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Mess_Jess's picture


By Mess_Jess in Teleport Us

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Once you have read this story, please make sure you rate it by clicking the thumbs above. Then take a few minutes to give the author a helpful critique! We're all here for fun but let's try to help each other too.


A resource barren, over populated Earth is run by one government, which enforces restrictions of rights at certain wage levels. Octavia loses her job, and her income, and she’s forced to consider what The Government can do to her body with her change in status.

I studied dystopias for my final year exams in Australia (a long time ago), and recently wrote a top 25 Dystopian Science Fiction novels list for a client, so I’d say this is heavily influenced by my old favorites like the Handmaid’s Tale and 1984. And also influenced by experiencing my first American election while I was living in Florida, and recent media showing some American states imprisoning pregnant women for various “offences”.

Constructive criticism is very much appreciated. If you read my story and you've got one up, please let me know so I can return the favour.




klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon March 1, 2013 - 12:08am

This story actually made me jump up and pace out of pure joy when i thought i realized what it was about. Turns out I was only partly right. But this is a great, great story. 

I love how you use the very plausible near-term future as a dystopia. Because simple economics, and the motions we go around pretending life goes on as normal, are really dystopic. 

For me as a father, this hit home especially hard. Will be interesting to hear from reviewers without children if they are hit as hard as I was by this great story. 

Welcome to my top ten. Thumbs up! 

PS. I'll PM you what I thought the story was about, so that I don't muddle up the reviews. DS. 

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 3, 2013 - 10:09am

Thanks Klas! I'm always so pleased when you read one of my stories, I know i'll get some good feedback. Living in Florida during the election actually felt like I was living in a dystopian novel. The things some of the politicians were saying were scary as hell, and I kept having conversations with women explaining what control they wanted over their bodies. Scary stuff. 

Was there anything you felt needed changing or could be stronger?


Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works March 1, 2013 - 10:59am

This is excellent. I love the direction you went with your dystopia. I loved how you made the Intricate details of the world subtle, and substantive. I was a bit dissapointed that there was no nonhuman, but the story was so well done id forgotten.

I have a couple bits of constructive criticism. In the the scene with the nurse performing the termination, i felt the nurse was a bit too forward with her offer. I think it would benefit the story if she was a bit more suggestive, not so explicit. I know the word limit may have played a part here though. I think thats it, cant think of anything else at the moment.

This is def, one of the most well done dystopias in here, im happy to have read it.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 3, 2013 - 10:41am

Hey Frank, thank you so much for your compliments and constructive criticism, it's very much appreciated. The non-human was actually Sally, the android! Hopefully she came across as sentient and that's why you didn't notice she wasn't human. 

And you are spot on with the medical scene -- I kept thinking myself, there needs to be more, there needs to be something the women sees in Octavia that makes her think she'd rebel against the sytsem. But I ran out of time and words! So I'll definitely fix this up again in the next draft.

Thanks again for reading my story.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On March 1, 2013 - 6:19pm

I love how subtle you were implying the pregnancy early on with the bacon smell, and then tying it back together. I did wonder though: was it real bacon or a synthesized smell. Maybe something to explore in a future longer draft, but I got the impression that there weren't many animals left.

I like the world you've built, which seems a plausible extension of our own if certain things aren't curtailed soon. I wonder though if maybe the story could've had a slightly more impactful beginning if you'd started at your third break where Max asks her where she's been, then braid in your earlier stuff into that section. It would thrust you into some action a little quicker. I mention it because I think my story may have the same issue, but no one's mentioned it yet (would love your opinion, hint-hint:)).

The electronic maid put a smile on my face. I kept picturing the one from the Jetson's (I can't recall her name at the moment), how sometimes she could be a bit smart-allecky. I also like the implanted tech in her palm. Seems very feasible for the not-too-distant future.

