Title of a short story by British author E.M. Forster. Published in the Oxford and Cambridge Review in 1909, "The Machine Stops" was one of the first anti-technological dystopias. Forster's story portrays a world in which individuals live in cells inside a giant machine which provides everything for them. In addition to the similarities between the machine and the welfare state, Forster's story also predicts the information overload many contend is taking place today. Despite the bleakness of his initial situation, there is a glimmer of hope, as the characters escape the machine by the end of the story.

"The Machine Stops" set several of the trends that would appear in later, more popular dystopias such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's 1984, and Zamyatin's We, including the draconian enforcement, and the isolation and worship of the state. In addition, according to some critics, "The Machine Stops" also set the trend for the early liberal/humanist opposition to technology. Personally, however, I suspect that Forster's machine was primarily an analogy for a state, and that his story was never intended to be particularly anti-technological.

Science Fiction: the Science Fiction Research Anthology was consulted in the preparation of this node.