Robert Shearman

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Robert Shearman
Robert Shearman, August 2014
Robert Shearman, August 2014
BornRobert Charles Shearman
(1970-02-10) 10 February 1970 (age 53)
Horsham, Sussex, England
OccupationAuthor, playwright, screenwriter
GenreFantasy, horror, science fiction, dark fantasy, absurdism, magical realism, Black comedy

Robert Charles Shearman, sometimes credited as Rob Shearman, is an English television, radio, stage play and short story writer. He is known for his World Fantasy Award-winning short stories, as well as his work for Doctor Who, and his association with Jarvis & Ayres Productions (Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres) which has resulted in six plays for BBC Radio 4, broadcast in the station's regular weekday Afternoon Play slot, and one classic serial.


Shearman was educated at Reigate Grammar School (where he was a contemporary of David Walliams) and University of Exeter. During this time, he was regularly seen on stage at the university in various productions.[citation needed]


An established theatrical playwright, Shearman has worked with Alan Ayckbourn, had a play produced by Francis Ford Coppola, and has received several international awards for his work in theatre. Award-winning plays include Fool to Yourself, which premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1997, and which won the inaugural Sophie Winter Memorial Trust Award, Easy Laughter, (Sunday Times Playwriting Award), Coupling, (World Drama Trust Award), Binary Dreamers, (Guinness Award for Theatre Ingenuity, in association with the Royal National Theatre). In 1993 he was made resident dramatist at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, the youngest playwright to be honoured by the Arts Council in this way, and for them he wrote a series of plays, including his controversial comic fable about God living in suburbia, Breaking Bread Together, which later was revived in London. His association with his mentor, Alan Ayckbourn, has been particularly fruitful, with White Lies, About Colin, and Knights in Plastic Armour proving especially popular.

At this time Shearman was also encouraged to become a director for the theatre, largely reviving productions of his work abroad; in the 1990s he had a recurring engagement with the Teatro Agora in Rome, and, in 2007, the revival he directed of his comedy Shaw Cornered, was the stand-out hit as international guest at the Old World Theatre Festival in Delhi, India. In 2010, Big Finish published seven of his better known stage plays as Caustic Comedies.

His first television work was episodes of the 1950s-set rural drama Born and Bred, broadcast on BBC One.

Shearman also provided the initial script for the second series of the BBC 7 programme The Chain Gang: Picture This. The series was awarded a Bronze in the Sony Radio Academy Awards' "The Competition Award" category.[1] A further series of The Chain Gang, this time called Paper, Scissors, Stone, was a thirteen-part drama series, in which Shearman worked weekly from listeners' suggestions in shaping the story; this won a Silver at the Sony Radio Awards.

Doctor Who[edit]

His association with Doctor Who began with a play written for BBV Audios, Punchline, in which Sylvester McCoy played the Dominie, a disguised version of the Seventh Doctor. This was penned under the pseudonym "Jeremy Leadbetter" (the name of a character from the popular BBC sitcom The Good Life). Several audio plays for Big Finish followed, The Holy Terror, The Chimes of Midnight and Jubilee all winning best audio drama in the Doctor Who Magazine polls of their respective years. He has also had Doctor Who short stories published - his most recent being a chapter in the BBC Books novel The Story of Martha, which was released in December 2008.

Shearman wrote the television episode "Dalek" for the 2005 series of Doctor Who produced by Russell T Davies for the BBC. This was, at Davies' request, a re-working of the themes introduced in Shearman's earlier Big Finish audio play Jubilee. "Dalek" was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2006, and came in second in terms of votes for its category. Shearman provided an audio commentary for the episode on the Doctor Who – Complete First Series DVD box set.

In a 2021 interview, Shearman revealed he had been involved in development for Series 5, but later departed. Head writer Steven Moffat kept up an open invitation to return, but Shearman declined, citing changes in his career and the higher profile of writers on the series.[2]

Prose writing[edit]

His first book, a collection of short stories called Tiny Deaths, was published by Comma Press in November 2007. It was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize[3] and made the longlist for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.[4] In November 2008, it was named Best Collection at the annual World Fantasy Awards.[5] In 2009, one of the stories from the book, "No Looking Back", was selected by the National Library of Singapore for the Read! Singapore campaign, ensuring the story was published separately as a mini-book and distributed all over the country in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil; the author was flown over to Singapore to give talks and interviews.

His second collection, Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, was published in late 2009. An odder, darker book than the first, it won the British Fantasy Award, the Edge Hill Short Story Reader's Prize - making Shearman the first writer ever to be nominated twice for this award - and the Shirley Jackson Award. A special collector's edition contained "The Hidden Story"; a tale about letters found within books, each copy was handwritten by the author, and contained in envelopes within envelopes in a Russian doll effect.

In the same year, Mad Norwegian Press published Wanting to Believe, a book by Shearman that examines The X-Files and its spin-off series (Millennium and The Lone Gunmen) in a critical fashion. Also in 2009, Shearman collaborated with comedian Toby Hadoke to watch and comment on every episode of Doctor Who from the programme's debut in 1963 to David Tennant's final story. The resulting discussions are being published by Mad Norwegian Press in three volumes as Running Through Corridors: Rob and Toby's Marathon Watch of Doctor Who.[6] The first volume, covering the 1960s, was published in 2010; the second volume, covering the 1970s, was published in 2016.

His third collection, "half short stories, half novel", was published in June 2011, called Everyone's Just So So Special.


Shearman describes himself as a comedy writer, but it might be truer to call him an absurdist; most of his work, whatever the medium it is written for, is concerned with the effect on ordinary people when they're propelled into extraordinary or fantastical situations. His controversial early play, Easy Laughter, purports to be a Christmas domestic comedy, but eventually reveals itself to be set in an alternate history where the season celebrates not only the birth of Jesus but the successful extermination of the Jewish race. His WFA nominated short story, "Damned if You Don't", is at once a story about disillusioned marriage touching upon themes of what it means to be evil, but also about a man who goes to Hell and falls in love with the talking ghost of Hitler's childhood pet dog, who he had unwillingly been made roommates with.

Selected works[edit]


  1. ^ "Winners 2008: The Competition Award". Sony Radio Academy Awards. Zafer Associates. Retrieved 1 June 2008.
  2. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Doctor Who: Dalek - Rob Shearman INTERVIEW - The Trip of a Lifetime". YouTube.
  3. ^ "Literature Prize Shortlist Announced". Edge Hill University. 22 May 2008. Archived from the original on 4 June 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2008.
  4. ^ Irvine, Lindesay (6 May 2008). "Self-published author takes competition to bestseller rivals". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2008.
  5. ^ Popperwell, Katie (4 November 2008). "Comma Press scoops fantasy award". CityLife. M.E.N. media. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  6. ^ "Running Through Corridors: Rob and Toby's Marathon Watch of Doctor Who (Vol. 1: The 60s)". Mad Norwegian Press. Retrieved 10 March 2011.

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