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Fleming, Ian

Entry updated 27 November 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1908-1964) UK author, brother of Peter Fleming; he spent World War Two working for UK naval intelligence, and it may be that the depth of his personal knowledge gave him the imaginative freedom to create his great mythic hero. Neither the occasional use of advanced technological gadgetry nor the chthonic and fantastic plots of his enormously successful James Bond sequence of thrillers, of course, makes them genuine sf. The closest any of them comes to a full sf plot is in Moonraker (1955; vt Too Hot to Handle 1956), whose eponymous Rocket is rather ahead of its time. Dr No (1958), a Technothriller involving radio interference with US missile tests, has a Chinese Yellow Peril figure as its titular Mad Scientist villain; Percival Everett's Dr No (2022) spoofs the series as a whole. Another energetic technothriller is Thunderball (1961), in which two atomic weapons are hijacked by the international crime organization SPECTRE (whose mastermind Ernest Stavro Blofeld recurs in later volumes) with a view to blackmailing the Western powers; this was first filmed as Thunderball (1965) directed by Terence Young.

All of Fleming's Bond novels and most of the short stories have been filmed, or, latterly, have had their titles attached to films with much additional sf-like gadgetry and heavily reworked or completely new plots. The first of these films was Dr No (1962), with such relatively minor "improvements" as having the Villain perish in his own nuclear swimming-pool reactor rather than – the book version – being buried under tons of guano dumped on him from a crane commandeered by Bond. You Only Live Twice (1967), veering much further from Fleming's plot, features Bond crushing an attempt at world domination which involved the kidnapping of orbital satellites. The film version of Moonraker (1979) involves an orbital satellite and the Space Shuttle.

Fleming's most directly science-fictional novel is the standalone Children's SF story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car (1964), whose titular automobile is a marvellous Invention – named for the noises it makes when first started – that at the pull of a switch extrudes wings and a propellor to become a flying car; another switch allows it to traverse water in the manner of a hovercraft. This was filmed as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), directed by Ken Hughes from a script by Hughes and Roald Dahl; the novelization is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Story of the Film (1968) by Jonathan Burke as John Burke. Another tie, William Johnston's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) is a Big Little Book which retells the story for younger children. [JC/DRL/PN]

see also: Islands.

Ian Lancaster Fleming

born London: 28 May 1908

died Canterbury, Kent: 12 August 1964

works (selected)

about the author


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