W is for Welcome to Night Vale: #AtoZChallenge (two days late)

For people who’ve only popped in to visit, it probably seems strange, but to me, Night Vale is home.

In my little insular fandom bubble, it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that there are stillpeople who don’t know what Night Vale is, but of course, Real Life Me understands that, so – Welcome to Night Vale is a twice monthly podcast, now in its fifth year that has been described as “Lake Wobegon as seen through the eyes of Stephen King or David Lynch”, or “NPR meets the Mothman Prophecies.”  It’s Pythonesque, it’s Lovecraftian, and it’s a beautiful mix of meaningful and nonsensical, creepy and comical.

And it feels like home.

I got into Night Vale around the same time everyone else did – I don’t know why, but in mid-to-late 2013, the show (which had been running for 35+ episodes already) suddenly exploded on Tumblr, and the cryptic posts made everyone need to find out what Night Vale was.

At this point, you sort of have to take the plunge and just listen to the damn thing.

I held out until December of that year, and got hit massively by the flu just after Christmas.  It was on one of those sleepless and feverish nights that I decided to listen.  The experience was interesting: I was drawn in by the writing, by the strange mythology of the town, and intrigued by where it was going – but I was also soothed by the narration.  I fell asleep listening to it every night of my illness.

The night I listened to the eighth episode, I surfaced just slightly from my feverish sleep for the first few chords of the Weather, which for that episode was Danny Schmidt’s “This Too Shall Pass.”  There was something about the melancholy of that song, paired with the weirdness of the show, the calmness of Cecil’s voice, the developing evidence that this show was going to have a canonical queer couple as its central figures (and it does), and the groggy fever dream state I was in – everything felt a little surreal and a  little  beautiful.  After that night, Night Vale became a minor obsession for which I ran a blog, drew fan art, and, and in February of 2014, began attending live shows.

I was at Arisia in January of 204 – at a Night Vale panel, in fact (which was literally standing room only) when I heard the Boston tickets for the live show the following month had sold out.  Devastated – and knowing I had to go – I told my husband, who got us tickets for the show in Northampton.  It was General Admissions seating, so we got there early and had a two hour line party with a bunch of other fans, and when the doors opened, we practically sprinted in to get front row seats.

The live show had an entirely different energy, one that I have always loved in live theatre, and when the show ended and we filed outside, someone told us it might be a good idea to stick around.  Sure enough, about twenty-five minutes later, someone came out yelling that they cast were in the lobby.  My husband and I got everyone’s autographs, and I got a great photo with Cecil (like, really great.  Cecil is looking dapper AF and my hair and makeup are were on point).  We’ve made it a point to go back every year, now; we saw our fourth Night Vale tour earlier this month, and should they grace us with another show next year, we will see our fifth.

A month after that first live show, I found out I was pregnant.  Night Vale got me through the pregnancy insomnia (blessedly the only real “symptom” I had), and when I left my obgyn’s office the day she told me my son was finally able to hear thing outside the womb, I started playing Night Vale at an even higher volume, with the Kindle nestled against my belly.  When I wrote Cecil my a fan letter last year, I told him something that I honestly hold true – there is every possibility that, aside from my own and my husband’s, his voice is probably the first voice my son recognized.  I look forward to when Night Vale is a pleasant place for my son to visit as well, instead of just a soothing memory of a voice from Before.

Is there a book, movie, show, whatever, that feels comfortable and homey to you?


Published by

Jessica Cross

Writer, maker, geek, feminist, mom. Not necessarily in that order.

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