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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.




Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 22, 2013 - 5:39pm

Thank you, Whammer (I feel odd calling you Whammer, I really need to return the favour and read your story ASAP so I can attribute a real name to your face!).

Feel free to use the instant messaging line, it's something that came out of me being the sole lawyer in a large, international company. I used to have situations where I was on the desk phone on a conference call, my mobile was ringing, emails were flooding in, and then I'd cop abuse from colleagues via the instant messaging system about why I wasn't responding to them! Urgh... 

I think with my next draft it will be easier to expand on the exposition and sort out my doctor scene. Right now I feel like both things need to be dealt with and I hit the word limit surprisingly quickly!

Thanks again for your comments. And I promise I will get to your story before the challenge ends!


Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes March 22, 2013 - 8:38pm

Ha!  No worries.  I'm Wendy Hammer, so feel free to call me Wendy if we cross paths again. Whammer works too. 

I will be using that line.  It's brilliant.  

That word count was great for a challenge.  I have a tendency to ramble, but if you have really interesting ideas such as the ones you bring need some room. 

It would be great if you'd give mine a look, but there's no pressure. 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 22, 2013 - 7:13am

Good work! You feed the story through at a conservative rate, but this helps. The pregnancy , the fact it's all females being fired. Redundancies less so - I'd like her to have an inkling this was coming, that feeling you get when things are very wrong, everyone avoiding each other's eyes.. Especially as she is pitched as being savvy.

Again, (like a fair few other stories!) it feels like part of something bigger, leaving as it does so many questions unanswered. But that's no bad thing.

Some minor typo's (missed quotes, a missed word or two ("Looking down past her feet now, she cringed at the apartment blocks were crammed together in a messy assortment of grey cement." - presumably "how" the appartment ... ) and it could do being a little quicker to get going, but otherwise the writing is strong and clear.

The dystopian element is clear, the alien less so, the maidbot I guess. I can understand the maidbot in the house, but if they are capable of picking kids up from school, then I think we also want them in the foyer, in the offices, etc.. ?

Some things might need clarifying. The effect on hormones in the water supply on the male employees. Why she has bacon in the fridge, if her first thoughts of it are at the canteen going to work. (And Maidbot would be expected to know everything in the fridge...)

Loved the fact she was shocked she hadn't had to write her own redundancy newstory! Lovely touch!

Finally, consider if Gravidism does you any favours as the title. It's not a word in common usage, and it gives away the twist to those who do know it... I have no suggestions for an alternative, though!

Thumbs up.


Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 22, 2013 - 5:40pm

Hi Liam,

Thank you so much for reading my story and providing detailed comments, it really is appreciated. I hope I can eventually (one day, when I find my unicorn -- spare time) write this into something longer like a novella or even a novel. 


Edited because I clearly can't drink cider, watch TV and respond at the same time!

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 26, 2013 - 9:43am

Hey, Jess. This is definitely a political piece! (She said, surprising exactly no one around her.) Your dystopia is a realistic enough image of a not-too-distant future, and the issues resonate with those in our current world a lot. I think Octavia is a great female protagonist, and I'd like to read a longer story about her, to see how her life pans out after the decision that she makes at the end.

My concerns with the story aren't that different from what a few people have said - I would've liked a better understanding of the motives behind the conspiracy, and a more developed scene in the doctor's office.

Great story, and an excellent starting point for a longer piece, if you're ever inclined to make it into one. Thumbs up from me!


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 27, 2013 - 5:45am

I can see I'm going to struggle to say much about the story that hasn't already been said. My only niggles (why does she particularly want to keep the kid? Why is the nurse so open and why does she so readily accept?) have been covered, and there is little point in repeating these.

Which means I get straight on to what I liked about it, which will probably also be repeating what others have said, but repeated praise is far nicer.

I enjoyed this. It flows very well indeed, and is a quick read despite the length. As others have mentioned, the bacon theme is good, and I liked it's little comeback at the end. The characters and situation feel real. The maid-bot was good and really did forward that notion of being constantly monitored. The central idea of getting rid of contraception in the water supply is great, and having all desirable jobs being in government was intruiging.

Smooth over the elements you already acknowledge need attention, and you have yourself an excellent story!

