I think most Tékumel fans developed their interest via role-playing games, However, Barker’s most extensive published explication of the world of Tékumel was in his Tékumel novels. Altogether, he wrote five Tékumel novels, and all can be collected.
The Man of Gold
Barker became acquainted with science fiction publisher Don Wohlheim through miniature sculptor Bill Murray, who produced the first miniatures for Tékumel, as discussed in this post. Wohlheim was a collector of 54mm and 90mm miniatures, which Murray produced.
The acquaintance led to a deal and Wohlheim’s DAW Books published the first of Barker’s novels, The Man of Gold, in 1984. The book has a short biographical blurb on Barker that says he had worked on developing the world of Tékumel since the age of ten. The same blurb directs readers to the Adventure Games booklets on the Tsolyáni language and to the imminent publication of the Swords and Glory sourcebook by Gamescience (both of which will be discussed in future posts).
Many people daydream but few can imagine detailed and extensive worlds that stay internally consistent over long periods of time. M.A.R. Barker had that gift.
I do not want to exaggerate. Barker’s Tékumel did change over time. And much of Barker’s Tékumel clearly drew from experiences later in life studying Klamath, Indian, Mayan, and other cultures, as well as his advanced study of linguistics. However, Barker’s early writings and other evidence show that lasting elements of Tékumel developed very early, as early as high school. Barker wrote that his youthful fascination with science fiction, Hollywood adventures of the 40s and 50s, and pulp magazines partly shaped his fantasy world.
Nine previous posts described in detail Tékumel miniatures from their beginning in late 1976 through the demise of PHD in mid-2002 to the current Tékumel Project, with stops along the way to discuss a few other topics. Here’s a summary:
The 25mm Miniatures
December 1976 – April 1978 The Old Guard
April 1978 – c. September 1980 Ral Partha
c. September 1980 – October 1982 No Production
October 1982 – Mid-1983 Tékumel Journal
Mid-1983 – late 1987 or early 1988 Tékumel Games
Late 1987 or early 1988 – March 1993 No Production
March 1993 – Mid-2002 PHD Games
The six volumes of Tékumel army statistics list 345 separate military formations, each of which has several types of troopers, archers, and commanders. Despite the current heroic efforts of Howard Fielding and the stock of figures produced by previous companies, official figures will never model more than a small fraction of the military units of Tékumel. Indeed, some whole nations (e.g. Livyánu) have never been represented with an official figure. In light of this reality, most Tékumel collectors turn to stand-in or proxy figures, i.e. figures not produced as Tékumel figures but which resemble the drawings in the source material.
There’s no official guide to proxy figures and identifying proxies is art not science. Certain Tékumel figures are easy to substitute. Mrur, for example, are essentially skeleton warriors and many companies produce useable figures. Similarly, vorodlá are winged undead warriors and many companies make suitable figures as gremlins or under other names. And if I drop you beyond the pylons, you will not be able to tell the difference between a Dzor and a (three-eyed) troll. On the other hand, many of the military formations are not as easy to substitute and require new shields, weapons, or other modifications as well as a certain intangible Tékumelani look..
What follows are some suggestions drawn from Tékumel literature and my own observations. Honestly speaking, not all the figures listed below impress me personally as good proxies. For example, some fans seem to think any half naked female figure (painted olive) is a potential Tékumel figure. But it’s a matter of personal taste. I welcome further discussion in the comments, but, to me, most proxies are very disappointing.
Lorún Princess Painted by Shadowkings
Howard Fielding in January 2010 announced the “Tékumel Club,” a scheme in which fans could buy memberships entitling them to discounts on new Tékumel figures. The bigger the initial investment in a membership, the greater the discount per figure. Initially, the Tékumel Club did not include the military figures then produced by Eureka Miniatures as “The Armies and Enemies of the Petal Throne” line. However, Fielding later incorporated the military figures into the club after he and Eureka parted ways in December 2010. For the new venture Fielding contracted casting in North America and engaged several sculptors to design new figures.
