Postal Diplomacy Update:

By Jim Burgess

The Postal section of the Pouch continues to feature E-Mail versions of The Abyssinian Prince and its subszines (especially Tinamou from David Partridge and By the Way from Andy York, other subszines are linked from the subszine editors' personal web pages). Among the exciting newer features planned for the Postal section include some scanned in versions of past postal Diplomacy szines. To get the best sense of the richness of the Postal Diplomacy hobby's history in North America, you can also access Jim Meinel's Encyclopedia of Postal Diplomacy Zines that is current through July of 1992.

In recent years, as the Pouch and E-Mail Diplomacy have grown, the Postal hobby has gotten smaller. About 95-99% of negotiation/interaction in Postal Diplomacy in the period since then is conducted by E-Mail, depending a bit on the szine or the game. In North America, only two publishers remain who themselves are not E-Mail connected and do not accept orders by E-Mail: Cheesecake by Andy Lischett and the granddaddy of all Diplomacy szines, Graustark by John Boardman. And even in these szines, about 95% of game negotiation is conducted by E-Mail. For the most complete, most recent list of Postal Diplomacy szines in you can see the Pouch's list for North America in the attached Zine Register and for the rest of the world in the list. We do need to clean up those lists though since some of those szines are no longer being published.

For those interested in playing postal games by E-Mail, the most reliable games are those offered by Cheesecake (Andy Lischett) which are done in the most no frills manner possible, with only tidbits of a letter column and personal commentary. Letter columns and wide ranging subjects and editorial commentary, both on Diplomacy and other matters, are the hallmark of Postal Diplomacy. Games are much slower than E-Mail games, usually with one month turnarounds as opposed to the one week or less turnarounds in E-Mail Diplomacy. But the tradeoff is in really getting to know the editor and the players who are active in writing press in the original meaning of the word -- meaning items that are distributed to all the players with the adjudication results (postal press has been enabled on the judges, but hardly is ever used) -- while many E-Mail games are played anonymously and letter columns/general commentary are almost unheard of.

The North American Postal Diplomacy Hobby is currently starting only about half a dozen games a year, so it is miniscule as compared to the E-Mail hobby which starts thousands of games a year across its various forums/systems/web pages. But in addition to Cheesecake , Graustark , The Abyssinian Prince, and Off the Shelf, edited by Tom Howell who also is the Boardman Number Custodian (documenting Postal regular Diplomacy games) and the Miller Number Custodian (documenting Postal variant Diplomacy games), all have regular or variant Diplomacy games open and available. The Postal Diplomacy hobby in the rest of the world also similarly is much smaller than it used to be. And very few of those szines are purely Diplomacy szines as the North American ones tend to be, catering to a much wider set of games. See the Pouch listing for some prominent examples and check them out if you're interested!

In sum, the Postal Diplomacy hobby is far from dead, but it really has evolved into a niche market for people who like really long, relaxed month deadlines (to people in the E-Mail world, the idea of a game that lasts five or six years is unthinkable) where they really get to know the players they're playing with and interact with them and their lives for a long period of time. In that sense, the phone is also the second most common negotiation method after E-Mail and ahead of letters through the post. The characteristic that makes it Postal Diplomacy is that you get a szine in the postal mail and you can carry it around and read it on the can, in the subway, in your backyard, and you can hold it in your hands. In that sense it is an important part of the backbone of the Diplomacy hobby, as it contains people deeply engaged in the community of the hobby.

Jim Burgess

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