you who have seen me before in other presentations know that
I tend to work extemporaneously and without notes. Two seconds
of preparation; three months of apologizing. I was told to make
this one a little more coherent, so I brought notes. I was asked
to make a more formal talk about media and science fiction and
television and how they all come together in "Babylon 5." So
I'm going to try and cover a lot of different areas and be completely
incoherent in a lot of different directions, at the same time.
Started with Dragnet
area, is, really, to talk about how television views science
fiction, how science fiction views television, how "B-5" made
it, and what's coming in television. Then I will discover radium
and cure cancer. (APPLAUSE)
I want to
start off by talking about "Dragnet." What the hell does "Dragnet"
have to do with science fiction? Everything. Prior to that show,
cop shows were viewed as of limited interest in a ratings level.
There were those who liked police procedures liked to watch
them, but they never did very well in the ratings. They were
considered somewhere over here as opposed to real drama.
came "Dragnet," which as much as we look back at it now and
it's cliché and it's silly and its flat characters--Joe Friday
and his partner, Dumbo--for its time, it was startling. It showed
police officers who got married, got divorced, had dinner, went
on dates, took day classes, night classes, and, for the first
time, showed them as being people.
show that has followed and built upon that foundation is a direct
heir to what "Dragnet" did. It broke the ground.
of years later up came a new show called "Star Trek," which,
for the first time, took what was considered to be a non-starter,
genre-wise--very flat characters--and made it into a character-based
series. NBC didn't handle that show very well so, as a result,
it, kind of, died in the ratings, but the theory was there.
These were characters who had real lives, real backgrounds,
real interactions with each other; it was about more than just
solving a technical problem, as was the case with many of the
other previous science fiction like "Tales From Tomorrow," back
during the '50s and early '60s.
to deal with real characters. The problem was that after they
went off the air, they were perceived as a failure, and no one
picked up the ball, unlike the cop-show genre. And, really,
for a number of years, again, no one picked it up. And those
who did tend to get into the area even tried to deny they were
the Networks Don't Know About Science Fiction
of "V," for instance, and the follow-up series, "V2" denied
they were doing science fiction. "We're doing a war story,"
they said. "It's World War II. The aliens are just there because
you have to have aliens." And they had complete contempt for
what science fiction is and the literature and the history of
a couple of the producers in the show for the "Elliot Herald
Examiner" back in Los Angeles, and they said: "As long as we
have the ray-guns and the lizards and blowing things up, we
have the science fiction fans automatically." What does that
tell you about the mentality through which they perceive science
often when you do a cop show or a medical show, you hire a person
who knows about cops, a person who knows about medical stories.
In science fiction, they hire guys, as in the case of "War of
the Worlds," from "Love Boat!" It's the truth. In fact, I was
talking to the guy who produced "War of the Worlds" and I said:
"Let me get this straight. You have the entire planet forgetting
that we were invaded by Martians. How did this happen?" And
he said: "Well, either you buy into it or you don't. It doesn't
have to make sense." (LAUGHTER)
fiction, they said, means you don't have to make it make sense,
which is wrong and untrue; and you guys out in the audience
know this is true. They said, "'War of the Worlds' is not science
fiction." I loved that one.
Clark," in some ways, is a similar situation. The producers
didn't want to do "Superman." They wanted to do "Moonlighting
in Tights." (APPLAUSE) So it was all Lois and Clark, and, on
occasion, "Oh, all right, bring the guy in the cape in; we'll
have him do something for us."
had a certain amount of reservation because the genre is really,
they felt, more for kids; it's more about, you know, cute, fuzzy
puppets and stuff. And this was one of the problems that we
had in trying to sell "Babylon 5." They didn't understand what
science fiction was. Number one, they were afraid of it. They
were afraid of the concepts behind it; they couldn't understand
what we were talking about. We went to talk to them about a
five-mile long space station, and they could see Mir; it was,
like, this tiny little bucket.
