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Could you rebuild civilization, all alone in the past? Probably not. Not unless you brought this book and bandana with you, that is.
Could you rebuild civilization, all alone in the past? Probably not. Not unless you brought this book and bandana with you, that is.
6,700 backers pledged $231,062 to help bring this project to life.

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$231,062

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What would you do if a time machine hurled you thousands of years into the past… and then broke? Could you survive? Maybe. But could you, acting alone and stranded at any point period in Earth's history, reinvent our modern world from scratch? Probably not.

Not unless you took this book and bandana back in time with you, that is.

Look how pretty!
Look how pretty!

Over the course of the past few years, I've collected all the science, engineering, mathematics, art, music, philosophy, facts, and figures you'd need for even the most clueless time traveler to build a civilization from the ground up, and I've put it all into this book / extremely fashionable accessory. Your new world will be one in which humanity matured quickly and efficiently, instead of doing what we did (which, to be specific, was spending 200,000 years stumbling around without language, thinking disease was caused by weird smells, and living completely oblivious to the fact that tying a rock to a string would unlock navigating the entire world). It's a deeply researched guide and ridiculously funny history of the key technologies and innovations that made each stage of human civilization possible (from writing and farming to buttons and birth control), and it will make you smarter, more competent, and completely prepared to thrive – at any point in history.

And if you don't have room for a whole book in your temporal carry-on, you can still carry the highlights with your new attractively-designed and information-dense time travel bandana - enough to create a technological civilization from first principles. It's chock full of civilization-building information that's great to keep around in your back pocket...or wrapped around the top of your head. 

And if you want some beautiful art to show off the time periods you'll visit... keep reading for the postcard stretch goal. :)

Tell me about this book.

Happy to! It measures 6x9, and it's a really attractive hardcover, and inside are 464 pages of text and pictures, illustrated by the amazing Lucy Bellwood. The premise of the book is just like in the video above: in the future time travel is being practiced routinely, and this is a guide meant for the passengers in those time machines - in this case the FC3000™ - to consult should anything go wrong. It's a time machine repair guide, but then it turns out time machines are the most complicated machines humans have ever made, and there's no user serviceable parts inside, and it's actually easier to explain how to rebuild civilization from scratch in any period of Earth's history! So that's what this book does, promising that instead of going back to the future... you can now bring the future back to you.

Here's the table of contents, showing off the sort of things you can find in this book!

This is a non-fiction work of popular science wrapped in a delightful fictional candy coating.

All the information in the book is real, and despite the fact that time travel isn't real (YET?? SO FAR AS WE KNOW??), it is a sincere, honest, funny, and deeply-researched attempt to prepare you for the eventuality of being stranded in the past.

The time-travel conceit keeps things light, and lets me work in lots of jokes so that the book isn't a dry list of facts and figures: instead it's as exciting - and funny - as a really good time travel novel. Imagine if the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was real, but focused entirely on time travel - it might look something like this. The book begins with a flowchart that lets you determine what period in history you're stranded in, all the way back to the Big Bang. In the middle, the book does things like explain how to forge iron while also reinventing art and philosophy. By the end, you are actually for-real prepared to rebuild civilization, all on your own.

Here's what some people are saying about advance copies I gave them!

  • "A dazzling piece of work that's also genuinely hilarious." - Elan Mastai: All Our Wrong Todays
  • "Such a cool book. It's essential reading for anyone who needs to duplicate an industrial civilization quickly" - Randall Munroe: xkcd, What If?
  • "Technically, we are all time travelers and we are all trapped. So, even if you happen to be scanning this blurb in what you perceive to be a 'normal' timeline, I heartily recommend you read this book cover to cover." - Zach Weinersmith: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Soonish
  • "A witty pop science guide intended for those demanding times when one needs to create a civilization from scratch... a fun, thoughtful, and thoroughly accessible reference for curious readers, students, and world-builders, as well as wayward time travelers." - Publisher's Weekly (starred review!)
  • "Packed with cool, fun, and useful stuff... a friendly and thought-provoking reference, just the thing for the bright kid in the family, to say nothing of the neighborhood time traveler." - Kirkus Reviews

Okay, now tell me about this bandana!

