Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tékumel Foundation News

Victor Raymond asked me to pass along this news to the wider world. I'd known about it for some time beforehand and looked forward to being able to share it, because it's, frankly, really amazing:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 27, 2011
Minneapolis, MN


THE WORLD OF TÉKUMEL AND OTHER MATERIALS SECURED

The Tékumel Foundation is proud to announce that on Saturday, June 11th, 2011 Professor Barker's Tékumel materials and wargaming supplies were moved from his home to secure, climate-controlled storage. This project was long and carefully planned and carried out with the blessing and encouragement of Professor Barker and his wife Ambereen and the assistance of dedicated volunteers, some of whom flew in from out of state.

The Tékumel Foundation is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Professor M.A.R. Barker and building an archive of Tékumel memorabilia and documents. Foundation members assisted by Lady Anka’a and various Tékumel fans catalogued, photographed, carefully boxed and transported these materials to a secure climate-controlled storage area in less than 10 hours. Items secured include Professor Barker’s globe of Tékumel, the scale model Temple of Vimúhla first displayed at GenCon IX in 1976, private maps, papers and other interesting and diverse items including unpublished material – exactly how much or what is still to be determined.

There is still much work to be done. Paper items need to be digitally scanned to secure storage; items may need to be repaired and/or restored. Items not directly connected to Tékumel must be organized, including wargaming materials, fanzines of the 1950’s, and games that at various times had been sent to Professor Barker for review.  Fortunately, the Tékumel Foundation has people with the necessary skills to assist with this enormous project.  It is hoped Professor Barker’s papers will yield new material for Tékumel, and we are optimistic that there is “good new stuff” to be published.

Photos are available in the photos section of this group depicting some of items placed in storage to help preserve the legacy of Tékumel. Enjoy!

For more information, please contact the Tékumel Foundation – www.tekumelfoundation.org.
Here are the photographs mentioned in the press release.
 This is an incomplete globe of Tékumel, showing the locations of all known lands.
This is the globe from another angle.
This is a 25mm scale Temple of Vimúhla, of which you may have seen black and white photos from an early issue of Dragon.
Here's the same Temple from another angle.
And, finally, here's a hex map of the largely unknown southern continent of Tékumel, the one from which it is assumed many player characters in the original Empire of the Petal Throne come.

As I said above, this is amazing news and I'm very happy to share it. Victor has been keeping me regularly updated on the doings of the Tékumel Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Professor Barker's gaming-related writings and other artifacts for posterity. Given the remarkable nature of some of the items now in its possession, like those pictured above, I cannot express how grateful I am for the dedication of the Foundation and its members. These irreplaceable items will now be protected for the future rather than being lost to the elements or falling into the hands of those who would not share them with others.

It's a pity that similar archives don't (or won't) exist for other founders of the hobby, such as Gary Gygax or Dave Arneson, but here's hoping that the example of the Tékumel Foundation might inspire others to consider such a possibility in the years to come.

25 comments:

  1. This a) makes me super happy, b) makes me want to make a globe of my campaign setting, c) Oh, & an orrery, d) oh & a planar map & e) omg MAR Barker is the best.

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  2. I remember seeing the 25mm temple on display at Origins in '84. It' sad seeing it looking like it does now, but hopefully it can be restored to its past glory.

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  3. I think though there is a difference between MAR Barker and Gygax/Arneson.

    Professor Barker was a professor and his world building seems to have been based in literature and the arts, with the game being added because he was a D&D fan. Based on what little I've read, he seems to have made this a life-long hobby. Also, being part of academia, you're much more likely to preserve your works and writings like that.

    I can't speak for Arneson, but Gygax never treated his work as "art", as in something that needed to be preserved for all time. (He's said many times "Games are not art"). Seeing how he treated Greyhawk over the years, I guess you could say his style--and I think many game writers fall under this category--is akin to a screen writer or something similar. He would drop creating anything if he didn't get financial compensation for it--he wasn't like Ed Greenwood who created huge amounts of notes on a single campaign--he was able to walk away from his work.

    And it's very likely because D&D was commercial from the litle brown books onward, a lot of this stuff simply wasn't preserved, or was left in the hands of a corporation rather than the individuals. Plus, I think a lot of academia would not think of a game writer as equal to a fiction writer, they would look upon those works as a screen writer. Let's face it--author's in gaming are usually secondary to the whole picture--people don't usually follow writers in gaming, and gaming is a very commercial art. There were far fewer people who bought Gary's post D&D work than those who bought D&D products in general, and you can say the same for many other "known names".

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  4. Indeed, this is How It Is Done. Nice job. And I hope we will see these curated materials one day... and not just the deep ethnographical aspect, but things like the dungeons of Jakkalá and similar wonders.

