Tantra Bensko is the author of Remember to Recycle, the second book in her series, The Agents of the Nevermind:
What if the homeless men going through your recycling know more about your life than you do? Like who is going to die.
One of the recyclers, Dave, wearing disguises he keeps under a bridge, memorizes the information in people’s bins. He, like many others, idolizes the Rescuers, a supposedly neutral, unarmed humanitarian aid group in a Balkanized country, as the possibility of WWIII looms.
The Nevermind Agents lie on the evening news to garner support for proxy wars. They say the Rescuers are unarmed, neutral, and giving humanitarian aid to a Balkanized country. Their movie about them is a blockbuster. Rescuer costumes are the bit hit for Halloween.
But it’s time to unmask them. And that requires a plan so ingenious, even the planner can’t know how it’s done.
Living not far away from Dave’s bridge, Becky donates generously to the Rescuers, making her finances even more insecure. She doesn’t know what to think when she finds things in her apartment moved slightly. The toothbrush is wet. There’s a stain on the ironing board. The cat food is nearly gone. Is it her imagination? Is someone messing with her mind?
Could it be Stan, breaking in because he loves her? He certainly loves putting her body into mysterious BDSM contortions for their videos. But what’s that muffled moan she hears in the background when she calls him on the phone?
Becky hires her friend to spy on Stan. The woman has gone underground since escaping from the Nevermind; she wears a wig, and a mask meant for burn victims. She has traveled across the country to befriend Becky, taking a chance on an anonymous message recommending she do so, though she doesn’t yet know the reason.
Read on for an exclusive interview with Tantra. And if Remember to Recycle sounds intriguing, be sure to check out the first book in the series, Glossolalia.
S.R.: Remember to Recycle is book 2 in The Agents of the Nevermind series. What inspired you to write this series?
T.B.: The books celebrate the heroism of people who expose social engineering, and that arises from my admiration of brave journalists such as Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett, who report from Syria and reveal how the reality of the situation is different from what the mainstream news tells people. Even for an ordinarily person to take the time to research and analyze social engineering takes courage, and to be open-minded to think for himself and not be swayed by peer pressure to believe the current lies. The Agents of the Nevermind, like our intelligence agencies, are involved in deceiving the public to stir up enthusiasm for coups and proxy wars against countries that are trying to go off the petrodollar standard.
Each book is standalone and unique, each with its own inspiration, but the motif of mass and individual mind control makes the series cohere within the psychological suspense genre. The characters try to figure out the world, which has been made overly mysterious by handlers, cult leaders, secret societies, law enforcement, and others who collude to cover up the conspiracy. When they learn new things, it’s exciting, and I love that feeling myself, a kind of shudder of realization, even if the truth turns out to be grim.
People have been scientifically shown to go into fight or flight when faced with facts that go against their beliefs, and most people associate that with negativity and try to avoid it, but I embrace it, and want to encourage others to as well, for the sake of a healthier society. Fiction is a good way people can get used to enjoying that sensation. And that’s of course the whole idea of the series, to entertain people so they get a kick out of it all coming together by the end of each book.
S.R.: How much of the world in the Nevermind series is similar to our world?
T.B.: Though it’s Alternate History, for the most part, the world is similar to ours.
In the books: the backstory is that the fictional intelligence agency formed in the late 80’s, a time when mysticism was, in actuality, a popular ploy used by some government disinformationists to manipulate people for an agenda. The Agents took over perception management duties from U.S. and UK intelligence agencies, but basically, their role in the books is realistic when it comes to the existing agencies. Their propaganda included perpetuating the mythos of root races, such as ancient giants and magicians in Atlantis, just as we saw in real life in England as well. In the books, there are some characters who were given Human Growth Hormone in their youth, which made them grow unusually tall. That was their way of supposedly expressing their superior reincarnational giant ancestry.
In reality: HGH actually was given out for free to many people by doctors. And, the root race belief has been common for a good while among politically powerful Theosophists and secret societies. Many people have claimed the supernatural ancestry privilege of ruling, colonizing, and priestly rank. They claimed they were owed leadership because of their claim that they had superhuman bloodlines that went back to Atlantis or Lemuria, Shambhala or Arthurian conquests.
So, the fictional world took a turn at that point but it’s basically the same, with corrupt politicians sexually blackmailed. The intelligence history before that turn happened is referenced here and there, like trauma-based mind control to create assassins through MKULTRA and the Enochian spy code from Elizabethan days. I used the cutting-edge investigations into current political corruption such as George Webb’s daily reports about organ harvesting as a byproduct of proxy wars, to keep the elite living longer. It’s creepy stuff, but then, Thrillers always need nasty antagonists, and what better ones to focus all that attention on that real ones, eh?
S.R.: What can readers expect in Remember to Recycle?
T.B.: Many people enjoy the humor in characters like Dave the homeless man who comes up with a brilliant plan to use the information he learns about people while going through their recycling. So many people are in costume, it becomes campy, over the top. I have fun going overboard with tropes. I employ all the Gothic traditions in the third book, Encore, as I go further into the way auric life force itself is manipulated in the series. I like to explore theories about consciousness and as the series progresses, it eventually goes in that metaphysical direction, but in the first two books for sure, there’s nothing that should require any suspension of disbelief.
It’s a book for mature adults who aren’t squeamish. Readers can expect twists and turns they never saw coming, and an upbeat ending, I promise.
S.R.: What do you hope readers take away from your book and the series?
T.B.: Like Kill the Messenger, about the journalist Gary Webb, I hope they come away feeling inspired and empowered to look into even the darkest parts of themselves and our society. Most of the books have rousing endings in which protagonists prevail. With the Gothic novel, I hope they go away from it remembering to appreciate their lives and who they are, without being distracted away by feeling they have to overachieve and be like someone else.
S.R.: What are you working on next?
T.B.: As well as Encore, I’m finishing up an extensive manual, How to write a Gothic Novel, which features competing ancestral mythologies (Atlantis VS Shambhala) as the historical context of Gothic literature. Gothic Tales often have characters trying too hard to push beyond human limits; they’re sympathetic characters, but they break the rules of nature, so they face the consequences. Traditional Gothic authors were tuned into secret societies’ desire for life extension for high ranking members. Each book addresses something different about the Nevermind Agency, which includes the Bennu Society at the core. Bennu was introduced in Glossolalia. It’s an actual ancient Egyptian flamingo deity associated with Osiris and eternal rebirth.
It’s a darkly sexy novel with Horror elements. In the books, I explore how we can be waylaid by our natural attraction to hypnotically seductive people who use their charisma to overpower our rationality. I offer more wholesome opportunities for love in the books as well, and the method of working through personal issues enough to be able to take advantage of that, though characters may possibly be too damaged to pull it off—the usual Gothic theme.
Learn more about Remember to Recycle at https://flameflower.wixsite.com/remembertorecycle. You can also read about Tantra’s move into writing psychological suspense in her guest post, “Shifting from Writing Literary to Commercial Fiction.”
Tantra Bensko, with an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, teaches fiction writing at UCLA Extension Writing Program, Writers.com, Writers College, and her own Online Writing Academy. Her Agents of the Nevermind series begins with Glossolalia: Psychological Suspense, about the lives of secret agents who are so secret, even they don’t always know that’s what they are. http://www.insubordinatebooks.com/