The BABYLON 5 Preservation Project
Preserve the history of BABYLON 5 using archival paperwork and interviews with cast and crew to create a definitive making-of book.
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sun, June 9 2019 6:39 PM UTC +00:00.
Babylon 5 was one man’s dream, given form by hundreds of actors and craftspeople working in a self-contained studio in the heart of Sun Valley, California. From 22 February 1993 to 25 November 1998, the story these people came together to tell was transmitted across the airwaves and cable lines, a keystone in the third age of American television.
As the story of Babylon 5 unfolded across 115 episodes and movies, viewers caught glimpses of the tales behind the television screen: Creator J. Michael Straczynski was a constant online presence, demystifying the making of television in the wee hours on the internet, and maintained an inhuman schedule of personal appearances to promote the series. The cast and crew attended sf conventions, relating stories from backstage. David Bassom and Jane Killick penned licensed books on the show’s production while John Freeman edited The Official Babylon 5 Magazine with contributions from journalists including Lou Anders, Fiona Avery, Stoddard Hayes, the prolific Joe Nazzaro, and others.
In the succeeding decades—as spinoffs, feature films, direct-to-video projects, and reboots were mooted and/or produced—Summer Brooks, Tim Callender, and Jeffrey Willerth of the Babylon Podcast and Tom Smith of B5Scrolls continued to preserve the show’s history in interviews. Then Babylon 5 Books came into being, initially publishing Straczynski’s scripts and commentaries, before broadening its scope to collect Nazzaro’s uncut interviews, coverage of the 20th anniversary conventions in 2013–4, and, ultimately, THE BABYLON 5 ENCYCLOPEDIA.
But in all this time—26 years since the pilot aired on PTEN, 31 since Straczynski wrote the first document detailing the universe and his five-year arc—no one has written a book that weaves together the complete tapestry of Babylon 5: combining facts from Babylonian Productions’s dust-shrouded files with vintage interviews and new conversations with the people who populated that shining beacon in space…
ALL ALONE IN THE NIGHT: The Making of Babylon 5 at the Dawn of the Third Age of American Television
will gather records of the last great war against mediocre television, capture the echoes of all our conversations, and preserve against the darkness the history of a revolutionary television series that went beyond the rim of known special effects technology, explored new and still-innovative production techniques, mapped new narrative ground, and told a damn-good story that made everyone I know cry…at least three times.
The Babylon 5 Preservation Project will serve one primary purpose:
To digitally preserve the history of the series, both the papers generated during its production and the memories of those who participated.
The byproduct of that purpose will be:
A 400–500-page 6" x 9" paperback book, chronicling the creation of the series from conception, circa 1987–8, through the production of the fourth TNT original movie, A Call to Arms, in the Summer of 1998.
ABOUT THE BOOK
First and foremost, it should be known that this book is in no way authorized or endorsed by Warner Bros., which owns Babylon 5. This book will be a work of journalism, protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
In preparing for this book, I considered a more traditional publishing venue, but—having had success both with publishing Harlan Ellison’s books as well as my own WRITING THE X-FILES—opted to go the route of a Kickstarter-financed print-on-demand model because it affords the utmost control of the finished product to the author, allows the target audience to determine if there’s a market for the product, and doesn’t leave behind any unwanted copies filling warehouses.
Having overseen the publication of a variety of books, I’ve opted for 6" by 9" because it’s comfortable in the hands and allows for a readable page. That size is also easy to ship in a number of standard boxes. For a recent example of my book design, please see WHY DO YOU CALL ME ISHMAEL WHEN YOU KNOW MY NAME IS BERNIE? by Harlan Ellison on Amazon.com—you can look at the interior and see what I consider an elegant design.
The book will be written in two distinct phases. First, a skeleton will be created from the production files: the objective half of the book, what happened, when and where. Then, I’ll begin the interview phase of the project, speaking to everyone who consents and using the facts gleaned in the first phase to evoke memories. The subjective material from the interviews will then be integrated with the facts from the files, creating a comprehensive story.
This will be unlike any previous book on Babylon 5. It won't be licensed by Warner. Bros.—as were Bassom's CREATING BABYLON 5 (which was written during season three, with only the episode guide being updated with republication) and Killick's season-by-season guides—so there won't be a studio watchdog vetting what can and cannot be said. Unlike THE BABYLON 5 SCRIPTS OF J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI and ASKED & ANSWERED—which recounted the creator's experience of making his series—this work will draw from as many perspectives as possible. (I've already spoken with folks from the makeup and props departments, as well as a concept artist and the head of PTEN's assistant. If someone who worked on the show is willing to talk Babylon 5, I want to talk to them!)
