The Naming of Zines

by Stephen Agar

The name of a zine can be its making or its curse. When I launched Spring Offensive I tried to come up with a name which would be serious, have a casual reference to Diplomacy and a bit of World War I in it. I turned to a book of World War I poetry for inspiration and Spring Offensive was the first poem I saw. It seemed right so I went for it. Looking through the names of other zines over the years, a few themes do stand out. 

Starting in the mid-60’s in the US, many early Diplomacy zines were named after mythical places. Indeed the first four Diplomacy zines ever were, in chronological order, Graustark (John Boardman – May 1963), Ruritania (Dave McDaniel – Sept 1963), Freedonia (John Boardman – May 1964) and Brobdingnag (Richard Schultz – May 1964). In fact there were so many zines named after mythical places that one early variant Mythomacy by Terry Kuch consisted of a mythical continent with the Great Powers consisting of six of the mythical places represented by Diplomacy zines at the time (Gaillardia (Robert Johnson 1971-72), Erehwon (Rod Walker 1966-1984), Laputa (Betsy Childers 1970), Mu (Chris Schleicher 1971) and Lemuria (Dan Sundrie 1971). The trend never really caught on in the UK, though the first UK Diplomacy zine was called Albion (Don Turnbull 1969-1975). Perhaps Tony Crouch’s Rhubovia (1977-79) may also count. 

Word Games 

One feature of some early UK zine titles was word games connected to Diplomacy, such as Richard Walkerdine’s Mad Policy (an anagram of “Diplomacy”) and Grafeti (Brian Yare 1972-74) and Frigate (Duncan Morris 1973-75), both anagrams of the initial letters of the seven powers in Diplomacy. Rats live on no evil staR (Pete Swanson 1976-78) was of course a palindrome, Sno-Pake and the Seven Dwarfs (Paul Hurtley 1976-78) and Sauce of the Nile (Richard Bartle 1977-78) both claimed to be puns, while more recently Toby Harris Smodnoc was “condoms” spelt backwards. One of my own zines Variants & Uncles (1980-81) was a pathetic variation of “aunts & uncles” but Mark and James Nelson obviously liked it enough to revive it in the 70’s. Other word games included various rhymes with the word “zine”, such as Shaun Derrick’s A Zine of the Times (1979-80) and Shaun’s later zine produced with Nick Kinzett Zine to be Believed (1982-91) which taken together gives no indication as to how Shaun thinks “zine” is pronounced at all. Walter Luc Haas’s Buum was meant to be onomatopoeic for the sound a canon makes when it is fired, but it’s similarity to “bum” meant the zine wasn’t taken as seriously as it should have been by some at the time (though, oddly enough, one of today’s more successful zines is indeed called BUM). 

Music, Literature and TV 

Other sources of inspiration have included music, such as Pink Floyd, Ummagumma (Martin Davis 1973-74); Emerson Lake and Palmer, Tarkus (Colin Walsh 1974-75); Elton John, Don’t Shoot Me (Mike Benyon 1981-83); Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody (Malcolm Smith 1981-82); Hawkwind, spirit of the age (Pete Calcraft 1978-81); and even an album by someone called Chris Rainbow entitled Home of the Brave (Geoff Challinger 1981-91) has had a zine named after it. Roger Kitchener’s Uriah’s Heap (1975-76) could have been named after the group or the Dicken’s character, I’m not sure. Although it’s a US zine called Schuldigkeit Des Ersten Und Vornehmsten Gebotes, Die, K.35 (Conrad von Metzke – 73-74) or K.35 for short, which probably has the most unpronounceable musical title (being an early Mozart opera). 

Speaking of Dicken’s, literature has also featured in zine titles. Mr Gladgrind (John Miller 1977-82) is a character from Dicken’s Hard Times, the IDA Novice Package The Tangled Web We Weave is a Walter Scott quote, War & Peace (Derek Caws 1982-89) is obviously Tolstoy, Boojum (Richard Morris 1983-86) is of course a homage to Lewis Carroll, Leviathan (Eric Willis 1976-78) is the great work by Thomas Hobbes and Turn of the Screw (Greg Hawes 1975-77) is the title of a short story by Henry James. 

Popularist literature is represented by Moorcock, Tales from Tanelorn (Matt Williams 1983-85, which changed its name to the slightly surreal Swansea With Me); Tolkein, Shelob’s Lair (Les Pimley 1974-75) and Voice of Sauron (Mark Nelson 1989-94). Douglas Adams is represented at least three UK zines, Life, the Universe and A(Par) (Matthew Wright 1985-86, known in its later days as Armageddon), Share & Enjoy (Pete Tulk, 1988) and, of course, Electric Monk (Andy & Maddi Key 1988-94) which is a type of robot appearing in Dirk Gently’s Hollistic Detective Agency. I’m not sure if Sellar & Yeatman’s 1066 and all that counts as literature or history, but it is the inspiration behind Mick Bullock’s great zine 1901 and all that (72 -78). 

