The Dead Men Diaries
edited by Paul Cornell
Cover Blurb
The Dead Men Diaries

Who but Professor Bernice Summerfield, interstellar archaeologist, raconteur, boozer and wit, would get other people to write her autobiography -- albeit under threat of death from two bounty hunters sent by a publisher far too concerned about little things like deadlines?

These stories are an ideal introduction to the life of Bernice Summerfield: falling off cliffs, getting sacrificed to orange pygmies, saving the universe and trying to buy a new frock.

Cliffhanging escapes! Adventure on distant planets! Scones for tea!

  • This is a collection of short stories introducing Big Finish's novel range The Adventures of Bernice Summerfield.
  • Released: September 2000

  • ISBN: 1 903 65400 9
Linking Material by Paul Cornell

Benny's publisher, tired of waiting for her to finish her next book, sends two bounty hunters, Plurk and Scozz, to the Braxiatel Collection to ensure that she turns in her autobiography on time. Faced with the threat of death should she fail, Benny scours the galactic Net for stories of her life written by others, and threads them together into a whole, while musing on the memories and feelings they evoke. Eventually, the bounty hunters get to like it at the Collection and are hired as professors in the field of Bounty Hunter Studies, although Scozz is shot and killed during his first seminar.

A Question of Identity by Caroline Symcox

Benny has tired of theses and paperwork, and therefore accepts Braxiatel's invitation to a black tie dinner with professors from the famous Delvian Academy. Trying to appear elegant, she purchases an expensive and beautiful dress and attends the party, only to meet a student named Guy who admires her reputation as a famous adventurer. Claiming that those days are behind her, but embarrassed by her inability to fit in with her fellow academics, Benny leaves the party early and stumbles across the unconscious body of a security guard. She investigates and finds a guest from the party stealing an artefacts from Traxis 6 which she had been studying, hoping to prove a link between the planets Traxis 6 and Traxis 4. She knocks the thief unconscious, mainly out of irritation that he is interfering with her studies, and Braxiatel then arrives with a group of security guards and explains that he's known for some time that the Comparative Religions department of the Delvian Academy has been stealing artefacts from other research facilities in order to delay their rivals' studies and publish their own finds about the Traxis digs first. Braxiatel had set a trap for the others, but nearly lost this artefact because Benny had moved it to her own department without telling him. Benny returns to the party, now knowing that she will always be an adventuress.

Steal from the World by Kate Orman

Benny finally returns to Capella Four, a small planet where she once suffered a terrible accident while she was still a young archaeologist trying to make a name for herself. She believed Capella Four to be the world where the last of the Aurigans had left their cliff paintings; by locating them she hoped to be the first to find actual proof of the Aurigans' existence, as the species had left only rumours, legends and hearsay of their existence before vanishing from the galaxy. However, while blinded by the planet's double sun she walked over a cliff and fell twenty metres, breaking both of her legs and losing her communications link. Cut off from help, she managed to use her portable medical kit to stave off shock and inflate an auto-splint, but then had to crawl back up the cliff to get back to her ship. Fortunately, the splint apparently reset her legs as she slept, and the native insect life proved to be edible. Although it took her several days, Benny managed to weave a rope from ferns and pull herself up over the edge of the cliff, and although she then passed out, a rescue team arrived in response to a distress call she didn't remember sending. This time, she is far more careful, and is not so reckless and eager to make a name for herself. And this time, the programme which the Aurigans left in the crystalline computers finally interfaces with her, generating a hologram which tells her that the cliff paintings are in fact softward icons. Although the Aurigan programmes set Benny's legs and sent a distress call for her, they were unable to help her over the cliff; fortunately, she was able to do that all by herself. Benny promises to treat their history and legacy with respect, and they allow her to report her findings back to the Braxiatel Collection.

