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The Machine Stops
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Archive Sci-fi/Fantasy Reads > August Science Fiction and Fantasy: The Machine Stops

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message 1: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 9716 comments Mod
The short story selection is The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster.


message 2: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie Oh I love this thread. Thank you.


message 3: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 9716 comments Mod
You're welcome, Catherine.

I read this story earlier in the year and found it an intriguing story, and quite a change from his other books.


message 4: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie It definitely is! It's going to be fun discussing this book.


message 5: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) | 1371 comments I have this as an audiobook and will be listening to it later this week.


message 6: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie Oh that's interesting, it may be more dramatic in audio!🤔


Trisha | 875 comments Just a suggestion - the version The Machine Stops and Other Stories can be read for free on Goodreads (online or download).


message 8: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie Thanks Trisha


message 9: by Patrick, From USA Sci-fi/Fantasy & Horror (new) - rated it 4 stars

Patrick | 698 comments Mod
I found a copy and I’ll read it very soon. Can’t wait!


message 10: by fp63 (new) - rated it 3 stars

fp63 | 17 comments Read it in its original version so i struggled to figure out the scenery. Short to read it is interesting to see how it is not so irrealistic. Lots of people look for comfort and are ready to pay the price. Reminds me of wall-e.


Peter (slawophilist) | 104 comments Having read only the first pages I had to reascertain that the story was indeed written more than 100 years ago. It is so prophetic on modern communication and the readiness of people replacing personal interaction with emails, instant messaging and skype/facetime and the likes.


message 12: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 9716 comments Mod
I noticed that when I read it too. Wells seemed to foresee our society of instant communication but no real face to face interaction.


Peter (slawophilist) | 104 comments Rosemarie wrote: "... Wells seemed to foresee ...."

Did you mean E.M. Forster? Only now I realized that he is the same author who wrote "Howards End" or "Passage to India".


message 14: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie Yes, this work is completely divergent from his others. Having said that, he seems to be a visionary, atleast as far as the perils of the gadgets are concerned.


Brian Reynolds | 4285 comments Peter wrote: "Rosemarie wrote: "... Wells seemed to foresee ...."

Did you mean E.M. Forster? Only now I realized that he is the same author who wrote "Howards End" or "Passage to India"."


Rosemarie has read this and commented on the story in a Goodreads group. She knows it's Forster and not Wells. She also referred to how different it is from his other work in Message 3. Her 'Wellsian' slip is funny because, if I didn't know this book and was asked a trivia choice of Wells or Foster as the author of a novel with this plot, I'd be 99% sure it was Wells.


message 16: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 9716 comments Mod
I did mean Forster. 🙀 My mind has been melting due to the heat wave. 🌞


Trisha | 875 comments I read this today, & agree it’s difficult to believe it was written so long ago. Instant communication via a form of tablet? Tube travel? The ideas must have seemed weird at the time. But did I misunderstand? - I got the impression by the end that some people wanted to return to a simpler lifestyle with less control by the Machine.


message 18: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 9716 comments Mod
I think they worshipped the Machine and were so dependent on it, that their survival is questionable without it. They were unable to do anything for themselves. However, there were a few who went to the surface, but we don't know how many there are.


message 19: by Catherine (last edited Aug 07, 2018 12:03PM) (new)

Catherine Habbie Kuno, was the only one whose name is mentioned, but he did see a whole lot of people hiding on the surface, waiting to come out, when humanity is restored, and free from the clutches of the Machine.
His mother Vashti, seemed to be part of the former group. She actually kissed the book, and prayed to it, to restore order again!


message 20: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie Quoting Kuno, "The Machine is much, but it is not everything.I see something like you in this plate,but I do not see you. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you."


message 21: by Bernard (last edited Aug 07, 2018 12:53PM) (new)

Bernard Smith | 3573 comments Re: Her 'Wellsian' slip is funny …. Is it also a Freudian slip?


I note that the real Vashti was
Queen of Persia and the first wife of Persian King Ahasuerus (mentioned in the Book of Esther). Is this significant?


message 22: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 9716 comments Mod
Bernard, both British, both with two initials before the last name. Is that a coincidence.
But seriously, I have read almost all of Forster's novels so I will just go stand in the corner and meditate.


Brian Reynolds | 4285 comments This was my comment in another Goodreads group after reading this short story:

This story combines a dystopian authoritarian outlook, as exists in other books, with a dystopian social communication outlook, which is its more intriguing and remarkable perspective. I waver between 3 and 4 stars on this one. If 3 stars, it's primarily because, as mentioned by others, this could have used a few more pages, at least to true novella size, to provide more insights and answers.

