Leave me alone, I can do whatever I want, you're not the boss of me."

One is not *required* to help a person who is being assaulted in the street...but a basic requirement of decency and humanity is that we *try*.

When I was a guest at Chicago Comic Con a few years ago, some guy was caught shoplifting in the dealer's room. He punched the dealer and started running, the dealer followed, yelling for somebody, ANYbody, to stop the guy.

Nobody moved, which is when it came inside my peripheral vision.

The dealer got a partial hand on the guy, but the dealer was an older man, he wasn't going to be able to take this guy, who was a toned (as it turned out Navy) guy.

So I jumped in and tackled the guy. The two of us brought him down, and we held him, against his struggling, until the cops finally showed up.

We live in a representational form of government, which has a lot of problems and a lot wrong with it. It also has a great deal to offer: the street lights generally work, the mail generally comes, we are generally free to voice our opinions without fear of gulags or death squads.

To vote is *our part of the bargain*. If we want government to keep to THEIR part of the bargain, how can we in all good conscience not keep *our* part of the bargain?

I'm not jingoisitic, I know and am quite open about all the problems of this country and this government. But I also vote every year, year in and year out, good candidates and goofballs, because if I don't, then I'm not entitled to gripe about the consequences.

Every year, fewer and fewer people vote, meaning that our futures and our fortunes are being dictated by an increasingly smaller portion of the population because the rest just don't want to be bothered.

And I'm sorry, but to me, that ain't the proper perspective of a citizen. It's not just a one-way "gimme" street.

To vote is not the *legal* requirement of a citizen -- and by the way, the freedom you cite is first and foremost the freedom to choose the form of your elected government -- but it *is* a moral and ethical requirement.

Because if you don't exercise it, sooner or later you will lose that freedom and all the others you cherish, because those with a vested interest in making those freedoms go away will be the ones to pass the final laws, unopposed by dissenting voices at the ballot box.

Freedom does not equate laziness.

I said it in the show: you must choose the future you want, or others will choose it for you.

CLAUDIA CHRISTIAN'S LEAVING THE SERIES

Q: Did you consider just recasting the role with Tracy Scoggins when Claudia Christian left the series?

A: I've heard this before, and while it's a sensible and reasonable assumption to make, the one thing wrong with it is that it ain't true.

When Claudia left, I roundfiled (trashed) thefew scripts I had been working on with her character because they could not be used. They were first and in some cases second drafts, or partial scripts.

The scripts with Tracy in them were written for Tracy. Period.

As annoyed as I (and the rest of us) were with Claudia when she chose to leave, at the same time I just couldn't justify recasting it like that. It just didn't feel right to me, and I suspect a lof of fans would've felt the same way.


There have been a series of questions to JMS about his writing. Some are below, but here is a portion of the exchange that I think you'll enjoy.

Looking back:
Q: In hindsight, would you do things differently with the series?

A: In general, there isn't a frame I wouldn't go back and tweak in editing, a single line I wouldn't want to revise one more time to get it tighter or more to the point.

In more specific terms...the problem I had going in was that no one had ever done anything quite like this before, and as a consequence there were no road maps, no guidelines. I was kind of inventing the form as I went along, and I've always been somewhat insecure about my work, as many writers are, and there were times I'd think, "Christ, there isn't enough going on, I need more stuff happening here or else it's going to be just the writing and I'm dancing on the edge as it is"...and the threads would get so dense and manyfold that there were times when I was afraid I might actually lose control of the thing and the whole thing would tip over and end up in a ditch.

It took me a while to realize that I could relax and trust the writing to take me where it wanted to go. It was only this slowly dawning revelation that let me write things like Comes the Inquisitor or Intersections in Real Time, which is really just two characters in a room. I didn't need a lot of intrigue-ridden threads all over the place to keep things moving, it was okay just to write the scene and the characters and let the drama play itself out.

And there were times I didn't adjust to stuff as fast as I would've liked. When we got unionized in season 3 -- the most painless such activity I've ever seen, by the way, but still a distraction -- I was in the middle of writing Exogenesis. Then my world got kicked over by the negotiations, and when I came back to the script finally, 7-10 days later...it had gone cold, and I'd lost the fingerprints of the story. I couldn't drop it because we needed it in the pipeline to shoot, but in my view the first half of that episode sets up a cool premise that is not quite lived up to by the second half.

Same thing when Claudia chose to leave the show. That was a hard one on all of us, but in my case, I had a whole arc worked out for her that had to be dropped. I suddenly had to bring in a new character, weave her threads out of the tapestry, and adjust everything else in the first third of that season totally on the fly. (And on top of all that, my detailed notes on the first half of the season were tossed out by the hotel staff that moved my stuff from one room to another in Blackpool without checking with me. I had to recreate stuff on the one hand and angle it all off in a different direction on the other, both at the same time.)

While I think I did okay, it ain't pretty in a lot of places. If it had happened in the second or third seasons, I could probably have handled it with a bit more finesse, but at that point we were all on the edge of exhaustion. (Indicative of that: each season of a show, actors are brought in to a doctor, checked out, and insured for the season, so if something happens to them, the company is insured against delays. For the first time I know of, the writer producer (viz: me) was given that treatment -- this was a mandate to me, because others had noticed what the show was taking out of me -- so if I upped and died of a cardiac infarction in the middle of things, or collapsed of exhaustion, the company would be covered.


Q: Were there times when you feel you went beyond what you "thought" were your limits?

A: When it played even better than I'd expected it would. On a script, you see the scene and you think, "Well, I think it'll work," but you never really *know*, and like everybody else in the business, I've been fooled...something that looks like gold on the page turns into a dog when it hits the stage or the editing room, and something you thought wouldn't work ends up being massively cool.

Severed Dreams, the scenes where Sheridan makes his decision on hearing that troops are coming in...and Delenn's timely arrivel...I knew they'd be good, but I had no idea the real effect they'd have until I saw 'em in the editing room. Same with the Sheridan takedown in Face of the Enemy.

Probaby the biggest example, though, is Sleeping in Light. I knew that the last scene(s) would be effective from the script and the edit...but when we laid in Chris Franke's score, even before we had the EFX done, I began to realize that this was going to be a *crusher*. We didn't have the final EFX in until late 5th season -- I didn't want to finish it and give anybody a chance to accidentally run it early -- and when they were dropped in...it ruined me when I watched it straight through for the first time.


Q: Did you ever reach a point, as you wrote the episodes, when it struck you that what you were writing wasn't just mere television? That you were often moving people in a very profound way? And, as you wrote, was there a time when you first looked at the words on the page and had to sit back and say 'Wow!' or perhaps a time, other than SiL, when you yourself wept at what you had done? Maybe that seems a strange question, but B5 had so many moments of what I like to consider 'Perfect Cinema' when everything - script, visuals, music, acting - fell into place to create something so unforgettable that it still has the same effect on people even after repeated viewings. That's not just writing, that's a form of true brilliance.

A: Emotion is the hardest thing to do in TV, because of the constant interruptions by commercials. And there's this kind of too cool for the room sensibility that passion is passe, and it's all about the plot...which is why a lot of shows are *interesting* but not a lot of them really ramp up your emotions.

Drama is supposed to make you feel something. Hell, go all the way back to Twain...and this is from memory..."A short story or a novel should make you *feel* something for the characters, for the good to succeed and the bad to fail. In (title) you feel none of that. You want them all to land in hell, together, as soon as possible."

Otherwise what's the point?

My theory of writing has always been that if I can make myself laugh, the odds are that I can make the audience laugh; if I get misty eyed at something I'm writing (and it happened a LOT on B5), the odds are pretty good, since I'm a fairly restrained kind of guy, that it'll have that effect or more on the audience. So yeah, I tend to feel what I'm writing, because that's the only way TO write.

Those are kind words, and I hope that at the end of the day they may even become true. I'm too close to judge.

The only thing I do know in this regard comes from a quote from, I think, Madeline L'Engle. She said, "If an artist exists in true service to the art, then the art is greater than the artist." There were times on B5 when I didn't know WHERE the hell this stuff was coming from...I only knew that it was bigger than I was at times, and the moments that were created as a result were something...important.

