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February 28, 2023

"The Bitch Woman With Her Own Agency Is Dead Napping With Gaia:" Report Claims That Publisher Is Bowlderizing James Bond Novels, Removing Incidents of Supposed "Racism," "Misogyny"

That's like half the reason I read them.

The only good news is that supposedly these editions will be published in parallel to the real Fleming books, and will not replace them.

For now.

A series of new editions of James Bond novels set to be released in April will be edited from author Ian Fleming's original prose and feature a disclaimer after a review by "sensitivity readers."

The new editions will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the publication of Fleming's first Bond novel, which introduced the famed English spy to the masses prior to the launch of an ever-expanding film franchise. But language present in the original 1953 text, including the n-word and other terms and phrases describing race are being removed, according to a report from the Telegraph.

The new books will also include a disclaimer that explains the new editions are not identical to those published previously.

"This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace," the disclaimer will read, according to the Telegraph report. "A number of updates have been made in this edition, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and the period in which it is set."

The most notable change is the removal of the n-word, which is primarily being replaced with "black person" or "black man." But other racial descriptions are reportedly being eliminated entirely. The report said that some of the changes were previously made during Fleming's lifetime with his approval, especially for U.S. editions of the books.

I don't remember that word being in any of his books. Maybe that was already changed in US editions. If it had been used, it would have certainly been used by an unsympathetic character, not by a "good guy" character.

Bond has a lot of opinions on other nationalities/races. Those races/countries that are Britain's recent enemies -- Germany -- or its current ones -- Russia, China -- Bond doesn't think too highly of, and sometimes comments about the negative characteristics shared generally by people of those counties.

Oddly, Bond has a rather poor opinion of Americans, too. This might be about Britain's rawness at being eclipsed in the empire game. It might be snobbishness. It might just be about him thinking Americans are boorish stupid prats.

Anyway, will this new publisher be correcting Bond's interior monologue sing the praises of Germans, Russians, Chinese, and Americans?

The only book where there's some "racism" that is actually bothersome is Live and Let Die, and that's a mix of racial condescension, where Fleming has M praise American "Negroes" so much in the briefing it sounds like paternalistic overcompensation, and then he renders all black patois phonetically, so it's all "sho 'nuff suh, Uh'll get yo' yo' bags quicksmart an' you kin count ahn tha'!" If that sentence was hard to get through and cringey, imagine literal pages and pages and pages of this.

I don't know. Fleming's book are travelogues with murder, so I think he basically did just travel to the American south and these are basically his notes about what he saw and heard. I think this is his best effort to represent the southern black drawl accurately and present it, not to demean it, but to give readers a You Are There tour, to let them live the moment as if they are on vacation, I mean, on a mission with Bond.

It's cringey, yes, and even ignoring the racial aspects of it, no one represents speech phonetically like this any longer because it's so annoying to hard and just considered amateurish and "of another time." Editors suggest just using word choice/localisms and word order/sentence construction to suggest the flavor of the local patois. Maybe with the occasional rare phonetically-rendered word.

But Fleming was writing in "another time."

The one very charged racial element of Live and Let Die is the same one from the movie: A white woman being "kept" by a powerful black man who intends to sexually use her. But it's actually different in the book. In the book, Solitaire is not virginal; she's a fairly hardened sexual adventuress who is actually using Mr. BIG for her own purposes. So Fleming actually avoids the trope of "White Woman Needs Rescue From Black Captor" that the movie contains.

By the way, this is a pretty bad book. It's boring, it goes on and on about stupid boring nonsense forever and a day, instead of glamor we get this long tedious stakeout of a.... stupid exotic fish store on a dock in St. Petersburg, Florida (this was used in License to Kill).

This is unforgivable: The mission briefing of Live and Let Die is that the KGB is funding its Western subversion and assassination operations through recovering and selling pirate gold from a sunken pirate ship of, I think, "Bloody" Henry Morgan.

And given that bananas premise, you'd think we'd get a finale where we dive down to the shipwreck and fight the bad guys there, but no! We never even see the pirate ship. The only diving that happens, happens when Bond dives to attach a limpet mine to Mr. BIG's yacht. (This results in the keelhauling over a coral reef sequence that was used in For Your Eyes Only.)

Great sequence, yes. But no pirate ship! The promise made in the opening briefing is completely blown off! The book completely forgets about piracy after M's briefing.

The other promise made in the opening briefing which is completely blown off is -- voodoo! There's almost no voodoo in this book. There's more voodoo in the movie. In the book, Bond reads from a (real) book about voodoo, which Fleming quotes a page from, and it's pretty awesome -- it talks about some potion being made from rum, chicken blood, tobacco juice, hot sauce, and gunpowder -- and you sit there rubbing your hands saying, like Flounder, "Oh boy, guys, this is gonna be great...!" But then there's barely any voodoo or voodoo-theming in the book. I guess it's mentioned once in a while, but it has nothing like the prominence it has in the movie. Certainly there's no character like Baron Samedi, who was invented for the movie. (I mean, actually, Lord Saturday is voodoo loa, of course, but he was made into a character for the movie.)

Anyway. This is a definite skip unless you want to read all of them.

Back to the current abortion. "Misogyny." I don't know if Bond where to start on this one. Most of the stuff people object to in Fleming's depiction of women is circumstantial, like this woman needs Bond to rescue or her or this woman resists Bond smothering her with a kiss, but then relents to his passion.

Bond's description of women always includes a quick but incisive evaluation of their figures.

A fair number of women are killed in Fleming's books. Not nearly as many women as men, of course. Obviously no one will censor all the men's deaths -- men's lives don't matter.

But will Vesper's death be censored? Nah, that's too big. But maybe some of the women's deaths will be "softened."

I don't think that men who need the use of "sensitivity readers" are reading Fleming or any kind of men's adventure fiction in the first place. I expect these editions to stiff.

Thanks to DB -- spanning the globe.

I insist:

If I were a "sensitivity reader" assigned to Live and Let Die, I'd rewrite it to heavily feature pirate ships and voodoo, so as not to "trigger" all the readers who are expecting some f***ing pirate ships and voodoo action. As you can see, I am triggered to this very day.

The premise that the KGB is funding assassinations via the pirate gold it found on a sunken pirate treasure ship, and the KGB agent doing that is a Voodoo King of the Dead who keeps the black underworld in line by threatening that he will turn people into his Zombies if they do not obey him, is gonzo crazy fun and it's a crime that this premise is just abandoned past the briefing. The plot after that just becomes "steal the girl, kill the bad guy."

Buh... buh... buh... buh wha about all that stuff M was talking about in the briefing...?! Where did the pirates and Voodoo King go...?

It's like Fleming wrote that briefing as a hook and then decided, "Ah, that's too dumb, I can't go anywhere with that. I can hook them with that, but I can't actually do anything with that. I should just make this a long boring chase and then a stake-out and then an assassination attempt."

This book is Literally Violence You Guys.

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