It’s here! The Mongoliad – the experimental, multimedia, collaborative world-building project – is now live. It’s the future, but it’s also a bit of the past, recalling the trend of serialised fiction popularised in the 19th century. According to the site’s FAQ:
The Mongoliad is a serial novel, the kind of thing that Charles Dickens wrote. It’s also an experiment in fiction and technology… Fast Company said that we may be “the future of the novel.” The Mongoliad is set in the thirteenth century of a universe very much like ours, a world we call “Foreworld.” We publish chapters every so often (about weekly), and every chapter has associated discussions and other ways for readers to interact with each other and with us. Sometimes we’ll also have graphics to share as well, or movies, or music. There is a user-editable ‘Pedia with information about Foreworld-related topics, general-purpose user forums, and soon we hope to have easy ways for people to contribute their own stories, art, and music to our shared Foreworld experience.
The master behind this creative enterprise is none other than Neal Stephenson (think Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Zodiac, and more recently, The Baroque Cycle trilogy). He’s working with an army of collaborators, including sf author Greg Bear.
It’s spring of 1241, and the West is shitting its pants (that’s “bewraying its kecks” for you medieval time-travelers).
The Mongol takeover of Europe is almost complete. The hordes commanded by the sons of Genghis Khan have swept out of their immense grassy plains and ravaged Russia, Poland, and Hungary… and now seem poised to sweep west to Paris and south to Rome. King and pope and peasant alike face a bleak future—until a small band of warriors, inheritors of a millennium-old secret tradition, set out to probe the enemy.
Their leader, the greatest knight of their order, will set his small group of specially trained warriors on a perilous eastern journey. They will be guided by an agile, elusive, and sharp-witted adolescent girl, who believes the master’s plan is insane. But this small band is the West’s last, best hope to turn aside the floodtide of the violent genius of the Steppes kingdoms.
Welcome to The Mongoliad.
I can’t wait to see not only how The Mongoliad evolves, but also how it might affect things like the DRM debate (‘DRM is futile, and we don’t like to waste our time doing things that aren’t going to be effective’), online collaborative media, new models of publishing, and the evolution of what we currently call ‘the novel.’