December 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The biblical wise man King Solomon once wrote that there is nothing new under the sun, and in 930 B.C., that bit of common wisdom might have been true. Several hundreds of years later, a great teacher—some say a prophet—was born into a technological society wherein “half the things a man knows at 20 are no longer true at 40—and half the things he knows at 40 hadn’t been discovered when he was 20.”

That prophet was Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote nearly 100 books, most notably 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke described, with breathtaking precision, humanity’s relationship to technology. And he’s never been alone. Asimov, Butler, Dick, Bradbury, Wells, Verne, Shelley, and now, Omaha’s Matt Hebert. They prognosticate so we don’t have to.

Hebert showcases his prognosticating skills in his two self-published sci-fi novels, Beneath the Surface and its sequel Breaking the Surface.

The 30-year-old author was born in California. A self-described Air Force brat, Hebert and family moved to Bellevue in 1994 and stuck around. He graduated from Bellevue West High School and now works as an architectural engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Hebert says he was inspired to write largely due to his propensity to daydream and an inability to pay attention in class. “I’ve struggled with ADHD since I was a kid, but was not officially diagnosed until I was 19,” Hebert says. “It doesn’t affect my writing as much as it makes school, work, and other ‘normal’ societal structures challenging and confusing to navigate at times. But I can write anywhere as long as the TV isn’t on.”

The charismatic author says he’s always felt the drive to make his own worlds. “I am compelled to create,” he says. “It’s satisfying to get the creative energy out of my head and heart, but mostly it’s just a natural compulsion.”

Hebert says that when he receives a vision, he just can’t rest until it’s written down.

“I have a difficult time feeling at ease until I have scratched that itch,” Hebert says. “That was important to my first book, Beneath the Surface, because that’s where it started. I was not a very focused student and had daydreamed one day about the windows around the top of the commons being underwater. Fish and dolphins and the sort would swim past. So then I began justifying that reality with the back of the school being an airlock, the bus being a submarine.”

Eventually, the world of Surface began to take shape. The trilogy—a third installment is scheduled for February release at the 2018 Planet Comicon Kansas City—explores a future dystopian world where the government headquarters house the privileged portion of the world’s population in an underwater arcology (a self-contained structure and ecosystem) with all the benefits of a consumer-based economy. Revolt becomes inevitable.

“Surface is set in 2084 and follows Sembado, a young man discovering that the government of his sub-aquatic facility is not as benevolent as he thought,” Hebert explains. “Sembado’s vapid, consumer lifestyle is turned completely on its head.”

Hebert says the books are great for young adults or anyone who enjoys the post-apocalyptic, dystopian craze. “I would love to see my books become movies,” he says. “To that end, I do plan on working on a screenplay at some point.”

To paraphrase another great science fiction auteur, Edward D. Wood Jr., we’re all interested in the future because that is ultimately where we will spend the rest of our lives trying to navigate the unforeseeable. Visionaries like Matt Hebert give us a road map to the as yet unknowable.

19 November 2017- Matt Herbert is photographed at his home for Omaha Magazine.

Matt Hebert’s Surface books are available on Amazon. Visit the author’s Facebook page
@surfaceseries for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.