I did find that the scene towards the end with the nurse was a bit rushed, but I assume a lot of that was the word-count constraint. She seemed to tip her hand a little too fast, and anyone in any resistance-type movement would be a hell of a lot more cautious and discirminatory. Again, something you can play with in a longer version.

My compliments overall. It's a really good start with strong female characters which aren't often found in stories like these (I'm guilty with this with my story, but it DOES deal with the births of fundamentalist religious movements, and that's the forte of men, unfortunately). Look forward to reading future versions.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 3, 2013 - 10:54am

Dino, you are going to laugh. I read your story and left some feedback before I read this comment from you properly. You know what my constructive cirticism was? That the last half of your story was tight, but there was something about the first half. I need to take my own advice and chop the beginning of my stories. I always find I start off too soon into the story and that's something I see in my slush pile, too.

Like I said to Frank above, you guys are dead on with the medical scene. I really need to find a way that the doctor feels she can trust Octavia to be enough of a rebel, because as it stands, she doesn't give off that vibe at all. 

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland March 2, 2013 - 3:31pm

Wow, what a truly horrifying dystopia. Bravo! Jess. The themes you chose of inequality in the work place/woman's rights infringement were executed very well. I think your M.C. is well crafted and easy to sympathize with. I like the daughter too.

I agree with Dino, The maid-bot made me think of the Jetsons and I loved that.


I’m no advocate against ambiguity but for this piece I find myself really wanting to know what the conspiracy was and am left to contemplate. The government workers mysteriously becoming pregnant, Then are essentially fired, because they are pregnant, And then they are forced to get terminations because they don’t have enough income to raise their babies .I like the ironic conundrum you created a whole lot, but I think I would be more fulfilled if I knew why they did this.

Maybe I interpreted it all wrong. LOL. (It all makes sense for hammering your themes, but for me it leaves an opened plot that I’m dying to know the answer to)
I was also confused about her daughter’s illness and wondered if she was pregnant too, though she is nine and has not yet hit puberty(which you mention) so that isn’t plausible I guess I’ll chalk it up to being a coincidence. A plot device, to set up the important coming to age conversation between mother and daughter, that instills in the young girl what kind of world she will grow up to live in. I guess I’ll go with that. It works well. I just for some reason expected her illness to be connected. Let me know if I’m missing anything.

All that said, the elements are all there and they thrive in this wonderful/evil world you’ve built with just the right amount of detail and future speculation, from the sideways elevator that takes you right to your flat-door, to the wrist-chip that lets you communicate telepathically. This is one of my favorites I’ve read so far, despite not knowing why it happened. I’m definitely going to pick your brain on that. Huge thumbs up from me on this one. Thanks for sharing.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 3, 2013 - 11:47am

JR, thank you so much for your comments (especially for picking up parts where I'd clearly lost my brain for a bit and written something out of context, thank you!). You interpreted it correctly - essentially I wanted to go with the theme of the government making the upper class even more exclusive and cut out a whole section of people at once. The easiest way to do this seemed to be to target women. I think I need to make that a bit more obvious though, like you said, right now it's just kind of implied. I got afraid of hitting the reader over the head with the plot and in doing so, wasn't clear enough with it. 

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day March 2, 2013 - 4:59pm

Hey Jess,


I gave this a doubleplus thumbs up (lame reference but sometimes I can't help myself, as you'll see in my LBL).




Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 3, 2013 - 11:57am

Nick, thank you so much for the LBL. That is going to be extremely helpful when I get around to editing the story. Do you have a story uploaded that I can read?


Kevin M's picture
Kevin M March 3, 2013 - 4:31pm


This is the first of your stories I've read and I loved it!  Depressing to think things won't get much better for women in the future, but it was very well-written and the character of Octavia was fascinating.  Would love to know what happens to her, if you were thinking of writing a followup.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 8, 2013 - 2:26pm

Thanks, Kevin! A follow up might be in order. I did wonder if the concepts were a bit too broad for a story that needed to be under 4,000 words.

