Note: This is the Editing Blog for my FFVII fanfiction Northern Lights (which you can find at the end of that link). I will be discussing a myriad of topics along with my frequently tangential and harried editing process. You should be able to garner some enjoyment and insight from this without having read the story and/or without prior knowledge of the original game, but if you’re a fan of paranormal romance and/or dark fantasy, you may find it to your liking. The story will be spoiled in this editing examination, though I will do my best to mark spoilers for any other narratives I mention. Thanks for your interest and enjoy!
Warning: Some discussions of rape as it relates to the story.
Once again I welcome you all to my editing blog. Today I finish up the first edit of Chapter 3, but first I want to start with a discovery. I was scheduling my Daily Cosplay posts for the week on the other blog I write for Caffeine Crew (yes, yes shameless plug, whatever) and one of the cosplays brought the trope of White Haired Pretty Boy to mind, BUT (if you clicked the link you know) it’s not called that anymore. Noooo, now the trope is entitled White Hair, Black Heart. Good thing: this makes me think of the Ellen Datlow story compilation Black Heart, Ivory Bones. Bad thing: WTF? Alright, fine, I admit that it generally is the case that men with white/silver hair do tend to lean toward the more nefarious side, and of course OF COURSE if you go to the Religion section it has Satan who can turn himself into an “angel of light,” and when he’s in this mode (heh), he’s generally depicted with silvery hair.
Where was I going with this? Ah, yes, I was ranting. There’s an equivalent trope for females that was originally called White Haired Pretty Girls, but it’s now entitled Mystical White Hair. My favorite example of this is Robin McKinley’s Deerskin, a book I read many, many years ago even before playing FFVII.
Someone should subvert the trope of White Hair, Black Heart. I’m kind of doing it in Northern Lights and Martin is also doing it a bit in ASOIAF with Rhaegar, although that really does depend on whom you believe. Drunken fuck Robert or noble Barristan Selmy, Jon Connington, and a host of other people with way more valid opinions than the *spoiler* dead Baratheon king *end spoiler*. I’m sure you can see where I’m leaning with this. I know this is wishful thinking, but I really, really hope that Rhaegar is actually still alive. The Ice and Fire Gurus have a theory that he might be *spoiler* disguising himself as Mance Rayder, *end spoiler* but who knows what GRRM actually has planned.
Sigh…we can only hope. On to the editing part of this editing blog.
Aeris has little hopes and dreams etched out on her map. The flower girl really doesn’t want much: coffee in Kalm, a kiss of snowflakes, and sunshine in Costa del Sol.
“’No one has ever wept for, child,’” he whispered. “’No soul has ever shed tears on my behalf.’” The tears she sheds for him really get to Sephiroth. It’s incongruent because of what he is and what he’s done to her (He’s also utterly wrong about nobody weeping for him, but that’s a heartbreak we’ll deal with later.).
“‘You have no need to know how a heart of darkness seethes.’” Ah the heart of darkness…these words have always sparked my interest and not really due to the Joseph Conrad story, which I haven’t actually read, but for another reason. I had a college friend who used to call his ex-girlfriend “hod,” which stood for “heart of darkness.” It was…sort of joking as they were still civil, and he would call her that to her face. It was an ironic term of endearment I suppose. Now at the time I didn’t know that hod also referred to one of the Holy Sephiroth. Granted I don’t think he did either. I’m fairly surprised by how many people don’t know the origin of the term “sephiroth,” and saddened, too because FFVII is (arguably) the most popular Final Fantasy and yet the majority of the populace don’t know the source of one of the most important references. I mean granted I didn’t know that there was a Paradise Lost connection until a few days ago, but at least I had the wherewithal to do some research. I seriously hate when I mention the term and I either get blank stares or they think I’m directly referring to the game when I’m clearly indirectly referring to it (eh, I’m sort of always referring to FFVII). Hod means “glory” or “splendor,” almost the antithesis of darkness, but I suppose you can’t know the former without the latter, and the path to glory is often fraught with shadows.
He doesn’t understand why she would keep her old clothes so tainted and soiled with blood. Then she tells him, “Memories are all I have…even the bad ones are sacred.”
“It was beaten in me to be straightforward.” Huh? What fresh hell is this? I don’t have her say anything about this line, but Aeris is definitely thinking something about it.
“’The Planet led me there…it was also the safest place in the house. I found that out my very first night.’” The flower girl shivered again, and Sephiroth gripped the shackle on one wrist.'” In this moment Sephiroth really wants to go to her, wrap her in his arms, and tell her she’s safe. He wants to protect her even this soon after their meeting, but he can’t. He can’t do that. He can’t touch her like that, and he’s ashamed of himself for even thinking it. He feels the draw/obligation to protect her, but he can’t act on it right now.
