The future of James Bond is far from black and white

“James Bond author sparks outrage after daring to have an opinion.” Quick, someone start a petition…

Yet, I also said this: “To paraphrase the great philosopher Ali G: Is it coz Idris is black?”

If you’re attempting to solicit a reaction from an increasingly reactionary and volatile social web, it’s best to leave them both shaken and stirred.

Ian Fleming was from a different era, when MI6 agents were recruited from Oxford and Cambridge, often beginning with a polite tap on the shoulder. Those with a swathe complexion were the type most prized, since their everyman appearance allowed them to blend in almost anywhere in the world.

Times have changed, and since the SAS do not discriminate based on racial type, it’s difficult to mount a credible argument against an MI6 operative being of African descent.

Yet, this is the iconic fictional character James Bond we’re talking about, here. It isn’t the first time Idris Elba’s name has been bandied about as a replacement for the inimitable Daniel Craig, the current James Bond, and Anthony Horowitz, author of “Trigger Mortis”, the most recent antics of Mr. Bond, has an opinion on this:

“For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part,” Horowitz told the Daily Mail. “It’s not a colour issue. I think he is probably a bit too ‘street’ for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.”

What, you don’t like his opinion? I don’t agree with Horowitz, but I wouldn’t express to disliking his opinion, as that’s something else. Since there’s no overt racist intent to his comment, whether you might like or loathe what Horowitz said is of dwindling importance.

But the reaction on the web beggars belief. Time and again, the group think consensus appears to be: “If your thoughts are not the same as our thoughts, they are, in effect, illegal — and if not, they should be, damn it!”

What’s perhaps more ridiculous is the fact that Horowitz has been compelled to apologise for having and then expressing an opinion.

As an author, I have certain characters who would suffer were their ethnic background to change. Jo, the main protagonist in A Darkening of Fortune, is of Arabic descent, and his background relies on this, to the extent that should he be changed to — for example — Caucasian, or Afro-Caribbean, the whole novel would collapse.

So I’m able to see both sides of the argument, here. What do we take from this? The future of our suave and sophisticated secret agent James Bond, much like the character himself, is far from black and white.


Having an employee who’s an expert in AI has its advantages. Asking him about emergent AI prompted much laughter, though.

Confirming the suspicions I had, we are so far from the type of artificial intelligence we see in the movies, it’s unreal … and laughable.

We understand so little about the brain — almost any brain — that creating AI is a bit fanciful.

But then there’s also the question of self-awareness and consciousness, neither of which are synonymous with the other, and both are poorly understood.

And to confuse things further, there is no agreed definition of what life is. You’d think it’d be obvious, but it is a very contentious subject.

I suppose it’s unfair to ask if the idea I’ve had is possible or feasible for that matter, so it’s a question of whether it’s viable.

But, as a writer of science fiction, I’m not going to allow a few niggling facts to get in the way of a good idea.

So far, the extent of the idea I’ve been cultivating is at least viable.

Superhero stories aren’t just black and white

Somewhere, in and amongst the controversial topic of race, the stories became lost, or themselves hidden by the arguments, which is sad. Perhaps more sad is that the real stories — those about people from racial minorities dealing with everyday racism — became overshadowed.

Michelle Rodriguez weighed in on the subject of race with regards to superheroes, and in doing so contributed to an on-going discussion about race in fiction.

If you’re not familiar, then Idris Elba as a possible future James Bond, the hispanic Spider-Man, and the female Thor are prime examples of race — and also gender — becoming lost in a furore that needn’t be such.

As a disclaimer, I am not of a racial minority; being of Anglo-Saxon stock kind of greases the wheels of life for me, which I take great care to be aware of, to avoid that sense of entitlement, privilege, and of victimhood from creeping in, which is so prevalent in parts of Northern Europe.

No, we Caucasians are not under threat from a tidal wave of immigrants. If anything, we’re a danger to ourselves.

A few years ago, I would have known little of the on-going superhero-of-colour debate (I’m not much into DC or Marvel comics), but I did understand — or at least, was aware — that there weren’t many minority superheroes, and that even fewer of them were British.

So I wrote A Darkening of Fortune, a near-future sci-fi crime thriller, to address both of these issues. But more important was the need to address some of the aspects of what it means to be British and Asian — or at least as to the best of my own abilities, observations, and vicarious experiences.

Let’s imagine for a moment A Darkening or Fortune becomes a huge success and I receive an offer of a cinematic adaptation. If during those discussions the movie studio was to propose changing Yusef “Joe” Iqbal to a white Caucasian, there the discussion would come to a grinding halt. End of story.

No, not like the Marvel Universe

Just after writing Earth Day, I had an idea (more of an epiphany, really), which — on reflection — should have given me more pause for thought, but didn’t.

I made the decision to create my own universe, or more specifically, a continuum.

“What, like the Marvel Universe?” Christy suggested.

Not quite, no. But then again, yes. I don’t pay too much attention — if any at all — to what other people are doing, as I have my own ideas.

In my universe, every novella and novel is part of a constellation of stories, each connecting with another in some way, be it a character, a technology, an event, a business, a location, or an idea.

“They won’t really care.” Christy reasoned. “The readers, I mean.”

She had a point.

“I write for myself.” I said.

Yes, I am a selfish author.

It’s the creation of these nebulous connections, and the challenge of ensuring every story is a part of the same continuum that motivates me as much as anything.

However, it does impose certain rules; certain ideas I have are out of bounds, since they do not fit within the scope of the continuum.

You’d think that there’d be plenty of room in an entire universe. No, certain genres just don’t fit.

I have made a commitment, which I intend remaining true to, come what may.

Is it okay to be a selfish writer?

Someone asked whether it was the allure of wealth or fame that compelled their fellow writers. Of course, I had my own thoughts on this.

If you look at it from an external perspective — through the lens of the imaginary reader, often not anything like the real reader — it quickly becomes a series of no-win scenarios that would make even the head of John Nash spin.

So you’re writing for yourself? How vein. Are you writing to entertain? How presumptuous. What, you write to be famous? You are such an egotist. Or, are you writing in the hope that you become wealthy? How selfish.

Personally, I don’t concern myself with what people think in so far as what my reasons for writing might be. In truth, I write for all of the aforementioned reasons. But if, as a writer, you are bothered what other people think, be humble and write for respect, though I suspect that might limit your imagination.

You can’t please everyone, but it’s often easier to please yourself.