Ben Wakeman's Memory of My Shadow
I think the solve for humanity, if there is a solve, is empathy. If there was a way to put an empathy chip in every single human, so many of our problems would go away.
- Ben Wakeman - author, musician
Unfixed is adding a new offering—interviews with authors and creatives!
Over the last eight months on Substack, I’ve been exposed to a wealth of brilliant writers that explore the messy complexity of the human experience through fiction, non-fiction, essay, and memoir. Reading their work has become an engrossing, educational, and often goosebump-inducing new pastime—from the profoundly attentive Death and Birds essays to a LGBTQ+ serialized novel that always leaves me teary, to weekly laugh-out-loud letters that celebrate and ruminate on mid-life—there is a wealth of wisdom to mine over here. Through this new offering, we will explore unfixed’s meaning and implication in different walks of life—illness, of course, but also relationships, family, aging, socio-economic challenges, trauma and climate change.
Today’s interview is with author Ben Wakeman, a brilliant and stirring author and musician whose songs, short stories, essays, novels, and immersive audio, to name a few, explore deeply thought-provoking themes. For the sake of our Unfixed audience, in this interview I explore his serialized speculative fiction novel Memory of My Shadow, a gripping tale of technological advancement, human emotion and the perfectly flawed code of sentient beings that redeem us in the end. It is a stunning example of human fallibility/vulnerability and how it interfaces with technology.
Here is Ben’s brief introduction to the novel:
It is the year 2052. Artificial Intelligence has arrived and already become big business. Magdalena is a brilliant and tenacious computer scientist who led the A.I. charge and profited greatly when she founded Commune, the company that successfully planted Digital Companions, or DCs, into the heads of most of the world’s population. But at the height of her success, she mysteriously walks away from it all.
From a remote compound deep in the mountains of North Carolina, Magdalena writes her story with the help of her latest creation, Meela, a DC imbued with the personality and emotional intelligence of a human. Magdalena’s obsession with mapping the personalities of real people to DCs is fueled by a longstanding obsession that is far more than scientific curiosity. At sixteen, she survived the deadliest school shooting in American history—and the shooter was her twin brother, Joe, who died in the aftermath. When Magdalena begins mapping her latest model, a charismatic West Coast artist named Evan, a confluence of events forces her to confront her motivations for her work. But is it too late? The virtual monster she has created could prove to be a destroyer of worlds, just like her brother, whom she simultaneously reviles and mourns.
“The Memory of My Shadow” is an exploration of consciousness and technology, the origins of violence, and the price it exacts from those in its wake. The story unfolds through the eyes of a boundary-breaking woman at her breaking point as she exposes the wiring of the human brain and its complicated connection to the heart.
Reading this novel, I was bowled over by the detailed, plausible universe Ben builds and the philosophical implications that flourish within it. It is a masterful allegory about love as the penultimate code, one that predates understanding and complexity, and how it intuits what is most needed to save us.
If you haven’t already, please take a moment and subscribe to Ben’s spanning, illuminating, (and wholly entertaining!) body of work.
And now, the interview:
Ben, it's so nice to see your face. I've heard your voice many times and I've read your words, but to see your face and to get to spend an hour with a human who has deeply gone into the lives of human beings that many of us never encounter, this is, it's just a thrill to have you here.
Oh, well, thank you so much. I mean, when I would see you read different episodes and post comments along the way, it was like I was following the book again with you. So that was such a really beautiful gift you gave me. So thank you. It’s great to be here.
So for those who aren't familiar with Ben's work, I'm just going to do a very, very quick little synopsis here. Ben actually has a number of serialized novels on Substack and also an amazing project called Same Walk, Different Shoes that explores fiction and the ability to empathize within someone else's story.
But today I want to focus on one of his serialized novels Memory of My Shadow. The reason why I wanted to focus on this today is because there are some really thought provoking themes in this science fiction serialized novel, especially around human fallibility and how it interfaces with technology. And also in the spirit of Unfixed today, Ben, I just wanna let you know, we get to take these questions wherever we want. So please don't hesitate to just be like, I'm gonna spin this and take it where I wanna go, or I'm gonna throw it back at you.
