She has attended almost every Worldcon since 1967, including the one in England in 1979, and some of the Texas conventions like AggieCon. Clif Davis, HSFS member, and she put on ERRATICON - the year shall be numberless, but she had fun.
She works at the Dow Chemical Company's Freeport, Texas, plant as a research chemist, mainly doing analytical chemistry helping to solve plant problems.
"Contex is the first time I have ever been Fan GOH. Thanks very much for asking me. It is a great honor", said Joanne.
My personal memories of Joanne distilled from the many years since the origin of the Houston Science Fiction Society (founded 1969 by Lisa Tuttle) of which Joanne was the first president. She was a collecter of SF literature, and when she lived in Lake Jackson had a gigantic collection of SF books; once she gave me a copy of an out of print book I told her I had enjoyed as a youth, "Bullard of the Space Patrol" by Malcolm Jameson, gratis, friend to friend. We all have our little eccentricities...one of hers that much amused me (because I shared it) was an enjoyment of certain old-time, bad, formula-ridden SF; in her case it was a Perry Rhodan (a European SF junk series and whose addition to the ouevre of SF is nil (but fun)); she collected many of these paperbacks and we often joked about it.
All of us usually had funny grins on our faces, but I remember Joanne's smile as being the biggest and most persistent of all. She was definitely a true friend, and attended many of our annual HSFS gatherings, including the last one not a year ago.
Please accept my condolences and those of all former HSFS members. I know Joanne had an even wider correspondence with science fiction fans around the world and her passing will many sad faces here and abroad.
For one thing she shared a love for John Campbell's Analog and is the only person I know with a more extensive Analog collection than my own.
For another she had a wry subtle sense of humor and the amused smile you can see starting to peek at one edge of her mouth (see above) was a frequent feature.
Over the years, I got to know Joanne better. She was the first person I knew with a small library in her restroom "because my friends will read the medicine bottles if there is nothing else to read".
Dragons of all kinds collected her. Joanne published several fanzines and in that pre-personal computer age owned a mimeograph machine and an IBM Selectric typewriter with replaceable balls for each font.
One of Joanne's characteristics was the effortless way she would adjust her conversation level to match the person she was talking to, be they a fellow chemical engineer or the little girl down the street. She was soft spoken, agreeable, but in her own way had a will of iron. If she admired anyone, it was her boss, the one she would replace after his retirement.
She was a research chemist for Dow Chemical Company (in Freeport) and a devout (and serious) Catholic and moved easily between those worlds, and the world of Science Fiction fandom and later the Society for Creative Anachronism.
She published a list of Forthcoming SF before Locus started, and book publishers wanting to be listed or reviewed would flood her with paperbacks and sometimes pre-prints. Small groups of us would head up to Lake Jackson for an occasional weekend, relaxing and reading at Joanne's. Then she would load us up with books that didn't make her cut before we left. Many are the nights I've driven through the fog between Lake Jackson and Houston. A lot of the books she has given me are boxed in storage with the rest of my life, waiting for the day they will once more rest on my bookshelves.
Joanne herself did not drive. She didn't see the point of it. She did perfectly well without it. She was provided with transportation to work and when she was in Houston she would call on one of her visitors to ferry her from bookstore to bookstore. When in recent years she decided she needed to drive, she simply learned in the same competent manner in which she accomplished everything.
Attending Science Fiction conventions with Joanne was always interesting.
She knew a vast swath of people, writers, fan politicians, and dealers, and it was always hard to predict who she would or wouldn't know. She spent a week or so visiting Piers Anthony once on her way back home.
Attending World Science Fiction conventions (Worldcons) with Joanne was particularly interesting.
I couldn't tell you which two Worldcons they were, but the two that stick in my mind were the one where she wasn't there an hour before the flight so I took the electronic shuttle (i.e. the peoplemover at IAH) to her hotel to find she had already left and then the shuttle back just in time to see our plane taxi down the runway.
The other one was the year she took a friend's bright 12 year old (blue-eyed blond) girl (who semi-regularly played D&D with us and spent many of her Saturdays and summer days at Joanne's) and watched in amusement as she remained oblivious to the small band of suitors (her age) that sprang up at the convention. Joanne's Dungeon and Dragon (and Empire of the Petal Throne) games were both whimsical and deadly and when her face took on an impish grin and her eyes sparkled, you knew you were in trouble.
