JMS on GEnie / January 16, 1995

b5jms-owner at b5jms-owner at
Tue Jan 16 23:26:39 EST 1996

Forwarded message to B5JMS list.
Originally From: dstrauss at (David Strauss)


Sorry about the delay this time.  You know how real life, the holidays, 
the grandparents, and a new job can do that.... :)

A note: once again, Joe didn't start the DS9/B5 discussion, but jumped in 
to try and calm both sides'll see what I mean.

[Spoiler Space...lots of later Season Three Spoilers included.]






SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 370       Tue Dec 26, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 19:38 EST
      Re: formula...yes, but remember that all the shows you cite, THE
HONEYMOONERS, I LOVE LUCY, and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE were all shows of a  time
that lent itself to formula, all of the 50s and 60s.  You set a format and you
never wavered from that.  (But even in those, there was some room to maneuver;
remember the DICK VAN DYKE show which was one long dream about alien invasions
and closets full of walnuts?  Even there some were experimenting and pushing
the envelope.)

     Since then, television has grown, and changed, and the better shows tend
to be the ones that are most groundbreaking, least formulaic.  You look at
TWIN PEAKS, or NYPD BLUE, or PICKET FENCES, and they're fresh, innovative,

     This is probably the one area where I have my biggest beef with ST.   The
logic goes that if you're a new, untested show, you can't afford to take
risks, you have to build your audience.  But ST has, however you wish to
phrase it, a guaranteed audience.  It *can* take chances.  It *does* have the
money for big episodes.  But what it does is to stay within very strictly
proscribed boundaries.  It's like having this incredibly powerful, souped up
Porsche...and using it to drive around the block to the corner store for

     ST is a program rooted strongly in the 1960s form of storytelling.   It's
frozen in time, I think, when it could be innovative, challenging, dynamic. 
It chooses, deliberately, not to be that.  And if that's what people like
about it, then that's fine.  I just think it's a tremendously wasted
opportunity to present something for the 90s that would be as innovative and
imaginative and challenging as the original ST was in the 60s.

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Message 380       Tue Dec 26, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 23:47 EST
     Actually, if you want to hold off a bit on the conversion, you may want
to consider using the first new ep coming in January, "Voices of Authority." 
It has elements of the sense of wonder, some good background on the show,
advances the storyline bigtime, and has some of the funniest stuff we've ever
done.  Something for everyone.

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Message 390       Wed Dec 27, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 05:58 EST
      Err...I think something may not have been understood, or maybe my syntax
was sloppy...what I'd intended, and what I think is still there in the
message, was that I'd hoped that ST today would be as exciting in the 90s as
it was in the 60s.  That was kinda my point, that ST in its first incarnation
*was* innovative and interesting and imaginative; I hope that wasn't

     (And Jose...yes, you're probably right on that distinction between the
two kinds of Trek.)

     Came across this in my email tonight (it's now a tick before 3 a.m.).

  This leads me to a request, which I am writing by email since I don't
  have access to CompuServe or GEnie, but please feel free to respond to it
  publicly rather than privately if you wish, since others may be interested
  in your response as well.  I would be fascinated, if you would care to
  talk about it, about your writing process.  Do you have a set time, a
  predetermined schedule in which to write?  Are you *able* to write like
  that?  Do you write rapidly?  easily?  enjoyably?  Do you read your work-
  in-progress aloud to hear the language?  Do you solicit feedback from
  others?  Do you revise?  much?  What kind of revisions are you likely to
  make?  And if you do make revisions, do they occur as you go along, or
  afterwards, or a combination?  And, finally, would it be possible for you
  to post (or email) any bits of writing showing the revision process?

  I'm refraining from asking all the related questions I'd love to know the
  answers to, but if this is a topic you'd be willing to discuss and think
  I/we would be interested in other details as well, please do talk about
  them.  Thank you so much.

Marcia Goldstein

     Since these were good questions, I thought I'd tackle them here.  To the
first: no, I don't have a set time, except that I pretty much end up writing
all the time...when I get up, when I'm fighting sleep to go to bed, in-
between...basically, I chew on a scene over and over in my head until I'm
satisfied with it, then I write it down.  Sometimes that process goes on at
the desk, or over dinner, or watching TV...but as soon as it comes through, I
get up and I write it.  Consequently, once I've thought it through, "seen" it
in my head a couple dozen times like watching a movie, the actual writing, or
transcribing, is fairly easy.  It's the thinking part that makes Zathras' head

     Most of my revisions take place before anyone else sees it; I don't
generally turn over the script until I'm happy with it.  At that point, it's
published as an official first draft, even though it may have gone through
multiple revisions in my computer before anyone else ever saw it.   Sometimes,
though, I get it right the first time, and what gets shot is basically first
draft.  Once it's turned it, there are additional revisions, but usually of a
minor nature, changing sets to accommodate shooting, or just changing a word. 
(I've been known to reissue a full page when we get into blues or pinks *just*
to change a word or two.)

     I never read the words aloud because then they all come out sounding like
me; I can "hear" them better in my head, where I can hear the actual tenor of
Londo's voice.  I never solicit opinions on pages while I'm still writing,
only afterward, and mainly in terms of production aspects.  To do otherwise
risks you losing your direction and second-guessing too much.  

     Do I enjoy it?  Yes and no.  Writing is the one, the ONLY thing I'm good
at.  Writing is also the hardest thing I do.  I agonize over every word,
always fighting the fear that this one won't be as good as the last one, that
this time I won't be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat.   Sometimes, when
a scene comes through completely of its own volition, it's great fun; when it
doesn't, it's agony.  Sometimes I enjoy the writing process; sometimes I more
enjoy *having* written.  It's kinda like taking a portable speed drill with a
3/4" steel bit and driving it into the side of your's painful, but
after the first four inches in, you kinda start to like it....

