The By Who Loved Lee: James Bond-age with Richard Lee Byers

Licence Expired: The Unau­tho­rized James Bond (ChiZine 2015)

In coop­er­a­tion with ChiZine pub­lish­ing (the peo­ple who intro­duced me to the writ­ings of Lavie Tid­har, Gem­ma Files, Craig David­son, Claude Lalu­mière, Helen Mar­shall, James Mar­shall, and so many oth­er legit­i­mate­ly awe­some writ­ers), I here­by present James Bond-age, a series of inter­views with the many bril­liant con­trib­u­tors who make up the pub­lished as of yes­ter­day Licence Expired: The Unau­tho­rized James Bond.

Now we’re all adults here, so it can’t come as a sur­prise to you that it’s not a coin­ci­dence I’m also one of the contributors—my short sto­ry “Not an Hon­ourable Dis­ease” clos­es the anthology—so just roll with it. If it does sur­prise you? Wel­come to the Inter­net! (I’m assum­ing some­one so naïve has nev­er surfed the web before.)

Click here for infor­ma­tion on how to pur­chase your very own, only-legal-in-Cana­da-and-New-Zealand-and-Chi­na copy of Licence Expired.

I’ll be post­ing inter­views in order of the Table of Con­tents. Today’s author?

Spe­cial Agent 003, Licence to Scrib­ble

Richard Lee Byers

Richard Lee Byers

Richard Lee Byers is the author of over forty fan­ta­sy and hor­ror nov­els includ­ing Blind God’s Bluff: A Bil­ly Fox Nov­el and the Black Riv­er Irreg­u­lars tril­o­gy (forth­com­ing). His short fic­tion has appeared in numer­ous antholo­gies, and he has col­lect­ed some of the best of it in the eBooks The Plague Knight and Oth­er Sto­ries, The Q Word and Oth­er Sto­ries, and Zom­bies in Par­adise. A res­i­dent of the Tam­pa Bay area, Byers writes an opin­ion col­umn for the SF news site Air­lock Alpha.


Tell us about your sto­ry, “Red Indi­ans.”

My sto­ry is set between Casi­no Royale and Live and Let Die. I hes­i­tate to say too much more about it for fear of spoil­ing it, but it’s about Bond prepar­ing phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly to go to war with SMERSH.

How did the idea for your sto­ry come about?

When [co-edi­tor] David Nick­le invit­ed me to sub­mit I start­ed reread­ing Flem­ing, some­thing I hadn’t done in decades. It popped out at me that Bond’s ordeal in the first nov­el was pret­ty darn trau­ma­tiz­ing, he’s good to go in the sec­ond, and Flem­ing doesn’t ful­ly explain how he bounces back. So that seemed like a good sub­ject to explore.

What was your first intro­duc­tion to the world of James Bond?

I’m old enough that I was in junior high or there­abouts when the Bond nov­els first came out in paper­back in the US from Signet. I loved them and at that age, in that era, was bliss­ful­ly obliv­i­ous to what many of us in the 21st Cen­tu­ry see as their more prob­lem­at­ic fea­tures. I also caught the Sean Con­nery movies when they hit my local the­ater, but unless my mem­o­ry is play­ing tricks on me, I dis­cov­ered the nov­els first.

Live and Let Die, first edi­tion, 1964

Where would you advise a Bond new­bie to start?

To my mind, Live and Let Die is one of the more enter­tain­ing books, and since it comes ear­ly in the series, it makes a good start. Any­one who likes the sto­ries is going to want to read Casi­no Royale in due course, but I don’t think it quite dis­plays all the attrac­tions of the char­ac­ter and his adven­tures the way that lat­er sto­ries do.

Why do you think James Bond has such last­ing appeal?

A hero who defeats bizarre but for­mi­da­ble vil­lains, beds gor­geous women, and enjoys an epi­cure­an lifestyle has obvi­ous appeal. Beyond that, Bond’s life and char­ac­ter present con­tra­dic­tions. He’s often cold and ruth­less, yet he’s capa­ble of gen­uine affec­tion and some­times even quixot­ic impuls­es. He goes on extra­or­di­nary adven­tures, but between mis­sions he works in an office and has a boss like an aver­age guy.

In the world of Bond, what would you like to see hap­pen?