That, at least, is what I hope for.


Q: Can you tell us why you write? To teach, explore new areas?

A: Both. Sometimes you don't really know what you may think of something until you have to verbalize it...to *explain* what you feel about somethilng. I've taught writing on several occasions, and each time I end up learning as much as the students because of the necessity of verbalizing what is often a subconscious, even a subliminal process.

I'm very careful not to teach per se in my writing, because on a wider scale, I'm not sure what I have to say that would be of any use, validity or purpose to anyone else. I believe in what Mark Twain said: "If you want your stories to last forever -- and by forever I mean a hundred years -- you must neither overtly teach nor overtly preach. But you must covertly teach and covertly preach."

I again quote, this time from William Faulkner: "The only thing worth dealing with as a writer, the only thing worth the blood and the pain and the effort, is the human heart in conflict with itself."

For me, the complex issues ARE the only really valid issues, and the ones most worth writing about. On a day to day basis, how often do we have to deal with rewiring a bomb so it won't go off and kill a busload of kids, as happens every other night on TeeVee?

But every day, sometimes every hour of our life, we have to wrestle with the profound issues: who do we trust, who can we tell our secrets to, what do we regret, what do we want, how do we love and how do we forgive and do we survive doing either one of those?

Those aren't great philosophical issues fit for academic dissection...those are bread and butter considerations that affect us every day.

I'm not satisfied, and I hope I never become satisfied, because that leads to complacency. I'm constantly questioning myself, my assumptions, what I wrote yesterday and what I hope to write tomorrow. I know there are some damn good answers out there, but until I find the questions that match the answers, I've got nothing.

I think that, more than anything, I'm trying to write about the things that interest me, the things that bug me, the things that don't make sense to me. I don't *have* many conclusions to write about, and am deeply suspicious of the few that I do have.

At its heartmeat core, writing is about exploring the questions of your heart on the assumption that what intrigues you, what inflames or amuses or ennobles you, will have the same effect on someone else. It's about taking chances, and taking risks, and pushing yourself to be honest in the issues that present themselves.

I saw an interview recently with the (relatively) new commandant of the Marine Corps, who said, of the Corps' experiments with organization, techniques and so on, "Experimentation -- TRUE experimentation -- means that you push yourself *until you fail*." Failure is not only a possibility, it's a requirement, so that you learn where your limits are, so you can address them and try again and next time push yourself beyond the point where you failed the last time.

That, to me, is about a good a description of the job of the writer as I've ever heard.


Q:You have so many projects going on now, I'm sure you're quite pleased. Are you happy to see a number of things coming together at the same time?

A: I would suspect it's a combination of things. In Excalibur it was said, of Arthur, the king and the land are one; when one suffers the other suffers; when one flourishes, the other flourishes.

With me, it's always been a case of "joe and the work are one; when one suffers the other suffers; when one flourishes, the other flourishes."

I'm at my best when I'm doing a lot of things, when the work is solid, and it's been appreciated by people in the industry, and the number of new coming gigs kind of validates the work that went before...and, though I know it shouldn't, it kind of validates me *to* me. I'm a writer, I define myself as such, so my self image and the work are inextricably interwoven. This is not always a good thing, but by the same token it is not always a bad thing.

So on balance...yeah, I'm happy. Most days. Like you, there are some days I'm most emphatically NOT happy. I try not to go on line during those moments because I'm not fun to be around. But in general I'm more happy than not.

And after Crusade, it wasn't so much that I wasn't *happy* as I was *pissed*. I knew what that show was going to become, what it could be, and I was mainly angry at the loss in terms of talented cast members, the stories we would have told, and so on.

But I never once considered that it would be a long-term problem. Every show runner takes a year or so to get another project going because if you do the math, there are 10,000+ WGA members, of which a large number are producers, and, what?, 25 or 30 network series, of which most already have show runners attached. It takes time for a slot to come open. Many EPs have spent as much as 2-3 years between gigs. In this case it's just about a year, and that's very good...not to mention that there's been a lot of other work in the interim, the Murder She Wrote TV movie, the comic, the radio dramas, that sort of thing.

And, I must confess, there's a very small part of me that is happy knowing that there are some people who will be absolutely annoyed to hear that I'm doing well. It's a definite character flaw on my part...but it's one I can live with.


New Series for JMS

Here's something new from JMS I'm sure you'll want to read. It is related to the new TV show mentioned by JMS in his interview with Tony Tellado:

"We just closed the deal for me to come on board as executive producer/show runner this week, and the first substantial creative meetings start on Wednesday.

What I *can* say is this:

* it's in the SF genre

* it's for one of the pay cable networks (which means no censoring of language or ideas or images, which is a terrific situation for any writer, allowing you to go as far as they have on, say, The Sopranos or Oz)

* it's slated to start with a 2 hour pilot which I'll be writing and is due no later than December

* it'll probably be shot in Vancouver since there are a lot of locations in it that we can find in one place only up there

* there's a high profile director attached to the project and that involvement was one of the real inducements for me to sign on with this because I've always admired his work in TV and film

* assuming the pilot script passes muster, we'll probably begin shooting in February or March for a Fall debut. (What's nifty is that while there's a pilot required, as with ANY new series, in this case they're willing to go into production on the series based JUST on the script, we don't have to go out and shoot a full pilot first)

* on a personal level, it pays over double what I got on B5 or Crusade, which is kinda nice

* it will have an arc to it, but not as rigorous as the B5 arc

And like that.

My *guess* (and that's all it is) is that the network will release some info about this over the next couple of months, but will probably hold back anything more substantive until after the pilot is written.

Practically from the first day after Crusade went down, there have been various offers, but except for the Chris Carter deal, which went down when Harsh Realm was pulled, none of them were things I could get really excited about. This one, though, is something I think I can really sink my teeth into.

It's really been an amazing year so far... Tribulations has been the #1 read on bookface.com for three weeks running, City of Dreams is a bonafide hit on scifi.com, we closed the deal for me to write the Rising Stars movie for MGM, and now the series deal is now in place....

You just got to keep doing what you're doing, and do it to the best of your ability, and sonuvagun, somehow things work out.


Can you tell us any more about the new series? The network involved?

A: To specify more than I have -- narrowing it down to just the pay cable networks, which leaves just HBO, Showtime and TMC -- would constitute an announcement and subvert the authority of those who should rightly make that announcement, and without their consent I can't do that.

It's kind of like the early year or so of B5's history, when it was TWCBN, That Which Cannot Be Named. I'll talk about it more when I can.

With the new series coming along, does that mean that a "Crusade" revival is totallyl out of the question?

A: Not at all, since many producers handle more than one show, though I'd have to do it at arm's length in second position.


A CHANCE TO HAVE JMS' KEYBOARD

From: J. Michael Straczynski 3:20 a.m. on 28-Jul-2000

By now, most of you know about the Crusade scripts and the original stories of mine that have appeared on bookface.com: "Cold Type," "Say Hello, Mister Quigley" and "We Killed Them In the Ratings."

Well, we're taking it to the next level.

Previously, I've had two novels published in hardcover from E.P. Dutton: "Demon Night" and "OtherSyde." They were published about a year apart, and did very well (the former was nominated for a Bram Stoker award). I always wanted the time and opportunity to write another novel.

That was over ten years ago. Then I fell down the TV black hole and never had a chance to catch my breath and tackle another novel.

After Crusade, I saw that I had a chance that I might not get again soon. In general, show runners go maybe a year or so between shows, and that would be a great window to try for a new novel before I got dragged into TV land again (and I'll have more info on that topic soon).

As a result...I recently completed my first full-length (100,000 word) novel in nearly twelve years. I'd considered taking it to auction in New York, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt this one should be done differently. So through special arrangement with bookface.com, I'm making my new novel available to be read FREE online, as a thanks to all the Babylon 5 fans who supported us over the years. It will be serialized in four installments beginning in August, so you may want to keep an eye out for it.

TRIBULATIONS is a contemporary dark fantasy novel (not a horror novel) set in present-day Los Angeles. The main characters are SUSAN RANDALL, a crime reporter with the Los Angeles News-Tribune, and RAYMOND WEILL, a man with a dubious background who believes that the series of crimes she is investigating has a supernatural origin which only he truly understands.

