As he has begun to promote the book at comic book conventions, Straczynski has discovered that his fraught upbringing strikes a chord with some fans. Adam-Troy Castro, who is reviewing the book for Sci Fi Magazine, emailed the author about his own father. “Clearly, if this is a terrible childhood contest, you ‘win.’ But nevertheless, there were enough things in your account that resonated with my memories.”
Straczynski develops a love of storytelling through comic books. As a boy, he reads each issue at least twice: once as a fan and again to study how the action and dialogue is presented. “It never occurred to me that I might one day want to write comics for a living,” he writes. “I just wanted to peek under the hood and figure out how the engine worked.”
He later discovers science fiction and meets Rod Serling, the creator of “The Twilight Zone,” who advises him on his writing: “First, cut every third adjective. Second, never let them stop you from telling the story you want to tell.” He comes across and later befriends Harlan Ellison, who advises him on his writing in more colorful language.
When Straczynski recounts his career, each job seems to head toward a breaking point. In the 1980s, he wrote a spec script for the cartoon “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which grabbed the attention of a producer and led to a staff job. Straczynski then worked on a spinoff series, “She-Ra: Princess of Power,” but quit when the animation studio didn’t credit him as a story editor.
He continued to land and quit jobs in television, including work on the cartoons “The Real Ghostbusters” and “Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future” and the live-action crime series “Jake and the Fatman,” repeatedly leaving over creative differences. Asked whether he regretted any of his career decisions, he answered, “Yes and no.”
“Would my life be easier if I didn’t do those things? Absolutely,” Straczynski said. As any kind of artist, he added, “you have to decide what you will stand for and what you will not.”