Sci-fi and comics lovers, scientists and software developers, steampunks and gamers — whatever flavor of nerd you are, geek history needs you!
Here’s the thing: Isaac Asimov. The late grand master of science fiction who authored 500 books across every Dewey Decimal category and invented the very idea of “robotics” as a field of study, thus shaping the course of 20th- and 21st-century geekdom. He is generally thought of as a New Yorker—but he spent three very important years in Philadelphia.
From 1942 to 1945, while living and working here during WWII as a chemist at the Navy Yard, Asimov wrote half a dozen of the key stories that comprise his two most influential cultural masterpieces: the Foundation series, which introduced the idea of “psychohistory,” the mathematical modeling of the future; and the Robot series, which introduced the famous Three Laws of Robotics governing how artificial intelligences should behave.
Without those stories sparking the imagination of generations of computer scientists and engineers, it’s hard to conceive what our world of technology would look like today. But we know one thing: It wouldn’t look the same.
So we at Philadelphia Weekly, along with our pals at Geekadelphia, have decided the time has come to call for an official Isaac Asimov Pennsylvania Historical Marker to be placed at the corner of 50th and Spruce, where Isaac lived while he wrote those historic stories. (Hey, Edgar Allan Poe has his whole Philly house designated as a landmark, and he wasn’t a native either.)
We kicked off our campaign on Sat., April 6, when a horde of local Asimov fans of all ages met up at Barkan Park in West Philly, right across the street from the apartment building where the author lived and wrote. We were thrilled to be joined by a bunch of speculative-fiction luminaries—including authors Michael Swanwick, Gregory Frost, Victoria McManus, Tom Purdom and Gardner Dozois, several of whom knew Isaac personally. We all signed the petition of support that will be part of our application to the Historical Marker Commission later this year. And our favorite geektastic photographer, PW contributor Kyle Cassidy — whose idea all this was in the first place — shot a photo to commemorate the moment the Asimov historical movement officially began.
Now we need your voices of support.