A Q&A with Mark Teppo, co-author of The Mongoliad: Book One
Q: How did you get the idea for The Mongoliad?
A: It all started with sword fighting, of course. My co-authors and I are part of a Western martial arts study group that practices in a non-descript loft in Seattle. A lot of the initial impetus for the group came from Neal Stephenson who had realized the sword fighting in his earlier novels was lacking the input from individuals with actual expertise. In the course of learning about the history of Western martial arts, he coaxed a couple other writers into the same circle. From there, the idea of writing a saga about the complex history of Western martial arts was born. Since the idea grew out of a group experience, it seemed best to continue the collaborative aspect of the project, and that was how the core team of Neal, Greg Bear, E.D. deBirmingham, Joseph Brassey, Erik Bear, Cooper Moo, and myself came together.
Q: The Mongoliad trilogy began as an online subscription service. How would you describe this first incarnation of the trilogy?
A: At the time, we were also talking about new ways of interacting with our audience, and an online subscription service seemed like an interesting experiment. The edition that grew out of that experience is best characterized as a serialized work-in-progress. Not only were we conducting an experiment in writing collaboratively, but we were also learning what it was like to interact—in near real-time—with our readers. It was, in many ways, not unlike the manner in which Charles Dickens wrote his own novels. The first iteration of many of his classics were serialized, with Dickens shaping and revisiting his plots based on readers' responses to the episodes. He even started to think of the episodes differently—writing more cliffhangers than one would normally use in a traditional novel format
Q: How is the Mongoliad trilogy different from the serialized version of The Mongoliad?
A: We wrote the serialized narrative in one long rush, constantly shifting stories and plotlines in response to writer availability and to what our audience was talking about. I don't know how well it will read after the fact as I think there was a certain amount of inescapable frisson that went on during that process. But it was a serialized experience and much of that emphasis is a weekly cliffhanger, which doesn't necessarily translate well to three separate volumes.
The trilogy that is being released via 47North is a much more coherent narrative where the emphasis is now on world-building and story-telling. The Mongoliad has a beginning, middle, and end, but it's also the starting point of a huge explosion of stories and characters—in the medieval world and beyond—that is still forthcoming. We know so much more about Foreworld now (the world in which The Mongoliad takes place) that we are able to properly understand these characters' place within the larger narrative that has yet to unfold.
Q: What are the strengths of this book-length version of The Mongoliad?
A: Firstly, each of the three volumes of The Mongoliad have been polished, re-structured, and re-edited into the definitive edition of the narrative. The 47North publication is the authors' preferred text. As we said, throughout the serialization a book is never really done for the writers until they can hold it in their hands. We're old school, that way. It's done when you put it on the shelf.
Secondly, having been the guy who had to take it all apart and put it back together across three volumes, I think it's a much stronger narrative now. There are four story branches that move back and forth across the year 1241, and lining up intersection points between the branches was complicated in a serialized non-linear format. The 47North edition allowed us to build a better pace and structure for the narrative.
For example, the Rome branch, which began immediately in the serial, doesn't begin in the 47North edition until Book Two. Which makes sense in a linear story-telling fashion because the events that occur in Rome take place much later than the initial events in Book One. In the serial, we didn't do it that way—much to our chagrin. But we couldn't do anything to fix that misstep. Until now.
Neal Stephenson is primarily a fiction author and has received several awards for his works in speculative fiction. His more popular books include Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle, and Anathem.
Erik Bear lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. He has written for a bestselling video game and is currently working on several comic book series.
Greg Bear is the author of more than thirty books, spanning the thriller, science fiction, and fantasy genres, including Blood Music, Eon, The Forge of God, Darwin’s Radio, City at the End of Time, and Hull Zero Three. His books have won numerous international prizes, have been translated into more than twenty-two languages, and have sold millions of copies worldwide.
Joseph Brassey lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two cats. He teaches medieval fighting techniques to members of the armed forces. The Mongoliad is his first published fiction.
Nicole Galland (writing as E.D. DeBirmingham) is the author of I, Iago, as well as The Fool's Tale, Revenge of the Rose, and Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade. An award-winning screenwriter, she is married to actor Billy Meleady and, unlike all her handsome and talented co-writers, spends no time at all hitting people with sticks in Seattle.
Mark Teppo is the author of the Codex of Souls urban fantasy series as well as the hypertext dream narrative The Potemkin Mosaic.
Cooper Moo spent five minutes in Mongolia in 1986 before he had to get back on the train—he never expected to be channeling Mongolian warriors. In 2007 Cooper fought a Chinese long-sword instructor on a Hong Kong rooftop—he never thought the experience would help him write battle scenes. In addition to being a member of The Mongoliad writing team, Cooper has written articles for various magazines. His autobiographical piece "Growing Up Black and White," published in the Seattle Weekly, was awarded Social Issues Reporting article of the year by the Society of Professional Journalists. He lives in Issaquah, Washington, with his wife, three children, and numerous bladed weapons.
Well written with great characters. Beautifully made on good quality paper.Published 6 months ago by Eva
The Mongoliad series is an enjoyable read but I didn't feel this collaborative effort was worthy of Neal Stephenson's usual exceptional standards. Read morePublished on June 27, 2013 by Lynn B. Schornick