I don't have an agenda here today and I know that you have so many fans and I think people mostly are just going to want to hear the heart of Ben today and how some of these themes live in you.
Well, thank you. Thank you because I will not answer with any level of perfection. That's why I'm a writer, I have time to edit.
Okay, good. We're in the same boat then. So let's just start off since there are some people that aren't familiar with you. You have actually a very diverse background that includes music. I think you were playing violin when you were age five and then did technology, but then ended up being an author. Can you tell us, how did you become an author?
Sure. It's funny, I think I've always kind of been a writer. I always had a very active imagination, even as a child. And I started writing a little novel. I thought about this the other day because I did it as a summer project once when I was 12. It was basically a Goosebumps kind of a book. That's what it was. It was about my life at the time, all the kids in the neighborhood.
I've always had a really strong creative instinct. It's just been a drive for me. And it was expressed in music early on for me. I started playing violin when I was five, kind of the Suzuki ear training method and played up to high school and then switched to guitar and played in bands, did the songwriting thing. For the first few years after college, I did some regional touring, headlined some shows in Atlanta, played with a number of artists.
Then had a baby really early and had to figure out how to make a living at the time because what I earned that year was not something that was going to sustain us. So the internet was blowing up. I taught myself some programming and kind of the rest is history. The next 24 or 25 years, I worked in technology, continued to make records, continued to do some writing. But I turned to fiction, I think, really seriously around, I guess about 14 years ago, 12, 14 years ago, and I haven't stopped. I unlocked something in myself that had been waiting for that opportunity.
Wow, I want to know more about what you unlocked. But I think we're going to touch on that. And I think a lot of people, myself included, will resonate with that because it's such a private process, at least in the writing. And then once we bring it out into the world, it's not so private anymore. The world gets to see us through all these different characters.
So OK, Memory of My Shadow begins with horrific gun violence. And of course in our country, this is unfortunately something that we deal with almost on a daily basis now. What was that like for you to dig into gun violence in order to understand one of your main characters?
Well, I mean, it was obviously an intentional choice to not just make that a major theme in the book, but to make it the opening scene of the book. I have always been against guns. Even though I grew up in a rural North Carolina town, which, guns are everywhere. I was not raised that way I was raised as a pacifist.
I think the horror of it has never really escaped me. Just the… when someone picks up a gun, it has only one purpose at the end of the day, right? There are other tools like knives, axes, other things that could be deadly, but those things have other utility. A gun was invented for the sole purpose of taking another life, whether it's an animal or whether it's a person. And that to me is just crazy because humans are fallible instruments as we're gonna talk about with this, the theme of this novel is the fallibility of the human brain.
And putting that kind of a tool of destruction in someone's hand that can make such a quick decision, you know, is frightening. I didn't do a ton of research for this because I think I've always kind of followed it, you know. Ever since Columbine happened, I remember sitting in the office, it was my first real office job. I guess it was 96 that happened, 96, 97. And we were all stunned. I think everyone was stunned by that event. It was just horrific.
I think that the thing that sparked me to want to write about it, there were two things. One was I had heard an interview with one of the Columbine shooters mother. This is, this was probably in the last five years and she, her life obviously has been destroyed because of the event. And just as a parent trying to understand what she did wrong and having to learn how to forgive herself and to accept that, you know he was born that way.
There was something wired in his brain, you know? You wanna blame the parent always when you say, well, they must've been abused or there must've been something that happened. And some cases it is, some cases it's not. And just to see up close her level of suffering and being a parent myself, I can't imagine what that would feel like. So that was one of the things. I think the other thing was the Park Lane shooting that happened in 2018.