Naomi Mesbur's picture
Naomi Mesbur from Toronto, Ontario, Canada is reading Burn Baby Burn Baby by Kevin T. Craig March 6, 2013 - 8:40pm


A very well-crafted story! When you commented on my story, you mentioned about how both you and I probably came across people like my main character. I would say the same for your story as well! 

I have to agree with most others above, including yourself, about the OB/GYN office. The "rebellion" happened a little too easy, especially in a place where communication happens through implanted chips. How is a doctor able to fake out the system? And why would she change her mind and/or trust this doctor so easily? 

Other than that, and the repetition of "cuddly" in the description of the doctor, a good job overall. glad you took the plunge and submitted it! 

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 8, 2013 - 2:28pm

Hey Naomi, thanks for reading my story! Yeah, I think in spec-fic when you work in worlds that can be really different to our own, you need characters that are relatable. And I really need to get my butt into action and edit that very section, I just need some inspiration on dialogue I think!


Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks March 10, 2013 - 3:47pm

Rather than leaving my comments in an email like I said I would, I'm going to leave them here so nothing gets lost when I get back to my inbox. I want you to get my fresh-from-reading opinions, not ones clouded by all the emails I'm sure are waiting for me to respond to!

First of all, I loved the theme and the repurcussions of what was said. There was a great undercurrent of tension provided by the idea of women being forced to use their bodies in a way we've fought to get the right for. You incorporated a very current problem into a fresh take on what it means to be a woman in a government system that doesn't know exactly how to deal with the feminine.

That said, I did have some concerns about how you went about the reveal and where you stopped the story. First, the conflict was way delayed. That can be good, but you're great at foreshadowing, and I think you could incorporate some great clues. The thing is, there's never an actual conclusion drawn -- my suspicicions may be correct (that the government fucked up the hormone levels and fired only the pregnant women to avoid overpopulation, but nothing was ever stated one way or another.

Ambiguity is great, but in a politically and emotionally charged story like this, there needs to be a concrete answer, in my opinion. Without one, there's never a conclusion drawn about the practices.

Other than that, nearly all my concerns were wiped away. There are a shit ton of comments in the first few pages, and then they drop off nearly completely, with a "had to refrain from over commenting on how much I liked this scene" added at the end of most scenes. The characterization was on point, the tension and pacing were great, your dialogue was fantastic, and the plot was great.

Leaving an LBL for you. Great fucking story!

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 10, 2013 - 4:31pm

You're the best! Thank you so much for this indepth level of critiquing. I know how busy you are at the moment so I really appreciate this. Thank you, as always. :)

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin March 11, 2013 - 8:09am


Nice story, Themes of class are always interesting to me so I loved the extremity of the divide between social classes, how the middle class and up get filtered air, and are protected from UV, contaminated water and air. The idea of income controlling access to basic living and the rights of childbirth also sounds like a scary possibility. As does medication via water etc.

While I love ambiguity I think I probably would like more of a suggestion as to the bigger picture of what's going on, who's pulling the strings and who's leading the rebellion. Most of these issues can be subtly suggested in the scene with the nurse/doctor that you are planning to expand.

Other points I'm curious on are: why do the women in Octavia's family have such bad luck with men? Or in the future is the nuclear family now commonly a single parent unit?

A couple of nit picks for you:

Just after Max tells Octavia she is being dismissed you call her "Olivia"

“Don’t hang it up.”
“I could barely stop them getting you a security escort.”
Olivia’s heart skipped a beat. She held her jacket slackly by her side. “Max, what are you talking about?”
“Your job. I’m so sorry.”

The outline of a lapelled woman’s suit lasered into her façade and etched on eyelashes were the only indicators that the bot was female before she spoke.
“I’ve taken the liberty of updating your ECV so that you can approve it. I have a draft list of positions for you to review, too.”

^ To me the sentence reads as though Sal is going to speak next, but actually Octavia does.


And finally, I just love this line (ha,ha)

 Last time that happened, there were three fist fights between women, one shooting at management level and one pregnancy.

