Vashti is a ghastly pale woman encased in a portion of a machine that does all the important thinking for her. Though she is vastly connected, it is all through a projection of herself onto the digital world around her, as it is with all the others that dwell within the machine. The Machine Stops opens on a world of digital interaction over human connection. Vashi’s son, Keno, comes to visit her with a strange request. Taken from his mother at birth like all members of the human race, Keno still feels a strange kinship for his mother. He tells her that he plans to see the world outside of the machine for himself. Keno begs his mother to come with him, or at least to see him off before he leaves. Vashti claims that she is far too busy to walk away at the moment, but will consider it. As Ken leaves, Vashti is overcome with emotions; something she has not felt in ages. Her emotions get the better of her, and Vashti steps away from her pod to see Keno and see why he is so desperate to see the world outside the machine for himself.
Though I spent my college years as an English Major, there were many things that missed my reading list. One such item is the EM Forster story The Machine Stops. Thought Forster is well known for his works A Passage to India and A Room With a View, The Machine Stops is one of the first great works of Science Fiction and almost fairly unknown. Enter writer Michael Lent and artist Marc Rene. As described in his introduction, Lent found a connection with the story, especially it’s concerns about technology replacing human experience. In an age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it’s easy to replace human to human contact with a few clicks of the computer key. Lent worked to create a script for a comic based on the story and showed it to artist Marc Rene.
The Forster story in itself is brilliant. The script and art accompanying it is utterly stunning. My brain automatically went to The Matrix initially, but there is something far deeper than that within the pages of The Machine Stops. The story is more focused on the experiences of a woman who has pushed aside all physical connection to connect stronger to a spiritual feel with the machine. She has abandoned all in the name of something so easily shaken by her feelings for her son. Rene’s dark lines and choice to have the art be so stark with it’s black and white coloration is truly haunting. I found myself just staring at the designs. The art is disturbingly gorgeous.
Part One of The Machine Stop is now available through Comixology and a small print run is coming soon.