“’Thieving gangs run rampant when the lights bleed to red, and they’ll ‘’steal’’ far more than possessions.'” “Steal” here being used as an implication of rape, which is where the latter term derives. Side note, but that always made the “Johanna” song from Sweeney Todd super creepy due to Antony’s lines about “stealing her.” For some reason I don’t think that was done by chance. The song starts around 0:57.
Poor Johanna is threatened with rape and violence all throughout that tale. From Judge Turpin, who not only wants to marry her, but also raped her mother, to her father himself who doesn’t recognize who she is and tries to kill her. I could continue on with Sweeney Todd; it’s my favorite horror musical (cause that’s a HUGE genre), and has some of the same tragic themes held in FFVII. Newsflash: many of the things I like I hold dear because they have similar symbolism to FFVII. I’m pretty sure I fell in love with FFVII due to, well, timing, but also because I love religious allegory and I’ve been obsessed with angels since the age of five. I mean the only reason I read the ASOIAF series was because of the blurb on the second book A Clash of Kings speaks of a meteor/comet or portent from the sky (6th sign anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?). When I saw that I reexamined my life choices for prior they had no interest in a story called A Game of Thrones that wasn’t directly about the choir of angels. But like so many things I had no initial interest in (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Frozen, FFVII, yes you read that last one right), I was utterly wrong and would’ve greatly missed out on an amazing narrative that has similar symbolism to VII (alliteration bitches!).
“‘It…did.’” The small voice was reassuring and Sephiroth looked up again. “’Just not in the way I expected. If my prayer had come to pass then, the story would’ve been different.’”
It would’ve saved us all.” Does this mean it would’ve saved him, too?
There’s a point to every narrative, and each one asks at least one central question. (One of) The point(s) of FFVII is that there are things that death cannot conquer and that hate cannot wash away. The central question is “Who is holding the puppet strings?” This is also the central question in A Song of Ice and Fire. The point to that saga I haven’t quite pinned down yet (FN here, and I have a better insight on it after a year’s examination. I’m fairly certain a major takeaway from ASOIAF focuses on point of view. I also think this is a huge meta point in FFVII, but that’s too much to get into right now), but I’m sure it also centers around Tyrion’s statement of “We are puppets dancing on the strings of those before us, and one day our children will take up our strings and dance in our stead.”
The point of Sweeney Todd is that you can be so blinded by what you’re trying to achieve that you end up bringing about the very thing you were trying to prevent.
One point of Frozen is that you can only carry a burden for so long before it becomes to heavy to bear. The point of all this (the meta point) is that each narrative has something to offer, a lesson for us all.
Northern Lights’ question is “Can anyone be forgiven? Can the fallen be redeemed?” and the point of the story is that the truth can transform you. I want to say the answer to NL’s central question is, Yes. Forgiveness is a gift for anyone who asks for it and is truly contrite. Paradise Lost pondered this a bit in the beginning as well when Lucifer was thinking of giving up and asking for forgiveness. Now whether or not he would’ve been allowed back into God’s good graces is anyone’s guess. I don’t think Milton had much hope for that, but I’m not 100% sure… (FN is currently at Book V of Paradise Lost, and she’s quite certain the answer would’ve been no. God is a gigantic douche hat in PL.)
“‘…but only life can pay for death and only blood for power.’” I believe this is inspired by A Game of Thrones (Future Narcissist: Inspired my ass. It’s directly from AGOT. Mirri Maaz Duur says it to Dany), and what Mirri Maz Duur tells Dany when the grieving girl asks why she did what she did. This seems to be a standard trope in fantasy stories. There is always a price, but it may not always be what you think it is, and that’s the worst.
Oh come on! I’m trying to be serious here!
Aeris is the matyr, the bearer of the fifth seal. Again interpretation is always king, but I believe she knew her fate. I think the Planet told her and comforted her in its truth Now whether she knew her initial prayer wouldn’t work (or required a sacrifice) is anyone’s guess, but I have a feeling she knew she wasn’t going to survive.
“‘I’m the only one left to remember. That’s what I was doing when those men found me. So stupid…they could’ve-‘”
“’There’s nothing foolish in remembering,” he told her, “and you did nothing to warrant their ‘’grace.’’” She does a common rape victim trope (which makes my blood boil, but it is what it is) and blames herself for what could’ve happened. Sephiroth immediately does what, honestly, everyone should do and tells her she’s not responsible for what could’ve occurred, unraveling that paradigm immediately. He doesn’t laud himself for saving her; he just lets her know that none of that was her fault.
