A stealthy startup called Subutai is working on a mobile app it calls as an experiment in “post-book publishing and storytelling.” The company demoed the application at the SF App Showcase tonight. With only six minutes on-stage, chief executive Jeremy Bornstein could only offer the basic outlines of the app, so the most exciting thing about the company is still the names involved — bestselling science fiction authors Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear.
The app is called The Mongoliad, and it’s built around a serialized story created by Stephenson, whose books include Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Anathem. The plot concerns the Mongol invasion of Europe (which was, incidentally, led by a commander named Subutai), and swordfighting will play a big role. Bornstein said that new devices allow for an unusual “blending of media,” but at the same time the heart of the experience is the text, which will be written by Stephenson, Bear, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo, and other authors.
The app will include a number of social and gaming capabilities around the text. This part is vague, for now, but Bornstein did show a user profile, which will reflect each users’ standing in the Mongoliad community, and he also showed that users will be able to rate each portion of the story. Beyond that, Bornstein said users won’t be writing the story itself, but they will be contributing to the “large, shared world.”
Subutai plans to launch apps for iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and Android devices later this year. Stephenson is noted for writing big, doorstop novels, and Bornstein said this should offer an epic narrative from the author in a more portable format: “We’re not trying to make Neil write shorter, just lighter.”