This won’t hap­pen, but I would pre­fer that any new fic­tion or movies be set in the time peri­od Flem­ing inhab­it­ed and wrote about. I think Bond works bet­ter and makes more sense in that con­text.

As a per­son, Bond’s a lit­tle like that friend many of us have who pos­sess­es some unen­light­ened if not pos­i­tive­ly atavis­tic atti­tudes but who’s good com­pa­ny and can be count­ed on to have your back.
Best thing about the James Bond fran­chise? Worst?

The best thing is the way it serves up exot­ic if not pre­pos­ter­ous adven­tures and yet still makes its lead feel real, at least for the length of time that you’re actu­al­ly expe­ri­enc­ing the sto­ry. The worst is when the movies become com­plete­ly tongue-in-cheek.

If you were a secret agent, what would your ide­al mis­sion be?

Since I’m not excep­tion­al­ly coura­geous or espe­cial­ly ath­let­ic, I don’t think my ide­al mis­sion would be much like Bond’s typ­i­cal one in terms of fight­ing, killing, etc. I’d prob­a­bly just be snoop­ing around for infor­ma­tion. I hope that wouldn’t pre­clude get­ting as much sex as Bond does, but hon­est­ly, I’m not opti­mistic on that score.

Real­is­ti­cal­ly, if you worked for MI6, what would your posi­tion be?

Data ana­lyst, cryp­tog­ra­ph­er, or admin­is­tra­tive.

What’s your opin­ion of Bond as a per­son? As a secret agent?

As a per­son, he’s racist and sex­ist. He’s also brave, ded­i­cat­ed, and loy­al. He’s a lit­tle like that friend many of us have who pos­sess­es some unen­light­ened if not pos­i­tive­ly atavis­tic atti­tudes but who’s good com­pa­ny and can be count­ed on to have your back. As a secret agent, you could argue that he’s a tad heavy-hand­ed. He rarely seems to get the job done with­out land­ing him­self in extreme dan­ger along the way. But then again, maybe those are just the mis­sions Flem­ing chose to write about, and most of the time, he achieves his objec­tive with­out being IDed or leav­ing a trail of corpses in his wake.

Roger Moore as The Saint

Favourite/least favourite movie Bond?

Since Sean Con­nery was the first one I saw, and I saw him at an impres­sion­able age, it’s tough to pick any­one but him. I do think, though, that of all of them, Tim­o­thy Dal­ton most resem­bled the char­ac­ter as writ­ten by Flem­ing. It’s too bad oth­er aspects of his movies aren’t as strong. My least favorite is Roger Moore. I felt like he just kept on play­ing the Saint like he did on TV. I like the Saint, but Simon Tem­plar and James Bond are not the same guy.

Who should play James Bond next?

No idea. Peo­ple have sug­gest­ed Idris Elba, and I think he’d be fine if, as it seems over­whelm­ing­ly like­ly that Bond is going to be an updat­ed, con­tem­po­rary char­ac­ter.

Favourite Bond novel/movie? Least favourite? Why?

I real­ly like both Dr. No and On Her Majesty’s Secret Ser­vice in both book and movie incar­na­tions. The for­mer has the best of the wild pulp-fla­vored arch-vil­lains and Bond run­ning the gant­let of dead­ly per­ils. The lat­ter has the cool ski chase and the unex­pect­ed end­ing. Among the films, Sky­fall is good, too. It rejects the notion of Bond as an imper­vi­ous super­man, some­thing Flem­ing like­ly would have endorsed, and cel­e­brates the series as a whole. My least favorite nov­el is The Spy Who Loved Me because Bond just isn’t in it very much. My least favorite movie is any of the Roger Moore ones. They’re just too campy for my taste.

Favourite Bond char­ac­ter who isn’t Bond?

My favorite is Felix Leit­er who’s extreme­ly lik­able and shows us what Flem­ing con­sid­ered the best things about Amer­i­cans. Leit­er could have car­ried his own spin­off series of nov­els if Flem­ing had seen fit to write them.

Will a vil­lain ever learn to not give Bond a sport­ing chance at escape?

Not if Bond’s sur­vival and thus the prop­er res­o­lu­tion of the plot require the exot­ic exe­cu­tion machine or what­ev­er.


Licence Expired: The Unau­tho­rized James Bond (ChiZine 2015)

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