From the correct viewpoint at the corner of Fifteenth and Market streets you can see Claes Oldenburg’s forty-five-foot tall pop art sculpture of a clothespin against the backdrop of City Hall, an elaborate building in the architectural style of the French Second Empire. This unapologetic juxtaposition typifies Philadelphia, a city with both a shadow and a pulse. We still walk the streets mapped out by William Penn—along cobblestone alleys, past Georgian-style homes, through lively public squares—but we do so to get to the latest BYOB restaurant, our office in a towering Center City skyscraper, or a pumping hip hop club. The city’s history contributes to its vitality, but its people and their stories bring Philadelphia to life.
The first novel printed in North America came from the printing press of Philadelphia’s most famous resident, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is best known as a scientist and Founding Father so it may seem unusual for a fiction book to put his much-seen visage on the cover, but it was the printed word that enabled him to retire at forty-two and dedicate his remaining years to the science and public activism that helped make this city great.
Philadelphia was once the center of American publishing, and many famous authors spent all or part of their lives in the area. Edgar Allen Poe wrote many of his best works here. Louisa May Alcott and the father of the American novel, Charles Brockden Brown, called Philadelphia home. James Michener and John O’Hara, two of the twentieth century’s best American novelists, lived little more than a stone’s throw from the City of Brotherly Love.
In literature and publishing, as in so much else, Philadelphia has a proud and storied history. But a newcomer to the city may well ask: “If it stopped commemorating events that occurred more than fifty years ago, what would Philadelphia celebrate?” We put together this collection because we believe the answer is: “Much.”
Philadelphia’s beautiful streets are rich in history but also ripe with life. The stories in this book draw their inspiration from the city and its diverse inhabitations, highlighting the metropolis in all its grit and glory. Our deepest gratitude goes to the Philadelphia-affiliated writers who contributed to Philly Fiction, both those whose stories are featured in the book and those whose stories we were unable to publish. We would also like to thank everyone who supported this project, and everyone who read the book.