It can be both fun and terrifying when your friends suddenly become obsessed with something you’ve never heard of. Such was the case when my dear compadre Dawn was abruptly lured into the clutches of the one podcast that seems to be taking over fandom, if not the actual world: Welcome to Night Vale. Thankfully, Dawn is an articulate and thoughtful fan, and decided to try and convert me not through physical or psychological persuasion, but through the medium of an easy-to-read listicle! And it’s so convincing I might have to actually overcome my ingrained reluctance to listen to any form of video-less audio so I can join her in the land of Night Vale obsessives. It seems like a nice place to be. -Ramona
Welcome To Night Vale is a community radio news podcast from the imaginary small desert town of Night Vale. The host is Cecil Baldwin, who narrates the horrifying events and mundane updates of the town, without making any real distinction between the two.
The podcast updates on a bi-monthly basis (on the 1st and 15th of each month) and is more in the vein of an old school radio show than a typical podcast. I’ve heard it described as A Prairie Home Companion as imagined by Stephen King, and I think that’s pretty accurate. So instead of “Here’s the news from Lake Wobegon: where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average”, you get “Welcome to Night Vale: where the interns keep dying, Carlos the Scientist is good looking and all the children are missing again.”
Here are 10 reasons why you should tune in too.
1. Cecil’s beautiful voice
His soothing baritone deepens in anger and jumps several octaves when squee-ing over Carlos the Scientist. It is resonant and deep and lovely to listen to.
2. The characters
Welcome to Night Vale has memorable, endearing and creepy characters. From Josie and her angels to Intern Dana there is always something interesting happening to/with/around the citizens of Night Vale.
3. Carlos and Cecil
Like the series itself, their relationship is equal parts sweet, funny and creepy. Cecil is kind of a crazed stalker, but he broadcasts his creepy crush out there for the entire town to hear. I wouldn’t even call their romance a B-plot for the most part; it’s just a delightful ongoing subplot. As Cecil himself says, “Listeners, guess who called me this weekend. Well, hey, I don’t like to talk too much about my personal life here. This is your community news station, not Cecil’s Personal Life Station, right?” But sometimes he just can’t help himself, “… Okay, fine. I’ll just say it. Carloooos!” If you are a fan of slash or gay relationships in media that aren’t queer-baiting, this could be for you.
4. Social and political commentary
Welcome to Night Vale has a great thread of social and political commentary running through it. Ongoing themes include the NRA’s new slogans (“Guns don’t kill people – blood loss and organ damage does!”) and continuing escapades of the Apache Tracker (“He’s the one who appears to be of maybe Slavic origin, yet wears an Indian headdress out of some racist cartoon and claims to be able to read tracks on asphalt”).
5. The proverbs
Cecil occasionally just comes out with these existential, philosophical and poetic proverbs that seem comforting, until you get to the stinger at the end. E.g. “Don’t worry. Someday you’ll find that person who is perfect for you. They can’t hide forever. We have satellites.” (I don’t even use twitter, but you should seriously check out Night Vale’s twitter.)
6. The ‘sponsors’
The “a word from our sponsors” sections are similarly delightful:
“I took a walk on the cool sand dunes, brittle grass overgrown, and above me in the night sky, above me, I saw. Bitter taste of unripe peaches, and a smell I could not place, nor could I escape. I remembered other times that I could not escape. I remembered other smells. The moon slunk like a wounded animal…This message was brought to you by Coca-Cola.”
7. The fanart
This is a fandom that particularly lends itself to fanart and it is usually varied and gorgeous. As the show is in a fantastical horror setting in a non-visual medium, fans are able to be really creative with characters’ appearances.
8. The fanmixes
9. The fanfiction
There is a lot of great fanfiction for the show and I encourage you to seek it out to find plots most relevant to your interests. I will say that this is a fandom that lends itself to tentacles; so take that into consideration while you search. Lemon Pie- He’s Coming Through and The Rat and The Ruby Slippers are two particular favourites of mine.
10. Its perfect pitch
Most importantly, the show manages to be both genuinely sinister and funny. It walks a fine line between subtle horror that only becomes truly frightening when you stop and consider the implications and absurdity — and that makes it funny again. The show knows when to let the audience laugh and when to let the horror creep in.
You may as well give it a shot! You have nothing to lose except some non-essential organs and everything to gain: the mere memory of a restful night’s sleep, for instance. Goodnight, readers. Goodnight.