Houston had no Science Fiction Conventions. There were comic conventions and nostalgia conventions, and even things that called themselves science fiction conventions, but were really comic or nostalgia conventions with Trek merchandise in the dealers room.
After John Campbell died and Ben Bova took the reins at Analog, Joanne and I, while discussing the lack of SF conventions in Houston, were spurred into action by Bob Stahl. We would run our own convention and invite Bova as the GOH.
At first Johnny Lee was going to help us, but had to drop out. The name Erraticon (because knowing us, the con would run erratically) was Joanne's idea. Joanne negotiated with the Bovas and talked them into flying second class not first.
I invited well-known filker Margaret Middleton to be our fan guest.
Since Joanne was in Lake Jackson, I did the lion's share of negotiating with the hotel. In retrospect, given our later troubles with the hotel, this may have been an error. Certainly she would have been more firm with them.
We traveled to other conventions to take notes, volunteering at D-con and flying to El Paso for Willie Siros's first con. We discussed the conventions, what we liked, what we didn't, where people were making mistakes, what their strong points were. Perhaps Erraticon would not be so erratic.
Erraticon lived up to its name. It opened opposite the original Star Wars movie (in 1977). Half the con hotel burned down the night before the convention. When we arrived from the airport with the Bovas, the hotel had no room for them. One of our giant Texas cockroaches attacked Ben Bova during his guest of honor speech. The fans we had working security broke into the hotel's cold drink supply and emptied them of soda. Most of the art work arrived the day after the con was over. The con continually stayed one step from disaster. Joanne and I had a blast.
A two-person con committee is something I will never do again though.
It tired me out, thoroughly. Joanne handled her share and then some of keeping the con running. But by the time that the filk sing started the first night I could barely keep my eyes open. A few songs later I retreated to my hotel room. Joanne filked far into the night. The next morning I woke after the con was supposed to be in progress. I tumbled from my room and staggered down the hall. Joanne was awake, cheerful, and had everything under control. Throughout the convention she was tireless. Actually, I can't ever remember Joanne being tired. She was never actually energetic, and yet she never tired.
The following year was a strike year for Dow Chemical and I was not about to try to hold a convention by myself. There was never an Erraticon II nor actually was there a need for one. Mike Riley had supplied the films for Erraticon and Margaret Middleton talked him (and his films) into coming to her convention in Little Rock. Enjoying both conventions, Mike determined that he was going to change Mysterycon into a Science Fiction Convention. And that led in turn to CONTEX and subsequently to Friends of Fandom. And so Joanne's and my little convention left echoes that are still ringing in Houston Fandom today.
I had to get to know Joanne very well before I came to realize that there were dozens of people who Joanne quietly helped with no splash or fanfare.
Joanne always did something to support Channel 8 Public Television. One year she bought a sky dome box for a baseball game in the Channel 8 auction. High above the astrodome, surrounded by the boxes of wealthy companies, the HSFS ate pizza and partied, generally ignoring the game. Another year she purchased a special NASA tour at the Channel 8 auction and a small group of us got to go through the NASA mockup of America's first space station (Skylab) and later film Joe Pumilia touching the "Do Not Touch" sign on an earlier craft.
Joanne steered me to Anne McCaffrey's Ship Who Sang. Once she tossed me a book and said "here - take this". I was surprised that it was a book of stories by Anne McCaffrey. After I read it, the next time I visited Lake Jackson I told her that it was disappointing. It might as well have been titled "Anne McCaffrey's light romantic fluff". Joanne gave me an impish grin and asked "Why do you think I got rid of it"? It was the same grin she used when she handed me a book she got from England titled Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, while the people visiting were going to bed, knowing full well that I would sit and read it while everyone else slept. When I reached the part where Deep Thought reveals the answer is 42 I sat there shaking the couch with silent helpless laughter trying not to wake the room. The next morning she asked me how I liked the book, a little smile playing at one side of her mouth.
Joanne and her interest in Georgette Heyer (many years she attended the Heyer tea in costume) introduced me to a wonderful writer that my interests would have never led me to in a million years.
She was active in the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) for many years.