Then we come to both the crux of the chapter and the goal of the story. This is what hides in the shadows of the past. He’s carried the belief that Jenova was his mother throughout life and death, but Aeris obliterates that just as he obliterated her guilt for her attack. This was the truth he needed over a century ago, the truth he was never allowed. He doesn’t know what to say. “I believed them. Why wouldn’t I? I had no other truth…” He had no reason to disbelieve what he’d been told and then when he found his “mother” in Nibelheim the anger at being lied to about her “death” (and, well other shit) could’ve definitely prompted a way for the darkness and horror to take over his mind. Then after reading about how he was created (cause no one bothered to tell him that) it was the finishing blow. He want mad from revelation and there was no going back. But now in the future with Aeris he rediscovers a new and purer quest, the redemptive journey, though it will not right his past wrongs. No, he doesn’t believe he can ever do that, but he owes his true mother her due. Sephiroth doesn’t believe he has any other purpose. “I have to find her…I have to find where she’s buried and beg her spirit for forgiveness. I was her son and I never even knew it. I never even knew her name…”
The Followers of Seph, yup from Seth or Set the Egyptian god. Yup, Northern Lights has fangirls and it’s written by a fangirl.
Not long after this he gains his second obligation to take Aeris out of the city and someplace safe. “Flowers weren’t meant to bloom in the shadows…I’ll take you out of the slums.” And that’s that. Aeris could not have a better protector than her murderer. I always go for the ironic, but Aeris/Sephiroth pairings tend to just intrinsically do that. She couldn’t be in more capable hands. He feels obligated to her so there’s no way he’ll ever let anyone hurt her (we already saw that prior in Sector 6); he’s immensely strong, swift and vigilant so no one would even stand a ghost of a chance of getting to the flower maid. I think Aeris realizes this, and while she’s still not completely certain about him, she’s starting to let trust creep in.
Both Sephiroth and Aeris have wants that are entirely independent of the other, which is a good thing for a romance narrative. Too often the heroine wants to “fall in love” where the hero is actually given some goal outside of this. This makes heroines seem insipid and less heroines and more pining twits. The little Cetra has wanted to find a way out of the slums since she got there with the conflicting layer of needing to do something for the people therein. While I did go the cliched route with her finding him and her life changing (it was bound to happen though him being her former murderer and all), I wanted her to have a goal that was worthy of the character. Aeris is the last of her kind who can commune with the Planet. She’s kind of like the Lorax who speaks for the trees (sorry, it was just there), and her initial goal even in a romance story isn’t going to just be something so shallow. Seph wants to find his true mother. That’s what matters to him now because she was denied for so long, but he also owes Aeris because he killed her. I think both tasks are currently balanced in his mind.
She voluntarily takes his hand again much to Sephiroth’s surprise. “‘It’s a terrible thing to be forgotten.’ ‘It’s a far worse thing never to be remembered at all.'” This parallels later words…the ones that make me think of the conversation between Hazel and Gus in The Fault in Our Stars about how if we all remembered fourteen people no one would ever have to be forgotten. I’m about to cry like right now, literally. You are reading the record of my almost tears. I’m going to try to write out the conversation, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to.
I can’t make it plainer that these are not my words. My most poignant line is a fraction of what John Green wrote in far less than I normally do.
“There are about fourteen dead people for every living person,” he said. “I did some research on this a couple years ago. I was wondering if everybody could be remembered. Like, if we got organized and assigned a certain number of corpses to each living person, would there be enough living people to remember the dead people?”
I…just can’t. The whole idea of memory and not being forgotten. I mean fuck, in Advent Sephiroth even says, “I will never be a memory,” which taken in such context is the saddest thing ever. Oh, and this name means “remembered by God” or “God has remembered” or just plainly “memory.” Yeah…
“’Wherever you wish to go, little flower, I will take you there. I won’t leave you until I know you’re someplace safe.’” Aeris really doesn’t know what to do with that. It’s beyond what she can comprehend.
“Aeris flipped her braid away to one side, and this called Sephiroth’s gaze only briefly to the curve of neck amongst wispy hair.” This is the first instance where we see him notice something appealing about her, but again it’s just a little inkling nothing more.
She asks him to remove his chains because she doesn’t feel he deserves them. He disagrees, but is fast discovering that arguing with her is pretty futile. The only time he sort of “won” an argument was earlier when he said his terrible line about how he felt at her death, frightening the flower girl away. He doesn’t want to do that. He never wants her to be frightened of him ever again.
The first instance of him saying her name is at Aeris’s behest and the fulfillment of an earlier “prophecy” from the very beginning of chapter 2. I really like this chapter’s ending. I can see them so clear in my mind. Standing in the candle light hand in hand. It’s prior to any real romantic element, but it is a precursor.
Tomorrow is the reread/reedit of chapter 3. I bid you goodnight dear readers. Thank you for your diligence and patronage.