by Jim Burgess

One might legitimately ask why there still is a Postal Section of the Pouch and what does it mean? Let's ask that question in the present about what's there now, and in the near future (as you are reading throughout this issue of the Pouch) there may be changes that lead somewhere. The first answer you come to, on what it is NOT, is a compendium history of the entire postal Diplomacy hobby going back to the 1960s. Interestingly, as we'll come back to, there are some key links that take you to places where you can learn more about that history. But the history is not here. Next, one might ask how to define games that fit under the postal rubric. The old answer to that was that games were contained in szines that had roughly monthly deadlines and were mailed out by post and players submitted orders and press via the post. This model is dead and has been dead for some time. With this article, and since I'm leading this section of the Pouch, that's the definition we run with, I am going to define the postal Diplomacy hobby as the segment of the hobby with game turns that have deadlines that are monthly or longer. This still is a pretty small bit of the hobby. The benchmark for the Postal Diplomacy hobby is the listing of Boardman number games. In 2014, there has been precisely ONE Postal Diplomacy game start, and that is in a szine that no longer mails its issues postally, nor does it receive any orders via post. On the good side, it is in the ONE Diplomacy szine that is documented and linked on line (at least the last half of its history) here in the Postal section of the Pouch: The Abyssinian Prince, which is my szine.

Since there really isn't any significant active Postal Diplomacy hobby at the moment (and feel free to see this article, argue with me, or tell me about some remaining chunk of this hobby that I don't know about), let's go over what you CAN find by rooting around in the Postal section of this site. First, there is the "Current" Postal Diplomacy Szines Registry, which really is an historical look from about ten years ago, which really is pretty recent in a Postal Diplomacy hobby that recently passed its 50 year Golden Anniversary. On the main list of non-US szines, the only szine that I still see (and does exist in a postal version, though I only see it electronically) is Jim Reader's Variable Pig and VP doesn't even have any Diplomacy or Diplomacy game openings. The only active postal szine with Diplomacy openings that actually mails issues outside the US, and that I receive is Brendan Whyte's Damn the Consequences (Write to him at the Map Section, National Library of Australia, Parkes, ACT 2600, AUSTRALIA). The link at the bottom of this page is to the last issue, ten years ago now, of the Zine Register, that lists the US szines extant at that time. The key historical point, though and this REALLY is the link to the history of the Diplomacy Postal hobby, is the link to Jim Meinel's Encyclopedia of Diplomacy Zines. That does give you the history of practically the entire postal hobby. And at Doug Kent's site many of these old szines can be found in scanned versions, plus in the monthly deadline model, there you can see Doug's szine, currently winding down to a fold, Eternal Sunshine.. But I don't know ANY of the Zine Register #30 szines (Damn the Consequences in mentioned, but not where it is now) that currently are still going except for my The Abyssinian Prince.

The Abyssinian Prince gets seen by about 100 people on its own mailing list and another couple of hundred on Doug Kent's list, but I don't mail it any more. Let me tell you why. When I had a postal mailing list of a little over 100 people, I used to spend at LEAST $1000 a year just in postage and copying costs that were not reimbursed. Standards in the postal hobby for subscription prices NEVER kept up with costs, and I never even did real accounting of my costs, since I didn't really want to know what they were. Finally, when my last few players who were in prison got out (they were the only ones who had access to the szine ONLY postally), I folded up the tent on the postal version. But it still comes out monthly, with monthly deadlines, glacially slow in E-Mail/web terms, but just right for a lot of busy players. Between Doug and me, we still have some subszines, including Peter Sullivan's szine that currently is running a 7x7 Gunboat tournament (seven players playing seven gunboat games at once, once playing each power). I have TWO postal Diplomacy games in my szine, one that just started that has the only Boardman number for 2014, and one older one. The older game began in 2006 and is now at the end of 1911 (yes, really!), as I play only three game years a 12 issue calendar year and I had a bit of a hiatus in the middle there, though I've been very regular publishing lately. That game is a tribute to the late Phil Reynolds' the publisher of Ishkibibble, which coincidentally is one of the OTHER szines in the Postal Szine archive.

The Postal Zine Archive has three entries, one for Ishkibibble. Unfortunately, Phil passed away way too young, and here are the last dozen or so issues of Ishkibibble. Of interesting note on this page (and I'll probably get hate mail again for even mentioning it obliquely), you'll note that the last issue, #44, is listed as only being available from me. Well therein lies a tale, and one of those types of tales that Larry Peery really likes, so I'll tell part of it, most likely just enough to whet appetites for more that I won't divulge. Apparently, in the pages of #44, there is a reference to a REAL LIFE spy, who claims his life would be in danger if people were able to take what is in that issue and put it together with other information to identify and locate him. I, for one, thought it was all a bit of malarkey, but I went ahead and took that issue down off the site and he stopped harassing me about its existence. At this point, I'm not giving that issue to anyone who doesn't have it (without another legitimate reason), and I sincerely hope that if his story is true that no one ever tracked him down based on anything I did.

The final link on that page is a link to the stupendous #100th issue of Diplomacy World and the link to Doug's site with the rest of the issues. As most of you know, Diplomacy World (once also edited by your very own editor of this issue of the Pouch, Larry Peery) really is the flagship szine for SURE for the entire Postal Diplomacy Hobby. That is the heart of its history, though it also has established itself as the primary go-to place for the FTF and Tournament hobby as well. I also am one of the DW editors now and have been for some couple of decades now. I value both DW and the Pouch and have said since the beginning of the Pouch that the Diplomacy hobby is in the best shape when both are successful. I hope this last of Larry's issue is a great issue, and I'm happy to explain what's there on the Postal site of the Pouch. Soon we are likely going to start cleaning it up finally, and taking out the broken links (there are a lot of them on these pages), but I think I would like to retain the history as well, so people can explore it at their leisure.

I want to make two comments in closing. First, the idea of Postal Press, published with move orders, that can be such a great vehicle for making a Diplomacy game interesting for readers, began in the old days when the postal Diplomacy szine editor would sit with dozens of paper letters in hand with all of that press (or most of it anyway) handwritten, and TYPE it into the szines!!! And still we had way better press and much more of it. Today, when it's easy for you as players to write such press and funnel it through your GM who does NOT have to retype it, there is so little of it, and it is so much less engaging than what we used to write in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's. Second, I do think there is a much larger market for once a month turn Diplomacy games, so many people are so busy and can't play games, negotiate much, and write much without longer deadlines. Am I wrong? Debate me, and some of you think about starting your own monthly outlets for Diplomacy games, see you in a month…

Jim Burgess

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