She headed the N3F tape bureau copying audio tapes and frequently served on the board of directors of the N3F. One year, after having difficulties with some of the directors, Joanne also ran myself and Johnny Lee for the board to discover if her coattails were wide enough to sweep us into office too. They weren't (which was just as well), but her new fellow board members proved to be much easier to work with. Eventually she gave up the N3F and most APAs (Amateur Press Associations) but until fairly recently she stayed active in a children's literature APA, fitting given her love for, if not all children, at least selected individuals.
Growing increasingly concerned about her mother, Joanne moved her mother in with her, and afterwards I felt awkward about asking to visit. Both of us became more involved with our own lives and only crossed paths occasionally.
For I while I depended on T'Pell for news of Joanne, but then I saw less of T'Pell. I was aware when Joanne's mother died only long after the fact, and I am not sure that she knew I was divorced before she set foot in Brad Frank's Future Visions Books. She talked Dow into sending her to a UH class in neural networks, the same class that I had taken from a different professor in my quest for the elusive Ph.D., and the last long talk I had with Joanne was a discussion of our differing views on the significance of artificial neural networks.
She enjoyed my surprise that she had learned to drive. I was even more surprised when I learned she moved to Pasadena, not far from where I lived. At Joe Pumilia's HSFS reunion, when I learned she had email I was positively enthusiastic. She was still working for Dow but was training her replacement and telecommuting. She sent an email asking for help in locating a course for "Louisa (the lady I live with)" and Margaret and I did our best to help.
This too was a surprise. Joanne had always been so independent and self sufficient that the idea of her voluntarily sharing a house with someone else just didn't click. I got permission to send her a sample Info Alert.
After Joanne's memorial service, listening to Louisa (who had introduced herself on the phone as Joanne's virtual daughter) things began to click into place.
Joanne had helped Louisa and her little girl after an accident. Louisa was there when Joanne's mother died. When Louisa got married, Joanne took them with her to Europe for their honeymoon. The costume that Joanne had Louisa wear to the Dow party to give them something to talk about (I can just see Joanne's sly impish grin now). How they had not yet moved books from Joanne's Lake Jackson house to Joanne's Pasadena house. How that Joanne's workstation was set up in a room out of the main path, but where she could look out into the den while she worked and see Louisa and her daughter. I may not have my facts completely straight here, but I caught the gist.
Honestly, I think that Joanne was amused by Louisa, the same way she was amused by Johnny Lee, or for that matter, was amused by me. I think that she loved Louisa's little girl.
It's just an opinion.
Joanne had seen a cardiologist for an irregular EKG. Her legs were swollen. She was given something for her legs. Louisa was unsatisfied and felt they should find out the reason. She pointed out that they lived near the world's major center for heart problems and Joanne agreed that if she didn't feel better by the beginning of the next week she would go to M.D. Anderson. Friday, Louisa came home and Joanne was dead.
You never know.
Joanne, ... I miss you already.
....I always meant to write something for Joanne's page.
I don't know....maybe it was just easier to forget about the loss....move on.
After a while, it drifted into the mist of past history. Did I write something for Joanne's page? Of course, I did! Why wouldn't I?
Funny how I can sit here and think about her.....and the tears of loss come.
Were we really that close?
Probably not. Maybe I felt closer to her than she did to me. Or vice versa. I can't ask her now.
There was a time when I had my own one-bedroom apartment in Houston. During that time, when Joanne came into town, she'd always call me, and I'd put her up in my own bed.....I'd sleep on the sofa.
Then she stopped calling. I always wondered why.
I know she had other, new friends.
She loved doing all kinds of needlework. Well, for that matter, I've been known to indulge, myself. She did a truly beautiful embroidery of my name, huge, on a piece of fabric 2 feet by 3 1/2 feet. She meant it for an SCA costume. I couldn't bear to cut it up, so I sewed it to the end of a cape.
It's still hanging on my bedroom wall.
I needlepointed four miniature pictures of cats looking out of a window in the four seasons of the year for her.
I had to move, and I couldn't take my Siamese cat Orion with me. Joanne took him in. She'd never had a cat before in her life. A couple of years later, she developed truly horrendous allergies....to almost all of the plant life in and around her yard, but worst of all to cats. Her doctor told her to get rid of Orion.