The Light that Never Dies by Eddie Robson

Benny agrees to help compile a catalogue of the Braxiatel Collection's film library, but notices something odd while watching a documentary of the civil war on Delcanto in the 22nd century. In a scene in which three alien diplomats are executed, one body disintegrates completely in a flash of colour -- and when she goes back to watch it again, the dying man's behaviour changes, and he appears to beg her directly to stop. She shows the film to Braxiatel, who pauses the film at the moment of the man's death -- only to switch off hurriedly when the man twists in agony as everything around him remains still. Braxiatel and Benny look up the history of his species and find that he is a member of the Brv'cllnz race, beings composed of energy who have a cultural taboo against allowing their picture to be taken. Benny realises that since light is a form of energy, the diplomat's energy signature is still alive in the film projection, and each time the film plays, he dies again. This time Braxiatel pauses the film before the man is shot, and he is thus able to identify himself as Mrrct'llz and confirm what they have guessed. There is no escape for him, and at his request, Benny and Braxiatel splice his image out of the film and destroy it, freeing him from his eternal prison.

Heart of Glass by Daniel O'Mahony

Benny visits the glass-blown Exhalation, tge home of the COMBINE corporation, to negotiate with the executives for archaeological access to the Ganesh system. The corporation's freelance albino security consultant, Tereshkova, seems to be make a pass at her in the company bar and asks Benny not to go back to her own room that night. Benny turns down the offer, however, and that night suffers through a queasy half-dream of a glass automaton pushing itself out of the wall and assaulting her. The next morning, she awakens to find a sore patch on her arm, and realises that it was no dream. The Braxiatel Collection is given permission to visit the Ganesh system, but Benny realises that she has unwittingly traded away a sample of her genetic print in exchange. Tereshkova is not a natural albino, but is wearing a genetic mask to protect herself from the acquisitive COMBINE. Now, a copy of what makes Benny unique as an individual is in the hands of a faceless corporation which can do whatever it wants with it.

The Monster and the Archaeologists by Kathy Sullivan

Benny visits the Uzuas, a family of Gandagum archaeologists excavating a Zulway mining village, believing that they has found proof that the Mtongl warrior race once visited the planet, indicating that their sphere of influence stretched much further than had previously been believed. Both a vase and a mural found at the site depict the legendary hero Legyozhet fighting a skeletal creature which appears to be a Mtongl, leading Benny to believe that the Zulway miners unearthed a fossilsed Mtongl and built a legend around it. The Uzua twins unearth a spaceship beneath the cliff, supporting Benny's hypothesis, but as the family begins the careful process of excavation and exploration, the arrogant Professor Niwlog descends upon the scene with a media crew, insisting that he is an expert on the Mtongl and trying to claim-jump the site. When Benny finds a sealed door within the ruins of the spaceship, Niwlog blasts it open with a laser excavator before anybody can stop him -- revealing a Zulway burial chamber. Jindah Uzua is already in the chamber, having broken through from the other side, and she points out that all of the Mtongl artefacts were removed centuries ago and broken down for scrap metal by the villagers. Not only has Niwlog embarrassed himself before the media crew, he has drawn attention away from his own formerly profitable dig, and secured the Uzua family's reputation and careers.

Step Back in Time by Matt Jones

Benny falls head over heels for a young scholar named Porl, who is researching a long-dead species which developed technology allowing them to time-travel within their own lifetimes and correct mistakes in their past. Benny and Porl's relationship progresses satisfactorily until one night Benny gets hopelessly drunk at a party and wakes up with a love bite on her neck. Porl refuses to speak to her afterwards, and, desperate, Benny breaks into Braxiatel's private archives and steals an artefact belonging to the species which Porl has been studying -- a stone ring with which they can go back and change what happened. Porl sleeps with her and then steals the ring, and Benny learns that he was responsible for pumping an aphrodisiac gas into the party. All along, he has been using her to get to the ring, so he can change the past and ensure that his own stupidity doesn't cost him his former lover Rebecca. Furious, Benny locates him and gets back the ring, but rather than use it herself to avoid ever having met him, she simply smashes it.

Christmas Spirit by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright

Braxiatel decides to celebrate a traditional human Christmas at the Collection, but not everyone gets into the spirit of things. One of Benny's students, Tony Deek, seems to believe he is being haunted by the ghost of his friend Steven Mead, who died on a recent expedition to the planet Anibus. Tony eventually snaps and climbs the clock tower to commit suicide, claiming that he sabotaged Steven's gravity-bridge stabiliser as a joke, believing that Steven would check his equipment thoroughly as he always did. As Benny tries to talk him down, Steven's lover Vivian arrives, wearing a Memory Stone which she took from the dig on Anibus, and which has linked her psychically to Steven's body. The Anibusians used the Stones to bid farewell to their dead as part of the healing process, but the link does not work properly with humans, and Vivian has become entranced by an angelic vision of the perfect Steven, while Tony is haunted by a decaying corpse summoned into existence by his own guilt. Benny grabs the Stone from Vivian before she can leap from the clock tower and join Steven in death, but while holding the Stone, Benny experiences visions of her own doubts and insecurities, and is visited by the spirit of Jason Kane. However, she rejects these ghosts and throws the Stone from the clock tower, refusing to let her inner demons get the better of her.

