A word about continuity (nearer 8,000 ‘cos it’s me, yeah?). More hindrance than help?
Too broad a question? That, though, suggests a norm for framing questions. An act of continuity. This 007th Chapter has imploded earlier than usual. “Than usual” also embraces continuity and now my nodes are tingly. Deep breath from the diaphragm, application of discount myrrh: onward.
Evidently there exist enterprises of a whole, but presented in slices to enable us to tolerate them. One thinks of JRR Tolkein and those walking hairy-footed along his path. There is, obviously, a difference between continuity of crumbs of a cake already baked, and where my despair lies ripely rummaged: imposing continuity onto things not devised with much, or any. Some say retrospectively connecting disparate episodes creates unity, a universe. Claptrap: it doesn’t develop the “universe” but hems it in, an understanding of a universe that posits it as finite, within trussed-up boundaries, successfully failing to appreciate what a universe ectually is. Everything that has ever been or ever will be may indeed be connected, but chaining it is forced labour, and slavery is just so naughty.
If an endeavour is designed as partworks of a thought-through story, then super and duper. If not, why bother? It only causes arguing. Example: the New Testament (King James Special Edition, with multiple deleted scenes. No Easter Eggs; Easter’s a sore point. Several sore points). Shoved together over many years, multiple authors can’t determine whether the angel spoke to Mary or to Joseph to proclaim the dodgy paternity of their sprog. Nor can they decide whether Hell is a furnace (accordingly, light-emitting) or an outer darkness (accordingly, not). Similarly, inconsistency in how many doubted Jesus’s resurrection; indeed, folk would disbelieve the whole show if they had just done a box-set catch-up and tried to make sense of the peasant-scaring drivel. Things aren’t helped by the Lad Himself claiming that “defraud not” is one of the Ten Commandments; convenient later-season reset-button retconning that sloppily contradicts the Exodus story arc, etc.
More contemporaneous examples of forced continuity arise in enterprises initially well-intended, aiming to inspire one out of bed, to go boldly, standing testament to self-stretching effort. These, however, seem particularly subject to imposition of, and squabbling about, consistency from the compact confines of minds all-a-basement-bound. Star Trek, Star Wars, the Doctor Who Children’s Programme, all shrink into riffing on old routines, stuff they’ve already exhausted, lest “people” upset themselves, and others, because the complacent safe-space of fond memory is forever sullied. The more imagination the makers of the material occasionally show, the greater the display of enraged, spavined underambition by the recipients, their self-awarded entitlement to have the same thing forever is challenged, and challenged so, so unfairly. Why must things change, Mummy? Well, Darling, it’s so we don’t communicate by smearing excrement on cave walls. But Mummy, isn’t that Twitter? Yes Darling, you may have a point there.
An earlier instalment did X, so X is THE LAW and it would break everything to go outwith X. Laws, though, change (perhaps not that of gravity, although that’s debatable as I am heavier than 20 years ago and there’s no other reason why). This is why legislatures and judges exist. We don’t pay Window Tax any more, and witch-hunting has gone, except online. I accept the doctrine of precedent, but that can’t be mistaken for rigid adherence. Legal practice, at least in a common law system, relies on distinguishing prior decisions and moving things on, not sticking to them because, y’know, Thor’s hat has always been blue and must stay that way because otherwise… otherwise nothing. It’s never not the right time to trump a former precedent: time for ex-precedent trump.
(Yes, all this nonsense was building up to that).
“Make more of the thing I liked” is the death of art. That’s why they’re the artists and we’re just the little people in the dark. It’s like when one saunters through the Uffizi (it’s a big gallery full of lovely paintings, not the sort you lot are allowed to make with potato halves) and it’s relentless (as I’m sure you’ve noticed), Adoration of the infant or Pietas, that’s all there is for a dozen rooms and by God, it’s dull, the same bleeding thing over and over, occasionally changing the music over the gunbarrel but, y’know, big snore. When one finally happens across the secularity of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino, say, one is not only relieved but also appreciates the point. Progress. Interest. I accept the mantra “Give the people what they want” on the basis “want” has its meaning of “lack”. The people don’t lack the stuff they’ve had before.