I can't remember the dates, I'm terrible at dates. 2018, 2019, I remember hearing about it and being momentarily devastated and then getting sucked into work and doing something else. And it's like, that's the way the world is at this point. And we just accept it. I was like, shit, I really need to spend some time, you know, dramatizing this in a way in a story that makes it live again for me and maybe for other people.
Yeah, and you do in your story, you really do, as you did with Same Walk Different Shoes, it's really important for us, through story, to feel those experiences. So we're not so numb to them. I heard that interview too, Ben. I mean, unless it was a different one, but I remember listening. I remember sitting in a Wells Fargo bank and I had a check to cash and I didn't get out of the car. I was just frozen in my seat. Listening to that mother talk, it was heartbreaking and confounding to even imagine what that must be like.
Of course what we want to do with these situations is fix them.
So you described yourself as a fixer, I think in an email or a comment to me over on Substack, that if you apply yourself to anything hard enough, you can fix it. And Maggie, your protagonist, is a perfect exemplification of this part of you. So obviously, I'm imagining you put yourself into Maggie and were trying to teach yourself something through having her plans go awry. What were you trying to teach her?
I don't know. I think that I'd like to say that I had a master plan that it was really thought out, but I really do write fiction as a way to immerse myself in something I want to learn more about. And inevitably in doing that, I learned more about myself because you can't write a character and not imbue it with huge amounts of yourself and your experience.
I have thought of myself as a fixer, or, you know, someone who thinks they could save a situation or save a person or help somebody. And it's a ridiculous kind of position to be in. I don't know that we choose how we are, you know, there's, we're genetically predisposed, we're raised a certain way, we're born at a certain time. But it's been a lot of how I positioned myself.
I would much rather be uncomfortable myself than put someone else in an uncomfortable position. I'm definitely a middle seat person instead of an aisle seat person, or rather I should say an aisle seat person—so I'd rather get up than make other people constantly get up for me, right?
So I think with Maggie, I got to play with some of those ideas of, of control. Because ultimately, I think when you feel like you can fix things or save someone, there's this audacious assumption of control, that you can control things that if you if you think about it long enough, if you apply yourself hard enough, you can fix anything. And
That's just not the case. And I think I thought about how perfect a juxtaposition it would be to have a character like Maggie, who was this brilliant computer scientist, whose brother was the deadliest school shooter in American history, her twin brother. They shared a womb together. For her to walk away from that catastrophic event, to survive, she had to have some reason to survive.
And her reason to survive was, I'm going to apply myself and figure out what's wrong with the human brain. And I'm going to, I'm going to solve it. I'm going to fix it. I'm going to figure out what causes violence. It didn't start out that way for her. You know, the story starts out, she's really just enamored by artificial intelligence and like everyone else right now. And it just evolved into that. So she's learning about herself and sort of the quiet theme is her trying to really recover what was lost of herself. And her fear of her own brain. Because you can imagine if your twin brother is capable of something like that, you know, why would you be any different?
I can relate to all of that through my own body and what I've dealt with this neurological disorder. I was the fixer to a T. There's a helplessness that we have to face when something in our life is unfixable. And I love that your character, Maggie, is actually trying to fix somebody beyond the grave even. I mean, she's doing the impossible.
Right now with AI, I feel like we encountering this fine line of possibility and potentially maybe fixing things, climate change or human disease, these things that we never thought we could fix. Maybe AI is going to step in.
You have a background in technology. And I just am curious, this is a sort of a side question. Does technology ever celebrate error or weakness or uncertainty? I mean, is there, this is a little, maybe a techie question, but is there room for error?
Sure. It's an interesting question. I think, and I'll answer it in somewhat of a roundabout way, I think what drew me to technology, specifically computer programming, building web applications, mobile applications, was the fact that there was a right or wrong answer. I mean, at the end of the day, computer machine language is binary.
