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Interviews: J. Michael Straczynski Answers Your Questions

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the listen-up dept.

Sci-Fi 69

Last week you had the chance to ask J. Michael Straczynski (jms) about Babylon 5, his new original series, Sense8 , and all things sci-fi. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.Academic Chops?
by eldavojohn

Do you frequently brush up on physics or cosmology or some scientific field to keep your forward looking ideas sharp and in-line with current academic trends or do you simply rely on your imagination? Any academic journals you subscribe to looking for something to stimulate you into envisioning a future with an interesting twist? Is this common in the writing community or do I have the wrong image in my head?

jms: With the proviso that no two writers work in the same way...I don’t tend to research academic works to find ideas. Some do, some can handle that sort of reading, but it sends me either to sleep or to the asylum. So I kind of work ass-backwards. I’m a bit of a generalist, I read all over the place, popular sources mainly, news stories, obscure little histories, and at some point something will catch my eye. It can be just a one-line reference, an aside, and I’ll think, well that deserves closer scrutiny. Then I’ll start to do my primary research. I have enough of an academic background to know where to go for what I need...I know just enough to get myself in trouble on a wide range of subjects... and gradually summon forth the facts I need to support (or challenge) the story I’m developing. I’ll rabbit-trail a lot, and dead end more times than not, but even a dead-end can lead you to an associated idea that can become the underpinnings of a story.

Writers accrete stories the way a sweater accretes lint: you go about your life, little things stick to you as you go, then one day you brush downward...and there’s a story.



Online presence: positive or negative?
by bobdehnhardt

You were one of the first Hollywood writers with an online presence, hanging out in newsgroups during production of Babylon 5. My memories of that were tidbits and insights from you, along with frequent "no story submissions" reminders and threats of your departure if the story ideas didn't stop. How do you remember that experience? Was it worth the hassle? And do you view the seeming explosion of writers, directors, producers and actors on social media as a positive or negative for the industry overall?

jms: Back then, in the internet’s Early Cretaceous Period, the writers and producers I knew were appalled that I was on the net. They didn’t see the point, and besides, people had a tendency to yell at you. Now, clearly, that has changed, but yeah, I was one of the first to have a consistent online presence. There was much good and some bad involved in that. The net has a way of equalizing dialogue in ways that run counter-intuitive to our powers of perception. They’re just words on a screen, one subset of words no more valid than the other...even though one may be written by an expert, and the other by a guy who wears an orange fright wig and lives in his mother’s basement where he tortures Barbie dolls for fun. Seeing one or the other, you would know to let one close and the other not so much (unless you had strong anti-Barbie tendencies). But absent being able to see them, you don’t know what you’re dealing with and tend to apply equal credibility until the day the monster bares its teeth. So I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

There were the usual stalkers, nutjobs, feebs, freaks, whackos, bozos, yoyos and yipyops that we still have to deal with today, but now we all kind of know the rules better than we did back then. Despite that, the online presence accomplished what I set out to achieve: to de-mystify television production in the hope of educating people about the process, on the theory that we can never get the television programming we want unless we understand how the system works.

And I still have to be fairly ruthless in enforcing the no-story-ideas thing, because it’s just too dangerous to do otherwise. Marion Zimmer Bradley had to abandon one of her books because a fanfic writer thought it was based on that work, I almost scuttled one of my own scripts after someone posted a similar idea online and I was afraid I might get sued, and others have had similar experiences. People think “well, it’s just me, why can’t you read my idea/story/script, why are you being such a dick about it?” Because it’s not “just you,” it’s the ten thousand other guys standing behind you asking the same thing, many of whom are prepared to launch lawyers if I ever do a story similar to that in future. Ain’t worth it.



Getting more sci-fi on TV
by AmiMoJo

In your opinion is there anything we as viewers can do to get more quality sci-fi on TV and keep it there without being cancelled? It's always too expensive, takes a long time to gain a strong following and syndication, and then gets pushed out in favour of wrestling or some paranormal nonsense. We don't even have a proper sci-fi channel any more, despite there being literally hundreds of channels available.

I'd love to contribute to the funding of, say, more episodes of Stargate Universe, but at $2m/episode I just can't see how crowd funding would work.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.


jms: The problem is that the networks still don’t take SF seriously, or even feel threatened by it. I’ve had executives say that a space-show doesn’t work because people don’t care about what happens to characters in space, it has to be on earth or nobody’ll be interested. I’ve had them say “you can do whatever you want, it’s scifi, it doesn’t have to make sense.” Because it’s SF they always think that somehow or other The Fate Of The World has to be at stake. If you’re doing a drama, no one suggests that solving the relationship problems of the murder has to save the world, but they feel that it has to be that way if you’re writing SF, which is why it’s also so often the rule in SF movies. It’s absolutely crazy-making. 2001, one of the most classic SF motion pictures of all time, could never get made today. Not a chance. Too cerebral, they’d say. Not enough action. All the crowdsourcing in the world won’t rewire the neurons engaged in that kind of thinking.

I keep waiting for a paradigm shift to happen that will let network and studio execs see that SF is the same as any other genre in terms of how you approach it – logically, character based, with challenging ideas and forward thinking – but I worry that it might never happen in my lifetime.



