This short story appeared in an anthology of horror sci-fi from 70's maybe 60's.

The young man was homeless, and the only way to escape was to volunteer to be in a tv show where they would have to fight mechanical spiders which would kill them if they were caught. The show would last an hour, and the survivors would gain their freedom. If they destroyed a spider they could get money. The TV set they were on had hidden weapons some of which were fake.

Overall a tense, cynical story as relevant today as when written. Does anyone recognise the story?

  • Was the story in English?
    – Moogle
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 14:00
  • Yes and published along with other stories one of which had a team of astronauts landing on a beautiful planet and being attacked by an octopus like creature in a lake.
    – Phil
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 22:53
  • I remember it, but I can't remember the title. The protagonist escapes when he notices the spiders touch antennae in a specific sequence, so he pulls the antennae from a dead one and manages to avoid being killed.
    – TMN
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


This is, I believe, The Extra, by Micheal Shea. There was a novelette version, first published in the 1987. Later (possibly moved by the apparent relevance for the twenty-first century), Shea expanded it into a novel, which was the first of a series.

Per GoodReads:

Producer Val Margolian has found the motherlode of box-office gold with his new "live-death" films whose villains are extremely sophisticated, electronically controlled mechanical monsters. To give these live-action disaster films greater realism, he employs huge casts of extras, in addition to the stars. The large number of extras is important, because very few of them will survive the shoot.

It's all perfectly legal, with training for the extras and long, detailed contracts indemnifying the film company against liability for the extras' injury or death. But why would anyone be crazy enough to risk his or her life to be an extra in such a potentially deadly situation?

The extras do it because if they survive they'll be paid handsomely, and they can make even more if they destroy any of the animatronic monsters trying to stomp, chew, fry, or otherwise kill them. If they earn enough, they can move out of the Zoo--the vast slum that most of L.A. has become. They're fighting for a chance at a reasonable life. But first, they have to survive.

And the mechanical monsters involved definitely include giant spiders.


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