Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Tag Archives: bond songs

Three: You Know My Name

Hey there! If you’d forgotten or had never known I’m doing this countdown of the best songs from James Bond films accompanied by a flash fiction piece based on the title of each song, well, I don’t blame you. It’s been close to two years since I started. The last one was posted back in June, and that was months after the previous one. But! Only three to go, and two left now.


  1. You Know My Name, Chris Connell (from Casino Royale). I’m still not quite sure this isn’t #1. Ultimately I knocked it down slightly because it has very little callout to the Bond theme. But it’s a great song, and it is absolutely the perfect song for the major reboot of the series that happened in bringing in Daniel Craig. “Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you / The odds will betray you / And I will replace you […]The coldest blood runs through my veins / You know my name.” The callout to one of Bond’s signature lines—introducing himself—while at the same time making reference to the introduction of a new incarnation of the well-known character makes me happy as a writer.

 

From MI6-HQ.com: It is only the fourth Bond theme (after the opening medley of “Dr. No”, the instrumental theme from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and “All Time High” from Octopussy) to make no direct reference to the title of the film. The soundtrack was completed early in the morning on October 11, 2006. The soundtrack was released on November 14, 2006.

“You Know My Name” is the first Bond theme not to be included on its film’s soundtrack album and was released separately as a single and on Cornell’s album “Carry On”. Cornell declared that it happened because he wanted the song to be “his”, and since he wrote “You Know My Name” in midst of recording the solo album Carry On, he felt that the song belonged to the album. In 2008, the song was included in the compilation “The Best of Bond…James Bond”. The video for the single premiered on MTV’s Making the Video on October 31, 2006.

 

Flash Fiction: You Know My Name

 

She jacked in with a password and a code sent to her mobile. No fingerprints; meatsuit security was unreliable. Fingers got cold, dry, wet; retinas could become detached or otherwise altered through the mysterious body processes happening inside her, largely beyond her control. Some of her friends recommended various homeopathic remedies or medicines or devices to wear on or under your skin. Lana preferred to focus her energies on the real world.

Today was a pretty routine meeting with a client in Singapore, at the beginning of their Wednesday and the end of her Tuesday. For this meeting she was Wong Jiu, fluent in Mandarin as well as English, avatar by Avid Diva. She downloaded the personality and loaded it.

And it wasn’t right. None of her Mandarin was there, and when she checked the avatar, it was some crappy free generic businessman off the Cloud somewhere. But Wong Jiu’s name was there on the file, so it had been corrupted somehow. Or hacked.

Lana fought the urge to disconnect right away. If it was a hack job, it was a clumsy one, and she could get out whenever she wanted. If it was a mistake, then she could poke around and maybe learn something—doubtful though, with a shitty avatar like that. And there was that third possibility in the back of her head, those apocryphal stories about people being approached by the secret cabal that everyone was convinced oversaw the Cloud. These contacts never came in the form of an actual message; they were puzzles, breadcrumb trails, modified ads. Maybe even corrupted profiles.

If it were just a Cloudbody fuckup, someone else might be loading Wong Jiu. That wasn’t worrying; her history and such were accessible, but she didn’t save passwords in her identities. They were all in her brain, because cyberspace was as unreliable as her meatsuit. Her mind was the only thing she could count on.

This guy Jenkins didn’t have any other languages, just English, and his history was as boring as his avatar: shopping, conferencing sites, and—hello. She’d read something about this one website, a museum site where people left coded comments on posts. That was a different museum, a science and natural history museum where this one was a modern art museum, but it was still incongruous with the rest of the boring profile. She could already feel herself getting dumber as she assumed the identity of Mr. Horace Jenkins, and she certainly didn’t feel any appreciation for modern art.

So she pulled up the site, entered Mr. Jenkins’ login information (he did store his password, idiot), and waited for her loaded memory to tell her what pages to go to. There were the ten most recently visited ones, eight of them by the same artist, called “studies” of various things. Studies in boredom, she thought, paging through them, reading the comments that were, if anything, even more boring.

But then, because she was alert for a pattern, she found one. Mr. Jenkins had commented on each painting, and she’d been trying to analyze his comments, with no success (example: “I feel that this painting really conveys the sense of disaffection with the modern ennui that the artist encountered in his time in Lagos.”).

After every comment, too, the same person, a Mr. Fallow, had responded either, “I agree,” or “I don’t see it that way.” Very little more than that.

So that might be a pattern, but then she noticed the other thing: the posting times. Every comment by Mr. Jenkins was posted at either 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm exactly. That had to mean something.

It had just gone 8 pm, which was the time Wong Jiu was supposed to be meeting with her client, so she went to a picture by the same artist that didn’t have a comment on it yet and posted one along the same lines. “I feel that this piece conveys a deep appreciation for the boundaries beyond which the artist has struggled.”

Then she dropped out of that memory, because the time had reminded her that she had business to conduct and that she had to figure out what had happened to Wong Jiu. She chose a backup identity and wrote to the client, identifying herself as Wong Jiu’s assistant and apologizing for her employer’s tardiness.

