Nov. 1, 1909: 'The Machine Stops'

I’ve taught E. M. Forster’s 1909 “The Machine Stops” in a few classes. The message is a little heavy-handed, but the world Foster created is eerily familiar a hundred years later.

“The Machine Stops” appeared in the November issue of The Oxford and Cambridge Review. At 12,000-plus words, it’s sometimes called a longish short story, sometimes a novella. Forster is not thought of as a science-fiction writer, but this piece appeared right between his third and fourth novels, A Room With a View (1908) and Howards End (1910).
The people in Forster’s future live alone in small podlike rooms in a honeycomb of vast, multilayered underground cities spread across the globe. The physical comforts of food, clothing and shelter are all taken care of by the global and revered Machine, along with numerous opportunities for one-to-one and one-to-many electronic communication, in real time with voice and pictures. —Wired

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