And we had
artwork made up to suggest to them how the station would work,
the parts that would rotate. And, at one point, I was in a meeting
with an executive at an unnamed network--CBS--and I show him
the interior of the station--the garden area--and it rotates
to create the gravity, and you see a guy standing on the floor
and a guy standing on the nominal ceiling. And the exec says,
"Well, what keeps them on the ceiling?"
is already, it's like, "Oh, god, what's he gonna. . . ."
"Crazy Glue." (APPLAUSE)
"Well, that won't work. They have to move around and talk to
people and stuff."
in favor of prisoners' work programs, but there has to be a
limit, you know?
don't know about science fiction; they're afraid of it. The
number one comment we got--we went to HBO, ABC, NBC, CBS, Show
Time, everything--they all said the same thing: "There is not
room enough in the marketplace for any space show but 'Star
Trek.'" That was the number one reason we were told why they
wouldn't look at us.
the mind set that there are only "Trek" fans and that science
fiction, as a genre, doesn't work. So we were out there to make
them understand that, no, there is room for more than just one
show, and it took us five years to find somebody who believed
in us and who understood what we were trying to do.
Television Science Fiction
ways, "Babylon 5" has now revised and refined how people view
science-fiction television in Hollywood. The arc progression
that we used--the five-year arc--is now being used over on the
new Gene Roddenberry Show. "Dark Skies" had it for a while.
There are more in the works now.
was saying before, television lends itself toward a long-term
story where you pay it off not in the same episode or even four
episodes later, but years down the road. People can stay with
it, as they stayed with Dickens when he did short stories and
novels that would be stretched out across a long period of time
in periodicals that ran at that time.
seeing now more science fiction coming along and a recognition
gradually that there is more quality work to be done in science
fiction than you thought there was. It isn't cute kids and robots.
aside: I had a meeting at ABC a couple of days ago and in the
course of the meeting--talking about a new series development--they
said, "We figured out the new next thing that the audience wants.
We think what the audience wants now is quality." (LAUGHTER/APPLAUSE)
If I am lying, strike me dead! Honest to god, exactly what you
to get a Merlin series off the ground for years; now suddenly
"Merlin" comes on, does huge numbers, and they're saying, "We
have to get more shows about magic. Magic! That's what it is.
It's magicians! That's what they want. Magicians!"
want magic, not the same magicians. It's not the same thing.
gradually they'll come around to understanding and view science
fiction as more than just a kid's form. Again, in other science-fiction
shows whether it's "Sea Quest"--you have to have a kid--"Buck
Rogers"--you have to have a cute robot and a kid occasionally.
It's not what they think it is. And that process of education
has taken us a very, very, very long time, and they're learning
from us how to do these things.
helped is that we have more science-fiction fans who have grown
up in the genre, and aren't afraid of the genre, making shows.
The old ones are dying off and the young ones are coming in
to show them how it's done and have a respect for the genre.
also learned from us the producer's model that we use on the
show. We have made the show now for five years and in the course
of that time, our methods of production have been such that
we have only gone overtime, two or three hours at a time, fourteen
times in five years. We have come in under budget every year,
every season. They don't understand how we do this.
sent a platoon of vice-presidents to the stage and said, "Show
them how you do this; we don't understand how you're doing it."
And they still don't. (LAUGHTER) It's the gene pool, folks;
it ain't my fault because what it is, it is a form of thinking
differently about television than what they're used to doing,
about planning things out--which I'll get to more in a moment.
Do I have a conclusion here? Lord knows, I hope I have one.
Yes, I missed one part of it. Never used notes before!