Great work




Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 22, 2013 - 6:03pm

Hey Em,

Thank you so much for reading my story and sorry it's taken me so long to say thank you! It's been the usual clusterfuck week here that my life has become since M-i-L went into hospital. 

Interestingly, the themes were inspired by the southern American states I travelled through. I've never seen such poverty in a first world and such a divide between the rich and the poor. I wish all Australians and Canadians could see it so they would stop bitching about their taxes going to social welfare, because the state of living for some people made me just want to cry. It wasn't too different to some of the third world, Asian countries I've visited. 

And yep, that penultimate scene is the one I'm working on. Lots of unanswered questions I need to give more resolution to!

Thanks again for reading my story.


Sound's picture
Sound from Azusa, CA is reading Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt March 11, 2013 - 2:17pm

Wow. The subdued atmosphere in this piece is what really hooked me. Also, you managed to cram a lot of characterization in few words, and indirectly through Octavia's actions. Same with Bellona and Sally. I really enjoyed this.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 22, 2013 - 6:05pm

Thanks, Matt. I've started my redraft. :D

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep March 13, 2013 - 1:56pm

Jess - 

Big Thumbs Up from me! I really enjoyed the subtle futurism, and the contrasts between the employed and the poor, and the portrayals of different sorts of strength in women.  Aside from a few spelling/grammar mistakes, this was all well written and very engrossing.

Except the ending, which disappointed me. Everything up to the doctor's office was building to an epic confrontation between a sneaky-oppressive-government and a neo-women's-rights movement, and Octavia was finding herself on the opposite side of the fight than she would have expected. But then, in the last section, Octavia is home and she's got her bacon and she's happy. It felt too "and they all lived happily ever after". I would really like to see this expanded - I want to know what happens to the doctor that defied the government; to Octavia and her family (baby included; to Max (does he ever find out that she kept the baby? what side is he on?); to the "poor" people (surely they are more than just a dirty, homeless mcguffin). I just want more!


Good writing, and happy revisions!


Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 22, 2013 - 6:17pm

Christa, I'm going to be terribly unoriginal and say thank you and sorry it's taken me so long to say thanks, just like I did to Em above!

I do struggle with endings, and this one, particularly. I found myself in a position where I probably needed another thousand words or so, and not enough time to redraft my story before the competition closed. I wish I'd be more organised, but with S' mother in hospital, hobbies and work have been coming second to hospital visits. Though on the plus side, I've had some incredibly helpful and positive feedback which has helped with redrafting. Funnily, I didn't really think much about Max! I wanted to make it more of a female story as a lot of my writing is from the male perspective -- weird how I find it hard to write as a woman!

Thanks again for putting the time into reading my story and giving useful comments.


lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles March 13, 2013 - 3:18pm

First off, I love the title. It just rolls off the tongue, and I want it to be a thing. I also loved the bit about “Instant messaging does not equal an instant response"-- that's how I feel about cell phones. Just because you know I have it on me doesn't mean i HAVE to talk to you! Ugh.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this story.You do a great job of sneaking bits of her personality  (". And their apartment. What if they had to sell it? They couldn’t live outside one of the Government compounds. Only poor people did that.") and the world they live in ("You were no one in this world without the right job. A no one with no rights.") into your prose. 

I think there are a few places where the dialogue could be a little LESS on the nose ("“Don’t worry, you’ll get to stay in school, I promise. We have savings. And I’ll get a new job. I’m already on a pre-selected list for Corps roles.”), and I wasn't sold on the idea that her "termination" was the first time she'd questioned the government, especially since she seemed to be questioning it all along in a round-about way.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It felt a bit like the beginning of a longer piece, but I really enjoyed the world you created. Good work!

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 22, 2013 - 6:32pm

Thank you, lovely lady!

It's getting to that point on a Friday night where I'm feeling a bit brain-dead so my response is short -- yep, need to expand it! hehe.

Again, thanks for taking the time to ready my story. 


Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder March 13, 2013 - 8:31pm

Nice story! Gets a thumbs up from me. Now I'm going to be a bit of a curmudgeon, unfortunately. 

I recognize the conflict in the story, but it felt a little flat. I would reconsider everything that happens back at home, and perhaps refocus on Max and channel the conflict through Max and his reaction to the pregnancy. That might also allow for more reveals as to what's really going on with the hormones, or lack thereof, and provide a bit more depth to the story. Spending as much time as you do on the daughter is understandable but I don't know that it serves the story well. There are limitations to conversations with even smart 9 year olds. I think she was nine..?

I might also develop more motivation for Octavia to keep the child. I know, that sounds silly, it's a baby, of course she'd want to keep it. But given all of the obstacles presented early on, like possibly living in pollution, a smaller home, an uncertain future and income (despite what I'm interpreting as a medium-term stash of cash), I didn't buy in to keeping the baby, or her trust for the doctor. 

Octavia for Ms. Butler? I haven't read much of her work, but I did read something... I love Wikipedia. I read Bloodchild in college and I thought it was excellent! 

They dystopics were obvious and well done and I really got an Atwood vibe! Overall I enjoyed the story and all that good stuff! :)


Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 23, 2013 - 8:55am

Hi Michael, thanks for reading my story and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond! You weren't a curmudgeon at all, your comments are very helpful. You're going to laugh at this -- but I had to look up what curmudgeon meant. Hehe.

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 14, 2013 - 12:16pm

Mentioning the idea of "life happening"!  Very nicely done!  I liked how you threaded the smell of bacon into the story like that.  The wife of a friend I knew back in college couldn't stand pickles.  My friend would always say he would be in trouble if she ever took a liking to them.  Sure enough, shortly after she developed a craving for pickles they found out she was pregnant.  The way you mixed in all the subtle hints that she was pregnant works amazingly well.

There were a few minor editing things I noted:

  • Page 1: "... distinct financial advantages to finding the ethical side to being vegetarian." The phrase "to finding the ethical side" in there bugs me.  How about ".. in finding" or just drop it out altogether?
  • Page 3: The switch between Octavia choosing to take the stars and appearing in front of a mirror in the bathroom threw me.  A clearer resolution to the scene beforehand would solve the problem.  To me it felt like that sequence cut at an odd point in the action.
  • Page 6 and 7: On page six, you have Octaivia's internal dialog in italics but on page seven you don't.  I like the italics, but they should really be consistent.  There were a few other places where I noticed this. and I should have noted them when I was reading but didn't. :(
  • Page 11: Minor one, you missed a " in the third paragraph: '... Octavia said to Bellona. No job means no ...'  There should have been one between "Bellona." and "No".

Ok, enough of that editing of mess.  There's always something to edit in these things.  Especially the moment you post/send off a story.  Still, your's is one of the more thoroughly edited stories I've read so far!

Excellent work!

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 23, 2013 - 9:10am

Hey Christopher, thanks for reading my work and giving these edits. Very much appreciated. I uploaded the story after a long day at the hospital and then working all night, so I'm amazed it wasn't more of a mess, honestly. I can even see parts where my brain started to glaze over, like where I used Olivia instead of Octavia. 

Isn't that funny about the smells and cravings? I worried that a lot of men wouldn't understand the reference to a woman craving something she usually finds abhorrent, but I'm glad you could empathise with it. My other half panics when I mention cooking meat smells good! Hehe.


GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle March 14, 2013 - 6:06pm

Hi! Really well done. You do a great job of building up this dystopian future, and all of its environments and accoutrements. Great dialogue and characterization as well.

it took me a few reads to understand what happened at the very end. The end was quite subtle, so I had to go back and read the clues again. But once I did that, I got it. 

Thumbs up!

