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The Fluted Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

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“The Fluted Girl” is a 2003 science fiction novelette by Paolo Bacigalupi. It is about the vengeful plot of a servant girl whose body has been extensively sculpted by the ruler of her fief.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

Bone FluteIn a dark future where the government has broken down into rival fiefdoms, Belari is a woman who rules her subjects with a combination of love, fear and guilt. Yet she still lacks enough money to buy her own freedom from the creepy Vernon Weir. A sculpted star herself, Belari comes up with a plan involving twin teen-aged girls from her fief – Lydia and Nia. They are beautiful girls, but not beautiful enough to rake in the loads of money that Belari needs, so she purchases several enhancements to make them absolutely perfect. The problem is that even perfect little creations don’t like to be servants to overbearing rulers – eventually they’ll come up with a plan that changes everything.

The ferns shuddered. A man exploded from the greenery, springing on her like a wolf. His hands wrenched her shoulders. His fingers plunged into her pale flesh and Lidia gasped as they stabbed her nerves into paralysis. She collapsed to the slate flagstones, a butterfly folding as Burson pressed her down.

She whimpered against the stone, her heart hammering inside her chest at the shock of Burson’s ambush. She moaned, trembling under his weight, her face hard against the castle’s smooth gray slate. On the stone beside her, a pink and white orchid lay beheaded by Burson’s attack.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • Wow – Paolo Bacigalupi is an excellent writer and his talent really shines through in this story! The plot, point of view and tone come together perfectly – all combining for a truly excellent reading experience.
  • “The Fluted Girl” contains some really cool science fiction elements that I haven’t come across before, such as the part-man / part-animal chief of security that uses pheromones and camouflaging skin to track down his prey.
  • The special enhancements that Belari makes to Lydia and Nia are… very creative to say the least.

• The bad:

  • While this an excellent story, there are some situations in it that are both a little bit creepy and sensual at the same time. Probably not for kids.

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 22
• Word Count: 9,318
“The Fluted Girl” garnered the following awards:

  • It was shortlisted for the 2004 Sturgeon award.
  • It placed 11th in the 2004 Locus Poll for Best Novelette.

Where you can find “The Fluted Girl”:

  • This novelette first appeared in the June 2003 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
  • “The Fluted Girl” is included in the amazing Pump Six and Other Stories .
  • You can read a great HTML version of this story at Paolo Bacigalupi’s website

Some Interesting Links:

  • Did you know that Paolo Bacigalupi is the web master for High Country News? Yep. You can learn more about this amazing science fiction author at Wikipedia.

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like The People of Sand and Slag, about three genetically enhanced guards who find a strange life form roaming on their employer’s property, also by Paolo Bacigalupi.

3 thoughts to “The Fluted Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi”

  1. Wow, what an incredibly different, creative story. I just finished reading this in the Pump Six anthology and remembered that I had seen it listed on your site. Have to say that I agree with all of your goods and your one bad. Paolo is an impressive talent, to be sure. While I enjoyed Pocketful of Dharma I thought it had a weak ending. This one was perfect through and through. Definitely sad and a bit depressing, but because it was a well told story.

  2. Thanks Carl,

    I am glad you liked it. I thought it was an amazing story! It’s true that it is a bit depressing, but still it’s a good story told well, and I really enjoyed it. I haven’t read “Pocketful of Dharma” yet, but I would very much like to.

  3. All it took for me was my experience with Fluted Girl to decide that I am going to go ahead and finish the Pump Six anthology before I move on to anything else.

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