This book will also differ from the ECHOES OF ALL OUR CONVERSATIONS interview series I edited in that all the personal memories and anecdotes will be set within the context of production. You'll know precisely what was being filmed when Jason Carter was tricked by Bill Mumy into thinking Marcus Cole would be killed off later in season three. You'll learn about the secret mission undertaken by the actor who played Garibaldi's aide throughout season one. In an effort to bring the behind-the-scenes world of Babylonian Productions to life, I’ve even asked people I’ve interviewed what the studio smelled like.
Among the other subjects I’m particularly interested in tackling in the book are—as the title implies—how the isolation of Babylonian Productions—miles away from Warner Bros.—allowed for freedom in the production of the series; how the nature of PTEN—a loose coalition of independent television stations allied with WB’s distribution arm—shaped Babylon 5’s development (in a chapter I've tentatively titled “You Say PUH-tin, I Say PEE-ten”); and how real-life events—natural disasters, labor relations, and interpersonal conflicts—impacted the day-to-day creation of a planned narrative.
As in television, time is money when writing a book. The $30,000 goal is the bare minimum for pulling off a project of this scale in the timeframe of a year. Approximately 50% of that goes to Kickstarter, manufacturing, and shipping, with the rest to the work of writing the book. Every dollar over the $30,000 goal equals more time to devote to the project during that year. More time means that if Actor X isn’t available during my initial interview window due to work commitments, I can afford to wait and try again when s/he is free.
The parameters of the project are also constrained by the budget. Among the stretch goals, you will see that each threshold will add more content to the book: if the Kickstarter reaches $35,000, I'll cover Crusade; $40,000, and The Legend of the Rangers and The Lost Tales are on the table of contents (and a lot of the folks who worked on those projects live in Canada; that seriously impacts the budget).
WHO AM I?
I’m Jason Davis. In 1993, I watched the Babylon 5 pilot on KTXA in Arlington, Texas because Harlan Ellison—then commentator on Sci-Fi Buzz (and conceptual consultant on B5)—said I should. By the end of season three, I was making copious notes about Straczynski’s internet posts, attending conventions, and building a substantial library of B5 reference material. I wrote papers on the series in film school and eventually used the show’s production methodology to create, write, and produce ten episodes of television in college, which were subsequently licensed for national broadcast by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels in 2002.
Arriving in Los Angeles after grad school, I was a contributing editor for Creative Screenwirting magazine, interviewing dozens of television creators, including Joss Whedon (Buffy), Chris Carter (The X-Files), and—of course—Joe Straczynski. This last cover story—on Joe’s movie Changeling—started a chain of events that led to me being hired by B5 Books to edit the TV Movies volume of THE BABYLON 5 SCRIPTS OF J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI. More than twenty other books followed, including Patricia Tallman’s B5 memoir, PLEASURE THRESHOLDS; the six-volume ECHOES OF ALL OUR CONVERSATIONS series, assembling Joe Nazzaro’s uncut interview with the cast and crew; and the anniversary coffee-table book, BABYLON 5 AT TWENTY. My work for B5 Books culminated with producing and directing the Babylon 5: Cast Reunions Blu-ray release; producing the DVD release CNN Documents Babylon 5; and writing the two-volume BABYLON 5 ENCYCLOPEDIA.
Along the way, the folks at B5 Books recommended me to Harlan Ellison, and I began editing books for him as well. After eight years with B5 Books—or 28 books and 6 DVDs—I joined Ellison full-time to design, finance, and carry out The Harlan Ellison Books Preservation Project, a $100,000 Kickstarter which has allowed me to spend the last two and a half years preserving the papers of the most-awarded writer in the history of speculative fiction. In addition to the 16 books I’d edited and published for Ellison prior to the project, I’ve added eight more, with a further 36 due to be released over the next several years. My only regret is that Harlan himself didn’t live long enough to see ALL of his work in print, painstakingly checked against his final revisions to each story and essay, which brings me to…
WHAT DO I WANT?
To preserve the written and oral history of Babylon 5 before any more of it is lost.
