Entry updated 4 April 2022. Tagged: Author, Game.
Working name of Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker, born Phillip Barker (1929-2012), US academic specializing in linguistics, game designer and author. His best-known genre creation is the enormously detailed Science Fantasy world of Tékumel (which see), the setting of his early Role Playing Game Empire of the Petal Throne (1975); further related RPGs followed.
Of Barker's five Tékumel novels, The Man of Gold (1984) – a Bildungsroman full of political intrigue and mysterious artefacts – is perhaps the most successful despite a somewhat disjointed plot, though the exotic travelogue of Flamesong (1985) is also of interest. A later sequence comprises Lords of Tsámra (2003), Prince of Skulls (2002) – this second volume by internal chronology was published before the first – and A Death of Kings (2003), which follow the continuing adventures of the protagonists of the first two books in a variety of novel locations as they uncover some of Tékumel's ancient secrets. These last three works seem carelessly constructed, however, and suffer from a frustrating lack of narrative cohesion. Certainly Barker was more accomplished as a world-builder than as a novelist; on occasion he seems to struggle to convey the totality of his vision in a narrative form.
In 2022 it was confirmed by the Tékumel Foundation Board of Directors that Barker had also published the dismayingly antisemitic novel Serpent's Walk (1991) as by Randolph D Calverhall. With a multiplicity of quotations from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (1925-1926) and denials that the World War Two Holocaust (see Holocaust Fiction) ever took place, this tells the tale of how the brave and noble Nazi SS went underground in 1945 and has worked for a century to strike back – with the aid of a Computer-based sentient AI – in a coup against the "Jewish-Establishment network" (see Race in SF) that controls the world of the 2040s. [NT/DRL]
Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker
born Spokane, Washington: 3 November 1929
died 16 March 2012
- The Man of Gold (New York: DAW Books, 1984) [tie to Tékumel: Tékumel: pb/Michael Whelan]
- Flamesong (New York: DAW Books, 1985) [tie to Tékumel: Tékumel: pb/Richard Hescox]
- Prince of Skulls (no place given: Zottola Publishing, 2002) [tie to Tékumel: follows next title but published out of sequence: Tékumel: illus/pb/Giovanna Fregni]
- Lords of Tsámra (no place given: Zottola Publishing, 2003) [tie to Tékumel: precedes previous title but published out of sequence: Tékumel: pb/Giovanna Fregni]
- A Death of Kings (no place given: Zottola Publishing, 2003) [tie to Tékumel: Tékumel: pb/Giovanna Fregni]
- Serpent's Walk (Hillsboro, West Virginia: National Vanguard Books, 1991) as by Randolph D Calverhall [pb/DB Graphics]
- Tékumel: The World of the Petal Throne (Tribute Site)
- Tékumel Bibliography
- Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Picture Gallery
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