It is, oddly enough, a fun book. It has scares, humor, action, and strong, colorful characters. It takes some all-in-good-fun pot shots at the journalism profession (somewhat from my own experience, working for the LA Times, Time Inc. and others), new age bookstores, the LAPD, psychics, politics, show business, TV news, fringe groups and agents.

It has a crusade of sorts, plus priests, tears, blood, voices in the night, carnage, corned beef, soldiers of light and emissaries of dark, the lost and the dispossessed, fights over an air conditioning system and at least one major Los Angeles riot.

It is also a book about the ways we do, and should, treat each other. It is about trust, and hope, and respect, and the responsibility we bear to stand, alone if necessary, against impossible odds if we believe we are right. It's about taking chances, and rebirth; about the nature of evil, the story of Job, and the different forms of love. It's about some of the things we've forgotten, and some of the things we need to discover anew.

It is, I think, the best book I've ever written. I'm very proud of it, and if you liked B5, I think you'll like this one.

Two other important notes in this regard:

Upon casually mentioning a while ago that this may be on the horizon, I received a small flood of emails from people asking if there was *any* way to get this book in physical form... because not everyone is on the nets, and not everyone who IS on the nets can access the site.

So for those who can't wait for the ending, or who really want to have this in actual book form, I've arranged with Dark Tales Publications (darktales.com) to make a limited number of copies of the book available in trade paperback form. They've done a great job on design, it looks great, and they're vastly excited about publishing it. To make finding the book easier the bookface.com site will link to their site starting with the third installment.)

Now, here's the kicker. This is just for fun.

If you've seen any of the photos taken in my office at the BABYLON 5 stages, you've probably seen me working at a Kinesis ergonomic keyboard. It's an odd looking thing, with two recessed wells where the keys are located. I bought this keyboard right around the end of the first season/start of the second season of B5.

On this keyboard, I wrote the lion's share of all the scripts for BABYLON 5, wrote all my CRUSADE scripts...wrote all the memos to various departments and some rather heated memos to TNT...posed with it for pictures appearing in British SF magazines...wrote 90% of my online postings done from the B5 stages...wrote the MURDER, SHE WROTE TV movie that aired recently on CBS...wrote the script for my project with Chris Carter, THE WORLD ON FIRE...and, finally, this is the keyboard on which I wrote TRIBULATIONS. I used it until just recently. It works fine, though the cord has a tendency to come loose inside the keyboard and may need to be reinstalled.

I've been offered substantial sums for this keyboard, probably the most iconic symbol of my 5 years spent making BABYLON 5 and talking with fans online. One person suggested that on Ebay it would pull in an astonishing amount of money.

So, being the contrary person I am...I'm giving it away.

Each person who buys a copy of TRIBULATIONS from darktales.com will have the option of being included in a raffle. At a date still being set, we will finish the raffle at a convention, and the keyboard will be given away to one of those participants.

In addition, I will personally sign the keyboard and include a certificate of authenticity.

My hope is that whoever gets it will use it to create the story that could become the next BABYLON 5. And, in time, pass it along to the next person in line.

Meanwhile, starting in August, the book will be freely available to read online at bookface.com.

Hopefully it won't take another 12 years before I get around to writing the next book....

jms

Have you seen Jeanne Cavelos' technomage novel yet?

A: I'm reading the first installment of the Technomage trilogy now, and though I'm only about halfway done, I think it may be the best of the bunch. If there's any one of the books that I think could be considered Nebula material...it's this one.


Q: For people who discovered "Rising Stars" too late to get back issues, will it be coming out in another format soon?

A: The first 8 issues, comprising act one of the story, will soon be released as a graphic novel from Top Cow.


Q: "City of Dreams" is wonderful. The latest, "Rolling Thunder" is terrific. What else do you have in store for us?

A: Thanks, it's a very moving episode, and one I wrote kinda fiercely. The next two up are mainly fun episodes, one partially for humor, the other kinda creepy.

The next 4 after that are the experimental episodes, where I'm going to try and do different things with the form. It's really hard, because you have to turn your head upside down, but the first one should be quite entertaining, in a weird, scary kind of way.


Q: How will "Midnight Nation" differ from "Rising Stars"?

A: Certainly in the case of MIDNIGHT NATION, it's a focused story about two individuals, as opposed to an epic tale about 113 people over 60+ years. We get right into it and get things moving almost immediately.

It's also been a big help to get Rising Stars going because it's helped me learn a lot about how to do this. My goal as always is to make the next thing better than the last thing.


There has been a lot of discussion about the new Amazing Stories story about Marcus and Ivanova. Do you care to comment about it?

A: What's been kind of fun about the discussion of this episode here and elsewhere has been the bipolarity of it all.

On the one side you have those who think it's a very romantic story with a happy ending. Which is totally the right response.

And then on the other side you've got those who think it's a morally dubious story or even worse. Which is ALSO totally the right response.

It becomes a question of what you, the reader, thinks is appropriate, and where the priorities are. Does Marcus, having laid down his life, and suffered, and lost everything and everyone he holds dear, deserve a last shot at happiness using a technology that is probably being used by other people for far worse purposes?

On the other hand, the technology and the invasiveness of it raises very real questions and concerns. One can say it's an invasion, but is it really? Is it her, or is it a blank slate? What makes her, *her*?

If, in the end, he is happy at last, and she is happy, who are we to question?

But should we not question the *thrust* of the technology, and the uses it might be put to in future?

I knew it'd drive a wedge right down the middle of the readers, and that's exactly why it was written...to pose questions and raise issues for heated discussion. Because what's right or wrong here is a matter of perspective, as it should be.


Q: Any new merchandise coming down the pike?

A: I keep forgetting to mention this, so while it's in my head thanks to a prior message here....

One of the niftiest B5 items to come down the pike lately is the HUGE pewter B5 station you can find over at factory-x.com. They put in a LOT of work making this thing just right, and the work shows. They're also going to be coming out with a Starfury and other ships. They're totally gorgeous, pewter and silver, and you have to see 'em to understand why I'm so jazzed.

I don't usually go out and flog for the licensees, but this one is real nifty.


Q: Will there be more Babylon 5 comic books?

A: No, there won't be any B5 comics for one simple reason: DC is owned by Time Warner, parent company of WB. Their feeling is that, because they own DC, nobody else should do a B5 comic. But it ain't gonna happen under DC. Even so, they don't want to turn it loose; better no one should do it.

It's like a monkey with his hand around a nut in a jar...he won't let it go, but he can't get his hand out of the jar, either....


In "End of the Line", the script ends in a cliffhanger. How long does it take you to write a script?

A: It's my job. It pays well and I get to work my own hours. It kind of depends on the script, and how well I've worked it out prior to ever sitting down at the keyboard. My average writing time for an episode is about a week, give or take a day or two in either direction. Some I've written in as little as one day (and, oddly, the ones written in a day tended to be my better ones, because it all came out in a white heat and I wasn't sitting there second-guessing myself the whole time).

In the case you cite, it was a while ago so my memory may not be wholly accurate, but I'm *pretty* sure I wrote both those scripts in about 3-4 days each.


Q: Generally, how accurate are you with >respect to the time factor now that you've done it so MANY times? 43 minutes isn't a lot of time to work with on some of the more complex episodes. You seem to write as you visualize the scene.

A: 45 pages. I would always hit within a page or so of 45 pages. Yeah, I tend to direct on the page. If you watch an episode and read along with the script, you see that shot for shot, with few exceptions, it matches. I write what I see in my head. And I see the whole episode, filmed, before it's ever actually, well, *filmed*. Then it's just a matter of transcription.

A beat is just a pause, allowing for impact or emotional transition or emphasis.

DAVID
I love you.
(beat)
Mostly.

Sometimes you can parse it a bit and say "He takes half a beat to respond," but by that point you're getting into dicey terrain.

Sometimes actors can rush a scene through, nor not see where the emphasis of the story is in the dialogue, so that's just kind of an arrow that points to important stuff.


"The Path of Sorrow" is a very interesting Crusade episode. I'm surprised TNT did not want more exposition in the story.

