As a kid, I was a sucker for fantasy novels. Stick a pot boiler featuring wizards or dragons or stuff like that in front of me and I’d probably devour it within the day. Nowadays, I’m fairly jealous of kids and the type of literature aimed at them. Harry Potter, bless his heart, burst the door open for publishers to flood the children’s section of every Border’s with uninspired, flimsy fantasy epics. I would’ve loved that shit. But I didn’t exit my childhood too deprived. I got The Golden Compass.
How I came across the book is almost the stuff of shitty children’s fantasy writing, itself. I was snooping around my older sister’s room, I can’t remember why (unfortunately, I didn’t have any mysterious hermit great-uncles with English countryside estates), and came across the paperback on her bookshelf. It seemed strange, since I didn’t know her to read anything other than Clive Cussler books. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I thought the book was at first glance, that the compass on the cover was some kind of treasure from an ancient civilization or some stupid thing like that. But it looked pretty enough to read the snippet on the back cover, and I was surprised to see that it was actually a fantasy novel. Being who I was, I instantly decided to give it a whirl. It turned out to be one of the more rewarding literal leaps of faith I’ve made. Later on I learned that my sister had no idea what that book was or why it was in her room.
After Harry Potter broke everything, everywhere, wide open, I had a thought snuggled in the back of my head: “I hope they do something with the His Dark Materials Trilogy!” Eventually, my hopes and dreams were answered! But probably only because New Line Cinema wanted another Lord of the Rings and was bitter about Disney (it was Disney, right?) producing its own stab at the WETA-effects fantasy pot, another beloved, philosophical children’s fantasy series: The Chronicles of Narnia. So it was with great joy that I finally heard that production on the movie was actually going forward. I was elated to see the trailer! If anything from today’s modern children’s fantasy offerings deserved the red carpet treatment (aside from glory-hog Harry Potter), it was the His Dark Materials Trilogy. Nevermind what on earth they were going to do about the series’ controversial theological stance.