J. Michael Straczynski

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Name: J. Michael Straczynski
Also Known As: JMS, Joe, The Great Maker
Occupation: Writer, Producer
Medium: television (series and tv-movies), books, comics, cartoons, plays
Works: Babylon 5, The Real Ghostbusters, Jeremiah, Murder She Wrote, Joe's Comics, Spider-Man, Superman, Changeling (film), World War Z (film), Sense8
Official Website(s): Studio JMS
Fan Website(s): "JMS News". Archived from the original on 2008-05-17., Worlds of JMS archive.is
On Fanlore: Related pages

J. Michael Straczynski is a fan, a prolific writer, and a producer. He is the creator of Babylon 5. He has also worked on many other fannish shows such as The Real Ghostbusters [1], as well as writing comics, novels, and plays.

Straczynski is often referred to as JMS, and sometimes "The Great Maker" (the latter a nod to the supreme deity on Babylon 5).

He has been online since 1984[2] and is known for being extremely accessible to fans online. JMS made many posts about upcoming or ongoing projects and answered fans' questions. Fans often used the phrase ATTN: JMS in the subject lines in hopes of getting his attention.

Many fans enjoyed the close company, the ability to communicate with JMS (with the hope that their comments could sway characterization and plot in future episodes), and the feeling of being cozy with the source of their admiration.

But other fans disliked it, saying that JMS' presence hindered honest opinion, stifled their creativity and communication, and was an intrusion on their private spaces. JMS' own personality and comments created both positive and negative feelings about the man himself, and this trickled down to opinions about the show and its fandom.

JMS' very frequent presence on USEnet also meant that not only were discussions of fanfic prohibited, but fans' discussion of "scenes they'd like to see on the show" was not allowed.

Acafan Henry Jenkins commented in 1998:

The internet has become an important player in this relationship, generating website program guides which fill in gaps in any given viewer's knowledge, and allowing for collective, expert annotation of the episodes as they air. Media producers, such as Babylon 5's J. Michael Strazinski [sic] and X Files' Chris Carter, go on line, engage with fans about their ongoing series, and help to clarify points of confusion about program mythology. However, in doing so, their presence also serves to police what can and can not be said within the fan community, since the producers are told by their lawyers they will have to leave the lists if they receive to many fan speculations about the future directions of the series. Such speculations could be confused for script suggestions and pose subsequent issues of plagiarism. Yet such speculations form the building blocks for the fan cultural creation. "JMS" is trading access to the author in return for the right to purge their own subcultural traditions. This case suggests the degree to which intellectual property law has distorted the relationship between authors and readers. [3]

Ban on Fanworks While the Show Was on the Air

JMS asked fans not to create fanworks for Babylon 5 while the show was on the air.

Some fans obeyed (and policed each other) and were scrupulous about keeping fanfic out of JMS's view.

Other fans formed an active but almost totally underground fanfic community while the show was airing.

See Babylon 5 Fandom and The Powers That Be for much more.

JMS: The Fan

J. Michael Straczynski planned to be at MediaWest*Con in 1992, just over a year before Babylon 5 aired as a test movie in 1993. According to the program book, Straczynski was to have been one of the five fans on two panels: "Computers: reach out and touch a fan - bulletin board systems" and the Ghostbusters panel. It is unknown if Straczynski attending this con. A fan in 1994 wrote:

Re: B5 fanfic, I've heard the production team has said they will NOT allow any zines and since JMS was supposed to be at Media in '92 (and couldn't make it at the last minute), he knows where to look if they suspect any... [4]

Regarding his place as a showrunner and fan, Straczynski wrote in 1996:

I was on CIS and GEnie long before B5 got going. I figured, why change my habits just because now I was supposedly a vip? (And I'm not always comfortable with that designation.) Beyond that, my job as a writer is to know as much as I can about my characters and universe. In answering all these questions, I learn more about those areas, which helps me. Finally, it's a matter of being accessible and *accountable* to fans, as I'd wished producers had been when I was primarily a viewer. SF fans are generally the most exploited sorts of fans...you're told to line up, watch the show, buy the merchandise, and shut up. I didn't like it then, and I don't like it any better now that I'm on the other side of the lens.[5]

"Why Am I Here?"