A: That was actually their other suggestion when I vetoed the rest, that we NOT see the flashbacks, but rather have them "talk about their feelings about what happened." They stated that nobody wants to see flashback stories, they only want to see what's happening in the present tense.


Q: Will you be at the San Diego ComiCon coming up? I don't see you on the guest list.

A: I'll be there, and I think they've got me booked pretty solid all day Friday starting at about 2 or 3 through the Eisner Awards. Not much for thereafter.


With all the issues and problems that Babylon 5 faced over it's five year run, how did you keep going - not knowing what was ahead in the future for you or the series?

A: Pure, naked, unbridled, ornery, stubbornness.

Q: Now that Babylon 5 has ended, what is your goal? What do you want at this point in your life?

A: To tell the next story. And the one after that. Whether that's a TV show, or a book, or a comic, or a play...it's all the same to me, as long as I get to tell my stories the way I see them in my head.

In TV, I figure I've got another few years left in me before I just can't handle it anymore, so I'd kinda like to do one more show, maybe two depending on what does or doesn't last...and then get out. I'm 45 now, so that would put me at about 50, a good age to go for a quieter lifestyle.

Q: Surely you want to write longer than that?

A: See, my mind -- that same, pigheaded mind -- made itself up pretty firmly on this one.

Reason is basically this: I started working in TV round about 1984/85. That's 15 years already in this particular vineyard. And it's soul-killing work. Always has been. Charles Beaumont said it's like climbing a mountain of ka-ka to pluck one perfect rose...only to find by the time you've gotten to the top that you've lost your sense of smell.

It's hard, tedious, soul-breaking work, mainly for the kind of people you have to deal with, and I have only so much visceral material. I've worked hard all my life (as have most people), working round the clock for *years*, rarely ever taking a vacation, writing nonstop...I *need* to find that time when I can relax a bit, and that ain't never gonna happen as long as I'm working in TeeVee.

Give up writing? That, no, I'll be writing until I fall down dead. But TV? Yeah, I could give that up pretty easily when the time comes.

Q: In a recent interview, Larry DeTillio talked about a Crusade episode he was going to write and it had something to do with Dureena. Was that just a tease or a hint at what was to come?

A: Dureena would've been taken away in a 3 parter, and when she returned she would've had the sword referred to in the uploaded Crusade script. So no, Larry wasn't messing with anyone's head.

Q: Will the new scripts be made available for purchase at some time in the future -- like at the Fan Club or Scripts From the Lot?

A: Nothing is set at the moment.

Q: What will "Midnight Nation" -- the first of Joe's Comics be about?

A: It's a contemporary story that doesn't really fit most categories...maybe magic realism comes closest, dark fantasy maybe...it sets some of the tropes of the dark fantasy genre against a modern setting, with a police officer on a quest to recover something taken from him, a search which shows him a side of the country usually not seen, the hidden doors and secret places only glimpsed out of the corner of the eye....

Q: How did the "Murder She Wrote Movie" do in the ratings?

A: Apparently the show was a strong #2 rated program for the first hour, and a strong #3 rated show for the second hour...which is MUCH better than CBS had been anticipating given that we were up against the season finales of Friends and Frasier which drew something like a 30 share (meaning nearly 1/3rd of the country was watching them), which is hideous competition.

Q: What address is best to use for you and for the cast/crew of the show?

A: 14431 Ventura Boulevard, PMB 260
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

As an aside to folks in general...mail to the cast should these days be sent via their respective fan clubs. As folks have scattered to the four winds, it's become increasingly difficult for the B5 fan club to track people down and get mail to them, and there are often long delays. And we don't really have the staff to handle a lot of this stuff.

So mail to cast should generally be sent via their fan clubs from this point on.

Q: Do you consider the DelRey books cannon?

A: In broad strokes, yes, the series is canon, since I came up with the outline for all the Del Rey novels. And overall, I'm very pleased with how they've been going.

Q: What can you tell us about Babylon 5 coming out on DVD?

A: I actually can't recall now where I heard it, I've been kind of scattered of late, but what I do recall hearing was that they were going to release some in the UK and if they did well, they would consider releasing them in the US. But that was the full extent of what I'd heard, and it certainly isn't binding on anybody.

Q: What about the high-definition widescreen version of the show?

A: This I *can* speak to with authority, because I've SEEN the widescreen versions. We worked hand in hand with the guys at WB's technology office to help handle the transfer to widescreen. Not only that, but at one point we sat down at Laser Pacific here in LA with a bunch of guys from WB, LP, and our team (Flinn, me, Copeland, others) to view an ep in widescreen to examine ways in which we could take greater advantage of the wide frame while still protecting for current aspect ratios (i.e., don't shoot everything dead center, have it off-center a little more or bleed off the side, because it'll all come back again once you retelecine back to the original widescreen, that sort of thing).

What WB says, repeatedly, is that there is no such critter. Which is true and not true. There is no such critter in NTSC format. The widescreen versions were made for foreign release, in PAL format only.

So there is no NTSC format widescreen. But you can HAVE an NTSC format widescreen by just transferring the PAL digibeta tapes to NTSC.

It costs about $1,500 per episode to do this, because it has to be carefully tweaked to avoid digital artifacting and line trading and the like. (See how much tech stuff you learn being an exec producer?) WB has been unwilling to pony up the dough for that transfer. ($1500 x 110 episodes + the 5 movies is a good chunk of change.)

So widescreen versions DO exist. I've seen them, others in the B5 team have seen them, and some of the movies have been released in wide in the UK.

One can only hope that, in time, they can be persuaded to expend the effort.

Q: Babylon 5 was recently voted best show of all time by SFX magazine. Do you have any comment on this?

A: As for being the best show of all time, that comes from the readers of the magazine, which is a very cool thing...especially because all SFX does these days is diss the show and myself. So I'm glad it got the award from the fans; it's the wrapping that needs work.


Q: What can you tell us about Babylon 5 going to DVD?

A: I actually can't recall now where I heard it, I've been kind of scattered of late, but what I do recall hearing was that they were going to release some in the UK and if they did well, they would consider releasing them in the US. But that was the full extent of what I'd heard, and it certainly isn't binding on anybody.


Q: Anything on the widescreen version of Babylon 5?

A: This I *can* speak to with authority, because I've SEEN the widescreen versions. We worked hand in hand with the guys at WB's technology office to help handle the transfer to widescreen. Not only that, but at one point we sat down at Laser Pacific here in LA with a bunch of guys from WB, LP, and our team (Flinn, me, Copeland, others) to view an ep in widescreen to examine ways in which we could take greater advantage of the wide frame while still protecting for current aspect ratios (i.e., don't shoot everything dead center, have it off-center a little more or bleed off the side, because it'll all come back again once you retelecine back to the original widescreen, that sort of thing).

What WB says, repeatedly, is that there is no such critter. Which is true and not true. There is no such critter in NTSC format. The widescreen versions were made for foreign release, in PAL format only.

So there is no NTSC format widescreen. But you can HAVE an NTSC format widescreen by just transferring the PAL digibeta tapes to NTSC.

It costs about $1,500 per episode to do this, because it has to be carefully tweaked to avoid digital artifacting and line trading and the like. (See how much tech stuff you learn being an exec producer?) WB has been unwilling to pony up the dough for that transfer. ($1500 x 110 episodes + the 5 movies is a good chunk of change.)

So widescreen versions DO exist. I've seen them, others in the B5 team have seen them, and some of the movies have been released in wide in the UK.

One can only hope that, in time, they can be persuaded to expend the effort.


Q: How do you feel about remakes of movies -- like Seconds?

A: They won't get it right. They never do, in these remakes. The Haunting remake was an utter disaster that failed because it had NO understanding of what made the original film a success: the mystery of what you DON'T see.

They should just leave it alone.

Q: Now that the list of Hugo nominees has been released, do you have any comments?

A: Having seen the list of nominees, which doesn't include any of the B5 TV movies which would have been eligible, I have to say that...I agree with the slate of nominees. The list had The Sixth Sense, The Matrix, The Iron Giant and two others I can't recall right now...and I can't think of ONE of them that I'd bump for a B5 or Crusade project, much as I like them.

