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archive:sf:jmsbabylon5

Date: 27 Nov 1995 01:09:28 -0500 Subject: jms resigns rastb5

I've been debating this step for, quite literally, months now. What has finally tipped the balance is seeing the extent to which rastb5 has been virtually taken hostage by a very few people who have no interest in this forum except to tear down this show in general, and me in particular. To that effect, they lie, manufacture facts, speculate based on premises that have no basis whatsoever in reality, engage in smear campaigns, insult and abuse users of this area, drop innuendo when they have nothing else to grab onto…they leap into threads that should by all rights be reasonably safe from flame and turn them into referendums on whether or not jms is a liar, in the kind of logic that stems from "are you still beating your wife?" premises.

The progression is always the same: a smear message, or an outright fabrication, gets posted; it generates heated replies from other users; those users are then attacked for being unthinking followers or sycophants (when the reality is that the original message was bone-headed and simply *wrong), thus ensuring that the conversation is not about the subject anymore, but rather the conversation becomes about the conversation…and in that form, it can go on forever, spreading out into more and more threads until all you see after a while are flames in every direction.

I try to stay out of it as much as I can…but sooner or later something so odious, so despicable, such an obvious, irredeemable lie gets posted that I lose my temper and have to respond. I sit here, and take sucker punches to the face, every single time I sign on from some of the outrageous stuff that goes on here; I take it quietly, but after you're punched in the face three, four, five times a day, for weeks at a time, damn it sooner or later you're going to hit back, and hard. And that's when the same cadre of imbeciles comes back and says, "Gee, look at that, see how badly he behaves?"

More and more lately, I have been signing on here, and by the time I log off, I'm furious. Furious for the unsubstantiated character assassination directed against me…and over the course of the year plus I've been here, not one – not ONE – of the allegations from Fuller, Fuller or Thaxton have *ever* been proven out, but they just forget that and move on to the next attack…as well as the attacks on other users here who have chosen to defend me against these baseless attacks.

In the past, where it's been just a few threads here and there, and I knew what they were, I could just avoid them. But in their ceaseless attacks, designed to provoke a response from me, they have begun throwing their nets consistently wider, so that they're all over the place; I can't avoid the hassles and the grief. And if I see some of this crap, which is untrue and unfair and designed for no other reason than to cause me grief…I get angry, and when I get angry, I can't write, and that hurts the show.

And I will not allow the show to be hurt. When it crosses that line…it stops. One way or another.

I've tried reasonable appeals; those were taken as signs of weakness, turned into further attacks, and ultimately failed. I've asked people here *not* to respond to these abusive individuals, because if they get only silence for their efforts, they will go away; they live for the echo of pain caused by their words; find validation and reason to live in that echo. That failed. And now the level of toxicity has risen to a level that can no longer be tolerated.

And before anyone even *tries* to turn this into "oh, joe just doesn't want to hear negative stuff about his show, he doesn't want to hear any criticism, he just wants to be god" (and you know who you are, and fuck you too), it's got *nothing* to do with criticism of the show, positive or negative, made from having genuinly thought out the problems. I've always responded well to any kind of criticism that is well-considered, and always will.

This has to do with a small handful of people who have, through their incessant, stalking, compulsive behavior ruined this forum for not only me but a great deal of other people who've emailed me to say that they don't post here any more, because they've gotten tired of being attacked, tired of reading the endless tirades and smears and assaults on me and other users. The good people get driven away, and the bad people refuse to go, or to moderate their behavior, and there is no mechanism currently in place for others here to moderate their behavior.

I have become, in many ways, the football used to pull others on either side of the line into an ugly and destructive game. And the only way to stop it is to remove the football.

So I am posting this as notice that I will be resigning from rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 effective the end of the month. To Ron and the Rangers…stop sending me the list at that time.

Because the simple reality is that once I'm gone, the prime lure for those who've turned this place into a constant flame zone for the last year will have left. And in time, so will they. It's sad when a handful of people can take something that is of value to thousands, potentially tens of thousands, of users worldwide, and chew away at it until there's nothing left, simply because of their own twisted obsession.

I cannot go to bed, or get up in the morning, furious over the latest offense committed here by the tyrannical few; I've lost endless hours sitting here angry over the falsehoods and the smears and the innuendo. I can't afford to do that anymore.

