Welcome to the final installment of our Steyn Club second-birthday Tale for Our Time - written in 1909 by E M Forster. Thank you so much for all your kind comments about this latest radio serialization. Andrew A from Alberta:
A cautionary tale of the dangers of cyberspace and the Information Age. The Machine serves humanity by facilitating transmission of ideas, but it depends on humans for them. It is humans who create ideas, test them, then discard or improve them based on human-scale judgements informed by feedback from reality. Cut out the human connection to reality, and the closed system runs itself down. This might become my favourite Tale for Our Time yet.
It's hard to beat, Andrew. Steyn Club First Day Founding Member Marc Swerdloff adds:
The road to hell is paved with good intentions indeed. E M Forster foretold today's triggers, safe spaces, euthanasia, infanticide and cult of ideas over reality. The loss of the natural hierarchy of things resulting from the rejection of the Judeo-Christian Idea that man was created in the image of God devolves into seeming endless variations of dystopia.
UK member John Lewis detects something else in this tale:
I did not know this story beforehand and will be fascinated to hear the ending. A really enjoyable "read" so far.
I wonder if Forster was a Freemason? Certainly the narrative structure of the lengthy speech which forms the majority of episode 2 is highly reminiscent of parts of Masonic ritual. (I may have said too much, oh dear).
I don't believe he was a Freemason, John. In adult life Forster was extremely opposed to any kind of "secret society" - perhaps because of his youthful experience with the Cambridge Apostles.
In tonight's final episode, the Machine completes its substitution of reality:
Those who still wanted to know what the earth was like had after all only to listen to some gramophone, or to look into some cinematophote. And even the lecturers acquiesced when they found that a lecture on the sea was none the less stimulating when compiled out of other lectures that had already been delivered on the same subject. 'Beware of first-hand ideas!' exclaimed one of the most advanced of them. 'First-hand ideas do not really exist. They are but the physical impressions produced by life and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element - direct observation. Do not learn anything about this subject of mine - the French Revolution. Learn instead what I think that Enicharmon thought Urizen thought Gutch thought Ho-Yung thought Chi-Bo-Sing thought Lafcadio Hearn thought Carlyle thought Mirabeau said about the French Revolution.
Which is pretty much what passes for the "tenth-hand" exchange of ideas on Twitter et al. Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read the conclusion of The Machine Stops simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here.
We always get questions about the theme music we choose, and this time round I picked Schoenberg and the second of his Five Pieces for Orchestra - although we also hear some of the fourth in this final part of the story. I was put in mind by this passage of Forster's, in which even the Machine's piped music begins to seize up:
Time passed, and they resented the defects no longer. The defects had not been remedied, but the human tissues in that latter day had become so subservient, that they readily adapted themselves to every caprice of the Machine. The sigh at the crises of the Brisbane symphony no longer irritated Vashti; she accepted it as part of the melody. The jarring noise, whether in the head or in the wall, was no longer resented by her friend. And so with the mouldy artificial fruit, so with the bath water that began to stink, so with the defective rhymes that the poetry machine had taken to emit. All were bitterly complained of at first, and then acquiesced in and forgotten. Things went from bad to worse unchallenged.
Defective rhymes and symphonic crises: surely Forster was on to something there.
Tales for Our Time will return to launch our third season early next month. Till then, our entire archive of audio adventures can be easily accessed in brand new Netflix-style tile format at our brand new home page.
I thank all those among our First Month Founding Members from May of 2017 who've decided to re-re-up for Year Three. It means an awful lot to me. Meanwhile, if you've yet to hear any of our Tales, you can enjoy two years' worth of audio adventures - by Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Conrad, Kafka, Dickens, Jack London, Baroness Orczy, Robert Louis Stevenson and more - by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For details on membership, see here - and, if you're seeking the perfect present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, don't forget our special Steyn Club Gift Membership. Alternatively, if you'd like a book in old-fashioned book form, over at the SteynOnline bookstore there are bargains galore among our Steynamite Special offers - and remember at checkout to enter your promo code to enjoy special member pricing on over forty products.