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 322       Tue Dec 26, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 23:48 EST
     Mike: suffice to say there are some...interesting moments coming up soon
between Refa and Londo.  There are a number of showdowns coming up this
season, between a lot of different characters, over stuff that's been building
up for a while now.  We'll see where this one goes.

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Message 411       Wed Dec 27, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 22:01 EST
     Rick: exactly.  I think the show will thus be perceived differently when
its stripped daily, just as you mentioned.

     Executor: I have to take exception to the notion that it's not "written
by committee."  I happen to know many of the people who do, and have, worked
over there.  (And there is no one "script editor" you refer to there.)  On
every episode, once the freelancer or staffer does an outline, it's brought in
and the story is "broken" (their terms) by all of the available
writers/producers/story editors gathered into one room who invariably tear it
apart and rebuild it, with someone writing on a chalkboard where everything's
going, changing it as the group changes stuff.  Jeri Taylor confirmed this in
an interview with her; the Wired in-depth story does the same; and I know the
people who've worked there in this capacity.  And, I'm sorry, but a group of 7
or so people sitting around a room and throwing out ideas about how the story
should go *is* a committee.  Before you come back with this, I suggest you
read the article in question, lest you commit the crime you decry, that of 
speaking from ignorance.

     Sue: no, it's our left *and* Londo's left.  As the fireball comes toward
us, he's standing with his back to us, looking at the fire.  The door is to
his, and our, left.  

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Message 424       Thu Dec 28, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 04:29 EST

     Well, I *finally* finished writing the two-parter, "War Without End,"
which is probably the toughest thing I've written for the series to date.  
Given everything that has to fit in here, and the fact that it's the other
half of the B4 storyline (this ain't a spoiler, that'll be common knowledge in
ads and the like), it became a pretty difficult job, moreso than when I'd
originally thunk it up.  It's kinda like cramming 20 pounds of potatoes in a
10 pound bag...but I *think* I got it all in, even though the initial drafts
came out at about 7 pages too long.  As I commented to one person, "I'm
definitely dancing on the edge of my ability here."  But I'm pretty sure I
pulled it all off...and I think folks are going to be quite pleased.

     But *man* that was tough....

     Now, having written 16 and 17, only 5 scripts remain to be written for
this season.  And there's still an awful lot to fit in before the big season
ender, which I suspect will raise quite a few eyebrows.  

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 329       Wed Dec 27, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 22:03 EST
     Thanks.  Though I knew about the gaff a LONG time before it was to air
here in the US, I let the east/west thing go through as shot for the very
first broadcast because I was afraid that the loop might hurt the scene, and
it was *so* perfectly done.  That over, I decided it was worth taking a shot
at it.  If your friend didn't notice, then we did it right.   So now those who
taped the first broadcast have something that'll never be seen again (if I
have anything to say about it).

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 10        Thu Dec 28, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 04:20 EST
     The email response I sent is correct, the release is valid, just not
written the way I'd've preferred; it makes too much of the fiscal aspects of
the darned thing.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 446       Thu Dec 28, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 22:40 EST
     Kim: this was probably the most logistically difficult, since I had so
many elements "in play" at any given moment, and so many threads to deal with,
even though there's really just the one overall storyline (it's hard to
explain, you'll just have to see it).  Other things have been more difficult
for other reasons...either it was too emotionally close to me, or I've been
under a killer deadline, it varies.

     Pat: you fall into the trap of accepted cliche re: committee writing.  
That's the usual picture people have of TV writing, and frankly, in the case
of most dramatic TV, it ain't true.  For starters, two of the shows you cite
are sitcoms; sitcoms work differently from dramatic series in that there's
often (though not always) a gang of gag writers who work in tandem to come up
with an episode, with someone transcribing the jokes, around a basic premise. 
Other times you get a writing team, one knows structure, the other is funny;
ain't the same deal as dramatic writing.

     I've been involved in a LOT of dramatic television, from MURDER SHE WROTE
to WALKER to TWILIGHT ZONE and JAKE, and it's just not done by committee. 
When it comes to my scripts, as a staffer, I write them on my own, get my
notes from the exec producer, make the changes, and it goes into production. 
In the case of a freelancer, the outline and script come in, the writer gets
notes from the story editor or producer, does the next draft, turns that in,
and someone on staff then takes the script and makes whatever final changes --
minor or major -- are required to make it producible or a better story. 
Sometimes you don't touch it at *all* except to make production (set) changes;
sometimes it's more.  But you've got just the original writer, and usually one
staffer doing cleanup.  It ain't three, four or seven guys in a room throwing
around ideas.  If a staffer does a huge rewrite, sometimes you'll put in for
shared credit.   (The reason you see ten zillion writer credits in many ST
episodes is due to the gang rewriting/writing process.)

     I'm not saying it doesn't happen at all in dramatic TV, because that
wouldn't be true...only that it's not the rule, and is much rarer than you
might think.  Not one of the dramatic series I've been involved with has ever
worked that way.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 473       Fri Dec 29, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 23:40 EST
     Let me see if I've got this straight...Executor says that ST is not
written by committee...I say that it is...he says it's not, and that "reality
doesn't care" if I take exception to his statement that ST is written by
committee...and then he states that ST *must* be written by committee, and
thus it IS written by committee, which means I was correct and reality is on
my side.

     At some point here I think somebody fell down the rabbit hole....

     And then I'm contradicted quoting the "script editor" for ST, when I say
there IS no such creature working on the show, and in fact despite being told
I'm wrong by Executor, he turn turns around and reveals that the "editor" in
question is John Ordover, who edits the BOOKS, not the show, and is NOT a
script editor, which I said doesn't exist, which again shows that reality is
on my side....

     This is makings Zathras' head hurt....

     Re: the "stupid thread," and the "effective end of similarity" being that
the two shows were set on space stations...oh, you mean absent the fact that
the two shows both were helmed by commander ranked officers who had survived
major and emotionally devastating battles, both had female seconds-in-command,
both had a shapeshifter in their pilots, both had the female second leading a
counter-attack to a massive attack in that same pilot, and a lot of other
stuff in common....oh, you mean absent all THAT it's the "effective end of
similarity."  Gotcha.

     "Writing teams can come up with ideas better than one writer."  Well,
THAT should certainly put Hemingway, and Shakespeare, and Dickens, and Wilde,
and Borges, and Faulkner, and Dostoeyvsky, and Marlowe in their place,
yessir...and I'm sure you are now prepared to name the committees of writers
that have come up with better than individual writers.  I eagerly await them.

     As for your comments on how TV writing and production works...rarely have
I seen misinformation so breathtakingly portrayed.  Saying it's so doesn't
make it so.

     Finally, as for being bugged by email, I almost always see this when
somebody gets his or her hide branded in public forums; if you have these,
notify GEnie.  Otherwise, it leads me to doubt if they exist, and to consider
that you're just saying that to get sympathy on your side, 'cause the *facts*
sure as heck aren't.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 16        Sun Dec 31, 1995
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 05:54 EST
      One other aspect I forgot to mention is that if we do the tapes, there
are residuals and royalties to pay to actors, writers, directors as well as to
WB and elsewhere.  The more you put on a tape, the more residuals you end up
paying per tape...and the more the prices is going go up.  It's not the same
as copying a bunch of tapes for a friend; we have to pay everyone who
participated in the episode.  

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 111       Fri Jan 05, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 03:44 EST
     Atratus: how can I answer that without giving away major story points
from the next 2 years?  

     Re: Ivanvoa showing up at someone's home in lingerie...darn, just ran
outta pixie dust...imagine that....

     Scott: yes, go the Raleigh article; sorry, meant to mention this
before...terminal brain-fart on my part.

     Doug: regarding making people laugh until their sides hurt...this is
something I always go for.  It's easy to go for the "well, that's amusing"
stuff, but to make someone laugh out loud, or even until it hurts, is tough. 
In most (but not all) cases, I try to get one solid laugh per episode, one
moving scene per episode, and one "head-conk" per episode.   The first
obligation of a writer is to make you *feel* something, and if I can do that
in an episode, then I've done my job.

     It helps in that I'm not generally a big laugher; when I go to plays or
movies with other people, and they're comedies, afterwards I'll always get
"Why didn't you like it?"  "I did."  "You didn't laugh."  "I was just thinking
about how funny it was."  Usually I can see a punchline coming, and part of my
brain is racing ahead to what it might be.  (And half the time at least I'm
right.)  So I've adopted the philosophy that if I find something extremely
funny, other people will laugh at it; if I'm so tickled that I absolutely
laugh out loud, I know it'll probably kill several people.  As a result, if
I'm going for a funny scene, I don't leave it alone until I laugh at it.  

     When I thought about Londo passing out face first on the banquet table
uttering "...but in purple, I'm *stunning*," I just about fell off my chair
laughing.  Sometimes I'm a little broad in my comedy, other times I go for
something a little more literate or (one hopes) witty (most of these go to
Ivanova, whereas the broad stuff tends to go to Londo in most cases).  But I
try to keep it varied.  

     Strangely enough, the comics that *do* manage to break me up are all the
more assaultive ones...Jerry Lewis, Robin Williams, Buddy Hackett (who can
reduce me to tears), and a few others.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 135       Sat Jan 06, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 01:45 EST
      Yes, in "Ceremonies" Harlan is the voice of the computer used.

      No, have never been on NPR's Fresh Air.  Nobody's asked.

      Well, reactions have been coming in on the two parter, and so far
everyone's wog-boggled.  Peter Jurasik called to say he didn't know what I'm
smoking these days, but to please send ten pounds of it to his house at
*once*.  Mumy went nuts over it, everyone's very excited...including and
especially Michael O'Hare, who got his copy of the script today, read it
straight through, and is *extremely* excited by the story, and what happens
with his character, and is VERY much looking forward to the shoot.  

     BTW, today Walter Koenig and Bill Mumy had a scene together; this (saith
Bill) marks the first time a Lost in Space regular and a Star Trek regular
have acted together in the same scene.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 187       Sun Jan 07, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 23:20 EST
     One of the problems we had with the Hugo last year was that whereas only
a couple of TNG episodes were good enough to get nominated, eight B5 episodes
made it to the final cut.  Because folks went for their favorite episodes, and
they had a number that year.  The result was that the choices got split so
much that TNG won, since it had fewer good or great episodes that season. 
("All Good Things" won with, I think, 57 votes; the top two B5 episodes on the
list had 32 and 27 votes between them, enough right there to have won if
combined.  That was for "Signs and Portents" and "Chrysalis," with "And the
Sky Full of Stars" at 21, "Babylon Squared" at 19, "Believers" at 10, "Mind
War" at 9, "Voice in the Wilderness" at 8, and "Soul Hunter" at 6.)

     So basically, we lost because we had too many solid episodes to choose

     As a result, a lot of folks this year have been campaigning to have
participants go for "The Coming of Shadows," which is the highest rated
episode in all the informal polls on-line and elsewhere from that time period.
It's the one nearly everybody seems to agree upon.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 232       Wed Jan 10, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 05:12 EST
      BTW, two quickies...I haven't had a chance to read it or buy it yet --
or ANY book lately, or see a movie since May -- but Harlan noted to me lately
that our own Adam Troy-Castro's latest novel is especially spiffy, so folks
here may want to check it out.  Also...if you count yourself as *any* kind of
fan of quality SF, then you may want to check out a movie that's SF if you
kinda squint at it a little, and is very likely one of the best movies of its
genre (whatever it is) ever made.   I'm referring to SECONDS, starring
(believe it or not) Rock Hudson, a B&W film directed by Frankenheimer when he
was still terrific.  I mention it because AMC and Bravo are both showing it on
cable this month, in LETTERBOXED form (which I've never seen before), and it's
just an amazing and disturbing and brilliant and absolutely frightening bit of
film making.  If the last two minutes don't give you a case of the screaming
willies for *days* then your cerebral cortex isn't properly installed.

     I don't often recommend things, but if you want to see a film that is
just breathtakingly well done and surreal and guaranteed to make the hair on
your arms stand straight up...grab SECONDS this month.  It's *NOT* available
on disk or tape insofar as I know, and uncut, in this form, is very rare. 
Trust me on this one.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 441       Fri Jan 05, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 03:46 EST, you have it correct.  I slipped a reference to Babylon 5 into
Power as the genetic engineering facility from which Tank first came.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 444       Sat Jan 06, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 01:46 EST
     I guess it's the difference between one show telling you what to think,
vs. another show *asking* you TO think, and what it is that YOU think....

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 446       Sat Jan 06, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 19:42 EST
     OtherSyde came out with a B5 reference in 1990; B5 was announced as a Go
project, with a description of what it was about, in the trades in November
1991; the DS9 premise was conceived over the following winter, and announced
around January/February 1992.  I know the season very well in terms of the
time of year because it was 2 days before Christmas when I got a call from
someone long associated with ST who said, "Joe, are you sitting down?  I just
thought you ought to know, it looks like they're going to use a space station
as the regular base for their new Star Trek series."  I then called someone
else I know associated with ST and asked if they'd heard this, and got it
verified.  The premise was just then being put together, and wasn't formally
given the go-ahead until later in January.)

     As it happens, when DS9 was formally announced, it came within inches of
killing B5 in the early stages of pilot pre-production.  Warner Bros. was
already very iffy about the syndication marketplace to sustain mor than one
space-oriented SF series; they kept telling us that there isn't really an SF
market, there's an ST market, and if it ain't that, it won't work.  What
helped them go along with it was we were based on a space station.  When DS9
was announced, and suddenly it wasn't just two SF shows in a marketplace they
thought couldn't sustain more than one, it was two SPACE STATION shows, one of
which had the ST name, and they were sure we were gonna get creamed.  To this
day, I suspect that if we hadn't already signed all the contracts, and spent a
lot of the money assigned for prep, with all the announcements in the press,
some folks at WB probably would've pushed hard to stop the B5 project, and
might've even succeeded.   That we made it through that is a testimony to a
very few angels at WB and PTEN -- Evan Thompson, Dick Robertson and Gregg
Maday -- who stuck by us at the beginning.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 271       Mon Jan 08, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 15:05 EST
     For those who may be interested, here's a list of coming conventions I'll
be attending over the coming months.

     Necronomicon (Tampa Oct 11-13), Chicago Comic Con (not invited yet, but I
generally go or try to go every year, June 21-23), San Diego Comic Con (same
deal, July 4th weekend), LosCon (again the same...boy, I ought to work on
this...November 24-26), The Encounter in Blackpool UK (June 7-10), and I'm on
as Guest of Honor at Westercon 50 in 1997.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 276       Tue Jan 09, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 01:30 EST
     Haven't yet been invited to the WorldCon...nobody's said boo.  

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 281       Tue Jan 09, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 23:56 EST
     If one wants to go as a civilian and just watch, there's no need for an
invitation.  If the goal is to do a presentation, a panel, whatever, one kinda
has to be invited.  

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 54        Thu Jan 11, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 04:08 EST
     Remember, we're only going to be doing a *few* things to start, just
enough to help make the endeavor self-sustaining.  We're not really in the
merchandising business, that's not what we do.  It's up to other companies to
do models and the like.  

     At this point, the list is just pins, patches, Sheridan's EAS AGAMEMNON
cap, maybe some t-shirts, maybe the videos, scripts, Links, and a couple of
other things.

     BTW, we cannot produce letterbox at this time, for the simple reason that
we would have to go back to the original negative film stock and re-telecine
all of the prints.  We'd have to produce new prints in the original format, re-
edit's a hideously expensive proposition, and we just don't
have those resources.

     When that happens, it'll have to happen through a major video company.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 253       Thu Jan 11, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 04:02 EST
      Actually, having now seen (upon noting this discussion) the two part DS9
episode, it looks to me more like a point-for-point "homage" to SEVEN DAYS IN
MAY...a general who thinks that his president is being soft on preparing for
enemy threats, decides to move his people into position to take over in a
military coup, a lower-level officer (Sisko in the Kirk Douglas role) warning
the president, timing the putch to take place at the time of a major speech
during which instead the general will make his speech instead, code-named
military maneuvers which are supposedly drills but instead are opportunities
for moving military squads into the right position, that same code being
discovered, the general being a patriot by his lights not a traitor, the
general getting boxed in at the last...I could go on, but really, it's SEVEN
DAYS IN MAY right down the line.

