Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, October 18, 2013


Shanadu edited by Robert E. Briney (1953)

Never underestimate the power of fanboys.  Case in point, Shanadu, a strange little collection of three (four, depending on who's counting) fantasy stories published in 1953 by four young men, eighteen, nineteen, or (in one possible case) twenty years old, through SSR Publications in North Tonawanda, New York.  The introduction states that the book was three-and-a half years in the making, which means that the authors were about fifteen or sixteen when they began plotting the book.

The leader of this group appears to Robert Briney, who edited the book, wrote the interludes, and co-wrote the final, two-part story.  Briney became a well-known fan and contributed to many fanzines, notably taking over the editing and publishing duties for The Rohmer Review, a much-missed magazine. The first story in the book, "Quest of the Veil," was written by Gene DeWeese, who had a solid mid-list career in the SF, gothic (as "Jean DeWeese"), and mystery fields, "The Fire-Born," the second story in the book was penned by "Toby Duane" (W. Paul Ganley); Ganley, of course, is a respected small-press published in the guiding hand behind Weirdbook, another much-missed magazine.  The final story -- the two-parter -- was written by Brian J. McNaughton and "Andrew  Duane."  I'm pretty sure that Brian J. McNaughton is the same Brian McNaughton who wrote a number of effective horror novels and stories from the 1970s onward.  "Andrew Duane,"
was Briney; the extent of his collaboration with McNaughton is not known -- on may have just written the first part, the other the second.  (The book's introduction claims five writers, not four.  I presume that Briney wanted "Andrew Duane" considered as the fifth writer.)

The book itself is perfect-bound, 5 1/2" x 8", with a cardboard cover and a frontispiece by Ralph Rayburn Phillips and a map of Shanadu by Briney.  The preface is in one typeface, the prologue and interludes in another (and more difficult to read) typeface, and the stories appeared to be printed directly from a typewriter with a wonky ribbon.  The stories have little spacing between each line (although there are indents and double spacing used to denote new paragraphs).  The book is not easy to read.

 The influence of the popular fantasy writers of the day -- Merritt, Cabell, Robert E. Howard -- is clearly indicated by the pulpish prose:  In opaline wisps and whorls, in roseate clouds that billowed and faded, in sapphire streamings and pearl white eddies the mists swam at the edge of the stairs.

Shandu is an ancient white city on a plain.  When first founded, its leader sent men out to find a magical piece of cloth known as The Veil.  The true power of The Veil has never been revealed and no person who went on a quest to find it ever returned.  Years pass and an unhappy blacksmith's apprentice finds an old scroll that points in the direction of The Veil.  How The Veil was found and brought to Shanadu is told in the first story.  In the second story The Veil falls into Hank Weston's hands, and the power of the Seven Gods transport him through time and space to Shanadu where a battle is being fought for The Veil.  The final story tells of the destruction of Shanadu at the hands of the warrior Rimon.

Despite all of its faults, this is an interesting book where energy overcomes amateur writing.  Not a book for everyone, surely, but a pleasing look at four fans at the beginning of their careers.


  1. Jerry, I really appreciate you choosing a book from North Tonawanda where I now reside. I was a member of DAPA-EM for a number of years and enjoyed Bob Briney's clever and informative zine CONTACT IS NOT A VERB. Briney was witty and gentlemanly. I'm sad he's gone.

  2. Like George, I miss Bob Briney, a gentleman and a scholar. And a great collector. I'd never heard of this volume, which must be a real rarity.

  3. I'll chime in with George and Bill on this one.

  4. I doubt if there were more than a few hundred copies printed. Donald H. Tuck's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY reports that this had been announced as the first of a series, but I doubt if any others were published. SSR Publications also published George Wetzel's LOVECRAFT COLLECTOR'S LIBRARY (seven slim volumes of side-stapled pages) and a 200-issue edition of Lovecraft's MEMOIRS, CRITIQUES & BIBLIOGRAPHIES (also edited by Wetzel). In the early Fifties, they published SNOWFLAKES IN THE SUN, an SF poetry anthology edited by W. Paul Ganley. (From 1950-1954, Ganley also produced FAN-FARE, a fanzine published in North Tonawanda -- I presume also published by SSR.) Copies of SHANADU are available from on-line dealers, starting at $40 and moving increasingly upwards. The copy I read was from an interlibrary loan from The University of Southern Mississippi.

    Alas, I never met Bob Briney, but I have read and heard only good things about the man.