“But… I don’t want progress. I want everything to stay the same. I was happy then, and now my happiness is threatened. How dare they try something new? How dare they molest my memory and go beyond the confines of my peanut of a soul? In episode 12 of season 5, the Socratic Jibbler of T’Drang had puce teats, not green. How can they get it so wrong? My childhood is raped (although if I was aware of sexual intercourse I wouldn’t bandy that about). I have started a Facebook group.”
There’s a Bond film called Quantum of Solace… you’ll just love that. It’s supposed to be direct continuity but gloriously takes every opportunity not to be, just to ruin it for everyone. Magnificent.
Perhaps more to the point, if there is one, there’s a Bond film called SPECTRE. As continuity, it curates flaws. Did the Vesper Lynd plot need more explaining, or explaining in the manner chosen, creating new (awful) story threads when the principal one is left hanging? Bond lost the money in Casino Royale (nobody is angry) thereby funding baddies. His intervention made things worse, confirming the incompetence of the Dench M. Save for the hurried explanation for why Bond later goes to Haiti, this is never subsequently addressed. Weird. Insofar as they felt it wise for SPECTRE to explore (badly, blindly) the repercussions of Bond’s actions, it’s an open goal missed that there’s no acknowledgement that Bond made the villain stronger, that for all his ostensible success and heroism and lovely watches and cars, he’s ectually endangered more people by ultimately enabling Blofeld to do the… thing with information (still unclear). But there I am, despite my ministrations, imposing a different continuity, albeit one that proclaims James Bond to be crap at his job.
It’s nothing new for the Bonds to boast references to previous adventures (GoldenEye is naught else but this) albeit there are only two worth contemplating: the maddeningly unexplained scar thing in From Russia with Love, and the Craig Bond’s stationery fetish. A request for some (he can’t spell the word) is the subject of his last email before his resignation in Casino Royale, and he’s still looking for it one film later. Fab. Don’t give him those silly gadgets; all he really wants is a stapler.
Nor was Fleming averse to the occasional reminder of past adventures, but SPECTRE’s most egregious error was to render the whole plot a back-reference, and crunchingly re-write whole plots of earlier entries in its wake, shrinking Bond’s universe rather than expanding it. Once shrunk, it fits as badly as Little Daniel’s suits. Think on that first press conference of October 2005, the point that those writing the history of the internet will specify as the moment it changed from cat pictures and porn to under-educated savagery and porn. You know, the one where Mr Craig turned up in armbands. If at that point the plan ectually was in the Eon hive-mind to work towards Bond and Blofeld being childhood rivals (we are meant to believe everything came from this), it was a sensible strategy not to mention it and instead misdirect the loons into thinking they were onto a valid point by banging on about continuity of hair colour. Poor little sods. How little they knew. How much they exposed of how little they knew. Had that particular crimson fireball been hurled at us, I might have joined them, although I doubt I can summon up so much pig-ignorance. You might not doubt that.
There’s also a Bond film called Licence to Kill… which I don’t like. Not one bit. Aha! You might say (it’s a multisyllable, so it’s no higher than “might”): you don’t like it because you don’t think it’s much of a Bond film. Therefore you have a preconceived set standard of “Bond film” so you’re as culpable as those you mock of clinging onto consistency. There you go, putting the hippo into hypocrite. To which my primary response is: nob off. To which my secondary response is that the joke at the end works best in the audiobook version of this tosh (and is very hurtful). To which my tertiary response is: no, it’s because it relies on too much canker from the Bond series, all the desiccated norms stretched thin, that it’s a vat of unmitigated arse. You’d have been better off pointing out – pointing’s a motor skill – that all these 007th Chapter pieces represent continuity at its most depressingly anal. My rejoinder is to wonder how we got onto the subject of bottoms. Again.
Meanwhile, meet the author.