While she waited for their reply, she worked in another window to track down the problem with her memory. Trying to get into Wong Jiu just got her Mr. Jenkins again, so she filed a complaint with Cloudbody and wiped Wong Jiu to replace her with the most recent backup. Getting in worked fine after that, and the client wasn’t all that upset at her—they even commended her assistant on her professionalism.

Cloudbody wrote back apologizing and recommending that she restore her identity from the most recent backup, and also informing her that according to her terms of service, taking any action within an identity once you have determined it is not yours can be subject to criminal prosecution and termination of their services. She ignored the e-mail and chalked it up to one of those things that happens. After her meeting, she went through and double checked that all her identities had extra security protections in case someone accidentally got a copy of one of them, but she was always careful about that, so of course they did.

She didn’t think anything more of it until she went back to that painting’s web page a couple days later to see if “Mr. Jenkins” had gotten a reply. He had: Mr. Fallow had responded, “Surprised to see you commenting on this work, but I agree with your opinion.” Then a day and a half later, Mr. Fallow had commented again: “On second thought, I think I don’t agree with your opinion. I actually think that you know nothing about art.”

Mr. Jenkins had just recently commented below that. “That wasn’t me! I don’t think that about this painting at all! I’m sorry! Please contact me so I can explain.”

And Lana laughed as it became clear. They were coded messages: to set up assignations, probably of the extramarital variety. Ah, the lengths people would go to. She was glad she didn’t have anything like that to deal with.

Twelve: From Russia With Love

12. From Russia With Love, Matt Munro. Another “not a big star” Bond song artist, but he did have a reasonable career and it was the first Bond film to have a title theme other than the iconic Bond theme. He does a pretty good job crafting a song that fit the sixties and is about as memorable as the old film itself.

 

Fiction: From Russia With Love

Siberia is most famous as a prison, but it was more: a community, a mining town, home to many tribes that lived by hunting. That guy who’d been living in the woods with his family and didn’t know World War Two was over? Yeah, they were in Siberia. Miserable, frostbitten, wolf-scared and malnourished, but alive. If ever a place on Earth was a geographical oubliette, it was Siberia.

I’d gone up with the U.N. Commission on Science and Technology for Development team to scout out one of the places in Siberia that even the Russian government hadn’t visited in probably three decades, since before the breakup of the USSR. I didn’t speak Russian, but none of the biologists did, and I’d grown up in Michigan, so they reckoned I could deal with Siberia. I didn’t care; it was likely to be more interesting than sitting in New York reviewing photos of laboratories from decimated Middle East cities to see if anything looked like a biological weapon.

When our soldiers or our allies’ had overrun an area, we could get pictures. For this set of laboratories, if you were going to send in photographers, you might as well just send the experts onsite and get a better opinion. So the fifteen of us flew coach to Moscow (the U.N. doesn’t spring for first class) and then caught a train up to Siberia. The landscape didn’t gradually thin out; it went from city to farm in an eyeblink, and from farm to forest almost as quickly. Then it was just forest, for hours and hours.

At least the U.N. sent us in July, so it was still light when the military bus from the train station came around a corner and stopped. We all craned our necks to the windows and peered out at a sight that looked worthy of a post-apocalyptic movie set. Trees leaned toward the concrete boxes and vines grew up their sides so that we could barely see the structures except for swaths of grey here and there, an occasional corner, the sheen of glass. It was pretty enough if you didn’t have to go walk into it, and fortunately we sciencey types didn’t have to.

The four members of our team who did have to got out their hazmat suits and their implements of destruction. They had a short conversation with the half-dozen Russian military police who’d accompanied us and then trooped off to clear the buildings.

The closest thing I had to a friend on this trip was Vanessa, a chemist from Queens who had a mutual friend in the U.N. We’d started out by gossiping about our friend’s many romantic affairs (not always strictly serial) and had gone on to build a rapport over the terrible airplane food, train food, and military food. “I’ll wager you’re busier than I am,” she said now, indicating the lab. “Who knows what could be growing in there.”

I eyed the flash of machetes against the vines and nodded. “Any potential biological weapons will probably be dead, though. Chemicals could still be viable.”

“Chemicals don’t mutate.”

I inclined my head. “Is that an offer to be my assistant?”

She snorted, and then we all snapped to attention as the team cleared away a primary door. “They’re going in,” said the team coordinator, and then he said something in Russian and the military lifted their guns to the ready.

“As if King Kong is going to come charging out,” I said. “What, are they going to shoot the viruses?”

We weren’t privy to the conversation between the coordinator and the advance crew, but all four of them disappeared into the lab. “The rest of you, get your suits on,” he ordered us, and Vanessa and I grabbed our stiff cloth suits and stepped into them.

She was just fitting her helmet on and I’d gotten mine sealed when there was a commotion, and one of the advance team stumbled out of the lab. And he wasn’t alone.

We all tensed at once. The military raised their guns. The person clinging to our teammate was a woman dressed in a tattered lab coat, saying something over and over in Russian. She didn’t seem to be attacking him; in those few seconds, it looked to me almost as though she were a wife trying to stop her husband from walking out on her. But our teammate, terrified, kept batting at her until he tripped. Then he went down and she went down on top of him, circling him with her arms.

