The Machine Stops

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Forster, E. M. "The Machine Stops." Oxford and Cambridge Review 8 (Michaelmas term 1909): 83-122. Frequently rpt., including in Of Men and Machines, q.v. under Anthologies. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, IIB. Ben Bova, ed. New York: Avon, 1973. Science Fiction: The Future. Dick Allen, ed. 1st and 2d edns. New York: Harcourt, 1971, 1983. Man Unwept. Stephen V. Whaley and Stanley J. Cook, eds. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974. Science Fiction: The Science Fiction Research Association Anthology. Patricia S. Warrick et al., eds. New York: Harper, 1988.

The prototypical mechanical hive story. Brings together most of the relevant motifs developed by dystopian authors for the rest of the 20th c. See under Literary Criticism the CW essay by C. Elkins.[[1]] Among early literary works, cf. Marth Foote Crow's, The World Above; A Duologue cited in this Category.

Note for world of isolated people exchanging information that does little to keep them actually in touch and connected.[2]

For figures of speech on a mechanized world as background for "The Machine Stops," see June Hee Chung's Henry James and the Media Arts of Modernity.

For a post-cyberpunk reading, see Rachel Berger's "The Horror of Direct Experience: Cyberpunk Bodies and 'The Machine Stops'," SFRA Review 50.4 (Fall 2020).[3]

“The Machine Stops,” [...], has long been lauded for its prescient descriptions of electronic communications technology. With its early vision of the allure and danger of global, networked communication, the story is in direct conversation with classic cyberpunk literature.

Cyberpunk culture and the critical discourse that surrounds it tends to be concerned with the interface between technologies and bodies. [... Berger's] paper largely leaves technology to the side to meditate on the cyberpunk body itself. When a person pursues “the bodiless exultation of cyberspace,” who or what is left behind (Gibson Neuromancer 6)? How is their relationship with the empirical world changed?[4]

Discussed in Mark Decker's "Politicized Dystopia and Biomedical Imaginaries: The Case of 'The Machine Stops'," New Boundaries in Political Science Fiction (2008): [53]-64. See for "Machine Stops" in its cultural context, especially of popular understanding of the threat of "degeneration" of the species (or among the English) in sedentary urban/industrial life (pp. 56-62).

Rev. RDE 5Feb18, 16Jan20; 23Dec21