I never considered when I first started writing Northern Lights or even when I finished posted it that I’d ever make a printed copy. What would be the point? It would be time consuming and fairly expensive to produce, and the only reasoning behind such activity would be so that I could have a physical copy, which is wholly unnecessary so long as the internet exists. It seemed nonsensical to waste paper and resources on such a thing (especially considering NL is a fanfiction of a story whose main motif is saving the planet). Then a friend who’d read it shared her desire to have a printed copy, and that seeded the idea in my head not for pride, but because I like giving people gifts, and it would be something simple to provide. Then another friend of mine expressed the same sentiment, and I figured I’d might as well.
The first thing I had to do was make a trip to Staples so I could purchase such items I’d need for bookbinding. That was probably the hardest part, because all I could find of such on the internet was waaaaaaay too complicated for my non-skillful self to master. I…don’t do well when it comes to making things (it’s why I have and will continue to buy parts for costuming. I can put things together, but fashioning them is beyond my talents), so I knew I’d need some simple way to bind pages together since otherwise I’d have to make my own bookbinding device as they’re not really sold anywhere that I know of. I went with two prong fasteners and a two hole punch. I thought about covering the edge with purple ribbon to hide the metal fasteners, but even that was beyond me, and I don’t think it looked that bad.
I can’t just tackle any project on a whim without a plan so I started organizing everything. I saved each chapter separately since I thought it would be more prudent to print them out one by one especially since I planned to make everything double sided.
I also wanted it to look like a legitimate book so I used Brian Jacques’s Taggerung and George R R Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms as templates. Northern Lights would have an inside cover with the tagline and blurb in addition to a title page.
I also insisted on having a table of contents even though the crafting of that was quite infuriating. Word did everything in its power to stymie my efforts on this, and I suffered many a Google and YouTube search trying to figure out why it wasn’t formatting correctly, but in the end with some finagling I persevered.
Each chapter has a picture attached to it, but I wanted the table of contents and the title page for the two parts to be illustrated, as well.
I set up my printer to print double sided, which was not as hard as I feared especially since I mostly did it chapter by chapter. You print the odd pages on one side, and then feed them back through as the prompt tells you to print the even pages on the other side. I only had trouble with the cover above. I currently have one where the inside page is upside down. Trial and error.
The “hardest” part came when a chapter ended on one side of a page leaving the back of it blank. When that occurred, I had to start the new chapter on the back of the old, printing out just the first page, and then continue with the rest of the new chapter.
Amazingly, I was able to keep all of the chapters and pages in order, though I numbered the latter just for contingency’s sake.
As I continued diligently working on this project and printing chapters out, something started to bother me. There was a itch of sorts needling at the back of my brain like when a grain of sand gets into an oyster and forces it to form a pearl.
What I was doing seemed to familiar, but I couldn’t initially pinpoint why, but when I did it was purely bittersweet, and that’s when this story turns even more meta.
I already spend most of my time thinking about the parts of my life that make me sad, not on purpose mind you, but because so many of my favorite narratives continually draw it up like a dust storm that’s never allowed to settle and Final Fantasy VII was one of the initial culprits and may be the worst of them all.
So my mother died when I was 14, and it sucked obviously and continues to suck. As any of you who’ve experienced loss know, it never stops sucking. Final Fantasy VII was the first thing I cared about afterwards, and it imprinted on me hard. Even though I couldn’t know at the time that a major catalyst for what the story became was due to Hironobu Sakaguchi’s own mother dying, emotionally I picked up an inkling. The game is filled with dead/missing mothers, but I remember the exact moment I became invested, and goddammit I wish I could find the screenshot, but it’s when Cloud “remembers” when “he” and Sephiroth are at Nibelheim, and the general observes that this is his home town to which Cloud confirms, following which Sephiroth states he doesn’t have a hometown and his mother died giving birth to him (the fucked up thing is that none of this probably even happened in VII’s fictional/fantasy world because Cloud’s memories are messed up). Of course later Sephiroth finds out conflicting information about this that still isn’t correct, because he’d been lied to about who his mother was, and I just felt so bad for him. I mean yes, he did burn down the entire town in that epic fire walking scene, but there’s some solid evidence that he’d been taken over by an eldritch abomination, alien parasite that was drawn to their shared cells like I was pulled to similar pain.
The point is I thought about how the fuck would I feel in that situation, you know, if the whole “Your mom’s dead” thing was just some cruel fucking joke, and there’s a dark ladder I don’t want to go down. Suffice it to say, I understand anger and pain (iram et dolorum) with a nice old helping of guilt laid on top like shitty whipped cream.
That was the bitter, here is the sweet. I used to be obsessed with this show Pound Puppies. I’ve always had obsessions, and when I was a little girl that was one of them. I had stuffed animals and books and all kinds of things, and my mother actually wrote a story about the Pound Puppies, took pictures of me with them, and taped said pictures into a construction paper book that she made herself. So even though neither of us had the term for it at the time, my mom pretty much wrote a fanfiction in physical form. As I was creating the printed copy of Northern Lights, I realized I was doing the same exact thing, and it was the past needling me to remember.
So why is this meta? Well meta is when something refers to itself. Northern Lights is meta in quite a few ways (as is FFVII). It’s about someone searching for their mother’s grave in order to settle the past, make amends, and find themselves (the first happened to me, too, which was a huge inspiration for NL, but that’s another, sadder story), and in making this printed copy, I awoke something from my own past that had to do with my mom and discovered something integral about myself as in you often do become your parents, which…I mean is pretty symbolic (granted in a horrifying and false way) in FFVII. Life does mimic art.
I ended up having a falling out with the first friend I was going to send the story to. We’ve since made up, but in the interim (though I may send her a copy yet) I wound up giving it to my IRL friend Siobhan whom I also work with and who has a lovely site Eyes of Seraphim right here on WordPress, but even had I kept the copy so created, that notwithstanding, it was still an experience worth having.
I don’t like talking about…things, and I used to use gallows humor to cope with. I still use humor and deflection all the time, because I abhor being the center of attention especially if I’m going to be an object of pity. No. Just no, but this paradigm comes up for me all the time. It’s in nearly all of my favorite fandoms and finds itself in every single story I write. It obviously shaped my life and my writing, and since I like to talk about inspirations and influences, it seems only fair that I give credence to probably the most devastating and fundamental one.
“It all goes back and back,” Tyrion thought, “to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance in our steads.”
-George R R Martin “A Clash of Kings”