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Carl T. Ford Interview

DAGON Magazine Editor

Carl T. Ford will be remembered by many as the owner and editor of DAGON, an early and influential British Call of Cthulhu/Lovecraftian fanzine. At its height DAGON ran to more than 1000 copies per issue, featuring articles and scenarios by the likes of Sandy Petersen, Mark Morrision, Marcus L. Rowland and Steve Hatherley along with the literature of Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Thomas Ligotti and Neil Gaiman - to name just a few. More than 10 years after its last publication Carl talks to Yog-Sothoth about his trials & tribulations as the power behind one of the most famous CoC 'zines.

YSDC: How did DAGON come about?

CTF: Well as I was saying, I started playing Call of Cthulhu and armed with a little knowledge of the Mythos gleaned from many mis-spent years collecting and reading as much horror related stuff I could get my claws on. I thought I could write a few scenarios and share them with a few people. As I said the Games Workshop premises at Dalling Road stocked a few fanzines so I wrote my first scenario No Room at Innsmouth and thought it would be fun to let a few other gamers read it. I published it in 3 parts in DAGON, in extremely limited quantities. I had to pay about 10p per page to photocopy it in them days and tried to smuggle photocopies out at work (a girl I knew at the time called Nicola, also helped rip her bosses off) and I hand stapled the things at home. A few friends came on board to provide illustrations and cartoons and it proved popular in Games Workshop. Word got about amongst CoC players and a few die-hard Lovecraftians and the print run expanded enough to allow professional printing with issue #7. By this time I had been fortunate to attract quite a few decent contributors so readers wouldn't have to stomach my crap any longer.

I never made any money from the magazine but the fact that it received such positive feedback was enough payback. DAGON was fortunate to win the Best Amateur Gaming Magazine three years running at the Games Workshop Gamesday Awards and attract the likes of Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, Sandy Petersen, and artists such as Dave Carson which put me on a big enough high to continue publishing the monster.

YSDC: What were your experiences of running the magazine?

CTF: Almost all great. Publishing the magazine has to be the best thing I've done with the little talent I possess. It gained me lots of friends, helped keep me out of the pubs and betting shops a little longer and introduced me to lots of talented writers and artists whom I feel incredibly privileged to have met and got drunk with. I was especially taken aback by the encouragement I received from Chaosium - whose creator Sandy Petersen fully endorsed what I was trying to do and ended up contributing a regular column for the 'zine. DAGON also had a very loyal fan base that has helped spread the word of HPL that bit further, I still ocassionaly get enquiries about the zine, from people wishing to buy back issues, - I still have some! (plug, plug...)

YSDC: Do you have any favourites from the publication?

CTF: Well as far as issues go I was always proud of the first one with a glossy astrulux cover. That was #13 the Brian Lumley issue, with his ugly boat race on the front. That issue was good because I had managed to attract some big names, it contained a fair balance of CoC gaming material and Lovecraftian related literary features and got nominated for its first British Fantasy Award (came second to Fantasy Tales). It really started taking off with issue #18/19: the T.E.D. Klein issue which started attracting the Lovecraftian elite such as S. T. Joshi. Articles wise Peter F. Jeffery's incredibly knowledgeable columns were always great fun to receive, that bloke was a mine-field of information... and he always wrote with a great sense of humour... I loved interviewing writers and the best was with (the late) Karl Edward Wagner at Dave Carson's old flat in Victoria, London. Wagner really opened up there, it remains the most revealing insight into his writing process that's seen print.

YSDC: Which of your own work do you like best?

CTF: Well, like I said the interviews, really. One where I questioned Tom Ligotti was reprinted in one of the big high brow literary hardbacks published by the Gale Research Company entitled Short Story Criticism so that was cool. The gaming scenario Dr. Benwell's Mirror in #5, an article on the dreaded fictional tome Cthaat Aquadingen in #13 was both fun and heavy going at time since it meant having to wade through piles of Brian Lumley's mythos gibberings. I have written a few short stories (most of which remain unpublished) - I'm fond of the outlines but there's far too much better stuff out there to make it worth bothering with. I think my main strength lies in recognizing talent away from the mainstream and trying to bring it to a wider audience - not writing. Even so, I've just embarked upon a return to writing and publishing with a new magazine devoted to controversial horror movies entitled UNRATED.