Nerd Report: The Mongoliad

Local author Neal Stephenson crafts avant-garde science-fiction sagas

By Anna Samuels December 10, 2010


This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Seattle magazine.

While pundits ponder the future of the novel, Seattle author Neal Stephenson has lodged it securely in the past. Stephenson (Snow Crash; Cryptonomicon), whose avant-garde science-fiction sagas explore cryptography, math and philosophy, recently released the first installment of his latest work, The Mongoliad, a parallel-world version of the Mongol invasion of Europe co-authored by several like-minded scribes. But you won’t find this serialized novel on paper—it’s being released digitally via Subutai Corporation (, an online “social book platform” maintained by Stephenson and a group of artists, technologists and business people. Subutai aims to amp up the literary experience with extratextual and interactive material, such as illustrations, interviews and documentaries available online. Stephenson sees a connection between new-school technology and the old-school serialization format, popular since the early 19th century. “Subutai Corporation is hoping that the emergence of apps, social networks and other new technological wrinkles will turn serialization back into a successful publishing strategy,” he explains. To access the novel, readers purchase a subscription ($5.99–$9.99; and are granted access to chapters released weekly on the website—or sent directly to a smartphone or Kindle. Subscribers may also influence the direction of the novel by engaging in online discussions and rating various plots. Sounds like the stuff of science fiction.


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