The Strange Lives of Andrew Blake
March 5, 2015 11:20 AM   Subscribe

"Blake has owned up to much of what he’s done, both publicly and in an extensive interview session with the Kernel. He has admitted to spending a full decade of his life claiming the ability to channel the souls of fictional and real people, allegedly up to 168 different beings at once, including Hollywood actors and World War II veterans." (Kernelmag)

Previously about Tentmoot, in part.
posted by Countess Elena (33 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ummm...

Remember to stay safe when you RP, kiddos.
posted by jeisme at 11:39 AM on March 5, 2015


Holy crap, it's Victoria Bitter! That guy is bad news. And now I have Fandom Wank nostalgia.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:49 AM on March 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


What's more, it's Aja/bookshop/bnfshavemorefun writing about him. It's like never leaving journalfen.
posted by rewil at 11:54 AM on March 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


Why no mention of Amy Player in all this? Fake charity, identity theft charges were filed. I get it about "dead names" but this character has had multiple identities and names and victims. Same author's Dailydot story from 2013. The comments in this 2011 story are useful, too.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:55 AM on March 5, 2015


Oh my God, that guy! I remember him from my LOTR days!

More seriously, what a vaguely sad, strange story.
posted by kalimac at 11:57 AM on March 5, 2015


Probably the reporter wasn't sure how to address Blake's birth identity of Amy Player without seeming transphobic. For a long time, some people thought that the Andrew Blake identity was a long con and that he was not actually a trans man, just working the angle for a while. But it's apparent now and he deserves that much respect.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:01 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I met him during the LOTR and Victoria Bitter days, at a con in Baltimore. He was at that time presenting himself as a young Scottish woman, who seemed mildly unhinged but not excessively so by fannish standards, and had submitted several LOTR vids to the vidshow, most of which were pretty awful to the point where I felt sympathy for him. Caught up with the whole VB/Amy Player/Jordan Wood/Andrew Blake saga years later, and was boggled to an extent from which I have never entirely recovered.
posted by Kat Allison at 12:02 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The author ID'ed Player in the 2013 story. Possibly to get the "exclusive" interview, deals were made. Player was the name used in the identity theft charge in Oregon. Blake's a con artist, and I'd say no respect is deserved.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:03 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


The more I read about stuff like this the more glad I am I'm not involved in any kind of fandom or Twitter/tumblr. It seems like a swirling, horrible shitstorm.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:16 PM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


The more I read about stuff like this the more glad I am I'm not involved in any kind of fandom or Twitter/tumblr. It seems like a swirling, horrible shitstorm.

ehhhh. I mean, it can be. I've had some really bad fandom experiences, but I've also had some absolutely amazing, sanity-saving experiences. "I got into a really intense discussion on Tumblr about the differences between 616!Bucky Barnes and MCU Bucky Barnes, and then laughed at a funny .gif" does not make for compelling reading and all that.
posted by kalimac at 12:20 PM on March 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: mildly unhinged but not excessively so by fannish standards
posted by el io at 12:21 PM on March 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Every con artist and manipulative cult leader leaves a swirling, horrible shitstorm behind them; Blake is no different, and the fandom part is irrelevant for that part. This just looks more weird/dramatic from the outside due to colorful stuff like channeling Legolas (LOTS of cult leaders "channel spirits"), and people like Blake take advantage of the fandom geek-social-fallacy ethos of "we can't ostracize people, that's MEAN."

Seriously. This is "abusive and mentally ill person with a fandom hobby" problem, not a fandom-specific problem.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:25 PM on March 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


The Blake story reminds me of a guy that orbited my grad school life on campus. When you first met him, he was clearly the most interesting person in the world and the most interesting person at a grad school party. He claimed to have been a smoke jumper, CIA informant, borderline international spy. He had a story for everything, how he saved famous people and politicians, and how he was just here studying some microbiology in his downtime.

It took months of seeing him at other parties to realize the stories changed every night and were equally interesting, but all so wildly incredible that it would be impossible for one person to possess enough skills and training to do 1/10th of what he claimed to have done. In the end, it was all just to pick up women at parties and he wasn't even involved in school anymore, but it took at least several interactions before you realized the guy was a pathological liar, and I fear he tricked a lot of people the first time he met them.
posted by mathowie at 12:25 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, a deal was cut to get the interview, Aja said elsewhere that Player/Blake wouldn't agree to the interview if she was honest about their past history.
posted by tavella at 12:34 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blake's a con artist, and I'd say no respect is deserved.