Do you see yourself as a desktop video pioneer?
by conspirator23

As a former Amiga owner, I remember how excited the community was to learn that this new TV series called Babylon 5 was going to have it's visual effects developed on the NewTek Video Toaster. Many considered it a vindication of the Amiga platform as well as a milestone in the evolution of digital video. My understanding is that you moved away from this platform in later seasons because it wasn't scaling up to meet your needs.

Today desktop video is commonplace, and there are a million billion Youtube videos whose quality is only limited by the talent and time invested by the creators rather than any technological barriers. How do you feel about the progression from then till now and the role you played as an early adopter?


jms: Firstly, credit must go where it belongs. It was Ron Thornton and his merry band of madmen who first suggested we use CGI. Me, I barely understood the math involved. They felt that it could be done, and did a couple of tests to try and prove the point. The most we ever got were some initial designs and one tracking shot to the station that lasted about twenty seconds...which isn’t much proof-of-concept on which to base a rational decision. So I didn’t make one. I went with my gut. If Ron et al thought it could be done, that was almost good enough, and the fact that nobody else in town was doing it because they thought it couldn’t be done sealed the deal. Whenever someone tells me something can’t be done, my immediate impulse is to go out there and prove otherwise, just to spite them. So our decision to go with the Toaster was part confidence, part bull-headed stubbornness.

The shift away from Amiga and Foundation Imaging later had little to do with the platform involved and much to do with the fact that my associate, Doug Netter, wanted to start up his own CGI company with B5 as a launch platform. He pitched it to me as the right thing to do, and in time I signed on. In retrospect, I see that I was maneuvered into this more than a little, but I was new to showrunning and naïve in many ways. I’m far more cynical and less easily foxed now than I was.



Fully Developed Storylines
by LateArthurDent

There's a trend lately with TV shows writers to build mystery and suspense episode after episode without any consideration to the resolution of those arcs. The most famous instance of this is with JJ Abrams' Lost, but we saw the same thing happen to Battlestar Galactica. That's when we're even lucky enough to get a finale, often shows in danger of being cancelled will elect to end the season in a cliffhanger in an attempt to get an increased audience and help their chances of getting renewed. In contrast, with Babylon 5 you've shown great respect for the fans by coming up with a full storyline, complete with several outs in case of unexpected problems, such as actors being unable to return for one reason or another. In addition, when you thought Babylon 5 was going to get cancelled on its fourth season, you filmed the series finale to ensure we would get the full story, as much as it was possible. I truly thank you for that.

My question to you is whether you believe the type of long-term thinking into developing a good and complete story directly harms your overall numbers. After all, if Lost angered most of its viewers with the season finale, by then it doesn't matter anymore: the important thing to the bottom-line is that they were watching while the series is on. Have DVD sales helped somewhat in that people are more likely to buy the series if it's fully developed, and do studios take that into consideration in addition to Nielsen ratings? Do you have a complete story planned out for Sense8 similar to how you developed Babylon 5 and if so does working with Netflix make this process easier or harder than working with a traditional studio?


jms: What many people don’t remember, but I do ‘cause I was on the receiving end, was that a lot of folks online and in the press gave me a lot of shit over the fact that I was going to be doing this new science fiction show and my last credits were for Murder, She Wrote and Jake and the Fatman. What the hell does this guy know about writing SF? they snarked at me. A lot. Well, one thing we have to be thankful for is that M,SW in particular taught me the importance of playing fair with the audience, and that takes two forms: first, you have to make sure that all of your clues or the information an audience needs is right there in front of them, so that when they back up the episode (or the season in our case) everything is visible, they just didn’t know how to interpret it. Second, you have to provide proper closure to a story, so the audience feels satisfied at the end of an episode (or a season) that they’ve gotten a full story worth their time and emotional investment.

So when I came to B5, despite the snark, I brought those rules with me. It was important that we were telling a years-long story, but by the same token, it was just as important that each episode and each season come to a satisfying, whole conclusion. That way, if we got canceled at any point along the way, there would be a sense of having seen as much of a complete story as we could provide. Granted, that process became a bit stickier in years three and four, but that was the intent going in, and in general it served us well.

We are employing a similar arc structure for Sense8, and the thing is, you can’t worry about what happens with the numbers. You can hope all you want, but the moment you begin actually writing to that, you’re dead in the water. You have to do what’s right for the story, first, foremost and forever, and let the ratings chips fall where they may.



Obligatory question:
by Hartree

Purple or green?

jms: Mauve.



What do you want?
by frakfrakfrak

Hey, someone else was going to do it if I didn't!

jms: Your head on a pike. Or a pickerel. Or the freshwater fish of your choice.



B5 universe unresolved plots...
by jregel

Is there any chance that B5 fans will ever get insight into what you actually had planned with Crusade after the Drakh plague was cured? I know it was something to do with Earth wanting left over Shadow technology, but did you have anything specific in mind? Did you have an outline for each year?

And similarly, will we ever find out who or what The Hand were about (in Legend of the Rangers)?

And, not a question, but a big "thank you" for B5. I'm taking a friend through it for the first time and we're currently mid-way through season four. She's now totally hooked and has borrowed my season one DVD box set to see it again now she understands some of where it's going.


jms: Yes, I had something very specific in mind, yes, I had a rough outline for each year, no I doubt that will ever be revealed, and my condolences to your friend.



Babylon 5 in HD?
by Ichijo

Will we ever see Babylon 5 remastered in high definition (or even 4K) similar to Star Trek: The Next Generation? How much would you need to raise on KickStarter to make this possible?

jms: Just not a viable option. Every CGI/comp shot would have be totally redone, not just remastered but redone, and WB will never spend that kind of money on it. Nor do I have the right to do it with outside money.



Changes in SciFi since the 90s
by MaxToTheMax

Can you list any examples of shows that have changed your approach to Science Fiction since Babylon 5 was written? For example, the latent success of Firefly showed how smaller-scale science fiction can be effective. How have you been influenced by Firefly or any other show post-B5?

jms: No, I haven’t, and really can’t allow myself to be. Writing is all about creating your own unique voice and point of view. If I were to watch a show and say hey, that’s cool, I can do that too...then it ain’t either of those two things any more. That’s not arrogance, that’s simple common sense. The only thing any writer has to offer that is of value is their own unique perspective, so you spend most of your life trying not to be influenced by someone else’s work. That’s not to say my point of view as a writer is better than Joss’s or his better than me or ours better than somebody else’s...we’re just different sorts of birds, we sing different songs, and that’s exactly as it should be.



Adaptations of science fiction stories
by PapayaSF

And related to that: Assuming no constraints regarding rights, what classic (or not so classic) science fiction stories would you like to adapt as movies or TV series?

jms: A Canticle for Liebowitz, Stranger In a Strange Land, Martian Chronicles.



Jeremiah wrap-up?
by oneiros27

Both Firefly and Jericho put out comics after the shows were prematurely canceled to help tie up some of the dangling plot elements. Are there any chances of Jeremiah ever being continued in some other form, such as novels or comics?

jms: Noperoonies.



What's It Like Being Funded By Netflix?
by eldavojohn

You've worked in television, what are the pros and cons in the deltas between Netflix and one of the big networks/cable goliaths? Do they still goad you into putting a cliff hanger at the end of the episode so the couch potato continues to veg-out and just hit 'play' on the next installment? Are you glad you don't need to plan for commercial bumps? Any dark sides to being paid by Netflix?

jms: We’re still very new to our dance, but so far all they want is for us to do what we think is best for the story. I think they enjoy a serialized structure because it feeds into binge viewing, but honestly, they haven’t said anything to us one way or another other than “here’s a buttload of money, go have fun.” And I like that a lot.

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Points at J. Michael Straczynski (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43453339)

Hideki!

Re:Points at J. Michael Straczynski (1)

Lagmo (972467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43455467)

Hideki!

What a Chii-sy comment ^^;

Re:Points at J. Michael Straczynski (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43463259)

I lol'd.

But on a more serious note, Chobits is how many years old? So why is this happening now?

What about He-Man? (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year and a half ago | (#43453359)

he didn't answer my question about the greatest TV show in history which he worked on, He-Man and the Master of the Universe

Re:What about He-Man? (2)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about a year and a half ago | (#43453841)

he didn't answer my question about the greatest TV show in history which he worked on, He-Man and the Master of the Universe

Wait, I thought the greatest show he worked on was Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future [wikipedia.org]

I mean, c'mon; post-apocalyptic future, rogue AIs /and/ power-armor! Beat's a guy in a loincloth slapping around a skull-head and his goons with a rubber sword* any day!

Judge, can we get a ruling here?

* Of course it was made of rubber. Did you /ever/ see it cut anyone, or even bruise? I've owned Nerf weaponry that was more dangerous than He-Man's power sword!

Re:What about He-Man? (1)

Minter92 (148860) | about a year and a half ago | (#43454005)

Captain Power was one of the greatest viewing experience of my childhood. Ranks up there with the first time I saw a boob in a movie.

Re:What about He-Man? (2)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about a year and a half ago | (#43454395)

Mind you, the toys absolutely /sucked/ [g4tv.com]

But I agree; Captain Power was a great show. Its storyline was definitely a step above the average pablum forced unto impressionable young minds at the time: it had an overall story arc that spanned the whole season, main characters who died and an interesting, somewhat scary setting (post-apocalyptic, at the height of the cold war, when the threat of a life-extinguishing nuclear war was still giving young children nightmares). Compare that to the average action-cartoon - where the universe was reset at the end of each episode, the heroes were never at risk and the setting was friendly fantasy - and Captain Power was notably different.

True, the effects, costumes, story and dialogue were notoriously cheesy, but it was a show aimed at 5-10 year old kids. Nonetheless, one can see some of Staczynski's hallmark touches on the series that would later make Babylon 5 so revered (and that nowadays we take for granted in all new TV series). I was always hoping he would sneak a Captain Power reference into B5.

