007

I Read All 3000 Pages of Ian Fleming’s Groovy 007 Oeuvre

NOTE: This post originally appeared on September 13, 2013. I’m republishing it today for Ian Fleming’s 108th birthday.

Ian FlemingIn May of 2012, I finished a five-month stint of watching all the James Bond movies in order. When I was done, I somehow found myself no less unemployed than when I’d started, so I opted to rectify that the only way I knew how: by reading in order all of Ian Fleming’s 007 books — 12 novels and two short-story collections. It took me over a year, a rate of about one book per month.

I’d read two of Fleming’s stories before — Casino Royale 12 or 13 years ago, and Goldfinger when I was a teenager, from which for some reason I’ve always remembered the sentence, “Bond felt the skin-crawling tickle at the groin that dates from one’s first game of hide and seek in the dark.” — long enough ago that I didn’t know what to expect in terms of quality, theme, character, or anything else.

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Who is a Real-Life Bond Villain?

Today, possibly motivated by the new trailer for SPECTRE, a pal of mine asked on Facebook, “What living people are closest to being actual, real life Bond villains?” Knowing my affinity for 007, he singled me out for an answer. What follows is an expanded version of the comment I left.

A couple of early responders to his question named Dick Cheney, who at first glance seems like a good bet. He’s certainly a villain, likely psychopathic, and hideously deformed. But Cheney fails the crucial test of persona: a Bond villain must either be unknown to the general public–like Dr. No, Francisco Scaramanga, or Blofeld–or must be known to the general public but no one suspects to be villainous–like Hugo Drax, Elliot Carver, or Max Zorin. 1A commenter suggested a third type, that of the person that everyone knows is a villain but no one can stop. He for that reason nominated Vladimir Putin, an interesting choice, especially since Vlad is unnervingly similar to General Orlov from Octopussy, who conceives a knotty scheme to bring glory to the Soviet Union by planting a nuke in a circus cannon, a plan which one imagines were it pitched to Putin he’d shrug and say, “Worth a try.” But I can’t think of an actual Bond enemy in the books or movies that fits that described persona. It better describes a Batman villain. Cheney’s too obviously evil to qualify.

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1. A commenter suggested a third type, that of the person that everyone knows is a villain but no one can stop. He for that reason nominated Vladimir Putin, an interesting choice, especially since Vlad is unnervingly similar to General Orlov from Octopussy, who conceives a knotty scheme to bring glory to the Soviet Union by planting a nuke in a circus cannon, a plan which one imagines were it pitched to Putin he’d shrug and say, “Worth a try.” But I can’t think of an actual Bond enemy in the books or movies that fits that described persona. It better describes a Batman villain.

I’m Unemployed, But I Still Pay the Artists Who Work With Me. Why Can’t This Hollywood Mogul?

photo by https://www.flickr.com/people/vagueonthehow/ target="_blank">vagueontheshow
photo © vagueonthehow

The Internet it buzzes this morning about a “bootleg James Bond” video by producer Adi Shankar, creator of other “fan” videos based on copyright properties, including a Power Rangers homage/parody/rip-off that’s garnered 18 million play-presses. The premise for “James Bond: In Service of Nothing” actually sounds fascinating for a committed pan-media Bond-liker such as me: 1I do, after all, even have a 007 tag on my blog. a retired 007 struggles to figure out how to live when he no longer has to kill. I don’t know if the short lives up to the premise, though, because it’s already been yoinked from YouTube due to a (valid) copyright complaint from MGM.

But that doesn’t matter, because I’m less interested in Adi Shankar’s movie than I am in something he said to Deadline Hollywood while promoting it:

[Shankar] said it was done mainly with all volunteer work, favors and an animation collective. He said the costs were minimal. “When people are passionate about something, they just want to do it,” he told Deadline. “These are the same models that these digital artists are doing. They are doing things for the collective good.”

Adi not only didn’t pay the artists who worked on his movie, he also thinks asking people to work for free for his betterment is a legitimate business model.

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1. I do, after all, even have a 007 tag on my blog.

Which of You Canadians Wants to Pay Me to Write the Annotated 007?

Well, Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels are now public domain in Canada. We grungy Americans won’t get our hands on them until 2059 and even Fleming’s fellow Brits have to wait until another 20 years, but the laws of the Great White North, along with nationalizing an entire strain of bacon, mandate that books enter the public domain 50 years after the death of the author. It’s been just over that long since 007 creator collapsed and died after dinner at the Royal St George’s Golf Club.

So if you’re an American who wants to spite sentient jalapeño popper Rush Limbaugh, who dimwittedly insists that Idris Elba can’t become the next cinematic 007 — despite being the first choice of Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal and many Bond fans — because Elba is black and the literary Bond is white, now’s your chance to move to Vancouver to write and publish a 007 novel in which James is a towering Anglo-African with a six-song hip-hop EP. 1While I think Elba would make a great Bond, I wonder what Rushtopher would think of my current first choice for the part: Anglo-Indian actor Raza Jaffrey, most recently seen as Pakistani intelligence officer Aasar Khan on Homeland.