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 23, 2013 - 9:33am

Thanks, GG! I love dystopian fiction so that compliment really made me smile. :)


Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts March 15, 2013 - 7:53pm

Jess, this is a really fantastic story! I loved your characters, the dialogue & descriptions. My only critique is one that has been mentioned already, which is in the OB-GYN's office. You mentioned that it was really a time/space constraint that kept you from expanding this scene more, but I thought it was clever of you to have the midwife (nurse?) mention the fact that she isn't the only one from her company in this position. Yes, I'd love to know more and yes, I think you could make this a longer piece, but I do love what you have already. Very interesting and caught my attention immediately. Bravo!

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 23, 2013 - 9:39am

WW, thanks for the critique and compliments! Do you have a story up you'd like me to read and rate?

Also, I noticed the books you're reading at the moment. Classic horror, nice one!


Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts March 24, 2013 - 2:00pm

Thanks for asking, but I ran out of time to submit while running my children's theater group. I'm really enjoying reading all the stories, though! 

As for the books, yeah, I love horror. I'm so close to finishing Something Wicked, but just haven't had a chance to delve in and finish it already. I'm listening to Hill House through Audible and I'm really enjoying it.

irennie's picture
irennie from All over. Currently in Cambridge, England. is reading the Target Doctor Who novelizations March 16, 2013 - 9:13am

A good piece of dense and absorbing writing, but one that felt somehow incomplete.

I liked the pivot in the story at the halfway point, but I felt like too much was being crammed in to the piece from this point onwards.  In particular, the last two pages felt more like a beginning of a longer piece than the close of a story.  Obviously, I can't fault anyone for working within word limits, but while I was satisfied with the characters and the way people behaved I felt the hinted-at wider world conspiracy was just a little too vague to be satisfying.  Plus, I had way too many questions about how Octavia was going to get away with the subterfuge that ended the story.

On the other hand, I was quickly invested in the characters and enjoyed reading the piece a lot.  The criticism I have is about wanting more, and in general that's a good thing.

The only other question I had was more of a philosphical one: did this story have to be science fiction?  Aside from it happening in a society that doesn't quite exist, there didn't seem to be a reason why this story couldn't take place in a totalitarian state today.

I want to stress, I liked this a lot.  I liked it enough that I found a lot to discuss, and though some of what I have to say may sound critical I don't want you to think that means I didn't enjoy what was there.  A big thumbs up from me.

I('m working on more specific notes and I'll post those later.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 23, 2013 - 9:44am

HI Ireenie,

Thanks for reading my story and giving feedback. Honestly, if you don't get time to do more specific notes, it's no hassle at all. 

I wonder if I would have still written this story in the speculative world if it wasn't for a science-fiction challenge. That's an interesting question and something to ponder!

Thanks again,


Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia March 16, 2013 - 12:48pm

Hey Jess,

Really enjoyed the new story.  It all felt incredibly plausible and the throwaway lines in there that hidden at the wider problems that were facing society and a rise of a self-obsessed Government.  There were elements that reminded me of Brave New World (the banishing of the poor to outside of the city, and the pregnancy issue too), but you have created a distinct vision of the future that begs for further stories within it.  I loved the little touches (the employer paid contraceptive was a particularly nice, dark touch that I could very much imagine happening) and the redundancy levels due to over-population were rather hard-hitting for me (working as I do for Local Government and seeing service costs soar, budgets diminish and good staff I've worked with for years laid off).  There was real subtlety in the peice, excellent pacing and real sense of place (I don't think you ever overtly described the setting, but I could picture it clearly).

If I'm going to be at all picky there's probably a little bit of aesthetic tidying up that the story could benefit from (I'm not an adverb nazi, but I did grimace a bit at hungrily), but overall an excellent story and definite thumbs up from me.

- Scott

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 23, 2013 - 10:29am

Hey Scott,

Thanks for reading my story and for your comments. I worked in the government sector for a year when I was a lawyer in Australia and oddly it's not a reflection of that environment, it was a surprisingly nice place to work!

