Neal Stephenson to launch interactive novel for the iPad

Famous author will work with other novelist and the public on a multimedia metaverse known as "The Mongoliad."

SAN FRANCISCO--"I'm getting medieval on your apps."

That was how one member of the Subutai Corporation, a San Francisco- and Seattle-based application company, referred to "The Mongoliad," a forthcoming interactive serial novel it's producing for the iPad, featuring work by famed authors Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, and others.

The Mongoliad will be an interactive serial novel from authors Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, and others, for the iPad, the iPhone, and the Kindle. Subutai Corporation

"The Mongoliad" was publicly unveiled for the first time Tuesday evening at the SFAppShow, a monthly application showcase put on here by the SFAppStudio, a firm specializing in developing and marketing iPhone, iPad, and Android apps.

According to Jeremy Bornstein, the CEO of Subutai, Stephenson came up with the idea for what became "The Mongoliad" after writing some sword fighting scenes in the novels that made up his so-called "Baroque Cycle." The problem, Bornstein said, was that Stephenson worried that the way he'd written the scenes wasn't true to how medieval sword fights in Europe actually looked and felt.

From that humble beginning, the project grew into a collaboration between Stephenson, Bear, and a group of people with experience in martial arts. They wanted to re-enact the sword fights and build a new novel around them. But why limit the story to book form, the idea seems to have been. Instead, why not produce the project on the iPad--as well as the iPhone and Amazon's Kindle--and craft a story around the fears overcoming Europe in the year 1241 that the Mongols were going to overrun Western Europe.

Subutai Corporation CEO Jeremy Bornstein (left) explains The Mongoliad to an SFAppShow audience of about 200 people in San Francisco on Tuesday, May 25. On the screen is an image of the app. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Because the project is multimedia and serial, the many authors will be contributing content to the novel as it develops. The public won't be able to submit text for the novel, Bornstein said, but will be able to contribute to the larger world of movies, music, pictures, and more that Subutai is building around the work of the famous authors.

Bornstein wouldn't say when "The Mongoliad" would hit Apple's app store, or when it would be available on other platforms.

In the end, the idea is to produce work that, while in a new medium, will come across as just as polished as what someone would expect from authors like Stephenson, Bear, and the others. In part, that's because the project has hired a professional editor.

"We're not trying to make (Stephenson) write shorter books," Bornstein joked. "Just lighter books."