Contents: Back Cover - Synopsis - Questions - Analysis - Notes - Author
Written by Jeanne Cavelos
Release date: April 1997
ISBN: 0-440-22348-2 (US)
ISBN: 0-7522-2339-9 (UK)
Anna Sheridan receives an assignment to study the ruins on Z'ha'dum. John Sheridan takes command of the Agamemnon. Babylon 5 goes online and sees the arrival of its first residents.
Reader reviews, and online ordering, can be found at Amazon.com.
Anna Sheridan has two passions-- her husband, John, and the mystery surrounding some intriguing artifacts found during a mission on a distant planet called Z'Ha'dum. Now she gets orders to become the science officer on the follow-up mission scheduled for the spaceship Icarus. Happy, young, beloved, and brilliant, never has a woman had so much to live for. Or so much to lose.
While John, recently promoted to the rank of captain, struggles with his new command on the Agamemnon, Anna begins to assemble her science crew... and makes her first mistake. She signs on Dr. Morden, a highly credentialed translator whose heart hides a weakness that can cost Anna her life... or her soul. Her second mistake is to underestimate the danger on Z'ha'dum. What is awaiting the Icarus near the rim of known space is an unimaginable horror. What is awaiting Anna Sheridan is an explosive destiny... and a dark future that can crush her husband's dreams and a terror that can come back to haunt us all.
The book begins with Anna Sheridan studying an artifact found on an Interplanetary Expeditions (IPX) dig at Theta Omega 2, a planet once inhabited by the J/Lai, an offshoot of the Brakiri. It appears to be a biomechanical device, halfway between machine and living organism. As she studies it, she briefly makes contact with a quasi-consciousness in the artifact. She tells Dr. Chang, the head the expedition, but is unable to duplicate the effect for him.
They hire Terence Hilliard, a commercial telepath, to make contact with the artifact. As soon as he tries, the artifact activates, overheats and explodes. Hilliard is seriously injured, and falls into a trance-like state, repeating over and over again, "I am the machine." Anna and Churlstein, another IPX scientist, take Hilliard to Geneva City Hospital. As he is being tended to, they are approached by Donne, a Psi Corps representative looking into the incident. Donne insists on speaking to Anna privately; Anna tells Churlstein to go back to the lab and make sure nothing is touched before she returns.
Donne takes Anna to Hilliard's bedside. His physical injuries are superficial, but his brain is locked into a rigid, cyclical pattern. Donne says that Hilliard will be moved to a Psi Corps facility and dismisses the doctor, then questions Anna about the incident. Donne indicates that nothing can be done for Hilliard.
Back at the lab, the remains of the explosion have been cleaned up and all of Anna's reports and test results are gone. Dr. Chang tells her he has been ordered to take over the testing of the remains of the J/Lai "mouse" and related artifacts. He allows her to take her computer, with her notes in it intact, and a fragment of the mouse. Anna has dinner with Liz Sheridan, her sister-in-law, before leaving for Station Prime, where she and her husband are planning to celebrate their anniversary.
Meanwhile, John Sheridan has been in command of the Agamemnon for one month, and is struggling with a badly disciplined crew. He chews out Lt. Spano, a weapons officer, for not following regulations. Corchoran, the first officer, tells him they will be inspected when they arrive at Station Prime. Later, Corchoran suggests that the crew is envious of Sheridan's war record; the previous commander of the Agamemnon, Capt. Best, humiliated them by retreating at the Battle of the Line.
At Station Prime, orbiting Centauri Prime, Anna checks into the honeymoon suite of the Imperial Hotel. John calls her there to tell her he'll be delayed by the inspection. Then Chang calls, saying that an IPX probe has discovered the remains of a new, unknown civilization on Alpha Omega 3. An RNA scan of microorganisms there indicates they are related to the "mouse" from Theta Omega 2. Chang asks her to be on an expedition there, which begins in 10 days. Anna is surprised by the short preparation time but agrees to go.
