The Barbie Murders
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|"The Barbie Murders"|
The Barbie Murders is a science fiction short story by John Varley. It was first published in IASFM in January/February 1978, and subsequently reprinted as the title story of the 1980 Varley collection The Barbie Murders And Other Stories, later reissued as Picnic on Nearside.
Lt. Anna-Louise Bach and her partner Jorge Weil are police officers in New Dresden, a domed city on the Moon. They are assigned what initially seems an open-and-shut case of murder, but are dismayed to realise that the crime was committed in a separate area attached to the city and occupied by people belonging to a cult, nicknamed 'Barbies'.
The cult members have been physically altered and modified so as to be as identical as possible, as mandated by the founder of their church. They are genderless. They have abandoned names, and possess only ID numbers. They are psychologically conditioned to accept themselves as being part of a group of equals and have surrendered their individuality.
All Barbies being identical, no identification of the murderer is possible, even though the crime was recorded by security cameras. One of the Barbies confesses to the crime and offers itself as a token guilty party. Bach reluctantly arrests it, but cannot accept the inevitable outcome, even though her superior officer approves the situation.
Bach decides to go undercover and has herself modified by a body sculptor so as to superficially pass as a Barbie. She infiltrates the colony and manages to locate the real murderer.