Eh, I'm not sure what you mean by that, but - we should respect Blake's gender identity, which means not misgendering him or calling him by his past feminine name(s). But when someone has a history of criminally taking advantage of others, I don't think respecting their identity includes pretending that that history doesn't exist.

It seems like a swirling, horrible shitstorm.

That's too bad. My experiences with fandom have been primarily positive. Most people in fandom don't get involved in the drama unless they're attracted to it in some way - it tends to be limited to certain circles. We just know about it if we followed comms like Fandom Wank.

Though I've certainly had a couple of run-ins with some strange, toxic people, that's something that wouldn't have happened if I had cared enough to avoid it. (Not taking moderatorship of comms, for example.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2015


In related news, mathowie believes he is Ted Mosby.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:13 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, lord. I haven't had a chance to go through this yet but I do hope Aja has mentioned the time he applied for one of those HP sorting communities and claimed he had fought both for and AGAINST the IRA even though going by his own timeline he is the same age as me and would have been an underage teenager during the entirety of the 90's.

I think both hogwarts_elite and platform_93/4 still have his applications up. It's fascinating reading if you have the time and inclination. How anyone bought that makes me despair for the average person's grasp of world affairs.

The more I read about stuff like this the more glad I am I'm not involved in any kind of fandom or Twitter/tumblr. It seems like a swirling, horrible shitstorm.

This is more livejournal (and its clones)/Tumblr and in my opinion, it's the only way to truly experience fandom in all its depraved glory.
posted by bgal81 at 1:17 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's worth pulling out Abbey Wilson's Tumblr from this for another perspective on Blake in general and this article in particular. (Specifically, this, partially as a follow-up to this.) She also posted a link to this Rollins Band song, you can probably guess which one.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:23 PM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


On the one hand I can see how the status of Blake's genitals or the gender assigned to him at birth might be irrelevant. On the other hand, we're looking at an in depth psychological profile of the guy, leaving out the fact that he's a trans man seems somehow wrong.

If the author had mentioned somewhere that Blake was a trans man it'd seem less like she was trying to conceal it from the audience, or that there was something wrong with being a trans man.

On the third hand, I can see how in a piece that's already got a high "let's go gawk at the freaks" factor, it could be leading to some serious transphobia to bring up Blake's gender status.

All that to the side though, dang it's amazing how people like Blake can suck people in? Is it a talent for finding those vulnerable to his sort of BS, or a matter of throwing out BS and seeing who doesn't recoil, or is he just so good that even people who would normally recognize BS get tricked? Some combination of the three?

I also can't help but wonder how much of Blake's headmates/possess/otherkin/whatever thing was pure fraud, how much was tailoring a lie that would resonate with his intended victims, how much was just useful justification for his own manipulation and pathology, or what.

Dang.
posted by sotonohito at 2:06 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


All that to the side though, dang it's amazing how people like Blake can suck people in? Is it a talent for finding those vulnerable to his sort of BS, or a matter of throwing out BS and seeing who doesn't recoil, or is he just so good that even people who would normally recognize BS get tricked? Some combination of the three?

I'm going with some combination of the three. Abbey Willson's writing about her experiences with him is fascinating and horrifying at the same time - some is linked in the OP article but she also has a lot of it grouped together here.
posted by Catseye at 2:27 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sounds more to me like abusive/possibly mentally ill/sociopathic/abusive person with identity issues used fake identities to perpetuate abuse.

I vaguely remember the Jordan Wood thing bubbling around LJ way back when. And I'm left questioning whether "here I am, this is me" is a genuine attempt at accountability or just another phase in the endless con.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:33 PM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


After looking at some of the background, this piece seemed excessively credulous and more generous to Blake than it could have been on a number of fronts.
posted by pseudonick at 2:38 PM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


What a strange article. I wonder who made the decision to feed the ego of a habitual con artist by giving him an "exclusive interview" with terms and conditions where he can own up to everything he's ever done and apologize and heroically stand up against all those mean bullies who just won't accept that he's changed?
posted by muddgirl at 3:07 PM on March 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think much of Aja for essentially enabling Blake with a piece like this. He peddles his dangerous bullshit again and again, in fandom after fandom, to the point where fans who knew him of old circulated posts warning his new fandoms about him on Tumblr. I happen to think Blake deserves fandom-wide shunning if only to keep vulnerable newer fans from falling prey to him and starting the cycle all over again.

