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The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster

The Machine Stops

by E. M. Forster, Erik Wysocan (Editor)

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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
A long short story/short novella from 1909 that is by far the most prescient piece of fiction I have ever read. Piercingly intelligent and brilliantly written. Vashti's skewed cultural norms ring true in a way that early scifi like this never does, and it reminded me of the really well thought out cultures in modern epic fantasy. ( )
  ForeverMasterless | Apr 23, 2017 |
Let me preface this by saying I am not a big sci-fi fan, nor do I usually seek out short stories to read.

This E.M. Forster story was recently brought to my attention by my husband. Coincidentally, I had just completed a novel by the same author that I didn't particularly like. But since I am the curious type, I thought I'd check this one out.

In a nutshell, humanity loses all touch with the basic things that make us human and becomes totally reliant on technology. Individuals are repulsed by the touch of another human being or anything associated with nature. Most things, including communication, can be achieved in isolation through reliance on The Machine which is assumed to be infinitely sustainable. (Is this conjuring up contemporary images of people preferring text messages over face to face conversations, being able to order almost anything online or our annoyance when we briefly lose internet access?)

After reading this uncannily predictive story, I can understand why it has received so many accolades. To keep things in perspective, it was originally published during 1909. The first powered flights weren't made by The Wright Brothers until 1903. The internet did not exist in any publicized conceptual form (that I am aware of.)

Well, I won't say more since the entire story is under fifty pages and I don't want to give too many details away. I would recommend that everyone take the time to read this at some point. We may be looking at our future, through the lens of a fictional novel. (Twilight Zone music plays in the background.) ( )
  Lisa805 | Dec 18, 2016 |
Holy cow. Really it's a century old? But what it talks about is so perfectly contemporary. And the writing is not archaic, but rather fully engaging. One could call it science fiction, but somehow all the SF historians focused on Wells and Verne and Lovecraft and missed this.

So: euthanasia, Facebook, the disconnect from fresh air and other first-hand experiences, over-reliance on technology and automation, conformity, religion & spirituality, historians and researchers incestuous re-quoting and bickering interpretations, obedience and conformity, the meaning of family, eugenics -- wow - lots to think about. I have no idea why this isn't more famous. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
This was fine, sometimes it is hard to accept that an author elected to stay with a short story or novella when so much more could have been done with it. Having just read this, and [b:This Crowded Earth|6314423|This Crowded Earth|Robert Bloch|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348552816s/6314423.jpg|6499655], I am feeling kind of inspired to look for groups based on dystopian fiction and gather some more suggestions for earlier works. had an odd experience as i was listening to a Librivox recording and the firt narrator sounded just like i think i sound. Kind of eerie! ( )
  MaureenCean | Feb 2, 2016 |
“You talk as if a god had made the Machine," cried the other. "I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but not everything.” E.M. Forster could have been talking about Steve Jobs and iPhones!

I don't know how widely read The Machine Stops is but I think it ought to be required reading for all sci-fi aficionados. I don't know this for a fact but I suspect it is very influential; I can see echoes of it in sci-fi classics such as Harlan Ellison’s [b:I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream|415459|I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream|Harlan Ellison|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1257119192s/415459.jpg|1055429], Asimov’s [b:The Caves of Steel|41811|The Caves of Steel (Robot, #1)|Isaac Asimov|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1335782224s/41811.jpg|140376], the classic short story “Nightfall” and even in something as recent as Hugh Howey’s Wool. Perhaps even Iain Banks’ Culture series to some extent.

This is a proto-dystopian sci-fi story first published in 1909. Here we have the human race all living underground to avoid exposure to a polluted poisonous Earth atmosphere (though things may not be as they seem). Mankind is totally ruled and nurtured by a global AI Overlord simply called The Machine. Everybody’s material needs and creature comforts can be conjured as needed (presumably backsides are also wiped).

So what happens when the entire human race are totally reliant on a single supercomputer* to the extent that their muscles have atrophied and decadence has set it? I'm not going to tell you obviously but this is a brilliant prescient story that I hope you will read.

Pity [a:E.M. Forster|86404|E.M. Forster|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1402057803p2/86404.jpg] only wrote this one sci-fi story, he really had a knack for it. He is of course best known for classics like [b:A Room with a View|3087|A Room with a View|E.M. Forster|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388781285s/3087.jpg|4574872] (which I plan to read soon) and [b:A Passage to India|45195|A Passage to India|E.M. Forster|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388177369s/45195.jpg|4574850] (which I read years ago, and is very good) etc. The Machine Stops is so good that it makes me want to read more of his books regardless of genre.

This story is in the public domain and you can find a free e-book edition at Manybooks.net and a free audiobook at Librivox. Now all you need is an hour or so to soak it all up!

* The word "computer" does not appear anywhere in the text of course, 1909 y'know, that makes his prescience even more remarkable. ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. M. Forsterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wysocan, ErikEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee.
Men seldom moved their bodies; all unrest was concentrated in the soul.
It has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralysed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it.
First-hand ideas do not really exist. They are but the physical impressions produced by live and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element--direct observation.
No one confessed the Machine was out of hand. Year by year it was served with increased efficiency and decreased intelligence.
...and in all the world there was not one who understood the monster as a whole.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140990329X, Paperback)

Edward Morgan Forster, OM (1879-1970), was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. His humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End. He had five novels published in his lifetime. He achieved his greatest success with A Passage to India (1924). The novel takes as its subject the relationship between East and West, seen through the lens of India in the later days of the British Raj. His views as a secular humanist are at the heart of his work, which often depicts the pursuit of personal connections in spite of the restrictions of contemporary society. He is noted for his use of symbolism as a technique in his novels, and he has been criticised for his attachment to mysticism. His other works include Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908) and Maurice (1971).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:35 -0400)

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