For the Armchair Detective edition of his novelisation (ugh) of 1989’s inadequate little film Licence to Kill, Mr Gardner appears to have considered it sensible to pen the following introduction (reproduced here in this Couch Potato edition of the 007th Chapter for the purposes of “research” (cough), critical appraisal and in awed disbelief at its majestic peevishness):
In 1979, when I was living in the Republic of Ireland, out of the grey skies (you do not get many blue ones in Ireland) I was invited by Glidrose Publications - the literary copyright owners of James Bond - to take up the late Ian Fleming’s mantle and write some continuation James Bond novels.
Call it my female intuition going wobbly but I’m getting a whiff of a scintilla of a gossamer thread of a vibe of “none of this is my fault”. Might be wrong. However, I’m grumpy and I recognise a fellow traveller.
Both Glidrose and myself realized that we could fall flat on our faces. We also knew that, as far as those self-appointed guardians of literary taste- the critics (known in the trade as the Sixth through Sixth-Thousand Horsemen of the Apocalypse) we were in a no-win situation. As it turned out, our original deal for three books has grown into eight; I am writing the ninth, and the company who owns me has just signed me for three more.
(Surely it’s “Both Glidrose and I…”?)
Thinnish of skin? Potent literary exaggeration accepted, it’s still lemon-sucky, innit? “…the company who (that?) owns me.” Ouch. In writing anything, we reveal the history of ourselves. This revelation is so… bleak. Hand that feeds not just bitten but angrily masticated, spat out and collective noses subsequently rubbed into the mess. If he thought critics were an issue, bless him that he never encountered unmitigated tossmaggots like what I am. Alternatively, provocatively and ironically drawing out the skein of grumpiness that’s been developing in his Bonds to this point; playing persona to a knowing crowd? Maybe, but the book’s expressly not intended as part of his series and targeted at the sort of person who would willingly watch and enjoy Licence to Kill, i.e. the sort of person who cannot read, and therefore won’t necessarily have noticed the rest of his product.
Not a ringing endorsement of a fresh contract. Licence renewed, and touchy about it. This is the mood in which he wrote Brokenclaw. Although I understand he wasn’t in great health at the time, this explains much. The “three more” were The Man from Barbarossa, Death is Forever and Never Send Flowers, so it’s not surprising he’s gloomy at the prospect of banging those out. His legendary foresight predicts doom.
The Six Thousand Horsemen of the Apocalypse have since been reduced back to the original Four. Budget cuts. Very Licence to Kill. Not sure why he mentioned six, unless he’s as unconvinced by Biblical continuity as I am. Sorry: as myself am. What were Five and Six, then? Pestilence, War, Famine, Death, Cress and Cor Anglais?
While the reviewers appear to dislike the fact that I am not Ian Fleming, the book-buying public seem to have eaten the new Bond novels alive.
They munched them at McDonalds, John. So it is said. Terribly, terribly unwisely, as it turned out.
Nobody could be happier than I…
(Than me? Hmm.)
I’m sure he was lovely to all manner of saucer-eyed soft flolloping creatures, but his assertion just isn’t coming through. I have encountered happier people than this. Naïve pillocks all, obviously, but immeasurably happier.
… for my job is to entertain, possibly excite, certainly stimulate, and this I appear to have done with the James Bond books: no mean feat when you consider that I have produced an average of one a year, plus one of my own works of fiction a year since 1979 (I am well-known for my natural streak of modesty).
Going for “my personality’s an acquired taste”, then. The critics were wrong: that’s as close to Ian Fleming as he got. Or anything involved with Licence to Kill does. I am indeed stimulated by sour passive aggression, but then I’m weird.
I apologise for not being Mr. Fleming, just as I apologise for the reviewer who believes that there are no moving parts in a computer, the one who imagines that all cigarettes are white, and the one who thinks the books are sexually tame because his memories of the Fleming novels are that his parents regarded them as dirty books, so he read them in secret. Grow up all of you.
Shout. Shout. Let it all out. These are the things I can do without. Come on. I’m talking to you. Come on.
Someday you’re going to have to tell us how you really feel.
I do not apologise for the book you are about to read.
It’s Not My Fault Part 2: Splenetic Boogaloo.
