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Author Topic: Heroes in BattleTech books  (Read 1646 times)

Dubble_g

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Heroes in BattleTech books
« on: 12 March 2017, 07:39:15 »
Let's start with the idea that fictional heroes generally come in two flavors: heroes born to it, because of fate or prophecy or just good genetics; and regular Joes who become heroes by accident rather than design.

Examples of the former: Avengers, Wolverine or other superheroes, Halo's Master Chief, King Arthur and Lancelot.
Of the latter: Die Hard's John McClane, Mass Effect's John Shepard, the hobbits in Lord of the Rings.

In that context, where do the heroes in BattleTech fall?

In Stackpole, it's heavily the former. Justin Xiang or Morgan Kell are naturally great at all they do. Their children, as the sons of great men, are also great. The whole idea of the Clan eugenics program suggests genetics plays a bigger role than hard work and determination.

In Charette, it's more the latter. Minobu Tetsuhara or Dechan Fraser earn their hero status through blood, sweat and tears. Even Theodore Kurita comes to wisdom slowly, through many false starts.

I think Thurston also falls into the second camp. Aidan Pryde is obviously the product of genetic engineering, but we're shown Pryde struggling against that legacy rather than just coasting on the back of it.

After some thought I'll put William H Keith in this latter group too. Like Aidan Pryde, Grayson Carlyle has a lot handed to him because of his birth, but he has to earn his position for himself.

Or at least that's my reading of it. Have to think about some of the other authors.
« Last Edit: 20 April 2017, 09:26:18 by Dubble_g »
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Mendrugo

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #1 on: 12 March 2017, 10:52:44 »
One of the issues with categorizing BattleTech heroes is that different authors take very different approaches to the universe - almost to the point that some stories seem to be of different genres.

Michael Stackpole has one of the most recognizable styles - pure two-fisted pulp hero action, with strong-jawed invincible heroes who always save the day and get the girl, where the evil foemen are revealed as being both immoral and stupid, and more often than not are hoist by their own petard en route to getting annihilated by the bare-knuckled awesomeness of the heroes.  It's not genetics, so much, as it is the style of the "pulp" approach.  The heroes' only flaw is that they are too modest to fully realize how awesome they are, and often feel crippled by worry about the impact of their actions on others...because they've got heart, y'know?

By contrast, Ilsa Bick's heroes are tormented souls because they've seen too much, stared into the abyss and seen it wink back, and have some serious kinks upstairs that drive them to do what they do.  Her protagonists are often a great distance from the norms of the BattleTech universe.

Robert Charrette's heroes tend to be more deeply realized (by comparison to Stackpole's), with lots of secrets in their backstories, conflicts between duty, honor, and loyalty, and plans for the future.  Not everything they try works, but you get the sense that they're parts of a larger organization (and that those organizations are full of internal power loci competing for influence, and that the organizations themselves are locked in conflict with each other), and that they have resources they can fall back on.  They're team players, while Stackpole's heroes are mainly lone wolf superheroes (look at Xiang, for instance).

William Keith primarily focused on Grayson Carlyle and his descendants.  His heroes are often defined by their ability to keep going in the face of massive losses.  In nearly every engagement, the Legion and its allies take heavy casualties.  Grayson leaves a trail of bodies (his own side's) as they carry on their campaign.  They've had their headquarters overrun at least four times (counting the loss of the Citadel on Trell I by Carlyle's Commandos).  Grayson leads his troops into an ambush on Trell I and gets arrested, then is only able to muster a half-hearted inspirational speech to the survivors up at Thunder Rift, but still soldiers on even though hope seems lost.  The whole cadre mission on Verthandi goes belly up almost immediately, and he still manages to rally back and rebuild the resistance.  The Legion lost their landhold and transports, and were branded criminals on Helm.  They lost Glengarry to Free Skye.  The monorail disaster on Hesperus shattered the command.  And yet they persisted.

Stackpole's Kell Hounds, in Grayson's place, would have never lost the fort on Trell I in the first place, and would have punched their way through the Combine commandos (probably pre-warned about the traitor by an attractive Heimdall plant in their ranks), and they would have one-shotted the Oberon lance when it dared to show its face.

Vic Milan's heroes tend to have tragic backstories and be somewhat driven by the resultant psychological damage (though, in some cases, they're sidelined by the psychological damage, giving room for the lower ranking protagonists to rise up and take a leadership role).  In many cases, they're trying to get revenge for past wrongs, or trying to atone for past misdeeds/failings.

