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March 30, 2012 / tahliajade

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 😉

Sheldon Cooper's Terrifying Smile

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.

Crab-like Space Ships from 1953's War of the Worlds

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?

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14 Comments

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  1. annagardiner / Mar 31 2012 7:45 am

    You’ve clearly done your research on the hostoical and cultural context of the story which gave the post depth and I’m glad you mentioned Lord of the Flies because that’s what I instantly thought of when I read the title.

    I’m not sure about being less descriptive of characters in a short story though, I have read alot that do that, but tend to prefer ones that still have quite detailed descriptions. Maybe I just need more imagination. What do other people think?

    Could not agree with you more about everyone jumping on the vampire/werewolf bandwagon however. So true.

    Oh, and great photo!

  2. baileymoser / Mar 31 2012 11:36 am

    Oh, Twilight…

    I love your photos!

    And I would agree with you on the character point; as long as there is enough plot to keep the short story interesting, character development can be minimized. However, can’t a short story also thrive on character development, while lacking intense plot? I’m thinking of the opening scene in “Up!” about how Carl and Ellie fall in love. (Granted, I realize that’s a movie, not a story.) In that case, lots of character development, little plot.

    • muza2009 / Apr 3 2012 8:09 am

      Great post and I agree with @baileymoser on character development in short stories..I think you can… is it not possible to develop a character in one sentence? Would you use descriptions (manic and dishevelled) or actions (blabbering erratically) to for example describe the very common “mis-” stereotype of the mad scientist. Talking of movies, I went to a film making workshop last week and the facilitator talked about the hook in the first five minutes of the film and how you learn about characters and he gave the example of back to the future where the opening scene is a series of clocks and inventions….it automatically sets Doc up as mad scientist crazy about time.

  3. samanthagnanarajuwa / Mar 31 2012 2:02 pm

    What an enjoyable read!

    I love the photos and also the way you write is extremely engaging! It’s great that you have done your research to produce a great piece of work. Love the twilight/vampire diaries reference.

    I can’t seem to let my mind grasp the idea of a story without a substantial plot. I mean, one has to be drawn in to a story to go through it, up until the last word. And most of the time, and in most books we have read, the plot takes the lead.

    Paolo Coelho’s writing is a great example of that. I’d pick plot over character development anytime!

  4. elenav90 / Apr 1 2012 1:51 am

    I agree with all the above comments in regards to the substance of your text given by historical and cultural references, so I’ll avoid repeating their words.

    I can’t, however, not compliment you for your writing, from the engaging topic sentences, your intelligent but conversational tone (thanks to kflint93 for making me more aware of the use of tone), the use of questions to maintain readers’ attention, and also a good structure: you move on efficiently from point to point, treating your topic quite extensively 🙂

    My only constructive criticism would be to mention your focus (what makes a good plot?) a bit earlier in your piece, so we can immediately relate that question to Anatoly’s story as we read it in the introduction.

    A very enjoyable read.

  5. tahliajade / Apr 1 2012 7:27 am

    Thanks so much guys for the positive comments! 🙂 Means a lot because I have never blogged before. Feel a bit noob-ish haha.
    annagardiner, for short stories, what I meant was that due to the shortness of the story, authors aren’t able to go into the same amount of depth in character development as in novels etc. A lot can be said about a character though in just a few lines, maybe more directly relating to their personality than their appearance and I was definitely getting ‘evil genius’ type vibes from this one haha….hence the Sheldon Cooper image 😛

    baileymoser, I had completely forgotten about that scene! It was so amazing but so depressing at the same time. I have NEVER cried so much in the first 5 minutes of a film as I did in that one. But in defense, had that movie ended there, with no further plot, it would’ve just been depressing and not nearly as amazing as it was.

    samanthagnanarajuwa, I agree with you about the plot having to suck the reader in to keep them reading to the last page. I also think that twists and turns in a plot help to hold people’s attention and I love reading a book or short story and just getting to a point and thinking…NO WAY!!! Hahaha. It makes it more fun! 🙂

    elenav90, thanks so much for your compliments on my writing. Yeah, I actually thought that after re-reading it! But my word count was already at…like 502 or something and I had originally cut it back from almost 650 so I just didn’t have it in me to get rid of any more of it haha.
    Overall, thanks guys for making the time to read 🙂 Glad it was enjoyable 🙂

  6. chantellerichards / Apr 1 2012 2:17 pm

    Your blog was definitely an enjoyable read! Similarly to annagardiner, I also thought of ‘Lord of the Flies’ as soon as I read your title; very fitting considering the plot.

