Everything We Learned So Far from Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth Excerpts

With the second volume of The Book of Dust hitting shelves in October, and His Dark Materials season one landing on the small-screen sometime soon(ish), this year is shaping up to be full of content for the discerning Philip Pullman fan. But while the TV series follows the original story of a young Lyra Belacqua, the second Book of Dust novel, called The Secret Commonwealth, will pick up with Lyra at age 20. That’s seven years after the end of His Dark Materials, and 20 years after the events of La Belle Sauvage. So what can we actually expect in terms of storyline? We’ve combed through the available excerpts, and here’s everything we learned so far about what happens in The Secret Commonwealth.

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Traveling Between Genders in V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic

I am fifteen. I am in a white, floor-length beaded dress that corsets at the back. My hair is curled, set with hairspray, with flower-shaped crystal clips set in. For the first time in my life I have fake acrylic nails, squared off at the tip, with a delicate floral pattern painted on the ring finger. My mother has loaned me her jewelry, a delicate diamond necklace that sits just over my collarbone. I am on my way to my first prom.

Lila Bard is nineteen. She is in Calla’s clothing shop in Red London surrounded by finery. She picks up a black half-mask with two horns spiraling up from the temples. Forgoing the available dresses, she wears a black tunic, fitted trousers, and a pair of black boots made of soft, supple leather. She selects a dramatic high-collared black velvet coat with a half-cloak over her shoulders and glassy red clasps. She is on her way to a masquerade at the palace.

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The Expert’s Guide to Writing Book Recommendation Lists

It is as inevitable as the green sky above us, the annual migration of the giant oak trees, and the monthly return of the triple moons: sooner or later, well-read fans will be inspired to assemble a list of recommended books for younger people or other fen.

I’m a list veteran, having compiled my first list in grade thirteen at a teacher’s request. Surely my lifetime of reading and listing qualifies me to offer timely advice to others contemplating their first lists—lists that I am sure will end up being every bit as apropos as the ones that populate so many discussions of this sort.

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The Star Wars Universe Is Somehow Big Enough for Eight Kloo Horn Players

I’m sure when you were a kid watching Star Wars, you just assumed that the instruments being played by Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes (note: if you just called them “the cantina band” I’m really not sure what to do with you) were variants on instruments that you have already seen or played upon. Look, it’s an oboe! That one’s a space saxophone! How wrong you were, my young friend. How misguided. That instrument that Figrin D’an is playing is called a kloo horn. It’s totally different from our lousy Earth instruments. (It’s not.) And the Star Wars universe is full of musicians who loved that instrument, at least according to the Legends canon.

Here are eight of their stories. Eight. There are eight whole stories here, somehow. Eight’s gotta be a magic number somewhere, right?

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“Thought everything was supposed to be bigger in America” — Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Kingsman: The Secret Service was a hit in 2015—against some fairly stiff competition all told, as that was the year of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Avengers: The Age of Ultron, Inside Out, Furious 7, Minions, Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, Spectre, and tons more popular movies.

But it still stood out enough for a sequel to be greenlit.

[So you can take your cheap horse piss that you call whisky, which, by the way, is spelled without an “e” and is nothing compared to a single-malt Scotch…]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

This AskReddit Thread Invites Fans to Pick Their Literary Fighter

If you could pick any (no, seriously, any) literary character and have them show-down with another literary character, Smash Bros-style, who would it be? That’s the premise of a new r/AskReddit thread, posed by u/GayDagger, that has fans picking out foes both farcical and formidable.

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Toy Story 4 Will Love the Humanity Right Into You

The Toy Story saga seemed entirely complete by the gorgeous bookend that was Toy Story 3, so it was strange to hear that Pixar and Disney were teaming up for another go. Yet somehow, with all that history behind it, with the journey over and the toys in a new home—

—they did it again. They made me cry in the theater again.

(Non-spoiler review below)

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Netflix Releases the Final Trailer for Stranger Things Season 3

Looks like it’s going to be one rough summer for Eleven and the gang. Netflix has released the latest and final trailer for Stranger Things Season 3, and this July 4 (or at least the one in 1985 Hawkins, Indiana) is shaping up to be full of psychic nosebleeds, sinister carnival rides, and one very familiar villain.

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We’re Both Thinking of Telepathy: ESP in Genre Fiction

Does anyone have the power of telepathy? I sure don’t. But I always wanted it. I spent hours at childhood slumber parties, hoping to guess whether my friend was thinking of a star or a circle. I was definitely not a telepath, sadly, and my ten-year-old dreams were crushed. Heck, I would’ve been happy to be an anti-telepath: able to predict with 100% accuracy what my friend was absolutely not thinking of.

Telepathy, like many elements of science fiction, is wish-fulfillment. It’s fun to read because it’s fun to imagine. As a power, telepathy is pretty darned useful, depending on how it works and whether the user has control of it.

Here’s a few uses of telepathy in fiction.

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Winning Isn’t Everything, it’s the Only Thing: Welcome to The Gameshouse

Claire North’s The Gameshouse was first published in 2015, as a series of three, interconnected, digital-only novellas. In 2019, at long last, the three are collected into a single volume, and in a format where it can sit snugly on the shelf alongside North’s other works.

In case the laudatory flavour of that introduction is in any way misleading, let me be clear: I wholly believe The Gameshouse is one of the ‘single’ best works of modern fantasy. Nor, thanks to its unusual path to publication, is this recency bias. I’ve had four years to read and re-read The Gameshouse, and it gets better every time.

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8 Sweet, Funny, Thrilling Queer Fiction Podcasts

When Welcome to Night Vale premiered its pilot episode in 2012, there was plenty to hook listeners, as Cecil Baldwin’s mellifluous voice speaking Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s distinctive words immediately crafted an eerie atmosphere of familiar but not. But there was something else that made a compelling first impression: Cecil’s loving descriptions of Carlos, the scientist with the perfect hair. Queer representation on the fictional radio, as matter-of-fact as everything else in Night Vale.

Seven years on, queer characters are found in every corner of the expanding audio drama world. So this list of recommendations is by no means exhaustive; it is simply one starting point based on the SFF series I’ve laughed, gasped, and teared up at. From radio-show hosts caught up in romantic fanfic tropes to stories that aren’t about ships but just about being a queer person in the world, these eight fiction podcasts are something to be proud of.

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Noelle Stevenson’s Latest on She-Ra Season 3

For the honor of Grayskull! With season three of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power set to drop on Netflix in August, fans are eagerly awaiting any hints at what’s to come. And Noelle Stevenson is giving the people what they want. While discussing her upcoming graphic novel memoir, The Fire Never Goes Out, with io9, the show’s creator/showrunner/executive producer dropped a few tantalizing details about the upcoming season.

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