About The Diplomatic Pouch

Manus Hand, Publisher

Welcome back for another fun-filled issue of The Zine. Much has happened since I last talked to you in these pages, so let's get right to it, shall we?

Pouch Skips Its First Phase

As you undoubtedly noticed, there was no Fall 1996 Retreat issue of The Zine. There were a few reasons for this -- I was busy, I was traveling -- but frankly, the most important reason was the low number of submitted articles.

Right up front when the Zine went into production, I said that the retreat issues might get skipped every so often, so there's no blame as such to be laid, but I wanted to waste the first section of this "About The Pouch" article by saying that a skipped issue is more your fault than it is mine. In fact -- and I didn't mean to go off on this tangent, but here I go -- The Zine can only exist with articles, and if I don't get any articles, there can be no Zine.

I can't write every article myself. If you like The Pouch, if you like The Zine, if you like the Hobby, get involved! It doesn't take much time or effort and you'll be helping the hobby a lot. As Simon Szykman discusses elsewhere in this issue, now is the time when the Pouch's delivery medium -- the Internet -- is growing fastest. We know that there are already literally thousands of readers of The Zine and The Pouch. So why, when it is issue publication time, are there so few authors represented? Why do we find it necessary to republish game broadcasts and rec.games.diplomacy postings? You tell me.

In fact, like Bruce Reiff, a leading light in the postal hobby, says (also elsewhere in this issue) -- it is lamentable that it often seems to be "the same names" contributing to the Pouch. This is not to say that I don't realize or appreciate the many new authors who have joined the group of Pouch contributors (indeed, there are three more this issue), but the number seems somehow smaller than I would think it would be.

I am probably making a mountain out of a molehill, but this molehill actually became a fair-sized mound when the Fall 1996 Retreat issue of the Zine was skipped. Knowing that there are a scant three months remaining before the publication of the next (Spring 1997 Movement) issue, I hope you'll forgive me for perhaps taking a harsher line in hopes that we can prevent another skipped issue for a while.

So Get Involved!

No, there's no financial incentive (unless we band together and publish a book or something). All I can offer is the "name in lights" stuff. But if you have something to say about the hobby, the game -- anything -- send in an article! The hobby is growing faster than it ever has, and now is the time to stake your claim as an old-timer, an "authority," a hobby deity.

Speaking of the Gods

Before I leave Bruce Reiff's message to the hobby, I want to comment on a couple of his points. He is probably right that many of the players who have joined the hobby recently don't know what came before, don't recognize the names John Boardman, Rod Walker, or even Allan Calhamer. This is indeed unfortunate if true, because the contributions of these men and many others have given us the hobby we enjoy today. (John Boardman created the postal hobby singlehandedly, Rod Walker -- among other accomplishments -- created Avalon Hill's The Gamer's Guide to Diplomacy, which greatly popularized the play of the game, and Allan Calhamer, well [genuflect], he invented the game of Diplomacy).

I myself must confess that I was only tangentially aware of postal Diplomacy when I first learned the game face-to-face, and when I -- years later -- discovered e-mail play; I had never played by mail and knew nothing of that part of the hobby.

Publishing The Pouch changed all that -- I began to receive postal zines in my mail, I started corresponding with their publishers, and I ended up traveling to Columbus to participate in the World Championships where I came to know what the face-to-face hobby is all about at the highest level. As a result, I have become acquainted with a great number of names from the postal and face-to-face hobbies, and have learned a lot about their histories. I agree that this small bit of knowledge can go a long way to humble one, and that every true hobbyist should have an appreciation for the hobby's history.

Breathing Thin Air

My new awareness of the postal world brought with it an awareness of the awards which have long been established to recognize the accomplishments of the storied names of the hobby. It also brought to the postal hobby an awareness of The Pouch, which had the happy result of seeing The Pouch Zine place high in the Runestone Poll -- the list of the top zines in the hobby. This without me knowing that The Pouch -- as a non-postal zine -- was being considered or that it was even eligible.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I was informed that, for my humble work, I was being considered for the Don Miller Memorial Award for Meritorious Service to the Diplomacy Hobby. This so soon after I'd even become aware that the existing hobby had even been organized so well that there even was such an award (and a whole host of others). Imagine how that surprise doubled or tripled when I was told that I had actually won the award!