Re:What about He-Man? (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43457579)

Compare that to the average action-cartoon - where the universe was reset at the end of each episode, the heroes were never at risk and the setting was friendly fantasy - and Captain Power was notably different.

Obvious counterexamples are G.I. Joe and Transformers. And of course, Robotech.

Re:What about He-Man? (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about a year and a half ago | (#43453855)

Bugger that. More Captain Power!

Damn it... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43453445)

I never got to ask JMS why he claims never to watch anime and yet half of the stories he wrote seem copied from there.

Its entirely possible he came up with the same ideas himself but I doubt it.

Re:Damn it... (1)

ThomasBHardy (827616) | about a year and a half ago | (#43453611)

I'm sure this is because anime never copied anything else.


ever.

Right?

Re:Damn it... (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year and a half ago | (#43457641)

Good point - while the Mimbari are pretty well 50% out of "Irresponsible Captain Tylor" the empire in that series was 50% out of Lum (while a pile of everything else was out of Star Trek) and so on. Dali had it right, good artists steal.
We've never heard Lucas apologise for turning Elmore's Snarf into JarJar Binks and that's a far more blatant ripoff than a bit of set design and some spacecraft that look like different fish.

Re:Damn it... (1)

witherstaff (713820) | about a year and a half ago | (#43457703)

But geeks everywhere actually liked snarfquest

Re:Damn it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43478723)

but that was largely due to the chainmail bikini's

Re:Damn it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43453627)

Couldn't be that most anime is just rips off stories from other people?

What the heck is a yipyop? (2)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year and a half ago | (#43453483)

There were the usual stalkers, nutjobs, feebs, freaks, whackos, bozos, yoyos and yipyops

Yipyops? Interesting. I think I'll have to start using this word.

Re:What the heck is a yipyop? (1)

PortHaven (242123) | about a year and a half ago | (#43453901)

Feebs????

Re:What the heck is a yipyop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43454331)

You're just yipyopping us.

A Canticle for Liebowitz... (2)

stox (131684) | about a year and a half ago | (#43453619)

A Canticle for Liebowitz, and Stranger In a Strange Land would make awsome movies. I hope that someday it comes to pass.

Childhood's End, and Rendezvous with Rama would also be awesom choices, it done right.

Go for it JMS!!!!

Re:A Canticle for Liebowitz... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43453689)

Didn't he already do that first one with B5's "Deconstruction of Falling Stars"?

Also, Im surprised at there being so few answers here.

Hey - capcha - "acolyte"

Re:A Canticle for Liebowitz... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43455357)

There are hints of it running through a part of the Deconstruction of Falling Stars [wikipedia.org] , but the nuclear war isn't initiated the same way, and the aftermath isn't cleaned up the same way either (e.g., off-world help versus entirely indigenous). In any case, the whole story of A Canticle for Liebowitz hasn't been done before.

Re:A Canticle for Liebowitz... (1)

91degrees (207121) | about a year and a half ago | (#43462491)

According the the Lurker's Guide [midwinter.com] , he wasn't consciously referencing that, and considered changing it when he realised how similar he'd ended up making it.

Re:A Canticle for Liebowitz... (1)

T.E.D. (34228) | about a year and a half ago | (#43454427)

I think he really meant TV series, not movies. Short stories often adapt well to a 2-hour movie, but for the most part that really isn't enough time to properly treat an entire novel. If someone tried with those two works, I'd be willing to bet rather a lot that you'd be sorely disappointed with the results.

Re:A Canticle for Liebowitz... (2)

brianerst (549609) | about a year and a half ago | (#43456777)

SyFy has a Childhood's End series in development [blastr.com] .

The question is, will it be BSG quality or Riverworld quality?

Re:A Canticle for Liebowitz... (1)

Moldiver (1343577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43463131)

There is a difference in Quality between BSG and Riverworld? Both suck badly.

Re:A Canticle for Liebowitz... (1)

studog-slashdot (771604) | about a year and a half ago | (#43464293)

...Rendezvous with Rama would also be awesom choices, it done right.

Go for it JMS!!!!

Let me second RwR, the whole series [wikipedia.org] . I believe it would have extra impact because the human technology involved is just on our cusp of possibility. Manned space ships roaming the solar system, intercepting asteroids for research. What a wonderful way to inspire our children.

...Stu

Canticle for Liebowitz... adapted to movie (3, Interesting)

tippe (1136385) | about a year and a half ago | (#43453647)

I totally agree jms about this one. That was a pretty good book.

Interesting story: the only reason I read that book was because a couple of years ago somebody posted an "Ask Slashdot" asking for opinions about good SF books that he should read, and several people responded with "A Canticle for Liebowitz". I pretty much went out that same day to buy the book. I've found and read a few good books because of that Ask Slashdot thread or other similar threads; Blindsight and Cryptomomicon being two that I remember, but there were others...

Cryptomomicon ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43454177)

The opposite of Cryptololicon? I likee!

And that is how reading on the internet generates new story ideas!

Re:Canticle for Liebowitz... adapted to movie (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43455191)

Cryptomomicon

Is that a sequel that focuses on Amy being married-with-children with Randy?

