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Author Topic: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake  (Read 1900 times)

Grey

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Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« on: 20 April 2015, 06:34:39 »
Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
Who: Jerome Blake
What:
   Star League Minister of Communications
   Prime Administrator of ComStar
When: 11 January 2739 – 15 May 2819
Weapon of Choice: none, technically

At first blush Jerome Blake is a faction founder, much like Nicholas Kerensky, having founded ComStar, the wild card faction of the Succession Wars era, leading to the reformed ComStar and Word of Blake, both dangerous factions in their own rights whose influence on the setting has been far more dramatic than he could have ever envisioned.

The reason for this is because Blake is not a faction founder, in this case Conrad Toyama is, simply because Jerome Blake, for all his intentions, never made any long term plans for ComStar that came to fruition, and while no long term organisation can claim to meet its founders original goals Jerome Blake’s goals were never honestly never a factor for any organisation claiming him as a patriarch.

Outside of neutrality his long term goals for ComStar are questionable at best, he seems to have wanted it run as a corporate entity holding stewardship over Terra until . . . even that much is speculation based on what we have. He may have honestly believed that at some point when the Successor States had beaten themselves senseless they would turn to ComStar for leadership as the last remaining bastion of knowledge. This is in line with his writings and just because those writings have been warped and misused does not mean that there isn’t a gem of truth remaining in them. But this is a passive stance, he did not want to take a deliberate hand in reducing the knowledge base of the Inner Sphere as his successors did.

Do not get me wrong, he laid groundwork and he put in effort to ensure the neutrality early on and was willing to take ruthless steps to ensure it, however he lacked any sort of vision for the future. Say what you will about Nicholas Kerensky and just how the Clans turned out by comparison he at least had goals and aims, ideas about the society he wanted to form. Blake on the other hand seemed to want to build a giant multinational corporation that would stand aloof from the warfare.

This isn’t a bad goal, however it is also limited in scope, especially when you compare it to everything Conrad Toyama did to build a legacy, which included ideas for the future of ComStar which weren’t as user friendly as most of Blake’s.

Compare Nicholas Kerensky’s founding of the Clans, he laid down laws, traditions and the concept of the breeding program. While all of these eventually evolved in different ways and he by no means considered his work complete when he died Jerome Blake did very little except establish a basic framework.

No, Jerome Blake is an icon of veneration, and a curse. You might be tempted to think the latter is a recent thing thanks to the Word of Blake, however even in older settings there are curses such as “Blake’s Blood”. Considering the nature of curse words this is, oddly, still in keeping with the nature of Blake as an icon of veneration and even wide spread respect.

Furthermore his words and writings are twisted, warped and used to promote agendas in line with whatever faction that uses those wants to. Also not unusual, again this has happened to both Kerenskys, however with Blake it is a case of utter disregard for his original thoughts that happened before the readers knew anything of the original man.

Most historical analysis shows him to be grounded, technically and scientifically minded man with no grand ambitions for reshaping the universe but has been fairly recent in terms of revelation.

If anything, given the relative shyness and his insular nature, it was probably fairly easy for Conrad Toyama to usurp his legacy for other ends.

Which is why, unusual for most founding personalities, observations about Blake have been consciously made suspect by the setting writers since the beginning. This is not a characterisation or reflection on Blake or those observers whose thoughts and writings we see, many of whom had their own agenda, this is a characterisation of the organisation ComStar, another element (among many) painting it as a secretive, obfuscating organisation, even to itself.

So while much of Aleksandr Kerensky, Nicholas Kerensky, Shiro Kurita or Lucien Davion may be wrapped up in myth Jerome Blake is walled up in outright lies thanks to what is essentially a cult trying to dominate its followers and the rest of the known universe.

Why go to this much trouble? Control of its own people first of all, building an appropriate reputation for the unwashed masses for another, both basic conspiracy cult goals.

It is easier to do both with a legend than an actual man.

