rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated is a notable and influential moderated
Usenet newsgroupthat focuses on the science fiction television series" Babylon 5" and the works of writer J. Michael Straczynski. It was spun off from its un-moderated version, rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5, in 1996, and counts Straczynski as a frequent contributor.
In the early 1990s, several newsgroups were created that focused on the sci-fi show "Babylon 5." One of these groups, rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5, gained notoriety for the participation of "Babylon 5" creator and writer J. Michael Straczynski. Straczynski had long participated in many online forums since the 1980s, and is widely credited as being the first notable artist and celebrity to interact with fans online, even before the advent of the
Internetas it is now known. [cite book|last=Bacon-Smith|first-Camille|date=2000|publisher= University of Pennsylvania Press|title=Science Fiction Culture|isbn=0812215303|pages=pp. 87-89]
Straczynski interacted with "Babylon 5" fans on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 and similar groups on
GEnieand CompuServe, however rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 slowly turned into a morass of spam and flame wars (usually perpetrated and carried forward by a rather small group of people). The more "Babylon 5"'s ratings increased, and the more attention was drawn to Straczynski's involvement in the group, the more extensive and vitriolic the many flame wars got. By the end of 1995, Straczynski was also being net-stalked [cite web|last=Plume|first=Kenneth|title=Interview with J. Michael Straczynski (Part 3 of 4)|date=2000-09-07|publisher= IGN|accessdate=2008-07-26|url=http://movies.ign.com/articles/035/035906p1.html] , and had to scrap a script in pre-production because fans were posting story ideas.cite web| last = Straczynski| first = J. Michael| authorlink = J. Michael Straczynski| title = Guide: Passing Through Gethsemane (JMS Speaks)| publisher = The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5| date = 2004-07-13| url = http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/countries/us/guide/048.html#JS| accessdate = 2008-07-27 ] Eventually, Straczynski left rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5, focusing on the moderated Internet based forums.
A group of fans then proposed the creation of a moderated version of rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5. The resultant Request For Discussion [cite web|last=Roald|first=Colin|title=RFD: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.info|url=http://www.faqs.org/ftp/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/rec/rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.info|date=1995-09-26|accessdate=2008-07-26] became the most replied to RFD in the history of Usenet at the time (surpassed only by the
rec.music.white-power newsgroup vote), and the proposal overwhelmingly passed, creating rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated. The majority of rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 contributors, as well as Straczynski and other Usenet personalities, flocked to the new group, essentially continuing rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 in a more controlled environment.
Straczynski continues to post to rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated to this day, engaging in discussions with fans about many subjects in addition to answering questions about his works and using the group to make announcements about new projects.cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-2884| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on
CompuServe| title = B5 newsgroup?
author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1997-05-27 | accessdate = 2008-07-29] [cite web|title=Babylon 5 Creator Appearing at Mars Society Convention |url=http://marsdrive.com/news/babylon-5-creator-appearing-at-mars-society-convention.html|last=Stratford|first=Frank|date=2008-07-24|accessdate=2008-07-26|publisher=marsdrive.com] The various independent websites that archive his Usenet posts or the group itself are usually mis-cited in the media as being his official websites.
The group is actively moderated on a volunteer basis by two "Babylon 5" fans, and the computer equipment and bandwidth costs are supported by donations from other fans. Posts can be made through normal Usenet methods (via a newsreader or the
World Wide Webthrough Google Groups), or via
Per the group's charter, no topic is "off topic". Most discussions at first naturally focused on "Babylon 5", and since the show ended, on Straczynski's recent works in
comics, film, radioand television. The group can be looked at as more of a general discussion group.
The only things that are not allowed in the group are spam, trolling, story ideas about "Babylon 5" or other projects Straczynski may be working on, and flame wars.cite book | last = Bell | first = David | coauthors = Barbara M. Kennedy | title = The cybercultures reader | publisher =
Routledge| date = 2000 | pages = pp. 225-226 | isbn = 0-4151-8378-2 ]
Posts from new contributors or new threads go through the moderators for approval first ("hand moderation"). Posts to existing threads from experienced contributors are automatically allowed through by computer. Discussion threads on particularly heated subjects (usually politics) are continuously hand moderated to prevent flame wars from occurring, and if they do, the thread can be shut down. The system is not perfect: posts can be lost and the group can be down to new posts if the moderation computers are being moved or during power outages, etc. Appearance of new threads are dependent on the availability of the moderators, and may sometimes take more than a day to appear. Occasionally, complaints of
censorshiparise, though these complaints are often from people who were making posts that violated the clearly set rules. Nevertheless, the forum is still a popular discussion ground for Straczynski's fans, with the main selling point being the opportunity to interact with Straczynski.
Jay Denebeim, a volunteer moderator for Rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated, was profiled in a "Wall Street Journal" article that covered the travails that beset the Usenet in the late 1990s. [cite news|last=Hanrahan|first=Timothy|date=1997-12-08|page=R.26|title=Behind the Scenes --- The Moderator: Running a newsgroup means walking a fine line between discussion and chaos; And it's getting finer all the time|publisher=
Wall Street Journal|volume=230|issue=112 "As a volunteer moderator for rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated, the busy Usenet newsgroup dedicated to the four-year-old science-fiction TV drama "Babylon 5," the Internet veteran spends as much as 30 hours a week sifting through hundreds of e-mail submissions about the show, separating the good from the bad and the ugly. The good ones -- most of the e-mails -- go onto a computer server hooked to the Internet, where anyone can read them. The rest go nowhere."]
Straczynski's involvement with rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 and its successor, rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated, has had great influence on his works, especially "Babylon 5". Straczynski's involvement on these groups also paved the way for similar online discussion involvement by many artists and celebrities today. [citation|last=Wexelblat|first=Alan|contribution=An Auteur in the Age of the Internet: JMS, Babylon 5, and the Net|title=Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture|editor-last=Jenkins|editor-first=Henry|date=2002|publisher=
Duke University Press|isbn=0822327376] cite book | last = Lancaster| first = Kurt| coauthors = Henry Jenkins| title = Interacting with Babylon 5: Fan Performance in a Media Universe| publisher = University of Texas Press| date = 2001| isbn = 0-2927-4722-5 ] citation|last=Vint|first=Sherryl|contribution=Babylon 5: Our First, Best Hope for Mature Science Fiction Television|title=The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader|editor-last=Telotte|editor-first=J. P.|date=2008|publisher= University Press of Kentucky|isbn=0-8131-2492-1]
At the time, the word "
blog" had not yet been coined, and yet Straczynski's discussion of every episode of the show prior to its airing remains a critical milestone in the history of production-related blogging. [cite paper|last=Askwith|first=Ivan D.|title=Television 2.0: Reconceptualizing TV as an Engagement Medium|date=September 2007|publisher= Massachusetts Institute of Technology|url=http://cms.mit.edu/research/theses/IvanAskwith2007.pdf|format=PDF|pages=91]
Highlights of Straczynski's contributions
Straczynski began his postings on GEnie with background information about the setting and history of the major races and station. By the time he began posting to Usenet, the pilot was over and episodes were in production.cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-15097| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on
rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/alt.tv.babylon-5/msg/249b39b2264f389f weblink] ) | title = Passage through jumpgates | author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1993-07-09 | accessdate = 2008-07-29] Discussion of upcoming projects was a frequent topic throughout, and began as early as July of 1993with information about upcoming comic bookadaptations.cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-15100| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/alt.tv.babylon-5/msg/088dba8decd392b1 weblink] ) | title = A Couple of Questions...
author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1993-07-19 | accessdate = 2008-07-29]
Early in the first season, Straczynski began to divulge details of upcoming plot threads, though he did so sparingly. One such comment set up the
homosexualthemes that would not be revealed until the second season between two of the female characters ( Divided Loyalties).cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-15144| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated| title = Homosexuality in Space! | author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1993-08-29 | accessdate = 2008-07-29] This particular plot thread eventually lead to one of the most discussed editing choices in the show's history. A kiss between the two women during the second season was edited in such a way that it was strongly suggestive, but not a definitive kiss.
Religion played a large role in Babylon 5, and yet in many of his postings, Straczynski discussed his
atheism. During the first season, he commented: "religion [...] has always been present. And it will be present 200 years from now. That may not thrill me, but when one is a writer, one must deal with realities, and that's one of them. To totally ignore that part of the human equation would be as false and wrong-headed as ignoring the fact that people get mad, or passionate, or strive for better lives. [...] In the Babylon 5 universe, all the things that make us human -- our obsessions, our interests, our language, our culture, our flaws and our wonderfulnesses -- are all still intact."cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-15162| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/alt.tv.babylon-5/msg/fc782309e6eb9a6f weblink] ) | title = Religion in B5 | author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1993-09-09 | accessdate = 2008-07-29]
In addition to his discussion of the show itself, Straczynski often fielded questions related to the writing process in general or regarding the business side of Babylon 5.cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-11656| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on
rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated/msg/f427c0cdc432fe7f weblink] ) | title = Re: Attn JMS: Writing questions | author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1996-05-31 | accessdate = 2008-07-29] Many posters asked about the demands of writing for a series, how to break in to the industry, etc.