The book is inspired by a shirt I designed back in 2012 - after finishing the shirt, I still hadn't scratched that itch, and began to wonder if you really could condense all of civilization down to 450 or so pages. So I started researching. And once I'd written the book, I thought, wouldn't it be nice to take this full circle and bring this back to textiles with a Temporal Survival Bandana? The bandana itself is 22 inches square has more information than the shirt did - including instructions on how to use the bandana itself to invent other technologies like the water filter, the bandage, and the sexy adult handcuff! And if you do ever find yourself stranded in the past, it will be the single most valuable - and most dangerous - piece of fabric in human history.

You can get one exclusively with this Kickstarter!

That shape in the middle is the template for building a unit cube - whose weight, when filled with water, will be the basis of the measurements you need to build the other technologies explained on the bandana, up to and including telescopes, microscopes, smelters, electrical generators, and penicillin. At the top there's instructions for testing if unknown foods are safe to eat - a useful thing to know if you're stranded before the invention of domestication. Those pictures you see in the at the bottom are ways to transform the rotational motion of a water wheel into more useful motions, like the up-down motion of a hammer or the back-and-forth motion of a saw. Seems pretty straightforward, but it still took humans thousands of years to figure this stuff out!!

Or rather, it DID take us that long, until you and your brilliant bandana showed up in the past.

Why are the bandana and book together?

Well, here's the thing. This book is already being printed, and it'll be available in bookstores on September 18th... but these days most book orders happen online. That's great, but it would be MORE great if you could support independent booksellers! That's where this Kickstarter comes in: all the books ordered through this Kickstarter will be funneled through indie bookstores.

By buying the book through this Kickstarter, you not only get the exact same book you'd get from a giant online bookstore, but you also get it signed by the author (that's me!), PLUS you get the time traveler's bandana, PLUS the stretch goals we unlock (see below) - all for the same price you'd pay at retail. It'll be shipped direct to your door on the release day, and you'll get to feel good about supporting cool indie bookstores like:

It's thanks to these amazing booksellers that we can offer the book at a price low enough to give you all these exclusive goodies on top!

Can we use stretch goals to make this Kickstarter even more awesome?

Well heck, why not! Here's what I've got planned: every threshold we unlock will result in a new update, in which I (RYAN) will get stranded, Carmen Sandiego / Where's Waldo style, in a different period in time. While I'm there I'll source a postcard showing off that time, and everyone who backs will get one of each. These are actual postcards, suitable to send in the mail to your pals and say "wish you were here", only instead of promoting boring old places in the present, they're encouraging temporal tourism at various highlights in Earth's past. They'll be drawn by a variety of super awesome artists!  We'll unlock more soon as we fund!

$10,000 = UNLOCKED: 1492 CE, with art by Alex Thomas!

$20,000 = UNLOCKED: 1912 CE, with art by Bill Mudron!

$30,000 = UNLOCKED: 2041 CE, with art by Anthony Clark!

 $40,000 = UNLOCKED: 650 BCE, with art by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb!

$50,000 = UNLOCKED: 65,000 BCE, with art by John Allison!

$60,000 = UNLOCKED: a postcard by David Malki!

$70,000 AND $80,000 = UNLOCKED: a Chrononaut's Choice time travel pamphlet giving you a curated adventure in time, going to everyone at the book tier or above!

$90,000 = UNLOCKED: a postcard by Rahzzah!

$100,000 = UNLOCKED: an excerpt from the book!

$150,000 = UNLOCKED: a postcard by David Hellman!

$200,000 = one last postcard from Ben Hatke!! That's NINE POSTCARDS in total going to everyone who's getting anything physical!