Even if those in they know it’s a lie the lack of a truth makes decoding the motives of an organisation difficult. If an organisation is clearly fibbing and making itself look good so what? It’s not that uncommon and they’re offering some things to better the lives of people, so it’s assumed to be wrapped up in good PR by a good chunk of the people.

That’s within the setting, one perspective at least, from the outside, and for more than a few within, it adds to the sinister nature of the organisation. They’re clearly keeping secrets, even from themselves, how can they not be up to something suspect?

This also provides subject matter for all manner of plot twists, from the obvious conspiracies, even as we the readers know that a good number of which have come to pass or within the setting have been discovered as true, to the more open ones, such as the schism and eventual Jihad.

If this makes Jerome Blake sound like a poor dumb schlub whose image and legacy was used by far more ruthless people then that’s because it’s what the setting implies. Clearly he had to be more than that, from the histories he’s well known as an able and brilliant scientist, the operations to seize Terra, while far smaller in scope than his original plan to take a chunk of the Terran Hegemony, was still of a grand scale considering he had at least six other factions of troops to contend with on the world, and he still built up and managed an international stellar organisation and personally negotiated with House Lords to ensure that neutrality.

Was Jerome Blake naïve? Only by comparison, he was never a people person and probably chose subordinates based on skills and could not really factor in ambitions and personalities. And because he was not the original architect of what ComStar would become he had to be written as such.

This also permits the option of redemption, less so of Blake in terms of his reputation, but more for, well, one faction, of his organisation. With the schism it can be seen, in and out of the setting, that Blake was just a very intelligent man whose creation got away from him. Internally ComStar probably spinned this a bit even as they admitted to much of the wrongdoing, but more importantly it means that there’s another faction out there, this one a force for relative good rather than the deep, dark conspiracy mine that ComStar became, eventually leading to the Word of Blake.

Was this the only way to do it? Considering the Succession Wars ComStar actively assassinated key intellectual and technological thinkers yes, and it’s one of the joys about having an organisation’s originator so wrapped up in obvious mystery from the beginning, it means that some of the secrets can be beneficial to the character if they need to be viewed in a more positive light.

Was it necessary to have this faction to begin with? It’s a game of constant warfare between five antagonistic factions with a sixth stirring the pot, so on a basic level it adds flavour. It’s a vast source of conspiracy, motive, misinformation and a vast source of power that is either untapped, unattainable or being used by who the hell knows what kind of people, so in a fluff text or expanded universe setting it is quite a contribution.

While this could have been done in a much more straight forward manner it is fully in keeping with the nature of the organisation to have it done in this manner, so Jerome Blake is fated to be a plot device, a starting point, an icon, but not a fully realised character.

For all we have learned of late Jerome Blake himself is still something of a mystery, the better to tease more mystery from, and quite frankly because the convoluted nature of the organisations he has spawned. And sadly, Jerome Blake the man really doesn’t matter in the slightest as his creations have grown so far beyond him.

Caedis Animus

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #1 on: 21 April 2015, 08:03:28 »
Wow, nobody has responded yet? Odd.

I've always wondered what would have happened if Comstar followed Blake's original writings; Would it exist? Would the IS be routed or more prepared for the Clans? Would the Gray Death Legion still exist?
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False Son

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #2 on: 21 April 2015, 10:44:50 »
Wow, nobody has responded yet? Odd.

Perhaps because this article, by nature of the subject deals with fewer facts than others.  People like facts.  Jerome Blake is a guy with dubious factual credentials.  Grey points that out.  What we know about Blake might be what someone else wants us to know.  What we don't know about Blake might also be what someone else wants us to not know.  An organization as pervasive as Comstar meddling in the intellectual fabric of the human species casts doubt on everything.
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noisenerd

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #3 on: 21 April 2015, 13:06:50 »
Well, don't have much to contribute to any discussion here, but I will say thanks for keeping these going!