As the seasons progressed, ratings were a frequent topic because of the concern surrounding seasonal renewal of the show.cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-11659| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on
rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated/msg/355782c9a0a2abfa weblink] ) | title = Re: Attn JMS: B5 Demos Was: JMS on CompuServe... | author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1996-06-01 | accessdate = 2008-07-29] For similar reasons, awards such as Emmys that the show received were also discussed on a regular basis.cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-12953| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5/msg/0be19be0a6718847 weblink] ) | title = Question on emmys| author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1995-06-07 | accessdate = 2008-07-29]
Departures from the show were often highly emotional topics for the fans, and for Straczynski. The three primary departures which sparked the most commentary were those of
Michael O'Hare(between seasons 1 and 2), Andrea Thompson(mid-season 2) and Claudia Christian(between seasons 4 and 5). These departures were also a great source of speculation which ignited strong responses from Straczynski.cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/thread.aspx?id=_Claudia%20Opts%20Out-JMS| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on CompuServe, but recapped on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated/msg/1837c972632d5467 weblink] ) | title = Claudia Opts Out-JMS | author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1997-07-22 | accessdate = 2008-07-29] Straczynski shared information regarding the death of Richard Biggscite news | title = 'Babylon 5' actor dies: Richard Biggs played Dr. Stephen Franklin on sci-fi series| publisher = CNN| date = 2004-05-25| url = http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/TV/05/25/obit.biggs/| accessdate = 2008-07-27 ] cite news | title = Richard Biggs dies: Babylon 5's Dr Stephen Franklin dies aged only 44.| publisher = BBC| date = 2004-05-25| url = http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/cult/news/cult/2004/05/25/11360.shtml| accessdate = 2008-07-27 ] cite web| url = http://jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-17099| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated/msg/a8cf4004522f425f weblink] ) | title = today we lost richard biggs| author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=2004-05-22| accessdate = 2008-07-27] and Andreas Katsulascite web| url = http://jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-17526| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated/browse_frm/thread/43da1202c9c6a8c3 weblink] ) | title = Andreas Katsulas is gone | author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=2006-01-15 | accessdate = 2008-07-27] .
Details of production and business choices to which fans are not always privy were often shared. Some examples include:
* The pre-filming of the last episode of the series during season 4, in case of cancellation.cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-2847| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on
CompuServeand recapped on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated/msg/56a70828ded86e3d weblink] ) | title = How will this play out | author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1997-05-27 | accessdate = 2008-07-29]
* The cancellation of Crusade and the notes process with TNT that lead up to it.cite web| url = http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-709| publisher = JMSNews, originally published on
CompuServeand recapped on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated( [http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated/msg/3446cf61ffdc3a52 weblink] ) | title = ATTN JMS: *sigh* a quick Question | author = Straczynski, J. Michael | date=1999-10-27 | accessdate = 2008-07-29]
* Negotiations to make a Babylon 5 film (Note: these were suspended after Richard Biggs death shortly after this announcement.)cite news | title = Babylon 5 film? J. Michael Straczynski working on film of the sci fi saga.| publisher =
BBC| date = 2004-05-06| url = http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/cult/news/cult/2004/05/25/11360.shtml| accessdate = 2008-08-01 ]
* The start of production of the Babylon 5: The Lost Tales direct to DVDcite web| title = Sheridan, Lochley, Galen, And More!! BABYLON 5: THE LOST TALES Begins Production!!| publisher =
Ain't It Cool News| date = 2006-11-13| url = http://www.aintitcool.com/?q=node/30689| accessdate = 2008-07-26 ]
* Announcement that he would adapt
E.E. Doc Smith's LensmanFor Ron Howard[cite web | last = Tyler | first = Josh | title = Straczynski Adapting E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman For Ron Howard | publisher = Cinema Blend.com | date = 2008-01-15| url = http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Straczynski-Adapting-E-E-Doc-Smith-s-Lensman-For-Ron-Howard-7474.html | accessdate = 2008-07-31 ]
* Announcement that the only continuation of the Babylon 5 series will be as a feature filmcite web | last = Gustavo | first = Leao | title = J. Michael Straczynski Says Babylon 5 Will only Return as a Feature Film | publisher = TrekWeb | date =
2008-07-15| url = http://trekweb.com/articles/2008/07/15/J-Michael-Straczynski-Says-Babylon-5-Will-only-Return-as-a-Feature-Film.shtml | accessdate = 2008-07-30 ]
Babylon 5's use of the Internet
The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5
* [news://rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated] on USENET
* [http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated?gvc=2 rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated] via
* [http://hometown.aol.com/rastb5mod/ rastb5mod's web home] with
FAQs, copies of the RFDs, contacts, and posting policies
* [http://www.jmsnews.com The JMSNews.com] archive of Straczynski's posts to Usenet, GEnie, Compuserve and
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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