Winning the Don Miller Award is a tremendous honor, and I hope those in the postal world who nominated me and all who voted for me know that I truly consider myself quite the least in the group of winners of this prestigious award.

Still I confess that I thought having my name published in the various postal zines as the 1996 winner was it. To my great shock, I actually received an extremely nice engraved plaque in the mail. The organization of the existing hobby surprised and humbled me yet again.

The Awards Controversy

When the nominations for the Don Miller Award came out, and when voting was being conducted, I was aware of a bit of a controversy surrounding my nomination. The award had always gone to a postal hobbyist, and the nomination of someone who is known as more of a PBEM player was breaking some unbroken ground. While it is true that the Pouch is a resource for all the sub-hobbies (and we continue to work to make it even more so), it is also true that it is perhaps an injustice to those before me in the PBEM hobby that their tremendous contributions have gone unrecognized.

I would like to remedy this, and have proposed that the PBEM "sub-hobby" create for itself a set of awards, just as the postal hobby did so long ago. Ken Lowe, who created the Internet judge -- among so many others -- deserves an immortal place in the annals of hobby history.

I don't want to overstate the "controversy;" indeed, no one was questioning my eligibility or even my humble qualifications, and I want to commend the postal hobby for not being "provincial" and for nominating and voting for me. With this in mind, I also don't want the proposal to create a set of PBEM awards to sound provincial either -- from a "PBEM only, let's keep the PBM'ers out" point of view.

Rather, my admittedly limited understanding of the awards suggests to me that the Don Miller Award seems to be a general award which can be given to the single person who has done the most for the hobby (be it one or more of the sub-hobbies), while others of the heretofore PBM awards may be, by their definition, more suited to postal play only. Similarly, there are awards in the face-to-face community (the World Dip Cup, for instance) which are suited to that sub-hobby alone. All I propose is that a similar set of awards be created for the PBEM hobby.

It is my hope that the establishment of such a set of awards does not divide the sub-hobbies in any way. As Simon Szykman says, The Pouch is meant as a vehicle for bringing the sub-hobbies together. I myself am a testament to the fact that it can do just that. Our current FTF World Champion, Pitt Crandlemire -- who entered the hobby as a PBEM'er, got involved with the Pouch, accompanied me and Simon to World DipCon, and who now is an active postal player and even a sub-zine publisher -- is perhaps the very best example.

For all the commonality and history that the sub-hobbies share and should share, the fact remains that the three sub-hobbies are in fact sufficiently different to warrant three separate awards sets. Beyond this, however, I hope that The Pouch can continue to provide incentive for players from all sub-hobbies to involve themselves in each of the others.

So look for more information in thes pages and elsewhere on the formation of a set of PBEM awards. I myself have given some small amount of thought to the topic, and would suggest that, like the postal hobby has done, the PBEM awards be permanently named after the founders of the hobby (such as, for example, Ken Lowe), and that a group of awards be granted en masse to those who "would have won" in years past.

Other News

As you may have noticed, The Pouch has once again touched itself up for the new year. Since we've now done it twice in a row, we're thinking that it will be an annual event. You can check out the changes we made (which are dwarfed by last year's overhaul) in an article elsewhere in this issue.

Can Anyone Read Kanji?

If so, maybe you can tell us what the first known mention of The Pouch by the Japanese press says. This appeared in the November, 1996 issue of the Japanese edition of MacUser magazine. I hope it doesn't speak too ill of us!
Click for a close-up look

If you can read what it says, drop me a line and give me the translation. Your help will be appreciated and acknowledged. You should know that I am not even sure if this is the only part of the page that talks about The Pouch. I found this paragraph below a screen shot of the front page of The Pouch, but there is a lot more text on the same magazine page, both preceding and following the screen shot.

Well, That's It For Now

As always, I hope you enjoy The Pouch!

Manus Hand, Publisher

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the mail address above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.