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Author Topic: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris  (Read 2500 times)

Grey

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Ok, a few notes here.
First off sorry for the delay, part of it was because this turned out to be a bigger, more complex character than I expected, and I had anticipated quite a bit of complexity, and part of it is some personal issues, hopefully now covered for the most part.
Secondly this is another article I'm posting knowing that I haven't covered absolutely everything in detail, I've covered the most important aspects in relation to the character, specifics are open for debate and I hope people are happy with that. If not I'll add it to the list of adjustments to make.
Finally, if people are satisfied, and the balance of feedback I've received so far is that most people are, I'll drop the "Provisional" and start doing this, for lack of a better term, "Live".
Not sure who to do next, I'll see what the feedback is, and I might even throw it open to suggestion. But I think that since one of the problems has been the size of characters in the provisional articles so far I might go for someone smaller.
At any rate I hope people enjoy this. :)

Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
Who: Stefan Ukris Amaris, aka The Usurper
What: President of the Rim Worlds Republic
   Emperor of the Star League/Amaris Empire
   21st Director-General of the Terran Hegemony
When: 28 August 2717 – 29 October 2779
Weapon of Choice: Interesting question

Considered the definition of evil, the bar to which all other villainous characters are measured in the Battletech Universe Stefan Amaris is certainly a crux point for the grand historical events of the setting, representing a major factor in the consequence of the founding of the Star League and it’s of the Periphery, leading eventually to the Blakist Jihad and events beyond.

Like Aleksandr he is a plot device character, the obvious enemy, the face of the foe, the opposite side of the coin from the good general in the Fall of the Star League, in effect; the reason it all went down.

And like Aleksandr he is, for a very long time, glossed over as a character for much the same reason: he adds flavour to the universe and setting, he doesn’t need to be a fully developed identity, he just needs to have existed and done what he did.

Ok, I’ll say it right off the bat: Amaris is Space Hitler.

There are a lot of reasons for this from a writing perspective, chief among them is WWII is the largest modern war in history and at the birth of Battletech was still recent enough to sit on the common historical psyche. Basically it was an easy reference point to start with for what the Star League Civil War would look like.

Another reason is that in order to bring down a massive stellar empire with the then reputation of being all that was good and noble about humanity, its absolute zenith, then whoever did it had to be the absolute worst ever. By current common reckoning that is Hitler, thus Amaris is framed as taking many of the same attitudes, actions and mimicking many of the same events and decisions.

It can seem like lazy writing, and as the internet argument reduction ad Hitlerum shows it can be lazy thinking, but given the conditions what are the alternatives? Space Genghis Khan? He shares the look but Genghis, while having a blood thirsty reputation, wasn’t particularly interested in running an empire, and is used much later on. Space Napoleon? Napoleon for all his pros and cons was an empire builder, much the opposite of Amaris. Rome wasn’t taken down by a single person or event, few empires have been and made for obscure models to follow.

And that’s the key really, Amaris is Hitler because it’s an established pattern. When the details were sparse about the fall of the Star League, details that have only been filled in recently, it was easier to paint Amaris as evil by having him follow the same patterns as an established evil.

Genocide, mass murder, torture, crimes against humanity, all sounding very Nazi Germany right down to a unit called the Greenhaven Gestapo, throw in WMD and you have a clear picture that this Amaris guy who brought down the golden Star League was evil.

Therefore Kerensky was good and as bad as they are the various Successor Lords were at least not that. Simple picture, simple story, all that was needed to set the tone of What Came Before and let people get on with the game in the here and now.

And now, with a more detailed look at events? It still follows WWII in part because that’s the established pattern and it’s easier to grow from that. Also, again, it’s the only large scale modern conflict the writers and developers can borrow from to take cues and help keep things believable. So as we find out more rather than becoming less like Hitler we see more similarities such as hiding out in a bunker going mad, ordering around units that don’t exist, and to be quite honest I’m not the first to observe this so we’ll leave it there.

There are notable differences though, and through these comes a richer character.

Amaris was a villain, but not so black and white. His motivation was, well, not entirely his own. It isn’t as if he climbed out of bed and decided to be evil, he didn’t go to school and get bullied by Camerons, his mother raised him on biased tales of the Reunification War and good, loyal Gregory Amaris being betrayed by the Star League that should have simply saved him. Dripping poison in his ear is the term used.

This isn’t to say that the history on the other side wasn’t biased, but this is what set Stefan on his amazingly long term goal of toppling the Camerons, not his own choice but a matter of family history shaping his perspective.

This makes it fitting that he followed this tradition, ingratiating himself with Richard by pandering to the boy’s loneliness and vanity, again dripping poison in a child’s ear, eventually turning a spoilt, unbalanced youth into a petulant sociopathic man-child.

At the same time he did not create the situation that was leading to the downfall of the Star League, he simply took advantage of the situation. Between the House Lords, the simmering Periphery and Richard Cameron there were clear signs that the League was in decline. It was not inevitable, however it was an existing situation that suited Amaris. He would have taken advantage of whatever situation existed to his own benefit and to forward his goals, but he does not bear sole responsibility for the Fall of the Star League.

Motivation is key, it makes him less outright evil and more a tool of history, that is the sort of character he needs to be as that is his role in the Battletech series.

Still, he had a choice, and in the end this motivation combined with ambition leads him on a path that destroys an empire.

Was he mad? Interesting question, some of the recent material show his mental condition deteriorating as the war went against him, however that’s not presented as a pre-existing condition, more as stress and a whole host of other things pressing down and breaking a human mind.

Calling Amaris mad also avoids the evil question, a mad person can’t be expected to operate according to normal morality, while an evil person deliberately operates in opposition to normal morality.

Madness could be argued based on simply the attempt of overthrowing the Camerons. I mean what sort of endgame would a man with the public image of a backwoods bumpkin have upon launching a coup? Did he want to start a dynasty, launch massive reforms, rearrange the calendar?

Returning to motivations for a moment one gets the feeling he didn’t really have much of a long term plan, that he ran out of steam. He planned on taking over, he knew Kerensky would come for him, he may have even had plans for what happened when he won, but we have no idea because all his stated goals were met once Richard was dead. He quite literally is written into a corner that ends with his defeat and death.

It’s entirely possible that he wanted to build the greatest state ever, under his name of course, and used a very specific set of statistical data, namely production quotas, to measure success.

None of this dismisses the madness assumption, nor does it necessarily support it. From a certain point of view Ian Cameron comes across as insane for attempting the Star League, and that was before starting a war to achieve it according to his scope.

What is the answer? I don’t think we’re supposed to know, as readers or in universe characters. This is one of those points where the two perspectives merge, there is very little written from Amaris’ perspective, so the reader is as limited in their access to Amaris’ mind as anyone in the setting.

From this place of unknowing we are presented with two options: either evil exists and it is human, or madness in one person is quite capable of toppling the mightiest of constructs.

Neither is comfortable, and each has appeal over the other, hence we’re not supposed to know so we can choose whichever we find preferable, just as a character in the setting would.

And thus that bar too has been set for all other villainous characters in the setting.

More to the point, whatever the answer, it doesn’t change what’s happened. In a fashion Amaris succeeded, he destroyed the Cameron dynasty, though the fall of the Star League, the exile of the SLDF were probably not among his designs, and the supreme power he sought was just beyond his reach, crazy, sane, mad, visionary, none of this changes the results.

Unlike a lot of characters Amaris is difficult to quantify in terms of his weapon of choice. The only actual weapon we see him with is the fateful bejewelled laser pistol, and he uses that as a method of execution, not combat.

In many respects the army he commands is a weapon he wields, in another parallel to Aleksandr Kerensky, and it is largely used as a blunt force object against even the smallest of civilian targets. However, ineptness aside, this shows that Amaris uses his army as a tool rather than a weapon in the strictest sense. It is still a military force but is also applied against any problem Amaris thinks can be solved by force.

We don’t see Amaris in a ‘Mech, he does not appear to have received military training, it would be easy to class him as a political character (and therefore evil according to the dictates of the setting) but he uses politics in much the same way as his military.

Don’t get me wrong, he is a skilled political operator, and certainly uses politics to his advantage, but as a character this is not the weapon to associate with him.

It’s more accurate to call Amaris a high order manipulator of people. He understands them, their wants and needs, and plays to them. This may sound like a political operator, but he is far too personal with his machinations. He does use politics, the situation in the Periphery comes to mind, to his advantage, but it is only the first lever. He goes about winning over the various leaders, pandering to their wants, feeding their needs by manipulation.

For example, Katherine Steiner-Davion, wanting someone to move in a particular way, would offer the possibility of support or some other gain, dangling it really, and would balance that against the gains or losses of someone else. Amaris would turn up with exactly what someone wanted, smile, and expect nothing in return because serving their want met his needs, meaning he loses nothing, never has to make a trade, and looks completely unpolitical (if not foolish) in the process, which also serves his long term goals as no one expects a grinning fool doing exactly what you want him to do as a threat.

Look at his first steps in taking over the Star League: He doesn’t horse trade his way into position, he walks up as a good subordinate head of state and presents a gift he knows will intrigue the boy, a conclusion he came to after long study. No middle men, no wheeling and dealing, that comes later once he has a position won entirely by serving the emotional needs of a petulant brat.

Once in charge of the Terran Hegemony he plays the same game, having put his appointees in place the politics of taking over the Terran Hegemony become utterly irrelevant. Enough people want, or at least don’t care, that he’s there and too few oppose him. Those that do aren’t dealt with politically.

No, political tricks tailored to personalities of the powerful until they are so closely bound to him they either support him in the hope of gaining or breaking even or lose everything, that was Amaris’ main weapon.

This is somewhat unique in Battletech as characters tend to be military or political in their actions. Sometimes a combination of both, and the political are mostly villainous while the military are generally if not heroic at least honourable in their way. Unfortunately neither military nor political will work for Amaris. He can’t physically conquer the Terran Hegemony, nor will political machinations work with the image he built up to ingratiate himself with Richard Cameron. So what we wind up with, fortunately, is something different, an out of context threat considering the setting.

It also marks his differentness from Kerensky. On the one hand the General is a skilled military man, cares about his troops and civilians and believes in honour and duty. Amaris is politically skilled, militarily blunt, has influence over Richard where Kerensky has none because he understands people, and would gladly see every human being burn if he could rule undisputed over a splendid pile of ashes.

It should be noted that most other historical characters, the Kerenskys, the Camerons and even the House Lords, are receiving deconstructions. The simplistic background histories have been fleshed out and we find that none of them are quite as good or villainous as initially painted.

Can the reverse be said of Stefan Amaris? Can he be deconstructed as less evil?

Not really.

Part of this is the fault of deconstructing Aleksandr Kerensky from the shining paragon to a decent man doing the best he can against a horrific foe with a limited skill set, which means that however bad Kerensky is Amaris must be worse.

Another part is the irredeemable reputation Amaris has. It doesn’t matter how many kittens he pats, puppies he rescues from shelters or if he was kind to a secretary, none of those match or outweigh the mass murders, exterminations, unremitting war or suffering he directly, remorselessly caused, or what he indirectly caused by starting the destruction of the Star League. Any good about him becomes the quirk of a villainous dictator, not a characteristic.

However while he cannot be deconstructed it is perfectly feasible to add depth through the same process. We now have a picture of Stefan Amaris, would be Emperor, that is deeper than before. It’s not terribly surprising but it does present him as more of a human being than a historical fact.

Kotetsu

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #1 on: 09 March 2015, 08:52:58 »
Nice article.

To continue the Hitler comparisons, I have noted that Amaris seems to have also gained Hitler's fascination with super-weapons. And in many ways, also their overall effectiveness.

SteelRaven

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #2 on: 09 March 2015, 12:42:20 »
Is it to early to say Space-Saddam? ;D

Stefan Amaris shares traits many megalomaniacs, they see themselves as men of destiny with little regard for other human beings.

       
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Redshirt

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #3 on: 09 March 2015, 15:34:29 »
Is it to early to say Space-Saddam? ;D

Stefan Amaris shares traits many megalomaniacs, they see themselves as men of destiny with little regard for other human beings.

       

Or better yet, Space Stalin...
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Wrangler

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #4 on: 09 March 2015, 16:45:54 »
I have to agree, with new additional material that has been published (Historical: Liberation of Terra 1 and 2), he seems to have been in category of megalomaniac along with other bad influences and indifferent to fellow humans beings and citizens.  Heck, the man named a Battleship Class after himself and his relatives.

His people in the Republic were under his family's iron thumb, until the liberation by Kerensky.  However, once they left, without a strong presence to allow the Republic bring about more stabilized government,  Lyrans stomped over them in land grab. Amaris may been many things horrible, but he kept the lights on and JumpShips arriving on time.

His Amaris's family was bunch of loons from the old Star League house book from the ambassador from Terran Hegemony, who she influenced widow lady President to give the republic to her.  A Foreigner no less! 

Stefen manage convince Periphery leaders that they had a mission to  break the bonds of the League and free themselves if they worked with him.

He managed to fool the Hegemony, making them believe he was a better choice than Richard after a military coup and the massacre of most of the Camerons.

He was good political operator, slimy personality, but poor military leader, in end poster child of all things bad with leaders.

P.S. I like how they have pictures of Stefen that make him look like chubby Genghis Khan.

« Last Edit: 10 March 2015, 07:40:40 by Wrangler »
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TigerShark

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #5 on: 09 March 2015, 16:55:52 »
Still my "faction of choice," Stefan Amaris being seen as 'evil' or not. :)
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  "You will fight to the last soldier, and when you die, I will call upon your damned soul to speak horrible curses at the enemy."
     - Orders of Emperor Stefan Amaris to his troops

Maingunnery

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #6 on: 09 March 2015, 18:28:13 »
He was good political operator, slimy personality, but poor military leader, in end poster child of all things bad with in leaders.
Good summary. He made some horrible military decisions, like betraying his periphery allies, trying to make super weapons, and many more.
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TigerShark

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #7 on: 09 March 2015, 19:53:20 »
Good summary. He made some horrible military decisions, like betraying his periphery allies, trying to make super weapons, and many more.

It wasn't a poor military decision. He attempted to tie up the SLDF with the Periphery nations for another few months/years while preparing the Imperial defenses. I'm sure he had some inkling Kerensky would refuse (rather, a strong inclination), but that also put the war guilt on the SLDF for propaganda purposes.
 
As far as the public knew, the Periphery conflict was a series of terrorist actions being put down by the SLDF. To say "cease all operations" makes it seem like the Territorial States were attempting a coup. This way, a trusted figure who'd been seen at Richard's side could be seen as doing what's best for the League, rather than for the Periphery. Considering the amount of Patriot volunteers they received, I'd say this did its job.
 
Frankly, if the SLDF fleet hadn't devised a series of jammers and countermeasures for the drone ships, they'd have fought to a stalemate. With 5-to-1 odds. I'd say Amaris and Scoffins did a much better job at attrition than Kerensky had done, considering it took 11 years to finish the war. Most of the SLDF's tactics seemed to involve the assumption of overwhelming numbers and firepower. When they didn't have the advantage (aka, the Coup), they got slapped.
  W W W . M E K W A R S - D O M I N I O N . C O M

  "You will fight to the last soldier, and when you die, I will call upon your damned soul to speak horrible curses at the enemy."
     - Orders of Emperor Stefan Amaris to his troops

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #8 on: 09 March 2015, 21:13:55 »
He has a Twitter feed but hasn't said much lately.
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Avitue

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #9 on: 10 March 2015, 01:16:04 »
I have to agree, with new additional material that has been published (Historical: Liberation of Terra 1 and 2), he seems to have been in category of megalomaniac along with other bad influences and indifferent to fellow humans beings and citizens.  Heck, the man named a Battleship Class after himself and his relatives.


Naming a battleship class after yourself isn't really anything unusual in Battletech though.

Heck, the Star League did it ahead of him.

*Points to the Cameron-class and McKenna-class ships*

Maelwys

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #10 on: 10 March 2015, 01:32:16 »
Of course, the big difference is that the McKenna's and Cameron classes are named for the family (theoretically). The Stefan Amaris-class is named specifically after a specific person. Slightly more narcissistic. :)

Grey

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #11 on: 10 March 2015, 04:21:23 »
Wonderwaffen aren't a sign of poor decision making, they're a sign of desperation, one of the reasons it was trotted out when WoB started losing badly, particularly on Terra (also trotted out to show off the new toys for the game).

That battleship though, yeah, that was too obvious to cover. Had it just been an Amaris class then it would be different, it's what these sorts of rulers do, appeal to history, stroke their egos by proxy. Honestly I'm surprised there aren't more references to him erecting garish monuments to himself rather than just destroying monuments to others.

marauder648

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #12 on: 11 March 2015, 03:27:54 »
A great write up on a far more complicated than he first appeared character :) Thank you for doing this.
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TigerShark

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #13 on: 11 March 2015, 12:05:37 »
Wonderwaffen aren't a sign of poor decision making, they're a sign of desperation, one of the reasons it was trotted out when WoB started losing badly, particularly on Terra (also trotted out to show off the new toys for the game).

That battleship though, yeah, that was too obvious to cover. Had it just been an Amaris class then it would be different, it's what these sorts of rulers do, appeal to history, stroke their egos by proxy. Honestly I'm surprised there aren't more references to him erecting garish monuments to himself rather than just destroying monuments to others.

That isn't really a sign of ego mania, any more than the USS Ronald Reagan was a sign of ego when the former-President was still alive. Ships are generally named after a person, including several unique or upgraded design features. If successful, the ship becomes a class of its own ('Reagan' class Carrier). If the Amaris family had lived on, it's likely these ships could have been referred to as the 'Amaris class'.
  W W W . M E K W A R S - D O M I N I O N . C O M

  "You will fight to the last soldier, and when you die, I will call upon your damned soul to speak horrible curses at the enemy."
     - Orders of Emperor Stefan Amaris to his troops

Grey

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Stefan Amaris
« Reply #14 on: 11 March 2015, 17:36:18 »
I think there are a couple of differences, one being that it was commented on at the time as being unusual to name a ship after a still living person, and the big one is that it wasn't decided by Regan himself to build a new class of ship and name it after himself, what you're describing is more of an organic evolution and development of a new class. But yes, it could very well have become the Amaris Class over time if it weren't for the unfortunateness.

 

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