I'm looking for the title and author of a short story or novelette that I read quite some time ago.

The main characters are two young women. One is taking correspondence courses, and is constantly being berated by the other one for hoping to rise above her station. They go out to pick up young men, to sleep with them, to get pregnant.

It's not a normal sort of pregnancy, though. The men have some sort of 'coded semen' which grow something other than a child in the woman's womb. It ends up being a product of some kind, which earns the woman money when it is 'born'. The one woman is very careful about who she chooses, as she can only do this so many times. The other... isn't so careful.

At the end, the careful, studious woman achieves what she has been working for - a letter from a government organisation that permits her to become the mother to a human being.

Thank you for reading my question. I've been looking for this story for years, now.

1 Answer 1


This has been significantly edited from my first answer. At first I believed that this was an Anne McCaffrey short story, as shipbrains are alluded to in the story. However, this is 'Piece Work' by David Brin, originially published in 1988 and then included in his 1994 Otherness anthology. The main character, Io, is the dedicated professional surrogate who hopes to become a mother; her friend Perseph settles for 'placental jobbing'.

The confusion was in the fact that shipbrains existed in both McCaffrey's stories and in this one; however, Brin has these entities bred on purpose, whereas Mccaffrey's brain ship characters suffered from congenital physical defects or accidents in early childhood.

  • One of the Brainship series novels by Anne and various co-authors ?
    – Stan
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 18:22
  • It is related to the Brainship universe, but it is a stand-alone short story. Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 18:26
  • It took quite a hunt to correct that misapprehension. I wouldn't be surprised if Brin had had some McCaffrey inspiration for this story. Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 19:24
  • From the description, I'm sure it's the Brin story.
    – user56
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 20:07
  • 2
    Piece Work is the one! Thank you very much. I just went and found my copy of Otherness, and reread it. I was certain I had a copy of the story in my library, and I was right! Thank you all!
    – Breccia
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 21:16

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