It's an excellent list, and in one sense I'm relieved; if a B5 or Crusade item had made the final cut, I'd *still* have to vote for the Matrix as best of the bunch, and I'd hate to have to do that. This saves me the existential angst.


Q: What information do you have on Crusade at the Sci-Fi Channel?

A: I get the sense from some folks at SFC that they wanted to make the B5 deal its own thing, without diluting it, and that they might well come back next year to pick up the Crusade reruns as another kind of event to spike the B5 reruns a bit.

Note: I'm not saying that's what's going to happen, only my sense of what will *probably* happen, given some recent conversations.

Everything in TV has its time; shows are acquired at specific points and in specific ways. That's why, for instance, the project Chris Carter and I had in development has to wait until July/August before I can take it out again; development season runs from about that time through October, then the door's shut.

To that point, as an aside, since people have emailed and asked what is involved in development in terms of my side of things....

In the case of the project I was doing with Chris, you don't simply jump over a broom on the floor and say "Okay, we're now in development." (Taxi fans will get that one.) Contracts are signed and deals made BEFORE you get into development and before you pitch it to anyone.

Why?

Because let's say you DON'T sign a deal in advance. You take the project to a network. They want it. The writer can then hold up the studio for exorbitant monies because he knows the network wants the show. Studios will NEVER put themselves in that vulnerable a position. (On the flip side, a writer wants to make sure his or her position on the show is guaranteed in advance.)

So in the case of THE WORLD ON FIRE, once I'd pitched it to Frank and Chris, and they liked it, before any development work could commence we had to strike a deal between me, Ten Thirteen Productions, and Fox Studios. Negotiations took about 2 or 3 weeks, if I recall.

In that deal, signed around July/August last year, Fox agreed that I would exec produce the series if it were picked up. Chris and Frank would also be EPs.

Even though the show didn't get picked up because of the Harsh Realm situation, what's significant is that a) the negotiation and deal, which is now a matter of record at Fox, put my salary quote at nearly double what it had been at B5 (this is important because all new deals are based on your last deal), and b) it proved what I'd believed: that having run B5 for five years, keeping it on budget, on schedule, and making it hugely profitable for WB, was a hell of a lot more important to the studios than the Crusade situation. Shows get dropped all the time, sometimes in contentious circumstances.

What mattered to Fox and Ten Thirteen (and all this is a matter of record, I couldn't say this stuff if it weren't true or Fox would nail my ass to the wall) was what was done with B5. I don't think they were even *aware* of Crusade, to be honest.

So when the next development season comes around in July/August, we'll see what happens. In general I'd prefer to run my own show than come in on someone else's show (show runners for new and returning series get hired May/June). I've had some nice offers, including a project with Joe Dante that I'm very strongly considering, but in general I'm holding out for something *cool*, whether it's my own show or someone else's.


Q: Do you know why the magazine decided to publish this issue now?

A: There had apparently been plans to do this issue previously, but one thing or another kept getting in the way, logistical problems and the like. It's a good piece. A few errors here and there, but nothing really major.


April 4, 2000

As I write this, we are finishing production on a new MURDER, SHE WROTE TV movie (I'm on as producer and writer), which is tentatively slated to air May 18th on CBS. The TV movie is entitled "A Story to Die For," and co-stars Richard Crenna and a lot of other folks including, in a strong supporting role, Daniel Dae Kim.

Kinda nice to be back at a network again.

More announcements as I'm able to make them.

Here's a post from the newsgroup that I just HAD to post in it's entirety. I think the people involved in Finland share a lot of the emotion we have for the show and have expressed themselves in the following post. It's long, but I think says it very well for ALL of us:

From: leopold@pikkusirkku.cs.tut.fi (Herranen Henrik)
Date: 30 Mar 2000 15:14:00 -0700

"Humans form communities." Our community was created to allow people to see the series as it aired without the fear of spoilers, but during its three-year existence it grew to be something bigger. We laughed and cried; we loved and we hated; we flamed each other and even married; but most importantly, we cared. It does not matter whether we liked or hated a particular episode, what matters is that we *felt*. We felt strongly enough to calculate the trajectories of Sheridan's baseballs. We exposed our nightly dreams to the public. We talked endlessly about technology that does not exist. We speculated, and rewatched the episodes to catch hints of things to come, making the series an unique watching experience.

Babylon 5 brought together a number of diverse people. First, watching videos taped and sent overseas as the story unfolded in the US. We were originally just a handful of people, but as B5 began airing here in 1997, an online community was formed under the guidance of those who had already seen the episodes so that the younger could also see the story unspoiled.

Sleeping in Light aired one week ago, and the newsgroup will soon be dismantled, so that it does not have to suffer dying slowly as people move away. But what it achieved, remains.

We, the people of the Finnish sfnet.viestinta.tv.babylon5 newsgroup, wish to express our gratitude for the magnificent tale you have given us, and wish you well.

Thank you.