Every single thing, no matter how complex a video is or a piece of art or a piece of music, it can be decomposed down to a small series of on and off switches of zeros and ones. Now, when you write an application, a program, you can make a lot of creative choices. But at the end of the day, if there's a problem with it, you can debug it. You can run it through an application, and you can go step by step through the lines of code, where the bug is and you can fix it. And that is an amazingly addictive and powerful thing to be able to do in a world so full of chaos.
So when you say is, you know, does it celebrate failure? I mean, I think largely failure is celebrated in that it's a learning tool like in anything else in life. You know, there, there were places I worked where people would have this little trophy that was, I think, a golden pile of dog poop that would go from one desk to another for whoever broke the build for, you know, because all these programmers are working together and somebody makes a mistake and they compile it and it goes out there and it breaks everything. So they get the honor of holding the poop for that day.
So I think that might be one sort of celebratory aspect of it, but I think the allure for most people getting into technology is just that idea that, you know, you can keep working it and working it until it actually runs smoothly and it will run forever, barring, you know, some physical catastrophe, the code works and it will continue to work.
What a fascinating blend. I mean, you're coming from this very binary world and then also even music has chords and structure. And then I'm seeing how you're putting these together through characters with heart and emotion and fallibility and uncertainty.
I feel like Memory of My Shadow is really about love. So the fact that you're colliding all of these very contrasting elements, just what was that like for you to grapple with such extremes?
Yeah, I don't think I can write a story, whether it's a short story or a novel or a song that doesn't have the presence of love in it. I think everything at some level is a love story, if you're talking about humans. I just do. It could be the absence of love, or it could be the abundance of love, but love is always present there to me.
I think I was interested in pulling together a lot of different themes in this book. This was my third novel. The first novel I wrote, Rewind Playback, was very much an autobiographical story about music, about my sort of struggle. And I didn't intend it to be autobiographical. It's just you kind of write what you're feeling and you look back and go, shit, that is my life pretty much. Highly dramatized.
The second book was a slightly different departure, but also a lot of emotional terrain dealing with a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and how it affects the rest of their life, how every single thing is changed from that kind of a traumatic event. So this third novel, I had a little time, I was like, okay, I know I can do it. I know I can write a novel.
What do I want to write about? What do I want to immerse myself in? Whenever anyone asks, how do you have the patience to write a novel or how do you dive into it? And I'm like, how can you not? It's amazing. Like if you enjoy reading or you even enjoy watching like a really great, well-written television series and you can't wait every week for the next episode to come out, imagine writing that thing.
So each week or each day, you get to immerse yourself in those characters and you get to decide. I mean, at some point, the calculus of the story takes over and makes decisions for you, and the characters make decisions for you. But that's also part of the fun. So I set out to figure out, well, we already talked about why gun violence was so important for me to write about as a theme.
This was about five years ago when I started writing The Memory of My Shadow, no one was really talking publicly about AI, but working in technology, I had sort of seen the power of what machine learning was able to do, even in its nascent stages of recognizing images. And it was just like, what if it came in well ahead of all the predictions? What if we're all completely wrong?
I heard this one futurist speak at a conference and he was like, human beings will get it wrong because we are organic biological organisms and our understanding of evolution is this extremely slow curve. And technology, if you look at it, is like this. It is completely different. You look at the advancements that have happened the last 200 years, we will be wrong about our predictions. We just will, because one thing, it's just like this cascading effect and you're seeing that come to life now. And so it's an exciting time and it's a frightening time. So I wanted to bring that forward and say, well, what if it did happen ahead of schedule?
The other two things I really wanted strongly were I wanted to see if I could write from a woman's perspective and a first-person perspective, because that's also very hard to do in writing. It is easy to be an omniscient narrator and see everybody's head, but it's different when you're trying to tell a story from one point of view and include all the things that you can't see in doing that.
And the last piece of it was nature. Nature is a huge part of my life and I am guilty of loving nature porn. I mean, anybody who's a great photographer who spends a lot of time in the woods, I love to hike and camp. So, writing about that stuff is a joy for me and I think those things are all the things that I put into the pot together.