False Son

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #4 on: 21 April 2015, 13:25:18 »
I've always wondered what would have happened if Comstar followed Blake's original writings; Would it exist? Would the IS be routed or more prepared for the Clans? Would the Gray Death Legion still exist?

What original writings are we speaking of?  His actual writings, or those supposedly produced by Focht to justify his coup?
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JadeHellbringer

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #5 on: 21 April 2015, 13:33:35 »
What original writings are we speaking of?  His actual writings, or those supposedly produced by Focht to justify his coup?

Quote
Lies! Heresy and falsehoods! The teachings of the blessed Blake were perverted by non-believ- wait, you said FOCHT's fake Blake writings? Oh. Well. Yeah, then, let's go with that. Carry on, sorry about that.
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Cyc

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #6 on: 21 April 2015, 20:57:39 »
For the most part ComStar sourcebook/Focht's version appears to match up with Victor's version from Historical: Liberation of Terra 2, but even they do not provide an end-goal for Blake, not in the same sense as Toyama's Word of Blake provides.

Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #7 on: 23 April 2015, 05:54:56 »
The unfortunate thing is I don't think we're ever going to learn much more about Jerome Blake, even Historical: Liberation if Terra 2 did little more than expand on what had already been written about him. At this point to learn anything more requires another set of revelations like the kind that kicked off the schism because that's the only way anything new can be made public about such an in setting controversial character.

It isn't bad as a plot twist and as I pointed out is pretty much the whole reason for Blake's existence, but it is a repetition of an already successful trick and therefore unlikely.

Marveryn

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #8 on: 23 April 2015, 08:58:15 »
what we do know about him is that he was skill enough that none of the house lords had an issue with giving him control of comstar.  He was the sole thing everyone agreed upon before the league evaporated.  We also know he had enough of a personality that he could gain support from ex  republic soldier after the war.  enough to take over terra without any of the houses feeling they can push him off.  So he had to be political savy to gain support from those elements.

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #9 on: 23 April 2015, 14:36:51 »
Toyama probably destroyed anything Blake may have written that didn't match up with what he had planned. Focht finding anything to back up his plan was probably more of Focht having something made than actually digging into the archives.
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Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #10 on: 23 April 2015, 18:33:58 »
I doubt it simply because Focht just doesn't have that level of conspiracy in hi, but I do find the idea that Blake's more moderate, technical or less "Blakeist" writings are just as faked to be an interesting idea, and entirely plausible. Leads down some interesting roads but unfortunately it just shrouds Jerome Blake himself in another layer of mystery. Then again there are so many layers there I'm not sure it makes much difference.

Nightsong

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #11 on: 24 April 2015, 05:22:13 »
Get a fun mental image that is pretty much Interstellar Players-level conspiracy theory based on the last couple posts. Blake was just some petty bureaucritter who happened to be the proverbial late night worker when the Star League turned off the lights. Everything Toyama ever said about Blake is just establishing a mystique, and/or a potential fall guy if the whole techcult thing crashed and burnt. And like a particular organization which ComStar pre-reforms resembles, what started as a con ballooned into a cult that bought into the mystique hook line and sinker, and had the firepower (read HPG monopoly) to ram it down everyone's throats.

On the Other hand, with the interpretation that Focht dummied up his own Blake books, it was an attempt to demystify the whole thing, make ComStar more palatable to the Sphere, and get rid of the more odious parts of the 'Blakist' dogma. But again, this is just an interpretation, albeit an amusing one.

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Jerome Blake
« Reply #12 on: 01 May 2015, 19:09:22 »
To answer the question of whether ComStar had to be the way it was, the answer is "Yes".

Battletech, like the Foundation series, borrowed heavily from the fall of the Roman Empire for its initial setting, with FASA presenting the Inner Sphere of the Third Succession War as a kind of medieval/dark ages period where the Houses were hereditary aristocratic powers, and ComStar as the church in the center that's ostensibly neutral, but in truth plays their own games of kingsmanship behind the scenes.
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