William S. Sykora
(August 16, 1913 – June 7, 1994)
William Stephan “Will” Sykora, called “The Mikado of Long Island City” and “Oily Will” by his detractors, started reading sf in 1924 and was a charter subscriber to Amazing Stories and his first fanac was a letter to the January 1930 Science Wonder Stories. He attended several meetings of The Scienceers before joining the five-member New York City chapter of the Science Fiction League in January 1935; he was SFL member #208. The other members were Donald A. Wollheim, John Michel, Conrad Ruppert, and Julius Schwartz. Sykora also joined a branch of the International Cosmos Science Club (later the ISA), a group devoted to both science and SF.) He served as its president.
According to Sam Moskowitz, Sykora "epitomized the Gernsbackian ideal that all readers of the genre should consider the advancement of science their serious aim." The ISA embodied this idea. He also joined the Manhattan SFL and the Queens SFL.
Skyora (along with Moskowitz, Wollheim, Michel and several others) was at the center of the epic feuds that shaped (and shook) fandom in the late ’30s. At the root was the SF (and science) focus of Sykora and Moskowitz versus the left-wing political focus of the Futurians such as Michel and Wollheim. (See Sam Moskowitz' Immortal Storm for a comprehensive, though not unbiased, history of the time.) Sykora was a charter member of FAPA and attended the First Eastern convention in 1936.
The battles were fought with the intensity that only a young fan can muster — Sykora who was in his 20s then, was one of the older players (!). For example, the Wollheimists attempted to throw Sykora out of the GNYSFL at a meeting he was absent from. When the president ruled this out of order, the Wollheimists got him impeached and Sykora ejected, resulting in the collapse of the GNYSFL. Sykora was one of the Triumvirs who opposed the Quadrumvirate.
He organized a number of the early conventions, including the First National (also known as the Newark Convention) and the Second Eastern States Science Fiction Convention. He attended the First Convention and the 1938 Philadelphia Conference and was a member of New Fandom.
After World War II, Sykora resurrected the Queens Science Fiction League, which met at his home, sponsored the fan gatherings, and established a short-lived small press, The Avalon Company, with Moskowitz. He was the United States agent of the Big Pond Fund. He belonged to the N3F.
He was married, for a time, to Frances Alberti Sykora; they had a daughter, Annabelle. His sister, Frances Helen Sykora, married fan Mario Racic. Both women, along with Sykora’s parents, had attended the first Worldcon. His younger brother, Joseph, took out a marriage license with Margaret Skiffington on April 3, 1940, but it is unclear whether they ever married.
“Sykora was discredited,” Jack Speer wrote in Fancyclopedia I, “after the Chicon by the report circulated there that he had been arrested, and released with a warning, in a charge involving a little girl.” He was rarely seen in fandom after 1960.
- Early short biography in Who's Who in Fandom 1940, page 13.
- Photo appears on page 203 of Harry Warner, Jr.'s A Wealth of Fable.
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