A small desert town where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful and mysterious lights pass over us while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.
As nerdy as I am, I tend to throw myself into various fandoms and treads whenever I hear about them. Not one to be feeling left out, I love getting knee-deep in whatever is the hot topic of month. To completely engross myself in all the little details and lore that I know I could gush about forever to anybody who has the tolerance to listen to me for hours on end. My tumblr account is a literal mess of fandoms, from Doctor Who to Supernatural to Attack on Titan and much much more. I’m a lover off all things weird and unnatural, so when a friend recommended I start listening to Welcome to Night Vale, I was a bit hesitant in what I was getting myself into. Sure it sounded like something straight up my alley, but knowing my history of fangirl obsession, I wondered if this was going to be another thing that would take over my life.
Boy, was I right…
Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly podcast produced by Commonplace Books and is written by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor in the style of community updates for a small desert town in the American southwest known as Night Vale. The town is relatively normal and the people go about their daily lives in relative peace, except they must put with several unsettling annoyances. Annoyances such as strange, unexplainable deaths, supernatural creatures and occurrences, environmental disasters, and government intrusions. Imagine if The X-Flies were a reality show. The citizens of Night Vale are, for the most part, surprisingly tolerant to such local absurdities such as the hood figures that roam the dog park or the strange glowing cloud that rains down dead animals.
Perhaps the reason why the townsfolk are so calm the routine horrors is partly due to the voice of the Night Vale Community Radio, Cecil.
Cecil is a smooth-voiced man who is the serious yet sometimes cheerful reporter of the community radio program. He loves the town despite its many horrors and provides comfort for his listeners during times of uncertainty. Through most of his programs, Cecil sound calm and ineffective to the numerous goings-on, such as the floating cat in the men’s bathroom. He takes it all in stride, but even he is not immune to the Night Vale’s dangers. He is quick to praise the draconian powers of the City Council, the secret police of the Sheriff and their polices. Night vale’s Station Management, who has never seen by any of the radio station employees, is thought to be a Cthulhu like creatures that is too terrifying to look at. In the only known incident in which Management left the office, Cecil hid under his desk, dragging his microphone with him and continued with his broadcast. While unsuccessful in recording Management actually speaking any know language, instead tapes revealed a series of unintelligible growls and ghastly howls.
Aside from reporting the daily goings-on of life in Night vale, Cecil likes to routinely make mention of Carlos. Carlos is a new arrival to Night vale and a scientist who is interest in investigating the countless phenomena of the town. Cecil talks about Carlos in the pilot broadcast and falls instantly in love with him upon their first meeting. At first, Carlos is oblivious to Cecil’s advances towards him, but eventually the two form a bond and begin dating.
The greatest appeal of the Welcome to Night Vale is on just strange and weird is all is. The Dallas Morning News characterized it as “NPR meets the The Mothman Prophecies”. The centered local of Night Vale is a place where every conceivable conspiracy theory is real and every creation of H.P. Lovecraft roams the street, hides the shadows and works at the local Arby’s.
In fact, Welcome to Night Vale could be considered to be heavily influenced (though not entirely) by spirit of Lovecraft as well as many of Lovecraft’s mythos, specifically centered around the horror of the unknown. The spirit of Night vale is that town is sort of stuck between the mundane life of normalcy and the encroaching invasion of beings far beyond our understanding. The creatures are cosmic, powerful and horrifying. Yet the towns-folks have learned to, well, just sort of deal with it and go about their lives.
The world in which the podcast takes place is both whimsical yet scary to listen to late at night. While Cecil’s relaxed, louche singer voice reports on the week’s weather, he will casually make mention of something so absurd and strange and utterly impossible, and it’s up to the listeners to try and imagine what that something could possibly be. And a person’s imagination is far more terrifying than monster we see in front of us.
It reminds me of my favorite radio drama to ever air, the 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds performed Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater. Every Halloween I listen to the original broadcast and I am still fascinated by how it was able to grip America in a wave of panic. But more importantly, as I listen, I can understand the terror one could feel in that moment. With no visual to work off, our only tool is our imagination to create the monsters lurking in the shadows. It’s up to us to fill in the gaps. That, my friend, is nightmare fuel.
Now I’m fairly new to the world of Night Vale. I’ve only listened to up to episode 4, but I can already tell I’m going to be in this for the long run. Welcome to Night Vale has all the elements of a weird, spooky story you read with a flashlight while under the covers. The creepiness and horror and humor are all great and wonderfully written. I highly recommend people give the series late night listening, preferably now when Halloween is slowly approaching.
Welcome to Night Vale is available for download on itunes.
Goodnight, Night Vale. Goodnight