General Lochschmanan's inspection of the Agamemnon goes well until the weapons bay, where the optical system has been left on line, creating a danger that the ship's laser cannons could fire if there were an explosion or fire on board. The Agamemnon fails the inspection, and Lochschmanan orders Sheridan to get the crew into shape as soon as possible. Sheridan cancels leave and institutes a heavy schedule of drills. The ship is also being outfitted with a new stealth technology.
John calls Anna and tells her that he won't be able to make it; Anna does not tell him about the new expedition. She checks the roster for the expedition and sees two non-IPX personnel listed on the archaeological team: Donne, and a Dr. Morden, an Earthforce linguist who six months previously took leave of his job and moved to Station Prime. Anna becomes suspicious of Morden's credentials and visits him. He works for an Earthforce division called New Technologies, and claims to have been called up by his superiors and added to the mission out of the blue. She notices an Anfran love stone in his collection of artifacts, and learns that it was given to him by his wife. He moved to Station Prime after his wife and daughter were killed in a terrorist attack on the Io jumpgate. Anna resolves to try and help Morden get on with his life.
Spano arrives late for a drill and Sheridan confines him to quarters. After the drill, Sheridan speaks angrily with Ross, the weapons chief, who is about to punch him when Lochschmanan arrives. Corchoran routes in a call from Anna. John speaks to her hurriedly, learning about the expedition, and returns to speak to Lochschmanan.
At the IPX mission briefing, Chang introduces the members of the archaeological team, then shows them pictures of the planet, including a series of inscribed pillars and an egg-shaped biomechanical structure which has biological similarities to the "mouse". Afterward, Anna learns that Donne and Morden have a deep distrust of each others' organizations. On the Agamemnon, John Sheridan gives Ross, Spano, and Watley, another weapons officer, a choice between transferring off the ship or being court-martialed if they continue to perform poorly.
As the Icarus leaves Station Prime, Donne asks Anna to try to make contact with a fragment of the mouse. She does so, experiencing an impression that it is still partly alive. Morden shares some preliminary translations with Chang and Anna: the pillars appear to say, "every light casts a shadow," and the largest inscription on the egg is "what is desired" or "all that is desired."
John Sheridan is woken up by a message from Lochschmanan. Homeguard, the group responsible for the Io jumpgate attack, is planning to blow up Babylon 5 during its dedication ceremonies with nuclear devices obtained from the Narn. The Agamemnon is ordered to intercept the Homeguard ship carrying the bombs.
Twenty days from Alpha Omega 3, Anna uses the IPX probe's remote control to explore a cave near the planned landing site, and finds two artifacts similar to the "mouse". Meanwhile, the Agamemnon stages a mock battle against the Hyperion. The Hyperion takes out the Agamemnon's targeting system. When Sheridan orders the weapons officers to fire manually, Ross does not fire, and the Hyperion goes on to "destroy" the Agamemnon.
Sheridan orders Ross arrested. He goes to Ross's quarters to see him detained, and finds him drunk and threatening to shoot himself. Ross tells Sheridan about his experience at the Battle of the Line. The Athena, Capt. Best's previous command, where Ross was serving, had its automatic targeting system knocked out. He fired at a fighter that appeared to be trying to ram them, and realized a moment too late that it was one of their Starfuries, trying to make an emergency landing. The resulting explosion disabled the Athena and killed 35 crewmembers. Sheridan takes the PPG away from Ross and gives him another chance.
The next day, Anna discovers that the IPX orbiter at Alpha Omega 3 has lost contact with the surface probe. The orbiter's log indicates that Chang was controlling the probe at the time. The probe logs have been erased back to when he used the probe the previous day. Anna tells Chang about this, and he orders her to give no indication that malfunction could have been anything but an accident. He also gives her a PPG, telling her he has another for his own defense.
