More pop culture! Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly podcast (subscribe at that link or stream online) . It takes the form of an approximately half-hour community radio show from a small, exceedingly weird, desert town. 99% of the show is one guy, Cecil, and so if you don't do well with listening to his voice for whatever reason, this show is not for you. But if you're interested in things that sit at the intersection of horror and comedy, with a portrait of a small community built up over time, deadpan reporting of many things that are at sharp angles to the expected, and occasional striking moments of beauty and terror, you should check it out.
Every episode starts with Cecil welcoming you. The very first lines of the show are,
A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.
But I think my favorite opening is from episode 22, "The Whispering Forest," and also it's pretty relevant to my attempt to summarize up above:
There is a thin semantic line separating weird and beautiful. And that line is covered in jellyfish. Welcome to Night Vale.
(Each episode ends with a proverb from the producers, and episode 22 also has my favorite of those: "If you love someone, set them free. Set them free now. This is the police, and we have you surrounded.")
Remember, if you see something, say nothing, and drink to forget.
--Episode 2, "Glow Cloud"
More breaking news on the pteranodons! We humbly offer the following retractions from our previous reports:
Secret police are now reporting that the offending beasts were not pteranodons after all, but pterodactyls. Also, pteranodons aren't even dinosaurs, as the station had previously stated-- just winged reptiles that lived about 70 million years after pterodactyls. Finally, earlier we reported a death toll of 0, when, in fact, the number is closer to 38. We regret these errors.
--Episode 4, "PTA Meeting"
For our final story in this week's featured look into the history of Night Vale, let's look at the very recent past. Yesterday, I had cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, steak for dinner. Cars were driven; cars were not driven. The sun gave a great shout of light and then, after several hours of thought, quietly retracted the statement. Old Woman Josie dug up a box in a shady corner of her yard and carried it, cradled in her arms like a baby or a delicate explosive, to another part of her yard, where she buried it again. An unknown person did something that no one else saw-- the nature and extent of which is impossible to determine, and the result of which will be lost in the chaotic chain of causation and consequence that is history. But most importantly, all of us...all of us here in Night Vale, in America, in the world, in the secret orbital bases...all of us got through another day! We passed the time from one end of twelve to the other without stopping once! Well done, us! Good job, people who experience time! Time experiencers, good job! And, from this moment in history-- the one that's happening right now? Goodnight.
--Episode 7, "History Week"
Each episode also features the weather, which is a song; I mostly didn't listen to them because I was in a hurry to catch up, but the weather from episode two was kind of remarkably, creepily fitting.
My favorite episodes, like most people's, I suspect, are "A Story About You" (13), which is entirely in the second person present (most episodes have a main topic but also digress into the community calendar ["Wednesday has been canceled due to a scheduling error."], health tips, and other news); the pair of episodes titled "The Sandstorm" (19A and 19B), which do some fascinating worldbuilding; and "One Year Later" (25), which has Cecil-the-actor really step up his performance of Cecil-the-character. But those aren't good places to start because they're unusual in format or rely on the accumulated worldbuilding and character development for their force. You might as well start at the beginning—there's no clear overarching plot but there is continuity, like the waterfront recreation area (yes, I did say it's a desert town), or the changed Boy Scout ranks, or the new dog park (neither dogs nor humans allowed).
One continuing element that gets a lot of attention is Carlos, a scientist who arrives in Night Vale in episode 1, and with whom Cecil "fell in love instantly." I had a long thing planned in my head about my reactions to Cecil/Carlos, but fortunately gyzym wrote inspired by your laugh to wait for things (teen and up, 4066 words, author chose not to warn; spoilers through episode 27), which says everything I wanted to except that my headcanon is that Carlos got his hair cut very short on purpose. So that's handy.