She went out and got two more cats.
I bought a used VW camper bus. A group of us agreed to drive up to Worldcon. It was an adventure not to be believed, one worthy of a comic book....which Dennis Pumilia obligingly drew up for me afterwards.
Joanne showed up in my driveway with a second van and a new friend from Lake Jackson.
The entire trip there, Joanne's upper respirator system swole completely shut. She couldn't breathe at all. She refused to give up. Her friend would prop her in the hotel room bathroom on the floor, turn on all the hot water taps, and fill the room with as much steam as she could generate, just so Joanne could breathe well enough to get a little sleep.
I went to several Worldcon's with Joanne. I still remember the pictures of R.A. Lafferty....who for some unexplainable reason circulated around conventions sitting on girls' laps....sitting on Joanne's.
What I remember about her laugh was how deep and throaty her voice was. Even when she elevated the pitch of her voice, to make a point, or cut a joke, the solid, substantial timber of her voice never changed.
I loved her house from the first time I ever saw it. 55 Mockingbird Lane. The huge wooden box in front, painted red, with the "55" painted on it. "What is that, Joanne?" "My mailbox!"
"Why so large?" "I need it!"
You get THAT much mail?????
Magazines, fanzines, round robins, correspondence, books she had bought, books shipped to her by the publisher for review.....
I entered her house and walked into a fantasy land more beautiful than Disneyland. Books. Books. More books. Bookshelves in every room of the house. Bookshelves in the MIDDLE of rooms in her house. Lovely, lovely books. I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven.
Comic books. Oh, ghod, look at all the lovely comic books.
"Here, take these." "Joanne, I couldn't!" "I've finished with them. I don't have room for them. Take them, take them! Take all you want!"
Maybe some friendships just run so deep that you can't talk about them...until some time has passed.
She was 2 months away from total retirement (she had been working parttime for 6 months already) when she died. She was going to travel the world. She had plenty of money saved up. She was going to travel and take her dear friends with her.
And I can't tell you how much I will always grieve that she didn't get her wish.
Some things just aren't fair.
If memory serves me correctly, I was also a president of that group for at least one year. It must have been somewhere between 1973 and 1976, and many of the founders had already begun to spread their seeds to the stars. I cannot recall exactly the years or even all of the events, but I do remember warm Houston summers, interesting parties, Joanne Burger, and many other good friends.
Those days seem like a lifetime ago. I especially remember her large collection of paperback SF books on specially constructed wooden shelves. Many years later, that was to be a model for a library of my own. Now I seem to have moved past those days and (sadly) many of those same people. I hadn't seen Joanne in well over 10 years ... now I guess I never will.
I also remember those occasional meetings where we all headed down to Joanne's house. It seems there was always some sort of picnic in the country aspect to those meetings.
They were good days.
In the years that followed, Joanne became the godmother to the Houston Science Fiction Society and one or two Saturdays every month, she presided over that wonderful group of eccentrics and talented weirdoes for some of the most entertaining afternoons and evenings of my teenaged years. There was always the sense for me that Houston was in the backwaters of SF fandom, but Joanne swam in the ocean with the real fish. She gave us respectability.
I cannot count how many books she steered me to or how many wonderful conversations I had with her.
I hope there is a divine starship out there somewhere with a new navigator.
The Houston sf community should feel a tremendous loss for this wonderful lady. She was one of two persons I feel represented the respectful elite & authority within the Houston sf reading fandom. She first introduced me to the fact that there were actual living beings behind the books I was absorbed in at that time, and gave me addresses to write authors directly. At one time I looked forward to receiving Forthcoming Books almost as much as Locus.
I will never forget the van team tag relay we had driving to the Baltimore Worldcon in 1983. Since my time to spend within Houston fandom has been ended by work & family, I've wanted to renew our friendship, especially after Johnny Lee, HSFS member, died. I never got around to it. I will think about her alot in the coming days.
I remember going to Joanne's Lake Jackson home for HSFS activities a time or two, and being impressed by a houseful of books.
But what I remember most about Joanne is how warm, friendly, and outgoing she was, and what a joyful attitude she seemed to have toward life. She was simply someone I liked to be around.
Now that she is gone, I am going to miss her very much.
