Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Sideways | Fiction | Fighting The Good Fight...For Crabs!

Dear readers, I heard your petition, and I answered it. This week, at the announcement of this year’s Bad Sex Awards, I managed to find the Commissioning Editor at Harper-Collins. Lifting him up by his lapels and slamming him against the nearest wall, only mildly aroused by the look of sheer terror in his eyes, I roared,


I went on to explain to him at great length why crab-based fiction, or, to give it its proper name, the Phthurispubic Movement, is the only thing that could possibly save the English novel now. I outlined the many merits of Guy N. Smith’s much-beloved, too-often-mocked ‘Night of the Crab’ series, right down to “Crabs: The Human Sacrifice”.

If you don't have love for this with your whole heart, entirely unironically, then you are a sociopath.

I was even kind enough to outline to him, scene-by-scene, the fourteen-book children’s’ series I’m thinking of writing, ‘The Crawford Crabs’. A young warrior crab who wants to prove himself sets out into the big wide ocean, and is soon joined by a plucky sea anemone, a wisecracking clam, and a stuck-up tiger prawn who must eventually learn the value of friendship. After some trouble with a gang of nasty urchins, they’re rescued by an ancient crab known only as Crabwise (he'll have seaweed attached to his face like a beard, and it'll be really adorable), who teaches each of them Crab-kata, the sideways crab martial art.

As our heroes plunge deeper into the sea, they find themselves inexorably drawn closer and closer to a force of monstrous evil – the octopus known only as Saturn. Just as we think all hope is lost, we see a heroic and moving sight – the crab army scuttling sideways towards Saturn’s lair, ready to fight for the life of their young brother. At their head is Barry, the limpet who nobody wanted to play with. The wisecracking clam will lose his life, tragically, but Saturn will be defeated. The anemone and the heroic crab will fall in love, in a final scene depicting a specific carnal act that’s entirely unsuited to children’s literature.

The inevitable movie adaptation will be directed by that guy who made Shark Tale, in a deliberate ploy to deeply irritate my legions of fans.

Just a few of the millions of protesters who've taken to the streets over the last five years heroically campaigning for more crab-based fiction. Fight the good fight, brothers.

He muttered something to me, too quiet to be heard, that to an inattentive observer might have sounded like,

“Please - kill me if you want, but don’t hurt my family.”

but which was clearly, in fact,

“Young man, I’d like to hear more about these crabs!”

Harold, I told him, putting a calming yet quietly restraining arm around his shoulder (as I later discovered from the name-badge that tore off his jacket when he broke loose, his name was actually ‘David’), Harold, the crab moves sideways. His is a condition which is both comical to us, and deeply unsettling. He shifts through dimensions in an entirely different way to us.

Hamlet, of course, was a crab who thought he was a man. He could only think sideways, shuffling constantly away from the issue of murdering Claudius, working himself into corners like one of those robotic vacuum cleaners until at last he was in a situation where the only direction left was forward. And, much as the crab’s menacing-looking pincers and claw-legs are actually harmless, practical items, so all of the political and physical weapons that appeared to be at Hamlet’s disposal were entirely illusory.

None of this is in the play, of course, but you can tell by reading between the lines what Shakespeare meant to say. Baz Luhrmann actually spells it out a little too obviously in his adaptation by making the character of Fortinbras played by a crab.

Harold found this so amusing that he actually gave a little fascinated shriek. And a number of burly men in suits hurried over to listen to what I was saying.

Another famous crab? I continued. Raskolnikov, who with his lateral, ‘crabwise’ thinking interprets a proto-Nietzschean concept of the superman to mean that, through the murder of the old pawnbroker, he may be able to exist beyond morality – hey, let go off me!

After dusting myself off, I was able to proclaim to the entire alleyway that my pro-crab mission had been an unmitigated success. Harold, unfortunately, forgot to give me his card, but luckily I do already have his home address.

And I was able to put the rest of the evening to productive use. I simply strolled up the street to Broadcasting House, found the BBC Head of New Drama And Comedy, put him in a friendly headlock, and said,

“WHY AREN’T YOU COMMISSIONING MORE CRAB-BASED DRAMA SERIALS AND MINI-SERIES? I myself have the plot outline here for a sitcom featuring only crabs, going by the name of 'Crabsolutely Crabulous'. You see, the main crab is a frustrated author crab, with an unrequited crush on his room-mate, a plucky sea anemone...”

Jon Ware
Fiction Editor

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