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Author Topic: Character Study of the Week: Ian Cameron  (Read 2160 times)


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Character Study of the Week: Ian Cameron
« on: 15 August 2016, 06:15:14 »
Who: Ian Cameron
What: 13th Director General of the Terran Hegemony
   1st First Lord of the Star League
When: 2 August 2514 – 24 August 2602
Weapon of Choice: Politics
         Albert Marik
         The biggest freakin’ army humanity had at the time
         Anything and everything that could and would get the job done

First Lord of the Star League. While it has become a petty title that five states have squabbled over for centuries in the beginning it meant something. A lot of somethings.

Ruler, leader, conqueror, unifier, a great many fair and foul things, all started by one man with ambition.

Ian is a complex character, quite the feat for someone who has never actually featured in a story, and is realistically a supporting character in events at best. More on that in a moment.

The reason for the complexity really does boil down to the founding of the Star League. It started innocently enough, with deal brokering and the rare attempt to bring about peace in the BattleTech universe that wasn’t doomed to failure from the beginning.

It got kind of dirty from there, requiring political arm twisting, economic underhandedness and a few little lies in order to get all six major states on board. Bringing in the Periphery required one of the dirtiest, lopsided and overdrawn wars in human history.

All to build the largest empire humanity knew, that was largely open and peaceful in purpose, corruption seeping in as an unintended consequence.

A sequence of events that is almost nothing but conditionals, hence the complexity in Ian Cameron.

The thing is he can’t be ‘good’, he starts a war, sweeps away a democracy, tepid as it was, ushers in a monarchy, cements pre-existing power structures even when overtly malevolent towards others out of pragmatism and expediency, signs off on war crimes, crimes against humanity, crushes opposition ruthlessly and all in the name of building an empire.

Yet at the same time he’s not an outright villain. Ian doesn’t want to hurt, crush, kill or destroy anyone. He wants to bind everyone together in his vision of the future, and it’s hard to sell that as intrinsically good, but from his own perspective, and the perspective of many others, he’s doing so for fairly benevolent reasons, believing that doing so will bind humanity together in peace. That a war must first be fought, dirtily and devastating, is an unhappy side effect.

That reality intervenes and the Star League turns out to be less peaceful than hoped is not Ian’s fault.

So he’s a very mixed individual with good points, bad points and it’s hard to judge him as a whole because what he achieved is so vast in scope that it’s difficult to fully comprehend. Equally so are the lengths Ian went to in the process.

Can someone so important to the setting be just a supporting character though? Surely given the impact he has he must have a stature within fiction commiserate with this stature?


Seriously. Supporting characters can be just as important as main characters, even if they do nothing but exist, and Ian does more than that.

The reason a character is supporting is because they do not directly drive main events. Ian is a trigger, a reason for and source of major events, but in resource books and background materials. To date he has not featured as a main character in major fiction, and likely never will. This is in part due to his stature and the nature of BattleTech fiction. At this stage the latter is military pulp fiction, Ian is a political figure, particularly in building the Star League, a different nature of writing.

And again it’s a matter of scale. This is the guy who comes to rule all of humanity. How do you write someone like that? How do you humanise genocide for the purpose of creating a better world for the survivors?

Even taking the ‘he is just one man’ approach the events surrounding the First Lord require an equally vast character or else risk becoming a disappointment or too bland for readers, expecting more, to believe. It’s doable, sure, but the odds are against any author attempting it.

And should we see such a character so intimately? This is a question of creation, a little outside the scope of the article, but let’s just say that some of the most effective characters *cough* Thrawn *cough* in literature can be the ones who’s perspective you don’t see, who are only described in small doses, and by others at that.

So we are given Ian Cameron in small, manageable bites. The big sweeping events are easy, that’s simple history for the setting, the personal stuff that humanises him is injected via the side, his romance with Shandra Noruff being a prime example.

Even with these two approaches, the broad historical strokes and the small personal daubs, there are more than enough gaps to invite speculation, perfect for any sort of gaming condition. Yet another reason not to describe the character too tightly, lest he be painted into a corner.

You may wonder why I list his weapons as such instead of just saying “Anything and everything”. Partly it’s a writing stunt, but it’s also a way to understand the character.

Initially Ian was nothing more than a historical figure, and a thinly painted one at that. Points of depth regarding his personality were sprinkled around, but by and large his history was outlined as being that of the founder of the grand and glorious Star League. He used a few tricks, fought a war, forged an empire and greatness followed.

It’s only slowly, over time, much like the list, that we find out exactly who and what he used, how and why.

Forcing economic woe upon the Federated Suns as they tried to rebuild, rather than just offering more help and slowly building things, would be the most easily identified trick Ian used. The proud Davions at the time may have refused his initial offers, but it wasn’t his first dirty play, and is similar to his manipulations against Liao, to say nothing of the underhandedness of the largely mutually exclusive treaties to get the Suns and Combine to join.