Re:Canticle for Liebowitz... adapted to movie (1)

tippe (1136385) | about a year and a half ago | (#43455811)

Oh, stupid fat fingers...

Anyway, ha, ha, that's funny (no, really!). If I wrote that sequel, this would be my inspiration [xkcd.com]

Re:Canticle for Liebowitz... adapted to movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43457815)

If you've never heard it, this book also led to one of the, imho, absolute best radio dramatizations ever. It's available on archive.org: http://archive.org/details/ACanticleForLiebowitz

the state of space-based sci-fi (3, Insightful)

axl917 (1542205) | about a year and a half ago | (#43453889)

It really is sad how there is no real channel for this stuff anymore, this re-branded "SyFy" thing is far too infatuated with shows about ghost hunting and lesbian vampires to ever give an honest sci-fi show a shot again.

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (4, Interesting)

scamper_22 (1073470) | about a year and a half ago | (#43454251)

To be fair, there are very few sci-fi shows that manage to get the acting/story line part to connect with a large segment of society.

I've probably watched the whole B5 series at least 8 times over the years.

Each time, I am amazed at the over-arching story line that gets the nerd in me excited. How everything ties together.

But watching the show episode after episode, I'm reminded of why the average person probably dislikes sci-fi tv.

1. Poor portrayal of women. Whether its B5, or Star Trek, TNG, or Voyager... they all seem to want to make a point about women. It's almost forced on people. In B5, we females shown to be tough and kick-ass... think Badger in Gropos. Or in Voyager trying to showcase Janeway as a female captain. They can never just portray women as being equal to men as they want to show. It's always excessive to make a point. Note, there are regular women on these shows (Ivonova, Doctor Crusher...). But funny enough, these aren't the characters they choose to showcase when pushing women's issues :P

2. Horrible portrayal of 'regular people.' On in B5... see big guy in down below... oh he's a thug. Give me your money kind of thug. You don't get more basic than this. You see the same theme running throughout Star Trek as well... 'regular' society is simplistic.

3. Pointless Space Jargon. I get that we're in space and you're probably going to talk about things like phasers, PPG, ion cannons, time travel... but sometimes entertainment is more important that scientific jargon. For example, we all know our measurement of time differs based on where we are. 5:00 in Toronto is different from 5:00 in London. But how many times do they have to stress this in B5? Every time they mention time, it's "I'll meet you in 5 of their Earth hours" or something like that.

4. Undeveloped love stories... that have to be there. Riker/Worf and Deanna, sheriden and delenn... They all want to throw in a love story. But they never do it as well as even the most basic regular tv show. I'm watching B5, and it seems like Sheriden and delenn are just meant to be together to fit the story line... as opposed to seeing any kind of real development between the characters. I'm left wondering... when did they fall so strongly in love? Did I miss something? Compare this to even the most simplistic sitcom like say Friends... where the love interest between say Ross and Rachel spans entire seasons.

5. Needless Moralizing.
Some shows are better than other at this, but sci-fi seems to want to make a point. Rather than letting the point stand on its own as part of the story, they often try to make it explicit. In b5, think Sheriden making his grand speech to the vorlons and shadows about their time is past and they should 'get the hell out of our galaxy'. Really... these are superior races with thousands or maybe even millions of years of advancement on the human race, and sheriden talks to them like weeee infants... and the writers make them speak like little infants? Or for that matter any speech by Janeway. Picard on TNG was probably the best at not doing this, but even that show resorted to it on many occasions.

Then you begin to see how many of these issues are rectified in more modern sci-fi like BSG. They're not perfect, but they make for more excellent TV if less sci-fi.

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (2)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about a year and a half ago | (#43454349)

To call Ivonava a regular woman is a grave insult. Ivonava is god. [youtube.com]

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (1)

yakovlev (210738) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473389)

I agree, Ivanova is not a good example of a regular woman. I'll give grandparent that Doctor Crusher is, but Ivanova is another example of the ultra-tough female, just like Tasha Yar on TNG.

Fortunately we got Wesley Crusher on TNG rather than the originally planned Leslie Crusher. That would have left the first season of TNG with an ultra-tough female, and ultra-smart kid female, and every admiral being either female or black. Honestly, TNG was ridiculous in how "equal" women were portrayed, particularly considering that the top three officers (Picard, Riker, and Data) were male.

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43456763)

Uh sounds like you haven't actually watched Babylon 5 at all to me, or paid very little attention to it in 8 viewings: you very definitely missed something and a lot of things if you didn't notice them teasing Delenn/Sheridan almost from the very first time he shows up on the station and in episode upon episode afterwards.

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about a year and a half ago | (#43456847)

So write your own.

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43457055)

I never saw the Riker/Worf love story...

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (1)

CptNerd (455084) | about a year and a half ago | (#43501197)

Riker: "So, about this Klingon ritual?"
Worf: "Yes?"
Riker: "You stick the pain sticks whhHOAAOOOOOH sweet mystery of life at last I've found you!"

