Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Short Stories on Wednesdays: The Machine Stops by E M Forster

Today for Short Stories on Wednesdays I dug out the short story book I  read for my O'Level English Literature. My copy of the book itself was printed in 1986, and you will see from the picture it is accompanied by a very fetching home made bookmark which I can only imagine I made in the early '80s.

I re-read one particular story which has always stuck with me, The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster. One of the first Sci Fi stories I ever read, this story was originally published in 1909, and foretold of a world where humans become dependent on technology. Video conferencing is the norm, and the surface of the Earth has been ruled unfit for habitation.

The story hits home even now, but even more so when you remember that it was written long before the Internet, webcams or Global Warming were heard of.

You can find a full page with much more detail about this story over on Wikipedia.


  1. Thanks for the review; I hadn't heard of this one (I found your page through the Breadcrumb Reads blog). In fact I didn't even associate Forster with short stories, only with novels. I like how he seems here to foreshadow web technology and environmental problems. Recently I read a collection of dystopian short fiction, Brave New Worlds, that this reminded me of. In a number of cases the dystopia arises because of an environmental crisis (though having not read Forster's story, I'm not sure if society there is a dystopia).

  2. I've not heard of The Machine Stops, but I will be adding it to my small collection of short story books.

  3. A long time ago I read a book called (I think) Phylos Dweller of Two Planets in my quest to 'know more' about why we are here and wotnot. The book was written pre 1900 and talked about technology that is, in the last ten years, happening. It was quite amazing because it was pre-telephones and pre-electricity and pre-cars to a certain degree...sometimes the 'names' of things (mobile phone) was different but when it started talking about the 'apparatus' and what it could do the reader was instantly recognising it as a mobile phone. Still awaiting cars of the future that 'hover' somehow utilising the earth's magnetic field! It did give some of the physics behind it as an explanation but as I was rubbish at physics the whole theory by-passed my brain!

  4. Sounds interesting. I love stories that haunt me for decades.

  5. I've just read the wiki page, and I'd definitely like to read this one.

    1. Hi Rebecca. I've given you a Sunshine Award. :) Check out my latest post to claim your bit of Sunshine! xxx

  6. Remarkable story, that one.

    A to Z Challenge April 2012

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  7. Never heard of it but now I am going to.