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  5. Victor is awesome, as are all the people involved in this project. I've only been on the periphery, but the sheer amount of astounding stuff the Prof. has, even on a single hard drive, blows my mind.

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  6. I'm really glad they are doing this. Makes me kind of sad though, as it puts me in mind of what happens when the elderly get moved into a retirement home and all their stuff gets taken away from them.

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  7. Makes me kind of sad though, as it puts me in mind of what happens when the elderly get moved into a retirement home and all their stuff gets taken away from them.

    In this case, fortunately, Professor Barker is directly and intimately involved in the proceedings. He's an active member of the board of the Foundation, so its work is something he's not only aware of but approves of.

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  8. "It's a pity that similar archives don't (or won't) exist for other founders of the hobby, such as Gary Gygax or Dave Arneson..."

    My thoughts exactly.

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  9. Oh, wow. That is glorious news. Calls for a ritual of celebration at my local Temple of Dlamelish. :)

    Seriously, I'm glad to see this material preserved. Too much of our gaming history gets lost. I hope they can restore the Temple; it looks beautiful.

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  10. I hope some more material is released about Barker's dungeons. He seems to have done everything brilliantly.

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  11. I know for a fact that work is proceeding on the Jakállan underworld for release to the public. There have been some hold-ups of various sorts, mostly pertaining to the question of just how to present this early megadungeon in printed form, as I understand it. I have no doubt, though, that we'll see something on this front before too long.

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  12. that is some seriously cool gaming archeology, good on the Tekumel foundation for keeping these treasures safe.

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  13. so are they planning on making pdf's of it all, or try to release it all hard-copy retail?

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  14. so are they planning on making pdf's of it all, or try to release it all hard-copy retail?

    Last I heard, there was still a lot of wrangling over the precise format(s) to be used for the release of things like the Jakállan underworld. A big part of it is just how large the maps are to this thing. We're talking about many sheets of graph paper, which need to be reproduced in a useful fashion and that takes time and thought. So, have no fear: it is coming but it may be a little while longer yet before we see it.

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  16. JTR Said...

    "Plus, I think a lot of academia would not think of a game writer as equal to a fiction writer, they would look upon those works as a screen writer. "

    And I'm sure Gary Gygax would tell you the same thing as well. Many artists and creative people don't like to talk about or make a fuss over their work. But no matter how he or Dave Anderson felt, they in their own way help define part of the culture that we live in today. You would have things like The Sims" or World of Warcraft" if it wasn't for D&D. I mean, the concept of " hit points" has been used in so many video games, you couldn't make a count of all of them. So yeah, now that theses men are gone, their work is worth preserving more now then ever.

    Also, I don't know were you got this idea that the academia doesn't think much of filmmaker or the contributions of people in the industry, but you are wrong. UC Berkeley , Stanford, UCLA, NYC USC and many other schools, museums, institutions are devoted to film preservation--including the work of screenwriters-- in fact, any school worth their salt with a film curriculum has classes devoted to scriptwriting as it's an incredibly important process of of the filming process from beginning to end--especially in the beginning.

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  17. Yes, I know there are people trying to preserve screenworks and other things.

    The key thing that has allowed Tekumel to be preserved is in particular the attitude of its creator. I never got the sense Empire of the Petal Throne was meant to be a major commercial endeavor, but rather a writer sharing his works. And having known Gary for years, the reason I gave the "screenwriter" analogy is because a lot of people working there are thinking first of the paycheck and not of how to preserve their legacy. Since Barker was an academic, he probably had a different attitude.

    The key thing however is--I really don't think a lot of work has been saved, and in particular the fact that a lot of it is tied up in the initial incorporation of TSR from the get-go makes a lot of the stuff unavailable. Hindsight is 20/20, but I doubt in the 70s people thought it would last this long or have as deep an impact on the culture as it did.

    I think if people are looking for Gary's insights, just read the material--if you have all the Dragon Magazines he was in, if you have followed the threads on message boards in the last decade, you pretty much have a lot of insight into his personality. But I simply think if people are looking for some kind of Holy Grail of the Greyhawk Campaign or original D&D manuscripts, there's gonna be a lot of disappointment there.

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  19. JRT said...
    Yes, I know there are people trying to preserve screenworks and other things.

    Yes you do... NOW

    "And having known Gary for years, the reason I gave the "screenwriter" analogy is because a lot of people working there are thinking first of the paycheck and not of how to preserve their legacy."

