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The Collected Works of Ian Flemingo

On Monday evening, about two hundred Mincefluencers descended on the Fortune Theatre for “Operation Human Thermos”, a fan gathering to celebrate Operation Mincemeat, a musical that gives us all the warm and fuzzies. A lot of people dressed in cosplay to mark the occasion, and I joined in the fun. (If you want to see photos, Harry has a great thread on Twitter.)

A small flamingo hand-puppet with a black bow tie on its neck, with a flamingo neck and two fluffy, flappy arms.

Accompanying me was Flemingo, a hand-puppet flamingo who’s become a constant companion when I go to the show. (Why a flamingo? Because of one verse in a single song that has turned the humble flamingo into an icon in the fandom.)

Both of us were wearing bow ties to cosplay as Ian Fleming, who’s both a character in the musical and the co-author of a memo that laid the seeds for the real-life operation. And Ian Fleming was a part-time novelist, part-time spy, so it made sense for us to be carrying a stack of his books.

I did look in a couple of charity shops for old Ian Fleming novels, but I couldn’t find any. Lacking real books, I decided that the only alternative was to make my own.

This led to a series of props that are, if anything, over-arsed: the Collected Works of Ian Flemingo. These are a collection of postcards with covers based on the real James Bond books… sort of:

A series of eight book covers, arranged in a grid. Each cover is in a bright colour and has the silhouette of a bird. The titles are: Flamingo Royale, The Man with the Golden Gull, Goldfincher, Dodos Ar Forever, On His Majesty's Secret Stork, Loonraker, Dr Crow, The Magpie Who Loved Me

I got the idea over Christmas, and annoyed my family by coming up with increasingly tenuous ideas for James Bond Bird puns. This was lots of fun, and I came up with so many ideas – for every one you see, there are two more I didn’t use.

The design of the covers are loosely based on a real set of hardback editions, without the fancy art. For the images, I turned to PhyloPic, a site I bookmarked years ago and I’ve been waiting for a good reason to use. It provides free silhouette images of animals and plants, and I was able to pick a set of bird images with CC0 licenses. (Flamingo, gull, goldfinch, dodo, loon, stork, crow, magpie)

I’d like to say the rainbow spread was intentional, but really I just kept picking colours I hadn’t used yet – I didn’t arrange them in this order until I had them printed.

A series of the backs of the books, arranged in a fan-like shape. On the back of each book is a blurb filling most of the page, then a barcode and some text at the bottom.

On the other side of the cards, I wrote pun-filled blurbs that are based loosely on the original books. I got the original blurbs from Amazon listings, then stuffed them with puns and references to the show. At one point I did consider including testimonials from characters, but I didn’t have space.

The books are published by “El Otro Editora”, a reference to “El Otro Periodico”, a fan-produced newspaper, which is in turn named after the line “el otro telefono”. The price is “6d”, which is the one mistake that really irks me – I meant the cost to be a ha’penny, but instead it’s half a shilling. Oops. (Why a ha’penny? Because of a line in the show.)

My favourite touch is the barcodes in the corner. This is what makes it feel like a “real” book to me – and every book has a unique barcode, and they can be scanned!

Initially I picked random numbers as the ISBNs, but I got worried about where they might be pointing – maybe I’d accidentally pick a real ISBN that pointed at an offensive book?

Then I looked for ISBNs that could be used safely. For example, I know there are telephone numbers that are reserved for fictional purposes, so a phone number that appears in a TV show won’t accidentally lead to a deluge of calls for the person on the other end. But although lots of ISBNs are used for fiction books, there aren’t any ranges reserved for fictional books. (And yes, I did look up the ISBN specifications to see if there were any ranges reserved for this purpose. This project is nothing if not ridiculous.)

Finally, I did the obvious thing – I just dropped in the ISBNs for the original Ian Fleming books. So if you scan the barcodes, you’ll find a James Bond book.

I printed the cards themselves using InstantPrint, who did a great job – the cards feel nice in the hand, and they were delivered quickly on a tight deadline.

Eight piles of postcards laid out on a table, each for a different postcard. The stacks are visibly tall, maybe an inch or so tall.
Most of the cost was in the initial print run; adding extra copies was cheap. As in “double the number of copies for £1 extra” cheap. So I printed a faintly ridiculous amount.

Most of my work is purely digital, so I always enjoy when I get to actually hold something I’ve made. In the week leading up to the event, I found myself taking them out of my bag and just turning them over in my hands as I admired the shiny, shiny thing. I don’t expect to print more of these particular books, but I can see myself doing more custom postcards in future – it’s nice to have physical souvenirs in an increasingly online world.

I gave out a bunch of the postcards as OHT souvenirs on Monday, and people liked them! I also got to gave some sets to the cast at stage door today, which got rid of the rest of the prints. I had fun making them, and I’m so glad that people are enjoying them.

Small flashes of joy, indeed.