5 as an Ethical Drama
One of the
main problems in accepting science fiction in television is
one of my main problems with television, that the questions
television tends to ask tend to be trivial and ephemeral. Will
they get the robber in time? Of course, they will. Will they
stop the bus of kids from going over the cliff? Unfortunately,
yes. Will they defuse the bomb in time? Yes, and it's always
the red wire, not the blue wire.
that science fiction asks, at its best, are not ephemeral; they
are questions of moment, of importance, that take the mirror
of reality and turn it this way, that much, to see the problems
in a different light. Case in point: We did a show called "Passing
Through Gethsemane." In this episode, we posit that in the future
they have said that the death penalty is barbaric and cruel;
we're getting rid of it; and replacing it with the death of
personality, meaning they wipe your memories entirely and create
a new personality and a desire to serve humanity, to serve the
happens when, let's say, a monk, a man of god, discovers that
he had been a serial killer--mind-wiped, his memory is erased
and given false memories--and serving man for the last l0 years.
What's the disposition of this man's soul? How does he apologize
to his god for things he doesn't recall having done? Is his
soul that of a killer or a holy man?
questions for which there are no answers. These are questions
that I've put in there so that you guys would argue about them.
If I can start a bar fight, I'm a happy man. And that's been
the hardest part of the adjustment, to understand that it's
not the rockets; it ain't the ray-guns; it ain't the aliens
or the explosions. It's what Faulkner called the human heart
in conflict with itself. That's the nature of the drama, what
science fiction is and gradually seeing that sea-change
come about--"The audience wants quality now." "Well, thank you
we see the media-in-transition-aspect of all this as science
fiction is becoming for the networks more of a viable option.
Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.
We may get more crappie science fiction. I don't know.
Origins of Babylon 5
What I do
know is the background of "Babylon 5" which I'll get to now
and how we tried to fit it into this whole thing. I grew up
reading the sagas--"Lord of the Rings," the "Foundation" books,
"Childhood's End," all of them, "Dune," I actually made it through
"Dune"--[APPLAUSE]--and wondered why these aren't being done.
And as I
grew up I discovered the British television shows. I discovered
"The Prisoner," "Blake 7," "Dr. Who." (APPLAUSE) I said, "Well,
they can do these long-term stories." "The Prisoner"? You know,
20, what?, 26 episodes, l8 episodes? One big story--the beginning
and middle and end. How extraordinary! Why aren't we doing this?
"Well, we just haven't done it." It's not a really very good
So as I
grew up and worked my way into television through a back door
because they wouldn't let me in the front door, I began to say,
"Why? Why? I wish I could do this some day." So on the one hand,
I had the notion of a big saga that I wanted to tell. On other
hand, it was looking at television production and seeing how
wasteful it is. Thirty percent of all the money allocated to
series is wasted for lack of preparation.
is foolish. If someone gives you twenty some million dollars
to make a show, it behooves you to act responsibly. This is
a new concept.
there were two different shows at first: This big, huge saga
and a very small, contained budgetary science-fiction show.
And one day I was in the shower, and these two collided in my
head. And I saw that they were the same, exact show--I have
to use the mentality of this one to present the ideas in that
one--and ran out of the shower, naked and wet, and wrote down
what I saw in a moment of perfect clarity.
I saw the
entire arc of the show, how it would work, what it would be.
An hour later, my wife said: "Will you get out of there? You're
messing up the sofa." But I knew what I wanted to do. It would
just take us a long time to find a network that believed in
us. I didn't know it'd be five years, but I knew it would take
time. I knew we had to re-think how we do television.
One of the
things we tried to do was to emphasize the notion, again, that
if you're going to sell a show, you must know what it is you're
selling. Very often people will sell a television show and come
back and say, "Oh, my god, we just sold it. Now what'll we do?
What's the concept? How do we take a one-joke premise and make
it last for an entire series?"
So I sat
down and, in advance, worked out every year of a five-year arc.
