When I say EM Forster, what do you think of immediately? Merchant Ivory? Only connect? Class issues? India?
Or science fiction, perhaps? If that’s the case, then you’ve ruined my reveal, damn you. Which is: EM Forster wrote a piece of science fiction that predicted the internet.
It’s called “The Machine Stops”, and it features a Matrix-meets-Facebook scenario in which people no longer have human, personal contact, and all their needs are served by a huge machine that enables them to pass information all around the world. Here’s the opening:
Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment that my meditation opens, this room is throbbing with melodious sounds. An armchair is in the centre, by its side a reading-desk – that is all the furniture. And in the armchair there sits a swaddled lump of flesh – a woman, about five feet high, with a face as white as a fungus. It is to her that the little room belongs.
Are we there yet, do you think?
If you’d like to read the story, it’s here:
Perhaps you’ll enjoy the creepy layering of meaning available to someone reading this particular story on the internet.