Toby Litt, award-winning author, recommends

(CLASSIC: first published in The Oxford and Cambridge Review)

Some SF stories, almost not noticed on publication, become over time more and more central. Most of E.M.Forster’s other tales are fantastical, rather than invoking technology in any way. He always wrote in defense of nature, of the wild. And ‘The Machine Stops’ ends with a glimpse of the outside. But, before this, his portrait of techno-isolation (‘she knew thousands of people’) now seems a founding text of the virtual present. To be read alongside Samuel Beckett’s ‘closed space’ story Company.

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(MODERN: from Vermilion Sands, Vintage Classics)

Although it could have been any of the stories in Vermilion Sands – they all interpenetrate, becoming a glamorous indolent continuum of what called his Ballard ‘guess at what the future will actually be like’. That is post-scarcity, art-obsessed, blandly promiscuous and ruthlessly banal. To be read alongside Michael Moorcock’s The Dancers at the End of Time.

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