The Experience

Months before

What is this? A short story?

The first people who bought tickets to RealtimeConf received an email with a link to the first section of Mike Speegle's Something Greater than Artifice.

The first email only says, “You misunderstand, Gregor.”

A serial novel,
an audio book,
then a graphic novel.

Every few days, a new section of the novel is released in serial form, drawing attendees farther into the world of the novel—until it ends with a dramatic cliffhanger: the story's heroes walking into The Conference.

An audio book (Irishly narrated by Paul Campbell) and a graphic novel (illustrated by Jaime Robles) are also released, ensuring everyone has the chance to get up to speed with the story.

And then we arrive.

Day One

Friday, October 18, 2013

7:30 AM

We open on the world of RealtimeConf early Friday morning, at The Jupiter Hotel. During a breakfast among the milling crowds of friendly attendees, we’re handed a miniature version of our nation's flag and a number, which we’re asked to commit to memory.

At the end of the room, two musicians from the State of Play softly serenade the crowd, and it is at this moment that we realize that Realtime is something very different than any of us have experienced before.

9:00 AM

After a brief exercise on proper flag-waving form, a neon marching band arrives at the hotel to lead us to the event.

Delegates from each nation proudly hold aloft their nation’s flag, and lead their fellow countrymen to the conference space in a giddy crowd of musical revelry.

Police escorts burble along on motorcycles as the we stride towards the conference location, nestled as it is deep in the TR at Sandbox Studios. However, the air of camaraderie is broken when Etienne Bastille and his confederates smite the morning air with fervent protests and crude, hand-lettered signs. They want anyone who will listen about the dangers of SILOS and the duplicity of captains of industry like Aidan Spencer.

9:15 AM

9:45 AM

Inside the conference hall, it’s much quieter. We tear open diplomatic envelopes to find a panoply of treasures inside, a laser-cut wooden identification badge, a top secret conference dossier, and an awesome t-shirt.

Inside the dossier, we find our embossed nation's passport, complete with (Twitter avatar) photo and handle. Self-inking stamps with our Twitter handles and national insignia are included, as well as personalized wax-sealed letters from our respective heads of state.

A few other items of RealtimeConf nolstagia are included: nerd merit badges, lollypops featuring song lyrics, full playbill for the conference performance, and more than can be easily comprehended in the giddy pre-conf air.

See the full welcome packet and welcome letters

We find our tables there to discover that we have been thrust into the role of diplomats from various principalities in the Greater Tech Republic.

9:50 AM

Before anyone quite knows what is happening, a projector springs to life and the sweet peals of famed composer Ennio Morricone's "L'Estasi Dell'oro (The Ecstasy of Gold)" fill the air as a trailer fills us in on the story in which we all now play a part.

9:55 AM

After, Conference Chair Mikhail Znamya welcomes us to the event, followed by Piotr Korsakov playing the Tech Republic's national anthem, "It's a Long Way to the Tech Republic."

10:01 AM

The heady surge of nationalism is interrupted, however, by Etienne Bastille and his rebels, who rushed the stage and taunted the chairman and the conference goers, prompting Aidan Spencer–CEO of Aidan Spencer Unlimited and Bastille’s sworn enemy–to rush the stage, hired goons in tow.

Just as things appear to be on the verge of a violent crescendo, a woman known only as Ros emerges from the crowd and–after convincing both parties that there are more dangerous things at play in the world than petty rivalry–manages to restore peace to the proceedings.

The morning passes quickly after that. Aral Balkan, Feross Aboukhadijeh, Arnout Kazemier, and Matt Ranney take command of the stage in turn, the revelatory proceedings bracketed by musical interludes courtesy of Piotr on the theremin.

12:34 PM

Food trucks arrive in time for lunch, providing artisan sandwiches by Bunk Bar and Thai food by Nong's Khao Man Gai.

As we gather once again around our tables, discussing the unforeseen turns in events and finishing off our lunches, a heated exchange between Mikhail and Aidan Spencer catches our attention.

1:40 PM

Martin Bosslet and Kyle Drake speak, and after Amber Case introduces us to Map Attack, which is enjoyed by all.

3:05 PM

We reconvene later, happy and winded, to hear Mikeal Rogers, Forrest Norvell, Traci Sym and Alex Cho share their stories.

We are serenaded with further original songs by Piotr and are amazed by his deft use of banjos, hammered dulcimer, sheet metal and the clear crowd favorite–theremin.

4:30 PM

Later, Lance Stout and Lloyd Watkin captivate the audience with their work on outsmarting SILOS. Henrik Joreteg, Philipp Hancke, and Lance Stout demonstrate a breakthrough that sends shocked murmurs throughout the crowd. Isaac Schlueter closes the day, speaking directly to the character of each of us.