And just so they cannot weasel their way out of it later, cannot say "well, it wasn't me, it was just the climate, it was the fault of those guys over there…look, a comet…." I point the finger squarely at the Theron Fuller, Deborah Fuller, and Ford Thaxton, with a couple of other accomplices not worthy of comment. I hope you enjoy seeing your names in a post by me, folks, since that's what seems to excite you, because this particular message is likely to be the last. You've finally succeeded in driving me off rastb5, which was clearly your intent from the start.

I will continue to be present on CIS, Genie, AOL and a few other places, which have more than their share of critical commentaries, but are moderated to prevent this kind of abusive behavior. When the rastb5-info group is open, I will post to that area, and take questions via that forum. But I will no longer post to, or read the main rastb5 area any longer. I simply can't afford the heartache anymore.

The experiment in interaction between viewers and the makers of B5 will continue; they just will continue in other places.

People ask why more producers don't come on-line. This is the reason. Because there are some people out there who are obsessed with anyone who has even the smallest celebrity (and there ain't much smaller celebrity than being a producer); people who feel it is their god-given obligation to tear down the other person, and to make sure that there cannot *possibly* be anyone in their universe more important than they themselves. They do not sow, neither do they reap; they only shred and tear and abuse.

If you're ever going to see more producers on-line, you're going to have to look seriously into ways to keep the least reputable elements from turning it into a bloodbath. Because when some say, as has been said here, "it's my right to say this, and you have to take it," the response is, "No, I don't." If you stay, you become an enabler, a co-dependent, who allows the abuse to continue by the conscious decision to remain where you can be hit.

To the rest of you: I apologize for having to take this step. Some of you know how difficult this decision has been for me, the long months I've spent debating it back and forth with friends, family and other netters. I have enjoyed the exchange, have learned much from the commentaries, and the discussion, have made many friends and acquaintances. Were there any way I could stay, be sure that I would. But when I have to stare at a monitor, when a script deadline is upon me, and all I can think of is, "That goddamned liar is spreading the same old crap *again*," then something has got to go. In this case, that's me.

Because sure as hell, they won't. Not until their punching bag

With the obvious exceptions, I will miss you greatly. As stated above, I'll be here through the end of the month, just to finish clearing out stuff, and ease this transition, though probably in somewhat reduced capacity. I hope to see many of you via the new info group. Though the discussion will not be quite so free wheeling as it is here, because of the moderated structure there, it will be good to look upon your faces (well, your pixels) in the months to come there.

Again, my apologies. I wish this could be handled in some other way, but that doesn't seem likely. You cannot know how your words, and your efforts, on behalf of B5, have been appreciated not just by me, but by everyone involved with the show. It's been a great experience, a chance to learn, and a hell of a ride. See you on the flip side.

                                 With great affection,
                                 J. Michael Straczynski

Date: 1 Dec 1995 04:39:47 -0500 Subject: from jms: benedictions

   Tonight is the last night of my feed from rastb5, and I wanted to

send along a quick note to resolve the few last things remaining to be discussed or addressed before that happens.

   Since my note went up -- raggedly, here and there, due to some

problems with the server, apparently – I have now logged slightly over 900 private email messages in my GEnie mailbox. This in addition to the rest of the feed per se. I'm slogging through them as fast as I can, trying to give personal responses to as many as I humanly can; if over the course of the next week or so, if you've sent me a note, and don't get a response, assume that either got crunched by the often cranky GEnie newsreader system, or it didn't specifically seem to require a response…or my hands fell off and rolled under the table.

   Nonetheless, a general thank you to everyone who's sent in mail on

this. It's disturbing to realize that about 75% of all of the notes thus far received begin with a variation on "I used to post on rastb5 (or I just lurk on rastb5) but don't post because the atmosphere just got too poisoned by the deranged few you mentioned." Literally hundreds of people seem to have been driven from rastb5 by the rampage of a few others who don't want to be attacked or abused by those few. This is terribly saddening to realize. That they have been driven off is more of a real issue than my being now in this position.

   Anyway...to all those who wrote, I am moved and touched by your

words, and if there were any way around this, I'd take it. I know that some are working behind the scenes to put together a moderated newsgroup, but I don't know if that will happen or not. The goal of any such should not be to eliminate criticism – heck, there's never been a lack for that here or on any of the other systems – but just to keep out the truly dysfunctional. That may be a very promising route, but I'm not holding out much hope that it'll happen.

