Let's say you and your friends are big fans of Western martial arts and sometimes get together to whack at each other with long swords while wearing armor. Let's say you're interested in how new technologies can change the way we tell stories. Let's say you also happen to be a world-famous novelist. In fact, let's just go ahead and say it: You're Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle, and other books with obsessive cult followings.
When all of these interests converge, you wind up working together with your uber-talented writer/artist/swordsman buddies Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, E.D. deBirmingham, Joseph Brassey, Erik Bear, and Cooper Moo to create an online wunderkammer of video, tutorials, stories, apps, and complex character lists. From that mess, the surprisingly appealing Mongoliad trilogy of novels managed to emerge. The second book, covering the Mongol invasion of 1241, was published by 47North in October. —Katherine Mangu-Ward