In Memoriam: Jim Fiscus 1944-2021

The SFWA Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers are saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected death of long-time volunteer James W. Fiscus. 

Known by his fellow volunteers and peers as Jim, he was an instrumental part of the organization. Setting foot in the SFF landscape in 1986, he published his first story, “A Time for Martyrs” and by the early 1990s he had begun hosting SFWA’s hospitality events at Westercons. Jim wrote a long-running column for the SFWA Bulletin exploring the business and legal aspects of the publishing industry and conducted a review of the SFWA Handbook in 2002. In addition, Jim was a large influence in forming the new bylaws of the organization in 2011 which helped move SFWA into its current 501c3 status.

In 2008, SFWA President Russell Davis appointed Jim to complete his term in office as the Western Regional Director.  Jim remained in that role until 2015. Serving with him was fellow Director, Lee Martindale who had this to say, “My heart hurts. Over the course of nearly twenty-five years, working with Jim on committees and on the SFWA Board of Directors was a challenge, a treat, and an inspiration. He bucked the system when the system needed bucking, and made SFWA a better organization in the process. We’ve lost a treasure.” 

During his tenure, Jim also served as Chair of the Orphan Works Committee and later as co-chair of the Legal Affairs Committee, working with longtime friend and colleague, Michael Capobianco. 

“Jim Fiscus was the most steadfast and honorable person I’ve ever known. He worked tirelessly for SFWA for more than two decades in various capacities. I worked with Jim closely over the years, and his willingness to push the boundaries of above and beyond the call of duty was consistently amazing. There were times that his insistence on a point of order was challenging, but I was honored to call him my friend,” adds Capobianco.  

Beginning in 2014, Jim served as a member of the Contracts Committee, eventually taking on the chairmanship. At the 2017 Nebula Conference, Jim was honored with a token of our immeasurable thanks for his service and was presented with the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award.                                                                                                   

In addition to his work for SFWA, Jim served as a volunteer for Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc.  He was the chair for the Endeavour Award, which honors science fiction and fantasy works written by authors with ties to the Pacific Northwest, and was also the chair of the board that administered the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund, which provided grants to PNW genre authors in need. 

Jim focused much of his talent outside of the genre as well, serving as a correspondent to The Medical Post and The Medical Tribune or writing books on topics as varied as the Suez Crisis and King Kong. 

SFWA President Jeffe Kennedy adds, “Jim Fiscus was a presence in SFWA long before I ever qualified to join the organization. His fiery dedication to ensuring that writers were treated fairly by the publishing industry remained unflagging. He was working on a new contracts committee alert only two days before he passed. I’m saddened that I, SFWA, and the entire community have lost such a stalwart defender.”  

We will miss you here at SFWA, Jim. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family, friends, and colleagues.