And most of this was achieved with the help of Albert Marik, who still manages to come across as something of a saint in the histories. Ian is tarnished by the war, Albert, it is written, would have tried harder to avoid it. Being dead helps his reputation to boot.

The thing is Ian was a builder as much as a conqueror. True he did instigate a massive war, he arguably had good intentions, and he did try every diplomatic trick, clean and dirty, he could, before finally resorting to war.

This doesn’t excuse anything, the latest materials are more honest about this than the earlier ones which tend to gloss over the fact that the great, glorious, peaceful Star League era started with bloody conflict. But it’s not about justification, it’s about reason.

I’ve said before that the fiction and particularly sourcebooks are all about giving us an in-universe reason to play the game: that is stomp around in big metal machines.

Had the Star League truly been a thing of its ideals then it would have peacefully absorbed the Periphery in a century or so, or some such.

Where’s the big stompy machines in that?

Aside from the founding it also meant that the Amaris coup, the Succession Wars, the Clans, and, well, everything else, wouldn’t have happened (or would have just in a different way) but again this is about giving a reason for big stompy machines to smash each other. Why make that hard?

So the Star League is founded on expediency, both within the setting and from a game perspective.

What was Ian Cameron as a result? Hero? Villain? Visionary or megalomaniac? All of the above is the uncomfortable answer.
Realistically it’s what someone like Ian Cameron should always be: too complicated to easily describe. One does not build an empire without being ambitious, and when ambitions are thwarted the reaction is rarely pleasant.

At the same time he wanted a grand, peaceful, prosperous empire, so there’s a hint of altruism to him.

Good, bad, these are labels you place on him depending on your own position. Ian Cameron just went out and built his dream with the tools he could find.


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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ian Cameron
« Reply #1 on: 19 August 2016, 05:30:50 »
Ian is an interesting contrast, it depends on who you're asking on what he was.  Ask a Terran and he's a hero, ask a Taurian and they'd probably punch you in the face.  As you said, tyrant, savior, visionary, dictator, he's all of the above and more.  But when you're the leader of a 500 LY circle of human space, you've kind of got to be. Especially with the vipers pit of the house lords waiting for you to turn your back to apply a dagger to exposed kidneys.  Still he was better than Richard II. 
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ian Cameron
« Reply #2 on: 22 August 2016, 07:33:30 »
Given how the original source books were written, like the Star League sourcebook.  This momentum to build the Star League started with Ian's mother, Deborah.  She began Hegemony's diplomatic battlefront strengthen Terra's place in the universe since there were no where to go but conqueror your neighbor.  However, by the time Ian came into view, ground works for the League was at hand.  Ian raised by his mother's Aggressive Peacekeeping mentality went to town to consolidate his grip.

Ian help engineer League members to be dependent on each other. However, there was economic woes looming, that the League States needed balance out.  Thus the Periphery was truly needed.  Not only for economic reasons, but also to focus to help unite main League states, but this political angle lay down the problem of the Amaris Coupe, or least fueled the motivation behind the Periphery Uprising nudged along by Stefen Amaris.

Thanks writing this up, Grey. 
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ian Cameron
« Reply #3 on: 22 August 2016, 11:07:27 »
Ian and the Star League at large are fun exercises in reflection.  We should root for the Periphery's struggle for independence.  But, we're torn because the standard of living under the Star League for so long has been said to be better.  It goes back to the exchange of freedom for prosperity that we all face.  Plus, there is something endearing about the idea of a unified mankind, even if it goes against everything we know about the human condition.

Ian doesn't exist in a vacuum, nor does he have the excuse of being born into a movement that was already in process.  His personal relationship with Albert Marik is perhaps the most important relationship between any two characters in Battletech.  They engineered the foundations of the Star League and changed the fate of the majority of humanity forever.  So strong was their Utopian dream that Ian often gets overshadowed by Richard Cameron for being the fool that caused the dream to fail.  I find this interesting to compare to the Roman Empire, which is certainly the model on which the Star League was based.  Romulus and Remus are the Ian and Albert of Rome, but we seldom remember the last Emperors of Rome.  Perhaps this is because the decline of Rome took decades, or centuries, whereas the Star League's decline before the fall is less well documented.

Getting back to Ian, though.  I'm not able to form an opinion of him, and i think that is an encouraging thing.  If the Star League had failed to provide better standards of living or reduce interstate conflicts it would be far easier to say this was another petty empire.
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ian Cameron
« Reply #4 on: 22 August 2016, 12:17:03 »
For completeness' sake, I'll mention that Ian Cameron has a small role in the German-only novel Über dem Gesetz. It's apocryphal, of course.
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