Ahhh you made me laugh with the adverb nazi comment. Hungrily does suck, I'm surprised I let that one slip in!


OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz March 17, 2013 - 10:16am

Hi Jess,

Well done at creating a dystopic world, you unveil details at a good pace which eventually creates the larger world in the readers mind. 

One thing that bothered me was the bacon, which is mentioned 3 times, so it's relatively important. It ties into your world in which there are no longer sea animals, government compounds with air, light, no acid rain, and it's better to be vegetariain (which you mention twice).

So this leads me to believe that a) there might not be large scale farms for bacon and b) if bacon was available, it would be at a premium. Things at a premium most likely wouldn't be served at a large scale cafeteria. 

Further, Sally is able to scan Octavia and determine certain things about her. Max mentions Octavia's vegetarianism is a benefit which will help her land a better job. So by her eating bacon, wouldn't she jeopardize this job? And her having a job is necessary for her to stay in the compound and raise her daughter(s) and hide one of them from the gov't.

These are relatively minor issues with quick fixes - but it was a big enough plot hole in my mind to start to make me question some of the world & logic. You're going to want to make that as air tight as possible so we can all buy into it.

I like the complication with the pregnancy. And I like how you first introduce that possibility with the smell of bacon (and reveal her decision with the slab of bacon). Your piece raises questions on equality and women's right in a dystopic future, which is going to make the reader consider our current climate on those issues around the globe. I appreciate that in a sci-fi piece (admittedly, I read very little sci-fi).

The ending/solution does come up pretty quick and the story just kind of ends there. For pacing and tension issues, I would suggest putting more weight on the pregnancy, the implications of keeping a child, an the practical ways to hide a child and the penalties earlier in the story. That way, by the time we get to the doctor's office, we're sitting there in the waiting room with her and we're nervous about what's about to go down.

I hope these suggestions help. Overall, you've built a world and a thought provoking piece. There's a few places you can strengthen it to coax out the weight of Octavia's dilemma which will really make it a stand out.

Thanks for sharing.


Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 23, 2013 - 11:19am

Thanks, Jason. As always, a considered and helpful review -- can't thank you enough for your help. The bacon comes from my own experience with pregnancy, but I think I may have harped on about it too much in this story! You definitely point out something really important for the next draft -- putting more weight on the pregnancy -- this is something I'm trying to flesh out at the moment.

Louise Garner's picture
Louise Garner March 18, 2013 - 3:49pm

Jess, this is the first of your stories that I have read. Really enjoyed it!!! I wanted more. 

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 22, 2013 - 5:56pm

Thanks Louise!

myles0737's picture
myles0737 March 19, 2013 - 3:45am

Hi Jess, being the first book I have read of yours it was a great read. Looking forward to reading more... Thumbs Up...

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 22, 2013 - 5:49pm

Thanks, myles!

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 19, 2013 - 3:40pm


I like the dystopian world you've created. I also like your character and her voice, albeit a familar one (at least outside of sci-fi). The theme of women's rights was well-handled; neither preachy or annoying. Overall the piece is well-written with a few stylistic weaknesses I tried to highlight for you in the attached document.

My biggest complaint with this story is the pacing. While not every story needs to leap into the action, yours takes too long to get cranking, and then ends a touch abruptly in my opinion. I thought the ending with the doctor was a bit convenient. I wanted to see her have to make much harder decisions and face much more difficult circumstances--her actions leading to the ultimate resolution rather than something happening to her.

The non-human character feels a touch forced--she doesn't add anything to the story from a dramatic arc standpoint outside functioning as an at-home pregnancy test. I'd like to see Sally as more critical to overall story. I think if you removed her, you'd lose almost nothing. I know we were all trying to fit the criteria of the contest, but in this instance, I'm not sold. I think you could win me over, but I'd need to see Sally have read involvement in the storyline.

I suggest tightening the story up by shortening it, removing unnecessary scenes, and starting us much closer to the actual layoff. I need a bit more tension in the beginning, and at the end, I need the character making critical choices which lead to the resolution.