And where that comes in handy on the production side is that
before we shoot a frame of film, I can say to my line producer,
"I need to have this set of Episode l4. Episode l9 has this
big, huge CGI battle sequence. This prosthetic has to be worked
out for 35 aliens by Episode Number 7."
have a cheat sheet, in hand, each season and can plan things
out properly the way you'd plan out a novel. It's no different.
allow changes on the set. I don't care who you are as an actor;
the lines are in English; they're properly written; you ain't
changin' 'em. If you can't act properly, that isn't my problem.
We had one actor who said, you know, "My needs aren't being
met as an actor." Get fewer needs. Real simple solution.
And we work
with the director, so that everyone's on the same page at all
times; we're always six scripts ahead of where we are shooting-wise,
so that the directors always have time to prepare and work toward
that goal. We have no cute kids and robots as regulars in the
show. (APPLAUSE) We have them as guest-stars once in a while,
and we kill them. (APPLAUSE) You're a blood-thirsty lot, aren't
was to make sure that we treated this show as we treat any other
show, that there wouldn't be a difference in cinematography,
in writing between this show and, you know, an "L.A. Law" or
a "Hill Street Blues" or whatever it will be. It's just another
form. You don't write it differently because it's science fiction.
And a lot
of directors came out of the "Star Trek" mold where you, sort
of, light the whole walls and you shoot the walls and the person
who's standing in front of the wall. And we tried to tell them,
"No, you don't do that here. You light the characters first,
and it's about the characters first and foremost."
would assign-out the stories to freelancers. Very often in television,
the way it works is, a persons comes in, pitches you an idea
for an episode. If you like it you buy it; if you don't, you
don't. And it's a very slow, inefficient process. Again, if
you're going to sell a show, know what it's about. Therefore,
I would write up a premise and give it to the freelancer, so
he would have something in his hand, go out and begin writing
is nightmarish, quite frankly, for both sides. We once had a
person on another show I worked on pitch l7 stories at us, and
each pitch takes about five or l0 minutes;___ work out the time-frame
yourselves. The engineers can do it in their head, and the rest
on "Murder, She Wrote" came in to pitch a story, sat down, and
said, "So. Amnesia." In a story, you have a one-word idea. Amnesia--work
it out. No, we work it out so that each writer who comes in
has got an assigned story to work from, and it's all part of
the larger storyline, which, again, isn't much done in television.
It's kind of a revolutionary way of doing things, not counting
soap-operas which, again, don't work toward a definite end;
they want it to not end. Ever.
I also wanted,
again, to do the story-arc thing where you have something different--it's
a holographic story. If you see one episode by looking at a
piece of glass with a pattern on it, and by itself the pattern
is very clear and distinct. Watch a second episode and put it
behind it; now there are two patterns but there's a connection,
something going between them. The more episodes you see, the
more you are aware of the thread that wraps through all of them.
as I've mentioned before, as you watch an episode or a series
of episodes, you see more than you're seeing because you're
aware of the contexts in the backgrounds and what went before
and what follows after. Things have more meaning suddenly. And,
again, the networks said, "You can't do that. The average memory
capacity of a viewer is l0 minutes." You have to assume that
executive at a network was talking to me--CBS, and the IQ level
at CBS is not great--and said, "Here's the reality that we have,
people who are financially well-off, have cable; they've got
laser disks; they've got tapes; they've got direct TV. They
don't watch network television. We have to look to those who
are not financially very well-off, of a lower educational level
and pitch down there somewhere, not up where HBO is." That was
reaction of astonishment when I said a moment ago, the new thing
is quality. This has never occurred to them before because they
figured you guys are all just low-level Bozos.
I also want
to try and experiment with our format. I hate conventionality
and, thus, wanted to do something where, for instance, the first
half of an episode is a team of reporters comes to the station;
we see them doing interviews; see what's actually being said.
In the second half, you see the broadcast, and you see how the
media can take what is said in a very simple context, invert
it, and make it mean something entirely different because you
should always suspect these things.
it's true or not, you have to be a critical audience member.