   Surprisingly, the #1 comment that has come in is, "What on earth

TOOK you so long? If I were in your shoes I'd've been out of here MONTHS ago." Glutton for punishment, I guess. Kept thinking we could work a way around this. But as has been pointed out by others, I guess it was inevitable. I didn't see that because I suppose I didn't really want to see it, or cop to it, or realize that this was running out on me. I have vastly enjoyed the open lines of communication, have met a great number of interesting people both on-line exclusively and even in person in many cases.

   Anyway, I wish it could be otherwise.  For the most part, you're a

cute bunch, and I won't even space you for being cute.

   (Oh, and speaking of "for the most part," a sidelong glance in the

direction of Robert Holland is in order, whose latest poison pen letters are wonderfully emblematic of the problem here from the start. He has implied since this all came out that in leaving here, I'm somehow "getting away with something," that it's nothing to do with him or his ilk here on the system, nononononono, can't be that…it's just that I'm on AOL now leaving tons of messages by his reckoning, and it'd happen regardless. Which is so obviously boneheaded and stupid that it almost doesn't merit response…but what the hell….

   (The AOL B5 page has, maybe, 1/1,000th the number of users as rastb5;

I log on maybe every two-three days, and leave maybe a total of 5-10 messages in the course of a week. So much for his claim about the total number of messages left. AOL is confined just to the US, and doesn't have even a *fraction* of the coverage of rastb5. But Mr. Holland, in his usual subliminal sleazosity, tries to find some subterfuge, some hidden agenda, something he can point to in vague terms and wonder what I'm getting away with. This is the game he and the others here play constantly; there is nothing they can go after in reality, so they come up with vaguely worded allegations with no real core to them, just designed to somehow cast a shadow on this show or myself, specifically to get people, myself included, to respond, defending when no real charge has been made. It's the oldest trick in the book; get the other person to defend themselves against a non-existent charge, in the hope of creating the illusion of smoke and the perception of fire…and, of course, getting everyone upset in the process. I fell for it too many times; we all did. This is the last time I will do so. Mr. Holland belongs in the same company as the rest of his associates. They will *always* find something to complain about, even if it means manufacturing it themselves.)

   But it's no longer my problem.  Just as it's no longer the problem of

several hundred others who've logged off here in the last year due to the hassles, and the others who have either left, or are about to leave for the same reason: the tyranny of the petty dysfunctional.

   So we turn back toward the light, and happier topics.  This is, after

all, a benediction, not a jeremiad.

   I'm told that the info area doesn't quite function as I'd thought,

so we'll see what can be done here. From time to time, I will try to put together a letter from home, as it were, to send here to rastb5; I won't see any of the responses to it that aren't emailed directly to me, but the intent would be to send along information that might be useful from time to time for folks to have. I'm not expecting to do this very often, but will try to do it here and there as I'm able.

   In other news...since this I guess kinda counts as such a letter...

I'm happy to note that the paperwork for the B5 fan club has finally, FINALLY, come in in finished form. Once it's vetted by our people, we hope to get it signed and get this long-overdue baby going. We've had a number of discussions about this, and how to handle it, maybe a survey of folks to see what kinds of limited-edition items they'd like to see us make, maybe a web-page for the club, other options. (If we should start selling limiteds on the EA pins, patches and stuff, what we'll probably do is have them made by the same companies that supply us with the real props used in the show, so they're absolutely identical in every way, not just knockoffs. It's a little more expensive that way to make, and we won't make much of anything off them because we'll keep the prices at a reasonable level, but I think that's the way to go. Neither Doug nor I are looking to make this into a profit center; if it can more or less pay for itself, and help organize folks, give them something nifty from the show, then that's sufficient.)

   Oh...and we're investigating the possibility of licensing the damned

videotapes ourselves, producing them pretty much at cost. Don't know if we can pull this off or not, but we're going to try.

   Michael York is currently shooting with us in "A Late Delivery From

Avalon," and doing an amazing job. This may turn into one of our best episodes, from a performance and emotion perspective. I had a few doubts about the script – it has a kind of writing style I don't use very often, and very stylized in appearance – but it's coming out great.

