“Mostly void, partially stars,” read the T-shirt of the Welcome to Night Vale fan sitting beside me. More than four hundred of us filled the event space in the Beaverton branch of Powell’s Books, anxiously awaiting the appearance of the popular and deeply strange podcast’s writers.
Welcome to Night Vale is a fiction podcast. It takes the form of a news broadcast from a mysterious town somewhere in the Southwestern desert, where hooded figures roam the forbidden dog park, no one is allowed to believe in mountains, and a faceless old woman secretly lives in everyone’s home. Each episode lasts about twenty minutes, and includes segments such as existentialist messages from sponsors, updates from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, and the weather, which is actually a musical interlude.
Despite its unusual content, the podcast rose to the most downloaded on iTunes in the summer of 2012, and has continued to cultivate a dedicated fanbase since. On October 20, 2015, the writers of the podcast, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, released a new Night Vale creation: a novel that takes place in the same strange world as the podcast. On October 28, 2015, they visited Powell’s for the book’s tour and answered questions about their collaborative process, working with voice actors, the unique benefits and challenges of the podcast format, and how grateful they are to have such an enthusiastic audience.
The Night Vale novel maintains the unique style and tone of the podcast (poetic, creepy, often in second person) while introducing elements that the show lacks, such as deeper perspectives from minor characters and a more direct, complex plot. In true Night Vale fashion, the story provides plenty of strangeness and insightful emotional depth, often in the same sentence. It is a delight to read, and does not necessarily require familiarity with the content of the podcast to enjoy. I highly recommend it, especially if you feel that weirdness has been lacking in your life.
As I approached the signing table, I was amazed by how ordinary Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor seemed. They looked like normal guys, yet they were people who had turned their strange and lovely ideas into a podcast and shared it with the world. Now they were speaking in front of a hall packed with fans, hundreds of people who were as proud and delighted by Welcome to Night Vale as its creators. I stepped up to the table and watched as each writer scribbled onto my copy of the book, smiling, real people from the internet right there in front of me.
“Thank you for living the dream,” I said.