The Door in to Bedlam by Dave Stone

While visiting the Braxiatel Collection's Repository of the Improbable, Benny happens to pick up a "joining stone" which the natives of the planet Goron IV use in their religious ceremonies, and experiences a vision of Jason. Jason has been stuck in Hell for years, or at least in a dimension similar to the human conception of Hell; he has just been hired by demonic travel agent Agraxar Flatchlock, who intends to use him to test an experimental process to open a rift to Jason's universe through which he can arrange package holidays. Benny, meanwhile, travels to Goron IV to learn more, and finds an expedition from the Earth Federation -- an organisation of human colonies which does not in fact include Earth -- experimenting upon the natives, who seem able to use the joining stones to open rifts to different dimensions. Benny frees the unfortunate natives, who knock her out, drag her off to one of their temples and attempt to sacrifice her using a joining stone. Either by coincidence, or due to the different ways in which time operates in the two dimensions, Benny and Jason travel through the same rift at the same time, but in opposite directions -- and they collide and rebound, ending up in the same dimensions they started out in, and destroying the rift behind them. They each remain aware, however, that the other is still alive and thinking of them, and Benny feels sure that one day they will be reunited. Back in Hell, the disappointed Flatchlock packs up the project, telling Jason off-handedly that his people will just have to rely on the standard method of interdimensional travel...

The Least Important Man by Steven Moffat

Gavin Oliver Scott is going to be the most important man of the 26th century, which is pretty good for an unemployed university student and _Blake's 7_ fan. Ever since he was a child he has seen the silent ghost of a beautiful woman at significant moments in his life, but he eventually comes to assume that she is a figment of his imagination. She is there at university when he falls deeply in love with the deaf Irene Gibley. Gavin, who can't think of anything to say to her, blurts out that he's always wanted to learn how to lip-read. Thus, when he next sees his ghost, he learns that her name is Bernice Summerfield, that she's a lecturer from the 26th century using a quantum imager to recreate moments in his life -- and that his claim to fame will be as the only preserved body of a 20th-century man still intact in the 26th century. Apparently today he is going to learn that Irene has been having affairs both with her professor and with Gavin's friend Toby, and he will commit suicide by leaping from a bridge into a bank of extra-terrestrial mud which will preserve his corpse for the next six centuries. Benny realises too late that the quantum imager is interacting with Gavin's brain, enabling him to see her, and they are thus able to hold a conversation in which it becomes clear that if Gavin does not commit suicide, he will cause a time paradox and destroy the Universe. Depressed, he does so -- and awakens in the 26th century, where scientists have realised that in order for the quantum imager to interact with his brain, it had to be alive. The alien mud in which he was buried had kept him alive in suspended animation, and he's made it to the future he dreamt of after all.

Digging up the Past by Mark Michalowski

In order to draw publicity for the Collection, Braxiatel strikes a deal with InterMedia, a conglomerate run by the artificial intelligence Layla Field, to make a series of adventures based on Benny's life. At first Benny is unwilling to co-operate, until Field informs her that they anticipate a projected 27 billion viewers. Dazed, Benny gives Field permission to go ahead, and discovers too late that by doing so she has made a binding oral contract and signed away all personal rights to her own likeness, personality, life history, and all future discoveries, until 100 years after her own death. Fortunately, a chance remark from a dealer in 20th-century antiquities gives her an idea, and after conducting some private research, Benny is able to prove that Layla Field started "life" as a character in a series of action-adventure video games -- and that she moved on to adult entertainment before reinventing herself as a respectable businesswoman. Benny presents Field with her findings, and blackmails her into reopening contract negotiations.

Source: Cameron Dixon
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