TV hasn’t inspired may zines. John Piggott’s Ethil the Frog (72-74, 77-79) was named, at the suggestion of Will Haven, after an incidental Monty Python character; Fall of Eagles (Richard Hucknall – 77-84) was named after a 70’s TV series on the decline of the German, Russian and Austrian monarchies; Moonlighting (Bate, Egan & Jackson, 89-91) reflects the cult US detective series; Ripping Yarns (Richard Gooch – 80-83) is a reference to the Michael Palin TV series as well as a reference to Richard’s nickname, Rip. Everyone knows where He’s Dead, Jim! (Jeremy Maiden – 75-77) comes from. 

Ancient History / Mythology 

Ancient history hasn’t produced the crop of zine titles I would have expected. Hannibal (Andrew herd – 73-75) was really called Hannibal the Cannibal which puts it closer to Hannibal lector than the Carthaginian General, though the recent The Ides of March (Chris Palm – 95-??) is a decent ancient title. Caissa (Norman Williams – 76-77), Icarus Flight Manual (Gavin Addison, 88-89) and Cassandra (Anthony Bourke – 1985-86) all refer to characters from Greek mythology, while Chimaera (Clive Booth – 75-83) and Griffin (Keith Thomasson – 78-80) are at least mythological creatures. One area in which ancient history has been influential is the number of zines with Latin titles: Ad Nauseam (Steve Pratt – 75-78), Bellicus (Will Haven – 72-77), Mercurius Aulicus (Paul McGivern – 82-86), Fortis est Rana (John Piggott – 75-77), Aut Vincere Aut Mori (Paul Harper – 76-78), Causus Belli (Mark Strangward – 1981), De Excidio (Bill O’Neill – 90-92), Victor Ludorum (John Piggott – 75-76), O Tempora O Mores and Veni Vidi Vici (Brian Frew – 85-90) (which funnily enough was Chris Palm’s preferred title for The Ides of March).  

Diplomatic and Military 

Given the nature of the game, there have always been the rather serious zine titles with names connected to Diplomacy, diplomatic activity, stabbing etc. etc. the best known of which must be DolchstoƟ which is German for “stab ” (Richard Sharp 1972-79, 1983-today). Similar zines which spring to mind include Stick The Knife In the short-lived zine from Nigel McCabe (1982) and the rather longer-lived Watch Your Back (John Wilman – 77-85). Age of Reason (Andrew Moss – 91-94), Entente (Shaun Derrick – 78) and Guy Thomas’s Realpolitik (84-95?) all conjure up the beginning of the century flavour. There have been a clutch of the inevitable zines with unadventurous titles along the lines of Dip… (the most famous of which are. Diplomacy World (various eds. 74-) and Diplomacy Digest (Mark Berch – 77-94). Also included are the likes of The Diplomat (Malc Smith – 80-81) and Der Garvey’s variant zine An Taidhleoir (78-79) which is Irish for The Diplomat

Given the game recreates European warfare, it is perhaps surprising that more zines haven’t had militaristic titles. One early zine was War Bulletin (Dave Berg and Hartley Patterson 1970-75) but the only others I can think of are Pyrrhic Victory (Mike Allaway – 78-84, 88-), Prisoners of War (Wallace Nicoll – 84-91) and Aide de Camp (Douglas Mills – 77-78). 


Finally, we have a loose category of zine titles which reflect something personal to the editor. A brief selection: Queen’s Lane Advertiser (Tullett & Doherty – 78-79) was named after Queen’s Lane which is the road on which St.Edmund Hall, Oxford stands – the college where both editors were studying. Keith Lovey’s Snorwood Gazette (78-82) was so called because Keith lived in S. Norwood. The Orient Express (Steve Plater – 79-81) reflected the fact that the editor was in the F&CO in Japan, while Pigmy (Stephen Agar – 77-79) was so called because it started life as a one game single sheet zine; Whiskey Mac (Paul Openshaw – 78-79) acquired it’s name because it was Paul’s favourite tipple, which says about Paul; Fred Davis’s Bushwacker was named after a cartoon character he created himself as a child. Y Ddraig Goch (Welsh for the Red Dragon) reflected Iain Bowen’s Welsh sentiments, even if he did misspell his own zine title as the unfortunate Y Ddraig Coch for the first few issues. Another foreign language represented is Vietnamese in the shape of Ac-Mong (Gordon McDonald, 86-93) which translates as nightmare. 

Over the years there have been surprisingly few duplicates in the UK, though Richard Egan did cause some confusion when issue one of LiES had the title Lies, Damned Lies & Diplomacy which was also the title of an earlier and rather obscure late 80’s zine. Ian Harris’s Borealis was originally called Blood & Iron (which was the name of a zine edited by Lew Pulsipher, 71-75), but he changed the name when he realised the name had been used before. The same is not true in the US where there have been two each of FrigateDogs of WarLaputa, PhoenixRagnarokRetaliationRuritaniaStabThulcandraVortex and at least three zines called The Diplomat

Let’s end up with some zine names which I can’t fathom at all. How about The TinamouATU XVIIIA Subtle PowderFroggyOde10 Lime AvenueGazfinc. Any ideas? And that’s just to be going on with.