NOTE: I ultimately gave it 4 stars, giving precedence to it's early and unique dystopian social communications perspective.


message 24: by Catherine (last edited Aug 07, 2018 01:27PM) (new)

Catherine Habbie Ha,ha.This is hilarious. British Bernard! But sadly, it doesn't seem to be relevant here..
Rosemarie, as the former queen of slips, Freudian or otherwise,I understand your pain.I think you can safely come out of the corner now.It's perfectly ok!🤗


message 25: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 9716 comments Mod
Thank you, Catherine.


message 26: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie 😊 Anytime


message 27: by Bernard (new)

Bernard Smith | 3573 comments Wells was certainly the giant of British SF, but there were other writers at that time.


Peter (slawophilist) | 104 comments I am 75% done reading and cannot close my eyes to the similarities of the adoration of the Machine to the Catholic church, the handling and reading from the Book (in capital letters), the touching of buttons (like touching of icons or relics, the description of the Machine as "omnipotent, eternal", "the ritual swell into a complicated system of praise and prayer" (liturgy), each would pray to his / her favourite feature and "ask it to intercede for him with the Machine as a whole" (saints). Only that the ruling body is not called synod, but "Central Committee" (did Forster also foresee communism?). I wonder whether this is just an analogy to show that people did not change after all or critizing the church being mechanistic and detached from people.


message 29: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 9716 comments Mod
Even though I thought they treated the Machine as a god, I didn't see the connection to the Church. The comparison makes sense to me. The organized Church may have forgotten its original function, just as the original function of the Machine was to serve, not control.


Peter (slawophilist) | 104 comments So what do WE believe in the end? Will there always people to restart the Machine or has humanity learnt its lesson?


message 31: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 9716 comments Mod
I see those who made it to the surface and survived as rebels. That generation would not restart the Machine, but if they have descendants.....who knows?


Kathy | 1140 comments I just finished the story and felt like it was written far later than it was (1909). It was amazing how Forster portrayed humans isolating themselves and only communicating through a machine.


Trisha | 875 comments Kathy wrote: "I just finished the story and felt like it was written far later than it was (1909). It was amazing how Forster portrayed humans isolating themselves and only communicating through a machine."

I agree - he was very creative to write this so long ago.


message 34: by Catherine (last edited Aug 24, 2018 10:01AM) (new)

Catherine Habbie Peter wrote: "I am 75% done reading and cannot close my eyes to the similarities of the adoration of the Machine to the Catholic church, the handling and reading from the Book (in capital letters), the touching ..."
I think the book alludes more to people being a slave to modern technology than it was about the dogmas of the church. Although a few scenes do depict ritualistic behaviour.
Having said that, Rosemarie, I hope no descendants restart the machine. Assuming they haven't already! :)


message 35: by Samantha, Cajun Literary Belle (new) - rated it 3 stars

Samantha (cajunliterarybelle) | 3544 comments Mod
I just started the story. After reading the scene of Vashti and Kuno video chatting, I wonder how mind-boggling Forster would find my reading his science fiction on an electronic tablet.


message 36: by Samantha, Cajun Literary Belle (new) - rated it 3 stars

Samantha (cajunliterarybelle) | 3544 comments Mod
Forster was clearly ahead of his time in writing this story. We have evolved from people going to houses to communicate face-to-face to simply talking over the phone to now texting someone instead of any direct communication. Even nonverbal correspondence has shifted from writing letters to emails to, again, texting. Our communication is becoming less and less personal with more reliance on technology in our daily lives than past generations likely ever thought possible. Are we really that far away from not physically seeing people in our everyday world unless we must? Vashti was anxious ever seeing a person in real life. That is what social anxiety could maybe become, if we continue down this path.

To answer your question Peter, I think people would always eventually go back to technology, or the machine, but it might would take a long time. After several generations pass, the stories of the disastrous experiment with life under the machine would fade and possibly be thought of as myth. Then, people may try the machine again to make life easier. At a certain point, however, technology could make life TOO easy and impersonal.


message 37: by Patrick, From USA Sci-fi/Fantasy & Horror (new) - rated it 4 stars

Patrick | 698 comments Mod
It’s really intriguing how a lot of classic sci-fi novels predict technological advancements of the future. The machine in this story reminded me a lot of the internet and Skype.


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