Up To Now: The Second Convention and the Shift of Power

Up To Now by Jack Speer, 1939

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The Second Eastern States Science Fiction Convention was held in New York, under the auspices of the ISA. Philadelphia attended, and fans from New Jersey and elsewhere in the east brot the attendance up to around 40. It was here, legend says, that there was first suggested a World Science Fiction Convention, by Donald Wollheim.

Says Chief Lotsachatter McPhail, "Then in walk Julius Schwartz and shake hand and smoke peace pipe with Donald and his warriors who have been on war path for many moon." The handshake ended the last lingering vestige of the old days. But at the same time, the Schwartz group gave way to Wollheim and Sykora as leaders of fandom.

But the days of the ISA were numbered. Sykora was interested in science as well as stf, and had a home laboratory of his own. The name of the group certainly sounded like a scientific club, but here it was, being run largely by and for science-fiction fans. Controversies as to what it was originally intended to be are too vague to go into here. At any rate, not long after, Sykora, getting ready to enter college, there to pursue a scientific course, felt that continuing as President of the ISA, the position he then held, would be an unjustifiable waste of time. In his letter of resignation he worked himself up to a highly emotional mood, and, indicting fans for their useless activities, branded them as egotists chiefly desiring to see their names in print, and too lazy to pursue scientific careers. Copies were sent to all ISA members.

Sykora had quite a following, and such a resignation exploded a bombshell in the club. Of the four offices, one was vacant, Sykora resigned another, a third was occupied by a gentleman who was in the hospital at just this time, and the fourth was held by Wollheim. From the other officer and from the NYB he got carte blanche support. Some discussion was carried on with ISA members outside New York. The exact proceedings are obscure, but no formal vote was taken, and Wollheim declared the club dissolved. This legal omission Sykora seized upon in an attempt to reorganize the club two years later.

Financial settlements were made, there were shoddy incidents, and the end of the ISA was anything but glorious. A final issue of the International Observer was devoted almost entirely to news of the dissolution, and arguments against Sykora. Down toward the end of Wollheim's general news column, he suggested that fans who were really interested join the rising Science Fiction Association, which had headquarters in England. A surprising number did so. Wollheim's prestige was on the rise.

Fantasy Magazine was gone and the ISA was gone. There was no longer any single organization or group which could claim the headship. There was a general concession of prestige to Wollheim personally, but aside from this, all central tendencies were gone.

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