By mid-2002, PHD had stopped production, despite a few protestations to the contrary, and the Tékumel miniatures world entered another “Time of Darkness.” Luckily, Howard Fielding, a true “Hero of the Age” emerged to save the day. Fielding had long participated in Tékumel discussion fora and in early 2005 he posted a low-key message polling fans on what miniatures they would like to see. Then, on November 5, 2005 he dropped the bombshell that he planned personally to commission an extensive line of 28mm figures with Eureka Miniatures in Melbourne, Australia.
Fielding negotiated Barker’s blessing and worked out the logistics and in January 2007, Eureka issued the first of four waves of figures under the title “Armies and Enemies of the Petal Throne.” All four releases were sculpted by Alan Marsh.
Fielding was (and is) very clever in using variant poses, as well as different weapons and shields so as to model several legions with the same basic sculpts, which reduces the cost. This will be discussed in more detail in a future post.
On Mar 20, 1993, a fan noted on the Tékumel Digest that PHD Games in Anderson, Illinois was “apparently” selling Tékumel miniatures. Barker confidante Bob Alberti quickly confirmed that PHD was legitimate and had Barker’s permission. The five-year “Time of Darkness” was over. Wes Posthlewaite and Larry Hull had acquired the old molds and launched PHD to get Tékumel miniatures back on the market.
I have often wondered about the name “PHD.” Presumably it was formed from the initials of the founders: Posthlewaite and Hull, but who was the “D”? (Thanks to Felipe Morales for pointing out what in retrospect was the obvious answer to this in the comments below.)
PHD was a boon to Tékumel fans and would stay in business for nearly ten years, selling more figures than any previous company. Posthlewaite and Hull had ambitious plans to expand the line (e.g. a 1994 usenet post where Posthlewaite mentioned 13 new figures), but, in fact, the company would only ever introduce five new sculpts in addition to the 78 existing molds inherited from Tékumel Games and Tékumel Journal.
I offer another brief detour before I revise Part 3 in light of new information and then move on to PHD Miniatures in the next installment.
Tékumel miniatures are a testament to impermanence, with various companies flickering briefly to life and then again leaving this plane. The short skein of Robert Richardson’s Salarvyáni figures is a good example. Carl Brodt in January 1998 first announced on the usenet that a new company had been producing 25mm miniatures of Salarvyáni armies for “less than a year.” In March 1999, Brodt announced that Tita’s House of Games would carry Richardson’s Salarvyáni line. But by July 2000 Brodt had announced the miniatures were no longer being produced and that he had sold the balance of the inventory
Maybe the fourth installment of a “short” history is an oxymoron? Anyway, the upcoming chapter on the reign of PHD Games will be a good one, but I first want to make some significant revisions to the last post on the Time of No Kings in light of some new information I have found. Before I do that, let me catch my breath with a shorter post on shorter miniatures.
The Old Guard, Ral Partha, Tékumel Journal, Tékumel Games, and PHD all made 25mm miniatures. Hobbyists quibble over details, but at this scale the height of an average man should be, well, 25mm and other things sized proportionately. Later, Eureka and the Tékumel Project bumped up the scale slightly to 28mm, which gives room for slightly more detail and takes mercy on Boomers’ fading eyesight.
However, two lines of smaller scale miniatures exist and are among the rarest Tékumel collectibles. I only know of two people who have them.
My powers of clairvoyance detect that some Tékumel fans are bored by detailed catalogues of old miniatures, so let’s take a break from that for a moment. Let’s discuss instead an exciting new find I made several days ago.
You will find in various places references to Barker’s pre-Tekumel writing in sci-fi fanzines. While Barker’s correspondence apparently contains a large corpus of creative writing (e.g. “The Petal Throne,” which was contained in a letter to Lin Carter), I have so far identified just five articles (not all stories) by the young Phil Barker that were published in fanzines. Three of these articles appeared in the Portland, Oregon fanzine “Fanscient” published by Donald Day: