by David Hood
For the uninitiated, the Runestone Poll is the USA’s postal Diplomacy hobby’s answer to the Zine Poll in the UK. Zines are ranked from 0 to 10 by each voter, as are subzines and GMs. There are some technical rules about how the scoring is done and which zines are eligible, but you don’t care about that, do you? I didn’t think so.
Well, the top zine of 1995 is Maniac’s Paradise, published by your very own DW editor Doug Kent (6151 Royalton Drive, Dallas TX 75230). This zine has been at or near the top of the zine rankings for several years now, and for good reason. This is really the only zine currently in the hobby with a heavy game load, lots of good reading material, and that comes out frequently and faithfully. Doug’s commitment to timely issues borders on the insane, but it is a wonderful bonus to what is already an excellent zine. I have never played in MP, but I certainly enjoy the political and hobby discussions in there. Recently, Doug has included a fair amount of real life stuff about his move to Dallas and so forth which has been quite entertaining. Another bonus with this zine is Doug’s monthly “Zinc Recap” feature where he reports on the contents of zines he subs to – an excellent way to keep your finger to the pulse of the hobby.
The second place finisher was also no surprise. Pete Gaughan’s Perelandra has shared the spotlight with MP for the past several years, with the two being head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field. The strength of Perelandra has traditionally been its letter column, which since the demise of Benzene has been the best place for the hobby’s political discussions. Pete (1236 Detroit Ave. #7, Concord CA 94520) is also an excellent writer on his own account, as the issues of the Zine Register under his editorship have shown. Pete also runs a variety of games, particularly of the non-Dip variety, that have been a big draw for subbers. The zine has fallen off in quality just slightly, which is why MP took top honours, but is still a wonderful read. The only minor quibble is the $1.50 issue price, but that long-standing price is now becoming closer to the hobby norm then it once was.
Coming in third this-year was CDD Medical Journal, published by Tom Pasko. I have never seen this zine, but know that its primary focus is Avalon Hill’s newly published Dip variant Colonial Diplomacy. Some have found the variant to be an exciting way to rediscover the pre-stalemate line fluidity that Diplomacy used to have, while others have complained of the variant’s imbalance. I don’t have an opinion on that, but at least the zine devoted to the game has proved popular.
The three most involved hobbyists right now are probably Doug Kent, Pete Gaughan and Andy York (PO Box 2307, Universal City TX 78148). It is no surprise, then, that Andy’s zine Rambling Way took fourth place in the 1995 Runestone Poll. This zine has a very large circulation, and is reported to be an excellent place to play Dip and variants. I am myself playing a game of Acquire by flyers though that is not in the main zine. For reading material the zine is a little inconsistent. There have been some great subzine articles before, particularly by correspondents outside the US, but other times the non-game material is sparse. Andy’s zine is very regular, though, which makes it a good place to sign up for a new game. He also has one of the most complete convention listings out there, and keeps it updated. The list also reflects Andy’s interests in other areas, such as Star Trek.
Eric Ozog has been in the hobby for a very long time, as has his wife Cathy Ozog. When his fifth-place zine Ramblings by Moonliqht first started, it was sort of a modest effort to run a couple of orphans from Cathy’s defunct Cathy’s Ramblings and maybe a new game or two. It has grown into a charming zine full of Eric/Cathy tales, environmental articles and general reading material, along with several games with VERY LEGIBLE MAPS. (I believe good maps and printing player addresses each issue are the marks of a good game report.) I have played here and can attest to the good GMing and timeliness that Eric puts into the games. Eric (PO Box 1138, Granite Falls WA 98252) used to publish Diplomacy by Moonlight back in the early 1980s, so it’s no surprise he knows what he’s doing now.
Jim Burgess (664 Smith St, Providence RI 02908) publishes what I believe to be the only three-weekly Diplomacy zine still out there. The Abyssinian Prince, which came in sixth this year, not only runs several Diplomacy games, it also serves as host to the hobby’s only discussion column that is both by mail and Email. For a window on the mail world (that is fast eclipsing the traditional “snail mail” hobby), TAP is a very useful addition to the zine scene. Many of the issues discussed by Emailers are the same ones that used to be discussed in postal zines, from crossgaming to the ethics of letter-passing. Jim also features a lot of music chat and a fannish style that is not as prevalent as it used to be in the hobby. Heck, Jim is an outright dinosaur with his three-weekly deadlines – that is a holdover from the hobby of ten or twenty years ago.
I’ve lost count how many times Conrad von Metzke has published, ceased publishing, and again started publishing the seventh-place zine Costaguana. Conrad (4374 Donald Avenue, San Diego CA 92117) has been doing it for about as long as the hobby has been around. He is truly one of the hobby’s most distinguished old-timers, and his zine is usually the source of good reading material and decent games service. At one point Conrad was running games of Railway Rivals separately, but I believe all that has now been consolidated into Costaguana. (Have you noticed that the two big sub hobbies of the early 90s, United and Rail games, have both started disappearing from the postal scene?) I have not received Costaguana for some time, but that is something I need to remedy. It was always a good zine to get, and I’m sure it still is.
One of the freshest zines of the 1990s has been Tom Howell’s off-the-shelf. The zine, which finished eighth, is primarily a place to read about Tom’s life in the woodlands of Washington state, and to read about his interests, from dancing to geography. Tom is an excellent writer, and when I was playing out a standby position, was a good GM as well. I have not seen this zine in a few issues, but it is worth a look.
Coming in ninth was the only Canadian offering in the top ten, Making Love in a Canoe. For years editor Brent McKee (90l Ave. T North, Saskatoon Sask. S9L 3B9) was a frequent and prolific contributor to other zines, and his talent for writing has been carried over to his zine. It is a wonderful place to read about Canadian events, much as Passchendaele and Northern Flame used to be. Brent also writes on naval history and hobby matters, so it is quite a read when it arrives. He has had some trouble on the GMing end, as he himself has admitted in times past. But this one is truly worth getting for the reading material alone (although the digest format and poor reproduction sometimes makes it difficult to read).
Rounding out the top ten is a zine I am particularly fond of, Dave Wang’s Metamorphosis. One reason I like it is the tremendous amount of Star trek discussion (the same thing which makes Doug Kent gag I am happy to announce). It is full of good writing, on this and other subjects, together with games galore. Dave (PO Box 1325, Summit NJ 07902) has had some problems with regularity in the past, though, so don’t expect the slavish attention to deadlines that you would get in MP or Carolina Command and Commentary.
Well, those are my thoughts on the top ten zines. I can’t let this article go without commenting on the devastating losses suffered in the zine ranks over the past couple of years. When I saw the full list of only thirty zines in the poll results, I could hardly believe it. It wasn’t that long ago that thirty would simply have been the top half of the listing. There is no question that the postal side of the hobby is ebbing, and the zines are one bellweather of that change. The big challenge facing our hobby is not the perennial fight over who is going to hold Dip Con, or how World Dip Con is going to rotate around the world, but instead how to attract Diplomacy enthusiasts, postal or not, to our conventions in general, and how to get them involved in the hobby’s lettercols and other events. Let’s put our heads together on this one.
Reprinted from Diplomacy World No.75