Signed by:
Janne Aalto : Thank you for everything.
Riku Aalto :
Jukka Aho :
Marko Aho : You showed that a long story is possible on TV!
Pekka Ahonen : Thank you for the greatest SF series ever made
Aki Ahtinen : thank you
Elina Ahvonen : Thank you for creating B5, see you beyond the Rim ;-)
Matias Alanko : This might sound VERY lame, but still: Thank You!!
Hanna Alasalmi : Good night, Babylon 5, the brightest star in my sky.
Raimo Anttila : Many thanks for you and all who created B5!
Antti Arola : Nothing's the same anymore...
Matti Aumala : [ o)
Per Backman : Faith manages. Thank you.
Nils Beiskjaer : Thank you seems poor and inadequate, but.. Thank You
Tomi Bergman : Thank you wery, wery much!
Juha Ekholm : Life consists of laughter and cry, Babylon 5 gave both.
Sanna Elo : Thank you!
Jukka-Pekka Forsberg : Thanks for this wonderful scifi experience.
Erik Forsström : The best series there ever was. Thank you JMS!
Jarkko Girs : Thank you, beware somebody's watching you!
Henri Grönroos : Thank you for best Tv-Show ever
Markus Haapala : Thanks!
Tuomas Haapanen : Babylon 5 has a special place in our hearts.
Sami-Pekka Haavisto : You'd be surprised...
Hannele Hakala : Babylon 5 in my heart forever. Thanks!
Jyri Hakola : Faith manages.. Thank You
Jutta Halonen : Faith manages!
Tuomas Halonen : One word: thanks!
Karri Haltiala : Thank You.
Mika Hanski : Remember Byron!
Mikko Hanski : We live for the one, we die for the one.
Arto Harjula : The best story I have seen on tv since 1962!
Marko Haverinen : Nothing more to say: thank you!
Teemu Havukainen : Kiitos, Thank you
M. Petteri Heikkinen : Startide is rising
Eeva Heikkonen :
Jukka Heinonen : Thank you for an amazingly addictive saga!
Jyri Heinonen : Thanks for everything!
Jesse Helin : I have no words..
Lea Herd : Thank you, the series was pretty nice
Markku Herd : Thank you for the wonder.
Emma Herranen : B5 has guided my life to a better direction. Thanks.
Henrik Herranen : Moderator's Greetings
Tomi Heteaho : Too bad about crusade.. :-(
Arto Hietanen :
Esa Hiltula : Thanks from a lurker
Elina Hjerppe : Thank you
Lasse Holmstedt : No kiitos JMS! Se oli upeaa.
Valtteri Honkasaari : Thank you for the best thing that has ever come from TV
Atte Honkasalo : Thanks!
Tomi Hurenius : May she rest in piece...
Ari Huttunen : Thank you very much.
Miika Huttunen : Thank you for an excellent story.
Tommi Huuhtanen : Babylon 5 is *magnificent*. Thank you!
Fatso Huuskonen : I'm... Speechless...
Tuomas Hyyppä : Thanks!!
Mikko Hyökki : Thank you for these five seasons.
Karri Hämäläinen : Thank you for B5.
Eero Hänninen : I thank you from bottom of my hart of this great show!
Lauri Härsilä : Best Scifi-series in the Universe
Jarno Iivarinen :
Petri Isomäki :
Santeri Itälinna : The Answer to Life, The Universe & Everything... 42.
Jouko Juhola : Thank you for this great series.
Hannu Juottonen :
Heli Juottonen :
Vesa Juusola : Great work, JMS! From the btm of my heart - thank you.
Timo Jyrinki : Thank you, for the experience, for the thougths & so on
Seppo Järvenpää :
Jyri-Pekka Järvinen : Thanks for an unforgettable experience.
Jussi Jääskeläinen : Years of joy had ended... Missing you B5!
Satu K. : Thank You.
Tommi Kaituri : It was a good story, storyteller.
Atro Kajaste : Words only go so far. Thanks for this experience!
Mika Kallo :
Kalle Kamunen : Thank you very much!
Tomi Kangas : Thank you so much for the best scifi-story ever written
Tapio Kanko : Thanx... It was a f****in´best series in whole world
Tommi Karesvuori : Thanks for the best tv series I've ever seen!
Antti Karhu : Thank you for making the best tv-series ever!
Katja Karhu : Thank you :)
Jarmo Karonen : For his story of the future, the history of the future.
Anne Karppinen : Thanks for an excellent show.
Ilkka Karppinen : Babylon5: N
Tero Karppinen : Thank's for the best live-action science fiction serie!
Kristjan Kasevits :
Riku Katainen : Thank you for giving me so many beautiful moments.
Milla Kauhala : SiL IS beautiful.Thanks for a FULL story.I'll remember.
Juha Kaunisto :
Janne Kauppi : BABYLON 5 LIVES FOREVER !!!
Klaus Kekki : Thanks for these unforgettable months...
Juha Kerätär : Babylon 5 is an epic. And I love it. Thank you for it!
Ville Kilkku : Babylon 5 has been simply the best scifi-series to date
Olli Kinnunen : Thank you for making a show that made tv worth watching
Timo Kinnunen : Thanks!
Jan Knutar : B5 is the best story I've ever seen or read, thankyou!
Risto Kokkonen : What should be said is said.
Lauri Kolehmainen : Thank you, JMS, for the greatest sci-fi series ever!
Aatu Komsi : I am so, *so* grateful. We'll keep the faith.
Eetu Komsi : Zathras great hero!Others come, but we remember Zathras
Petri Konttinen : B5 is by far the best tv-series I've ever seen!
Ville Koponen : Thanks for B5.
Mika Korpela : Thank you JMS and same in finnish 'Kiitos'
Ariel Koskinen : Wow, I'm gonna remember that. Thank you, thank you.
Markku Koskinen : Thank you so much for the series, I'm going to miss it.
Petri Kuikka : Thank you VERY much!!!
Timo Kuismanen : Babylon5 is one of the greatest tv-series ever.
Esa Kuokkanen : Thanks for saving my life !
Anna Kuosmanen : Thank you!
Petri Kuukkanen : Live long and prosper!
Jori Kuusela : Thank you JMS and all the people who made B5 possible.
Pasi "pazi" Kuusisto : Spank you. Spank you very much! : )
Marita Kuusto : B5 really made me think and enjoy, thank you.
Marjo Kuusto : Thank you for showing us what the future is like :)
Timo Kyttä : I saw every episode and enjoyed every minute. Thanks!!
Jerri Kämpe : THX, for a great expedition into my own mind with B5
Päivi Kärki :
Klaus Käyhkö : JMS Rulz!
Eikka Laakso : You made the Best TV-Series ever. Thank you!
Sami Laakso : Greetings, O Great Maker. :)
Jari Laaksonen : -
Jukka Lahtinen :
Jarkko Laiho : Thank you for the emotions.
Jarkko Lainkari : Thanks for the dream that felt like a real
Kimmo Laitinen :
Joonas Laitio : A map to worklife!
Sami Lakaniemi : Thank you for the best science fiction series... ever.
Matti Lakanmaa : Only an alien lifeform would require alternative series
Olli-Pekka Lamminen : Must all good things come to an end...
Turo Lamminen :
Heikki Laurila : Thanks Joe, You have done great job whit b5
Jyri Lehtinen : Babylon5 is something greater than a tv-series. Thanks.
Anssi Lehtinen :
Erja Lehtiniemi :
Jussi Lehtiniemi :
Pertti Lehtisaari : Thank you for the best tv-series EVER made!!!
Paavo Leimula : Every story has an end, but only few lives forever!
Anne Leinonen : Thank You for this great experience!
Antti Leinonen : Thank You!
Petri Lepre : Thank you for the 5 years of joy and sorrrow..
Esa "Elmo" Leppälä : Babylon 5 was the only MUST SEE for me. Thank you!
Aleksi Liimatainen :
Antero Linde : Thanks for creating B5, the best tv series ever made!
Tommi Lindroos : Toast. To the best story ever seen on TV.
Nestori Liski : B5 is the best serie _ever_!
Tomas Lundqvist : Thank you!
Anssi Luomaranta : Thank you. :-)
Mikko Luusalo :
Jani Lyttinen :
Pekka Lyyra : Thank You!
Mauri Majanoja : Thanks for the experience of B5
Jukka Manninen : Thank you for giving me the weekly dose of great scifi
Mika Marjamaa : Three words: "Thank You, JMS"
Otto Martin : Thank you, and luck with all your future authorings.
Mikko Mehtonen : Wow!
Jaakko Meriläinen : Thanks for the ride.
Pasi Mikkonen :
Jaron Moilanen : Tolkien would've been your fan. Magnificient Story!
Seppo Molander :
Aki Muhli : B5 was great! Thank you very much!
Juha Mykkänen :
Marko Mäenpää : Thank you. Hope for new series is all we got.
Harri Mähönen : What could I say? Impressive!
Matti Mäki-Petäys : There will never another series that I'll like so much.
Teemu Mäkinen :
Samuli Mäkinen : Thank you for the best TV-series.
Mika Määttä : best series for a thousand year
Lilli Nenonen : Thank you for B5. We will miss it...
Antti Niemelä :
Joose Niemi : Thank you.
Riitta Niemistö : Faith Manages!
Juha Niini : Thank you! B5 was impressive TV-series.
Janne Nikkanen : Thank you for the best tv-series EVER made!
Paul Nikolov : Thank you for Babylon 5,the best TV series ever!
Aleksi Nurmi :
Harri Ohra-aho : Be seeing you
Toni Oinas :
Leena Ojala :
Pasi Ojala :
Tommi Ojanperä : Shine on you crazy diamond!
Ossi Ojutkangas : Thanks.
Harri Oksanen :
Heikki Ollila : Peace, love & happiness
Jouni Paakkinen : Many thanks!
Tuukka Paavola :
Jussi Paju : Just another lurker..
Hannu Pajunen : Thank you very much! Really.
Teemu Palkki : Let's keep it short: Thanks.
Stefan Parviainen : Thank you for a great TV series
Tommi Pehkonen : We want more ! (Please...)
Juhani Peltola : Thank you! B5 was very interesting.
Matti Peltola : B5 is one of the best tv-program i've ever seen.
Perttu Perkola : Tnx. Been a good five years enjoying your show.
Harri Perälä : It was a good story.
Markku Pesonen : Thanks for the great show.
Timo Pietilä : To make a long story short...Thanks
Mirva Piippo : Thank You. B5 is the best TV-series ever made!
Olli Pitkänen : Well, look at that. The sun's coming up
Matti Poutanen : Thank you for B5, it was really something spectacular.
Juha Pudas : Thank You...
Aki Pursiainen :
Reko Pyyppönen : Word(s) is not enought to do this
Sirpa Pöyhönen : B5 was much more than just a TV-series, thanks for that!
Jaakko Rajakallio : Babylon 5 was great, thanks JMS
Miia Ranta : speechless, still sobbing... thank you.
Antti Rantakaulio : You wrote best tv-program ever!
Jarkko Rasanen : Very good show!
Tommi Raulahti : Thank you very much for best Sci-fi TV-series ever made
Rami Remes : ei mulla mitään sanottavaa oo
Pasi Rintamäki : Thanks for all who created Babylon 5
Reko Rintamäki : It was something spectacular.
Teemu Ristivuori : Pelastakaa B5:ITF!!
Timo Rossi :
Panu Ruotsalainen : Thank you!
Tapio Ruotsalainen : Thanks for the great story.
Sami Ruuska : Thank you very much
Ville Ryhänen : B5 was the best and most moving TV-series ever made
Petri Räihä :
Jussi Räty : Smile
Kimmo Räty : I want to thank you about REALLY great TV-program.
Olli Salmi : Thanks for giving a purpose for my life ;-)
Toni Salminen : Greatness is Babylon 5, thanks.
Sari Salmisuo :
Timo Salo : Thanks! A lot!
Antti Salomäki : Great series, i thank you for that.
Tatu Salonen : After months, I'm still speechless. Thank you.
Ville Salonen : Great work
Vesa Seppänen : Yeah.
Niilo Siljamo :
Ari Siltavuori : From the dawn to the dawn
Ari Sippola : The best tv-series ever, what else can I say.
Jouni Siren : Thanks for the great story!
Juha Stenbäck : "No, no. Don't leave." -Sheridan to his 'father' in B5
Olli Sulopuisto : Thanks for the series. That's all there's to say.
Matti Sunnari : Thank you
Kari Suvitie :
Mikko Särelä : Thank you
Marianne Tamminen :
Juha-Matti Tapio : Faith manages. Thank you.
Janne Tenhovirta : I`ll see You in a million years
Vesa Tenhunen : Thank you. It was a great story.
Riku Tiikasalo : Babylon 5 made a difference. Thank you, JMS!
Markku Tirkkonen : Excellent series. Thanks!
Jokilehto Tomi : Thank you for the best Sci-Fi serie ever!
Jarno Tuomainen :
Tuuli Tuominen : Thank you for the moments, thank you for the story.
Jani Tuovila : Thanks for the best tv-series ever!
Salla Tuulos-Tikka : Thank you!
Kaija Tuuna : It has been proved, that B5 can bring people together.
Kalle Vahlman : Can't talk.
Pellervo Valkama : yo! you rock =)
Rami Valta :
Ville Vataja : Thank you, You made our world a better place to be.
Mika Vesa : Thank you for such a fantastic idea: Babylon 5!
Hannu Vesala : B5 really kicks ass! The BEST tv-series ever!
Timo Viinanen : Good luck on the path that you walking.
Mikko Vilpponen : "Toast. To absent friends, .. and memory still bright."
Ilkka Virolainen : The best tv-series of all time!
Joni Virtanen : This journey has ended.Another begins.Time to rest now.
Miika Virtanen : Nothing is the same anymore... Thank you.
Henry Vistbacka : Thank you. Babylon5 has been a GREAT ride.
Eetu Vuokko : Yes.
Janne Vuontisjärvi : :)
Eero Välimaa : Thanks for the Best TV-series EVER!
Jarkko Vääräniemi :
Mika Wendelin : Just wanted to say thanx for the greatest series ever!
Tero Ykspetäjä : -
Juha Yli-Olli : That was it, thanks!
Teemu Ylikoski : And the winner is.....B5
Joel Yliluoma : Mr. Straczynski, you made a respectable story.
Mika Ylisaukko-oja : It was... unbelievable! Thank You!
Joni Ylistö : Sankyuu, that was nice :)
Tim Åkesson : best piece of sci-fi I've ever seen, really great!
Miikka Åsten : The world will never be the same again... Thank you
Mika Äärelä : Thanks for 5 exiting seasons. We own you a big bow!
Siv Österlund :