I wanted to do an episode where it was two people in one room
talking for an entire episode, to see if I could do it.
again, in one of the main areas where TV shows go over budget
is in effects, and I wanted to ride the new wave of technology
in what was being done--virtual sets, computer graphics. We
were the first show to have CGI on a regular basis; the first
one to do this level of virtual effects, this kind of compositing
because there's a lot that can be done that's not being done
because the same guys who are afraid of science fiction are
afraid of technology. And, thus, you're screwed at both ends.
to say, "Let's not be afraid of anything and, in particular,
let's be willing to fail on occasion. Let's try something bizarre
once in a while and if we fail, so what? They can't put you
into TV jail; they can't kill you and eat you (except CBS);
there's nothing wrong with failing. If you fail six times but
you hit it three times, that's three more than you would have
gotten if you hadn't tried. And that's worth the time and the
that we also tried to do with the show is to try and be, as
much as we humanly can be, scientifically accurate. It's rotational
gravity; it's ships that don't bank as they would normally in
atmosphere; dealing with the problems of zero-gravity environments,
different languages and life forms.
to deal with it as honestly as we humanly could, and I think
that we succeeded in doing that as much as one can on the theory
that it's as easy to get it right as it is to get it wrong.
And getting it right is often more interesting.
said, "Why wasn't it ever done before?" "Well, you didn't think
through the physics before."
Thinking Person's Series
Now I understand
that in saying this that this will never be a huge show. It
will never be a massive cult phenomenon like "Star Trek" or
"Star Wars" because it's a thinking-person's show. You have
to watch the show and bring to the table things you wouldn't
think about to get all that is in there.
not, you'll be frustrated by certain parts of it and want to
move on, which is OK by me.
All I wanted
to do was to tell an interesting story and it took five years
to do it--[LAUGHTER] Scheherezade was right--and I've tried
entertain myself primarily for those five years because if it
doesn't entertain you as a writer, it won't entertain the next
I Quit Science Fiction Writers of America
me to the area of, how can I put this? Why is science fiction
screwed right now as a genre? Why I quit The Science-Fiction
Writers of America?
years ago I recognized that media was going to be a very important
part of science fiction, much more than had been in the past,
because until then it was "Star Trek" and that's about it.
And I said
to guys in the organization: "You've got to start making some
more forward-planning moves toward looking at and understanding
science-fiction media and building some bridges here.
Once upon a time, if you look back at the history of television
and movies, very often it was a movie based on or a TV episode
based on a short story or based on a novel. I watch a lot of
the old '50s science-fiction shows and you see, again, "based
on a story by" or "based on a novel by." That tended to be the
rule. Now, with some exceptions--and there are always exceptions,
"Starship Troopers" being one; "Contact" being another--it's
the other way around. Now we have movies coming along and inspiring
books and short stories. In fact, I recently was called by a
leading science-fiction magazine and asked if we would do six
or seven "B-5" stories to appear in a science-fiction fiction
said "yes." So far I've said "no" because I'm not sure that
with media-related novels already out there that I want to break
down the last bastion that should be just print, not media-influenced.
But I saw it coming. I said, "Guys, you've gotta start treating
media with respect; give them a dramatic Nebula because it will
bring out the producers; and make them know who you are because
if you don't tell them what science fiction is, they'll invent
do it wrong. And, of course, they did. And SFWAdid not
do this. And as a result, I left, which was not the most earth-shattering
development in the history of mankind, but what happened afterward
verified what I said.
in the science-fiction print field--I'm sure that you, gentlemen,
know as well as I do--the mid-list, the mid-level titles are
disappearing. You're seeing more media titles. And I confess
to having "B-5" novels done with a certain degree of uncertainty
writers are going away, and they're taking the Hollywood approach
of looking for the big blockbuster and applying that now to
print. Is this correct for you gentlemen, your opinion of it?