SFRT II RoundTable
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Message 284       Fri Jan 12, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 04:11 EST
     Permission isn't required for pictures currently out there from WB on the
nets (and there are lots of them).

     THE BEST MAN?  Good heavens, I've discovered a film I hadn't known
existed.  I'll try and nail a copy at first opportunity if it's something one
would include in such other august company as FAILSAFE and THE MANCHURIAN
CANDIDATE, both of which are *excellent*.

     Re: the Arisia panels...tell you what, Michael...there's bound to be a
moment when it will seem apt to include at that moment, deliver to
the assembled folkses the following message straight from jms:

     STAR TREK VS. B5.  You who programmed this panel, you who determined
theme and direction, who put the Vs. in the title...have you learned nothing
from experience?  Do any of you, who organize conventions and do so out of a
professed love and familiarity with science fiction, remember September 1966? 
That was the year a little science fiction series called STAR TREK debuted on
network television, one year exactly after the premiere of LOST IN SPACE in
September 1965.  STAR TREK, which was panned by reviewers and fans alike who,
out of a perceived loyalty to the previous show, described it as nothing more
than a cheap attempt to cash in on the success of LOST IN SPACE.  LOST was the
established norm, TREK the impudent newcomer, a throwback some said from the
strong family drama of LOST.  TREK fans said that this was unfair, that their
show shouldn't have to be compared to LOST IN SPACE, that it should be taken
on its own merit.

     "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

     There is no STAR TREK VS. B5 except in the minds of those who would
profit from continuing feuds on either side of the fictional picket fence. 
Why not CAGNEY & LACEY VS. NYPD BLUE?  They're both cop shows.  Why is the one
predicated upon the other?  What happened to IDIC, Infinite Diversity in
Infinte Combinations?  Should it be celebrated only in concept, not execution?
The science fiction community is composed of brilliant dreamers, practical
visionaries, afficianados, costumers, craftspeople...and feuds, in equal
measure.  And whichever "side" folks come down on at this panel, B5 or ST,
it's an exercise in factionalization that achieves nothing because there IS no
VS, no OR; it's B5 *and* Star Trek *and* Lost in Space *and* The Prisoner
*and* Space: Above and Beyond.  Because the future of science fiction is in
the cross pollinization of ideas, the interbreeding -- after proper
introductions dinners and flowers -- of dreams and visions and extrapolations,
which in time results in the birth of new dreams, new ideas, and new visions. 
 Absent that, the species, and the genre, dies.

     Yes, it is possible to explore, compare and contrast the methods of
storytelling, the effects, the structure and the acting of any two series;
that is the point of the And.  In Ali vs. Frasier, the Axis vs. the Allies,
Truman vs. Dewey, OJ Simpson vs. an inconvenient truth, there can only be one
left standing at the end.  But in science fiction, we all stand together,
protecting and sharing our diverse dreams, or we do not stand at all.

     RE: "B5 is really X in disguise" You're all right, and you're all wrong. 
Is it Lord of the Rings?  Dune?  The Kennedy story?  The saga of Camelot?  The
Foundation?  A brief history of World War II?  The Bible?   All these and
others have been broached to me by people absolutely sure that this was the
model for the series.  (And, as an aside, this kind of discussion generally
happens only to TV writers; nobody here is doing a panel called "Is Startide
Rising Really X in disguise?"  This happens to TV writers because somehow it
gets assumed that we haven't got an idea in our heads that we didn't swipe
from somebody's book.  But that's another topic for another time.)

     Babylon a Rohrsharch test.  An ink blot created by smashing
actors, archetypes, saga-structure, myth and language against a sheet of
paper, folding it, and bashing it a few times.  When you open it up and look
inside, what you see is the saga closest to your heart and your experience. 
Because like all the works mentioned a moment ago, B5 draws upon the same
wellspring of myth, archetype, symbology, and dime store sociology that feeds
all sagas, from the Illiad on through to the present.  

     Writers, science fiction writers in particular, are like the beggar in
Alladin, who offered new lamps for old...we seize myths that have fallen out
of currency and recast them in newer guise, dust them off and hope a genie
emerges.  Our myths, the myths of Tolkien and Homer, of Heinlein and Mallory,
are eternal; they exchange one name for another, cast off one mask and assume
the next.  If you perceive their presence in Babylon 5, it is because we have
courted the myth, not because we have echoed one of their names from another
place.  King Lear vanishes into Londo, Cassandra peers out from behind the
eyes of G'Kar, Galahad answers to the name Ivanova, the Oracle at Delphi is
now wearing an encounter suit, and Sir Bedevere is...well, that would be

     So you're all right.  And you're all wrong.  Because it's all ACTUALLY
based on the 1967 Young Juveniles novel "The Mad Scientists' Club."  And I'm
actually channeling Eleanor Roosevelt.  (Fortunately, I already have the
wardrobe.)  Oh, yes...and I am the walrus, coo-coo ka choo....

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 1
Message 298       Fri Jan 12, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 17:07 EST
     Read it?  I *loved* "The Mad Scientists Club" the first time I read it as
a kid.  (Never read the follow-up book.)  It was just great fun, and very
ingenious.  I think I may actually still have that copy somewhere in a box.  

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 1
Message 316       Sat Jan 13, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 04:16 EST
     Re: an "edge" to the show....I suspect you're going to get all the edge
you could possibly want with episodes 8, 9 and especially 10.

     Be *very* careful what you wish for.

