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Barker, M A R

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]

see also: Gamebook; Traveller.

Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker

born Spokane, Washington: 3 November 1929

died 16 March 2012




individual titles


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 18:02 pm on 19 May 2022.