Die Another David: James Bond-age with David Nickle

Licence Expired: The Unau­tho­rized James Bond (ChiZine 2015)

In coop­er­a­tion with the strik­ing­ly beau­ti­ful and tal­ent­ed peo­ple behind 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 since I’m well aware that I am also one of the contributors—my short fic­tion “Not an Hon­ourable Dis­ease” makes up the clos­ing story—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-any­where-else-in-the-known-uni­verse copy of Licence Expired.

I’ll be post­ing inter­views in order of the Table of Con­tents. So, with­out fur­ther ado, we begin with a head hon­cho behind this enter­prise:

Co-Head of Secret Ser­vice, Code Let­ter “N”

David Nickle

David Nick­le

David Nick­le is the author of sev­er­al nov­els and numer­ous short stories—most recent­ly col­lect­ed in Knife Fight and Oth­er Strug­gles. He is a past win­ner of the Bram Stok­er Award, Auro­ra Award, and Black Quill Award, and recent­ly co-edit­ed The Exile Book of Cana­di­an Noir with Claude Lalu­mière. He lives in Toron­to, where he works as a jour­nal­ist. He can be found on Twit­ter at @bydavidnickle, or online at his blog/website The Devil’s Exer­cise Yard.

So why the anthol­o­gy, David?

[Made­line Ash­by and I] actu­al­ly had both read an arti­cle on io9 in Jan­u­ary, not­ing that Fleming’s work was in pub­lic domain here. The idea came simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and apart: I was on my way home from work, Made­line was at home, and we both had the same notion: we’re Cana­di­an, I have a great pub­lish­er, and between the two of us we know a lot of real­ly strong writ­ers who might also enjoy a go at the char­ac­ter.

What was your intro­duc­tion to the world of Bond?

It was prob­a­bly in the school­yard, and on a lit­tle black and white TV set. James Bond was a for­bid­den fruit for small chil­dren: this suave, ath­let­ic and ulti­mate­ly vio­lent fig­ure who had a toy­box full of gad­gets. I think it might have been a Match­box Aston Mar­tin owned by one psy­chot­ic lit­tle friend or anoth­er, with ejec­tor seat and machine­guns in the head­lamps that did it for me.

What do you hope to accom­plish by pub­lish­ing the first unof­fi­cial col­lec­tion of all-new Bond sto­ries?

It is not, first, to sim­ply pub­lish all-new James Bond sto­ries. Var­i­ous authors approved by Ian Fleming’s estate are doing a fine job of that; there’s a new one out right now, in fact, Trig­ger Mor­tis.

What we want­ed to do was give real­ly good authors free reign to write about James Bond in a way that doesn’t have brand con­sid­er­a­tion: in a way that cri­tiques the char­ac­ter of James Bond and the assump­tions and val­ues that inform his world. When we put out the call for sto­ries we made that clear: that we want­ed to hear sto­ries that dealt with the misog­y­ny, the racism, the snob­bery and the sub­stance-abuse issues.

Where would you advise a Bond new­bie to start?

As a per­son, Bond is a mess. Not a hate­ful mess; as Flem­ing writes him, Bond attempts to do good, and in fact does inso­far as he does a good job, but he is con­sumed with his prej­u­dices and snob­beries and his sadis­tic misog­y­ny, and it fre­quent­ly gets the bet­ter of him.
I would say where Flem­ing start­ed: with Casi­no Royale. It is in many ways the strongest nov­el in the series, and gives lie to the notion that James Bond is all about giant, absurd con­spir­a­cies of world dom­i­na­tion. In fact, in the nov­els world dom­i­na­tion is nev­er real­ly on the table and glob­al­ly-rel­e­vant con­spir­a­cies only occa­sion­al­ly.

Why do you think Bond has such last­ing appeal?

The sto­ry-telling pow­er that Flem­ing brought to the books was a high-octane begin­ning to the series, but you can’t pin the longevi­ty of the char­ac­ter and idea just to that. Bond as he’s been writ­ten and filmed and drawn, presents a seduc­tive and weird­ly sub­ver­sive mod­el of mas­culin­i­ty, and is also show­cas­es lux­u­ry in all its forms—all of it in the con­text of pow­er­ful pow­er fan­ta­sy.

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

I would like to see a movie series reboot that takes James Bond back to his roots in the 1950s, and does fair­ly faith­ful adap­ta­tions of some of the ear­ly books. It would be tough—the racism and sex­ism and so on is prob­lem­at­ic. But redo­ing Casi­no Royale in the 50s, or From Rus­sia With Love as a peri­od cold war drama…that would be inter­est­ing.

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

As a per­son, Bond is a mess. Not a hate­ful mess; as Flem­ing writes him, Bond attempts to do good, and in fact does inso­far as he does a good job, but he is con­sumed with his prej­u­dices and snob­beries and his sadis­tic misog­y­ny, and it fre­quent­ly gets the bet­ter of him.

Fred Mac­Mur­ray as Bond? You know, I can see this.

Favourite/least favourite movie Bond?

I like Sean Con­nery best, I’m afraid. He had a bru­tal direct­ness to him and was able to car­ry off the hedo­nis­tic Bond in a way that no one else could. I didn’t care for Pierce Bros­nan at all; in part because the films them­selves were so dull, but Bros­nan also had a flat­ness to his deliv­ery that sucked the oxy­gen out of the room.

Who should play James Bond after Daniel Craig?

Corey, Corey, Corey…You’re not going to get me into that fight. There was a time that I want­ed to see the Fred Mac­Mur­ray James Bond, but that ship has long ago sailed.

Favourite Bond nov­el?

I real­ly like the nov­el Casi­no Royale; it’s a tight and sur­pris­ing thriller, inge­nious­ly turn­ing a sim­ple card game into a ter­ri­ble duel, with often beau­ti­ful­ly pulpy prose.

Licence Expired: The Unau­tho­rized James Bond (ChiZine 2015)

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