Tag Archives: J. Michael Straczynski

Becoming Superman


“No, not gone. Now we make our own magic. Now we create our own legends. Now we build the future. Now we stop–“

“–being afraid of shadows.”

Delenn and Sheridan (Babylon 5: Into the Fire)

I like to read. I usually read about 30 books a year but I rarely talk about them here. When I say read I am including audio books and maybe that is fudging the data somewhat. Then again I think my brother includes the children’s books he reads to his son. Given that I am 8 books behind schedule for my 39 book target maybe that is something I need to do – although I don’t have children so it might be a bit odd.

Photo by Lukas Hartmann from Pexels

I have recently finished Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski. It is his autobiography and it is amazing. I listened to the audio book while walking to work and I must look like a complete imbecile as parts of it are literally laugh out loud funny. Although maybe that is just because I am a writer – unknown and unpublished but still a writer. To me though some passages were most amusing.

I will not sleep, eat, drink, nothing! The words and I will be locked in mortal combat until one of us surrenders

G’Kar (Babylon 5: No Compromises)

Becoming Superman tells the whole story of JMS’s life. It talks about his abusive upbringing and goes on to his career as a writer across many areas of creativity. He was had an amazing career and the volume of scripts he has written is phenomenal. I find myself rather envious that he has been able to do that full time – even with the financial struggles that came with it.

Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics and you’ll get ten different answers, but there’s one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won’t just take us. It’ll take Marilyn Monroe and Lao-Tzu and Einstein and Morobuto and Buddy Holly and Aristophenes .. and all of this .. all of this was for nothing unless we go to the stars.”

Commander Sinclair (Babylon 5: Infection)

JMS is a man of incredible integrity – on more than one occasion he left working on a TV show because he refused to adjust it to what, in his mind, would be a detriment to the work and to the characters. He also kept a promise made to his wife even after they divorced. A promise that she would never have to work in a closed in office if that wasn’t what she wanted. It was wonderful to reed about a divorced couple that still cares about each other after the end of a relationship. The common wisdom of the world would suggest that that is impossible but it is not.

It doesn’t matter if you stand completely alone. Fight for what you believe.

Captain Sheridan (Babylon 5: Objects at Rest)

I have used quotes from Babylon 5 in this review for three reasons. Firstly it is what I know JMS from and it is a work I very much admire, secondly I don’t have a hard copy of the book, and thirdly he puts his feelings in to the mouths of his characters. He describes this idea in episode commentaries of how his character creation can be based around a particular trait of his.

The quote above is very important and it is echoed in Becoming Superman. It is the idea that a writer, or any sort of artist, well have their naysayers. These are the people who say ‘Get a real job’ or ‘You’ll never make money doing this.’ While tenacity and dedication are no guarantee of success the important thing is to keep going. To try every day to make a step towards your goal. As the old saying goes: ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ And a novel of 100,000 words begins with a single word. Even a 500 words a day will get you a first draft in less than a yeah. So keep going and fight to achieve your goals. That is what I take from Becoming Superman. It is a book about the struggles of life and what is important. It is quite simply an excellent read.

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.  

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The Bridge is Too Well Guarded

JMS says, I’m paraphrasing here, that when writing is going well it becomes effortless. He knows his characters so well that his writing experience is one of observation. He can set up the situation, put a character in it, and he knows how they will act.

I dream of that experience. Writing is still a struggle. At the moment my characters are fairly interchangeable. Making dialogue unique for each character is difficult. I think this is something that comes with time. Everyone knows that the first draft is always utter rubbish! In my mind the first draft should be the bare bones of the story. When that is down you can go back and change things. Maybe you deiced a particular character never swears. So you go back and change the words. A friend of mine used to say ‘bar steward’ as a swearing substitute – though she did swear too. This is just the start then you can change other things and slowly build up a better idea of character.

The most important thing when writing is to finish the damn thing. That is the part that I still struggle with. It is getting there though – very very slowly. The characters I’m dealing with aren’t human and that is a little difficult. My Centaurs speak like Teal’c.

The hardest part of writing is, what I call, bridging chapters. I.e you can write the stuff about the troubled teen – you can writer the upstanding Police officer but getting the one to the other is difficult. If the transformation is too slow it becomes dull – too fast its unbelievable –  and just jumping ahead feels like is cheating.


Teal’c: If we are discovered, you will be brought to Apophis along with us.
O’Neill: Well, we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.
Bra’tac: No. The bridge is too well guarded.

Bloodlines – Stargate SG-1 – Season 1 Episode 12.

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