Though they are slowly disappearing, the city where I live in Poland (Wrocław) still has street-side kiosks. The socialist version of 7-11, the metal or fiberglass huts open daily and sell the little necessities of life—magazines, chocolate, tissues, apples, cheese, etc.—and were once a key part of daily shopping in Poland and Eastern Europe. Having spied one in his travels or been told of their existence, Bruce Sterling decided to write a story about one such kiosk—a near-future one. The resulting novelette called simply “Kiosk” (2007), it is a satirical look at new industrial production techniques and the products which result on the market. Never overtly stated, there are strong overtones regarding the dissemination of material, pirated, virtual, tangible, and otherwise.
Borislav is the owner of a kiosk in a fictional Eastern European town. Alert to his client’s needs, he stocks what people want, but is also on the lookout for new items to keep his inventory fresh. Brought a fabrikator one day, the local children fall in love with the temporary wax shapes it spits out. Uncaring that the objects dissolve a week later, it’s so popular the children even start collecting and trading the cards which activate the machine without using them. Boris approached by one Dr. Grootjans of the European Unified Electronic Product Coding System one day in the aftermath of the fabrikator’s success, she waves her shopping wand at Boris’ kiosk and decides to purchase the entire inventory. Though settling in with his new pocket of cash, things are only just beginning for Boris and his kiosk.