James Yu

About Me

Display Name

James Yu

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What I Write

Writing Sample

The sun rose, its rays filtering through the glass into the airship lounge. The Hyboria trundled forward, propelled by its great diesel engines. Small dark specks appeared in the horizon and grew larger as they approached. Arno watched in awe as each speck resolved into a massive chunk of rock, suspended in midair without anything holding it aloft. Buildings dotted the surfaces of the rocks, which connected to one another by delicate-looking bridges.

“The Floating City of Simha,” Kurtyce said. “Last free port between here and the Continent.”

Arno covered his eyes and took in the sight. He knew there was a perfectly logical reason for the city to be suspended midair: the high amounts of Feihzing content—the same mineral contained within the rockets they transported—ensured that the city’s foundations remained aloft indefinitely. Some thousands of years ago, the rocks he saw must have been mountain peaks, but over time, natural forces had eroded their base, until at last, the peaks broke freeing from their earthly moorings and floated up into the sky. Still, a part of it felt like magic.

An enormous black tower loomed up ahead. Red warning lights flashed all up and down its cylindrical bulk. The Hyboria cut its engines and let momentum carry it forward. Tow cables shot out from the docking tower and fixed themselves onto the airship, then began to reel it slowly in.

Arno nearly fell over when he stepped onto the docking tower’s wide reception floor. After two weeks of being aboard an airship, the sensation of solid ground was disorienting. Not solid ground, we’re still in the air. Above him the sky reeled. His vision swam and he felt a stark sense of dizzying vertigo. Ahead of him, one of the passengers dropped to the floor and vomited.

On shore, the disembarkation process devolved into chaos. Passengers surged toward the thin barricade set up by customs. On the other side, the Simhalese customs authorities shouted for order, but were drowned out by angry voices. Arno saw the reverend looming over a tiny customs official shouting over the noises. He could just make out the words murder, murder.

It took a good twenty minutes to reach the bottom of the tower. They were all out-of-breath by the end, having carried their luggage with them the whole time. Shak led them out another creaking door into the back of a deserted alleyway.

Arno set down his suitcase. He leaned against the wall, trying to catch his breath. Before he could say anything, he heard the screech of tires. A mobil pulled out from the end of the alleyway, blocking their path. Dark figures in trailing jackets rushed out from the mobil, the glint of guns in their hands.


Behind them, the door slammed shut. Kurtyce stared at the door, then back at the mobil and the approaching men.

“Stop!” He yelled, but Arno paid him no attention. He was already drawing his pistol.

The air erupted into gunfire.

– Excerpt from Soaring Tigers (An Asian Dieselpunk Story)


What I Write

I write SFF that’s inspired by real-world history, with a focus on themes that tend to get overlooked. I believe that fantasy isn’t escapism as much as a way to get difficult issues in a way that can generate empathy and curiosity. My own writing tries to capture the nuances and complexities of the human experience. My current project Soaring Tigers, is an Asian-inspired dieselpunk heist novel that wrestles with questions of imperialism, faith, and cultural identity.

My Write-a-thon Goals

Writing Goals

My goal is to finish Act 2 of my novel, Soaring Tigers. My target goal is 55,000 words spread throughout ~25 chapters. With thirty days left in the challenge, that’s basically 1 chapter per weekday. I’m currently on the fourth draft, so I also need to be mindful of quality, since I intend to begin querying soon after the completion of this version.