    I did enjoy the short story by Anatoly Dneprov (apart from a few small grammatical ‘fumbles’). I felt that the plot was detailed and descriptive enough to give the reader a vivid picture of how these events unfolded but I too, would’ve liked to know more about the characters, especially the character, who told the story from his or her point of view. I tried picturing someone I knew as a character in the story but it didn’t work for me – I think I am the kind of person, who needs to know ‘what, when, where, how, and why?’.

    Your blog was well-written. I read the story before reading your blog but had I not, I feel that I still would have had a good idea as to what it was about. Your summary of the story was neat and easy to follow. I also enjoyed your background information regarding authors in the 1950s, which was accompanied by a very suiting picture. Others have also mentioned this: great closing statement and question! It is something that we can relate to today, and being able to relate, I feel, immensely aids in one’s understanding.

    Thanks again for a good read.

    Chantelle

  7. ashfonty / Apr 4 2012 2:19 am

    I think short stories have plenty of time to develop their characters. However, I really felt that after reading this story I had no connection with the characters and didn’t know much about them in general! Personally, I love an emotive and relatable character in a story so I was a little disappointed with Dneprov’s story.

    I can see where the climaxes in the story are, but to be honest I really didn’t feel like the story was building to anything as I was reading it! It seemed a little ‘flat’ to me. I can see the conflict as well however I think it could have been developed much better – whether that be with better character development so I was drawn in a little more or maybe more emotive language throughout. It all seemed very matter of fact.

    Your blog was a fantastic read! I loved where you said, ‘Maximise impact and minimise filler’, however like I mentioned I felt that this story lacked ‘impact’.

  8. michaelpetersen1 / Apr 6 2012 3:21 am

    Great post, I think you make a good point the solution phase of the story of the confrontation, of what leads up to it, of why it happens the way it happens, what it means, and what its long-term consequences are, is interstingly done in ‘Crabs Take Over the Island’. As you say the open ended nature of the solution really does make the story much more memorable and reallly adds to making a good plot

    I also really enjoyed your last paragraph of taking a look at the context of the story in the time it was written and linnking it to the current vampire-werewolf bandwagon.

    Really good analysis

  9. gracerussell1 / Apr 6 2012 4:08 am

    I like this frequently occurring ‘bandwagon’ theme in you post and the above comments. Once you mentioned it in your post it got me thinking of how our society likes to re-create already successful plots. A very interesting observation to make.
    My most enjoyable aspect of your post was how you successfully mentioned The Big Bang Theory and Lord of The Flies in a matter of paragraphs. Your use of the old and the new captures a wide audience. Good work.

  10. osullivankate / Apr 6 2012 5:05 am

    What interested me about your post was the statement about the need for consistent characters whether detailed in description or not. I think in short stories, you don’t need to describe characters in detail, but the plot will often do that for you, through their actions etc. Conflict makes individuals act in ways attributable to their individual character.

    Good post 🙂

  11. tahliajade / Apr 6 2012 5:21 am

    Hi guys,
    I’m glad you found the post enjoyable. Once I realized there was a common theme in the 1950’s regarding aliens, post-apocalyptic settings, things being left on small islands to survive…etc, it made me laugh that we still do the same sort of thing now and pick a winning plot line and re-write it over and over again!
    Everywhere you look now is full of the supernatural…For another unit, I have to do an essay on death and the afterlife. I’ve been studying the trends over the last century or so changing from a religious based afterlife (heaven and hell) to a more spiritual afterlife or just denying of the belief in afterlife totally. It’s interesting to note that the supernatural- ghosts included -plays such a big role in our entertainment industry and it’s probably because we’re so fascinated with the possibility of it all. Total epiphany in relation to my essay!
    Anyway…back to the plot and character development etc, Osullivankate, that is exactly what I meant by consistency in characters! A person with a distinct personality type will react uniquely in a given situation and it is these actions that need to show consistency and, like you said, in a short story there is no time to describe things in great detail so you should let your characters’ actions speak louder than words!

  12. sthompson / Apr 6 2012 5:42 am

    Your writing style really is very interesting and engaging, and makes me want to keep on reading. I agree with your point about open endings, and while I know they frustrate people sometimes, I think they can be so effective when used well. Like you said they make a story memorable, but they also allow room for more. They leave the reader with something to think about, and even discuss with others, so they are able to engage so much more with the story.

    I also really loved your mention of the vampires and wolves bandwagon, and thought it was very effective, because everyone knows exactly what you are talking about, and can relate well to.

    Overall, fantastic post, and I really enjoyed reading it! 🙂

  13. maria93 / Apr 6 2012 8:51 am

    Great post!

    It was very well written and I was engaged from start to finish.

    I agree with you about less descriptions on characters, I would much rather a great plot than a whole lot of description about the characters. However I think that it is possible to do both even in a short story.

    I loved the way you referenced the big bang theory and how your last paragraph mentioned the vampires and werewolves bandwagon, which is so true!

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