Author Topic: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age  (Read 433 times)

Dubble_g

  • Corporal
  • *
  • Posts: 84
  • Keep your friends close, and your vodka closer
Spoilers for the plot of Stackpole's novels below.

Now, on the surface Stackpole appears to be writing techno-fetishistic military sci-fi with Mary Sue characters and comic book dialog, but what if we've misjudged the man? What if there's something more going on between the lines?

Stackpole's thesis I believe is this: One's personal identity, one's sense of self, is an artificial construction with no grounding in reality. Happiness is therefore found not by realizing one's "true" self (because no such thing exists), but by assuming an identity pleasing to those around you.

Let's look at the evidence.

Doubles
There is an obsession in these works with doubles. Hanse Davion has one, Melissa Steiner has one, Tormano Liao kills one, Joshua Marik is replaced by one, Thomas Marik is one.
The concept of the double expresses the fear that one's identity can be stolen, that your very life can be stolen, by someone who looks like you.
Implicit in this fear is the realization that who you are is literally only skin deep.

Assumed Identities
Almost everyone who isn't a double is pretending to be something they aren't. Justin Xiang pretends to be a Capellan loyalist. Frederick Steiner pretends to be Focht. Sharilar Mori pretends to be a ComStar operative. Jaime Wolf pretends to be a mercenary. Phelan Kell pretends to be a clanner.
Thing is, nobody ever breaks these disguises.
Each one of the above people perfectly, perfectly play their role. Stackpole is showing us how easy is it to assume a new identity, which will be totally indistinguishable from our "real" identity. How is this possible, unless our real identity is also an act, a sham, a play we put on for others?

Paper thin loyalties
Time and again, we see how easily supposedly fanatical loyalty is broken. The Capellan Confederation is betrayed a record three times in the space of two years: Pavel Ridzik and the Tikonov Republic, the Northwind Highlanders, Candace Liao and the St. Ives Compact.
Loyalty to hone, family, friends and colleagues is often seen as one of the cornerstones of our identity, yet we are shown how weak such loyalties really are, driving us to wonder, what else about our identity is also paper thin?

Happy Endings
Happy endings are few and far between and usually only temporary, but let's see who qualifies.
Justin Xiang, an assassin who lied about his identity and aided his homeland to slaughter millions of supposed countrymen, is rewarded with a beautiful bride and glory.
Phelan Kell, who betrays both his natural homeland and his adopted one, is given refuge by the former and the most exalted leadership position by the latter.
Who dies in these stories?
People unable to shift their identities. Yorinaga Kurita attempts to stay true to his ideals, and gets to commit suicide for his pains. Tsen Shang is wed to a psychopathic murderess.
Clearly, happy endings are only earned if you are willing to change who you are to suit those around you.

In short, we have underestimated the much maligned Mr Stackpole. Or not. Could be he's just a bit of a hack.

beachhead1985

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2461
  • 1st SOG; SLDF. "McKenna's Marauders"
    • Kilroy's Wall
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #1 on: 09 March 2017, 00:30:11 »
You may have something here, but as arrogant as Stackpole comes off; this is a depth of pretentiousness I just don't see in him.

You absolutely do identify a number of strong recurring themes though. Frankly, however; I think that if Stackpole had left these breadcrumbs intentionally, we would have heard about it by now; almost certainly from him, in another essay telling us how stupid and easily led we are.

Then again, when he says in his two well known BT essays; "Your ideas are my ideas", maybe he's alluding to just this sort of manipulation.
Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the day when heaven was falling,      Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
The hour when earth's foundations fled,         They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
Followed their mercenary calling,               What God abandoned, these defended,
And took their wages, and are dead.             And saved the sum of things for pay.
     
A.E. Housman

Dubble_g

  • Corporal
  • *
  • Posts: 84
  • Keep your friends close, and your vodka closer
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #2 on: 09 March 2017, 08:49:55 »
No, I don't think any of this was deliberately put into the books. Far more likely that the same 2-3 plots have been endlessly recycled. But I thought it would be interesting to see if you could try to extract some deeper meaning ... from a series of books about big stompy robots.

Sharpnel

  • Major
  • *
  • Posts: 6363
  • Nil timere messorem
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #3 on: 09 March 2017, 10:56:03 »
Which makes sense as BT novels do fall under the category of pulp fiction.
Commander Louis Seifer, SWD-2r Swordsman, Extreme Measures, Inc.
Shizuko Lofgren, Assault Infantry Platoon, Oniwaka
Takahiro Nakajima, ASN-21CO Assasin, Crimson Oasis Trading Company
Commander Jessica Dunleavy, VTR-9BP Victor, Dunleavy's Pistoleros

It's an Omni, so I can build it into whatever I please - JHB

beachhead1985

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2461
  • 1st SOG; SLDF. "McKenna's Marauders"
    • Kilroy's Wall
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #4 on: 10 March 2017, 17:23:28 »
Well...then again...the doubles thing could be an artifact of the setting.

Consider; Stackpole wrote pretty early on and he also did most of the real court intrigue stuff. He had a lot of rope to lay out what was and was not impossible and what worked and what didn't in the BTU, but he had some guidelines.

One being Sword and Dagger.

In Sword and Dagger; the damn evil twin schtick *almost works* if it wasn't for some typical SF Adventure nonsense plot with Sortek, it would have. It's not totally out there that with this precedent, for a character in the BTU to look at that incident and think; "Hey, I'm smarter than Mad Max, I bet *I* could get it to work."

Heck; set aside realism and look at the plot; "Thomas Marik" made it work for *DECADES*.

Stackpole merely added to a foundation that makes that seem reasonable.
« Last Edit: 10 March 2017, 17:27:21 by beachhead1985 »
Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the day when heaven was falling,      Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
The hour when earth's foundations fled,         They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
Followed their mercenary calling,               What God abandoned, these defended,
And took their wages, and are dead.             And saved the sum of things for pay.
     
A.E. Housman

Dubble_g

  • Corporal
  • *
  • Posts: 84
  • Keep your friends close, and your vodka closer
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #5 on: 10 March 2017, 22:29:01 »
You're right, it's more the setting than any one specific writer. Still, just because it's pulp fiction doesn't mean there can't be more to it. I mean, look at Warhammer 40K: the creator openly said the space marines are a criticism of organized religion, but everyone ignores that in favor of chainswords!

Now in BTech's case I don't think any deeper meaning was planned, but if you look at the books as a group, you can make out some points they seem to be making subconsciously.

beachhead1985

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2461
  • 1st SOG; SLDF. "McKenna's Marauders"
    • Kilroy's Wall
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #6 on: 13 March 2017, 09:44:46 »
I think it's certainly possible, but is there any way we can know for *sure* what the author intended?
Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the day when heaven was falling,      Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
The hour when earth's foundations fled,         They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
Followed their mercenary calling,               What God abandoned, these defended,
And took their wages, and are dead.             And saved the sum of things for pay.
     
A.E. Housman

Lt_Jam

  • Recruit
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #7 on: 02 April 2017, 11:20:17 »
Like a certified mechanic witnessing a bunch of teenagers pounding on a Ferrari at a Jiffy Lube, as a near PhD in literature I have to weigh in.  This is the worst discussion of literary criticism I've seen in years.  Let the yelling begin.

beachhead1985

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2461
  • 1st SOG; SLDF. "McKenna's Marauders"
    • Kilroy's Wall
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #8 on: 02 April 2017, 17:55:17 »
Like a certified mechanic witnessing a bunch of teenagers pounding on a Ferrari at a Jiffy Lube, as a near PhD in literature I have to weigh in.  This is the worst discussion of literary criticism I've seen in years.  Let the yelling begin.

Well, I for one would love to hear what you think; even as I hammer this prybar into the side of the battery WHICH IS STUCK! So go right ahead.
Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the day when heaven was falling,      Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
The hour when earth's foundations fled,         They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
Followed their mercenary calling,               What God abandoned, these defended,
And took their wages, and are dead.             And saved the sum of things for pay.
     
A.E. Housman

Dubble_g

  • Corporal
  • *
  • Posts: 84
  • Keep your friends close, and your vodka closer
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #9 on: 02 April 2017, 23:24:58 »
You know what this thread needs? Someone to completely miss the evident tongue in cheek tone and come in with an "actually..."

skiltao

  • Warrant Officer
  • *
  • Posts: 774
    • SkilTao's Gaming Blog
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #10 on: 15 April 2017, 23:14:54 »
The Capellan Confederation is betrayed a record three times in the space of two years: Pavel Ridzik and the Tikonov Republic, the Northwind Highlanders, Candace Liao and the St. Ives Compact.

I think the old House Liao book mentions that Capellan loyalties aren't straightforward. Specifically, that Capellans are expected to be loyal to caste, commonality and Confederation, but that these loyalties often conflict; and I seem to recall that Tikonov, the Northwind Highlanders, and St Ives all seceded not because of their own disloyalty but because they perceived disloyalty (in one way or another) from the Chancellor.

Quote
Stackpole's thesis I believe is this: One's personal identity, one's sense of self, is an artificial construction with no grounding in reality. Happiness is therefore found not by realizing one's "true" self (because no such thing exists), but by assuming an identity pleasing to those around you.

Hanse Davion himself personally refutes your thesis in his final message to Maximillian Liao. ;)

I think you're right that there's something going on with identity, though. Morgan Kell pulling out that verigraphed "deny Morgan Kell nothing" note, Yorinaga being recognized by how his Warhammer moves, Justin Xiang/Allard being half-Capellan, Clovis...

