Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee
–E. M. Forster - The machine stops - c.1909
It is set in a dystopian future, where everyone lives alone in a little room where everything is provided by the “machine” and you never need to go out. Press a button and you get what you want, interested in a lecture then simply watch it on a screen and likewise you can communicate with people. If it all sounds a little like a proto-internet complete with social media and zoom webinars, then imagine how fantastic it must have seemed when this work was written, back in 1909!
I’m not sure that I think technology is quite so negative as painted here by Forster, but it is an interesting read nevertheless. All these people giving lectures about things they have never seen or experienced and only know from other lectures and other people, a world where first-hand knowledge isn’t important, is in fact distrusted.
I was a little surprised that the main character was a woman, older science fiction doesn’t often have much interest in female characters, and that life for men and women in this future seemed the same, no overt sexism on display, which is always nice.
I have seen adaptations, they were big when I was at school. Not of this, but certainly of A room with a view ↩