Russian words flew back and forth around us, and then there was a loud crack that silenced everyone. The woman’s body jerked and then lay still atop the suited man. Slowly, blood seeped out onto the white lab coat.

“Who’s got their suit sealed? Go get her off him!”

I ran forward before Vanessa could stop me, along with a couple others, and we pulled the woman off him. Her face didn’t look afraid or angry, I remember. She looked blissful.

“She just attacked me.” The guy talked into his radio and I could hear him now. “Just ran up.”

“Is there anyone else in there?”

“Maybe? I was the last one in and she came out of a side passage.”

We moved the woman’s body near the lab and hoped that she wasn’t carrying some windborne disease; distance would have to serve to quarantine her for the moment. Then we had to figure out how to go in. The three other team members weren’t answering their radios, and we didn’t want to go in weaponless. But the Russian government had insisted that only the military be armed, and also that they would not enter the lab, so we didn’t even have enough suits for them.

We could’ve just left the whole thing. We voted, and it was a close thing, but seven of us didn’t want to abandon the three guys who might be simply in a shielded chamber and unable to hear us. So the rest of the team trooped into the lab, keeping close together, while the shaken fellow who’d been attacked remained outside.

The first dark room was a waiting room. We went through the single door, which had been left ajar, and continued back into the lab.

We were scientists, not rescuers, was the problem. So while we kept an ear out for any noises–and there were noises aplenty–we also couldn’t help looking around at the rooms we were walking through. And when we stopped at a room full of journals, we couldn’t help but flip through some of them. At least, some of the others did, and the few of us who couldn’t read Russian listened to the translation.

The weirdest thing was that the journals only spanned a couple decades, from the fifties to the early seventies. But the rest could have been somewhere else; this had the look of a storage room. The other weird thing, once they started reading them, was that most of the journals were gibberish.

“Seriously,” Vanessa said. “It’s just like hippie gushing about how beautiful the world is. Double rainbows and all that crap. There’s no scientific method at all.”

“Take a look at this one,” Joe, the other chemist (they had different specialties, but don’t ask me to tell you what they are) said, holding open a journal. “I don’t know this word, but it looks like it’s describing a stone of…some kind of origin.”

“Extraterrestrial,” the team coordinator said.

We all looked at each other. “Little green men?” someone said.

“E.T.”

“Little green stones.”

“Guys, it’s true.”

We’d all clustered around the journal, and now we spun around. One of our team was standing in the doorway. His faceplate was open, and he wore a beatific smile. “It’s true. They’re aliens and they’re trying to teach us to love.”

“Jesus, Mike, close your suit!”

“It’s too late.”

“He’s exposed.”

“Stay back.”

We babbled over the radio. None of it had any effect on Mike, who did in fact stay back. “Just listen,” he said. “You can hear the message if you listen.”

Joe, I think, said, “Let’s get out of here,” but then Vanessa shushed him and we all listened.

Mike was humming something, and the way he was doing it was weird, really relaxing. I thought it sounded a bit like some New Age music an old girlfriend of mine used to listen to, and then I noticed Vanessa standing beside me.

It was like seeing her for the first time. Her dark skin shone in the lab’s meager light, and it wasn’t just that she was pretty. I remembered all the great times we’d shared. I wanted to tell her, but before I could, my radio crackled to life again.

“Adam, you’re a great guy.”

“I love you, Jess.”

“I love all you guys.”

“Vanessa,” I said, and found her looking at me.

“I know, Kris,” she said. I could see her bright smile through the glass, and then it seemed really stupid that we had these faceplates between us. All around us everyone was opening theirs, so we did too.

Her lips tasted of her menthol lip balm. She smelled like a pine forest.

“You see?” Mike said.

We did. We thought about the poor military guys on the bus and how we should tell them about this love, and a bunch of us crowded out to the doorway, leaving about half the team who were getting out of their suits to get more industrious at the whole loving thing.

As we got to the doorway, the team coordinator spoke Russian over the radio, but as we came out onto the grass, he laughed. “They don’t have radios,” he said. “I forgot about that.” He raised his arms and shouted something in Russian.

The soldiers were lined up in a row and they looked terrified. I felt sorry for them, living in fear like that. Was that how I’d been once? I wanted to hug them and tell them it was going to be all right.

The air filled with sharp, loud pops. Something punched me in the gut, then again in the chest. All around me, my team, my friends, my loves were falling, tumbling, lying. I reached out and found Vanessa’s hand. Her eyes met mine. “Love,” she whispered.

“Love.” I said the word and then, as my breath failed, I started humming the tune Mike had hummed. It was easy once you knew how to do it. All of us hummed it, but our voices were weak and the wind didn’t carry, and the soldiers stared at us with wide eyes and then turned and fled back into the bus.

The last sight I remember seeing was the fourth member of our advance team looking at us through a window of the bus. He still wore his suit, but his faceplate was open, and on his face was the most dazzling, loving smile.