Bernice Summerfield: Venus Mantrap

Big Finish have now put up the cover art to mine and Lance Parkin’s Bernice Summerfield play, Venus Mantrap:
Pretty awesome, huh? I love Adrian Salmon’s stuff, and he absolutely nails the tone of the play. Cheers, Ade! Also, many thanks to Lance for buying the artwork for me and Mags as a wedding present. So cheers to both of those guys.

OK, that’s enough insular backslapping, let’s widen the circle to the other ten of you reading this with a little background, or more to the point a sales pitch.

I can’t recall which came first, but there were two things I knew I wanted to do with a Bernice audio when I pitched to producer Eddie Robson: co-write the audio with Lance Parkin, with whom I’d first written for Bernice in Beige Planet Mars; and write a follow-up of sorts to that book. Venus Mantrap isn’t a sequel to BPM, and you certainly don’t need to have read the book to enjoy the audio, but it has a similar tone and one recurring character.

In terms of tone and setting, we’re back in the solar system (Venus Mantrap was a title I came up with back in the late 90s, which has been searching for a project ever since), and it’s still a future where people live and work as they always have done, but in a heightened, alien landscape with heightened, alien problems. Lance and I always liked that aspect of BPM and wanted to revisit it – that there was action and drama and things blowing up, but that the everyday life in the future was still going on, albeit disrupted. In BPM the characters worked in hotels and attended academic conferences – not everyone was a space marine or spy. In VM… well, that would be telling.

The choice of which character to bring back alongside Benny… well, there really wasn’t a choice to make. Professor Scoblow, academic and love rival, tweedy space rodent and over-sexed self-mythologiser, wasn’t even in the original plot outline of BPM, but I wrote her in for some minor expositional reason (I can’t remember what, it was over a decade ago) as a throwaway and she ended up taking on a bigger and bigger role in the plot. So we wanted to bring her back, and force her and Bernice to work together on a common problem. I haven’t heard an edit of the finished play yet, but having been at the recording I can honestly say that Jo Castleton just is Scoblow, and she and Lisa (Bernice) Bowerman spark off each other very nicely indeed.

(To slide into backslap mode again for a second, director John Ainsworth cast the whole play very well, and hit exactly the right tone in his direction.)

Anyway, the play isn’t out for another four months so I won’t go into any more detail at this stage as there’ll no doubt be future posts on this in the months ahead. In the mean time, please pre-order the play on its own, or if you so wish subscribe to the whole season. (Highly recommended, as all three other plays are written by excellent writers, and the last of the season has the legendary Doug Bradley in it, and everyone loves Pinhead, don’t they?)

A bargain at £9.99 (or an even more bargainous £35 for the four-play sub), and American listeners should benefit from the pound’s parlous state against the dollar these days.

Anyway, I’m off to get married and go on honeymoon, and will return some time towards the end of the month. Not that with my recent posting rate the difference will be that notable.

Au Revoir,


April 16, 2009. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

10 BPM, or ‘A Customer’ is always right

This month marks 10 glorious years since my first (co-written) book saw publication, beginning my glorious mini-career of occasional professional writing. It’s still one of my favourite things I’ve done – the action set-piece towards the end of the book was a bit dodgy (my idea, my fault), but Lance Parkin and I had a great time writing it, and found the unusual genre mix (an SF murder mystery cold war campus novel… on Mars) worked surprisingly well. It was also one of two co-written contributions I made to the New Adventures range of books, which I loved. They’d previously been Doctor Who books, but by this point mainly starred Professor Bernice Summerfield, who had been one of the Doctor’s companions.

So, to mark a decade since Bernice Summerfield’s exciting adventure with Beige Planet Mars, let’s relive some contemporary reviews:

“A novel of missed opportunities.” Antony Brown, SFX. *

“Suffers from the familiar N/A faults of being written in a hurry and no effort on the part of writer(s) or Virgin to take the plot and give it a good kicking into shape.” A Customer,

“This book is full of little joys.” Richard McGinlay, Dreamwatch.**

“The indulgent but reserved image of capitalism in this story isn’t really up to much.” Gregg Smith, Oh Yes It Is!***

“This book not only contains bad sex it is also the equivalent reading experience.” A Customer (not the same one, at least I don’t think so),

So, many thanks to Lance for inviting me to co-write with him in the first place, to everyone who read the book, and here’s to a decade more of this kind of thing!


* I have to admit I didn’t need to look that one up, I had it memorised.
** We love you too, Richard! Shame Dreamwatch went down the toilet. Don’t blame us though.
*** Oh Yes It Is! was a fanzine devoted to the character of Bernice Summerfield, its title a spin on the title of Bernice creator Paul Cornell‘s panto pastiche Oh No It Isn’t!. Of the editorial team of Will Howells, Matt Michael and Eddie Robson, Matt has gone on to be one of the main reviewer’s for Doctor Who Magazine while Eddie is the current producer of the adventures of… Bernice Summerfield. Gregg’s review was entitled Blair Planet Marx, by the way.

October 23, 2008. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.