If Blake really wanted to change and really wanted to make amends, he'd stop his con artistry and try a brand new day identity in a new fandom. I'm sure a ton of notorious fandom wankbait targets have done just that. But Blake is far too much of a narcissist to ever do that, and this kind of "reporting" only enables his narcissism.
posted by yasaman at 3:19 PM on March 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


nicebookrack: "Every con artist and manipulative cult leader leaves a swirling, horrible shitstorm behind them; Blake is no different, and the fandom part is irrelevant for that part."

I would tentatively hypothesize that there are areas of human endeavor that are more susceptible to con artists, cults, and abuse -- religion is one. "Formal" art might be another. Venture capital/startups is another. I think fandom is one as well. I would guess that limited availability of objective truth, strong evangelization for the product which does not have obvious objective superiority over other similar products, a large group of young people from which to recruit (there's a reason religious cults target college campuses), and ways for charismatic leaders to avoid responsibility for prior actions, are major contributors to the unusual success of cult-type organizations in those areas. (One cult scholar identifies "epistemological individualism [which has] clear locus of final authority beyond the individual member" as a key characteristic.)

Fandom, being based on fictional universes, lends itself to this sort of "epistemological individualism" where interpretations of the fictional universe are pretty much equally valid (as long as they fall within certain norms for the fandom) and objectively untestable (as the universe is fictional). People (in general, not just fandom) also frequently have passionate opinions on fiction and like to fight about it. Those two characteristics mean it's pretty easy for a charismatic individual to set himself up as a tin-pot prophet who has the One True Interpretation of the fictional universe, and it doesn't (at first) look all that deviant because people get in knock-down, drag-out fights over the proper interpretation of fiction ALL THE TIME. (Real grown ups with multiple degrees get tenure for being good at it!)

Fandom also makes it elite/splinter groups easy -- because it's totally normal to want to write and create with a smaller group of people you trust, and to indicate that members of that group are better writers, better thinkers, or just plain more fun than other people. Fandom also lends itself to the CLOSING of those groups to outsiders, both from internal pressures (other groups of fans attacking your interpretation as wrong) and external pressures (non-fandom people making fun of fandom as trivial), which is analogous to why religious cults typically cut themselves off from co-religionist criticism in splitting off from their origin group, and then shielding itself from secular criticism as well, by closing.

It's also an activity full of teenaged girls and young women, who are often preferred cult targets, not just because creepy dudes like to have sex with young women, but because they're often highly emotional and open to emotional appeals, have limited experience of the world (and therefore limited suspicion of manipulative tactics), and, as women, are less likely to be taken seriously both when they become over-involved in something (teenaged girls are passionate about things! it's normal!) and when they tentatively suggest to authority figures that they might be in over their heads in interpersonal relationships ("Oh, you know teenaged drama!"). Women are also socialized not to outright reject things they don't want to do ("soft no") and that gives a lot more maneuvering room for a manipulator than they have with a young man who's more used to having his "No" respected.

Fandom is also a place where people can safely try on a series of identities (as does, for example, rapidly switching religions or running through six start-up ideas in a row), which give a manipulator more room to hide in a culture that accepts this chimerality as part of a search for self-knowledge. That also may tempt participants into things they might not otherwise do, because they see it as a safe place to TRY things, to step right up to the brink of their comfort zone -- which, again, is largely a good thing and helps people grow, but when it's NOT a safe space and that manipulation of boundaries is being used not for growth but abuse, that's a cult.

Anyway, none of this is to say there's anything wrong with fandom (any more than there's anything wrong with college religious organizations -- cult recruiting ground zero!). Just that I actually DO think the nature of fandom DOES make it a tempting target for charismatic con-artists and cult leaders and disturbed individuals, and the nature of its celebration of fictional universes may make it difficult (especially for younger members) to identify those problem people until they have done significant damage to others.

