Anatoly: Lord of the Crabs??
‘Crabs Take Over the Island’ is a short, science fiction story written in 1958 by Anatoly Dneprov, a Ukranian physicist who worked for the Academy of Sciences in the U.S.S.R..
It features two scientists, left on a small, remote island with one solar-powered, mechanical crab and limited supplies of scrap metal, placed randomly, all over the island. You see, the crab is comprised of and feeds on scrap metal. The expedition’s purpose? To create millions of crabs as war weapons. The first crab consumes some scrap metal and soon, there are two crabs.
Once the scrap metal is gone, there exists a larger and stronger breed of crab and a smaller breed, lacking the capacity to preserve solar-energy. They don’t survive the night.
The story ends with one giant crab and the surviving scientist (the other forgot about his metal dentures – eek) awaiting the return of the ship…one for rescue and the other for its juicy, juicy metal. I won’t give away the plot (a definite no-no) by telling you which 😉
So what does make a good plot? Consistent characters are necessary, with distinct personalities whom a reader attaches emotionally to. In short stories there is no time for character development. So be less descriptive with characters so readers picture either themselves or someone else they are already attached to. I pictured ‘The Big Bang Theory’‘s Sheldon Cooper grinning maniacally, whilst gigantic, robotic crabs brutally murdered each other in the background for his own scientific gain. Definitely a Sheldon thing to do.
A story needs a central conflict, something the whole story ties back to. Without conflict, there is no purpose for the story, no show of its’ importance.Even in real life, conflict usually results in a climax, a point is reached where a solution must be found or the problem must end. In this story, I feel there is an initial climax when the scientist is killed, but also a looming climax featuring the ship’s arrival. I feel that no real “solution” is reached with the main character awaiting rescue which may never come. BUT- I LOVE that about this story! The open ending makes it so suspense-filled. It leaves the reader wondering and makes it memorable.
Maximize impact and minimize filler. Short, direct sentences are best for suspense and keep readers entranced. Expertly done, Anatoly Dneprov! Especially in describing Cookling’s final moments.
Linking back to my title, ‘Anatoly: Lord of the Crabs??’, I feel that authors in the 1950’s had a strange obsession with leaving things on tiny, remote islands and watching them kill each other off. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was written 4 years prior to this story. That same decade post-apocalyptic themes were everywhere and most of the aliens that featured were crab-like in appearance. My point being? When you find a successful plot-line, jump on the bandwagon. Isn’t that what we’re doing these days with vampires and werewolves?