Anna attempts to send a message to John on New Year's Eve, but the communications system is unable to send it. Hidalgo, the captain of the Icarus, tells her that the comm system just malfunctioned. Anna attempts to remove her message from the outgoing queue, and discovers Chang has also just tried to send a message, to Galovich, the mission's supervisor on Earth. She copies the message and views it. Chang is reporting that Donne and Hidalgo are planning to smuggle artifacts to Earth for Psi Corps to study. He also refers to the Shadow ship found on Mars, and a hypothesis of Morden's, that it returned on automatic.
Anna returns to the ship's New Year's party and tells Morden she has a present for him. They leave the party and she gives him the Anfran love stone, which she had taken from his quarters the day before and had put on a necklace. Morden is shocked that he went an entire day without noticing it was gone, and puts the necklace on to assure that he will never forget it. Anna asks him what he knows about Mars. He tells her about the Shadow ship discovered by IPX. When the ship was excavated and first exposed to sunlight, it transmitted a message. Morden was on a team from Earthforce New Technologies sent to study the ship at IPX's request. Anna tells him what she knows about the probe problems, and the smuggling arrangement between Donne and Hidalgo.
As B5's dedication ceremony approaches, the Agamemnon passes an inspection and is dispatched to intercept the Homeguard ship. Kosh Naranek contacts Delenn and tells her that a human expedition is going to Z'ha'dum, and it must be stopped. He directs his own ship toward Z'ha'dum, expecting to arrive just before the Icarus.
After planetfall on Alpha Omega 3, half the archaeological team, including Chang and Donne, go to investigate the egg, while Anna, Morden, and the others head for the cave where she found the mice. Morden has refined the translation of the pillar inscriptions to "Every light carries a shadow." Arriving at the cave, they find that the mice are gone and the hole they were removed from has been partially filled in. Anna, Morden, and Dr. Favorito explore deeper in the cave, and find a corpse that appears to be a biological creature inside a biomechanical one. As far back in the cave as they can go, they find a black sphere blocking a passageway. Anna tries to take a sample of it, but find her hand passing inside it, and then feels something waking up inside it. She jumps back and runs away, pulling the others along with her.
Delenn, on authorization from the Grey Council, contacts Sinclair at Babylon 5 and tells him the expedition is in danger and must be recalled.
Anna, Morden, and Favorito emerge from the cave into a sudden storm. They and their support crew head for the egg to rejoin Chang's group, but the egg and the entire group have vanished. A scan shows one link nearby; heading for it, they find Chang, who has been shot. Anna gives Chang's PPG to Morden. The two of them find a crevasse underneath where the egg had been, but it is too small for the egg to have gone through it.
At Babylon 5, Sinclair has contacted Senator Hidoshi about the expedition and been referred to President Santiago's science adviser, Dr. LeBlanc. LeBlanc is unaware of any expedition near the rim, but promises to check on it. The Agamemnon observes the transfer of explosives from the Narns to the Homeguard ship. Just before it comes out of hiding, Ross reports that the weapons system is nonfunctional. A component has been removed from the optics system.
On the Icarus, Hidalgo announces that communications have been restored. Anna has taken charge of the archaeological team, and splits them up for a search of landing area. She gives her PPG to Dr. Razor, who is on the team that includes Hidalgo, and tells him about Hidalgo's plans for smuggling artifacts. She sends a message to Gulovich, and then searches Donne's quarters. Inside a roll of lingerie, she finds a collection of small body parts and a Psi Corps badge with a black square in the center. She recalls that a patch of Chang's hair was missing, and concludes that Donne killed Chang and took the hair for her collection.
When Anna returns to her quarters, she finds Morden waiting for her. He already believes that Donne killed Chang. When she wonders why Psi Corps is going to such lengths, Morden tells her that not only was Hilliard affected by the mouse, but every telepath at or below his P-rating within a three-mile radius was left in the same state. Psi Corps covered it up, but Earthforce-- or at least Morden's division-- quickly figured out what had happened.
Dr. LeBlanc calls Sinclair back and tells him the expedition will not be recalled. She suspects that it may discover something powerful that can be used against the Minbari. Sinclair tells Delenn the news, and she informs him that sending any further ships to Alpha Omega 3 will be considered an act of war against the Minbari.
Sheridan orders Corchoran to interrogate the weapons officers about the sabotage, but Spano is missing from the mess, where they had been ordered to wait. Spano is tracked down in the gym. He complains that he was bored. Ross reports that the primary mirror in the optics system has been destroyed. Spano repeatedly denies sabotaging the system, but finally admits that he left his post during his watch to get a snack. Sheridan charges him with insubordination, desertion of post, and dereliction of duty, and has him confined to the brig.
Anna decides to make contact with the creature inside the sphere. She and Morden return to where it was, but it has vanished. In the passageway beyond, they find a generator that could have come from the IPX probe. As they talk, Morden suddenly reaches for his PPG. Anna knocks him down as he fires, and the blast triggers a cave-in. Donne appears and tells Anna that Morden destroyed the probe.
Ross tells Sheridan that the optics damage is worse than he thought, and he can't repair it on his own before the Homeguard ship reaches Babylon 5. Sheridan grits his teeth and assigns Watley and Spano to help him. Spano, feeling chastened, suggests that Sheridan consider people who had previously served as weapons officers. He specifically mentions Corchoran. Sheridan asks Corchoran for information on officers who had been weapons officers, but Corchoran does not send it. Sheridan orders security to detain Corchoran.
Anna realizes that Morden had been aiming at Donne. Donne says that Morden hid the mice; Morden says that Psi Corps wouldn't have left anything for Earthforce to study. The three of them search for another way out of the caves, going through a section that appears to have been artificially enlarged. Donne believes that the egg was sending out a telepathic attraction, which she was able to block once she became aware of it. She says that when Chang's group reached the egg, some of them climbed into openings in it, and the openings vanished. When everyone except Chang and Donne had gone into the egg, it reached for Chang. Donne shot him, and it lost interest. It didn't appear to notice her, possibly because of her blocking. It then changed shape and oozed away down the crevasse.
With twenty minutes left before the Homeguard ship reaches the B5 jumpgate, Ross reports that the optics are repaired. Sheridan orders Ross to engage manual targeting; the automatic system won't let them fire on an Earth ship. Sheridan transmits a warning to the Homeguard ship, which simply accelerates and does not acknowledge the message. Sheridan orders Ross to fire, but nothing happens and Ross does not respond. Then he hears Corchoran on the link, taunting him.
Donne leads Anna and Morden to a chamber below the crevasse, where they see what appear to be cryogenic chambers, one for each person on the Icarus, and the egg. As they watch, the egg lets out Razor, who is taken away, struggling, by three pale humanoid aliens. They hear a drill, and screams from Razor. Anna sees some kind of wiring attached to the face of the person in the nearest chamber and realizes the aliens are preparing the humans to become part of the biomachines. Churlstein, apparently unharmed, comes upon them and tries to take the PPGs away. Donne is immobilized by a telepathic attack.
Sheridan orders all blast doors closed and the outer parts of the Agamemnon evacuated. There is a struggle in the weapons bay, but Ross is able to fire on the Homeguard ship's engines. The explosives are touched off, and the Homeguard ship is destroyed. The Agamemnon suffers some damage, but no casualties. As a reward for a job well done, Lochschmanan assigns the Agamemnon to be part of the honor guard at the dedication of Babylon 5.
Churlstein says that he is now an emissary from the resident aliens, who are willing to share all their technology if their existence is kept secret. Anyone who serves them willingly will be rewarded with their greatest desires; anyone else will be forced to serve unwillingly. New, spidery aliens begin to materialize all around. Donne shoots Churlstein, then the roof of the passage, creating a rockfall that buries Anna and Morden up to their shoulders and kills Donne and the humanoids. The spidery aliens continue to surround them. Anna and Morden try to set off one of the mice to destroy them. As the mouse awakes, through a telepathic link, they see an image of Morden's wife and daughter caught in a hyperspace vortex, still alive and in pain. Morden breaks contact and tells the aliens he will help them, if they can end his family's suffering. Anna is left to become a part of the machine.
Above the planet, Kosh sees the Icarus take off, empty. It broadcasts a distress signal and then explodes. At Babylon 5, the dedication ceremony goes smoothly, except for Kosh not being able to be present. At the end of the ceremony, Sheridan gets a call from Lochschmanan, telling him about the loss of the Icarus. Anna has been installed in a Shadow ship.
March 15, 3-5pm, Pandemonium Books & Games, Cambridge, MA
March 29, 3-5pm, Space-Crime Continuum, Northampton, MA
April 5, 1-3pm, Books & More, Marlborough, NH
April 12, 2-4pm, Enchantments, Lexington, MA
April 20, 2-4pm, Mystery Trek, Brattleboro, VT
April 24, 7:30-8:30pm, Water Street Bookstore, Exeter, NH
If you plan on going to the Pandemonium appearance, or if you plan to run to your bookstore on March 11 to buy the book, BEWARE: Dell has just informed me that all Bantam Doubleday Dell books for April (release date 3/11) may be a week or more late in reaching the stores. They have switched to a new production procedure, and this has thrown everything off. I don't think this has ever happened in the history of BDD--release dates on books are very important. So you may want to wait until the end of March or call your bookstore first.
Jay Denebeim and Bob P. both asked how messages could be addressed to me. Since my name is often misspelled, I think it would be easiest to put in the subject line, "ATTN: JC." I will look for messages with that designation.
Eschel Hamel asked several questions about the book:
WHAT WAS THE APPROVAL PROCESS LIKE TO GET YOUR NOVEL OUT?
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DID YOU DO BEFORE AND WHILE WRITING IT?
WHAT DIRT CAN YOU GIVE US ON JOE?
Here's what happened, as well as I can remember without digging through my records. I wrote a synopsis of THE SHADOW WITHIN (actually called THE SHADOW AWAKES back then) around 11/95. It was about 15-20 double-spaced pages. I submitted it to Jacquie Miller, the in-house editor of the books at Dell. She read it, liked it, and sent it on to JMS. She reported back to me that JMS also liked it, but that he had already decided on authors for the current three B5 books under contract. She also relayed several comments he'd made about my synopsis, areas where I had diverged from his view of the story of the ICARUS. (I had just made the whole thing up, based on the little information we had from the series at that point. So it was actually pretty amazing that only a few points troubled him.) So my outline was held over to be considered when the next three books were being developed.
In 8/96 Jacquie contacted me and said JMS had approved my synopsis for the next batch of books. Dell wanted a complete manuscript in 5 weeks. I was actually homeless when this occurred. My husband and I had moved out of our rental home and our new house, which was still being built, wasn't going to be ready for three more weeks. We were living at Motel 6. The idea of writing a novel in 5 weeks was terrifying enough; but the idea of writing it when my computer and my notes were all in boxes and I hadn't even thought about the synopsis in 9 months sounded like too much even to dream of. I negotiated up to 8 weeks, and we made a deal. Jacquie returned my original synopsis to me with some comments on it from JMS. He'd made maybe about ten notes on it, all fairly minor, a number of them filling in blanks I'd left (e.g., Sinclair calls Senator _____), others giving me a little information or pointing out something. (I'll try to dig this up so I can tell you some of his notes.) He also changed the title to THE SHADOW WITHIN, for reasons that became obvious to me as I did my B5 research into Shadow references.
At that point I started trying to recreate what the HECK I had been thinking when I'd written this nine months ago. I decided the only way I could be sure to have a finished manuscript in time was to write a detailed scene-by-scene outline that would tell me everything that had to happen in every scene, so there would be no surprises and no omissions. As I worked on that, I realized I still had a lot of questions about the arc and various aspects of the show that I needed answered to write a book consistent with these things. I also heard a rumor around this time that an upcoming episode was going to feature Anna Sheridan, and that she was going to be played by Melissa Gilbert! I pretty much flipped out at that point, since no one had told me, and here I was working on a novel with time ticking away. I asked Jacquie at Dell to get a copy of this script for me. She asked Warner Brothers. There were delays. I finally sent a panicked fax to JMS, swearing myself to secrecy if only he would send the script. It came by overnight mail. That helped a lot. But I still had a number of unanswered questions. I asked Jacquie if I could talk to JMS. She asked, and he agreed. (I believe I'm the first author to be able to ask JMS questions directly. I think one other author may have asked a few questions through e-mail.) We had a conference call that lasted maybe an hour, basically where I asked questions and he answered. Most of my questions were of the variety of "Is it okay if I do this?" And most of the time he said yes. A few times he gave me a little information, explaining why something is or isn't true, but JMS plays these things pretty close to the vest. I felt very lucky, though, that I had this opportunity, because it allowed me to get the doubt out of my mind that something or other was wrong and proceed. It also corrected a few things that wouldn't have been consistent with the arc. (I'll see if I can dig out my notes on this phone conversation too, if you're interested.) My biggest problem coming out of this phone call was with Morden. I had asked JMS, "What is Morden's first name? Or can I just make one up?" JMS replied that he'd never given Morden a first name. He'd always thought of the character simply as Morden, and wasn't really comfortable with the idea of giving him a first name. This was tough for me, since Morden plays a large part in the book and he becomes fairly good friends with Anna. So I had to find a way around it, which you'll see in the book.
After that, I did a lot more research. Lots of B5 research--watching videotapes repeatedly (many key episodes provided by Phil Farrand, the author of THE NITPICKER'S GUIDES to Star Trek, of which I edited the first two), referring to THE A-Z OF BABYLON 5 (I got a British edition from Dell), the Lurker's Guide (and the Lurker himself, Steven Grimm, who would answer my questions at any time of day), and calling other B5 experts, like Michael A. Burstein and Nomi Burstein. I'd have lists of questions, such as how many guns does the Agamemnon have, where, and what kind are they? (John Sheridan is in command of the Agamemnon during the book.)
I also did as much research as time would allow on other topics. I read sections of about eight archaeology books, spoke to a UNH professor of archaeology, the New Hampshire State Geologist told me all about caves (important in this book), and an old friend from the Cornell astronomy program served as an expert on lasers. I also had numerous people read the book and offer feedback on it. Two were members of the military who read for accurate military procedures and conduct.
I don't really have any "dirt" on Joe (and that is what people call him, though I've stuck to the conventional JMS here). I've told you some of my experiences with him above, and perhaps can come up with some more if asked. I think the way he worked with me on the book was just right, in that he guided me so that my book would fit into the B5 universe as a whole, but he gave me a lot of freedom to create the vision I had and write the story I wanted. For example, when we were talking on the phone he mentioned that he'd always imagined Morden to be a low-level technician on the Icarus, who was jealous of Anna's education and success (or something to that effect). This is significantly different than what I had in my synopsis. But he never asked me to change Morden from the way I'd envisioned him.
As the freelance editor of the novels, it's kind of neat that watching B5 is something I must do for my job. If only all jobs had such fun requirements. That said, I can't swear I haven't missed any episodes. It took me a while to get used to the new episode/repeat schedule, which I deeply dislike. A few times I've missed episodes. I don't have any special access to a bank of videotapes or anything. I try to catch the episodes I miss when they are rerun. But I think a few may have slipped through the cracks. I'm still waiting for one of the season 4 episodes to be rerun that I missed earlier. I'm not sure of the name of it, but we learned something major about the Vorlons in it. I have to admit that I'm not a trivia expert. I love the show for its wonderful stories and characters, for its overall feel and themes, for its complex concepts. I'm not one to memorize the name of every ship that appears on every episode. That said, if I need to know a piece of trivia (and I needed to know a lot of it to write THE SHADOW WITHIN, hitting stores next week), I know who to call to find out (and I don't mean JMS, since he is too busy to deal with this stuff. I have a network of B5 fans I call on to find the answers to continuity questions regarding the novels, and they usually know--or can find out--the answers). I tape the episodes, but I do miss some, and I'm very bad about labelling things, so again, when I need to see an episode (several episodes were key to the writing of my novel), if I couldn't find it in my collection I called people to send me copies. They were very nice about it.
Rodent's next question was whether I had any quick comments on the 5-year story arc.
Really, my only comment is my personal reaction. When I first heard about the arc, around the time the pilot aired, I became extremely excited. It seemed as if this was an incredible development in sf television, one that allowed a series to be more like a great epic novel. This is part of what fueled my love for the show and part of what motivated me to start the line of B5 novels at Dell Publishing. As I watch B5, each year it seems to get better and better. As the arc progresses and our understanding of events deepens (as it only could with an arc), the show seems to become more meaningful and enjoyable. I was a bit disappointed with the quick end to the Shadow War, but other than that I felt the arc has more than lived up to its promise.
Rodent's third question was whether I had worked with JMS before.
My relationship with JMS began around the time the pilot aired. I was then a senior editor at Dell Publishing. I saw the pilot and felt something exciting was starting. I called Warner Brothers, asked for JMS, and told him Dell was interested in doing a line of B5 novels. We've had a number of phone conversations and discussions since then, and I perhaps can tell you a little about those, but I can't claim to be a close friend or anything like that. When I left Dell in 1994 to escape NYC and become a freelance editor/teacher/writer, Dell asked me to continue editing the B5 novels as a freelancer, so my relationship with JMS continued, though we had little direct contact. Working on this novel, asking him questions about what I could do, was my most extended contact with him.
Rodent asked, "How much did JMS 'get in the way' of your writing THE SHADOW WITHIN?"
As discussed earlier, JMS didn't really "get in the way" at all. He mainly okayed ideas I had for the book and pointed out minor areas where I wasn't consistent with the show. Really only two significant points were changed from the outline due to his feedback. First, I wanted to work the nuking of San Diego into the book, having it occur around 2255. JMS said no, this occurred 40 years ago. Interesting. It slightly inconvenienced me, but it was easy enough to think of another catastrophe. The other point was that I wanted Dr. Chang to arrive at Z'ha'dum in one ship, and then have Anna Sheridan come in another, follow-up ship. JMS said they all came in one ship. This again was only a minor inconvenience, and I agreed that he was right to make me stick to one ship.
Really the thing that gave me the most trouble was when I asked JMS what Morden's first name was. JMS said that he'd never given Morden a first name and that he wasn't really comfortable with the idea of giving one. He'd always thought of Morden as just Morden. This ticked me off for a while, since I figured Morden had to have a first name, and how was I going to present him in informal, social scenes without his first name? I finally thought of a solution to the problem, as you'll see in the book.
JMS did also change the title of the book. I had called it THE SHADOW AWAKES. He changed it to THE SHADOW WITHIN. After I got heavily into research with my trivia experts, I realized why he had done this.
I'm sure I'll get flamed again for this, but I have to say that when I edit a B5 novel (through the rushed process I described in another post), spotting scientific inaccuracies is very far down my list of concerns. In my opinion, B5 is not a scientifically accurate show. And I don't think that being scientifically accurate is one of the show's main concerns. It is a story about people (and aliens), about how we get along with each other and what it all means. I'm much more concerned with the issues that are most important to B5.
I certainly wish that all errors, inconsistencies, weak spots, etc. had been fixed and the books made perfect before they were published, but there simply wasn't time. Doing a job that takes a minimum of 4 months with regular books in 3 days just doesn't allow for much.
The truth is some scientific errors didn't get removed from books I edited. I'm human. Amazing! I think we could have more constructive discussion here.
On the topic of educating sf writers in science, I had an interesting experience with my Odyssey class. I run Odyssey, a six-week summer writing workshop for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. The first week I had Hal Clement come in to talk about creating a scientifically realistic setting. He talked about the various concerns when creating a planet for a story, and how the setting could actually inspire the story and control the plot. He knows his stuff backwards and forwards, and the session was fascinating. But after he left, many of my students came up to me and said, "I loved Hal Clement. He really knows his stuff. But I had no idea what he was talking about after the first half hour."
Many people interested in writing sf don't have a very strong knowledge of science, and this is a problem. But there are books on how to create realistic sf settings as well as many other resources, as Neil points out. This is the gruntwork (or the fun work, as your mindset goes) that sf writers (and ALL writers, for that matter) have to do.
ON THE TOPIC OF THE NOVEL...
I found my notes from my phone conversation with JMS, which I thought might interest you. This conversation occurred while I was fleshing out the synopsis JMS had approved into a detailed, scene-by-scene outline. Mainly JMS okayed various things I wanted to have in the book, but he also gave out a little information. He told me that IPX headquarters were in Geneva, that Anna was a freelancer for IPX, and that he didn't want Morden to have a first name.
I think I may have caught JMS on one point: I asked him why, in the footage of the scientists from the Icarus finding the Shadows on Z'ha'dum, the scientists were wearing EVA suits. While in the episode Z'ha'dum, Sheridan and Anna only needed to wear breathers (this episode had not yet aired, but JMS had sent me the script and it specified breathers). There was a long pause at the other end of the line. Finally, in a halting way, JMS said something like this: "Well...when the Icarus went there...they didn't know a lot about the planet...they weren't sure...if there were hazards.... You can say...it was standard procedure...for a new planet. That's it. Call it standard first contact protocol." His voice gradually picked up speed as he went, figuring his way out of the problem. That was kind of fun.
Were the two storylines written at the same time?
I wrote them one at a time.
In "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum," Delenn said she asked Kosh whether
the Shadows had returned to Z'ha'dum, and he said yes. Why are the Shadows
This confused me also, which is why I had originally titled the book THE SHADOW AWAKES. When JMS changed the title, at the synopsis stage, I started looking into the issues you raise. They led me to believe that the Shadows were awake before Anna arrived (there's their attempted destruction of B4 also). It seems as if some of them have been there a while when Anna arrives. More could definitely have come from *somewhere* at some point. When Delenn asks that question, they could already have been occupying Z'ha'dum for a while. I don't believe they were in hibernation.
The RNA thing came from a biology professor. I wondered why he didn't mention DNA, but I figured he had his reasons.
The question of why I used first names for three characters and last names for others is simply answered. Point of view. I used first names for the point of view characters (Anna Sheridan, John Sheridan, and Jeffrey Sinclair) to help the reader feel closer to them, and last names for everyone else. Another reason for this was to differentiate between Anna Sheridan and John Sheridan. If I'd called them both Sheridan, that would have been a bit confusing. One person who read an early draft didn't understand why I didn't called John Sheridan "Sheridan" and Anna Sheridan "Anna." To him, this seemed the obvious way this issue should be handled. This, unfortunately, has been the standard for a long time. The man is known by his last name while the woman is known by her first. I found this totally inappropriate. Anna and John are equals, and should be dealt with on an equal level. This left me with first names, which I felt gave a nice feeling of intimacy to the story and made both Anna and John seem more like real people.