Alastair Reynolds's picture
Alastair Reynolds May 1, 2013 - 5:13am

Hi all

This is my third story for commenting (I had to access the .docx file on a different system to my usual one which is why I'm a bit slower than with the first two) but I'll just begin with my usual ramble about trying to offer honest criticism which I hope is useful rather than discouraging, and to again congratulate all the authors here on finishing their stories, offering them up for public consumption, and getting selected for additional reviewing.

I enjoyed Gravidism and I think there's the kernel of a very effective story here. It certainly touches on some significant and relevant themes, such as the degree to which the state has influence over a woman's personal decisions about her body. It's also set in a grimly plausible future of environmental collapse and rampant corporatism. (In fact, each of the three stories I've read so far is set in what I'd regard as a dystopian future of urban decay, so I'm intrigued to see if the pattern holds up for the final piece).

A short story doesn't have much space in which to do its work and I did feel that Gravidism takes too long to get going. The opening section, leading up to Octavia's redundancy announcement, is quite slow and doesn't really show us anything we haven't seen before: it's basically the standard issue vision of worker drones and faceless high-rise corporation as seen in countless stories and films. Its true that there are details salted throughout this section that do turn out to be significant, such as the obvious-in-retrospect fact that there are mass redundancies going on. But I do think the story needs to cut to the chase, so to speak. The real jeopardy begins when Octavia is presented with the news of her pregnancy, but by then we're well into the narrative and events take on a rushed quality from that point on. I think we need to get to the crux of things quite a bit earlier. Of course there is "backstory" that needs to be present so that we understand the severity of Octavia's predicament - we need to know that she's already trying to raise a daughter, we need to know about her office affair, we need to have some inkling of the hormones in the water issues going on at the company. But at the moment all that stuff is presented at the start of the story in a fairly static fashion, before we get into the real drama. And then, it's all over too quickly - we get the scene at the termination clinic, and then the brief concluding scene, and we're done. Personally I didn't find the doctor's kindly intervention convincing in context - it seems to come from nowhere and offers too easy a solution to the crisis. I get the impression that jobs are scarce in this world and everyone is scared about unemployment, so wouldn't the doctor be very unwilling to do anything that might endanger her own position? Put another way, she might want to help Octavia but I don't think she'd present the options quite as openly as she does.

Getting to the concluding scene, there's either a nice ambiguity here or I'm being thick - but I confess I don't quite understand what's going on. It's not clear to me whether Octavia has accepted the doctor's help or not (that ambiguity may well be the point, of course), but the final bit about the bacon and the robot's sense of smell threw me completely. I'm assuming (and going back to the opening scene) that Octavia's sudden new interest in bacon, after years of vegetarianism, is related to her pregnancy. If that's the case then I suppose the ambiguity is settled, but it still feels (to me) to be an unsatisfying note on which to end the story. But that's just my view. (As with all these commentaries, incidentally, I'll only now go on to read what everyone else thinks.)

A couple of minor points: a story like this, with an overtly political theme, can feel a bit didactic if not handled sensitively. Most of it's very good in that we inhabit Octavia's world and believe in her circumstances. But there were a couple of instances where I felt the authorial hand was too obviously present, such as when Octavia thinks to herself about how life was different "since the early 2000s...". But people don't really think like that. There are plenty of hints that this is the future and things were less screwed up in the past, so I dont think we need Octavia to be reflecting on this in her internal stream of consciousness. The same thing comes up again when she reflects that it's "2050 and we still don't have ...". Other than that, there were some sentences which I felt would benefit from less awkward construction, and some word repetition which could be avoided with a second pass.

Much of the above may sound nitpicky but it's an involving little story about a very human dilemma. Good luck with the rest of your writing.


Al R





klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon May 1, 2013 - 7:55am

Still blown away by the quality of your feedback, dude. I'm beginning to feel the green devil of Envy breathing down my neck and tugging heartily at my earlobes. 

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce May 13, 2013 - 6:53am

Alastair, thank you so much for your detailed feedback. I can tell you've spent a lot of time and effort on it and I really do appreciate that, so thank you again! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get around to saying thanks -- I've been on vacation through America and Australia and I'm just about to go back home to Canada.

I mentioned to one of my fellow LR users that I have an issue with starting stories too early. This is something I really need to work on because I know I do it in every first draft I write. And I struggle with endings, too. So, some good food for thought!

Thanks again,


Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce May 23, 2013 - 11:49am

Edit: Double post.

cdregan's picture
cdregan from outside of Philadelphia is reading The Corrections June 5, 2013 - 6:19am

Oi! Comments attached.