Encounters with J. Michael Straczynski
Publication Date: April 9, 2014
QUICK GLANCE AT WHAT'S INCLUDED
✔ 400+page two-sided softcover book
✔ Side 1: ENCOUNTERS WITH J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI: Landmark interviews with JMS plus B5 analysis written by JMS
— J. Michael Straczynski
ENCOUNTERS WITH J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI (AS ARCHIVED BY THE GREAT MACHINE OF EPSILON 3)
Landmark interviews with J. Michael Straczynski on the 1st, 15th and 20th anniversaries of BABYLON 5 plus 50+ pages of analysis of the show written by Straczynski himself on the 5th and 10th anniversaries...all never before published by Babylon 5 Books.
1) BABYLON 5 at the TCA Press Tour
This annotated transcript offers a unique perspective on how BABYLON 5 was presented to the entertainment press just prior to its series debut. It also provides a rare look at how the cast interacted early on.
The Television Critics Association, or TCA, is a group of journalists who meet to collectively interview the stars, creators and crew of the new shows. On Saturday, 9 January 1994, J. Michael Straczynski, Michael O'Hare, Claudia Christian and Peter Jurasik participated in the panel on BABYLON 5.
2) "Inside the House of Dreams"
This essay, dated 28 May 1997 — written during the production of Thirdspace and only weeks after Straczynski directed "Sleeping in Light" — captures the creator's feelings about his series on the threshold of its final season, nearly five years after the pilot went before the cameras and gave his dream form. The original essay was published over 15 years ago by a UK publisher, and never issued — to our knowledge — in the US.
3) J. Michael Straczynski's BABYLON 5 Memoirs
In 2003, TV ZONE — a now-defunct UK periodical devoted to cult television — celebrated BABYLON 5's ten-year anniversary by commissioning J. Michael Straczynski to write his memoirs of the series. Ten years out from the trauma of birthing the show, and still a year from the untimely death of Richard Biggs, this selection showcases a unique moment in Straczynski's relationship with BABYLON 5 — beyond the station's gravitational pull, but not yet overtaken by the shadows to come — and served as a preview for the approach he would take two years later when he began writing the introductions and episodic commentaries for BABYLON 5: THE SCRIPTS OF J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI in 2005.
4) Transcript of JMS at MIT
On 22 May 2009, J. Michael Straczynski became the second writer — after Neil Gaiman — to appear at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of the Julius Schwartz Memorial Lecture Series. The format for the event was a lecture by Straczynski, followed by an interview with Henry Jenkins, PhD and an out-of-the-ordinary question-and-answer session with members of the audience. The transcript contains numerous annotations, exploring the history of BABYLON 5.
5) Transcript of the Babylon Podcast: J. Michael Straczynski
On 17 June 2009, three and a half-years after this fan podcast began airing, J. Michael Straczynski made his appearance, answering questions only devoted fans would even know to ask. While the show is readily available, this annotated transcript is exclusive to this book. It features explanations of all the "inside jokes," arcane references and which of JMS's predictions actually came true.
6) Transcript of the Archive of American Television: J. Michael Straczynski
Just before attending the BABYLON 5 twentieth anniversary celebration at the Phoenix Comicon, J. Michael Straczynski gave a three and a half-hour interview that spanned the entirety of his life — from his birth through the launch of Studio JMS in 2012. It also includes his first-ever discussion of the complete circumstances surrounding the departure of Michael O'Hare from BABYLON 5. Extensively annotated, this thoughtful and detailed interview marks the perimeter of JMS's legacy and that of BABYLON 5.
- What the heck JMS was describing when he talked about "giant mutant hamsters in clown suits riding tricycles and singing old Beatles songs."
- The question by a reporter in 1994 that prompted JMS to respond "I ain't implying jack shit. Your conscience is your own."
- A description of the only photograph that ever made JMS cry, and how he used the raw emotion of the photo and the statements it made in the execution of BABYLON 5.
- The situation in which JMS compared BABYLON 5 to "your uncle who shows up for Christmas, gets bombed on eggnog, barfs on the poodle and sets the cat on fire."
- The one event that would have prevented JMS from letting Marcus give his life for Ivanova.
- Why the future of BABYLON 5 depended on JMS personally directing "Sleeping in Light" in six days instead of seven...which had never been done before in the history of BABYLON 5.
- FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER: JMS's account of Michael O'Hare manifesting symptoms of psychosis during season one, and the reason Michael wanted his story told after he died.
- The college instructor JMS "staked like a vampire" as a form of retribution.
- Behind the scenes of the I-Con Convention, where JMS took on the role of a "demented Easter Bunny."
- The real-life incident that informed the scenes in "Darkness Ascending " where the waiter would not serve Garibaldi coffee with his meal.
- The moment Joe knew that "my death is looking for me" and how he avoided it. (Scary!)
- The rationale for featuring ambassadors' assistants instead of spouses or mates on BABYLON 5.
- The explanation for Joe's decision to choose Evan Chen instead of Christopher Franke to compose the music for CRUSADE, and why he regrets that choice.
- What JMS meant when he said, "There's no B in STAR TREK."
- CRUSADE or BABYLON 5: Which series had an abandoned two-part episode titled "Blockade"?
- Why Harlan Ellison interrupted a B5 press conference, and challenged everyone in the room to not think of a green cow.
- The thing JMS believed would have to happen for science fiction TV shows to not be compared to STAR TREK.
- Find out who said, at a BABYLON 5 press conference in 1994, "Two billion years of evolution...does not culminate in BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD."
- JMS's explanation of how cast changes have "nothing to do with the quality of the actors."
- Why JMS considered the original 1993 pilot underwhelming and the three things cut in the edit that made it so.
- Hard to believe but true: the three characters that were initially considered to be series regulars in season one. One of the three sort of makes sense. You decide on the other two.
- Why Claudia Christian referred to Straczynski as "the reluctant producer."
- The scene Peter Jurasik describes as a "combination of Bacchus and Monday Night Football."
- The luxury the actors on BABYLON 5 got that actors never got on a television series, according to Peter Jurasik.
- How Mel Brooks's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN inspired Peter Jurasik's portrayal of Londo.
- The reason JMS chose to write BABYLON 5 as a "novel for television," instead of writing it as a series of books.
- Which episode JMS wrote to answer the question, "What is the nature of forgiveness and punishment?"
- How the concepts of "process and change" heavily influenced the creation and execution of BABYLON 5.
- JMS's comprehensive analysis of Londo's tragic arc.
- The three fundamental issues that JMS wanted to address: choice, consequence and _______.
- How BABYLON 5 demonstrated that we are not powerless.
- How old elephants can teach us about "conditioned helplessness."
- The emotional state in which we are the most dangerous to ourselves. (This one is not obvious.)
- JMS's exploration of G'Kar allowing himself to be controlled by his past...and the realization that changed G'Kar forever.
- What JMS means by "the terrible in-between."
- The storyline that fans didn't find believable, and JMS's reason why it was.
- The episode in season two that most clearly demonstrated that BABYLON 5's five-year arc has a definite "beginning, middle and end."
- The poignant reason that JMS waited one hour before telling anyone that Warner Bros. had greenlit the pilot.
- The one aspect of BABYLON 5 that JMS believes he will never be able to truly communicate to someone who wasn't there at the time...but tries to anyway.
- The one off-handed decision on the pilot that JMS spent the next five years regretting...and why he believed it delayed Warner Bros. approving the show for series production.
- JMS's motive for learning all he could about film editing between the pilot and the series, and why he thinks he could be happy as a full-time film editor.
- The BABYLON 5 cast member whose resume included "Dance Theater of Harlem."
- The episode JMS considers the one in which BABYLON 5 gelled as The Show we know.
- REVEALED: The scene that, when the director called cut, resulted in the eruption of the longest sustained laugh by the cast and crew in the history of BABYLON 5's production.
- The one scene that Warner Bros. executives made sure they were on set for. (Hint: Not Lyta's nude scene in season five.)
- Why you want to look closely at Claudia Christian's face in the conference room scene in "Signs and Portents."
- Picture this: JMS in the BABYLON 5 prosthetics shop, sculpting Delenn's headcrest with a blade.
- The "super-heated helium" argument JMS presented to a sound designer who just couldn't understand how a PPG worked and why that really mattered.
- Why JMS is not surprised that, despite B5's stunning success, Warner Bros.'s monkey math showed a BABYLON 5 deficit of $65 million dollars, why he is okay with the fact that he's never seen a dime of profit...and why he'd gladly do it again.
- The moment that "the gloves came off on the arc."
