Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What is "Welcome to Night Vale?"

If you follow me on twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, then you may have noticed that I have recently become obsessed with something called "Welcome to Night Vale." Undoubtedly you've had one of two reactions to my obsession: (1) "YES! NIGHT VALE IS AWESOME! OMG!" or (2) "What the heck is Night Vale and why do you keep talking about Dog Parks/Perfect Hair/Glow Clouds?"

If you're in the first camp, then I need explain nothing. Night Vale is awesome. But if you're in the second camp, let me explain why this mysterious thing you may never have heard of is completely awesome.

"Welcome to Night Vale" is a podcast that releases a new episode on the 1st and 15th of every month. Each episode is less than thirty minutes and so far there have been 32 episodes. It's a fictional radio show set in the fictional town of Night Vale, narrated by Night Vale's favorite community radio host: Cecil Baldwin (which happens to be the actor who plays Cecil's real name).

But Night Vale isn't your average town. In the words of the creators of the show, Night Vale is a town where every conspiracy theory is true and a completely mundane part of life. Vague yet menacing government agencies? Secret police? Mysterious hooded figures? Invisible clock towers? All of these are regular parts of life in Night Vale, and Cecil often glosses over them as if they are nothing, instead focusing on things we might find mundane.

Night Vale is a town full of horror and horrible things. But the show doesn't feel like a horror show. It feels like a wacky story about a town and its cooky residents, like the terribly racist Apache Tracker, the beautiful and perfect scientist Carlos, poor lost Intern Dana, old woman Josie who is protected by angels, and the farmer who lives on the edge of town. But this podcast definitely has its horror. Episode 19B is one of the more disturbing things I've listened to in my life. But the thing is, if you just listened to that episode alone, for the most part it wouldn't seem disturbing, just annoyingly cheerful. However in context with Night Vale and Cecil, it is highly disturbing. 

Through Cecil you come to care for (or despise--looking at you, Steve Carlsberg) these people, and you come to know Night Vale's laws and ways perhaps better than your own town's laws and ways. I've been listening to Night Vale for two weeks and I have all their rules memorized; whereas I've been living in Albuquerque for two years and only just learned weeds taller than four inches are prohibited in my yard. 

There really isn't much more I can say without spoiling the show. Half of the fun is the twists and turns it takes, how relationships and people change and develop, how the town changes and develops. All I can recommend is that you take thirty minutes of your time and listen to that first episode. If you're anything like me and Cecil, you'll be saying "And I fell in love instantly."

Welcome, dear readers, to Night Vale.

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