Magazine article Newsweek

Master and Slave of 'Babylon 5.'(producer, Director and Writer J. Michael Straczynski)(Brief Article)

Magazine article Newsweek

Master and Slave of 'Babylon 5.'(producer, Director and Writer J. Michael Straczynski)(Brief Article)

Article excerpt

The hardest-working man in outer space

IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS, J. MICHAEL Straczynski's full head of brown hair has gone to thinning gray. Before he bought an ergonomic keyboard about a year ago, he had to stop typing every 20 minutes to ice down his aching wrists. He's made it to two movies in the last year and a half. Straczynski lives for his creation, the cult sci-fi TV show "Babylon 5." He has written more than 50 consecutive episodes of the syndicated weekly series, as well as working on the special effects, editing. set and costume design, even "B5" merchandise and toys. And he spends a couple hours a night answering e-mail from fans. "Every so often, something pops out of your subconscious that demands your total and unyielding commitment," he says. "For me, 'B5' is like that."

Chris Carter works with several other writers to crank out "The X-Files?' Gene Roddenberry wrote or plotted only a dozen episodes of "Star Trek." But "Babylon 5" is dearly a product of one mind, and the result has been some of the most intelligent science fiction on television. About 4.4 million people tune in every week--nowhere near the audience for syndicated powerhouses like "Deep Space 9" or "Xena" but "B5" fans are deeply passionate, with Web sites so good that production staffers use them for reference. And last year the show won a Hugo, the science-fiction Oscar.

In the mid-1980s Straczynaki--"Joe" to those who know him--was a writer for a kids' show called "Captain Power," and he didn't like it. …

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