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 26
Message 288       Sat Jan 13, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 04:32 EST
     Ruth: and that's one thing that I object to about the worldcons.  If a
pro travels to the convention, and appears on panels, which draw the
attendees, which brings money to the convention, then the very *least* the con
should do is provide a free membership.  As an example of this, I was
repeatedly asked by folks involved in the recent WorldCon in San Francisco to
come, do a B5 presentation, me and Harlan and one or two others...I wasn't
going to go at first, because I was extremely busy, but finally I relented,
paid my own way up there, showed up at the door to do something they'd asked
me to do...and found out that I had to buy my own membership.  My comments in
response do not bear repeating in a public forum, and in any event would
sizzle modem connections anyway.

     And the "we'll refund if we show a profit" line is sheerest nonsense;
I've never known a single pro who got his membership reimbursed for a
WorldCon.  Some pros I know end up getting booked back to back on panels, they
sign through lunch, they're run ragged for the benefit of the 
convention...and they have to pay for the privilege?  Where is the logic in

     San Diego Comic Con is just as big if not bigger than any WorldCon, and
EVERY PRO who shows up is comp'd into the convention, even if he or she isn't
on a panel.  And that is an *extremely* profitable convention.   Further, this
small sign of respect entices a LOT more pros to come than might otherwise be
the case.  I know a number of SF writers (print and media) and producers who
simply refuse to go to a worldcon on  principle, for this very reason.  

      When I arrived at the San Francisco worldcon, the attitude that I got
when told I'd be paying for my own membership was that I should be thankful
they even let me in the door.  They were extremely annoying about it, and very
high-handed.  I came within about an inch of turning around and going home;
instead I stayed and did the B5 presentation, but refused to take part in the
other panels they'd scheduled me for, which would've meant heavy-duty
schedules.  (And they got downright exercised over my non-attendence, as
though they *had* paid or comp'd me, and they had the *right* to DEMAND I be
there.)  The experience absolutely put me off WorldCons, and I haven't been to
one since.

     If tomorrow, Worldcon changed its stupid policy (and it *IS* a stupid
policy), what would happen is that you'd get a LOT more pros to attend, on
panels and off, they'd generate more attendees, more goodwill with the SF
community (just ask SFWA how they tend to get treated; there was a big scandal
about facilities provided to them a year or two ago), and they wouldn't lose a
*dime*, if anything they'd make more money due to more folks attending on both
sides.  WorldCon has, what, 17-20,000 maximum attending?  San Diego Comic Con
gets 20-25,000 and with every single pro comp'd makes a tidy profit each year.
Anybody who says WorldCon can't do it is simply full of it.    

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 43
Message 59        Sat Jan 13, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 04:33 EST
      We still have to license 'em from WB; we've been told it shouldn't be a
problem, but we get told that a lot, and 85% of the time it ain't true.  We
were told it shouldn't be a problem to get the fan club up and operating in a
few months; that was 2 years ago.

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 1
Message 342       Sat Jan 13, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 23:50 EST
     Actually, we've already *had* ST vs. B5 in sports; our softball team has
played both the DS9 and Voyager teams.  We lost to Voyager and whomped the
hell out of DS9.  

     Here's what was given to the Paramount people, as best I can recall at
this time, I'd have to check the correspondence to be sure: the script for
"The Gathering" pilot movie; eight to ten pieces of original conceptual
artwork done by Peter Ledger helping to explain the concept and giving
character sketches; the series "sell" bible which has NEVER been released to
any writer, it was *only* intended as a device to help explain to studios and
networks the direction and nature of the show; lengthy backgrounds on all of
the characters, and descriptions for the overall direction of the series, and
synopses of about 22 or so planned episodes taken from the overall course of
the planned series.  There was a LOT of material.

     But let me clarify and reinforce something I said on CIS and elsewhere: I
don't believe that either Berman or Pillar would deliberately take B5 material
and use it.  My *only* concern was that in the initial stages of development,
which always receive a great deal of "guidance" from studio execs, that the
execs who DID have the material might have "guided" them in our direction, in
an attempt to co-opt what we were doing for WB/PTEN, because there's great
animosity between those two studios, and out of a desire to protect their
franchise and eliminate any competition by basically absorbing it.

     Sometimes it does bother me, and I wonder about what the heck's going on,
when I see the only other space station series doing a big arc about alien
forces infiltrating earth government, and brewing civil war  on Earth, at the
*exact same moment* that we're doing it on our show; earlier, later, fine, but
that they'd do basically the same thing at the same time feels like another
attempt to co-opt what we're doing on this show.  (Not copy; co-opt, which
happens all the time.  Remember Deepstar Six?  And another underwater monster
movie released about the same time?   Those were both *direct* attempt to co-
opt The Abyss by coming out first.  It happens all the time.  When Ghost was
in heavy development, every studio in town was scurrying around looking for an
after-life movie to put out fast...I know because I got called in and asked to
come up with something by a major studio...I declined.)  If you kinda know the
direction someone else is going, you try to jump ahead and get there first, so
that the other either loses impact, or is considered simply an imitation. 
(Which is one reason why DS9 was hurried through post production to get it on
the air a few weeks before B5's pilot, I suspect.)

     Are we being co-opted?  I dunno.  When I hear that there's a red headed
woman character on DS9 named Leeta (prounced the same as Lyta); when I see
them doing the same kind of arc we're doing but getting it out a little
earlier, I will confess it does give me pause sometimes.  I try to think the
best under these conditions.  For now, I'm asuming it's all just coincidence.

     (Oh, and as for scripts vs. production times...we are generally far ahead
of most shows on scripts, about 4 episodes ahead of production at any moment. 
So this next batch of scripts was probably written around August, at which
time they're circulated over town to agents and the like as part of casting. 
So I find it *highly* improbable that these DS9 episodes were written in June,
knowing how close to the wire they tend to run over there.)

     And, really, on another level, it's clear that they weren't ripping off
B5 with this two-parter...I will defend that to the death by virtue of the
clear logic that they're *really* ripping of SEVEN DAYS IN MAY.   As for the
timing...well, we'll see.

     (This is something else that happens a lot in TV; a writer will say,
"Okay, let's do FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX with Jessica Fletcher in the Henry Fonda

     Finally, re: Jeri I have to disagree.  Though we don't talk
as often as we should, or as I'd like, in large measure I think because of the
perceived awkwardness between ST and B5 right now, I  consider her not only a
friend, but one of the best writer/producers in town.  This isn't widely
known, but she was my exec producer, with David Moessinger, on JAKE AND THE
FATMAN.  We worked together very closely, and I found her to be an immensely
talented woman, very dedicated to quality storytelling, ethical and strong
willed and generous to a fault.  When she and David resigned from Jake on
principle, over some stuff that was happening quite unfairly to them, I quit
with them, even though it was my very first real network major gig, and my
agent thought I was nuts.   I don't do this for everybody.  I did it for Jeri
and David because they are good and decent people, because I cared about them,
and because they were *right*...and they're two of the best writers I know.  

     If there's a problem with Voyager -- and I'm not saying there is, because
I haven't seen enough of it to form a valid opinion -- it's due to the
situation that has always pertained to ST: they make the writers there write
with mittens on, and won't let them cut loose with the kinds of stories they
COULD do, for fear of doing something controversial that might hurt "The
Franchise."  I've said it elsewhere and will repeat it again: I know the folks
they've got over there, and if Paramount ever backed off and let them do what
they're *capable* of doing, they'd blow the doors off of SF television.

     So long story made, I don't think B&P at DS9 are sitting there
cribbing B5 plotlines from the original material provided to Paramount.  I
think they would refuse.  They are ethical individuals.   Are they playing a
little at co-opting us, which is kind of more accepted in town?  I don't know.
I think you could make a compelling argument on either side.  But I don't know
the truth any more than you do, and if they say not, then I'm prepared to
believe them.  And as for Jeri, anybody here goes after her, has to go through
me first.

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 1
Message 358       Sun Jan 14, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 19:07 EST
     Re: the Hugos...I would not tend to consider the entirety of season two
as one dramatic unit because it's written by diverse hands, many different
writers.  I think you'd have to have an entire season written by one writer,
as a whole and undiluted dramatic unit, for that season to be eligible....

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 1
Message 370       Mon Jan 15, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 03:43 EST
     Re: history...there's a line I came across somewhere, "I have 25 more
years of experience than you do."  "No, you just have one year of experience,
repeated 25 times."

     Mike: that's a *great* report from Arisia, thanks; glad to hear it all
went well.  (And yes, of course, feel free to email the comments around;
anybody else wants to use them, that's fine too.)  To your notion (ah, the
birth of a notion) that current B5 fandom resembles the original ST
fandom...there may be something to that, I think.  In any event, thanks

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 1
Message 390       Tue Jan 16, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 01:41 EST
     Well, guess what...this week's new TV GUIDE had a cover story on Science
Fiction TV...big coverage to ST, X-Files, Space A&B, Xena and Hercules...but
absent one sentence containing an offhand reference to B5 in an article on the
upcoming Osiris Chronicles...nothing about B5.   Zippo.  Period.  Nada.

     About what I expected.

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 26
Message 301       Sat Jan 13, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 23:15 EST
     Sharon, my main point was primarily that if a pro is invited to a
worldcon, or asked to perform on a panel or give a presentation, then that pro
should be comp'd.  The SDCC "every pro is comp'd" rule is great, but I'm not
going to shove it down anybody's throat.  This, though, should be the minimum

     You lock yourself into a box otherwise.  Okay, you comp more pros, you
lose those memberships...but suddenly there are MORE pros -- again, there are
many who just won't attend on principle over all this -- and this will draw
more attendees to SEE those pros.  If that pro brings in just *one* more
person who might not otherwise have attended, then it's a wash, is it not?  On
the flip side, you *don't* comp pros, so many don't come, so there are fewer
folks drawn to the con, and less money is made.  

     The policy is, frankly, counter-productive and stupid.  And, frankly,
insulting to most of the pros I've spoken to about this subject.  It's okay to
have them as draws, to get the folks in the door, but respect their efforts by
at least not requiring them to pay for the privilege of being asked to
perform?  Not a chance.

     And yeah, ConFrancisco *did* leave a bad taste in my mouth.  I was
treated rudely.  When I said that after coming all this way, on my own dime,
at their request, and being denied admission, I was half inclined toward just
turning around and going home, what I got was a shrug and a laugh..."Okay,
fine, go, we've got plenty of other pros here.  We really don't need you if
we've got the others."  So I did the one B5 presentation -- because I knew a
lot of fans were expecting it, and would be otherwise disappointed -- but
basically boycotted the rest of the convention, for which I'd paid full price.

     If, tomorrow, all the pros said, "Screw it, if we have to pay to go to a
convention that wants us to *work* while we're there, we're just not going,"
then the day after tomorrow there would be a *new* policy that pros asked to
work at the WorldCon would be comp'd...and the cons would go on just fine. 
Because without the don't HAVE a convention.

