Pennies by Megan Maloney
“Pennies” is a dystopian near-future noir. Overpopulation has driven the city of Chicago to accept cannibalism into the fabric of society. It is regulated by procurement codes; however, the shift creates aggressive moral hazard. The rich wall themselves off; the thin scrapings that remain of the middle class hire Trouble Boys and Girls – starving orphans and grizzled assassins – to guard their bodies and their children.
A mob doctor adopts an young ex-Catholic protégé for his Russian guard Torov to train as a Trouble Girl. The girl, Mathilda, learns to carve and kill, as much from the doctor as Torov. She guards the doctor’s daughter, Miss Cincy, who spends her days in school and her weekends in speakeasies. The scarcity of food has led to a restriction any misuse of grain resources on luxuries such as alcohol, and this Second Prohibition has led to a resurgence of moonshining, smuggling, drag racing, and a vast network parties held by the gangs and fearless of Chicago in the limestone caverns below the city.
Mathilda keeps Cincy alive for all her risk-taking, and tells their story as she sees it. She guides Cincy through the violence of the town into a legitimate medical university, while the mob doctor grooms Mathilda to take over his dark business and all the troubles that come with it.
Between consultations with her Benedictine mother and Torov’s inscrutable cheer, Mathilda’s questioning and dedication to her work keep her on a thin line between heaven and the flooding, freezing Chicago streets.
David & Arielle: We’ve heard a lot of dystopian pitches in our lives, but we can’t seem to remember one about cannibalism. That really takes the desperation here to a whole new level! Bringing back mob-ridden Chicago and prohibition mixed with this dystopian world is also original and an intriguing mix of old meets new. We also like the idea of a “Trouble Girl”—it sounds both ominous and innocent at the same time. What can be improved? There is A LOT going on in this pitch—too much to keep track of an understand. For example, at the top of the pitch you say that Trouble Boys and Girls are orphans, but at the end you refer to Mathilda’s mother. We also lose Mathilda and Cincy’s arc because there’s a lot breaking it up. Or maybe that’s not the central story. The problem is that we can’t discern what is. Not all plot lines need to go in the pitch. Take the main story here and let us see the arc of that with some gritty detail. Otherwise, we’re left more confused than enticed.