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Name: (Rastb5)
Date(s): April 5, 1994 [1]-April 2, 1996 [2] (with JMS), April 3, 1996- (without JMS, as he moved to
Fandom: Babylon 5
URL: (where it had at least 46541 messages)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore. was a Usenet newsgroup for fans of Babylon 5 and its showrunner, J. Michael Straczynski (JMS).

In 1996, JMS and many fans moved to While continued, without notable fans, BNFs, and JMS himself, the unmoderated newsgroup dwindled due to spam, flamewars, and relative disinterest.

The newsgroup's first welcome post: Welcome to Babylon 5! (March 28, 1994). The first Babylon-5 Frequently Asked Questions.

Some History

JMS was a frequent contributor to both of these newsgroups, and they were among the first internet-based forums where fans could directly interact with the creator of their fandom. JMS would frequently answer fan questions about the show, not only about production or technical issues but about the backgrounds of the characters and the worlds he created. His posts, which are archived at, are an early example of internet creator/fan based interactions.[3]

JMS had participated in many online forums since the 1980s, groups on GEnie and CompuServe as well as Regarding his place as a showrunner and fan, he 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'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.[4]

Fan interaction with JMS also helped to shape details in several episodes of the show. In the late first-season episode The Quality of Mercy, for example, there is a discussion of the rights of due process in a society where there are functional telepaths. JMS acknowledged on the newsgroup and in discussions that he fleshed out the on-screen discussion rather than glossing it over because there had been a high level of interest on the newsgroup.

This online interaction, however, was one of the reasons a script was scrapped, as well as for JMS's request that no fanfiction be written about the show until the series was complete. See JMS's Words for much more.

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

The Rangers

The Rangers were a group of fans created to filter messages/"administer the feed" from (commonly called "rastb5") and pass them along to JMS. The messages that were filtered were ones that discussed fanworks, story ideas and anything else that the Rangers may have thought would be dangerous or problematic for JMS to read.

See The Rangers.

The Transition to

The group voted to split in late March 1996. There were 2241 YES votes and 109 NO votes, for a total of 2350 valid votes. There were 3 abstains and 14 invalid ballots.

The votes were posted by legal name here. [5]

Fan Comments Regarding JMS' Participation on Newsgroups


This group is, without a doubt, the busiest B5 group on the net. Why? Well, the US folk have set up camp here as they currently have no home hierarchy of their own. Although it is meant to be an international group, it tends to be inundated with unprotected spoilers about future episodes. The big plus for this group has to be the fact that JMS reads and posts here. Although some consider his cryptic, and sometimes misleading postings as spoilers, if you want info from the horses mouth, you'll have to brave the spoilers and check out this group. [6]


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. [7]

Now that there is a moderated B5 discussion group, it should be interesting to see who intends to post (and/or lurk) where and why. In a way, I'm glad to see a moderated group. I didn't vote mostly because I thought this was a fairly silly thing to start a new group over, and that both sides were blowing their opinions way out of proportion to reality.

Now that there is a .mod group, it will make life easier for some of us. I can read the .mod group and not have to worry about sifting through spam or silly flamewars; and if I am in the mood, I can deliver a good swift boot to the side of somebody's head in the original group. (As an added bonus, I can tell anyone who is offended by my posts to get their sniveling asses over to the .mod group.)

I fully intend to post to both groups, being a little nicer to those in the .mod group. And, finally, unless I'm the very last one left there, I'll be the first to get in line and break my foot off in the ass of anyone who tries to rmgroup rast.b5. [8]

The posting of story ideas got to be a real concern, and JMS was also getting tired of the personal attacks of certain members of the group, and started talking about pulling out. (He was still reading via email, and replying the same way.) So there was a group of people that started talking about creating a mod group, which they hoped would keep him around, and another group, which I was part of, that really dislikes mod groups, particularly wit the way the technology works, and looked for other mechanisms. Thus was created what was called the Rangers (named after the show, not the other way around). We essentially "worked" for JMS (I say "worked" because we were a group of volunteers, the efforts of which he appreciated, not employees, but who's labors were directed towards him, and keeping him in the group). We read every single message, and approved then for being passed on to JMS's feed. If there was a story idea, the post got dropped from his feed. This worked for a few months, but the "kooks" were wearing him down. I actually offered, since we were filtering *anyway*, to add anyone he wanted to the list to be filtered out. He finally accepted (I pointed out that most everyone else on the net had access to kill files, he ought to be able to avail himself of the technology, and not feel he *had* to read everything!) but before we could implement it, he changed his mind and decided that the "feel" of the room was just to uncomfortable now, he was getting too many complaints from other members of the group about the personal attacks going on, and he felt responsible - they wouldn't be there if he wasn't. [9]

Comments from Some Slash Fans

I hereby admit that yes I have been playing on rastb5 (Babylon 5 newsgroup for those non-netters amongst us). I've had a lot of fun talking smut and innuendo to the world. It is amazing the things that slash teaches you. Some of those posts have got pretty hot and enticing without saying anything explicit at all. [10]

It did get fun on the B5 list for a while. It still amazes me just how much we got away with. All that smut and sexual innuendo being posted to the list and I don't know of any backlash of any sort.[11]



  1. ^ Joe has entered the building.
  2. ^ Moderated Newsgroup Help
  3. ^ The posts have also been collected into a five-part book series, compiled by JMS and a team of fans, that contains of every question JMS had ever answered on Usenet, AOL bulletin boards, GEnie, and in online chats, sorted by category. The books total approximately 2,000 pages and cover 5,296 questions. More here, Archived version.
  4. ^ from a CompuServ transcript
  5. ^ YES !!! New B5 Group
  6. ^ from umtsb5 Frequently Asked Questions and Other Information (November 25, 1995)
  7. ^ from Say you really miss Joe Straczynski on rastb5? & More of Joe Straczynski's Dialogue (March 12, 1996)
  8. ^ Where do we go now? (Mar 28, 1996)
  9. ^ Ron Jarrell: How did JMS come to be here in the first place
  10. ^ from Strange Bedfellows (APA) #12 (February 1996)
  11. ^ from Strange Bedfellows (APA) #13 (May 1996)