James Bond Canceled? Classic Novels Edited to Remove Offensive Material
New editions of Ian Fleming's books are set to be released in April.
There's a new case study to discuss in the ongoing conversation about editing older media to remove dated and offensive material. According to The Telegraph (as reported by IndieWire), new editions of James Bond novels by Ian Fleming are coming out this spring, and they will look much different than the originally published versions. Sensitivity readers have assisted in the mission to update the books, specifically in the language used to refer to nonwhite characters. Read on to find out who's leading the charge on these updates and more about the alterations being made to Fleming's work.
Fleming wrote 12 novels about the secret agent.
British writer Fleming, who died in 1964, invented the character of James Bond, first seen in his 1952 book, Casino Royale. He'd go on to write 11 more novels featuring the member of Her Majesty's Secret Service, as well as several short stories.
The first film adaptation of Fleming's work, Dr. No, was released in 1962 and starred Sean Connery as 007. The author's final Bond novel was published posthumously in 1965.
Since Fleming's death, several other writers have written novels and short stories for the Bond franchise.
They're being updated to remove racially insensitive language.
IndieWire reports that these new editions of Fleming's novels are being officially released by Ian Fleming Publications in April. The publisher commissioned sensitivity readers to point out instances of racial insensitivity for either deletion or replacement.
In a statement to The Telegraph, Ian Fleming Publication notes that Fleming himself had approved of updating terms in 1954's Live and Let Die when he was still alive.
"We at Ian Fleming Publications reviewed the text of the original Bond books and decided our best course of action was to follow Ian's lead," the statement reads. "We have made changes to Live and Let Die that he himself authorized. Following Ian's approach, we looked at the instances of several racial terms across the books and removed a number of individual words or else swapped them for terms that are more accepted today but in keeping with the period in which the books were written."
As reported by A.V. Club, the updates include replacing the n-word with either "Black man" or "Black person" and the deletion of unnecessary racial descriptions for certain characters.
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The new editions will carry a disclaimer.
A.V. Club also notes that Ian Fleming Publications told The Telegraph that "dated references to other ethnicities remain" and that the books also include homophobic and gender stereotypes that are too ingrained to easily update. Presumably for this reason, the new editions of the Bond novels will also come with a disclaimer.
"This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace," the disclaimer reads, per IndieWire. "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."
Lest any readers worry that Bond has been "canceled," editions of the books with the original text are still available.
Plans to update another author's work were recently walked back.
News that the works of children's author Roald Dahl would be updated in partnership with an organization called Inclusive Minds was met with backlash. Though Dahl's estate noted to The New York Times that the overhaul of classic books including Matilda and James and the Giant Peach to remove words including "fat" and the descriptors "black" and "white" were meant to make them more inclusive, critics including authors Salman Rushdie and Philip Pullman as well as the organization PEN America spoke out against the changes, equating them with censorship.
"Those who might cheer specific edits to Dahl's work should consider how the power to rewrite books might be used in the hands of those who do not share their values and sensibilities," PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel tweeted as part of a longer statement.
In response, Penguin Random House Children's Books announced on Feb. 24 that the publisher will continue printing the original texts along with the updated versions.
"We've listened to the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl's books and the very real questions around how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation," managing director Francesca Dow said, as reported by ABC News. "We also recognise the importance of keeping Dahl's classic texts in print. By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl's magical, marvelous stories."