In cooperation with the greatest genre publisher in the world today, ChiZine publishing, I hereby present James Bond-age: The Licence Expired Interviews, a series of interviews with the many brilliant contributors who make up the newly-published Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond.
And yeah, I’m one of the contributors—my short fiction “Not an Honourable Disease” makes up the closing story—so you needn’t point out the conflict of interest here. I’m a writer/publicist, not a journalist. My blog, my rules.
Click here for information on how to purchase your very own, not-available-in-the-United-States copy of Licence Expired.
I’ll be posting interviews in order of the Table of Contents. Today’s author?
Special Agent 005, Licence to Pencil in the Margins
E.L. Chen is the author of the YA fantasy novel The Good Brother (ChiTeen, 2015). Her short fiction has been published in anthologies such as Masked Mosaic, The Dragon and the Stars, and Tesseracts Fifteen, and in magazines such as Strange Horizons and On Spec. She lives in Toronto with a very nice husband, their young son, and a requisite cat. Anything else she doesn’t mind you knowing can be found at elchen.ca.
Tell us about your story, “Half the Sky.”
“Half the Sky” is me writing an Ian Fleming short story in which Bond encounters an old foe in Hong Kong, five years after the events of Dr. No. I’m totally aping Fleming’s voice, right down to the story structure, so if readers enjoy it I can’t guarantee you’ll like my other work.
How did the idea come about?
The story is my reaction to Dr. No. I’d never read any Fleming before and although I was expecting the worst, the racism in that book horrified me, especially as a woman of Chinese descent. Bond has a classical heroic streak when it comes to damsels in distress, and yet he does nothing when Quarrel nearly breaks the photographer’s arm. The Chinese women in Dr. No are pretty much invisible.
Unfortunately because I was writing within the parameters of Ian Fleming’s world, Bond doesn’t quite get his comeuppance, but it was a great deal of fun to write.
What was your first introduction to James Bond?
I was never exposed to the books as a kid; perhaps because of my age, perhaps because I’m second-generation Chinese. I was born in 1977, so my first introduction would’ve been catching bits of Sean Connery and Roger Moore on TV. The first full Bond movie I saw was The Living Daylights. I know Timothy Dalton isn’t a fan favourite but for me, as a kid, the movie hit the sweet spot of action and humour. The cello case chase scene was the best thing ever to a 10-year old.
Where would you advise a Bond newbie to start?
Not Casino Royale. It was Fleming’s first novel, and it shows. Lots of boring bits about baccarat that made my eyes cross. Goldfinger or Dr. No, if only because Sean Connery’s Bond—as well as iconic scenes like Ursula Andress rising out of the sea and the girl painted gold—are a part of popular culture now. It would be easiest to slip into those books.
Why do you think James Bond has such lasting appeal?
It’s the glamour of being able to authoritatively do what you want (in the name of good, of course), while wearing nice clothes and driving fast cars and associating with beautiful people. That kind of power is exciting when you’re a kid. It’s like a Hardy Boys or English boarding school story, in which kids have adventures with little supervision—and get to eat lots of great food besides. That appeal never goes away as we become grownups with mortgages and jobs and responsibilities.
Also, film-wise, the brand’s been consistent since the ’60s. The psychedelic opening credits, the dramatic theme song, the gun barrel sequence. It’s the equivalent of the Nike swoosh. A Bond film is instantly recognizable. Just the first few bars of the instrumental theme sends my pulse racing.
If you were a spy, what would your ideal mission be? Your spy name?
A reconnaissance mission that would involve me people-watching on a tropical beach with many boozy fruity drinks. My spy name would be Margarita Ville.
If you worked for MI6, what would your position be?
Film-wise, the brand’s been consistent since the ’60s. The psychedelic opening credits, the dramatic theme song, the gun barrel sequence. It’s the equivalent of the Nike swoosh. A Bond film is instantly recognizable. Just the first few bars of the instrumental theme sends my pulse racing.Considering I’m asthmatic and have terrible eyesight, I would definitely have a desk job. I work in web design so I always thought that if Canada ever instituted the draft, I’d be designing propaganda websites and PowerPoint presentations.
Favourite/least favourite movie Bond?
I’m enjoying Daniel Craig. Like Sean Connery’s Bond he fills out a suit nicely and enjoys the finer things in life but he’s still a tough, the blunt instrument that Fleming envisioned. He moves across the screen like a caged tiger. Brosnan, Moore and Dalton had the suaveness down pat but you never got the sense that they’d had a rough life.
I do have a soft spot for Dalton because of The Living Daylights, so I’d have to say my least favourite Bond is Moore. He’s a bit on the smarmy side. I haven’t seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service so I can’t comment on Lazenby.
Who should play Bond after Daniel Craig?
I’m on Team Idris. But I’m intrigued by the possibility of Damian Lewis. If he dyed his hair dark he would fulfil Fleming’s vision of Bond as Hoagy Carmichael. Lewis has that lean, craggy look to him.
Least favourite Bond movie?
I have terrible memories of License to Kill. I was 12 years old and expecting another fun Living Daylights and was horribly traumatized by the violence. The woman who gets fridged at the beginning was Terri from Three’s Company, for Pete’s sake, and I was old enough to recognize that her death was a) horrifying and senseless and b) a cliché.
I hated Die Another Day too. I think it’s great that Halle Berry got a starring role but otherwise they were going through the motions. It was someone’s idea of a Bond movie, like they’d let a bunch of schoolkids write the screenplay. “Let’s give him an invisible car! And the dialogue should be full of double entendres!” And then the zingers turn out to not be very zingy at all.
Favourite Bond character who isn’t Bond?
Judi Dench as M. I’m so glad they kept her after the Pierce Brosnan films. She got all the best lines (“Christ, I miss the Cold War”) and she got to tell off Brosnan’s Bond for being a sexist dinosaur. Also I loved that you saw that she had a husband in Casino Royale. It was just a little detail in the background but made her more real than previous Ms, who just came off as faceless bureaucrats.
As of writing this, I haven’t seen Spectre, but I’m really excited for it. I don’t even care if it’s bad. Like I said, it’s a brand.
And I can’t wait to see how other writers have interpreted Fleming’s work. I’m more excited about Licence Expired than anything else I’ve ever written, including my own novel. Heh.
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