It is a collectors’ item, for it has absolutely nothing to do with my series of James Bond books. It is unique, being the only book-of-the-film I am ever likely to write.
Ah, the legendary foresight lets him down, daring as he would to subsequently emit GoldenEye. Given the tone of this, that must have been a fun-filled commission accepted with skittish glee.
Last year, Glidrose was approached by Mr Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli - that wonderful and staunch defender of Bond who has brought all of the Fleming stories from page to screen. Mr. Broccoli asked if I would do a book based on the screenplay of his new Bond movie, License To Kill. I was not keen, having already had truck with screenplays before. On the bare white page, all screenplays are like lyrics without music, or as my old father used to say, like kissing your sister.
An internet git writes: no, not all of the Fleming stories. Ha! I win… something or other. I have corrected an authoritative figure in Bond history and therefore I take precedence over him and am now thirteenth in line to the throne. I am a Bond-knower. I am… absolutely wretched.
His father’s relationship with his sister sounds charming.
Isn’t a set of lyrics without music a poem?
If there’s anything wrong, the screenplay’s to blame. It’s Not My Fault III: Season of the Bitch.
However, Bond prevailed and I spent a number of happy weeks turning Michael G. Wilson’s and Richard Maibaum’s screenplay into the book you hold in your hands. I hope you enjoy it.
I’m not sure which bit to disbelieve: the hope of enjoying it (it’s Licence to Kill, so don’t live in hope (nor, it appears, Ireland, if you want to avoid commercial enterprises dropping on your noggin)), or that the number of weeks was higher than “two”, or that given the tone, either was “happy”. That last sentence seems to be missing the conclusion to which we were patently being led: “…because I bloody didn’t”. Still, he did like his twist endings.
Once one’s scrubbed clean the stain of embittered reluctance, a clear point remains: this novelisation (ugh) of Licence to Kill has “nothing to do with my series of James Bond books”. Depending how deeply one prods, a number – more than “two” - of potential meanings to this:
• I didn’t say it had nothing to do with Ian Fleming’s books though, did I? Got you there.
• My books do cross-refer back (with increasing contrivance) to Fleming so his books are absorbed into mine; by implication it has nothing to do with those either.
• I definitely haven’t said that it is not connected with the films but I wouldn’t know that because I DO NOT WATCH THEM and keep saying this.
As a novelisation (still “ugh”), the logic is that it is connected to the films, if anything; whether that comes to pass is moot. Fine, Milton Krest never existed before – disconnect from Fleming, but prior films hadn’t used him, fine – but then Felix Leiter proceeds to be fed to a shark a second time and his prosthetic limbs savaged – obviously connected to Fleming (and For Special Services, for that matter), but disconnected to preceding films (and reality, medical science and other things that keep one’s mind in a sane place and not contemplating drinking paint). I suppose Cedar Leiter isn’t mentioned so Mr Gardner’s books remain pure and unreferenced, although her absence may be wise judgment. I wonder what happened to her after a decrepit Bond, with her father’s permission, moistly defiled her? Sub-prime pot washer at Hooters, if lucky.
It is, accordingly, a mess and perhaps the safest outcome is to consider Mr Gardner’s desire to avoid continuity to apply to all manifestations of Bond, meaning Licence to Kill should be considered as confined within its own bubble or, as I have long demanded, sealed in something lead-lined, buried miles underground and then forgotten about, Hurrah! Otherwise… the continuity is in a worse state of post-coital distress and ignominy than that there Cedar Leiter. Perhaps this is the only basis on which this increasingly mean-spirited series can approach this novelisation (it’s “ugh”), to see if, within the test-base of one chapter selected at random (but, uncannily, the seventh), it can really achieve this stance of (deserved) isolation for Licence to Kill. If it does not, I fear I may have to unleash the Seventh Horselady of the Apocalypse once she’s back from her kittenslitting class.
To tell the truth, Mrs Jim isn’t very horsey, although she does have a whip and stirrups.
Grow up all of you.
[As this 007th Chapter has absolutely nothing to do with my series of Abusive Petty Rubbish, no wordcloud].