6:10 PM

Then, unexpectedly, Ros returns to the stage, this time with a cello, to play a heartrending tune that stuns us into silence. We depart the conference hall, stunned by all that has transpired, thereafter to enjoy the various activities that the Tech Republic has to offer.

Day Two

Saturday, October 19, 2013

8:00 AM

We reconvene early back at Sandbox Studios, to find a delicious breakfast crafted by local supper club, Din Din. Before the official proceedings commence, Constantine Constantinius introduces a group of volunteers to a rousing Tech Republic folk dance, accompanied by Piotr on banjo.

We clap along, shouting encouragement as our friends dance to the quickening cadence of the tune, and applaud them as they return to their seats, out of breath and smiling.

9:30 AM

Suddenly, we are handed a brightly colored yellow or blue kazoo so that we can participate in a spontaneous TR folk song, accompanied again by the indefatigable Piotr.

The projector surges to life again, but this time we are ready for the trailer that alludes to suspicious activities that happened in the TR the night before, while most were out reveling. Before Mikhail can formally welcome attendees, however, Ros and Moses Driver rush the stage and confront the chairman about the whereabouts of Etienne Bastille, who had apparently gone missing during the night.

9:45 AM

9:51 AM

After a heated discussion, in which many orders are given, Max Ogden kicks the day off the day, followed next by Nathan Fritz, who surprises the crowd with offerings all the nation's representatives with different types of pie from the TR and her sister nations. Piotr performs some masterful musical intervals, with the help of his compatriots.

10:55 AM

Thereafter, Jen Fong-Adwent debuts Meatspaces and the TR is never quite the same. Paolo Fragomeni gives a rousing speech just before the chairman charges the stage and reveals that Aidan Spencer–bastion of leadership in the TR–has, in fact, been working with SILOS all along. It is a very disturbing revelation.

12:55 PM

The finale to Eran's unorthodox presentation unveils an epic pièce de résistance: an entirely edible garden, grown by the speaker himself. We’re invited to cross into a herbological microcosm taste it for ourselves, of which the rare ice plant proved to be the most popular (and most tasty).

1:01 PM

Korean tacos materialize for lunch, served by Tech Republic fave Koi Fushion. However, the light mood of the meal is spoiled when we a transmission from Ros containing photos of a surveilled Spencer trading what appeared to be industry secrets with SILOS Frontmen.

2:11 PM

The Chairman reads the current charges against Aidan Spencer, who was suspiciously missing from the Conference, bidding us not to approach the accused if we see him at large.

2:15 PM

Ilya Grigorik and Anant Narayanan then go on to give their respective speeches, and Piotr entertains the crowd once more with an original composition.

3:03 PM

Then, as unexpectedly as his betrayal of the Tech Republic, Aidan Spencer reappears, on stage at the Conference, apparently having been sniffed out by Etienne Bastille's confederates. Moments before we’re made to bear witness to a bloody beating, Moses Driver seizes control of the situation as only he could, and the chairman, relieved to have avoided a scene, dismisses us for a break.

3:26 PM

The Conference reconvenes to hear Eric Rescorla and Dominic Tarr's thoughts on the state of goings on in the Tech Republic, in between which Piotr bewitches the crowd with another performance on the theremin. The Chairman confers in clandestine tones with Moses, Ros, and Gregor, after which they decide to move Spencer to a safer location where he might be questioned.

5:00 PM

Amber Case closes out the conference proceedings, encouraging us as TR citizens to seize the opportunities presented to us now.

5:35 PM

All seems well until Ros and Gregor regain the stage, only to be hemmed in by the dark agents of SILOS, the blank-faced Frontmen. They surround us in droves, peering dispassionately at us.

We learn that the mind-gobbling effect of SILOS could be combatted with people striving together at one singular purpose, and as the children sing, all of the SILOS agents were restored to their former selves.

All seems lost, until a bright cadre of singers arrives and uses their united voices to drive the threat away, for good and for all.

5:45 PM

Evil having thus been thwarted, we are regaled with "Wake Up" by the Arcade Fire, combining the talents of Piotr, Ros, ex-pats from the State of Play, and the children’s choir. Ana Hevesi then takes the stage to present an urgent challenge to conference goers. Afterward, the children sing "Do You Realize" by the Flaming Lips to a tearful crowd of hopeful adults.

6:25 PM

The smells of Christopher's BBQ wafts in as attendees, performers, and organizers crowd together to take a photo commemorating this once in a lifetime event, and then much revelry is had by all until the wee hours of the night.