JMS, Your Voice from the Past

B5JMS Poster b5jms-owner at
Sat May 16 06:25:43 EDT 1998

From: Mark Alexander <mark_alex at>
Date: 15 May 1998 14:18:52 -0600
Lines: 124

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Jim, I am in the midst of reading the countless archived pages
containing your thoughts on writing. In volume seven of that archive,
somewhere in the later part of season 3 (I believe) you wrote:

Finally, I think I'm fairly aware of my relative position in society;
can there be any lesser celebrity than a producer, anything more
ephemeral than a television writer? Between writing, prep, shooting, and
post, it takes us about 3 months to make one episode...which is gone in
an hour, phosphor dots sent cruising toward Andromeda at the speed of
starlight. It's been debated here before, but I still hold fast to the
notion that the really important people, the ones doing the work that
will influence the next hundred years, are the teachers and the builders
and the researchers who are creating the *real* future, not writing
about a fictional one. I can write 1,000 episodes of B5...and it won't
cure one person of polio, that took Dr. Jonas Salk.

I was, at first, aghast, and was going to remind you of a brilliant
essay Ellison wrote on whatever happened to the dinosaurs (the
introduction to Strange Wine) when I read your next paragraph:

Television as a medium is too important to turn over to the visigoths,
can be used to great can ignite controversy, entertain,
educate and ennoble; it can propel us toward the stars or bring down a
president. But it is always ephemeral, of the moment; it does not last,
does not endure. If you're very lucky, your show can last 10 years
before it becomes dated, out of style, behind the times. Where it can
inspire people to do more with their lives in ways that make a permanent
difference, then it is of greater value, and that is my hope for this

So I can tell from that first sentence that you recall the essay. But I
must call you on a grand piece of misinformation that you are
unintentionally promulgating out of, I think, a misguided sense of

The role of the artist (of which you are most assuredly one) is to
imaginatively carve out new states of consciousness that can then be
experienced by other souls. I^Òm not going into a cliched form of Joseph
Campbellism here.

I think you ARE one of those teachers and builders. Let me quote the
foreword to a book that predates Campbell in which the author is
speaking of Shakespeare:

^ÓIf Shakespeare's appeal is greater today than it has been during the
three intervening centuries since his time, the reason may be that our
age, like that of Elizabeth, is one of expanding horizons, of
speculation in unfamiliar fields, of formidable uncertainties and few
signposts. The roving and unconstrained imagination of four centuries
ago finds its counterpart in this present age of unstable values and
shattered institutions, as it has not done in all the years between. The
man of the Renaissance was an adventurer in a chartless universe, and
this is what man has again become in the twentieth century. The
directions in which our predecessors in the era of Elizabeth and of the
Medicis set forth into the unknown are those whom we have followed: the
mould of our civilization took shape in that age of trial and discovery.
What we are now was to a considerable extent determined in those
formative years of our culture.

^ÓAll art has a tremendous potency for mankind, none more so than the
incandescent creativeness of Shakespeare's genius. It has been observed
that Balzac's characters were more typical of the generation that
followed him than of the one he depicted; likewise that, after Kipling's
best stories had been written, such men as he described began to be
encountered in the far places of the world; so that these artists
actually created men.

^ÓIt is not the business of art to follow reality. Reality follows art.
When we gaze at a sunset, we do not see it "as it is" -- as an amalgam
of Copernicus's vision of the earth's revolution round the sun and Max
Planck's quantum theory of light. We see it through the eyes of
generations of painters and poets who have infused into the spectacle
the lofty symbol of aspiration and resignation or the grandeur of
celestial harmony. The mathematician cannot postulate his universe
without symbols. Without words man cannot think; and without the
identification of our emotions which the artist has traditionally given
us we could scarcely feel. For it is not only the phenomena of our
material abode that art has endowed with significance: art has, through
the ages, given us our ideas of ourselves, the intimate and impelling
characterizations which we recognize as "true" because they come to life
in terms of our common experience. A character in fiction becomes real
in proportion as we can see ourselves in him. At the same time, we are
real to ourselves in proportion as we recognize ourselves in portrayals
of men and women in literature. Inspired by the artist, man creates and
re-creates himself. The greater the artist, the more enduring is the
conception of man that he provides. There is perhaps no other criterion
of supremacy in art.^Ô

OK, you^Òre no Bill Shakespeare. But you DO artistically craft a complex
and deeply moving vision. You and the other visionary writers are doing
more to craft the imaginations (and hearts) of those who make the
machines and dream up the inventions than you give yourself credit for.

Well, I for one recognize that. And I honor you and the others before
and after who dream the dreams that take hold in the imagination of the
more *practical* teachers and builders and researchers.

Mark Alexander

BTW, you can read the entire essay excerpted above at:

The Shakespeare Authorship SOURCEBOOK
The Underground Grammarian

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From: jmsatb5 at (Jms at B5)
Date: 15 May 1998 17:16:54 -0600
Lines: 9

Thank you; and for me, it's enough just to be *mentioned* in the same message
with Shakespeare.  


(jmsatb5 at
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