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Interview with co-author Corben Duke

Tonight our guest is Corben Duke, the co-author of the SF Comedy novel 'The Worst Man on Mars' where a British TV star seizes command of the 1st mission to Mars and finds a planet full of mayhem. Corben lives in the Outer Hebrides with his wife and 2 dogs. His co-author Mark Roman is a top British scientist who lives in London with his wife and 2 children. We have conducted an interview with Corben.

Where did the idea come from for your Sci-Fi spoof “The Worst Man on Mars”?
The idea for the story came after a chance meeting with scientist and author Mark Roman.

I’m a beach-dweller on a small island in the Outer Hebrides. A few years ago I found Mark wandering along Doom Beach collecting and cataloguing brightly coloured pebbles. In return for a cup of hot seaweed tea he gave me a copy of a fascinating book he had written speculating about the various rocks that might be found on Mars. Before burning it on the campfire for extra warmth (it’s cold here) I thought I’d better read it and I’m glad I did. It reminded me of the story my grandfather used to tell about when he was a rocket scientist after WWII. He claimed that a very good rocket scientist chum of his made a discovery that allowed him to make the trip to Mars, long before it became fashionable. As a boy, I thought Grandpa Helmut was as crazy as a coconut which, as it turned out, he was. But meeting Mark Roman and reading his Mars rock-book got me thinking about Gramps’ yarn and I decided to contact him with the idea of co-authoring a story inspired by my grandfather’s claim.

Grandpa Helmut

So your co-author is a scientist. Sounds interesting. Has he made any important scientific discoveries?
Mark is reluctant to talk about his work. It’s all very hush-hush, you see. I know that it’s very important as he spends most of his time locked inside a laboratory under his house. Mrs Roman told me he once left the lab’s steel door ajar just long enough for her to glimpse inside. Mrs Roman is also a top scientist, familiar with the latest equipment but she said the laboratory was “full of wonderful things, way beyond the comprehension of a normal human brain: magnificent machines buzzing with electricity, blackboards covered with crazy mathematical scribbling, beakers of bubbling slime, and – in the middle of the room – a chair with bundles of multi-coloured wires connected to an impressive array of computer equipment”. Mark claims he’s running a dog grooming business called ‘Roman’s Poodle Parlour’ but Mrs Roman has never seen a dog go in or come out of that basement.

He takes his work very seriously, a fact reflected in his clothing. He wears a lab coat wherever he goes: work, pub, football training, funerals, everywhere. The man is undoubtedly a genius but, as is so often the case with a brilliant mind, quite mad.

And you, Corben Duke, how did you end up living on Doom Beach in the Outer Hebrides?
My Grandpa Helmut came to Bernard Island after the war. He was one of a group of rocket scientists recruited by the government to develop new defence technologies. The programme lasted several years before funding dried up and the research was abandoned. Most of the other rocket scientists left to find work on the mainland but Gramps stayed on. Good job he did. If he’d left with the others I would not be here today, for he met his wife-to-be here; Olga Petrovna happened to choose the island for a cycling holiday in 1952. Shortly afterwards my father was born. He lived here until his early twenties when he moved to Yorkshire where he met my mother and started a family.

Perhaps it was the strange stories that Gramps used to tell about his time on Bernard Island but, whatever the reason, I felt compelled to make my off-grid home on Doom Beach where I now live with my beautiful wife (The Duchess) and my two dogs, Crusher and Mr Fluffy.

Beach dwelling, Doom Beach

In a nutshell, what is “The Worst Man on Mars” about?
It’s a story based on real events that haven’t happened yet, about Britain’s first manned mission to Mars. Everything is going well until the commander suffers a fatal accident involving the spaceship’s urine extractor which experiences a sudden power surge. Yorkshireman Flint Dugdale spots an opportunity and seizes control of the mission. As the winner of reality TV show “Who wants to go to Mars?” he’s only meant to be a passenger but Flint’s ambition is to become the first man on Mars. When the colonists land on the surface they discover that supercomputer HarVard and a team of robots - sent ahead to build a base - have evolved into machines with some very warped ideas. And, if that wasn’t enough to contend with, the colonists find they’re not the only life on the planet.

"The Worst Man on Mars"

With your co-author living in London and you in the Outer Hebrides, how does the writing process work?
We have a mind-shed, much like the one in the drawing. Every evening at 7pm we each enter the shed and begin our allotted tasks. Mark bashes away on an old Olivetti typewriter while I use my colouring crayons to draw something pretty to add to the book cover. I’m usually finished by 7.10pm so I play with the dog for a while before leaving Mark to it. The whole process works very well.

Roman & Duke's mind-shed

If you don’t mind me saying, you have lovely blond hair. What shampoo do you use?
Thanks for noticing. Hair ‘product’ is very limited on Bernard Island. There are no shops here. Just birds and seals … millions of them. However, a few months ago a freight container fell off the back of a passing Chinese cargo ship and bottles of what I took to be shampoo began washing up on Doom Beach. Unfortunately the writing on the bottles was in Chinese and I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ve been washing my hair in toilet bleach. You see, I’m not a natural blond. In fact my normal colour is jet black.

“The Worst Man on Mars” Book link:

Interview with co-author Corben Duke Reviewed by JaamZIN on 7:21:00 PM Rating: 5
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