When you propose to write an epic martial arts adventure set in Medieval Europe, you can’t be blithely unaware of the nascent emergence of the code of chivalry, which is indelibly tied to the romantic stories of the Knights of the Round Table. The Mongoliad Cycle is set in years surrounding the Mongolian invasion of 1241, and when we decided to introduce a perfectly coifed and mannered knight named Percival, we did so being fully aware of the time period. And when you drop a knight named Percival into an epic adventure, you have to address the legacy of this name.
During one of the early conversations in the writers’ room, we had floated the idea that our Percival was the historical personage who the early romance writers based their character on. It felt like a nice little in-joke, but then someone did a date check and we realized that Chrétien de Troyes, who is credited with one of the earliest versions of the Percival story, had done so some sixty years earlier. Early in the 13th century, the German knight Wolfram von Eschenbach had written his romance, Parzival. The joke was on us, and we considered changing the name until Greg Bear offered the suggestion that perhaps there was a Percival in every generation. It was one of those quick fixes that writers come up with—a bit of spackling over a rough spot—and in an emotionally charged scene following one of the first encounters with the Mongols, our Percival has a religious experience. He receives a vision, and this vision haunts him throughout the journey to the East.
In our initial presentation of the Foreworld Saga, our focus has been on the heretofore neglected martial arts of the West. We have sought to bring to life the rich and varied fighting arts that are now being rediscovered and enthusiastically explored by numerous study groups around the world. But our underlying foundation of Foreworld has always been a crypto-pagan mythic structure. One that Percival glimpsed a portion of during his experience in the woods; one that lay underneath the life and death of Genghis Khan. And now, with Katabasis and Siege Perilous, the remaining two volumes of the Mongoliad Cycle, the mystery of the sprig and the cup come to the forefront. It all hinges on the knight for all seasons—the singular one born of every generation: Percival, the knight of the Grail.
It doesn’t end here, either. Next year, Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons, a graphic serial written by Tony Wolf and drawn by Yasmin Liang, will be released. It takes place in Victorian England and stars Mr. Bartitsu himself, Edward Barton-Wright, and his liberated niece Persephone Wright—“Persi” as she is known to her friends . . .
[Katabasis is out now via 47North. Siege Perilous will be out in January of 2014.]
[This post originally appeared on the Kindle blog.]