Through reading your characters, I feel like you embody unfixed very well, or at least you have a longing or a desire to understand the complexity. None of your characters are very binary. They have a lot of tension.
And so in order for you to write about those, I'm imagining you also have a willingness to go there. I remember reading in the background of Memory of My Shadow that Henri, a non-binary character in the story, you talked about how her character helped you understand your daughter who transitioned.
Yeah, yeah. And that's one of those things that, I'm not a religious person but the older I get, the more I experience things that I can't fully explain how they happen. I'm not closed off to the idea. I just I've never been sort of a follower of organized religion. It wasn't raised that way.
But I wrote about this character Henri, who is a non-binary character in the story and plays a very pivotal role for Maggie, the protagonist. She's kind of a mentor and also her partner in this company. And they're trying to create this, this telepathic AI. So I wrote about this character and I think even a couple of years before that, I had written a song about a trans woman and I was doing all these things. Not knowing that my youngest child was grappling with dysphoria. She actually came out to me three years ago.
And so it was this strange intuitive thing that happens if you're an artist and you're open to things and you're feeling things out, things that you don't even see on the surface happening because there was no obvious signals. It wasn't like she had suffered from a lot of depression and anxiety for most of her life.
But it was never articulated or expressed in a gender way. So I think that's why I didn't freak out when she told me. It took an adjustment and it was challenging. It’s horrific to me—I know there are parents who disown their children when they come out to them, either simply being gay or trans or queer.
And as a parent, I can't imagine. I cannot imagine that. It's just deplorable. I get the fear. I get the fear of the unknown, but yeah. So I think my artistic self had been sort of mentally laying the groundwork and preparing me for it as I was writing these characters and trying to understand it.
That's fascinating. Ido believe that our unconscious is picking up on things way beyond our conscious mind can understand. So in some way, some part of you was preparing yourself for this experience. And I can imagine it must have been just very sweet for your daughter to feel that openness from you.
Has she ready Memory of My Shadow yet?
No, it's funny when you do things, you know, you're still dad and it's still fairly uncool. One day she probably will read it, I think. She's a brilliant writer in her own right. She's an amazing poet. So I look forward to seeing what she will do with her life.
Ok, so back to Maggie. So much of Maggie is you and all that has shaped you. If she could go back in time and develop a technology to prevent human suffering, would she do that after everything she learned in your story?
I think so. If I think about the two things that Maggie grapples with, and I think by extension, I grapple with, I think that the solve for humanity, if there is a solve is empathy. I think if there was a way to put an empathy chip in every single human, so many of our problems would just go away. I just do.
That is the one thing. And if there is a negative thing that I think destroys most lives, it is control. Those two things to me are thematically what I played with in this story, is just this idea that we believe we can control things.
And control comes from fear, you know, whether you're looking at someone who makes these horrific political decisions to deny basic human rights to people or take away the reproductive choice or take away their ability to change their gender. Those are things that are done out of fear, and it's a seeking to control someone else or even to control ourselves or people that hurt themselves or deny themselves.
So, yeah, I think those two things to me, control and empathy are these two poles that have ruled our societies and caused great harm and also caused amazingly powerful transitions, you know, with the civil rights movement was, people like Martin Luther King led with empathy. And the reason they were so successful is because they led with empathy.
So when I guess it gets specifically back to Maggie, I think, were she to try and figure out what she would do after this catastrophic failure of unleashing some horrible thing in the world, when she was just trying to understand herself and her, her brother, I think if anything, she would say that, well, she creates a character for herself—
—and it's kind of funny, we're talking around the edges of this book and no one has any idea what it's really about, but I should drop a little note here to say that one of the core things that Maggie, as a creator is doing, is she creates these—what they call persona mappings. So imagine there's an AI that is what's called artificial general intelligence now. It's sentient, it can comprehend all the things humans can, but it's still a blank slate. It has no personality, it has no past, it has no emotional content. She took it as a job to try and map personalities onto these things. And she maps a personality onto this character, Meela, who's her digital companion. And...
