Friday, April 04, 2014

#FIF: Final Fantasy VII, Fanfiction, and How I Started Writing.

That's right, folks, it's time for another #FIF (Formative Influence Friday!). And today I'm covering none other than the one, the only, the legendary, the epic, the yes-it's-overhyped-but-I-still-love-it-video-game:


I'll be the first one to admit, my admiration of Final Fantasy VII is both romantic and nostalgic. Just thinking of FFVII takes me back to seventh grade, when I was a confused barely-teen who had nothing going for him socially, a voice that cracked more than Robert Downey Jr. (at the time) and shifted octaves more than Mariah Carey (re: weird puberty stuff), and no idea how to deal with any of it. There were some other things going on that contributed to my unhappiness, personally and in other relationships, but those things deserve entire posts unto themselves. Long story short: it was a sucky time in the land of Chris Husberg.

But, in a weird, twisted way, when I got my hands on FFVII, I found an escape from all that. So here's a caveat: my feelings for FFVII are clouded by the fact that the game essentially saved me from one of the worst parts of my growing-up. FFVII is the hero of my childhood. It provided me a distraction, a world where there were heroes and adventures and gigantic swords and dudes with long silver hair. So, I'm biased, and I know it.

Because let's be honest: FFVII, while it's popularity certainly endured more than any other FF (another topic on which entire essays could be written), isn't the best game around. Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger have more developed characters (and FFVI has arguably the greatest villain of the entire FF series). Final Fantasy Tactics, perhaps tied with VI as my favorite Final Fantasy of all time (objectively speaking, subjectively, this post should make it obvious what my choice would be), told a phenomenal story with great twists and turns. And, of course, each subsequent FF has had exponentially better graphics, if nothing else.

I wasn't kidding. Dude's sword is RIDICULOUSLY LONG.
Compensating much, Sephy?
But, for me, there's just something about VII. A few things, actually. Sephiroth, for one. The original (for me) bad-ass villain. And he looks like a rockstar, too. The silver hair and ridiculously long katana are now video game icons. The epic struggle to save the planet. Gold Saucer and all the mini-games. Cloud's mysterious backstory. The love triangle. Aeris' unexpected sacrifice. Canons the size of cities
(wtf?). And, of course, giant swords that are so impractical it's ridiculous. All of it drew me in, and I was powerless to resist. Even as I've looked at the story and characters with older, more experienced eyes, and seen them for what they really are (um...sort of nonsensical, all over the place, and underdeveloped), my feelings haven't changed.

And, interestingly, I'm not the only one. FFVII remains the Final Fantasy with the strongest cult following by far. The intense popularity of the game has led to numerous spin-offs and even a CG movie (which is awful, by the way, but hell yes I saw it almost immediately and loved every minute of it ["dilly-dally shilly-shally"? WTF?]) or two--see the Wikipedia compilation of all things FFVII here.* I'll be the first to admit that such a cult following isn't entirely justified, and I'll also be the first to admit that I am deeply embedded in said cult following. Oxymoronic? Perhaps. But that's how it is.

But FFVII has more meaning to me than anything I've mentioned so far, and for one very important reason: Final Fantasy VII is what got me writing.

I don't want to give it too much credit; I was scribbling stories in composition notebooks when I was in the first grade. But I'd never really had a compulsive drive to tell a story, never had an undeniable, almost uncontrollable desire to explore characters, until I finished FFVII...and wanted more. I wasn't done with the characters. I wasn't ready to let them go (let's be honest--I wanted Aeris back). I've spoken of how I love things that depress me before, and FFVII may have been the original.

So, I entered the wonderful realm of fan fiction.

I mostly read the stuff, at first. Frank Verderosa's The Final Fantasy VII Internet Series is, I think, what got me started, and is really the only story that still stands out in my mind (it is pretty epic, even as far as fan fiction is concerned). I got most of my fixes from IcyBrian's wonderful RPG fanfic compilation website. Seriously, that place was a lifesaver for me, and I spent probably hundreds of hours reading stories posted there.

And, for me, just reading them eventually wasn't enough. I had to start writing them, too. So I started my own FFVII fan fiction series. I've scoured IcyBrian's site and I don't think that first one is up there anymore. I think he might have taken down all of the series that weren't finished...I only ended up submitting three or four chapters, until I got bored with that idea and started on a new *alternate history* version of FFVII (I was so innovative, wasn't I?). Got three or four chapters into that, and then I got bored again. (I was a discovery writer from the beginning!) Neither of those stories are on the site anymore that I can see (and the links to the fanfic areas of the site don't even seem to be working anymore, for that matter...sad), although I do still have hard copies of them. Perhaps, one day, I'll post them on the blog. We'll see. BUT...Brian must have liked what he'd seen from me, because he tapped me to participate in what he called the "Cold Fusion" project. Essentially it was a group-written novel with zero collaboration (Brian facilitated this by making sure the authors did not know who each other were or contact one another at all, keeping the names secret until the next chapter had already been posted). So...if you are interested in reading what I wrote back in 1998ish about FFVII, look up Conor McCloud (my pen name at the I guess technically there's no way to verify that it was me who wrote the chapter, you'll just have to take my word for it) in the Cold Fusion part of the website. Or just follow this link, if you dare. And please, be kind. I was young, people (the title is mine, too, by the way--Ghosts of the Past, Phantoms of the Future--I thought I was pretty

So, anyway, that is the single most influential thing FFVII did for me: it got me writing. Story-wise, it's mediocre. It's characters are flashy on the outside, but have less substance than I prefer to admit. But something about that story drew me in, saved me from adolescent hell, and made me want more. Interestingly, at the time I would have killed for the spin-off games and movies and so forth that exist surrounding FFVII now--but, at the time, all I had was a fan fiction website and my own brain. So I made due.

I'm so glad I did, because I think it was one of the truest things to myself that I've ever done.

* I'll be honest, I'm sort of a purist where VII is concerned, though. I've seen Advent Children and read the plot synopses of a few other related FFVII stuff, but for the most part, I'm all about the original game**. I haven't felt the need to pursue the other material; for me, the original game is enough. And I actually think that is sort of a high compliment.

** Speaking of the original game, there were rumors of a remake of FFVII for the PS3 when the system first came out, mostly based around a technical demo for the system, embedded below. Now that the PS4 is just gaining popularity, rumors once again abound of a remake. I'm cautiously optimistic. I honestly doubt one will be made, but let me be the first to say it (or probably not the first, but whatever): if they remake FFVII for the PS4, I'll but a PS4 immediately if only to play that game. Because it will be amazing. (Or it won't...but it'll sure take me back.)


  1. I enjoyed the well-written fanfic! However, I was sorely disappointed in the near-absense of Cait-Sith. One passing reference to the central protagonist of the whole game? We all know that the story carefully revolves around Cait-Sith. Aside from that, it was awesome.

    1. Thanks! Cait-Sith was actually going to be Cloud's plucky, street-smart side-kick in this version; I figured he got enough screen time in the actual game, you know? Although I had a great romantic side story planned for him...

    2. I always saw him as a figure fit for romance. Square-Enix should have hired you for official novelizations.

    3. Totes. I always felt I understood Cait-Sith in a way no one else did. His character really spoke to me; the megaphone, his cyborg nature, fortune-telling, and of course the never-ending question of who REALLY was in charge, the cat or the mog, are all aspects to which I could very much relate.