She had a quiet way about her and apparently a 'following' among the HSFS-ers. From what I could discern, she was a gracious host when the Houston group went to visit.
I thought she was a gentle soul and quite knowledgeable about numerous subjects. I know she will be missed.
But I had the impression Joanne seemed to have a mind of her own and never hesitated to express who she was. No doubt even now she is at home among appreciative new friends and has already found her favorite place in the Great Beyond. Ever a lover of books, she is probably organizing the libraries of departed sf fans and entertaining and informing them, sharing her vast knowledge of sf literature.
We both worked for a really sweet and intelligent Oxford scholar, his name is Bill Howard. We were quite a threesome.
It was truly an learning time for me in many ways, I learned much about chemistry from both Joanne and Bill, and still do (or did). As the years went by we weren't working together, but I always relied on Joanne as a HUGE resouce as well as a friend.
I have so many memories of her, it is really difficult to try to pick favorites.
Sitting side by side in the same lab, we actually got to know each other very well. She always talked about her D&D friends, and the games...(I was always kinda curious about it but never brave enough to check it out...lolol)..and she talked about the "World Con"...and Clif...I do remember your name coming up often.
For a long time she rode to and from work with me, and I remember her almost putting her foot through my front floorboard several times.
One time, she had a costume party of some sort to go to...or maybe it was a convention, and needed a costume. She asked me to sew her a cape, which of course I said yes. So we went and bought the fabric, a khaki color, and I sewed her a hooded cape...after which she embroidered some of her wonderful work on it. I wonder where that ended up...do any of you friends remember it? She also embroidered my initials on fabric...I still have them someplace but never framed them...I must find them now for sure!
I guess looking back on it all now, the one thing I can say about Joanne, working with her...was that I can't really remember a time that she ever got really angry at anyone...she would just say.."Oh well....and turn up her chin....and walk away calmly". And yes, her smile...always a smile...a contagious smile. And her unique style...so different from many...but so proud of it...and seemingly confident and okay with her own space in this world.
We also shared much about family. I had my two children while I worked there in that lab...so both Bill and Joanne shared my pregnancies with me. She spoke of her family often and with fondness... her mother, her brother, and she also had a sister (or cousin) that lived with her for a while. And she did help anyone and everyone that she could, seemed to never tire of it.
In more recent years, I would walk by her office and just couldn't resist going in to visit a bit. She was one of those friends that although you don't see much, the friendship is all renewed in just a few seconds. She had an awesome poster of a dragon on the wall of her office at Dow! I'd call her often, and I can still remember hearing her say..."Yes???" She had a definite unique tone to her voice that will echo in my memory for years!
The weekend of July 12, I was out of town at a seminar and took off Monday morning to recover. I got to work at about 11AM and heard the shocking news.
I immediately got in my car....and 2 hours later....after getting lost in Baytown...and Pasadena...and Lord knows where else, I pulled up at St. Pius'.
Her funeral was all over, and I knew it would be, but I needed to go there...to be at the last place she was in this world. The church was still open and I went in and cried more than I have in many years! We have lost a friend much sooner than any of us wanted! Many of us know how special she was, I hope she knew!
I wish I had told her more often! HUGS to you girl!!!! Love ya, Katherine
She was a chemist in Resins Research and also went to the same church as I did. One Sunday morning I was sitting in a pew, not particularly doing anything special, but looking down, and I heard from the front the most beautiful voice, sweetly singing. I looked up and was pleasantly surprised to see Joanne standing, there singing a couple of solo's prior to the church services starting. Every time I tell this story, I find few folks knew of her amazing talent for singing.
I'll miss you Joanne.
I was dragged down to Lake Jackson one time, nervous because I didn't know this person we were going to see. First thing, however, I was amazed by the library she called home! (I will always be a rank amateur when it comes to collecting books...she was the Grand Queen of the Printed Word in fandom.)
I was invited to browse, sit & read, to enjoy her books. I wasn't used to people doing that (I was still new to fandom & it's "family" setting) & it really made me feel more than welcome in her home. That is my best memory of her.
I wish I had known Joanne as well as I should have but I do remember how she would take us "newbies" under her wing & welcome us into the world of science fiction/fantasy. That was her job in life, I think...& I thank her for that.
From a grateful Panda (who really wished she could say more)