Welcome Back, Diplomacy World

An Interview with Douglas Kent

Manus Hand

Diplomacy World, one of the flagship postal magazines, recently was revived from a period of inactivity by Douglas Kent. As a matter of fact, the inactivity of DW was one of the many factors which drove the creation of the magazine you now behold, The Diplomatic Pouch.

Jack McHugh successfully guided Diplomacy World through issue #73, and Douglas Kent picked up the ball thereafter. Issue #74, dedicated to McHugh, was Kent's first as DW editor, although Doug's contributions to the hobby have been legion.

I greeted the revival of Diplomacy World with joy when I removed it from my mailbox. Diplomacy World #74 is filled with tremendous articles from all around the hobby. I won't give you a complete table of contents or review, but one irresistible piece is Allan Calhamer's recounting of the first Caspian Sea fleet build.

I've had occasion to talk with Douglas Kent in e-mail quite a bit of late, discussing how DW and DP can compliment and assist each other. I thought it would be fitting to transcribe our recent conversations into interview form and present them to the readership of The Pouch. As evidenced by the fact that this interview does indeed appear below, Douglas kindly assented to this.

I've been considering making my rave review of DW's return more of an "Interview with Douglas Kent" format (like the Interview with Ken Lowe published in the S1995M DP). Would you be amenable to being the giving end of an e-mail interview?
Sure, why not? I haven't been interviewed for a zine since John Fisher Jr. did one with me maybe 4 years ago in his late zine California Acres. That was mainly a humorous kind of thing, with no serious questions and no serious answers. Probably only 40 people saw it, and half of them would be out of the hobby by now.

Many readers of The Pouch probably will begin reading this interview saying to themselves, "Sure I know who Douglas Kent is; he's the new editor of Diplomacy World." In other words, they might not know of your other contributions to the hobby. I don't mean to ask you to blow your own horn or anything, but could you fill us in a bit?
Let's see. My contributions to PBM and PBEM, eh? In order of appearance, I guess (with some mistakes), they would be:

Publisher of Maniac's Paradise, my Dip zine [with lots of subzines and other stuff] since March 1989. The 76th monthly issue just hit the mail this week. This is my main area of participation in the hobby, and will continue to be so for some time to come. As far as I'm concerned, all other hobby projects are secondary to this zine, because it was my first creation and I still get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Chairman of the People's Diplomacy Organization (PDO), which runs the PDO Relief Auction (PDORA) to raise money for hobby services (BNC, MNC, NAVB, Pontevedria, etc.). I've done this for 3 or 4 years now, after taking over for the original PDORA head John Caruso.

Published Your Zine of Zines, a zine review zine co-edited with Jack McHugh. This was meant as a compliment to the Zine Register. Jack and I would do an in-depth review of 3 to 5 zines each issue. Came out every 2 to 3 months. We did 11 issues before we started running out of zines (and entusiasm) and gave up.

Published Foolhardy, a letter column zine dedicated to the discussion of any Diplomacy-related topic. This was meant to fill the void left by the fold of Dick and Julie Martin's zine House of Lords. The first issue was titled Painful Rectal Itch, but I changed it to Foolhardy because too many people complained, and I wanted to have as wide an audiance as possible. Sixteen issues were published, with the 17th combined with my first issue of Diplomacy World.

I saw that. A smart move by you, lightening your workload without forfeiting anything.
Foolhardy had been slowing down a bit anyway, so this was the best way to keep it going on a smaller scale.

I published 2 issues of Diplomacy World with the one and only Jack McHugh as editor. So far I've published one with myself as editor, and I'm hard at work on my second issue.

How did I come to take over from Jack? I said I'd do it, and took it upon myself to annouce it to the world. Jack hadn't been able to get an issue out for some time, and no one was sending him any material, so unless someone new took over the zine would have died. I was the only volunteer.

I don't know exactly what's going to be in issue 75 yet...an article on 7X7 Gunboat Tournaments, Japanese strategy in Colonial Dip, a few other articles so far, but no solid table of contents.

I've been a frequent GM and player on Compuserve as well, and for the past two years or so I've edited and compiled The Eccentric Diplomat (TED), where all the Compuserve variant games are played.

Can't think of anything else offhand. Can you?

Don't be modest. You've also won a few awards, haven't you?
The hobby at large was kind enough to award me the Melinda Holley Award for quantity participation in 1993, and the Don Miller Memorial Award for service to the hobby in 1994.

Maniac's Paradise has done well in the various hobby zine polls, winning the Marco Poll 3 times in a row (I think) and coming in the top 3 in the Runestone Poll for a number of years. I never won the Runestone Poll though (yet).

I think someone should start a poll on Dip Web zines. I should clean up!
Nah, what if you didn't? You'd feel too bad!

Since it's what you enjoy most, let's talk a bit about Maniac's Paradise. Out of curiosity from a co-zine publisher, how much time do you spend getting out each issue? If this is the 76th issue since '89, that's like one a month, isn't it!? Wow! What kind of volume are we talking about?
Yup, one a month like clockwork. Every issue has been in the mail within 48 hours of the deadline -- many within 24. In the beginning issues were maybe 10 to 16 pages long. Nowadays they are bigger - around my mid-60's I was hitting 50 pages an issue, now I'm down to an average of 40 pages per issue.

I work on the zine throughout the month, so it is hard to measure how much time it takes. I would guess 20 hours or more per issue.

If you could give me the "how to subscribe" stuff, I'm sure the Pouch readers would copy it down.
Sure, send money to me at 6151 Royalton Drive, Dallas, TX 75230. The zine is published monthly, in full-page format. Issues are $1.50 in the US and Canada, $3 elsewhere.

My e-mail address is 73567.1414@compuserve.com, so anyone who wishes to subscribe to MP or DW can get a hold of me that way too.

Most people know that I am an e-mailer by trade. Since you have some expertise in the snail mail side of the hobby, I wonder if you could give all us e-mail snobs the lowdown on how PBM works? I only started receiving snail mail 'zines since making my own contributions to the literature of the hobby, and have found that the 'zines run snail mail games. Is this the main forum for play? How often, therefore, can one expect to find a gamestart? How long are the deadlines? How many games are run by a typical zine? Too many questions? I'll shut up.
Zines are the only PBM forum for play. There are numerous gamestarts available at all times - probably 15 Dip games open for sign-ups right now in the US at least. Most deadlines are between 4 and 6 weeks, depending on the frequency of the zines. Most zines run 4 or 5 regular Dip games or variants, while some (like mine) run a lot more than that (I currently run 12 Dip games, 2 games of Gunboat, 1 of Woolworth, 1 Narnian Wars, 1 7X7 Minimalist Dip tournament, and 1 game of Enemy in Sight - with other games run in subzines).

Do you know how many PBM players are active right now?
I compiled two Census listings of all active North American PBM Dip players (the last one compiled in late 1992), but I don't know how many active players there are now -- Tom Howell is doing a new census as we speak to answer that question.

Can you tell us more about the PDO? Is there a publication? How can people help out?
There is no publication. I distribute a beg-a-thon letter annually, looking for Dip players to donate items for auction (subs to zines, old games, software, anything of value). Then I distribute a list of all items, let people submit bids, and coordinate the collecting of money and the shipment of items to winners. The PDORA Financial Committee then votes on each funding request they receive, and I send out checks to those receiving funds.

If you want funding for a hobby endeavor, you submit a funding request and the committee votes on it. You can be as detailed as you want, spelling out your losses, or just say "I want money for such-and-so in the amount of $X" and they'll vote on that.

Let's turn to some more general Dip questions. When did you first play Diplomacy?
I probably first played The Game in some form when I was about 9 or so. My neighbor Mike Plog had many Avalon Hill games -- he introduced my older brothers and me to Waterloo, Feudal, Diplomacy, and a few other games.

How did you get into the play-by-mail hobby?
I have only played maybe 4 games face-to-face. I don't socialize much -- I prefer to spend my time at home with my wife and 4 cats. I have never attended a Dip convention (yet). I first saw an ad for PBM gaming in The General, and through that was contacted by a fellow named Shawn Erikson, who published a zine called Victims Wanted. PBM seemed perfect for an anti-social person like myself. In fact, I have managed to avoid meeting any member of this hobby personally except for 2 (1 stopped by my office uninvited, the other I met when I visited the widow of a Dip friend). I like to keep things mysterious.

Do you remember your first game and how you did, or which power you were?
I think I was France in my first PBM game, and I either drew or maybe it was abandoned.

What is your favorite power to play and why?
No preference - I like to switch around. I'm in quite a few games at one time (although I have cut down a lot in the last 2 years), so it doesn't matter much to me, as long as I don't play one country all the time. I like Italy and Austria because of the desperation feel they give, where you can try wild openings in the hopes that you'll at least survive the game.

What do you think is the one thing an expert Dipper does which a newbie has to learn to do?
Two things, really. An expert Dipper communicates often, in a thorough manner. An expert PBM dipper also submits orders early, and then changes them later if he has to. I've seen many promising positions go down in flames because a player waited till the last minute to get his orders in, and then for whatever reason NMR'd.

I always do the latter...I've yet to succeed on the former on a dependable basis, probably because I play too many games and also wait for players to write me before I write them.

Okay, I think I have all I need to make a pretty good interview article. Would you like to look at it before publication?
Nahh, surprise me.

Manus Hand
Denver, Colorado

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