Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Chesterton predicts the Internet

A brief excerpt from his short story, "A Real Discovery:"
[The story is set in] the period in which the new application of physics and electricity had reached their widest and wildest triumphs. Invisible wires linked together the remotest continents and islands: a tangled and tingling net of vibration and sound. [...] Every house, it need hardly be said, was fitted up with receptacles for the new signalling; and woven about with a viewless veil of voices from all the ends of the earth. American interviewers were saved the trouble of crossing the Atlantic; their flying ghosts or spirits could besiege the house and make the householder happy with their ceaseless and artless queries about all the details of the household. The less reputable member of the Smith family, who had been paid a considerable sum of money on the condition of his becoming an empire-builder in the more remote parts of Canada, was enabled to revisit his home at all hours of the day; and his flowing and continuous demands for more money filled the house with the sense of something uninterrupted and familiar. The rich uncle, who was so much respected by reason of his living in Australia, was enabled to lend his somewhat loud and hearty voice to the most intimate conversation of the tea-table, as if the intervening seas and continents had been swallowed up in his large and roaring mouth, as in the mouth of Gargantua. In short, the family enjoyed all the latest comforts and conveniences that science could provide.
The story is based along the familiar Chestertonian lines of men going halfway around the world to avoid simply speaking to their neighbour, and is broadly concerned with a man who has managed to invent a means of manufacturing empty space. It is not one of his most compelling stories.

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