Mark Roman is the author of sci-fi comedy The Ultimate Inferior Beings. He is a research scientist by profession and has used his expertise to ensure the science in the book is completely bogus. Under his real name he has published over 80 papers and book chapters in structural bioinformatics, none of them particularly amusing, so hopes to atone for that with this book. He lives in London with his wife, also a scientist, and two children, neither of whom wants to be a scientist.
What role do you believe speculative fiction plays in society?
Speculative fiction provides certain members of society, such as myself, with something to read, thus preventing us getting frightfully bored and doing things we know we shouldn’t. Much speculative fiction can be mind-expanding, awe-inspiring and thought-provoking. Some of it, of course, is total rubbish – and it is this latter class that inspired my own foray into the genre.
Why do you write in this genre?
My characters tend to be a bit bonkers, so they sit more believably in a sci-fi context. Funnily enough, I know people who are a lot more bonkers, but no one would believe them in a piece of fiction. Plus, in sci-fi, you can get away with things that wouldn’t be acceptable in, say, a historical romance – such as phonon-drive spaceships, slimy green blobs, and computers with a sense of humour.
The original plan was to spoof all the corny sci-fi clichés that used to annoy the hell out of me when I was young. Instead, I kind of exploited them. The opening scene came first, with the mysterious crash of the starship on Tenalp, and the incompetent spaceport controller attending the scene and bungling a crucial clue. The ship sent to solve the mystery is crewed by a totally inept bunch, possibly selected as a result of computer error. As for the aliens, I thought it important to have aliens who, rather than being technologically advanced, were just as incompetent as we are. More so; and with lunatic religious beliefs. I am convinced the Universe if filled with such species.
What was your biggest challenge in writing it?
The ending. About three quarters of the way through I became stuck on how to give it a happy ending. In the story, the aliens have an ancient prophecy about the destruction of the Universe. For the story to make sense, the prophecy had to come true and the Universe actually be destroyed. Yet this seemed such a downer. One day, the solution came to me in a flash, and suddenly everything fitted together – albeit a bit wonkily.
What are you working on now?
Something completely different. I’m collaborating with another writer on a story about the first human colonists of Mars and the robots who have been sent ahead to build their base. Unfortunately, the robots have made a real pig’s ear of the building work and the base is virtually uninhabitable. And then the colonists find life on Mars – but it’s not the sort anyone would ever have imagined.
About The Ultimate Inferior Beings
When jixX is appointed spaceship captain for a dangerous space mission he doesn’t regard it as a promotion. More like a computer error, given he’s a landscape architect. The error theory gains in strength when he meets the crew: a carpenter, a gynaecologist and a scientist trying to prove the existence of God. To add to jixX’s woes, there’s a stowaway on board, one of his crew is a saboteur and the ship’s computer thinks it’s a comedian. And then they meet aliens. Not technologically advanced aliens - their civilization is based on the invention of the brick - but jixX has a bad feeling about them anyway. Among them are a religious bunch who believe in The Ultimate Inferior Beings - a species that are really, really bad at everything. According to an ancient prophecy this species will, perhaps inadvertently or absent-mindedly or through some tragic mishap, bring about the end of the Universe. One alien becomes convinced that the humans are these incompetent beings. He realizes he must be the Chosen One, and that it is his Duty to wipe them out before they can trigger total annihilation. So it comes down to jixX to save Humankind ...
"I highly recommend this odd little book to readers who like humorous science fiction, aren’t intimidated by a bit of mind-bending absurdity, and who are looking for something completely different." - D L Morrese in his review on the Just Wondering blog