More importantly, now’s the chance for a Canadian publisher to hire me to write The Complete Annotated Ian Fleming’s 007. I meet at least the minimum requirements of having read all the books and possessing a valid library card. There’s no belletristic job I’d rather take on, and it seems only fair to throw me a bone since another Jewish TV writer, Anthony Horowitz, not only was selected to write the newest authorized Bond novel but also authored Moriarty, a Sherlock Holmes book sanctioned by the Conan Doyle estate. Since Horowitz now has control of two of my favorite fictional characters, and therefore it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the next showrunner of Doctor Who while writing the Indiana Jones reboot and tongue-kissing the ghost of Anita Ekberg, I don’t feel like I’m asking too much. 2As envious as I am that one writer landed both of those gigs, it’s not unprecedented. John Gardner, who wrote the first post-Fleming 007 novels and actually authored more than the man himself, also wrote three Moriarty novels.

To prove my devotion to this project and enthusiasm for all things north of North Dakota, I’ve compiled a list of hilariously named actual Canadian newspapers:

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1. While I think Elba would make a great Bond, I wonder what Rushtopher would think of my current first choice for the part: Anglo-Indian actor Raza Jaffrey, most recently seen as Pakistani intelligence officer Aasar Khan on Homeland.
2. As envious as I am that one writer landed both of those gigs, it’s not unprecedented. John Gardner, who wrote the first post-Fleming 007 novels and actually authored more than the man himself, also wrote three Moriarty novels.

Stuff I Liked in 2014, pt. 2 – Books

Looking over my Goodreads page, I was shocked to learn that the number of books I read this year precipitously dropped 70% compared to 2013. But that seems like a fair trade-off for gaining 11 levels in online Boggle. Since I never manage to read new books, here are the most interesting ones from any year that I finished in 2014.

 
The James Bond Dossier by Kingsley AmisThe James Bond Dossier
by Kingsley Amis

I don’t have many opportunities to call things “jaunty,” so I’ll call this book a jaunty defense of Ian Fleming’s work, the kind you’d hear passionately laid out from one fanboy to another after several beers’ worth of debate in an alternate universe where all fanboys are Kingsley Amis, Stephen Fry, and Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes. Like any good fanboy defense, and there aren’t any, Kingsley’s repeatedly turns into a mitigation, admitting to and excusing some of the worst qualities of Fleming’s work. This becomes a tad unbearable when Amis tries to mount a defense for, say, casual racism. But the rest of the time his lengthy essay is astute and harmless and a good time for anyone who’s read all of the original Bond books and wants some light critique of them, i.e. no one (barring me and some pasty men who died when Roger Moore still had human skin).

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Stuff I’ve Read: Feb.-Mar. 2014

To regularly keep up with what I’m reading, please follow me on Goodreads.

The James Bond DossierThe James Bond Dossier
by Kingsley Amis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t have many opportunities to call things “jaunty,” so I’ll call this book a jaunty defense of Ian Fleming’s work, the kind you’d hear passionately laid out from one fanboy to another after several beers’ worth of debate in an alternate universe where all fanboys are Kingsley Amis, Stephen Fry, and Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes. Like any good fanboy defense, and there aren’t any, Kingsley’s repeatedly turns into a mitigation, admitting to and excusing some of the worst qualities of Fleming’s work. This becomes a tad unbearable when Amis tries to mount a defense for, say, casual racism. But the rest of the time his lengthy essay is astute and harmless and a good time for anyone who’s read all of the original Bond books and wants some light critique of them, i.e. no one. (Barring me and some pasty men who died when Roger Moore still had human skin.)

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2013: A Year in Media Absorption, pt. 3 – Books

I very rarely read new books, because I can’t afford to buy them, and the throngs senior-citizen library groupies have them checked out for months. So here are the 10 1ish best books from any year that I read in 2013.

The Player of Games by Iain M. BanksThe Player of Games
by Iain M. Banks

The great irony of speculative fiction about futuristic societies is that it dates itself way before the future actually gets here. Technology outruns imagination, or at least outmaneuvers it, making an author’s visions of tomorrow seem quaint before he’s even dead. Which makes it so impressive that I had to keep reminding myself that The Player of Games was written 25 years ago, before most people had ever used a mobile phone or anything resembling email or the Internet, and when cloud-based computing, digital imaging, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology were all dreams. All of those and their offspring play crucial roles in Banks’s novel, yet his versions never seem like archaic extrapolations of 1980s technology. If the publisher had changed the date on the The Player of Games’s copyright page to 2013, I would’ve believed that Banks had conceived it this year. That’s an amazing testament to his vision and his skill, in a story that’s a flat-out blast to read. It was my first dip into the Culture series, and knowing that eight more novels are waiting out there for me is like having found a pile of unopened Christmas presents.

The Bloom County Library, Vol. 4: 1986-1987The Bloom County Library, Vol. 4: 1986-1987
by Berkeley Breathed

The very first strip in this collection reminded me of Berkeley Breathed’s most brilliant idea in Bloom County: that Opus, Milo, Steve, and all the others are actors performing in a scripted production, like a sitcom that that we view through the windows of the panels, but that those actors are playing themselves living their real lives in the world of Bloom County, which only exists for our benefit.

Alas, this also made me realize that I subconsciously stole that idea whole cloth for a pilot I wrote in 2010. It’s flattery, Berke.

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1. ish