John Hudgens’s lengthy memorial montage at the 20th anniversary B5 event in Phoenix proved to be only the tip of the iceberg when it came to casualties among the B5 cast and crew. While I worked on the Ellison project, a number of key contributors to the series passed away: story editor Larry DiTillio, actor Jerry Doyle, conceptual consultant Harlan Ellison, actor/director Stephen Furst, executive producer Douglas Netter, visual effects designer Ron Thornton, makeup effects creator John Vulich, and a host of notable guest stars, including—off the top of my head—Bernie Casey, Roy Dotrice, Rance Howard, Curt Lowens, Soon-Tek Oh, and Morgan Sheppard. Even fandom hasn’t been spared, with Sandra Bruckner, a nexus of the show’s online community, gone too soon.
While the deaths among B5 alumni are well documented, it’s not widely known that many B5 collections were threatened by last fall’s wildfires, a recurring danger in Southern California that claims homes and their contents almost every year.
WHY AM I HERE?
I’m the right guy for the job. Since 1986, when I picked up Allan Asherman’s STAR TREK COMPENDIUM, I’ve collected and read over 100 books about the making of television shows. In college, I put that theoretical knowledge to practical use, experiencing—writ small—the making of a televisions series from the inside. As a journalist for Creative Screenwriting and onstage interviewer for the annual Screenwriting Expo, I learned how to quickly get to the heart of a creative person’s experiences, stirring up memories and eliciting new stories in the process. My time at B5 Books allowed me to establish relationships with many of the folks involved with the series and provided access to production files never seen by outsiders. The Harlan Ellison Books Preservation Project has prepared me to wrangle massive amounts of written information, and also honed the publishing skills I began to develop at B5 Books.
This project effectively synthesizes everything I’ve done for the last 30 years into one book.
WHERE AM I GOING?
As with the Ellison project before, this project is a mission, not just something I want to do, but something that MUST BE DONE. Due to various complications, the Ellison project has taken twice as long as originally expected, but I’m still working, finishing what I began with the help of 752 backers.
My commitment to these projects is absolute, even if it means I have to sell one-of-a-kind books to keep going, turn away lucrative job offers to stay on deadline, or go another three years without a day off (29 February 2016 was my last vacation, for those keeping score). None of the foregoing is hyperbole; if I ask for your money, I do the job.
You've heard enough from me, so I'll let others have the last words:
"Jason edited my Babylon 5 memoirs and thank goodness he did because even though I was on the series from the pilot, he knew WAY more about B5 than I did or ever will. The fact he loved the show and edited over 30 B5 related books gives him the expertise to create a new experience for readers who like (LOVE) Babylon 5."
PATRICIA TALLMAN, Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5
"For almost a decade, Jason Davis has been looking after Harlan Ellison's legacy, launching a successful Kickstarter to preserve his papers and an online store to issue definitive reissues of his work. The history of Babylon 5 couldn't be in better hands."
SUSAN ELLISON, widow of Harlan Ellison, conceptual consultant, Babylon 5
On 20 December 1994, J. Michael Straczynski wrote the following about his first novel, DEMON NIGHT: “Mainly just wrote it for myself, when I couldn’t find the sort of book I wanted to read…” ALL ALONE IN THE NIGHT is the making of Babylon 5 book I want to read; I hope you want to read it too.
Thanks for taking the time to learn about my project. I hope you'll sign on and help me tell this story.
Risks and challenges
I cannot compel anyone to talk to me about their time on Babylon 5, so there's always the possibility that certain voices will not be represented in the book. I will approach EVERYONE I can find, and I'll do my damnedest to find ANYONE who made a contribution to the series.
My last Kickstarter took much longer than I expected, due to variables that would have been impossible to conceive at the outset. In the interest of not having that problem reoccur, I've inflated my delivery schedule by a factor I won't disclose. With luck, I'll deliver early this time, and everyone will consider me a miracle worker.
Finally, there's a chance that the information gathered during this project will yield more than one book of 400 to 500 pages. I don't think this is a likely scenario, because I'd rather have a single book from which great content was cut than two volumes that could be accused of being padded to reach their page counts. But if two solid volumes are required to tell the story, all the one-book levels will get the first book with the option of purchasing the second at a discount. Folks at the $90 and $150 levels would either get two copies of the first book or one of each volume. At the end of the day, two new books on B5 is a great problem to have.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- All gone!