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43457281)

Dodger, not Badger!

rebuttal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43458007)

you wont be satisfied even if you were equal , i dunno like a female president of earth OR
i dunno a female captain rather then a male one ..

and what makes sci fi IS NOT #$ thats dram a like battle star dramatica....
AS to #2 um you do relaize its a space station and that if you want to see regular go back to earth regular people aren't flying around all the time in space and those that do well they will be in some way differant. UM also do you realize how BORING a story about the avg joe would be ...no really goto work come ohome shower eat and rinse repeat ....again its just drama on the dull side. FUNNY the best sci fi your whining about its portrayal of women is that cause your not in it....YOU THINK your wish to be self importance is evident.

3 hi samantha stargate cut them off make it dumbed down for rank 37th math ..american audience...YUP by making wanky words and allowing you to dream it allows your m ind ot think more,. THE MORE STUPID A SOCIETY IS THE LESS creativity it needs.

OH and ya know that star trek hypospray well i got a hypospray flu shot that looks exactly like that and works very similarly...if we add a fuzzy logic word ot it maybe one day when its invented or not at least it tries to get people thinking and having FUN ...that is the part about the wordings FUN ...

WHAT YOUR saying is you dont like sci fi never have you don't want sci fi you want more reality based drama...sorry your offtopic.
I dont need over dramatized complex every time....and early stargate and trek and b5 did it right each ep could stand on its own...they start to fail when they get into the soap opera style tun e in next week crap.

ya lets not be morale or try to give a good ideal in our sci fi....god forbid we try and keep that going and instead just be evil uncaring and drama based reality...you want reality go sit outside ....

you dont know it yet but whoever i am i gave begun gathering a world wide following..... and by time you try and stop me form doing what i am it will be too late the TN G will really be here.and his speech at the end is in front of an even old alien the very first one...do you think those other races are gonna get naughty...and remember my dear its science fiction not reality it doesn't always have to follow reality ...ain't that scarey...now back to your ghost hunters how ok...

Meh ... (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | about a year and a half ago | (#43458409)

Personally, BSG is unwatchable garbage. Yes yes, throw rocks at me, but B5 outranks it from here to the next wormhole.

Regular people are boring, nobody watches TV shows for the regular people. Without caricatures, we'd be reading the news.

Re:Meh ... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43461991)

There where no regular people on BSG.\

Frankly, they were different types of shows so I don't really find them comparable.

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43461965)

1) See every Family TV Show.
2) same as above.
4) Like many TV series.
5) See Above.

3) I don't think it's the needless space jargon as much as needless pandering. Usually to the idiot who assumes becasue it wasn't carefully repeated, it was wrong.

But was see this in any shows, like...say.... Big Bang Theory.

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (1)

axl917 (1542205) | about a year and a half ago | (#43462079)

1. Dodger, not Badger. Never did like that episode, it was a bit of a ham-fisted "look at the horrors of war" retelling of Hamburger Hill or the like.
2. Down-Below was largely a ghetto and a refuge for criminals & miscellaneous psychos so it isn't too surprising that most shown down there are thuggish. There were obvious exceptions though such as the doctor with the healing device in the "Quality of Mercy", and the alien that Kosh sends Sheridan to to meditate on beauty. (forget the ep name)
3. Kinda nitpicky. Trek was far, far worse with jargon and deus ex machina in general. Far too many episodes of the

"We're in an impossible situation!"
"What if I reconfigure the phase blaster arrays and the converter matrix to create an inverse warp field?"
"Make it so."

variety.

4. If you didn't see Delenn & Sheridan coming from day 1 of her chrysalis emergence, then I dunno what to say. The flirting was obvious, and it developed over quite a period of time...the watching of the faces during sleep, the crowd of Minbari outside their door ("Whoopee?"), etc...
5. That is a commonality of most fantasy, not just sci-fi. Humanity is portrayed as either the already-dominant or the ascending-towards-dominance race, while a race or several are entering into twilight, a passing-of-the-torch moment. e.g. Tolkien and the passing of the Elves to the West while Gondor rebuilds. Remember that the Shadows and/or Vorlons tried to wipe out Sheridan leading upto his GTFO speech, but other races and ships stepped up and intercepted the missiles. When a bully realizes that he can no longer rule though fear, then he has nothing left.

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | about a year and a half ago | (#43464539)

"4. If you didn't see Delenn & Sheridan coming from day 1 of her chrysalis emergence, then I dunno what to say. The flirting was obvious, and it developed over quite a period of time...the watching of the faces during sleep, the crowd of Minbari outside their door ("Whoopee?"), etc..."

Perhaps I wasn't clear what I was saying.
Yes, it was clear Sheriden and Delenn would be together from a plot perspective. That was my point... it was absolutely clear as being tied to the greater plot.
It's like someone with a checklist went down a list of things to make them in love (flirting, precarious situation, one of the lost and returns)... and they just went through the list inserting them episode after episode in order.

It offered little emotional attachment on its own or any long term emotional depth. It's like they were just meant to be for the plot line. Great for story arch lovers, not so good for the love story on its own.

5. Fantasy tends to do it less.
For example, in LOTR, when the Ent Forest is destroyed, there is a theme of protecting the environment and industrialization there. But the point is not hammered explicitly. It is just left as is.
Passing the torch is not a problem. I have no issue with the greater story arch of the vorlons/shadows passing on. But the humans in LOTR don't treat the elves like infants in a grand speech.

