First, I would like to say that listening to Night Vale felt quite nostalgic. When I was in high school, I had a friend who listened to Welcome to Night Vale. I barely knew her, but we were in Book Club together. Biweekly we would gather, a group of possibly three or four of us, in a sunny chemistry classroom to discuss the book we’d chosen. The other weeks, we would use the fifty minutes to read. And one afternoon, this friend suggested we all listen to an episode of Welcome to Night Vale. I don’t remember which one we listened to, it’s been several years, but I found the voice soothing and the story wild. Fast forward to today where I actually fully listened to episode 13, A Story About You, I closed my eyes and imagined I was back in that classroom, listening as if we were in the 1900s and enjoying the evening radio program.
As for the podcast itself, I find that I have a similar problem with audiobooks. While I would love to listen to novels while driving, running, cleaning, baking, or doing any other physical activity, I find that my brain sometimes zones out and I miss key details. I believe this might be because I have trained my brain to work with music on and I don’t particularly notice the music playing through my headphones whenever I’m writing. I am now, simply because I am thinking about the fact that I don’t think about the music I play (somehow my Spotify has started playing Hamilton? Now I’m distracted in rapping to the Election of 1800, hold please).
Okay, and we’re back and now I’m listening to Post Malone so I can focus.
On to Night Vale. I found the writing to be clever and engaging. I could see vividly everything, the titan planet in the sunless void is a personal favorite image of mine. I think what makes Night Vale unique, besides the fact that it’s one of the older podcasts (I see it has been going since 2012!) and its format seems to be free-flowing enough that it can accommodate for multiple storylines and moments of strangeness. A Story About You, in particular, had the feeling of a spoken Twine. There could’ve been other paths to chose and maybe you would’ve gotten a different ending. Maybe you could’ve followed the trader man in the dinner. Maybe you could’ve opened the crate you stole. What would happen if you would’ve tipped the waitress who bopped her head to a melody only she could hear. What if you did order an invisible slice of pie?
I think I agree with what the reading said about bringing the criticisms and framework from radio broadcasting. There is not really a place for it. I would say with a podcast like Night Vale that I could have to analyze it not from a journalistic view (which I struggle with anyway because I am not trained as a journalist) but from a creative writing point of view. In the end, episode 13 has hit all the marks of a well thought out and woven short story. But what makes it pop is the music, is the meta-ness of the story. It is the story of you, and the listener becomes the you listening to a podcast meant to be like a radio broadcast and the you in the podcast is listening to the story of you on the radio. It’s a layered story that reaches beyond the confines of a typical read story and yanks the listener into the story. You are the story, even if you are not in the story. You are listening to a story while listening to a story. It’s meta as fuck. And it is not something that could be easily (if at all) by a physical book.
So I applaud this podcast and I think I’ll try to listen to more as I do laundry or cook food or take a walk. And I think one day I might like to move to Night Vale and try the invisible pie. Sounds tasty.