Welcome to our second-birthday audio adventure in our popular series Tales for Our Time. This is the twenty-seventh of our radio serials, and it comes by way of almost two years of listener requests. For example, Douglas, a Louisiana member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes:
Please read E.M. Forster's short story, 'The Machine Stops.'
And Tim, an Ohio member, agrees:
Mark, My sincerest apologies if a member has already suggested that the short story 'The Machine Stops' by E.M Forster would be a nice complement to 'The Time Machine'. It's from around about the same time-1909-and was perhaps influenced by Wells' writing.
Well, the Wellsian infuence I address in my introduction. But Douglas and Tim and many others aren't wrong: In this Tale for Our Time young Forster takes a break from writing about class and empire and hypocrisy to conjure a brilliant vision - from 110 years ago - of how we live now, anticipating the Internet, Google, Apple, Skype and, even more brilliantly, their likely effect on us:
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...
She is immersed in gathering second- and third-hand ideas about music and history and culture from ...the Machine.
But, when the Machine makes everything so easy, what would happen if it should ...stop? To hear me read Part One of The Machine Stops, prefaced by my own introduction to the tale, Mark Steyn Club members should please click here and log-in.
And to hear two years' worth of audio adaptations of classic fiction starting with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's cracking tale of an early conflict between jihadists and westerners in The Tragedy of the Korosko, please see our brand new easy-to-navigate Netflix-style Tales for Our Time home page.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club exactly two years ago, and I'm overwhelmed by all those members across the globe who signed up to be a part of it and then enthusiastically re-subscribed last May, and re-re-subscribed this month - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Cook County to the Cook Islands, West Virginia to the West Midlands. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone. None of it's going behind a paywall, because I want it out there in the world, being read and being heard and being viewed, and maybe changing an occasional mind somewhere along the way.
However, we are offering our Club members a few extras, including our monthly audio adventures of classic fiction by Dickens, Conrad, Kafka, H G Wells, Baroness Orczy, Jack London, Scott Fitzgerald, John Buchan, Robert Louis Stevenson - plus a piece of non-classic fiction by yours truly. You can find them all here. We're very pleased by the response to our Tales -and we even do them live on the annual Mark Steyn Club Cruise with special guests. If you haven't yet signed up for our September Alaska cruise, well, you've left it a bit late because we've sold out. But we'll be doing another Tale for Our Time along with live editions of The Mark Steyn Show and much more on our third annual cruise which we've announced to coincide with our second birthday.
I'm truly thrilled that one of the most popular of our Steyn Club extras these last two years has been our nightly radio serials. If you've enjoyed our monthly radio serials and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The opportunity to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly (such as this coming Wednesday's);
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, SteynPosts, and our other video content;
~My video series of classic poetry (the latest airs next weekend);
~Priority booking for the above-mentioned Third Annual Mark Steyn Club Cruise from Rome to Gibraltar, Barcelona, Monte Carlo and more;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the opportunity to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to The Machine Stops but to all our other audio adventures at our new Tales for Our Time home page..
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, whether you like this twenty-seventh Tale for Our Time, or think I'm as mechanical and sedating as the dreaded Machine, then feel free to comment away below. And do join us tomorrow for Part Two of The Machine Stops.