James Fiscus (1944-2021)

James W, Fiscus

Author and photographer James W. Fiscus, administrator of the Endeavour Awards, died unexpectedly at home on November 7. He was 76.

Fiscus spent decades as a SFWA volunteer. He hosted SFWA’s hospitality events at Westercons in the early 1990s. Later he began writing a column for the SFWA Bulletin looking at the business and legal aspects of the publishing industry. He oversaw a review of the SFWA Handbook from 2002-3.

In 2008, SFWA President Russell Davis appointed Fiscus to succeed him in the position of Western Regional Director, a position Fiscus held until the California re-incorporation, at which time he became a Director-at-large until 2015. During his time as a Director, Fiscus served as Chair of the Orphan Works Committee. When it was re-formed as the Legal Affairs Committee, Fiscus continued as co-Chair with Michael Capobianco. Fiscus also joined the Contracts Committee in 2014, and took on its leadership when the former chair stepped down. SFWA honored him with the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award in 2017.

Fiscus’ first published sf story was “A Time of Martyrs” in Carr and Pournelle’s 1986 anthology Warrior. Another half-dozen short stories he wrote – several of them alternate history – appeared from 2004-2008 in anthologies edited by Harry Turtledove, Martin H. Greenberg, and others.

He was born in Oregon, where part of his family had lived since the 1840s. He was raised in England, Baltimore, Manhattan, New Haven, and occasionally in California, returning to Oregon for high school.

He interrupted his studies at Lewis and Clark College in 1967 to volunteer for the Navy, serving in Vietnam and Okinawa. He eventually returned to finish his undergrad work, then freelanced as a photojournalist for most of a decade before entering Portland State University to earn an MA in Middle East and Asian History in 1987.

He was Oregon/Washington correspondent for The Medical Post (Toronto) and The Medical Tribune (New York), and wrote history books for high school students.

He also wrote Meet King Kong (Famous Movie Monsters), a book on the making of the original King Kong. His other non-fiction works include The Suez Crisis (War and Conflict in the Middle East), Iraqi Insurgents: Resisting America’s Nation-Building in Iraq (Frontline Coverage of Current Events), America’s War in Afghanistan (War and Conflict in the Middle East), and Coping With Growth Spurts and Delayed Growth.

He served as Editorial Director and Media Relations Manager for the National Resource Center for Safe Schools in Portland and as Senior Public Relations Specialist at Legacy Health System in Portland.

Fiscus also held two long-term volunteer posts for Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc., a nonprofit group that hosts OryCons, and other events. He chaired the Endeavour Awards, which annually honors a book by a Pacific Northwest author. And he chaired the board of trustees of the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund, named for the late Jo Clayton, which provides grants to Pacific Northwest genre authors for medical emergencies.

He is survived by his wife, Shawn Wall.

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11 thoughts on “James Fiscus (1944-2021)

  1. Jim was a good friend. I met him when he was a member of my mother’s (Shiela Simonson’s) SF writers group in the ’70s. In the ’80s we attended conventions together regularly, sometimes sharing long drives and long, interesting conversations. He talked about joining the Navy as a volunteer in order to avoid being drafted and having to serve in Vietnam . . . the Navy put him in the Seabees where he spent a chunk of time photographing latrines among other things in Vietnam. After I moved to California in the early ’90s we would stay in touch but as time went on it became less frequent. I am gutted to hear of his passing. He was one of the most interesting people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. RIP Jim!

  2. So sad to hear this. He was a good person who did so much for the SF/F community. His work on legal contracts alone made a big difference in the lives of countless authors, such as by helping keep predatory contracts from being used by publishers. He will be missed.

  3. As a Portland OryCon regular, I knew Jim pretty well and was in a writer’s group with him for some time. I was a reader for the Endeavour Award for a while–for a couple of years, I managed to read every book submitted (aided and abetted by Jim, who found the concept amusing). He was unfailingly liberal and a supporter of the little person.

    For a while, he and I clashed over self-publishing because he felt it undermined traditional publishing. That stance eased, and he took pleasure in telling me that the last book I submitted to the Endeavour, while not a finalist, had been well-regarded. Conversely, when I was out on strike (teacher) during one November, he was supportive as could be. I remember being utterly exhausted during that OryCon because I came from stormy days on the picket line (up on Mt. Hood, no less) to the convention. Jim was encouraging, supportive, and I think a bit proud of me.

    Jim was also an inveterate punster and one absolutely had to be careful about absently feeding him a line that he could turn into a pun. He delighted in finding puns anywhere he could.

    I learned about contract pitfalls from Jim and his work for SFWA in that area will be missed. His advocacy for the Endeavour Award was another great service for Northwest writers.

    He will be missed.

  4. I still haven’t processed losing a friend I’ve known for forty years. By all rights, I should be seeing him this weekend at OryCon (like myself, Jim was one of the 15-or-so people who have been to every OryCon.)

    I didn’t always agree with Jim in what he wanted OryCon to be doing–but his efforts made OryCon a far better convention.

  5. This is sad news. I hope his wife is as well as she can be.

    I don’t know why this surprised me so much. I think I may not have aged the image of him I have in my head from when we were on the SFWA board ten-ish years ago.

    I’m glad to have known you, Jim.

  6. I’ve tried to make it to most Orycon conventions over the years. I’ve always had such high esteem for those who worked so hard to make the con a success. Jim always seemed to me to be a huge part of that success. He was everywhere and his energy and serious devotion to the sci-fi fantasy writers community gave form and direction to the event. I am stunned. Saddened. Grieving.

  7. I’ve been ruminating on this news most of the day. Jim was deeply dedicated to SFWA, a man of integrity, and our regular, sometimes heated arguments when we served on the Board together often created better outcomes. He regularly provided a perspective that allowed me to see issues of the time in a different way, and I respected him so very much. It was an honor to know him and work with him, and on a couple of occasions, even serve as a judge for the Endeavor Awards that he chaired. Jim was smart, tenacious, and he gave everything he could to an organization he loved. His memory is a blessing to me, and I have no doubt, to many others.

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