Okay, so, I mentioned in my big Youtube announcement that I am working on a new novel, the working title being Project Shenmue.
Shenmue has always held a weird fascination over me. I remember seeing images and gameplay footage of it when I was younger, but not catching the name of the game itself. As such, I could have easily forgotten the game entirely, if not for my accidental rediscovery of it after college, thanks to the timely intervention of a Youtuber named Super Eyepatch Wolf.
I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that the story of Shenmue is very simple. Most of its diehard fans point to its historical game design and play mechanics when discussing why it’s a good game. But even if it’s simple, there’s something about the overarching plot of the Shenmue series that gets to you. Who was the man Ryo’s father supposedly killed? Did he really kill him? What secrets of his father’s life will Ryo uncover in his pursuit for revenge? These questions stick with you, and they’re what drew me to Shenmue.
So, like many people, I was very excited for Shenmue 3. At last, we were getting answers and a thrilling conclusion to the story, right? Right?
Yeah… it… didn’t really pan out like that.
But! Then, out of the blue, another Youtuber, a James Stephanie Sterling, hit me with their own video, detailing the debacle, and ending with an elegy: If Yu Suzuki wants to conclude his epic saga… maybe he should just write a book?
That was when I thought “Huh. Maybe I could do that.” And so, I started mapping out a Shenmue fanfiction. This would retell the events of the three games whilst trimming the fat and sowing foreshadowing for the conclusion. However, the more I mapped, the more issues I ran into. Surely this subplot could be cut. Really we didn’t need this character, right? And, come to think of it, those portrayals of China and Chinese people were kinda racist and poorly researched, weren’t they? You’re telling me there’s a rural village in 80s China without a single faded Mao poster? They still speak of the emperor highly? What the fuck is a miko doing in China?!
That was when I thought “Wait… why does this need to be a Shenmue fanfic specifically?” What drew me to Shenmue, and what I ultimately wanted to accomplish by writing the fanfic, was to give myself (and hopefully other Shenmue fans) a satisfying conclusion to Ryo’s quest for answers and revenge. But that was such a broad, abstract thing, I could put that in my own, original story and still get what I wanted. More than that, making the story original would relieve the pressure to live up to Shenmue fans’ expectations, and give me the freedom to inject new ideas and characters into the plot. So, that’s basically what Project Shenmue is. Despite the name, it bears as much resemblence to the Shenmue games as Star Wars bears to Flash Gordon. And while I hope Shenmue fans appreciate it, the Shenmue influence only takes up a small fraction of the overall story.
So what is Project Shenmue, really? It’s a planned trilogy, with each installment taking place in a specific city: Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. Each book involves a series of interconnecting plots, all involving different inhabitants of the city, and all converging in the climax (think something like Stranger Things). And while all three books will focus on the overarching plot of the main character, a young man searching for his father’s killer like Ryo, the real stars of the books are the cities he visits; The uncertain future of Hong Kong, the ghostly past of Shanghai, and the vibrant present of Beijing.
Right now I’ve written about 20000 words of the first draft, so I’m 1/4 done. I have a publisher I’ve gotten into contact with who wants to see the book when it’s done. And given how long it took me to write my last book, I am setting a personal deadline to have the first Project Shenmue book fully complete and ready to publish before the end of this year. So now the only thing left to do is actually write. That’s always the most difficult part of writing, staying put at the keyboard and bleeding out words. But when it’s done, there’s no greater joy I know. And I’ll still be popping in here to review things and give you readers progress reports. So, I hope you’ll stick with me as I make this journey.