Hope that helps. My comments are attached in the form of a word doc.

Kind Regards,

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 23, 2013 - 11:27am


Thank you so much for the LBL. I really appreciate the time and effort you've put in.

I don't read much outside of speculative fiction, so I'm not sure what sort of voice that is! Do you just mean a female one about female rights?


Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 19, 2013 - 5:44pm

Hi Jess,

You did a very good job of introducing your world to us organically. There were only a couple of spots that felt a little too much like telling, but for the most part, I definitely felt like I was learning about the world as a visitor rather than reading about it. There are many stories in this contest that do a little too much to throw into your face the science-fiction aspect of it, but you seemed very comfortable in the world you created.

The pacing was a little uneven, which is really my only complaint. This isn't a tough problem to encounter whenever a hard limit is put on word count. For instance, Octavia learning of her pregnancy didn't really carry the emotional impact I think it deserved, and the OB-GYN seemed a bit cavalier with her offer to break what seems to be a very, very important law in the story to someone she barely knows. It seems that if the rebels (or whatever you would call them) were so brazenly making offers to these women, they would probably be far more well-known than they appear to be (the Government seems to have no clue that these people even exist).

I want to be clear that there was nothing bad about the writing. I just think that these two scenes were heavy-hitters that could have used more fleshing out, and if I were the writer, I would probably draw space from the beginning content, which goes to a lot of trouble of establishing her in a role from which she is fired in a couple of pages. If you're crafty, you could probably establish that as backstory.

Overall, I think you did a good job in establishing Octavia as a relatable protagonist and did an excellent job in building your world. Thumbs up.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 22, 2013 - 5:47pm

Hi Nathan,

Thanks for your feedback, I'm slowly getting my way through responding to everyone -- I was trying to get through as many stories as I could before I started responding to my own feedback!

The Oby-Gyn scene is one every consistently has said I need to explain more, so I'll definitely look at this in my redrafting. I've been very lucky to have the story picked up by Pantheon magazine, so I'm going to work on polishing it over the next month or so,

Thanks again for reading my story.



PaddyMcc's picture
PaddyMcc March 19, 2013 - 7:26pm

Great use of imagery. Really engages my senses. I can’t wait to read what Jess has next for us. Thumbs up!

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 22, 2013 - 5:44pm

Thanks, Paddy!~

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes March 21, 2013 - 5:40pm

This is a very strong story, and it made me think.  Sadly, I can see much of this coming to pass.  It feels very grounded and believable.  I like the rather slow reveal because I enjoy easing into a world.  You do it in an entertaining fashion. I enjoyed getting to know Octavia.  

Her job was a great choice.  I loved it that it let her feel distance from the panic and I really loved how it came to haunt her a bit.  One of my favorite lines was about instant messaging not equalling an instant response (I may have to use that in real life). 

As a woman with curly hair, I have to say that I connected with the frizz comments (Maybe 2051 will give us the product).  I'm sure others will find the detail amusing or interesting, but it hooked me.  I may be easy, but I'll own my emotions. It got me on Team Octavia. 

I appreciated a lot of the other details too.  

I would have liked more clarification about the machinations behind the scenes.  I picked up on there having been a big sweep of job losses, but I did not necessarily see that they were specifically targeting women.  In a longer draft it might be good to make that clear, hopefully through a character or something. I think you do a fine job of avoiding a lot of exposition and it would be good if you could continue to not dump the info on us.  

Did you intend for there to be an echo with the daughter's illness?  I had begun to fear that she would be the one to turn up pregnant.  And was the Oby instead of OB intentional as well? I couldn't tell if it was a mistake, slang, a brand name or what.  Obviously these are small things, but they did make me pause for a second. 

I think expansion could only help this piece.  As others have suggested, the part at the OB/GYN should probably be developed.  If it isn't, I feel more like the dangers have been exaggerated. 

Good story!  I liked it. More, more, more, please.