- Why Jerry Doyle moved in with Bruce Boxleitner and his then-wife Melissa Gilbert during the production of the show.
- EXPOSED: New information about what Claudia Christian was really doing when she broke her left foot during the filming of "Revelations"...and it was not "chasing birds" as previously declared.
- Bruce Boxleitner's unexpected reaction when JMS told him, "You'll be pleased to know that I cut out the scene where Sheridan falls down an elevator shaft and gets his dick cut off."
- Why season two was the most fun writing-wise for JMS...and the season he considered to be "the most personal" that involved the most risks.
- The BABYLON 5 character JMS described as breaking "apart the familiar relationships like a cue ball smashing into a neatly arranged triangle of pool balls."
- What was revealed when JMS heard "peals of laughter coming from the main corridor set on Stage A."
- Why JMS stepped out, directly in front of the crew, smiled and extended his hand to the crew when they went on strike at the BABYLON 5 stages.
- The three most significant behind-the-scenes events of season three.
- "Mister Smiley" is JMS's nickname for which character?
- The city from which three captains on BABYLON 5-related shows hail from.
- Why cast members would start their days on the set by asking if "Joe was still alive."
- How a JMS heart-condition mirrored what he had been writing about for two years. (This one is flippy.)
- The situation in which JMS's metaphor for BABYLON 5 was "like a solider standing on the battlefield when the generals finally said, 'we're leaving.'"
- The fascinating outline of how BABYLON 5 would have been produced, beat by beat, had they not thought that season four was the last, including which episodes would have been in season five and which storylines would not have been compressed.
- Why Bill Mumy brought a suitcase of LOST IN SPACE toys to the set and unpacked them during a scene.
- According to JMS, "the skinny on what really happened to Claudia Christian" at the end of season four, and the information he had shared with Claudia that he believes made her think she had more leverage then she did.
- The full scoop on the twenty-four hours JMS had to save BABYLON 5 or lose the show forever.
- Who was standing in the doorway of his hotel room when Andreas answered the door naked.
- Why Mira was the last cast member to sign the season five contract at Blackpool.
- The incident that was the catalyst for the second time JMS got a bonafide death threat (during BABYLON 5 production), and the first time it occurred as well.
- The one and only time that the B5 fandom let Joe down.
- The "tool" in season five JMS used to knock Garibaldi around a bit.
- Penn or Teller? Which one of the two was a "disappointment" for JMS.
- The subject that JMS took four semesters of in high school. (Hint: it was NOT math.)
- How JMS finally got his mind around the difference between voice and style, and the catalyst for that moment.
- The incident at TIME magazine that turned JMS off journalism...forever.
- Why writers should never consider themselves in competition with one another.
- Why JMS considered writing good HE-MAN stories much like taking ten years to teach a pig to sing.
- Why JMS feels that walking off a television show for this one particular reason eventually pays off...and the eight times he's done it.
- Why JMS should cut "every third adjective."
- The thing that causes "30% of a television budget to go to waste" that did not happen on BABYLON 5.
- JMS's explanation for why the widow of STAR TREK creator Gene Roddenberry agreed to guest star on BABYLON 5.
- The reason NASA requested the designs for the Starfuries, and the agreement they made with JMS if they used the designs.
- The reason JMS wanted humans to be further "down the ladder" in BABYLON 5 than in most SF shows.
- The ways in which the U.S. Patriot Act specifically mirrors BABYLON 5.
- What JMS meant when he said "it was impossible, but no one told me it was impossible, so I just went ahead and did it."
- Fill in the blank of this JMS memory: "______ just appeared on my desk like the elves had done it."
- What JMS says would happen to him if "god said tomorrow you can't write anymore."
- JMS's accidental meeting with Rod Serling during high school.
- On the 20th anniversary of BABYLON 5, JMS's surprising response to the question, "Was there anything you wanted to do that you couldn't do?"
- Why JMS doesn't picture anyone when he's writing a new character.
- Specifically: how each BABYLON 5 character is like JMS, according to JMS.
- How JMS reoriented some of the BABYLON 5 storyline to accommodate the departure of Michael O'Hare.
- The heroic reason JMS was prepared to pull the plug on BABYLON 5...in season one.
- The actor JMS refers to as a "golden retriever of a guy."
- Why JMS put the claustrophobic Jerry Doyle into narrow spaces whenever he could.
- "It's Never Too Late to Fail." Why this is one of JMS's credos.
