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Stone Soup or PBM Stew?
This morning, it's almost as if I have to force myself to write something about PBM.


Somewhere in my mind, the old book Stone Soup nudged one of my memory glands (a little word play to start your Sunday morning off with), causing it to tumble inside the cavity that is my head. This, in turn, got me to thinking about stew - preferably of the beef kind. Yet, since I won't be enjoying any of that, today, let's aim for some PBM stew, instead.

I should be working on Issue #33 of PBM Chaos, but I really have no inclination, whatsoever, to do that. Part of me keeps on asking me why I bother with any of this stuff, at all. For some reason, a piece of me always seems to want to know why - as if there even needs to be a reason why. It's a hobby interest, after all. Something to be tinkered with and piddled with, just whenever the mood strikes, you might say.

And so it was that I found myself browsing back and forth through the January-February issue of Paper Mayhem. It's an amateur-looking issue. Paper Mayhem was still a newsletter, back then. I don't recall, offhand, what issue number marked the "official transition" from newsletter to magazine. Subscriptions advertised in this issue were eight dollars per year for six issues. Purchase of a single copy would set you back a buck seventy-five ($1.75). Being Canadian and being a subscriber would inflict an additional two dollars to the subscription prices, as issues had to go out as first class mail, and Paper Mayhem was already shipping copies to American subscribers by way of a bulk rate permit, normally. Normally, huh? I wonder what exceptions there were to that general rule of thumb?

Advertising rates? Glad you asked. Full page ads would cost you twenty dollars per issue, ten dollars for half-page ads per issue, and a one-quarter page ad would hit your wallet for a mere five dollars per issue. And in case you were wondering about classified ads, those would cost you one dollar per classified ad, with a limit of a mere ten words.

At this time, Paper Mayhem's editor was C.L. Derbacher, Jr.

There was a guaranteed circulation of 500 copies per issue. It's a pretty sad reflection that PBM Chaos can't even approach that figure for a free digital PBM publication sent directly to your e-mail inbox, all these many years later, Huh? Que serĂ¡, serĂ¡.

One of this issue's general announcements was for a PBM network. Hey, that sounds somewhat familiar, huh? Didn't I list something similar as a New year's resolution for 2024? The more that things change, the more that they remain the same. Could a modern day PBM network be beneficial to the PBM industry and PBM hobby? Absolutely. What are the realistic chances of it ever happening, though, and in a meaningful way, at that? Oh, if I had to guess, and it's purely a guess, probably somewhere around zero percent. It would definitely be a good time to be wrong.

There's much irony to be found in the omnipresent "time shortage" that continues to cripple the PBM industry. Communication, particularly effective communication, requires a persistent investment of time. And since the PBM industry seems to suffer from a self-inflicted time shortage, one of the first and foremost of deficiencies that manifests itself is an approach to communication that I would characterize as nothing short of crippling. Does anyone out there really and truly believe that PBM doesn't take it on the chin, due to its communication failures? It isn't uncommon, at all, to encounter comments by PBM gamers lamenting about how PBM companies fail to communicate. This doesn't mean that PBM companies never communicate with anybody, but rather, that communication failures and communication voids very much remain a part of the PBM landscape in today's day and age. This is not a distant and ancient problem.

The January-February 1984 issue of Paper Mayhem was described by the issue as "issue number four of the Paper Mayhem Publication." This issue mentions, in one of its General Announcements/News Releases that Jim Robinson, President of Paper Games (a new PBM company) was in the process of developing its first PBM game, which would be called Swords of Pelarn, and that it should be available by April of 1984. The following issue, which was Issue #5 of Paper Mayhem, there's a full page ad for a PBM game called Swords of Pelarn. Inquires about that game should be sent to . . . wait for it . . . Midnight Games.

Huh? Say, what?! What happened to Paper Games? My, how quickly things happened in the PBM industry back then! Thank God we don't have to worry about that, anymore, huh?

PBM was definitely a more fast-paced place, decades ago. Compared to back then, today's PBM industry is routinely outpaces, by snails, turtles, and sloths. What an odd fit it is, indeed, in today's more hectic-paced world. Keep that in mind, anytime you might wonder why so many people seem to think that PBM is dead or dying. How ironic it is that PBM used to be the cutting edge of gaming, particularly multiplayer gaming, and now it can't seem to keep up with any other sector of gaming.

Issue #6 (May-June 1984) of Paper Mayhem says, in its GameLine News & Updates section that Schubel & Son celebrates its 10th Anniversary in PBM gaming that yea. Thus, Schubel & Son got its start way back in 1973, in case any of you out there in the PBM shadows might have ever wondered when they burst onto the PBM gaming scene.

By Issue #6, Paper Mayhem, in the words of its then-editor, was "closing in on the 1000 mark for general circulation." Clearly, I'm doing something wrong.

Skipping over to Gaming Universal Issue #2 (The Magazine of Play By Mail Adventure), the Industry Bulletins section looms large starting on Page 335. Dubbed "Company and game news from the major PBM moderators," we find the following PBM companies listed (this issue with its thick front cover was the January/February 1984 issue):

Adventures Design Group, Inc., Central Texas Computing, Inc., Clemens And Associates, Inc., Emprise Game Systems, Flying Buffalo, Inc., Jabberwock Enterprises, Inc., Superior Simulations, Viking Games, and World Campaigns. Thus, apparently, if this issue is to be believed, there were nine "major" PBM moderators active at that early stage of the PBM year 1984.

This PBM stew is not the buffet all-you-can-eat variety. Instead, you only get a single serving size. I hope that you enjoyed it, while it lasted.

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