Glenshire author Matt Stein’s book explores a world without technology
Imagine receiving the idea for a book, complete with a pictorial outline and fully developed concepts, in the blink of an eye. Would you follow the idea through?
Local author Matthew Stein did, and the result is a best-selling book, “When Technology Fails.”
Stein, 45, is a mechanical engineer who lives and works out of his home in Glenshire.
“I was about 20 years old when I read an article about this 108-year-old Indian yogi, and it just made my arms tingle,” said Stein. “After that I got into group meditation and was able to get to that point where my mind was completely quiet, where the voice, the inner dialogue stops it was an experience that was so phenomenal that I almost dropped out of MIT.”
Stein didn’t drop out. He graduated from MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering and moved out west to pursue other interests: skiing and mountain climbing.
But meditation remained an important part of Stein’s life.
“I just found that I worked better, felt better, if I meditated every day,” said Stein. “It gave me direction and guidance.”
Stein even found that meditation would sometimes help with difficult engineering problems. Stein holds a number of U.S. patents and has designed everything from complicated water filtration systems to computer disk drives. If he was at his breaking point with a particular product, ready to throw in the towel, meditation would sometimes lead him to the answer.
In the fall of 1997, Stein was meditating when an idea to write a book popped in his head.
“The book came in a flash, instantaneously – it was fully developed with a pictorial outline,” said Stein.
The concept, he said, was twofold.
First, how many people could survive or reproduce any of the technology we use today, if they were stranded in the wilderness?
Second, we’re living on a planet where we are rapidly depleting the systems that support life, and if we continue to destroy those systems we will come to a point where many if not most of us will die.
Stein wanted to develop a book that would address these issues and that people could keep “just in case” our high-tech society ever experienced a major meltdown.
“My gut feeling is that in 10 years time we are going to see some major stuff going on (in our environment),” said Stein. “We are going to have to have a major paradigm shift in the way business is done in America and throughout the world to really change that reality.”
But if the idea came easily, turning that idea into a book was another story.
Stein began sending his 60-page book proposal to publishers all across the country.
The response was not encouraging.
In February of 1999, Stein almost gave up. Two days later, he was thrown a bone.
“The Y2K hysteria had just started and I got a call from Michael Larson (an agent) telling me that if I had the book written he could sell it for a million dollars,” said Stein.
But Stein didn’t have the book fully written. What he had was a few sample chapters and some well-developed ideas.
Two days later, Stein opened a letter from Clear Light Publishing that said the company was interested in publishing his idea.
After receiving a $10,000 advance, Stein got to work.
“When Technology Fails” is the end result. The book is a manual for self-reliance and planetary survival. It includes chapters on water purification, low-tech medicine and energy.
When it was first released, the response was minimal.
But Stein wanted the book to sell and began a campaign to publicize it.
After some local media coverage, the book climbed to the top 40,000 sellers on the amazon.com best-selling list.
“The book wasn’t exactly flying off the shelf,” said Stein. “I had a couple of friends suggest that I try to get the book on Art Bell’s radio program, so I E-mailed him some promotional stuff about the book. He called me back to follow up.”
It was a call that changed the fate of the book drastically.
“When I talked to (Bell) I told him that I wanted to try and get my book on his show. (Bell) replied that he didn’t have books on his show – he had people, and asked me to start talking.”
The author must have impressed Bell who decided to have him on his nationally syndicated AM radio program. The exposure catapulted Stein’s book to as high as number 13 on the amazon.com best-sellers list, which is updated on an hourly basis.
Since his radio debut, Stein has sold out his first printing of the book. Distributors are expected to restock stores in the next few weeks.
For more information about Stein or his book, visit his Web site, http://www.whentechfails.com.
Tahoe-Truckee Community Television Channel 6 is also rerunning “Sierra People,” a show in which Stein appeared, for the next week starting at 8 p.m.
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