I saw coming l0 years ago and said, "Look, if you are science-fiction
writers who deal in forward-thinking areas, why should a new
kind of technology, moving pictures frighten you? Sound films
have been with us for a while now. Get with it!"
And it has
made, I think, the science-fiction writing community more insular,
more fearful, and there were some moves at the last World Con
to get media novels barred from Nebula consideration because
they're, again, afraid of it. They won't let it compete on the
same ground as a regular novel.
we're looking at now is a situation where the science-fiction
arena, which I grew up in and I want to see preserved, is being
swallowed by media novels. Where you see good writers out there--I'm
not sure why I'm railing against the media all of a sudden;
I'm part of it--but you see really top-flight writers who can't
has a hard time selling original fiction. I grew up on Scheckly;
I grew up on all these guys. And I'm seeing them now where they're
saying, "To make ends meet, I have to write a 'Star Wars' novel."
And this is wrong.
requires the science-fiction writing community to drop their
prejudices, drop their old-fashioned ideas, and get out there
and learn what's going on in Hollywood.
had the whole dramatic Nebula fight at SFWA, I got letters
from guys who said, "You media hacks make a lot of money for
doing no quality work at all. I spend my whole life getting
ten cents a word. You guys can all go screw yourselves."
great but now look what's happened. And it is my hope that the
upcoming generation of people like yourselves, who've seen that
you can do if you have the right mentality, decent science fiction
on television, will have an effect on loosening up some of the
prejudices of those who are around currently in the science-fiction
literary establishment to say, "No, you guys have got to work
together. You can't fight each other."
was my one and only sermon for the day.
last segment--and we're all very grateful for that.
a lot of changes happening in current television right now with
the high-definition revolution, the visual revolution. In some
ways, though, I am skeptical of it. There is a show called "Absolutely
Fabulous," which I love, and at one point, Adena says, "I don't
want more choices. I want better stuff." (APPLAUSE) And I said,
"Boy, she does work in television, you can tell"--the writer,
I should say.
We now have
more channels than we ever had before. I have a digital set-up
at home for satellite . . . and like 100-paid channels and there's
l00 music channels and there's 200 regular channels. And a lot
of it is just wasted space. They have a game-show channel now,
which is all game shows. And you already know who won, if you're
the media revolution mean more quality programming? "No, it
does not. It means more crap." (APPLAUSE) It means you'll have
to work harder to find the good stuff because you now have to
go to 500 channels to find "The Prisoner."
On the flip
side, it does provide more opportunity because there's only
so much stuff they can pull out and re-run on game-show channels.
When that happens, they're going to be looking for new material,
and that's why what we're doing on "Babylon 5" is emblematic
of what's coming in the future.
We do desktop
television; that's the simplest way of putting it to you. The
budget on our show is less than $900,000 an episode; the average
budget for this kind of a show is $l.5 million. Up to $2 million
that they had on the war show--"Space Above and Beyond--___
So you have
a scenario where in five or ten years down the road, it'll come
down to a point where the people who are now making independent
films can make independent television shows.
I have in
my possession, back in California, a digital camera--it cost
me two and a half grand actually--which can do video tape on
digital tape at a higher resolution than most TVs can handle.
It's studio quality for $2,500.
is going to keep on coming down and putting more and more of
the tools of television into the hands of this motley crowd.
(LAUGHTER) The tools of post-production are becoming cheaper.
We edit on the Avid which, essentially, takes the film, digitizes
it, stores it on a hard disk, and you go through and pick your
takes out, and you edit it from there. You, then, take the information
on a floppy disk--dump it off to a super computer that assembles
the film, and you're done. You've edited your show.
capabilities are getting more and more lower-priced these days,
so there could be a point--I would say within the next five
or l0 years--where you can go out and say, "I have produced
independently l4 episodes of a new show. It has a beginning,
middle and end." It's a one-year project that you can put on
your network, if you're not CBS--[LAUGHTER]--or you can put
it on your cable outlet, or on your channel over here, or on
your compressed channel from overseas.