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43478081)

How the hell do you think relationships develop in real life?

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (1)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | about a year and a half ago | (#43464721)

It seems pretty darn clear to me that Sinclair was originally supposed to be the one who married Delenn; that was getting nicely set up from near the very beginning, at least as early as the episode with the various religious festivals. Unfortunately, O'hare left the series, so that plot line had to be transferred to Sheridan, and had to be sped up.

I would really like to read a novel with the original plot, Sinclair staying around as long as originally planned, and the Babylon 4 station being taken back by Sinclair and Delenn as the finale in "Sleeping in Light". (I pretty strongly suspect that was the original plan, anyway.) And Ivanova staying around; her "telepath" arc getting developed according to the original plan.

Re:the state of space-based sci-fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43478155)

Read Volume 15 of the script books. It has the outline with Sinclair in for the whole story. Taking back Babylon 4 was originally planned for the sequel, *not* the main Babylon 5 series.

Ad hominem? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43453933)

Theyâ(TM)re just words on a screen, one subset of words no more valid than the other...even though one may be written by an expert, and the other by a guy who wears an orange fright wig and lives in his motherâ(TM)s basement where he tortures Barbie dolls for fun.

Isn't that essentially reasoning ad hominem? If the person makes a high quality argument, who cares if he tortures Barbies in his mom's basement while wearing an orange fro... does it change the quality of the argument? Likewise, if a subject matter expert's views are indistinguishable from the aforementioned person's, what does that say about the quality of the ideas presented by the subject matter expert?

Personal perception of a speaker's "style" is a handy cheat that we use to evaluate the quality of discussion, but, as any politician, con-person, or social engineer can tell you, it is enormously easy to "spoof" - wear a suit and use the right jargon and suddenly any old quack idea sounds like gold, to those using this cheat. Likewise, the words of Diogenes would be unduly discarded: the man slept in a sewer, after all!

Evaluation of ideas based on their quality, and not the perceptions of qualities of the individual presenting them, is much more difficult, but also vastly superior in the results that it produces because it evaluates content rather than presentation style.

Sincerely,
A smart guy in an orange wig

Re:Ad hominem? (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year and a half ago | (#43454109)

You realize you're arguing with him despite him saying the same thing, right? He basically said that no one's words are more valid than another's based specifically on who they are.

Re:Ad hominem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43454353)

You realize you're arguing with him despite him saying the same thing, right? He basically said that no one's words are more valid than another's based specifically on who they are.

I'm not sure how saying, essentially, that an SME's opinion is more valid than an orange wigged basement dweller, based on those facts alone, equates to "no one's words are more valid than another's". He was basically denigrating the loss of social context that comes with written communication, whereas I would call that an advantage of the medium because social context is not actually very valuable in evaluating the quality of an idea.

Re:Ad hominem? (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year and a half ago | (#43454699)

one subset of words no more valid than the other

You are reading his words incorrectly. He is saying that neither the writings of the "expert" or the "orange wig guy" is no more valid than the other. Again, you are arguing with something he didn't say.

Re:Ad hominem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43454825)

He is saying that neither the writings of the "expert" or the "orange wig guy" is no more valid than the other.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree - I am reading something completely different into his words than you.

Re:Ad hominem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43459573)

As he wrote:one subset of words no more valid than the other

Kinda hard to mis-interpret that as anything but what it states: that both are equally valid - or invalid.

Re:Ad hominem? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43459785)

Try reading the "no" which appears before "more valid".

Re:Ad hominem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43465435)

Try reading the "no" which appears before "more valid".

Yes, but he's not saying that the words are "no more valid", he's merely remarking (lamenting, really) that the words seem "no more valid", and thus "equal credibility" must be applied.

Which is, whatever JMS says, not a bad thing. If your method of ascribing credibility to any objective statement depends primarily or solely on the physical appearance or personality traits of the speaker, then you are doing it wrong.

Re:Ad hominem? (1)

nanoflower (1077145) | about a year and a half ago | (#43463555)

That's because he appears to have made two points in his words. One was that everyone is equal on the Internet. If you've got a well thought out idea then it doesn't matter if you are an orange wig wearing guy in a basement that tortures Barbie dolls for fun. The other part that he appeared to be saying is that while the orange wig wearing guy may have some good ideas eventually his craziness will show up so you have to be aware of that possibility when dealing with people on the Internet.

Re:Ad hominem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43471523)

If you've got a well thought out idea then it doesn't matter if you are an orange wig wearing guy in a basement that tortures Barbie dolls for fun.

Actually, what JMS is saying appears to criticize this absence of social context. Because he can't tell if you're wearing an orange wig, he can only evaluate your statements according to their contents, and won't know to not "let one close" who wears the orange wig.

Re:Ad hominem? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year and a half ago | (#43454369)

Personal perception of a speaker's "style" is a handy cheat that we use to evaluate the quality of discussion, but, as any politician, con-person, or social engineer can tell you, it is enormously easy to "spoof" - wear a suit and use the right jargon and suddenly any old quack idea sounds like gold, to those using this cheat.