The primary thing I would take from that, though, is just that established fandom organizations should think about the ways they are open to exploitation by cult-types, and deliberately set norms that discourage cult-favoring behavior. And the adults in the room shouldn't be afraid to speak up if they see someone sketchy preying on young members, and should be supported in doing so rather than treated as "ostracizers." (And plenty of fan spaces already formally or informally have this atmosphere, though probably they don't connect it with "preventing cult recruiting" but "keeping narcissists from blowing up the world.")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:23 PM on March 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


The way to avoid narcissists isn't to avoid fandom, it's to spot the signs of a narcissist and RUN THE OTHER WAY.

It's kind of interesting that this article comes out now, framed the way that it is - after a few weeks of other articles highlighting online mass mobs who destroy their blameless victims without care for the truth, it seems like it would be easy for someone who hasn't been following this drama for a decade to accept that Blake is being persecuted by a Tumbler mob.

And the adults in the room shouldn't be afraid to speak up if they see someone sketchy preying on young members

This is definitely how fans and former victims who speak out against Blake see their actions, and unfortunately I think Aja Romano's article characterizes them more as ostracisers than as adults in the room.
posted by muddgirl at 3:28 PM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


If Blake really wanted to change and really wanted to make amends, he'd stop his con artistry and try a brand new day identity in a new fandom. I'm sure a ton of notorious fandom wankbait targets have done just that. But Blake is far too much of a narcissist to ever do that, and this kind of "reporting" only enables his narcissism.

At least if he keeps his identity (or doesn't try too hard to hide it) from one fandom to the next, people can be warned. Although from what I understand, he's shown such a pattern now that changing his name might be insufficient to hide for long.

This is why I feel vaguely icky for enjoying as much of Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness as I did. It does a lot of things I really enjoy in fanfiction, but. (It also does things I don't enjoy as much, like give me far too clear a view of the author's id by way of Neville's characterization, but that's par for the course in much popular fanfic.)
posted by suelac at 3:56 PM on March 5, 2015


It's amazing how much CAN change in 10+ years, and how much actually doesn't. Because I'm not the same person I was back in Fandom Wank's glory days, not by a long shot... but AB seems to be the exact same con artist he was back in the day, despite how much he doth protesteth to the contrary.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:14 PM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Can we talk about how godawful his HP fic was?

Cause it was really bad. The only worse HP fic - and not in the fun "My Immortal" way - might be "Methods of Rationality". Just so bizarrely overrated.
posted by bgal81 at 7:37 AM on March 6, 2015


I think both hogwarts_elite and platform_93/4 still have his applications up.

I bring gifts!
posted by imnotasquirrel at 9:04 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can we talk about how godawful his HP fic was?

Yeah, well, maybe you're just one of those "little bubble-headed shipperchibbies"!

Seriously, though, the misogyny/sexism Andy displayed in the HP fandom put me off ever giving his fanfic a try. If the comment I linked to was meant to give me an indication of what I was in for, it wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 9:08 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can we talk about how godawful his HP fic was?

Cause it was really bad. The only worse HP fic - and not in the fun "My Immortal" way - might be "Methods of Rationality". Just so bizarrely overrated.


I bounced off HPMoR. But I read all of DAYD, although with increasing levels of unease. IIRC, the prose wasn't awful. And it's a story that should be told, a big gap in Rowling's epic. Having written a couple of really long plotty stories myself, I appreciate how hard it is to pull such a thing off.

That said, that story is a classic example of the Marty-Stu-ification of Neville Longbottom. His characterization warps the fabric of the story and all the other characters around him, in service of the writer's id-tastic self-identification with Neville.

People hate Wesley Crusher because he's Gene Roddenberry's Marty Stu: but Neville is Thanfiction's Marty Stu, and because Neville is a canon character, the transformation destroys what could have been an excellent story. IMO, anyway.

On the other hand, lots and lots and lots of people love that story. Possibly because he turns Neville into a stone-cold badass during it, in which case yay for them, I guess.
posted by suelac at 10:04 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


"On Andy and Violence Part I" starts to explore Blake's conception of heterosexual masculinity and his obsession with war/violence. The writer hasn't gotten up to DAYD yet but I'm looking forward to it.
posted by muddgirl at 10:13 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


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