Born in a Yorkshire cave after his mother became stuck during a pot-holing holiday, Corben Duke was left behind and raised by bats. Later he became a shack-dweller on Doom Beach, Bernard Island in the Outer Hebrides where he now lives with his wife Mrs Duke and his two dogs, Crusher and Mr Fluffy.
Three years ago he found scientist Mark Roman wandering along his beach collecting and cataloguing brightly coloured pebbles. In return for a cup of hot seaweed tea, Mark gave him 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 on Bernard Island) he thought he’d better read it, and boy, was he glad he did. It reminded him of the story his great grandfather used to tell him about when he was a rocket scientist after WWII. Gramps claimed that a colleague had made a discovery enabling him to make the trip to Mars long before it became fashionable. As a young man Corben thought Grandpa Helmut was as crazy as a coconut which, in fact, he was. But Mark Roman’s book got him thinking about that old yarn and he decided to contact him with the idea of co-writing a story inspired by his great grandfather’s claim and Mark’s rock obsession. The Worst Man on Mars is that story.
Mark Roman has, in fact, never been to the Outer Hebrides, and never written a book about Martian rocks. Nor, indeed, has he ever met Corben Duke. He is a respectable (well, fairly respectable) scientist living in London with his wife and two teenage children.
His first contact with Corben was when a raving, rambling e-mail plopped into his inbox. A polite response was rapidly followed by an even more off-beat message. Quickly realizing the man to be delusional, and quite possibly dangerous, Mark started deleting the e-mails unread. But this was not a socially responsible way of dealing with the issue. Taking note of the creative potential in the ramblings, he reasoned that maybe a solution to the problem might be a course of occupational therapy; to harness Corben’s random mental outpourings and channel them into the writing of a science fiction comedy and the drawing of its map and 70 chapter illustrations. The result was The Worst Man on Mars.
It is too early to say whether the therapy has achieved its desired effect, for the raving e-mails continue ...