( As a bonus for you who had the courage to read until this point; some of the weirder products of fandom in Finland: http://koti.mbnet.fi/sjtm/kuvat/jouluvorloni.jpg http://www.cs.tut.fi/~leopold/Babylon5/Kumiankka/Img/Roanoke.jpeg)

- -- (Technical note: if sending a news message to sfnet.viestinta.tv.babylon5 outside from Finland, please send it directly as a mail message to the moderator's account babylon5@modeemi.fi.)

From: jmsatb5@aol.com (Jms at B5)

Wow...for all the "speechless" comments listed there, the biggest one has to be on this side of the modem. I'm totally knocked out by the kind words; thank you. To know the show made a difference, and will be remembered, is the one thing that makes all the effort worthwhile.

My thanks to you again, and my best wishes to everyone in the sfnet.viestinta.tv.babylon5 newsgroup.

Truly, the tale is now Finnish'd.


Saw something the other day about "Joe's Comics" -- the new Top Cow Universe created by J. Michael Straczynski. Something new? It's supposed to be available March 29.

A: I can talk more about this after next Wednesday. It kinda falls into the "various announcements" heading....

Can you tell us about any new projects you have been working on?

A: Here's a brief post I snatched from the newsgroup.

"In 1987 and 1988, I had two novels published consecutively, DEMON NIGHT and OTHERSYDE. Subsequent to that, I fell down the TV hole and never had time to even try to write another novel, though I did do the occasional article and short story, including one mystery novelette in the anthology Blowout in Little Man Flats.

Knowing that the TV season is going to start gearing up soon (June-October is prime hiring season for show runners), I decided I may not have another chance anytime soon...and have just completed my first new novel in 12 years.

It's now gone off to my NY agent (the LA agency loves it as a possible feature), and we will see what we will see. It's a contemporary mystery/noire thriller with supernatural overtones, set in LA, and weighs in at just under 100,000 words. With luck, we can get this thing out by the Fall, assuming the planned auction goes well."

"In an auction, the book goes out to X number of publishers, who have until Y date to respond with an offer. Best offer gets it."

"Just a note in response to those who've asked about what's coming up next for me that's non-B5 in nature...along with the just completed novel, there are a number of things that I've signed to do that I haven't been able to talk about, but will be able to start releasing some of that information here over the next few weeks, so stay tuned...."


You've won a number of awards for writing, etc. over the years. Which one means the most to you?

A: The one that always means the most to me is the Hugo, because that one comes from the fans, the viewers, not the critics, or the literary establishment, or even from peers. That one comes right from the people who read your stuff, and it is thus the most meaningful.


How do you write a work like "Rising Stars"?

A: I take the same approach to writing a comic as writing a script; I flesh it out panel by panel, page by page, rather than doing a plot and letting the artist break it down. Not because I don't think the artist can or should, but because I just don't know how to write it any other way. I need to see it in my head, shot for shot, or I can't follow or create the narrative.


What does it look like?

Like this. (From Rising Stars #1) Please excuse the weird margins; it came in odd when I did the text insert from the script.

"Nova Placenta"

PAGE ONE

SPLASH PAGE
Earth looms large in BG. We can see the edge of the North American continent through a scattering of clouds.

In FG, we see part of a massive ball-shaped energy field with arcs and eruptions like solar flares. The bulk of it bleeds off the page, we see only enough of it to know that it's big, and it's heading right for Earth.

CAPTION
Poet's Journal. This is way it happened.

PAGE TWO

This page is done in soft pastels, an airbrushed feeling, romantic, the faces of the two people seen here smiling, warm, loving. This and the facing page, page 3, are meant as parallel pages, so the poses used in one should be reflected in the facing page. (It may help to read each panel one at a time across the two pages, rather than straight through.)

PANEL ONE - A BEDROOM, NIGHT

There is a couple in bed: 30s, the man is EVAN, dark haired, the woman ELIZABETH, with red hair. A vase of flowers is beside the bed. It's night, and Evan is in bed smiling up at her as she settles into the bed. She is pulling open a nightgown, clearly on her way into the bed.

His arm is draped across the bed, ready to accept her. A trace of moonlight filters in the lightly curtained window, which blows gently with the nightwind.

CAPTION

Not the way I would like to think it happened.

PANEL TWO

A medium-high shot angling down toward the bedroom window in BG. In FG Elizabeth and Evan are embracing, their mouths hungry for one another, loving, passionate.

PANEL THREE

A downshot of Evan's face in the bed, her POV, his eyes closed in rapture, mouth slightly open, her hand reaching out to him.

PANEL FOUR

A close-up of the Elizabeth's face in the bedroom, his hand on her face, straddling him, the lovemaking continues. A vague glow backlights her head.

PANEL FIVE

A wide shot again, same angle as the first panel, as the two entwined in sex look toward the open window, which is now lit by brilliant light from outside.

