"The bitch is dead now."
-From Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
So here's a funny story: in 2015, and only in Canada and a few other countries, James Bond entered the public domain.
Not the constantly morphing fellow from the movies, now. That's firmly in the possession of Eon for the forseeable future. But the literary character, created by former spy and bon vivant Ian Fleming, is now inhabiting the same legal space as Sherlock Holmes, Captain Nemo and Count Dracula. It is, as I mentioned, effectively only in Canada and a few other places, because Canada is one of the few countries that have held with the minimum 50-year time-span within which a copyright might be held following the creator's death.
And as of January 2015, that time-span has been deemed to have expired, following Ian Fleming's death in 1964.
Absorb that a moment--perhaps perusing io9's excellent piece on the subject as you do so.
Because that is what Madeline Ashby and I were both doing, independent of one another, a couple of weeks ago when we read the story. I was just about to leave work at city hall for the day. Madeline was at work at home.
By the time I'd gotten home, we had both done something else independently: decided to co-edit an anthology--maybe the first anthology--of perfectly legal, unauthorized stories about Secret Agent 007.
This kind of thing goes on all the time with other public-domain characters, often in kooky genre mashups. But James Bond has generally been left out of that party. New James Bond novels are nothing new--various authors starting with Kingsley Amis and John Gardner have been churning those out for years. But those have by necessity been authorized by the Fleming estate. And while some of them are very good, and even take interesting liberties with the character (William Boyd's 2013 novel Solo had 007 very creepily stalking a horror film actress based loosely on Hammer star Ingrid Pitt, as a particularly psychotic birthday present to himself), there has always been a sense that the 007 sandbox is a supervised one. James Bond is a character, but he is also a property. And there are rules...
Wouldn't it be something to sneak into that sandbox after dark, gather up all the toys and just invent our own game? Write stories about Bond that transgress a little further, and maybe offer some outside-the-sandbox critique of this at-root pretty awful character that has become such a central part of our pop-culture mythology?
When I got home, and we realized what we'd both been thinking, we called up Sandra Kasturi at ChiZine Publications and told her what we had in mind.
It was not a tough sell.
So here it is: in mid-November, Canadian readers will be able to pick up a copy of LICENCE EXPIRED: THE UNAUTHORIZED JAMES BOND, from ChiZine Publications. The anthology will feature original, transformative stories about James Bond as he appeared (and lived and killed and drank and pill-popped and travelled and yes, fucked) in Ian Fleming's original stories. These stories will categorically not reference anything from the films or the subsequent novels because the copyright still stands on those. As mentioned above, ChiZine will be taking great care to ensure that the book respects all the existing copyright protections on the licence at the same time as we take the liberties copyright law affords us.
The stories will be told by some interesting and talented writers, some of whom you will have heard of: Tony Burgess, Laird Barron, Nathan Ballingrud, Claude Lalumiere, Robert Wiersema, A.M. Delamonica, Ian Rogers, Corey Rekekop and Kelly Robson are firm commitments now. Some of them may well be new to you, as we expect that we will be opening the book up for submissions in the coming weeks.
There will likely be a Kickstarter to make sure that this is the biggest Bond ever, and so that we can launch the book someplace with a nice shark tank. Again, stay tuned to this frequency.
It is going to be an all-time high (well not precisely, because that is from the movies).
Read Madeline Ashby's thoughts on this whole business here.
Here is the official news release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ChiZine Publications to Publish Unauthorized James Bond Anthology
TORONTO, Ontario (January 19, 2015) — Independent Toronto publisher ChiZine Publications announces they will be publishing a new anthology of short stories featuring James Bond now that Ian Fleming’s work has entered the public domain in Canada. The anthology, titled Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, will be edited by Toronto authors Madeline Ashby (vN, iD; Company Town) and David Nickle (Knife Fight and Other Struggles,The ’Geisters, Eutopia).
“We want to feature original, transformative stories set in the world of Secret Agent 007,” says Nickle. “We're hoping our contributors will combine the guilty-pleasure excitement of the vintage Fleming experience with a modern critique of it.”
“This is an opportunity to comment on the Bond universe from within it,” adds Ashby. “We're specifically looking for writers and stories that would make Fleming roll in his grave.”
Since only Fleming’s Bond novels have entered the public domain, the stories won't reference the films, subsequent novels written by others, or any media tie-ins. However, within Fleming’s works are well-known villains Rosa Klebb, Oddjob, Dr. No, SMERSH, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE. Familiar allies include Moneypenny, Honey Rider, Pussy Galore, Felix Leiter and Quarrel. The story authors will be able to call on any of these characters and organizations along with the many others that have appeared in Fleming’s stories.
Authors who have confirmed their appearance in Licence Expired include:
- Tony Burgess
- Corey Redekop
- Robert J. Wiersema
- Laird Barron
- Nathan Ballingrud
- Kelly Robson
- A.M. Dellamonica
- Ian Rogers
Licence Expired is scheduled to be published in November 2015.
Sandra Kasturi, Co-PublisherChiZine Publicationssandra@chizinepub.com