The following is an interview with writer Cooper Moo, one of the talented, powerhouse authors (including Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, and Mark Teppo) responsible for The Mongoliad book series. In honor of today’s release of the series’ final installment, The Mongoliad: Book Three, Fanboy Comics Senior Contributor Ben Rhodes chatted with Moo about how sword fighting with foam swords led to The Mongoliad series, whether it is possible for the Mongols to be sympathetic characters, and what is up next for the author.
This interview was conducted on February 25, 2013.
Ben Rhodes, Fanboy Comics Senior Contributor: The Mongoliad: Book Three will be released on February 26th, and I could not be more excited. For our readers who might not be familiar with the series, how would you describe it?
Cooper Moo: In 1241 Europe is in serious trouble. The hordes are coming and the western powers are just wringing their hands and looking into crash courses in Mongolian. Enter our intrepid band of warriors. If the Great Khan were to die, all the lesser khans would return to Karakorum to elect a new leader, thus distracting the hordes invading Europe. If it sounds like a semi-suicidal quest across a thousand miles of enemy territory, it is — and fertile ground for alternative history.
BR: Your sword fighting and writing club sounds like the most interesting gathering ever. How did you all get together and decide to hit each other with sticks?
CM: It’s all Neal’s fault. He puts great value on verisimilitude. When writing The Baroque Cycle, the sword fighting had to be “right.” So, in the early 2000s, he and a group of other hardy souls — geeks with way too much time on their hands — starting making their own foam swords and fighting with them. I joined in 2004. Eventually, the group included all the authors of The Mongoliad save Nicole Galland who Skyped in live from Martha’s Vineyard. Missing out on combat with a bunch of sweaty, knuckle-dragging guys didn’t seem to bother Nicki that much.
BR: Is there any chance that you could tell me who the best sword fighter in the group is?
CM: That’s like asking the Great Khan which of his wives is the prettiest! Even the ruler of the largest empire the world has ever seen knew better than to answer that question. I will say this; I’d welcome a matchup between two of our crew — Ben Wilson and Brandon Uttech. Ben is skilled, big, and attacks with the subtlety of an avalanche. Brandon is just a damn ninja. Straight up. As his bio on the Foreworld site reads, “Brandon Uttech is mysterious and is not afraid of shadows. They are afraid of him.”
BR: How would you describe the writing process for the series?
CM: Rolling brain damage punctuated by fits of brilliance. It’s awesome. Writing with six other authors is both challenging and a tremendous motivation. Every Sunday after sword fighting, we’d meet to discuss whatever chapter of the book our ring master, Mark Teppo, wanted to hash out. Feeding off the collaborative energy, we’d go home and do our level best to incarnate the ideas from the session. Mark then stitched all our work into a seamless story, a highly mysterious achievement we’re fairly certain involved midnight sacrifices and a pact with Mephistopheles.
BR: The thing that most impresses me with The Mongoliad is that you guys have made the Mongols and the Shield-Brethren sympathetic and interesting characters. Was this a conscious decision or a result of writing in groups?
CM: Thanks for the compliment – this was a conscious effort. History is written by the winners. No doubt the Mongols felt they were destined to rule the globe, just as every other world power thinks at some point. To write something more interesting than basic “black hats vs. white hats” or “east vs. west,” we needed fully developed characters on both sides. This way the reader gets invested in both story lines and has to wrestle with their own internal conflict at the end of the series.
BR: Will we see any of the other Foreworld stories collected in print?
CM: Yes. At least two more books in the works will see print. The first; a collaboration by The Mongoliad authors Joseph Brassy, Mark Teppo, and myself, plus new team member Angus Trim, co-author of the already-published side quest The Lion in Chains. The second is being penned by E.D. deBirmingham. Mark and 47 North are also talking about doing print compilations of the side quests.
BR: I understand that your sword-fighting writing company has also started work on a video game. Can you tell us anything about it?
CM: CLANG is a revolutionary sword-fighting game by the game division of Subutai Corporation, the parent company to The Foreword Saga which includes The Mongoliad. We started with a successful $500,000 Kickstarter campaign last summer. The project is managed by game industry veteran Karen Laur. Her team has a working demo almost ready. CLANG is being built in Unity, and we’re fortunate to have some first-rate talent including Aaron Leibe who comes to us from 343 Studios. We’re a long ways from a full-on game, but happy with the progress.
BR: Since Fanboy Comics focuses on what excites us, what are you geeking out over right now?
CM: That’s always a long list. Here’s a few off the top:
– Have always wanted to be telekinetic.
– It’s nice when science starts to catch up with science fiction.
– And, this jaunty look at pandemics explains some very cool microbiology:
BR: What question do you wish I had asked?
CM: “What is the sound of one sword fighting?”
BR: How can our readers find out more about The Mongoliad?