In June 1995, JMS explained why he was online communicating with fans. See Why are you here?.

An excerpt from this lengthy explanation, and rant:

Okay, you want it straight up? Here it is. I'm [online] for a number of reasons. 1) I like to get kind of a sense of the room; I'm not going to change anything, but writing for TV is like writing for a vacuum; you nevr [sic] get to see the reaction. This is the ONLY chance I get to get a reaction to something I've written and produced, and maybe it's ego, maybe it's just that I work very hard to make something effective, and want to see if it had the desired effect. Writers and artists and singers are like that.

2) I think that TV producers in general get a very skewed sense of who's in the audience. This exchange gives access to people across the country to someone who makes TeeVee, and lets me hear them. How often would someone in Clearwater, Oklahoma, have the chance to express an opinion to someone in LA making a TV series? Not bloody often. And that is in large measure, I think, why TV has become so insular. And so unresponsive to its audience. So I'm kind of a test-case volunteer for this, in the hopes of luring more producers onto the nets and creating a more open exchange, making producers accountable for what they make.

3) I've dedicated over 15 years of my life to trying to demystify TV production and writing. I've written columns and columns, reams of articles, a book...all trying to help people understand how this medium works, because you can't control or influence something unless you truly UNDERSTAND it...why things are done a certain way. This is part of an educational project that I've been doing for over a decade, a natural outgrowth of that process. By the time this is all done, there will be an online document of hundreds of archival pages -- maybe thousands -- covering the development, birth and ongoing creation of a TV series at a depth never before chronicled, which will be available to students and universities and ordinary folks. I think that's a valuable experiment.

Finally: 4) I'm an SF fan. I think SF fans are, overall, the most exploited bunch around. They're expected to line up, buy the toys, watch the show and shut the hell up. I think it's time some respect for that audience was shown by allowing them a voice. This is part of my sense of personal obligation to the field that spawned many wonderful years of reading. [6]

Fan Comments: JMS's Online Interaction


I'm fairly disinterested in the auteur. I don't think they're best qualified to comprehend the breadth of their work in many ways: I prefer the perspective of the recon balloon to that of the front line. [7]

JMS is King. As to whether he belongs here [in rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5], everybody gets one vote, and JMS gets one more vote than the rest of us put together. Be polite to the King, even though you think he's not as honest as he says. [8]


And, it does, I must admit, rais[e] another question: why will JMS tolerate and be involved in flame wars on AOL, and continue to participate there, but will not tolerate them here in rastb5 on Usenet? Is it merely a matter of degree? Or what? I really do not understand.

