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Kiosk

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Been reading Strahan's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Two. I've only read about half the stories in it so far; some pretty interesting stuff.

But my favorite so far is Bruce Sterling's novella "Kiosk," from F&SF. I like what Cory wrote about it some months back, when it was available for free online:

"['Kiosk'] uses [a] slightly stilted, comic dialog form [...] to unravel the social and technological implications of automated search, copying, governance and communications, with an enormous amount of compassion and heart."

I would agree with all of that; I would add that it's a deeply political story as well, with a fascinating view of how revolutions work that manages to be at once cynical, pragmatic, and idealistic.

It's certainly kind of handwavey in some respects--for example, as some reviewers have pointed out, it somewhat handwaves the difference between producing a complete fab and producing assemblable parts for a fab, and I think in the end the story's view of how change happens is a little too simplistic. And yet, it's way more nuanced and complex and interesting than most other stories' views of how change comes about. And this flavor of techno-utopianism that's aware of the flaws and difficulties in utopianism, and of both the human elements and the human cost, is practically guaranteed to appeal to me.

And I love the Eastern European feel to it--Sterling lived in Serbia for several years, and it shows. This is, by the way, the kind of story I was talking about the other day, in which America and Americans are never mentioned (or perhaps are mentioned only briefly and in passing).

Anyway. Good stuff.

. . . I don't mean that to sound surprised; Gordon's been publishing a bunch of stuff I like, especially in the past couple years. But Sterling's short fiction doesn't always appeal to me. (I've liked his novels more, but haven't read enough of them.) But this is probably my favorite of his stories that I've read, and certainly my favorite novella from 2007 (though I haven't read all that many of them, and in particular haven't yet read MacLeod's "Master Miller's Tale," also from F&SF, which I'm likely to like); I'm disappointed that it didn't make the Hugo ballot (and that I didn't read it in time to nominate it). Looks like it missed the ballot (PDF) by eight votes. (Which doesn't sound like much, but isn't all that close by Hugo nominating standards.)

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"Nature" is over. The twentieth century did it in. There's not a liter of seawater anywhere without its share of PCB and DDT. An altered climate will reshuffle the ecological deck for every creature that breathes. You can't escape industrialism and hide from the sky. It's over. From now on, "Nature" is under surveillance and on life-support. A 21st century avant-garde has to deal with those consequences and thrive in that world.
--Bruce Sterling, Founder of the Viridian Design Movement

Found in "A Brighter Shade of Green", which references here and there Worldchanging (which is a pretty fascinating blog and more)


Kir: interesting quote! I've had some conversations lately about the conceptual dichotomy between humans and nature. Those conversations have focused on the problems with seeing human beings as unnatural -- it's a major shift of frame to read someone arguing the reverse, that there is no part of nature that is inhuman.


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