It has been revealed that Muhammad Abdul-Rahman Barker, the writer of the Tekumel series and RPG game, wrote a novel akin to The Turner Diaries at the very same white nationalist publishing house. It also turned out that he was on a board for a group dedicated to Holocaust denial for more than a decade.
When I first heard it on that Wikipedia article, I was quite beside myself. Considering how The Tekumel Foundation knew about this fact, it makes me wonder whether it was willful or they thought that it was a hoax or a trolling act made to waste their time.
I don’t know if his family were aware of this, such as his wife Ambereen.
Moreover, I do not know what the fate of the Tekumel Foundation would look like.
Disagreement With Other YouTubers
There are smaller YouTubers in the RPG space who have discussed this revelation. They made clear their disdain for Nazis. My problem with their type of logic is that when they focused single-handedly on Nazis, they are only focusing on a branch of fascism, which is typically defined as being the political belief of instituting a strict, retrogressive hierarchy where only a select demographic would benefit and everyone else would suffer; all of which is determined by immutable characteristics. As can be expected, fascism comes in many malleable forms. By narrowing your gaze at Nazism, you completely ignore the various, other forms of fascism, such as the ones preached by Benito Mussolini, Julius Evola, and Augustin Pinochet; as well as ideologies that have strong similarities to fascism, such as Islamism and jihadism.
Indeed, when you really think about it, the only way a Muslim would be a Holocaust-denying white supremacist is if he was concurrently an Islamist. One notable feature that historians Paul Sturtevant and Amy Kaufman have noted within extremism is that white supremacists and Islamists have far more in common than the obvious differences in beliefs and associations. I cannot say for certain whether Barker was himself an Islamist, but there is always that possibility.
What To Do With Tekumel
I am in agreement with these YouTubers that we should not abandon the Tekumel legendarium simply because the author has hateful views. This is for the same reason why we don’t abandon H. P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror works because of his racist, xenophobic views; and for the same reason why we don’t abandon the works by J. R. R. Tolkien, simply because he had anti-democracy views.
I would go so far as to say that anyone who makes the decision to abandon the Tekumel world, because of this revelation, is only giving the alt-right what they want. There is nothing in this world–no symbol, imagery, term, hairstyle, article of clothing–that they will not re-appropriate for their own ends. Even something as simple as the O.K. hand gesture can be appropriated by them. You can be sure that they would claim ownership of the Tekumel world when it is completely abandoned by the rest of us. You would also be depriving the world of a completely unique, multicultural legendarium that would rival the big names like George R. R. Martin. Barker was not called the “forgotten Tolkien” for nothing. I can only hope that he is not completely forgotten–his work at least.
I can only imagine The Tekumel Foundation would probably commission writers to fix the damage caused by Barker’s revelation. Ideally, these writers would make Tekumel more relevant and inclusive as the Tekumel world would allow. I would caution them not to employ the one-dimensional wokeness that unfortunately can be found in popular media. It tends to be preachy, but also exhumes a tasteless, disingenuous aesthetic made only to score political points and not tell a good story that resonates.
In My Case…
As for what I am going to do about, I already wrote about Tekumel on this blog and in another blog. I have no intention to take them down, nor do I intend to never talk about Tekumel. However, I will mention Tekumel in future articles when it pertains to its future possibility of being reclaimed by its own fanbase, and express hope that the damage of the author can be reversed.
As for my fantasy world of Dusquing, part of its inspiration derives from Barker’s bold premise of creating a non-Eurocentric legendarium. Indeed, in this fictional world, the civilizations that we in the real world would describe as “non-white” are not rooted in being evil and savage, rather as complex as every other civilization would be. In that sense, I have endeavored to make the Pimzarblan as enriched as any other civilization would be.
As such, the responsibility would defer not just to the Tekumel fanbase, but to any writer inspired by Barker to not fall into the same path as he did. It is important to make sure that both white and non-white characters are presented as human beings with complicated emotions and desires.
In essence, it is about making sure that these characters and stories are as impossible as possible to be appropriated to anyone’s dark ends.
- Ewalt, David M. “Gaming Giant M. A. R. Barker Dead At 83”. Forbes. 2012.
- GMSMagazine. “Further thoughts on the Tekumel issue: Occupy Tekumel?”
- “Ploff Barker or how Tekumel has fallen from grace. And now what?” YouTube. 2022.
- Hexed Press. “Shadows Over Tekumel.” YouTube. 2022.
- Joshi, S. T. H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West. 1st Edition. Wildside Press. 2016.
- Kaufman, Amy S. and Paul B. Sturtevant. “The Devil’s Historian: How Modern Extremists Abuse The Medieval Past.” University of Toronto Press. 2020.
- Lace & Steel. “Nazis, Tekumel and gaming: Separating the art from the artist.” YouTube. 2022.
- Snyder, Christopher. “The Making of Middle-Earth: A New Look Inside the World of J. R. R. Tolkien.” Sterling. 2013.
- Tekumel Foundation.
- Tenkar’s Tavern. “Newsworthy – M.A.R. Barker (Empire of the Petal Throne) Wrote a Neo Nazi Fiction Book.” 2022.
- Ynkawen, Robert-Scott. “Man of Gold, by M.A.R. Barker | Literature Review.” Ynkawen. 2019.
- “The Unique Worldbuilding Of M.A.R. Barker | HDW Mythocosmography.” Dream-Writer’s Villa. 2021.