Interesting approach! It may be possible to extract a deeper meaning, but if it is, I'm not up to it right now.
History of BattleTech: Handy chart for returning players. (last updated end of 2012)
Blog: currently working out BattleMech manufacturing rates. New secret project will resume eventually.

Dubble_g

  • Corporal
  • *
  • Posts: 84
  • Keep your friends close, and your vodka closer
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #11 on: 20 April 2017, 09:50:18 »
Quote
Hanse Davion himself personally refutes your thesis in his final message to Maximillian Liao.

Well he's dead now so who cares what he thinks?

Kit deSummersville

  • Precentor of Lies
  • Freelance Writer
  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7630
  • The epicness continues!
    • Insights and Complaints on Twitter
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #12 on: 21 April 2017, 10:11:46 »
Well he's dead now so who cares what he thinks?

Well, he's born centuries after you die so I think he gets the last word.  #P
Looking for an official answer? Check the Catalyst Interaction Forums.

Freelancer for hire, not an official CGL or IMR representative.

Everyone else's job is easy, so tell them how to do it, everyone loves that!

Jaim Magnus

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 6974
  • Assisting your enemies and you equally.
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #13 on: 21 April 2017, 15:51:49 »
Well, he's born centuries after you die so I think he gets the last word.  #P

Also, he's, you know, fictional.   :o


BattleCorps Author: Righteous Fury, Sorrow of Eden, Lady of Steel, I Was Lost, Forsaken

Kit deSummersville

  • Precentor of Lies
  • Freelance Writer
  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7630
  • The epicness continues!
    • Insights and Complaints on Twitter
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #14 on: 21 April 2017, 15:53:52 »
Also, he's, you know, fictional.   :o

Shhhh! Don't let him know. :-X
Looking for an official answer? Check the Catalyst Interaction Forums.

Freelancer for hire, not an official CGL or IMR representative.

Everyone else's job is easy, so tell them how to do it, everyone loves that!

beachhead1985

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2461
  • 1st SOG; SLDF. "McKenna's Marauders"
    • Kilroy's Wall
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #15 on: 21 April 2017, 18:19:14 »
Also, he's, you know, fictional.   :o

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! :D
Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the day when heaven was falling,      Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
The hour when earth's foundations fled,         They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
Followed their mercenary calling,               What God abandoned, these defended,
And took their wages, and are dead.             And saved the sum of things for pay.
     
A.E. Housman

Diamondshark

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1231
  • Bringing back the enlightenment to the Star League
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #16 on: 21 April 2017, 21:57:09 »
You know what this thread needs? Someone to completely miss the evident tongue in cheek tone and come in with an "actually..."

actually...  :D

Hmm, it's an interesting concept; that being said, that sort of thing makes my brain hurt, so I have nothing real to contribute--I just had to be that guy  :P
"We are the Clans, the Star League incarnate.
None can stand against us and survive."

-- The Remembrance, Passage 272, Verse 8, Lines 18-19

Dubble_g

  • Corporal
  • *
  • Posts: 84
  • Keep your friends close, and your vodka closer
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #17 on: 22 April 2017, 01:45:07 »
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! :D

Do not listen to the their lies. Hanse Davion is alive and well. Or was. Up until the ol' ticker stopped, y'know, ticking.

Dubble_g

  • Corporal
  • *
  • Posts: 84
  • Keep your friends close, and your vodka closer
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #18 on: 22 April 2017, 01:47:29 »
Shhhh! Don't let him know. :-X

Never fear brother. I too cannot detect sarcasm.

Dubble_g

  • Corporal
  • *
  • Posts: 84
  • Keep your friends close, and your vodka closer
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #19 on: 22 April 2017, 02:04:41 »
actually...  :D

Hmm, it's an interesting concept; that being said, that sort of thing makes my brain hurt, so I have nothing real to contribute--I just had to be that guy  :P

Guess I'm disappointed nobody picked up on the (to me) obvious joking tone. I was hoping people might share their own crazy ideas about what BattleTech is "really" about...

Kit deSummersville

  • Precentor of Lies
  • Freelance Writer
  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7630
  • The epicness continues!
    • Insights and Complaints on Twitter
Re: Re-evaluating Stackpole: Personal identity in the modern age
« Reply #20 on: 24 April 2017, 14:48:42 »
Never fear brother. I too cannot detect sarcasm.

No, I meant don't let Hanse know. He might have a heart attack. Waaaait a minute....
Looking for an official answer? Check the Catalyst Interaction Forums.

Freelancer for hire, not an official CGL or IMR representative.

Everyone else's job is easy, so tell them how to do it, everyone loves that!