What Was Peon?
From about 1948 through 1957 my late father, Charles Lee Riddle,
edited and published a science fiction fan magazine that he called Peon.
He described Peon as a fantascience magazine. Peon
was published up to 6 times each year and
involved the work of many contributing authors, my Dad, and two overseas
represenatives - one living in the U.K. and the other in Australia.
Publishing in those days involved typing the stories on a
mimeograph stencil master with a manual typewriter. He had his own mimeograph machine and equipment but still had problems with the
print quality or transferring artwork to the stencil, as he pointed out in several issues. I can remember back
when I was in grade school, at a time when he was editing, publishing,
and printing other newsletters and bulletins, digging through his desk drawers full of tools
and templates that he would use on the mimeograph stencil masters. There were pen-like tools, with points and wheels and ball-shaped knobs on the ends
that looked like they belonged in the hands of a dentist. Plastic templates were his source for clipart and my source for making up my own stories.
He was active duty U.S. Navy until his retirement in the early
1960's as a Master Chief Petty Officer. Sometime after World War II he
writing 'fantasy' or science fiction short stories. This eventually grew
into becaming Peon. Sometime around 1956 or 1957 he started writing
another publication, called LEER. While the name Peon was probably his humerous way of describing a poor
man's magazine, LEER is definitely a play on his name. He was always called Lee, and so Lee Riddle became LEER.
During his travels overseas and different assignments stateside he continued to edit and publish. Often he would apologize
for the slow or bad mail delivery depending on his location. At one point he writes that he had to be careful to keep his publication as a hobby and not as a profit
making business. Navy regulations do not allow for anyone on active duty to have a private business making a profit. To get around that he charged a bare minimum subscription
that never was more than $1.25 a year!
His last two years in the Navy found us in Maryland. First living on base at Bainbridge Naval Base, then in a farmhouse out in the country
in rural Maryland, near the towns of Calvert and Farmingtion. It was at the farmhouse where he ressurected his publishing and editing interest and
began a company called Peon Press. At first it was making rubber stamps and publishing newsletters, but over the next several years, until his death,
his buisness expanded into a print shop with several printing presses including offset and ink presses. At his retirement we moved into a newly built house in Newark Delaware.
However before the floor was laid he had his largest ink press set up in the basement where his first 'real' print shop was located. It was so large that it was
left there, walled in, when he opened his first office/shop in a small house. After that move his shop expanded a couple more times and each time resulting in a larger building and
additional printing and advertising operations. My older brother and I worked for him at the shops doing type setting
for the business cards, rubber stamps, and other odd jobs around the shop. For type setting (which I absolutely hated!) we were paid 1 cent per line to set and put away.
Some what recently I returned from a trip visiting my folks in Tucson with a bundle of around 30 issues
of Peon, and a couple of issues of LEER. However there are
duplicates and what also look like copy machine copies of some issues. Nonetheless as you look at the issues I post
there are some familiar names from
the world of Science Fiction that appear as contributing authors.
For an interesting summary of the first several years of Peon
read "I Remember Peon" in the August-September 1954 issue.