- The character JMS describes as "the one I would experiment with." (This one surprised us.) And the lead character JMS describes as the least like himself and the hardest one for him to write. (This one also surprised us.)
- The aspect of Shakespeare's house in Stratford-upon-Avon that informed the Minbari culture.
- The particulars that required Delenn to become female instead of a male in the pilot.
- "The community of B5 fans has been the one unexpected development...and perhaps the most rewarding."
- How actor Jeff Conaway saved "the best scene from all the TV movies we did."
- The show JMS wrote and slipped in a mention of BABYLON 5...before the series was sold.
- Find out the context of this JMS statement: "The second half is pretty solid; the first half is kind of not great."
- JMS's motivation for establishing Lochley as Sheridan's ex-wife.
- How BABYLON 5 changed the way television "is done in this country."
- The thing that "completely weirded out the crew" during the shooting of CRUSADE's "The Memory of War."
- "The worst experience I've ever had on any show bar none." (Hint: not CRUSADE.)
- Why nothing scares JMS.
- The weird moment when Vir popped into JMS's head while writing "The Long Night"...and changed the dynamic of that script.
- The part of writing that for JMS "is a drug...an addiction."
- The story of the box of "Joe's Comics."
- The specific gospel JMS carries from convention to convention.
- From 2009: JMS's explanation of how gaming and television will blur together in the future.
- What JMS considers his "legacy."
- The real reason why most writers don't finish their work (which has nothing to do with procrastination).
- An account of the man who showed JMS how to live the life he wanted to live.
- How the concept of "that would be cool" drives most of JMS's decisions.
- Why JMS "threw up everyday for weeks" even though he wasn't sick.
- The reason "courage" is always necessary.
- JMS's proof in 2007 that no one in Hollywood cared how old he was...and "that it all comes down to the quality of your storytelling."
- The meaning behind JMS's statement that "if you only have a hammer, every problem is a nail."
- The reason one of JMS's favorite moments in all of BABYLON 5 was "Garibaldi's fascination with Duck Dodgers."
- How "fear of failure" influenced JMS's decision to move forward with CRUSADE.
- What Warner Bros. would have to do for JMS to be involved with a BABYLON 5 feature film.
- Why Joe wanted to follow-up CHANGELING (his oscar-nominated Angelina Jolie/Clint Eastwood drama) with the zombie movie, WORLD WAR Z.
- How Joe answered the question, "How might have B5 turned out if Paramount [home of STAR TREK] had picked-up the show and run with it?"
- Why John Copeland earned the nickname "Captain Action" from Joe.
- What would have happened with the Apocalypse Box in CRUSADE.
- The specifics behind JMS's statement that "he never considered B5 a franchise" and whether or not he would consider a BABYLON 5 "Next Generation"-type show.
- Why JMS will not and does not portray Warner Bros. as the bad guy.
- Which of the BABYLON 5 TV movies Joe considers his favorite...and why he enjoyed writing all of them.
- An explanation of why JMS believes that BABYLON 5 was "half creativity, half math."
- "There was a fair amount of water skiing in BABYLON 5." Find out what the heck that means.
- True story: Joe's discussion about linguistics "with three hookers on a street corner" in Vancouver.
- What inspired the phrase "rabbit crash."
- The BABYLON 5 script that JMS considers "the stupidest, lamest, piece of writing in the history of Humankind" in which he was "momentarily possessed by an idiot."
- Which actor JMS is referring to when he says that explaining time travel to this person was like "trying to explain the Sahara to a goldfish."
- What JMS considers the most "pivotal, difficult and personally destructive decision" he would ever make...and the best decision he made that same year.
- The "problem with a lot of actresses" that was not true of the actresses on BABYLON 5.
- The declaration Jerry Doyle made that caused him to get written out of the next episode JMS wrote.
- Why, in his teens, JMS "stole" only Hugo Award-winning novels from stores, and how that impacted him when he won a Hugo himself.
- What TNT did that prevented Sci Fi from buying BABYLON 5.
ABOUT THE ANNOTATIONS OF SENIOR EDITOR JASON DAVIS
On staff full-time with B5 books for more than 5 years, we believe Jason Davis has become the number one non-JMS expert on BABYLON 5. We call them annotations but his commentary adds dimension by finding the pulse of fleeting mentions; adding heatbeats to the facts. Here are two typical examples: