|A Dark, Distorted Mirror||Introduction|
THIS is Babylon Five spin-off fiction, using the characters and situations of the television show, written on an amateur basis by a fan of the show. However, the sheer quality of the plotting and the writing set this work apart from the usual run of "fan fiction" and clearly establish Gareth Williams as a major storytelling talent. The story is of course derivative, but at the same time startlingly original. In effect, the author has unpicked the fabric of Straczynski's tale and painstakingly woven it into a new, self-consistent narrative. The result is a fresh and constantly surprising story which is at the same time comfortably familiar, and the combination makes a remarkably compelling read.
J. Michael Straczynski has said that Babylon Five is a tale of "choices, consequences and responsibility". A Dark, Distorted Mirror is the tale of what happened when a single, fateful one of those choices was made differently, and the consequences of this momentous choice, which radiate out to encompass the entire galaxy, and beyond.
Unlike the well-known Star Trek mirror universe, which in part provided the inspiration, the characters are not evil caricatures clad in black leather and brandishing whips, but themselves - changed in various ways by ten years of conflict and hardship never experienced by the originals, but still the same people, with the same hopes, aspirations and dreams. And this is no crossover story, with the heroic originals from the fortunate "real" universe materialising from nowhere to turn their counterparts back to the paths of righteousness. These are characters working out their own destinies. That which they are, they are. One equal temper of heroic hearts .... strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
It is a parallel universe story where the Minbari didn't surrender at the Battle of the Line but went on to destroy Earth. With a few small exceptions (inevitable, given that this was being written concurrently with the real story), everything that happened up to and including the Battle of the Line occurred exactly as relayed on television. The only deviation is the result of the battle. Everything remains consistent to the aired Babylon Five episodes, and characters are not invented unless "strictly necessary" - which usually means very minor functionaries. All the major characters do appear, however, as well as most of the supporting cast - although not necessarily in the way that might be expected! Most importantly, events of prophecy etc. have to continue as related in the television series, which Gareth claims was his biggest headache.
The whole tale is told by means of a series of short stories (or in some cases not-so-short stories!), like episodes, although unlike the television episodes the stories are of very variable length, with about six to eight stories making up a volume.
It would probably be possible to read this story without having watched Babylon Five on television, but it might be fairly pointless, as the complex interweaving of the mirror universe with the real thing would be entirely lost. The background is drawn to some extent from the spin-off TV movies, novels and comics as well as the television show itself, and in fact the more familiar the reader is with all aspects of the B5 universe the more they are likely to enjoy the story.
This site does contain spoilers for itself, so beware! The contents pages for each volume contain the "teasers" which were originally appended to each story to lead into the following one. Therefore, reading all the way down the contents listings isn't necessarily recommended. The synopsis was written mainly to help readers who were returning to the story after a break to refresh their memories on what they had already read. Again, reading all the way through the synopsis is strongly discouraged! However, the first part, What Has Gone Before, is in fact a potted history of the mirror universe events from the Battle of the Line (the "point of departure") up to 2258 when the story, like the "real thing", begins. Therefore, completists might like to start with that section. Otherwise, just dive in at the beginning of the first volume.
Gareth David Williams was born in 1978 in Abergavenny, Mid Wales, and has lived most of his life near Brecon. He is from a family of native Welsh speakers and is bilingual in English and Welsh.
He became a fan of Babylon Five when the series was first shown in 1994, hindered partly by the Welsh-speaking channel S4C's habit of rearranging the normal C4 programmes to accommodate Welsh-language material, but mostly by the extreme difficulty of getting a decent TV signal in the depths of the Welsh mountains. In the autumn of 1996 he moved to Warwick for a year to do voluntary care work, where fortunately S4C is not a problem. While looking after a disabled Computer Science student he found himself spending a lot of time on the university undergraduate computers, came in contact with the phenomenon of Babylon Five fan fiction on the Internet, and "thought he'd better write something". The result was From One Warrior to Another, a fairly standard adventure story set in the context of season 4 of the main story. This was originally published in the John and Delenn Storybook, which has now sadly self-destructed, but has been largely recreated at JumpNow. This tale saw the introduction of two of the very few significant invented characters used in the mirror universe, Refa's wife Elrisia, and a Minbari warrior called Tryfan. References are also made to Marrain and Parlonn (the two warriors who meet Valen in the past at the end of War Without End), and it is clear that some of the background to the current magnum opus was under construction even at that stage.
The idea for the mirror universe came to Gareth during the Easter holiday of 1997, while he was washing dishes in a restaurant in Hay-on-Wye. The original inspiration was the mirror universe seen in Deep Space Nine, but from that point of departure the story rapidly seems to have developed a life of its own. He posted the chapters of the stories in the first volume to the B5 Creative List as they were written - providing an excellent example of how consistent it is really possible to be when you are quite literally pinning the pages to the wall as you write. The story rapidly gained a keen following among subscribers to the list, with readers demanding new chapters more quickly than most authors can write. They got them.
Unfortunately Gareth was scheduled to lose email access at the end of the summer term at Warwick, and when that date was less than two weeks away the last story of the first volume, The Other Half of my Soul (in itself comprising over a third of the volume) still remained to be written. What followed is well documented in the timed-and-dated email headers still accessible on the postings in the Creative Works Archive. Stopping only to stoke up on coffee, and spurred on by the death threats he was receiving if he failed to deliver, Gareth completed the story and the volume in the time available, posting the last chapter just before 5 pm on his last day at Warwick before starting to pack. In fact, allowing for the completion of the previous story, Transformations (itself quite a substantial read), in only about a week, fully half the volume was written in about three weeks. The only compromise was that a short story, Reflection, Surprise, Terror - for the Future, intended for the end of the volume, was moved to later in volume 2, and the beginning of that volume recast slightly to compensate. The reaction of the readers to the discovery that The Other Half of my Soul ends on a cliff-hanger and that there were four more volumes of nail-biting still to come, is not recorded!
In the autumn of 1997 Gareth went up to the University of Sheffield to study for a BA in law and criminology, where fortunately the authorities never figured out the true purpose of the many hours he spent in the undergraduate computer centre. His re-acquisition of email access allowed the posting of the stories to start again, this time at a slightly more leisurely pace and taking time to have them spell-checked and copy-edited before posting. Despite the competing attractions of lectures, tutorials and essays (and collectable card games), the saga proceeded apace, with the third volume being completed just as the "real" Babylon Five came to a close in January 1999. In June 2000 Gareth passed his final exams, emerging the proud possessor a BA with upper second class honours in Law and Criminology. Shortly afterwards the fourth volume of the Mirror Universe was completed - history will judge which was the more significant achievement! The final volume took a couple of years longer, while Gareth embarked on the protracted transition from university to a career in Law, but the epilogue was finally completed in 2003.
The author has also currently contributed to a project on the Creative List, a Virtual Season Six for Babylon Five. This was envisaged as twenty-two episode-length stories written with the structure of television episodes, linked together to form a sixth season, however only about 15 episodes were eventually written. Gareth contributed episode three, Duties to the Republic, a story to some extent complementary to the Mirror universe, featuring characters who are important in that universe, but this time focussing on their real-timeline lives.
Gareth insists that every available picture of him (including those taken when he was about five) look as if they belong on a poster under the heading Wanted, dead or alive, and would undoubtedly make everyone exclaim "Wasn't that the guy we saw on Crimewatch last week?" (Gareth, what have you been up to that we don't know about...?) Readers will just have to be content with a picture of his two cats instead, who are much less likely to scare anyone (apart from the dog).
And in the interests of strict feline fairness, here is a picture of the editor's cat too.
The story text on this site is formatted with single-spaced indented paragraphs rather than the standard html format. Why? Well, firstly that's how books are formatted, and these are books. More practically, there are a lot of short paragraphs in this text, especially in the dialogue, which leads to a double-spaced effect in html formatting with a lot of fresh air on-screen. So, the theory is that this presentation will be easier to read. There are no fonts specified on this site. The font you are seeing is the default font set in your browser. You are free to change this to whatever font you find easiest on the eye. Experimenting with the width of the browser window also helps readability.
Having said that, this is a book - or rather, a series of books. And even in this technological age, books are best when they have pages and you can hold them in your hand. That's the other reason for the formatting - it's a tree-saving device. With this layout printouts require significantly fewer sheets of paper (though just as much ink, unfortunately).
The master copies of the files reside in WordPerfect format and produce very nice books with through page numbering, running headers, title and contents pages etc., and colour photo covers.
Now, new for 2009, you too can have copies like this. The word-processed version will soon be posted as PDF files, free to download. Watch the site for further details.
The characters and background situations of Babylon Five are copyright of J. Michael Straczynski, Warner Brothers Inc. and TNT cable television, and are used without permission. The story itself is © Gareth D. Williams, 1997-2003. In the ten years this site has been in existence the copyright holders of the original have given no intimation that they are in any way unhappy with it, and indeed the marketing division of Warner Bros. requested banner advertising on the front page to coincide with the release of the boxed DVD sets of the TV series, a request we were happy to accommodate. We hope very much that this peaceful coexistence continues.
The increasing tendency of some ISPs to claim copyright over material posted on their servers has raised some basic copyright issues in relation to Internet publication in general and fan fiction in particular. So, here is what we don't want done with the story on this site.
"Thanks for listening!"
Please don't make or distribute any copy of the story (electronic or print) which doesn't acknowledge Gareth's authorship and sole copyright of the actual story, and JMS'/Warner Bros.' copyright of the characters and background situations (this latter goes some way to counter any accusation that we are allowing these properties to enter the public domain).
Please don't ask or accept any money for a copy of the story (electronic or print), or for allowing anyone to read it. If you make a printout for a friend, get them to buy you a printer cartridge or something.
If you want to re-post or mirror any of the story on another server, please read the host's Terms and Conditions of Service very carefully. If there is any sort of clause in which the host claims copyright of any sort over material posted on its server, DON'T DO IT. There are some very dubious contracts out there.
Morag G. Kerr, February 1999 - July 2000.
Tenth anniversary update. Ten years on from the date this stite was created, it is moving to a new server, with its own domain name. Gareth is now a qualified solicitor, working in probate law in Yorkshire. The story is about to become available in PDF format. And the Dramatis Personae pages might just be about to be completed!
Morag G. Kerr, February 2009.
And finally.... meet the jump gate. This graphic will link you to the logical next page to read - usually the next chapter in a story, but not always. Trust me, it's the best way to go. But for the faint-hearted, there's a clear choice of links underneath.
Just this once, there's a choice of jump gates too, and information about where each will take you. The rest of the time, just go with it!
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