    Well, I though you did but obviously you still don't. Most written works, either a book, a play, a song and even a screenplay, are created before the writer ever see's a check. This is most especially true when it comes to screenwriting in what is called a " spec script:, that is a screenplay created on the writers own his own free time without being paid.

    "Hindsight is 20/20, but I doubt in the 70s people thought it would last this long or have as deep an impact on the culture as it did."

    Duh, do you think Socrates, Shakespeare or even Jack Kirby though their work was important enough to be talked about and preserved after their deaths? Check: no.

    "But I simply think if people are looking for some kind of Holy Grail of the Greyhawk Campaign or original D&D manuscripts, there's gonna be a lot of disappointment there."

    And if every so called "smart" academic thought like yourself, we wouldn't have any sort of historical material to look at in the first place. Really, it's not for you to say how important it is if you don't care about this material in the fist place--which you obviously don't.

    Some friend of Gary's you ended up turning out to be..sheesh

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  20. Well, Crowking, I do care about his material, but more than that, I care about his personal wishes and attitudes.

    And it's not up to the fans to decide what is "right" about his unpublished work, any more than it is up to me. It's up to his heirs, which is currently his wife of 25 years.

    Let me put it this way, as a friend of Gary's, I think the man was more than his material. I'm more concerned with his own desires. In fact, in many ways I was a lot like you and others, worrying about his posterity and (in my opinion) selfishly hoping he'd release old material, etc., to the masses. But learning things over time, I learned in some cases that wasn't what he wanted, and in other cases it simply doesn't exist.

    Gail was pretty much the person Gary trusted and loved more than anybody else. And since this meant more to him than gaming or the fans, I think it's really up to her. And I think on some level it's a little selfish to ask her to give up stuff to a museum, especially if perhaps Gary's primary goal was to get financial compensation for things, and especially if the work still has some value.

    (And that's not to say Gail isn't doing that--but I see a lot of "armchair quarterbacking" about all this stuff, and I see a lot of positive stuff being done).

    In many cases, the arguments about this seem to go off into some kind of "we need that stuff preserved", or into some weird sort of rabbit hole or myth that the legacy should not be about making money, etc. But let's face it, that's what YOU want, not necessarily what GARY wanted. Maybe I'm being more of a friend by actually considering his wishes instead of trying to deify his work or give in to what certain fans want. I actually think it's more moral to consider the author's own wishes rather than society's. (For instance, I'd agree that Harlan Ellision has the right to destroy his unpublished work upon his death).

    Plus I'm also pointing out that from what I've seen there's probably not a lot of stuff that would be as interesting--Gary preserved more later work than earlier, and seeing how people react when I tell them much of the unpublished work has nothing to do with D&D or Greyhawk tells me it's not so much about his work but the personal favorites. I think a lot of the early work is just lost or tied up in the corporation--which Barker never had to worry about since he always kept ownership of his works.

    I don't intend to argue about this anymore, but I ask people to consider those particular areas. Maybe you can see where I am coming from. But don't you dare judge me as being a "bad friend" because I'm not giving into the vox populli out there.

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  21. Only when necessary and in this case it's important when people such as JTR believe material that he doesn't feel is worthy to preserve no matter how many people feel otherwise. Plus his comparisons to gaming documents to what he conceived as "throwaway" material such as screenplays was downright terrible. It's that reason alone why many early films are lost forever such as " London After Midnight". Even the video game Industry has made better efforts of preserving it's past then what the Hobby is doing now( with the exception of James, and a few others).

    If Gay wanted his material destroyed after his death like that crack-pot Harlan Ellison( who by-the-way treats his fans like total garbage) then so be it. But he didn't, and for some reason he felt that it was worth holding onto and should be thought about seriously. Because once it's tossed into the garbage bin, it's lost forever.

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  22. The key thing I'm trying to communicate is that Tekumel was a situation that is a lot different from the early D&D campaigns, and a difference in the attitude of Barker from Gygax/Arneson. And the fact that, in this industry--yes, it's an industry--there's not a lot of value on preserving it. So I don't think there's all that much that can be preserved, and in the case of the professor he did his stuff more or less as a labor of love and a literary exercise, which was not the case for Gygax and Arneson.

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  23. To bring this back to the matter at hand...
    What the Tekumel Foundation plans to do is fairly simple:
    -- inventory and index the vast array of material Prof. Barker has entrusted to us.
    -- continue to make available existing material (e.g. Original Empire of the Petal Throne), as well as other materials previously published for Tekumel.
    -- publish new source material for the World of Tekumel that would be of interest to gamers, fans, and others.

    While this might seem fairly straightforward and simple, the sheer volume of material that we now have in storage makes this task much bigger. But we're up for it.

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  24. Nice temple, shame that it is useless. :)

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