Francis Towner Laney

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(March 11, 1914 – June 8, 1958)

Francis Towner “Fran” Laney (also known as FTL and the Laniac) moved from Lewiston, Idaho, to LA in late 1943 or early 1944, where he became an important fan in the 1940s. He gafiated (spectacularly) in 1948, and as of March 1957 had gone silent to even the few friends he’d remained in touch with. Still, his death a year later was one of those which marked 1958 as the Year of the Jackpot.

His best-known fanzine was The Acolyte (14 issues, 1942–1946) (with Duane W. Rimel and later Samuel D. Russell), devoted to H. P. Lovecraft, but he is most remembered for his gafiation zine, the autobiographical Ah! Sweet Idiocy! (1948) that reported what Laney saw as the seamy side of fandom, which he characterized as “psychic misfits and social outcasts of every description — thieves, truants, dead-beats, psycho-pathic drinkers, communists, crackpots, homosexuals....” His incisive writing made him a major figure long after his relatively brief tenure in fandom. In 1996, Laney was nominated for the 1946 Best Fan Writer Retro Hugo.

Laney’s other fannish publications included Fan-Dango. He was active in the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (and was a member of the Order of Dagon).

Ah! Sweet Idiocy! was reprinted in 1962 by Richard H. Eney and in 2019 as an Ansible Editions ebook with additional commentary. A later collection of Laney's other fanwriting in Fan-Dango and elsewhere is Ah! Sweet Laney! The Writings of a Great Big Man (2007), edited and introduced by Robert Lichtman and designed and published by Pat Virzi for the 2007 Corflu Quire; this was reissued as an Ansible Editions ebook in January 2022.

Laney was one of the Insurgents. He and his friend, Charles Burbee, had a mutual-admiration society, Laney coining the phrase “Fabulous Burbee-Like Character.” They often turned their wit to cruelty. Laney popularized the term “fugghead” by giving out the Fan-Dango Awards to fans he felt deserved it. They made such mock of Al Ashley with the Ashley Mythos, which Harry Warner said was an unfair characterization, that Ashley left California and gafiated. They were prone to homophobia and antisemitism.

Personal Life[edit]

In 1937, Laney married Georgia Turner in Washington State, but they divorced not long after. In 1939, he married Alberta Mallow (apparently called "Jackie") in Clarksburg, Washington. They had a daughter, Sonya (called "The Child Quiggie" in FTL's fanwriting), in 1942. FTL reported in fanzines that he had an older daughter called Sandy. Alberta and Francis divorced in about 1947.

He wrote in the preface to ASI about a woman named Cecile, whom Elinor Busby in her Index to the People in ASI, named “Cecile Laney.” In All Our Yesterdays, Harry Warner reported that Laney married Cecile Barham on February 14, 1948, in Las Vegas. Cecile died on August 26, 1950. Laney gafiated in 1948, and embraced Dianetics in 1950.

In 1951, he married Edith Campbell Bouck in California; he appears to have adopted her sons by a previous marriage: David and Lionel. He died of bone cancer in 1958.

Fran Shack[edit]

The Fran Shack (a play on the term Slan Shack, though it does not seem to have been shared housing) was Laney's dwelling in LA during World War II. In the late ’40s, he reported, "I had located a former vegetable market, located at 1104 South Georgia. It was horribly filthy, having been empty since its Jap tenants had been put in a concentration camp in early 1943."

More Reading[edit]

Fanzines and Apazines:

Person 19141958
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