Previously . . .

By , February 13, 2013

As we ready ourselves for the release of The Mongoliad: Book Three, I thought it would be helpful to recap some of the previously offered commentary by the authors.

Cooper Moo on rooftop sword fighting. [ Full piece @ slate.com ]

In 2004 I joined a fight club. It was more of a sword-geek guild, really. We met every Sunday morning in a nondescript warehouse in Seattle’s industrial district, made our own weapons, and fought with them. It was gloriously homegrown and savage. Olympic fencing this was not.

We beat the hell out of one another every Sunday, went to work bruised and bleeding on Monday, and came back the following Sunday to do it all over again. This went on for almost two wonderful years until, one fateful day, Neal—one of our founding members—had some bad new for us.

We were doing it wrong.

Mark Teppo talks about the medieval arms race. [ Full piece @ wired.com ]

Part of our purview on the project, an interactive story that’s being turned into a book trilogy, was to portray Western martial arts correctly. Thus began my crash course in the evolution of arms and armor over several centuries of medieval life.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this education was charting the changes that occurred as a result of this medieval arms race. Let’s start with the Battle of Hastings, in 1066, as recorded by the Bayeaux Tapestry, which is more than 200 linear feet of embroidered pictures of men in armor.

A little insight into the workings of the writers’ room [ Full piece @ tor.com ]

I like to joke that ninety percent of my job is herding cats, and there’s a little cry for help in that joke. Because really? Keeping a room full of writers on task is EXACTLY like herding cats; it’s only worse in the sense that a great deal of the magic of a writers’ room only happens when your cats have gone and gotten very distracted. Writers, as solitary thinkers, tend to spin stories out of nothing but moonbeams and cobwebs and whatever the latest Internet meme is that is keeping them from doing pay work. You put a bunch of them in a room, and the story generation becomes exponential. In many ways, the easiest part of managing The Mongoliad was letting the ideas in the room run unhindered.

Joe Brassey talks about the origins of the Circus Branch [ Full piece @ suvudu.com ]

Three days earlier, and I’m in the meeting where I got this assignment. The upstairs office is a big room with a big, long table at its centerpiece. A pink box of doughnuts and pastries sit in the center, and various books on the Mongol Empire, medieval fighting techniques, and the events of 1241 are scattered here and there. My laptop is humming along as I try to keep pace with the jokes and the story-plotting that’s thrumming along as seven writers plus a few other brain-storming minds toss out ideas. Words fly left and right as our Canon Master Mark Teppo attempts the admirable and unenviable task of herding a bunch of inquisitive minds like cats fighting over a piece of string and keeping us all on task. That’s important today because he’s bringing up a point that is going to change our course a bit. Up until now The Mongoliad has consisted of three branches of story weaving together. In meeting cadence, they’re called the Brethren Branch, the Mongol Branch, and the Rome Branch. Mark is about to turn that all upside down.

A brief essay about what genre The Mongoliad is. [ Full piece @ Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist ]

Here’s the thing: I understand labels. I understand genre marketing. I get that people like to put things in neat little boxes so that they know how to approach them. I also started off my career writing “urban fantasy” books that don’t have werewolves, vampires, or the undead in them. I call the Codex books “occult noir” and no one understands what I’m saying; I say “urban fantasy” and we have, at least, a general starting point.

For a moment, then, let’s consider this claim that The Mongoliad is an epic fantasy. What’s epic about it is the amount of research we did. We wanted to write a Western martial arts adventure story, one that was true to the actual fighting techniques of the time. Fighting techniques that are, only now, being rediscovered and taught in martial arts schools around the world. You know what? There’s a lot more to fighting with a sword than simply hitting the other guy first.

And, finally, here are a few of things that have been said about the previous volumes.

  • “An outstanding historical epic with exceptional character development and vivid world building… In addition to the heroic battles–including swordfights, archery, wrestling, and martial arts–romance, political intrigue, and promises of betrayal and rebellion are suffused throughout this cinematic tale…Stephenson and Bear & co. have set the bar high for the series.” – Publishers Weekly
  • “Story lines abound but interconnecting them all is the fascinating evolution of sword fighting… sf and military-history buffs will devour this genre-bending saga.” – Booklist
  • “This off-beat alternate history of Eurasia could be your new obsession.” – io9
  • “Stephenson’s knack for dense historical detail combines with lots of sword-swinging adventure…As it stands, the book itself is a romp through this thinly fictional historic period, one that is full of well-described swordplay and richly imagined characters. The transitions between the voices…is seamless. The Mongoliad: Book One feels like the start of a truly epic adventure.” – Locus Magazine
  • “The pacing is taut throughout…the fight scenes in particular are written exceptionally well, with a clarity and subtlety missing from just about every other representation of medieval warfare in prose or on film. The authors have clearly done their homework on the period, but they wear their collective education lightly; the result is a world with depth and texture, not a history textbook.” – Tor.com
  • “Recommended for readers of alternate history and military fantasy‚
    and fans of Stephenson.” – Library Journal
  • “…A collaborative epic unlike any other that will enthrall fans of fantasy, martial arts, and historical fiction.” – SF Signal
  • “This story is pure adventure, with much swordplay and swashbuckling.” – Kirkus Reviews

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