can do that, as independent film makers can do now what they
couldn't do 20 years ago in their genre. So it does open up
more venues. The important question is: Once you have the venue,
what is it you want to say? Why are you here? Why are you trying
to tell us a story? Why should we care what you have to say?
folks come to Los Angeles or get into television or film for
the money, which is the wrong reason to be here -- well, actually,
over there; this is Boston -- the wrong reason to be anywhere
actually. What you have to do, if this is anything that matters
to you is follow your passions. I can't tell you how many times
I have to say that before people will understand it. That, alone,
separates you from the dross --you from the rest.
When I was
working on "Twilight Zone," we got, over the transom, 3,000
spec scripts and outlines--3,000. They were all read by our
reader -- who is still recovering -- and of those 3,000, one,
one we bought. When I read it -- it was a story about alcoholism
-- and as I read the outline, I saw that this person is burning
to tell this story. He has no prior credits, hasn't sold anything.
We have to bring him in.
him in; we talked to him. And as we discussed the story with
him, I began to see that there was something more going on with
him. I said, "Why do you want to tell this story? What is it
that matters to you in this story?" He said, "Well, it's a good
story, and. . . ." "Don't b. s. me. Why do you want to tell.
. . .? There's something going on? Why is it?" And he said,
"Well. . . .
And it came
out that his father was an alcoholic and that this story was
a way of him taking what was in him and dealing with it in a
story and getting it out of his system.
And he left,
and I said to my executive producer, "we have to buy this story
because he's on fire." He's burning on the inside. You buy the
story and you will get a good script. Give him a fucking chance!"
And he did.
And the script came in; it needed a little bit of tweaking,
but it was ready to go. And you could see that it mattered So
it tells you off-the-bat that his story distinguished itself
from the rest because they were formula; they were what they
thought they should be writing, not what they wanted to write,
what they burned to write.
moves you to passion and do it. It's really that simple. I have
guys who live here on the East Coast who say, "I hate the weather.
It's always cold"--this crap, yeah, yeah,"
(APPLAUSE) "Aw, I've been here for a long time, I have. . .
." "Move! It's a four-letter word that's friendly. Move!"
hate their job, and they've been there for 20 years. There has
to be something you would like somewhere else. Somewhere out
there is what matters to you and if you don't do it, you'll
be 65 years old and saying, "Crap! I should have done what I
wanted to do." I came out of a background with no prior television
history. I didn't have friends in the business. I wanted to
do this because I wanted to tell stories that mattered to me.
said I couldn't do this, that I couldn't sell "Babylon 5." They
said that I'd never be a writer working in television--a writer
at all. But I said, "It matters to me. I have something to say.
And if no one listens to it or a million people listen to it,
it's all the same. I have to do what my heart demands me to
at an age now--the majority of you here--where you're looking
to make some decisions about your own lives. And there will
be those people, myself, others, your parents, your friends,
your family saying to you, "Go over there! It's the wise thing
to do. Have something to fall back on." They may be right but
they may be wrong, too. You may do the thing that is wise; you
may do the thing you can fall back on, but you may regret it
20 years from now.
any lesson to be carried out from this today--and I hope this
makes a small amount of sense--follow your passion, whatever
it happens to be. If it's writing, if it's engineering--god
help you--[LAUGHTER/APPLAUSE]--if it's physics, whatever it
is, it doesn't matter as long as it is what sings in your heart
to do because that is the only thing that will save you from
the madness that is mediocrity. And that is, I guess, my only
point in being here and talking to a bunch of people who know
more than I do about a whole lot of different areas.
I really have to offer you, is an example of eccentricity and
the notion that if you don't surrender, you hold on to your
dreams, it's not foolish, and it's not a young thing to do.
It's all that matters in the end because, in the end, we end
up six feet under, you know. What have you done with your life?
And start thinking about it now, not when you'll regret it later