     I guess the reason I take such personal umbrage at this is because when
I'm asked to be at a convention, I bust my butt to serve the convention.  At
the recent UK convention I attended, it wasn't just "do your one presentation
or panel and coast," I was down hanging out with fans in the lobby, sitting
and talking...I was in the main ballroom, personally rearranging chairs to
make sure there weren't any bad seats, since there were posts in the way and
those setting up hadn't taken that into consideration...I signed autographs
for 3 hours straight, working the line up the stairs when people started to
get faint from the heat, signing about 2,000 autographs in two days, with the
rule that NOBODY got turned away who wanted one, no matter how long it
took...I attended presentations I wasn't in...and when I go up on stage
finally I fight like crazy to make every second as interesting and fun as I
can, because *that's my obligation to the convention, and the people who came
all this way to be there*.  They expect, and should receive, nothing less than
absolute satisfaction.  

     I lose over 5 pounds every time I do a two-day convention, because I'm
constantly on the run, trying to make sure everybody's having a good time.  I
do this for the cons where I'm the "big shot main guest," and I do as much of
it as I can when I'm just one more invited guest (without being intrusive or
getting into somebody else's spotlight, which is wrong).  Given all that, I
don't think it's too much to ask to be comp'd into the convention.

     See, the money, for me, ain't the issue.  I can afford the ticket, that
ain't no big deal.  (As for WB paying the THAT'S comedy.)  It's
the *principle* of the thing that bothers me.  The science fiction field is a
direct result of the efforts of its writers, creating new and exciting visions
of the future, the past, and our possibilities.   It seems to me that those
who do so should be accorded a minimum of respect for their efforts in a
massive celebration of the genre.

     And yes, I do know the history of the worldcons, albeit not as
extensively as others might.  And when they began, they were mainly just pros
getting together in a sort of private club environment, along with a
relatively small portion of fans.  Now, however, it's become a fairly big
industry, lots of fans come from all over the world to attend, major
publishing companies buy booths and exhibit space, movie and TV studios's Show Business now.  But the same mindset from the early
days still is being applied...and SF folks, more than anyone else, should know
the peril in applying old logic to a changing world.

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 26
Message 324       Mon Jan 15, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 22:55 EST
     Sharon, you're engaging in the politics of distraction.  You keep
broadening out the it's drink chits, and the green room, and
programs.  Let's deal with one thing at a time, shall we?  (And I think most
pros would be happy to let go of the $2 drink chit in exchange for the $100
admission fee, don't you?)  

     Perianne just gave us a very good breakdown: 200 program participants at
$100 apiece being $20,000.  Are you saying that worldcons are so fiscally
unstable that they can't handle this?  What happens to the ads paid for in the
program booklet from book companies and movie studios and TV shows and authors
and artists?  Where is that money going?  When the studios and the publishers
and others pay for booth space and exhibits, doesn't that go into the kitty? 
If you were *just* making the money on ticket sales, then maybe you might have
an argument...but there are revenue streams coming in from a LOT of places,
from institutions with big bucks, who are there because the pros are there.

     Here's a question...when was the last time a WorldCon was audited?  
Because if they're that financially unsound, maybe something should be looked
into about their books.  There's probably a great deal of waste in there.  I
bet we could find out where the problem is...or, perhaps, determine that
they're not this fiscally unstable after all, which would certainly be in
everyone's interest, would it not?

     The reason I bring this up is that, well, I work in *Hollywood*, and out
here we've learned that ON PAPER, the studios make absolutely sure that
nothing ever shows a profit, to avoid paying participants.  I know full well
how figures can be balanced, juggled, cross-referenced and buried.  So the
question becomes...if the WorldCon is a function for the SF and fan
contingents, to whom is the WorldCon accountable (literally and figuratively)
for its fiscal activities?  Is it just WorldCon folks monitoring WorldCon
folks?  Is each separate division allowed to monitor its own books without
supervision by any other WorldCon?  If so, then we enter the "Who Watches the
Watchmen?" scenario.  

     If you say, "The WorldCon can't afford to comp participating pros," then
it seems to me not unreasonable to say, "Okay, I will accept that if you will
show me that this is the case."  Otherwise why should we take anyone's word
for this?  You are eliciting $20,000 in fees from pros who would be comp'd at
*virtually any other convention in the country*.  This is truly extraordinary.
One of a kind.  I see nothing wrong with asking for support, evidence and
proof as to why this is necessary.

     A proper audit would compare actual fees received, plus revenue from t-
shirts, programs, exhibit space, and other areas, with "soft" revenue in the
sense of hotel facilities provided free or at reduced cost as part of a
package deal, trade-offs, barter, and real costs on facilities, free rooms for
various individuals (convention top organizers doubtless get free rooms under
the package deal), and so on...and in so doing put this issue fully and
completely to rest. whom *are* the WorldCons answerable...?

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 18,  Topic 43
Message 62        Sun Jan 14, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 05:19 EST
     Broadcast networks are still adamently opposed to LBX broadcasts 'cause
most folks have small TVs and would tune out.  (A lot of folks who spring for
cable tend to have larger TVs, so it works a bit better there.)  A network
suit once told me, "We program for people who can't afford cable or tapes or

     Re: licensing...yes, since WB owns the copyright to B5 (just as Paramount
owns the copyright to ST), we have to license back anything we want to sell.

     No, the German and French stations have not been broadcasting in
widescreen, but have been negotiating for the right to do so in year 3.

SFRT II RoundTable
Category 19,  Topic 42
Message 14        Tue Jan 16, 1996
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 03:56 EST
     Since the universe is curved, there cannot be any truly straight answers.


David Strauss <*> Administrator, N.Y. Islanders Mailing List
Why are many scientists using lawyers for medical experiments
  instead of rats?  a) There are more lawyers than rats; b) The 
  scientists don't become as emotionally attached to them; c) There
  are some things that even rats won't do for money.

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