Edward Smith's lone hero stands out as fumbling towards heroism on the sole basis of being a massive idiot.  (Johnny Mace, 'Mech Ace, is essentially Cartoon Network's "Johnny Bravo" as a MechWarrior.)

Jason Schmetzer's heroes have, I think, the widest range of any of the authors, probably since he's done mostly short stories (in addition to being the Track master).  They're idealistic - willing to fight and die for what's right.  They're burnt out and emotionally dead inside from putting their unparalleled skill at killing to work.  They're doing penance for having displayed cowardice in the face of the enemy.  They're fighting against impossible odds to protect their fellow troops, who they see as family.  They've suffered massive betrayal and personal losses, and they're fighting for vengeance.  They're fighting to put another notch on their belts and boost their reputation.  They're entitled nobles who view the lesser folk as cannon fodder, and care only about their own reputations and cash flow.  They're people who have seen their dreams snatched away, and are having to adapt to their new reality.
« Last Edit: 12 March 2017, 11:12:05 by Mendrugo »
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

skiltao

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #2 on: 15 April 2017, 22:31:35 »
Let's start with the idea that fictional heroes generally come in two flavors: heroes born to it, because of fate or prophecy or just good genetics; and regular Joes who become heroes by accident rather than design.

Taking Justin Xiang and Morgan Kell on one hand, and Minobu Tetsuhara, Dechan Fraser, Theodore Kurita, Aidan Pryde and Grayson Carlyle in the other, I can't help but notice that the former are already well-seasoned when we meet them, whereas the latter are relatively inexperienced or unaccomplished when we meet them. I think you're conflating experience and training for innate talent - although, granted, if all that hard work and determination happen as backstory, maybe there's no functional difference.

Looking at the (very green) heirs around 3050:

Phelan has some innate advantages, but much of his advancement comes down to taking advantage of his personal connections and being a political catspaw - he's essentially in the right place at the right time, which makes him a hero "by accident."

Kai grew up training against the best MechWarriors in the Inner Sphere. He was literally born into that opportunity, and it did occur offscreen, but thriving against such disadvantage must have involved hard work and determination, which you're lumping in with the "regular joes."

Victor's command skill grows visibly during the BoK trilogy, which seems to put him in the latter camp, although like Kai he only has the opportunity to gain that experience because of the status he was born with. (I haven't read the civil war novels, and can't speak to his portrayal there.)
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abou

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #3 on: 19 April 2017, 08:39:24 »
I just want to say that, guys, I like this topic and the posts in it.

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #4 on: 19 April 2017, 08:53:05 »
Jason Schmetzer's heroes have, I think, the widest range of any of the authors, probably since he's done mostly short stories (in addition to being the Track master). 

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Mendrugo

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #5 on: 19 April 2017, 12:36:24 »
The master fiction index shows him as the creator of close to 50 of the Track-style scenarios.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Dubble_g

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #6 on: 20 April 2017, 09:45:35 »
I just want to say that, guys, I like this topic and the posts in it.

This thread also has the best replies.
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ErikModi

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #7 on: 07 June 2017, 21:08:04 »
Actually, Stackpole goes to great lengths to undermine the concept of Clan genetic superiority.  Yes, according to Tabletop rules, Trueborn Clan warriors have better skills than their Inner Sphere counterparts, but it's usually by a pretty narrow margin, and could be just as much due to training as to breeding.  The whole reason the Clans start putting Warriors out to pasture around 30 is because they'll be facing Warriors two or three generations "better" than they are, and thus have no hope of keeping up if the breeding program is as awesome as the Clans claim it to be.  The whole point of the Clan POV side of the story is Ulric trying to prove to the other Clans that they really aren't as awesome as they pretend to be.  Natasha Kerensky, a warrior facing down Clan warriors five or six generations her "better," wipes the floor with them every single time (and is only finally killed by a warrior almost as old as she is).  Phelan is an Inner Sphere freeborn (though he might not technically be freeborn, if you read between the lines) and he wipes the floor with the best the Clans have to offer once he's on a level technological playing field and knows how they operate.  Really, Stackpole's position when it comes to the Clans is pretty obvious that their marginally better stats have less to do with the breeding program and more to do with being trained almost literally from birth to be warriors, and the extensive and brutal weeding out process of Clan warrior training at every level.  Give freeborn babies the exact same life structure, and they'd do just as well.

Dubble_g

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #8 on: 17 June 2017, 05:59:31 »
Erik, first up let me say thank you for your post. Getting people thinking about the fiction and the characters was precisely the point of the OP, so I'm delighted you engaged with the point.

Thanks also for your reply to the other thread; I'll answer that one separately.

