Footnote to Fanhistory

Before Mapquest, fans depended on Kevin Standlee’s feet.

In 1993, people going to the Worldcon wanted to know how far their hotels were from the Moscone Center. The ConFrancisco committee told them how many blocks, told them how many linear feet, and still had to admit “neither measurements have satisfied many people.”

Having made the admission, Kevin Standlee realized the only other thing he could do was personally pace off routes from the hotels to the Moscone entrance. He counted his steps and published the results under the title “ConFrancisco – Step by Step.” Fandom learned, for example, that the Parc 55 was 968 Standlees from the convention center, a Standlee being the length of a stride by a man 6’3″ tall, or about a meter. The Standlee became part of the fannish lexicon, and Leah Zeldes Smith wrote that the term deserved to be in the next Fancyclopedia.

Not very many fans have been immortalized by having their names attached to a unit of measurement. Two others I can name off the top of my head are both NESFAns.

According to the NESFA Bureau of Standards, a “Drew” is “the unit of displacement needed to move Drew Whyte from Boston to Cambridge.” Volunteers from the club, er, I mean the NESFA Displacement Authority, required five trucks about 20 feet long, packed absurdly tightly, to shift all or Drew’s stuff to his new home.

Another time, Mark Olson told a NESFA business meeting that new bookshelf extensions had been installed and in the process people had coined a new measurement — “the Paula.” The new shelves were three Paulas high.

You would expect such ideas to appeal to NESFAns, having the example before them of MIT’s Oliver Smoot, a fraternity member who was laid end to end (wasn’t that every frat boy’s dream in 1963?) to measure the length of the Mass. Ave. bridge. Today, Google Earth allows users the option of measuring distances in Smoots. And, of course, the image of Smoot on the Mass. Ave. bridge was celebrated at the Noreascon 4 Opening Ceremonies.

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2 thoughts on “Footnote to Fanhistory

  1. Seth Breidbart is attached to a real-world (well, Internet) unit of measurement — the Breidbart Index for determining the spamminess of a multiply cross-posted Usenet posting.

  2. Is this where somebody defines LASFS’s infamous “Buchman rating”?
    Ooo! Ooo! I’ll do it! I’ll do it!
    Named for (or in spite of) LASFS member Ed Buchman, a “Buchman rating” is given to movies (TV shows? Plays?). It is used in movie reviews. A “Buchman rating” is a measure of time. Specifically, a “Buchman rating” is the measure of time that a bare female breast can be seen during the movie. A movie with a “Buchman rating” of 30 seconds can be expected to show a single naked female breast, on-screen, for a total of 30 seconds, or two naked female breasts for 15 seconds, or four naked female breasts for seven-and-a-half seconds, etc. Any movie with a non-zero “Buchman rating” is of interest to male LASFS members… er… I mean… of interest to male LASFSians. The movie “The Perils of Gwendoline” was given a “Buchman rating” of two weeks.

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