On an April Sunday in the near future, Greg and Sara Cobb and their five-year old Tara arrive at the Oakland International Airport. They’ve come from Seattle for a week-long visit to Bayside Village, a techno-utopian community on the San Francisco Bay shoreline whose mission is to recover sacred science. The novel’s background emerges from nuanced conversation in the taxi—Greg met AlignIt inventor Roger Barnes at last year’s semantic web conference; Roger invited Greg to visit him at Bayside Village, consult on AlignIt, and teach philosophy at the Bayside Village’s Bridge Institute; Greg is eager to visit, Sara is unsure. In the taxi, the couple shares concerns about Bayside Village—it’s only six years old and its unproven. Yet Bayside Village could be a dream come true—it’s filled with sages, tech gurus, and grand new social experiments, all of interest to Greg and Sara who could live many shared values at once, in one place. Put off by the ugly, post-industrial surroundings at first, the couple is pleasantly surprised as they arrive on campus. From their Lodge room to a brief walking tour, small surprises arouse delight and curiosity.
At a Sunday evening reception, Greg finds AlignIt inventor Roger Barnes and introduces his family. Roger in turn introduces key figures at Bayside Village. Through introductions, parts of the story are foreshadowed, parts of Bayside Village’s history and mission are revealed, and some of the novel’s key themes are introduced. There, the novel’s week-long narrative structure is given in seed form—a two day orientation for visitors, followed by three days of interviews and meetings for Greg and Sara, climaxing in an AlignIt Commons board meeting on Friday for which Greg is consultant and guest speaker. Unexpectedly, Sara, an industrial designer in a boutique Seattle design firm, gets a job interview for an Art and Communications Director position, which promises to open doors for her. Some of the novel’s principal challenges are also introduced in the reception—Greg can’t connect with HR which is coordinating his academic recruitment, and he overhears that Roger’s venture advisor Chris Mueller wants a call first thing Monday morning—to discuss Greg.
On Monday and Tuesday, Greg and Sara take the Bayside Village orientation and campus tour. Leading Bayside Village figures present on utopian programs and the recovery of sacred sciences. On Wednesday through Saturday, Greg meets with faculty and subject matter experts on developing AlignIt. Together, Greg and Sara meet gurus of Indian Tantra, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, and more. The couple considers moving to Bayside Village, exploring housing, school, and jobs. During Greg’s meetings, Sara makes her own explorations that peak under the rug of Bayside Village.
Behind the tours and meetings, tensions mount as Roger takes a disturbing call from venture advisor Chris Mueller. Chris wants to sack further plans with Greg and AlignIt’s “experimental” features, and drive AlignIt toward immediate revenue generation. Roger and colleagues work rapidly to uncover Chris’s commercial networks before Friday’s board meeting which Chris will guest chair and where he’ll meet Greg. Meanwhile, Greg tries to reach Amelia Blocke in HR on the hiring paperwork, but is put off. Roger and Greg discover, independently, a connection between Mueller and Blocke that opens questions about how ideals can get subverted, how projects get taken over, touching on themes of stewardship and responsibility. The fate of Mueller and Blocke is left unsolved, and the decision of Greg and Sara whether to join Bayside Village comes close but remains to be answered.
AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney. All rights reserved. This blog post was written August 3, 2014 and is copyright 2014/2015 by Rick Whitney, CC BY-NC. See more here: http://alignit.blogspot.com/search/label/License.