That's the false negatives, but it weeds out a ton of people who really are just ignorant or crazy. If you claim to have some kind of medical invention but talk like you couldn't find a thorax or femur bone if your life depended on it then I'm going to extremely doubt your invention, even if I don't really have the knowledge to say whether it could work or not. If Stephen Hawking wants to tell me his theories on dark matter, then yeah I'm far more inclined to listen than a guy off the street. Of course the truth doesn't care what merits and credentials you have and very respected scientists have been dead wrong like "God does not play dice.", but it sure beats a random lottery.

Re:Ad hominem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43454591)

That's the false negatives, but it weeds out a ton of people who really are just ignorant or crazy.

Sure, which is why it is an attractive "cheat". But once you learn to evaluate ideas rationally on their merits, it's really not any more difficult without that "cheat", and yet you eliminate the false negatives and, perhaps more advantageously, the false positives - well dressed, well spoken, credentialed people selling you on hokum - politicians, marketers, con-men, and the very well-dressed authoritative-sounding man demanding access to your server room.

If you claim to have some kind of medical invention but talk like you couldn't find a thorax or femur bone if your life depended on it then I'm going to extremely doubt your invention, even if I don't really have the knowledge to say whether it could work or not.

Reasonable skepticism is always healthy, even if the person presenting the claim speaks in picture perfect medical jargon. Extraordinary claims always demand extraordinary evidence.

Of course the truth doesn't care what merits and credentials you have and very respected scientists have been dead wrong like "God does not play dice.", but it sure beats a random lottery.

What I'm suggesting is not randomly ascribing credence, though. I'm suggesting that it is better to abandon ad hominem evaluation based on easily manipulated social cues, and train ourselves to rationally evaluate the quality of ideas themselves. This is not impossible, in fact it isn't really even that difficult. Lazy thinking is always a disadvantage.

Netflix (3, Informative)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about a year and a half ago | (#43454359)

Back when it was announced that Netflix is going to fully fund several new series every year from now on it was also mentioned that they deliberately do not want to enforce these cliffhangers or traditional TV-values on directors and writers and instead just give more-or-less free hands to the team to deliver whatever they feel like. In fact, they encouraged the folks to avoid these cliffhangers. Also, to take pressure off they would always finance a full season at once so that directors and writers wouldn't have to worry about the series being canceled mid-season if some episodes were lack-luster.

Having watched House of Cards on Netflix I must say that I really have high hopes for any future series being funded by Netflix -- it was terribly refreshing how the House of Cards was filmed and written and I consumed the whole first season in like 2 days.

Re:Netflix (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year and a half ago | (#43457791)

mentioned that they deliberately do not want to enforce these cliffhangers or traditional TV-values on directors and writers and instead just give more-or-less free hands to the team to deliver whatever they feel like

That sounds ideal. Anime tends to work with full resolving storylines and less reactive jumping the shark due to a group being given enough to make 3, 12 or whatever episodes and allowed to run with it. If it works they get a chance at another show, a movie or typically a very distinct sequel (or sometimes a remake if the original was very low budget). Funding US shows in a similar way such as Netflix seems to be doing is IMHO a good idea and removes the stupid shit like studio executives having multiple meetings with the production crew over Sinclair's hairstyle (B5 season 1), demands from advertisers to remove cast members (eg. 99 from Get Smart, the actress was nearly dropped from the show and the director who stood up for her put his job at risk to keep her in the role) or stuff getting cancelled mid season.

Which is it? (1)

flogger (524072) | about a year and a half ago | (#43454567)

Take this comment about getting more sci-fi on the air...

All the crowdsourcing in the world won’t rewire the neurons engaged in that kind of thinking.

and this comment about doing things...

Whenever someone tells me something can’t be done, my immediate impulse is to go out there and prove otherwise, just to spite them.

Can Straczynski set out to do it because he said it isn't being done?

"Binge Viewing" (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#43457753)

I don't know whether to laugh or to be afraid that Netflix has such a term.

It's true, though. I guess I should be glad that B5 isn't there.

Babylon5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43459013)

I used to like B5 when I was a teenager, but when I watch it now, it frankly strikes me as quite primitive. It doesn't seem like mature drama to me, more like a fairy tale on steroids, complete with heavy-handed moralizing and cardboard characters. There are real gems here and there, and a few characters (and actors) are truly amazing, but overall the series just didn't seem to age very well.

Bottom line, there is a lot of quality TV recently (e.g.: HBO stuff), and I don't think writing on the level of B5 will fly in the big leagues nowadays. But I'm sure JMS has gained some levels in the last 10-15 years, so best luck to him with his new project.

Ruining B5.. (1)

Orville (104680) | about a year and a half ago | (#43468717)

I was a big B5/JMS fan back in the day, but the Spider-Man "One More Day" bit ruined it all for me...

Re:Ruining B5.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43469391)

You cant blame JMS for Quesada mandates. Apparently Smoking is anathema in the Marvel Universe but making deals with the devil are perfectly ok in his book.

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