April 24, 2013

Let’s recognize Isaac Asimov’s house


Isaac Asimov

The Philadelphia Weekly has started a petition this week to get a historical marker placed at the onetime home of author Isaac Asimov. The author of classic science fiction works such as I, Robot, Asimov lived in an apartment in West Philadelphia for several years in the 1940s, when he worked on some of his best known writing. It’s there that the Philadelphia Weekly is campaigning for a historical marker, which were created by the state in order to “capture the memory of people, places, and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians over the centuries since William Penn founded his Commonwealth.”

Asimov was a pioneer in sci-fi, and is particularly well known for his “Three Laws of Robotics” (a word that he coined) which govern the actions of robots in his fiction and was introduced in the 1942 short story “Runaround.”And far from restricting himself to one genre, he wrote or edited over 500 books, which run the entire gamut of the Dewey Decimal System, with works in nine of its ten categories.

The Philadelphia Weekly has put its petition up at Change.org. While they acknowledge that Asimov is primarily associated with New York, it was at his apartment on the corner of Spruce and 50th Streets in Philly, where he lived from 1942-1945, that he 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.”

You can see the reasons that people give for signing the petition, including run-of-the-mill admiration—“Asmiov is arguably the most important science fiction writer of all time”—as well as smart-ass quips like the ones I would certainly try to come up with—“When the robots take over I want to be able to say I voted for the Asimov plaque” and “Asimov’s laws keep my roomba from murdering me at night.” At the time of this writing, the petition had gotten 1,746 of the 2,500 signatures it needs.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.