I think that there is a huge amount of possibility in this idea of digital companions for people. Because, you know, as freaked out as people get, like, I'm gonna have an intimate conversation with a machine or I'm talking to a machine instead of a human. Most people, not most people, many people, don't have the privilege of having someone who loves them. There are people out there who are so lonely that don't have anyone to empathize with them, anyone to care for them.
So if you create a program that can fill that need for people, I think that empathy muscle grows. And I think that having a machine that can simply respond and say, You're good enough. You're doing a good job. I'm sorry that happened to you. Those are powerful, validating things.
So I think at the end, Maggie did succeed in doing that. That's what she wanted to achieve because she had that character, Meela, coaching her the whole way through the story.
There's so many different threads that I wanna pull that you just talked about. One of them though, I think that's fascinating is, okay, you said empathy is the “solve,” which I absolutely agree for humanity.
And Maggie would do anything she could to prevent suffering. Would we have empathy if there were no suffering? I mean, I'm not trying to get all philosophical here, but if empathy really is that communing force that brings human beings to their highest place, and even into a level of love, is empathy possible without suffering?
Right. It's a, it's a good question. I mean, it's a Schrodinger's cat kind of a question. I think that humans, we thrive on adversity. I think that the primary engine or mechanic of a story that, as you understand it as a writer yourself is if there's no problem, there's no story in most cases, you know, it's not going to be a very interesting story if nothing bad happens.
And I think that gets at the heart of what I was trying to explore on the nature of violence. I think that violence exists for a core reason, which is survival. As human beings, we have to be capable of violence to survive. You know, you can be a vegan and you can be a pacifist, but if you're thrown into a wilderness, with no means to survive, to eat, and you need protein, you're gonna have to kill an animal at some point, which is violence, right? At the end of the day. If you're being attacked, you have to defend yourself. So it's kind of hardwired into us. We're still animals in that respect.
It's a hard one to resolve on a planet that thrives in duality. We have night and day, we have cold and hot. It's a tricky one. And it does make me want to philosophize—and I'm not a religious person either—but if there were a reason, it would make sense that there's something that is born from the tension of those two opposites, which you're saying is potentially empathy.
In the end of your book, Maggie's approach to ending gun violence is very different than her original plan without giving too much away. And by you writing that approach, what are you saying about the qualities that humans need to cultivate in order to really live well in an imperfect world.
I think Maggie's conclusion, you know, was just to step away from control. You know, it was to like, okay, I've founded this company that seek to create personalities that could compete with humans or collaborate with humans. And it's done this horrific thing.
And I’m going to go back to basics and actually the best way to stop gun violence is to educate and provide love. I think it's funny when you think about the political spectrum and the polarities that we live in all over the world, but particularly pronounced in the US, where you think of people that are like, you know, you'll have to pry my gun out of my cold dead hands, you know, to people like me who are so adamantly against them and see no value in them at all in our society.
I think that the choice is somewhere in the middle. When they're talking about, Well, it's a mental health issue. The reason it's happening is because it's mental health. And people like me are saying, No, it's fucking happening because anyone can buy a gun, right? Or make a gun. And no other country in the world has this problem, but let's set that aside.
But it is true. It is a mental health issue at the end of the day. The gun doesn't kill people. The human kills a person. So how do you heal the person before they pick up the gun? You know, how do you do that?
So it's not the symptom, it's the cause. And it's a much harder one to solve. And it would be great if all the Republicans actually wanted to solve that problem instead of just using it as a resistance barrier. Because I think that's a much nobler thing to do. Our healthcare system is terrible in this country and our mental health care system is extraordinarily bad. So I think that there's, there's such a stigma around any kind of mental illness that it's, it's challenging.
I think you're absolutely right with Maggie's approach in the end, it ends up being about education, love, rallying the resources of a community. It's about the social services, the softer sciences that allow us to thrive within adversity.