They're the very same flames, too.
I think he does it for control. He feels safe on CI$, AOL and Genie where the paying crowd perhaps treats him with respect, almost unanimously. He could only gain control over a usenet newsgroup's discussion of his work if he can get someone to eliminate the persons he does not like. Jay is just the rube for the job.
For all his talk of wanting to be "one of the gang", JMS sure asks for some special concessions. He'll get them, too.
You're right, and the reason is we're more interested in hearing what he has to say than what you, or the other flamers have to say. I don't care what kind of a bastard you think JMS is. He has insight into the show like none other, so yes, I'll allow some concessions to hear them.
And you know what, kiddo? He deserves 'em. Sorry to bust anyone's faux egalitarian bubble, but in the real world (as opposed to the never-never land of usenet) some people really are more interesting to communicate with than others. Some people have accomplished more than others. And some people - the ones who are more interesting and have accomplished more - are more deserving of respect and attention than others. Yes, incredible as it may seem, I am much more interested in what the creator of B5 has to say about the show than what some random fanboys have to say. It's rare that one has the opportunity to exchange ideas directly with the creator of something like this, and I find that a much better use of my rather precious free time than wading through endless flame wars among jejune wankers who've gotten their noses out of joint over the suggestion that a published author and executive producer of an innovative TV series just *might* have more to contribute to a discussion of that series then they have. And in any case, most of the people whining about the creation of the moderated group are precisely the ones who have had the lowest signal-to-noise ratios in their posts. As they say over in alt.slack: "Deal with it, pinkboy."
I think you will be very happy in a fan-club newsgroup. That's why I voted yes.
My only questions: why don't you believe JMS is worth subscribing to one of the three pay services he belongs to?
How much is his insight worth?
Are you willing to risk the loss of seasons 4 or 5 by encouraging JMS to write long answers, aggravating his CTS condition? Would you be willing to give him a few months off to recuperate?
I agree with this sentiment. If someone else out in the land of entertainment wishes to contribute, then those rules would be expanded to include them as well. Rick Berman would probably garner the same special treatment that JMS receives. But the difference between Rick and JMS is the JMS posts. And the difference between JMS and the rest of the internet hoi polloi on this list, is that JMS is THE CREATOR OF THE SHOW THAT THIS NEWSGROUP IS BASED ON!!! Anyone who disagrees is either hopelessly egalitarian or dumb as a box of rock, with an ego that won't let them admit it.
I really hate to say it, but you're right, m'man. It's the same reason why most SF writers don't get on the Web or Usenet: they have better things to do than listen to a bunch of fanboy glibbering and meeping.
This is a point for everyone: JMS doesn't owe you a thing. You don't owe him a thing, either, besides taking the time to watch his show. If he figures that he's better off staying away from this newsgroup because of legal reasons or simply because he's tired of flamewars, that's his right. He's a creator of a TV show, not a god to be feted and hated, and just because you don't have a life doesn't mean that he doesn't have one, either. If he doesn't want to put out a line of "B5" action figures and "B5" authentic Super Soakers and "B5" condoms, then he doesn't have to. Try to remember this, and apply it to everyone in your life, and everyone will be a lot happier.
I cannot believe the newsgroup was ever so fortunate to have him on to begin with. I don't worship the man, but if there's another usenet group that has that kind of access to creative insight of an ongoing project, please let me know which one.
I'm sure with his bux and his connexions, JMS has a lot better things to do w/ his time than read this horseshit. But he did. A free gift. People just do not know how fortunate they are. [9]

Online Archives

During the 1990s, The Zocalo email newsletter had a section called "JMS Speaks" which reprinted various posts JMS made to Babylon 5 newsgroups, and it is an archive of every post JMS has ever made since November 1991 (earlier posts appear to be lost) is at JMS News.

See The Worlds of JMS and another link: "Worlds of JMS". Archived from the original on 2017-04-27..

Meta/Further Reading



  1. ^ "I think I wrote close to 20 or so episodes for that one. I left when they decided to make Janine into a mommy-character instead of a strong character, then did a few more later when they realized they'd made a mistake and wanted her pulled back again. - jms" - JMS and "Ghostbusters" (6/22/1998)
  2. ^ "I've been online since 1984, 16 years now, logging in at 300bps on a Kaypro II." - JMS, September 25, 2000, posted to rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated. Accessed November 22, 2009.
  3. ^ from The Poachers and the Stormtroopers: Cultural Convergence in the Digital Age
  4. ^ from Strange Bedfellows #5
  5. ^ from a CompuServ transcript
  6. ^ posted to rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated: reposted at "The Worlds of JMS". Archived from the original on 2022-06-12., June 3, 1995
  7. ^ William Huber, post at Aftermath: Should we all go (Attn:JMS); archive link, December 1, 1995
  8. ^ Alex Rootham: comment on the Usenet post To Theron: You Don't Understand; archive link, December 5, 1995
  9. ^ from Say you really miss Joe Straczynski on rastb5? & More of Joe Straczynski's Dialogue (March 12, 1996)