   Script 15 is entitled "Interludes and Examinations," and has a plot

turn I hadn't seen coming, but which fits perfectly into the arc; I think you're going to be stunned. (I was.) As I write this, I've just started writing "War Without End, Part One," #316, the first part of the two episodes that bring Sinclair to Babylon 5, which we'll shoot sometime after the first of the year. It's been touch and go, but we've finally been able to schedule all of the guest cast members from "Babylon Squared" for this one, which is the flip side of that episode. It's probably going to be the most expensive show we've done yet, due to the hideous production requirements for this one. It's also the one I'm most nervous about writing, even more than "Fall of Night," because an awful lot happens here, and it has to be done just right. It's going to be probably the toughest writing job of the series to date.

    I'll be putting Sinclair and Sheridan together a lot, which is

shaping up to be an interesting combination. We're also going to see Minbar for the first time.

    (We just now got the finished copy of "Voices of Authority" in; man,

do I wish we'd had this early enough to run in place of PTG, great as that one is. The EFX are terrific, eye-popping.)

   Oh...speaking of eye-popping, I've gotten a copy of the B5 Screen

Saver/Limited Edition Entertainment CD Rom, and it's nifty. I suggest it to everyone, with a caveat: if you're not a computer neep-neep kind of person, have someone help you install the thing. It took me several passes to figure everything out. And once you DO install it, even though it says "do you want all the images?" and you say yes, it doesn't put them all on. Once you've finished – and I'm putting this here because as far as I can tell this isn't documented *anywhere* – go to the setup menu, and hit install. Make sure your CDrom is in the drive. Go to the Images subdirectory on the CDrom, and you'll suddenly see 150 or so images that were *not* installed. Highlight all of them, copy them over to the pdesk/images subdirectory on your hard disk, then add them, and select them. Most neeps out there could probably figure this out, but I couldn't, so I pass this along for those who are as computerchip challenged as I am. Once it's all *there*, and actually even before that, it's gorgeous…the images are crisp and brilliant, the full-motion video stuff is terrific, there's music and sounds and other stuff…I can't commend it highly enough. (Oh, yeah, I think it sometimes bumps up against Norton Desktop, but it's only happening on one of my two Dell machines running ND, so it may be something I'm doing wrong.)

    For those who asked about books...there's going to be a Creating

Babylon 5 book out from Boxtree Books in the UK this summer. I just finished proofing it, and it's pretty good. I think the photo selection could be better, but the actual text is quite good.

    (A pause while jms tries desperately to remember if there's any

other real hard news to pass along here…and the brain goes blank.)

    We're going to be shooting through December 14th, at which point

we break for the Christmas hiatus through January 2nd. I hope to take some of that time and catch up on scripts a bit. We'll probably debut the first season 3 gag reel at the party. (Then run like hell.)

    OH...yeah, and before I forget (again), to those who asked about

the Stephen Furst item in TV Guide…he's doing the Chicago Hope show in a two-parter, he's not joining the cast of regulars. The piece in TV Guide is ambiguous and can be read that way, much to Stephen's chagrin. He'll be doing more shows for us this season.

    There's a conference in the Compuserve Convention Center on Saturday

from 2-3 p.m. Pacific time. Just me at this point.

   Knowing this is the last note I'll be sending for a while, I'm

tempted to keep shoving stuff in here. I just realized that I wish this didn't have to stop. But it kinda does, doesn't it?

    So...to those of you who have been terrifically helpful to me over

the term of this long experiment…to the Rangers for filtering out the feed and protecting me from story ideas…to Sherry for the great analyses of episodes, and Orso for his cogent thoughts…actually, I shouldn't be singling people out because I've been forever astonished and gratified at some of the brilliant and insightful observations that have floated across my monitor in the last year or so. I've been delighted, amused, impressed, floored, dumbfounded, intrigued, awakened, and occasionally horrified (usually in a good way).

   It is my abiding hope that in return, I've given something of use

here. I feel strongly that we cannot hope to control or influence o improve a dragon with as many heads as TV until and unless we understand it first. I hope that I've helped a little to demystify how it all works, so that folks have a better chance of getting what they *want* rather than what some producers or studios want to shove down your throats. If it has served that purpose to any degree, then the exercise has been worthwhile.

    My best to all of you.  When I can, I'll try to post messages in a

bottle and send them along to the group as occasional updates. Meanwhile, take care, don't fight, and remember: if you do not choose to lead, you will forever be led by others. Find what scares you, and do it. And you *can* make a difference, if you choose to do so.

   Babylon Control, clear.
                                                               jms
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