Yeah. Well, it goes back to that Columbine shooter's mother, Dylan, which we talked about at the very beginning. She spent her life devoted to this problem of educating and rather than hiding as anyone would want to do and feel shame and go into a cave. You know, she wanted to be able to stand up and face the world and say, I failed. You know, you could fail, too.
That is so brave and so true. I just got goosebumps when you shared that—this is why I wanted to interview you for the story because there is something so powerful in something failing.
I don't want to paint rainbows on it and put glitter on it, but I do think that there is an unshakable human spirit that can rise up through that rubble.
Well, you show that and every, every week in your, your Substack, you know, it's just beautiful to see the stories that you're showcasing the voices that you're giving a platform to—it is really a beautiful idea. I love everything about the name and what it means and the duality of the name of Unfixed.
We're all so keen to have everything fixed. And we're so keen to have things be fixed in a place. And this notion that, you know, the neurological issue that you have is actually, and again, that's a third meaning of it, is you are unfixed. Your head thinks your body is in motion all the time, which I can't imagine how you deal with that every day. That's amazing.
Yeah, it's been the greatest teacher, absolutely the greatest teacher on a cellular level because it forced me to find peace within stillness. It's as simple as that. There's a chapter that I'll write about soon—I'm not religious, but my husband was raised very fundamentalist Christian, so he always gives me biblical stories when I need them. And one of them was about Christ sleeping on the bow of a boat during a maelstrom. He found a painting of a boat in a storm and bought it for me at a thrift store. We hung it on the wall and I would stare at it thinking, how do I do that? How do I sleep in this storm? How do I find peace in this storm? And it became a meditation for me, that felt like an impossibility. But I do believe the peace I feel now wouldn't have been cultivated without the storm. It had no reason to be cultivated before.
What a fabulous conversation. I want to encourage everybody to read this story, but also check out all of Ben's other work. I mean, there's this, especially right now we're in the middle of Harmony House, which is just incredible.
I want to ask you, how can we support you as readers other than reading your stories? Is there anything else that is in the works and how can we support what you're doing?
I mean, honestly, the greatest gift in the world is having someone be your audience. I never, ever, ever take that for granted. The fact that someone would devote the time it takes to read a novel or listen to my audio narration is such a gift. So that's it. I mean, read the novel, listen to the novel. If you can't afford the six bucks a month or that's a hardship, I have a policy. Just, just shoot me an email.
I will comp you a subscription. I would much rather have you be a reader, as much as I need to pay the bills, which is a whole new reality for me, because we didn't even talk about that. But I walked away from a career. And I'm trying to do an artistic path at this point, which is scary. But yeah, it's just reading and listening to the work, giving your feedback, sharing it with others. That's what it's all about. That's the real reason to do any of this work.
Your work is exceptional and you have so many fans, truly fans that aren't just like, Cool, what's next? But really feeling these themes deeply. I'm feeling these themes deeply.
Well, can I just tell you that having someone like you that I admire so much in terms of your journey, but also your writing production ability, and there are others on Substack too, if I think aboutand and the fact that these people read my work and it resonates with them is like the greatest validation in the world, I feel like it's such an amazing thing to have your work seen and appreciated by people.
It really is. I wanna say one last thing and then we'll close it. Ben narrates his stories for those who want to listen to them. And not just reading, you know, but embodying each of his characters. And Harmony House has six main characters and then a gazillion other characters. And it’s fun and wildly baffling to me that you're able to keep it all straight.
Oh, thank you. Yeah, that was out of necessity. I would much rather be able to pay real actors do that. But yeah, it's a whole other level of reading your book when you when you begin to like read characters with accents and different voices. But I think it's a waste to write a book and not do that, at least do your best to try and embody the spirit of those characters. So hopefully it works for people.
Ben, thank you for this time. What an enriching conversation too. I think this potentially could live in the hearts of people that are trying to grapple with violence in our society in a new way. So I'm hoping there's something positive people glean from this.