PANEL SIX

A thin horizontal panel across the bottom of the page, broken into repetitive sub-panels in which we see the ball of energy coming closer and closer to the earth, moving left to right, toward the intersection of pages 2 and 3, so that in the last part of the panel it's about to strike the earth.

PAGE THREE

This page is done in darker, more stark art and colors, the look severe, more realistic.

PANEL ONE - THE SAME BEDROOM, NIGHT

Evan is still in bed, but dead asleep. Instead of a vase of flowers beside the bed, there is an empty bottle of beer. His arm is draped across the bed, but in sleep, where he passed out. Elizabeth is in the same pose as the other page, but from the expression on her face and her movement, pulling the nightgown closer, we can tell she's getting out of bed, not getting in. A trace of moonlight filters in the lightly curtained window, which blows gently with the nightwind.

CAPTION

Or even the way it probably happened.

PANEL TWO

The same medium-high shot, angling down slightly toward the window in BG. In FG, we see a part of Evan's body, still asleep on the bed, and out the window we see Elizabeth embracing a blonde, muscular man, their faces locked in the same kind of passionate kiss as on the previous page.

PANEL THREE

A close shot of Evan in bed asleep, mouth slightly open, drooling.

PANEL FOUR

Outside the house, a close-up of Elizabeth's face, the larger hands of the blonde man touching her face, the house behind her in BG, the stars above...making love under the stars...as a light begins to appear in the sky above them.

PANEL FIVE

Evan in bed is awake now, same angle as the first panel, looking out the window to where the night has lit up like daytime. The two figures making love outside are caught in the sudden glare, but almost made invisible by it, whited out.

PANEL SIX

A thin horizontal panel across the bottom of the page, broken into repetitive sub-panels in which we see a sperm coming closer and closer to an ovum, moving right to left toward the intersection of pages 2 and 3, so that in the last part of the panel it's about to enter the ovum.

PAGE FOUR

SPLASH PAGE

The night has turned into day, totally obscuring the house except for the barest silhouette, just enough to make out the forms of the couple outside the house, standing, and the man inside, now standing on the porch, their forms almost skeletal or blurred out, the way those old x-ray Specs would make things look when you would squint through them.

CAPTION

Just the truth about the way it happened, and what came after.

CAPTION

Though no one really understood what happened that night. Not for a long time.

CAPTION

Not until the first of us was born.

jms


Q: Seems as if everything B5 is coming to a close. Do you know why merchandising for the show is down?

A: We've heard from licensors and publishers, including Titan and Del Rey, and the #1 reason they cite the problems they're having is that TNT is airing the show at 7 a.m. Saturday mornings here in the US, which is the biggest market, and where it *cannot* add new viewers. (Kung Fu is aired middle afternoon weekdays.) Putting it at 7 a.m. Saturdays was a testosterone decision by some folks at TNT.

So without question or hesitation, from the source: the continued placement of B5 where it is is hurting the publishing licensees. This is but the most current and visible example.

Q: When will the next "Rising Stars" issue be out?

A: Six should be out either this coming week or the week thereafter. Things start moving awfully fast now.

I'm enjoying "Rising Stars" very much -- good story, attention to details.

A: Thanks muchly, I appreciate the kind words. (Interesting about the part re: reading the book to music; I always write to music, and I think that may sometimes affect the pacing of the thing).

I wanted very much to do a book about *people* who are going through this situation, and I'm glad to see that their humanity is coming through.

It's been fun.


If Babylon 5 would go to DVD, could there be expanded episodes; background information included?

A: Highly unlikely, given the cost and the number of episodes involved and the need to track down all that footage.

This is different from the "Special Edition" of The Gathering?

A: The "Special Edition" is NOT a director's cut. It is another producer's cut. What you saw in the original version of the pilot was with very few exceptions what the director assembled. What is in the special edition is what Copeland and I were able to re-edit after having done the show for a while. Sure, anyone can go in and re-edit the various episodes, but that isn't the same thing as a specific director's cut, and those are gone. Q: Are licensed items considered canon? How does that all work?

A: How closely it ties in depends on the item in question. To some extent that's Fiona's job, to cross-reference new products with what's gone before to ensure that there are as few violations as possible, whatever we can catch.

So the goal overall is to not *conflict* with what's established wherever possible. (Some folks have unfairly gigged her for lapses with one of the original RPG books, not understanding that she hadn't even been HIRED when that book had gotten put together, and that was one of the reasons for bringing her in in the first place.)

As to something that adds to the canon, that tends to be something that I generate, as with the B5 trilogies from Del Rey. They are canonical in the broad strokes, though it's impossible to ride every single small detail and get anything done on any kind of reasonable schedule.

We've noticed that you talk about the main cast a lot more than individuals like Robin Sachs, who were in a few episodes, but as a supporting character. How involved were you with casting people for the series, like Robin Sachs? Did you do the selection or was it the Casting Department?

A: No, I was directly involved with the casting of just about everybody on the show. But when you work with someone day in and day out, you naturally develop more of a familiarity than with guest stars, even when they do make several appearances, as with Robin.


Q: How have you structured "Rising Stars"?

A: There are always peaks and valleys; the first bunch of Rising Star issues were really establishing the rules and who some of the characters are; the fact that the murders are going on, the possible motive, and introducing a bunch of suspects.

Now all that pipe has been laid, and I can start to really move the arc of the story forward, do more in present-tense than in flashback. That's kind of where the fun really kicks in.


February 3, 2000

There are a number of issues left unresolved at the end of "Sleeping in Light". Will these be covered in any upcoming publications? For example, the fate of David Sheridan?

Q: That will be covered in one of the Centauri novels being written by Peter David.


January 22, 2000

Q: What is the coolest item made available from the B5 universe?

A: Probably the Starfury model.


Q: Have you gone to see "Galaxy Quest" yet? Did you enjoy it?

A: I enjoyed the film. As it happens, I went to see it with Harlan, and I was thinking, "Isn't this odd, for the person who wrote the most famous Star Trek episode, and the guy behind B5, to be watching Galaxy Quest together."


Date: 14 Jan 2000

Q: What can you tell us about your next "Amazing Stories" story?

A: The first one was a Londo story because I really wanted to do something different and cool with the character, go inside his head and show the transition to being emperor, let folks know that inside he was still the same Londo...the second one with Lyta and G'Kar was mainly for fun, to play with them and see their relationship together out there.

The third, which I just finished and turned in to Amazing Stories, and which will appear I think around May, was written with one express purpose: to set the proverbial cat amongst the proverbial pigeons with something that's going to send a ripple all through B5 fandom; it's a story I don't think anyone ever expected to see.

Just the first line alone should stun a number of B5 folks

And that's all I'm going to say about it. But just know...there's a real toad-strangler coming up in May.


RISING STARS

January 15, 2000

Unfortunately Top Cow hasn't been keeping to the schedule for "Rising Stars". Is that going to change soon?

A: Actually, TC is really getting that part together; 4 came one month after 3, and we just locked down the pencils and inks on 5, so that's heading toward hitting the next deadline, or damn close to it.

Five, by the way, is probably the strongest issue of the bunch, and definitely kicks over the table on the storyline.


Q: You mentioned that Rising Stars #4 will be out this week. They have been really late, so are you sure it is coming out now?

Q: Actually, it IS out this week, and the rest of the schedule is falling into place as well. Christian is massively catching up on the scripts in hand.


Out of curiosity, how did you hook up with CBS News for the segment that aired on the Sunday Morning program?

Q: Apparently the segment producer was a big B5 fan, so she called one day.

January 6, 2000

Q: This question comes up all the time. What is your view on fan fiction -- the use of B5 characters in other works of fiction?

A: I can't give permission because WB owns the rights to those characters, not me. And I think they would still view it as a form of copyright infringement.


January 5, 2000

Q: Can you tell us exactly how you begin writing?

A: I always start with character. Character gives you plot; if you start with plot and try to back your way into characater, you can go afoul very easily.

You have to know who your character is, what he wants, how far he will go to get it, and how far someone else will go to stop him. Answer those questions and 90% of the plotting work is done for you.


Further comments by JMS can be found at Page 2 - JMS Speaks

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