I can see a lot of what you are saying re Stackpole's treatment of the Clans. In terms of the nature of heroes, I think it's significant that the Clans are beaten by people who all bear famous names though: Kell, Steiner-Davion, Allard-Liao, Kerensky. To me, the fact that they triumph over soldiers bred for war only underlines the fact that these second-generation heroes are so amazing nobody can stop them.

I realize a lot of this is due to BTech's structure as a kind of multigenerational saga, but the net result is you end up implying that the children of great people will also be great. Nature over nurture.
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SeeM

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #9 on: 20 January 2019, 05:09:22 »
I really like the accidental heroes, like Alex Murphy / Robocop. Ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. Battletech, without mystical and supernatural elements, seems to be perfectly designed for them. But in the feudal society there have to be the "legacy" element, a bond between family and faction, or military unit. It's easier for players to call their enemies Draks, or Khells, even if none of the miniatures on the table represents actual Draks, or Khells. It also helps to keep identity of even a merc unit, when it's associated with a surname.

I think it's just whatever works best for a game.
« Last Edit: 20 January 2019, 05:10:55 by SeeM »
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Marveryn

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #10 on: 30 March 2019, 23:14:07 »
  thinking about this thread something jump at me.  We of course in the modern age are not use the concept of a train warrior from birth but that is true for both inner sphere and clan.  One of the reason medival knights/samurai  were well reknown is cause they were taught to fight from nearly the moment they could pick up a stick.  They were able to do this cause society was bae on giving them means and free time to train.  For the most part Knight were wealthy cause they didn't need to provide for there own meals.  A lord or even there own estate did that for them.  that mean all there free time was spent on training.  This is also true for the MechWarrior whether he a mercenary or not someone provide for them to train as they mature to adulthood.  That why great MechWarrior comes from famous MechWarrior families.  Those families have the resources to train there children from an early age to fulfilled there purpose.  It doesn't mean they be great commanders.  Just that they would be more familiar with how to handle a mech than a person that started training at near adult. 

So it shouldn't be surprising that someone like Kai is in par with some random blood name warrior.   It be more surprising if it was some random due off the street that just happen to find a battlemech in the middle of a rubble. 

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Re: Heroes in BattleTech books
« Reply #11 on: 31 March 2019, 00:28:25 »
Their children, as the sons of great men, are also great.

I'm not a fan of Stackpole, but I'm not sure this is a choice so much as him having a good feel for the genre.

I have oh so many issues with how Stackpole writes; his stories, his characters, ect. But this is rather bedrock for the genres BattleTech touches on.

Now, I don't need BattleTech to be Space Opera; i actually think that most of the fluff would have been better as military SF and that we're only now approaching the YA market stuns me. But we do have these very strong aspects of feudalism, destiny and heritage woven into the story. Thus; like Star Wars, there is this kind of momentum to the universe where eventually it's major points in the favour of the characters for them to have a famous name.

Somehow, by some osmosis; whatever the Heroes have pulled off somehow becomes more believable if they have the right last name and less so if they don't.

In Star Wars, we see this where it feels like everyone in the universe who matters is a Solo or a Skywalker.

In the BTU; recall the disquiet with this *nobody* Delvin Stone pulling all this together and beating the WOB during the Jihad. And at one point; Stone was supposed to somehow be Arthur S-D, but that got tossed.

The Feudalism of the BTU plays a big part in this, but not the whole part. Another is branding and another is keeping things simple.

To be honest though, I always felt like this was kind of creating this amazing promise-filled universe and then hobbling it mercilessly. I think of it like this; the BattleMech, especially as-written is the ultimate arbiter of agency and power. Sure; mechwarriors were traditionally often chosen by accident of birth, but that need not always be the case and after being born; a character can be just another guy or gal. But in the BTU; it's not NECESSARILY the title that makes you powerful; it's the mech. That fantastic draw is there right from the basic premise and it sucks you in.

Sure; it's basically SPACE(!) Fantasy, but why focus on the noble lines? My favourite novels were always the ones that featured what seemed like normal people who just *happened* to have this incredible power literally at their fingertips. And the incredible thing was that the only thing separating some rando from the power was training and a mech and the background was full of ways that random people happened into mechs. Lori Calmar, when we first meet her; is basically a slave that got tossed into a locust and told to go wreck stuff.

Like; anyone can fantasize about how good it would be to be King; but only in BT can you fantasize about how good it would be to be a *MechWarrior*; that to me is the heart of the universe and the stories I liked best focused on that foundation and built on it. Small people in big machines, in a huge universe.
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