The back of each postcard has an exclusive temporal survival tip tailored to each specific time period. They're going to be AWESOME.

So now with you're not just getting the signed book and bandana: you're also getting temporal tourism postcards, and as the Kickstarter continues, more and more cards will get added to that pack.

What tiers do we have?

We've kept it pretty simple: there's a tier to get the postcards ($10), a tier to get the postcards and bandana ($20), and a really attractive tier that gets you the postcards, the bandana, and a SIGNED copy of the book all for $27 - the same price an unsigned book alone costs in a store! After that there's some tiers for those who want more than one book (you can get two or three), and finally a single-edition $1000 tier in which I hand-build you a time travel survival kit - which includes the book, bandana, and postcards too, of course.

Each tier has a US and Canadian edition - besides the countries they're shipping to, they're otherwise identical.  That's right, Canadians: by teaming up with The Beguiling, we've managed to keep shipping costs identical!  Plus, the books will ship out of Toronto, so you don't need to worry about any customs costs at the border.  THIS WAS A LOT OF WORK BUT IT'S GOING TO BE AWESOME. <3

NOTE: the last time I did a Kickstarter with signed books was for To Be or Not To Be, and there I ended up signing 15,000 books in five days, during which I accidentally broke the world record for most books signed in a single day in the process. I have only gotten better at signing my own name since then.

This sounds great, but who are you and what else have you done?

Hi, I'm Ryan North! You may know me as the author of Dinosaur Comics, or The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for Marvel Comics, or from my illustrated choosable-path adventure books like William Shakespeare Punches A Friggin' Shark and/or To Be or Not To Be - both of which were launched here on Kickstarter (and To Be or Not To Be became the most-funded publishing project ever on Kickstarter at the time!) I've also done writing for Bungie and once got stuck in a hole with my dog. You can read more about me here to assure yourself that I'm not one of those fly-by-night science writers!

I want to ship outside the US and Canada - can I back this Kickstarter?

Unfortunately we can't ship these books everywhere - the numbers simply don't work out (and also there's weird legal issues, since book rights are different in different countries). If you're outside the US and Canada, you may want to wait until the book comes out for real in your region - translated versions will shortly be available in:

  • Russia
  • Poland
  • China
  • Korea
  • ...and MORE??

And if you're in the UK - great news: the book is already available for pre-order there

Thank you! <3

I'm really excited to soon be able to share this book with you - it's the longest book project I've ever worked on! - and I really think it's the best, too. Hopefully what I've said in this Kickstarter intrigues you! Drop me a line if you've got any questions, and if you choose to back this campaign, thank you! I really think you'll have a good... time.

(sorry about the pun, no regrets)

(Oh also! Thanks to my friend Jennifer Ward for her voiceover work, Jason Shaw for the music used in the video (Thingamajig), AR Sound Effects for the time machine SFX, and Freqman for the "time machine just broke" SFX. All music and SFX are used under a CC-BY license!)

Risks and challenges

The book itself is done and already being printed (yay, publishing!). The bandana design is ready to go, and we've got a printer who can turn an order around in 15 days, which gives us plenty of time to get them - and the books - shipped to Make That Thing, who I've partnered with to help fulfill this project. I'll visit their warehouse to sign all the books for you, we'll put them in envelopes, and then we'll ship them off your homes.

All books are being shipped to a single warehouse, which will make things simpler. I've run two successfully completed Kickstarters in the past, and I feel really confident about this one, since unlike the others, the book is already being printed! That's how come we can ship so quickly after the campaign closes.

The main risk is unexpected shipping delays causing the book to arrive in some places after its release date on the 18th of September, but we're going to do all in our power to prevent that: we want you to read this book as soon as possible!

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    USA: Just postcards

    You'll get a pack of all the temporal postcards we unlock, advertising different periods in time, each featuring art from a new artist: the better the campaign goes, the more there will be in the pack! Ships anywhere in the US.

    Includes:
    • Time travel postcards
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    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    CAN: Just postcards

    You'll get a pack of all the temporal postcards we unlock, advertising different periods in time, each featuring art from a new artist: the better the campaign goes, the more there will be in the pack! Ships anywhere in Canada.

    Includes:
    • Time travel postcards
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    Pledge US$ 20 or more About US$ 20

    USA: Postcards and bandana

    You get the temporal survival bandana and all the postcards we unlock! Ships anywhere in the US.

    Includes:
    • Time travel postcards
    • Civilization-rebuilding bandana
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    CAN: Postcards and bandana

    You get the temporal survival bandana and all the postcards we unlock! Ships anywhere in Canada.

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    • Time travel postcards
    • Civilization-rebuilding bandana
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    Pledge $27 or more About $27

    USA: Book + bandana + postcard MEGAPACK

    If you want the book, this tier is the best deal by far! A copy of HOW TO INVENT EVERYTHING (signed!), plus the temporal bandana and all the postcards, shipped to your door anywhere in the US.

    Includes:
    • Time travel postcards
    • Civilization-rebuilding bandana
    • How To Invent Everything SIGNED hardcover!
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    Pledge US$ 27 or more About US$ 27

    CAN: Book + bandana + postcard MEGAPACK

    If you want the book, this tier is the best deal by far! A copy of HOW TO INVENT EVERYTHING (signed!), plus the temporal bandana and all the postcards, shipped to your door anywhere in Canada.

    Includes:
    • Time travel postcards
    • Civilization-rebuilding bandana
    • How To Invent Everything SIGNED hardcover!
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    648 backers
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    Pledge US$ 51 or more About US$ 51

    USA: DOUBLE BOOK MEGAPACK

    Twice of everything: two signed books, two bandanas, and two sets of postcards. It's perfect for you and a friend, and ALSO perfect if you're the type of person who doesn't like to read the same instance of a particular book more than once! Ships anywhere in the US.

    Includes:
    • Time travel postcards
    • Civilization-rebuilding bandana
    • How To Invent Everything SIGNED hardcover!
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 51 or more About US$ 51

    CAN: DOUBLE BOOK MEGAPACK

    Twice of everything: two signed books, two bandanas, and two sets of postcards. It's perfect for you and a friend, and ALSO perfect if you're the type of person who doesn't like to read the same instance of a particular book more than once! Ships anywhere in Canada.

    Includes:
    • Time travel postcards
    • Civilization-rebuilding bandana
    • How To Invent Everything SIGNED hardcover!
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    55 backers
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    USA: TRIPLE BOOK MEGAPACK

    By demand! THREE of everything: three signed books, three bandanas, and three sets of postcards. It's perfect for you and two friends, ESPECIALLY if those friends like reading books about time travel. Ships anywhere in the US.

    Includes:
    • Time travel postcards
    • Civilization-rebuilding bandana
    • How To Invent Everything SIGNED hardcover!
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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 78 or more About US$ 78

    CAN: TRIPLE BOOK MEGAPACK

    By demand! THREE of everything: three signed books, three bandanas, and three sets of postcards. It's perfect for you and two friends, ESPECIALLY if those friends like reading books about time travel. Ships anywhere in Canada.

    Includes:
    • Time travel postcards
    • Civilization-rebuilding bandana
    • How To Invent Everything SIGNED hardcover!
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    8 backers
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    Pledge US$ 1,000 or more About US$ 1,000

    Insane Bespoke Time Travel Experience

    This tier gets you the signed book, the bandana, and the postcards... along with a one-of-a-kind time travel survival kit assembled by me, Ryan! I will make it my business to make sure you are not lost if you find yourself going back in time. Safety not guaranteed.

    I have only done this once before.

    Includes:
    • Time travel postcards
    • Civilization-rebuilding bandana
    • How To Invent Everything SIGNED hardcover!
    • Bespoke Time Travel Survival Kit
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Funding period

- (24 days)