Thursday, August 28, 2014

Podblast: Welcome To Night Vale

There are frequently things I'll discuss in this blog as a means of trying to convince people to try something or plead with them to never try something if they value their time as being at all precious and not worth wasting in an exercise in futility and frustration.

However, before I simply start discussing today's topic, I just want you to listen to an episode.

Just...ignore the graphics.  Trust me.  It's better if you picture it yourself.

That, ladies and gentleman, is my newest addiction and something I wish I had found ages ago.

Welcome To Night Vale

I love science fantasy weirdness.  I loved the X-Files when it was on the air, I loved whenever Mighty Max dealt with ancient horrors, I love Cthulhu (though I think he got played out a few years ago due to overexposure), I love everything that involves a place simply being a magnet for weirdness.

So, when I say that underground cities, houses that don't exist, and hooded figures are the most normal thing that happens in Night Vale, trust me when I say I listen to each episode with the fascination of a person who loves to climb walls suddenly finding himself standing in front of Lago di Luzzone.

Every episode is, for the most part, done in the style of a simple local radio broadcast, the kind you get from the most rural public radio stations.  However, instead of farm reports, people calling in radio classifieds, or people simply calling to complain about how the city isn't the same any more since "those people" moved in, you instead have things such as glowing clouds, a mayor who occasionally howls and disappears, and what is literally a five headed dragon running around.

The voice cast of the show is extremely adept in managing to maintain the method of storytelling so it sounds intimate and like an actual story being told while still maintaining the "public radio" persona.  The man playing Cecil (Cecil Baldwin) has an extremely adept voice for this kind of work, managing to mostly maintain the flat, "just the facts" mentality of a news broadcaster while still managing to insert personal editorials now and again.

There are a few "pay what you want for them" episodes (or buy them on iTunes), but if you simply listen to the standard podcast episodes you aren't really missing much of the main story.  Oh, and there is a story.

At first, I will admit, the news seems scattered, without much to link the stories together.  However, after a while, you catch recurring characters, themes, and locations that pop up again and again.  Characters who you don't think would necessarily be important come back later in very dramatic ways, and a background plot starts to grow in threat, much like how a lot of Cthulhu-esque stories involve ancient evils operating behind the scenes.

The program did a crossover not too long ago with the Thrilling Adventure Hour, and I sincerely hope they make that into a podcast episode.  Some members of the TAH cast also did voices during the second year anniversary special Welcome To Night Vale performed live, and I was actually able to pick them out before I realized it was actually them.

Then there's the weather.  In each episode, the weather time block is used to play songs by small bands, and there are several I've listened to that interested me enough to go out and learn more about them and their music.  Considering most things I listen to don't get me interested in the music, that's really saying a lot.

Along with Thrilling Adventure Hour and the one by Alton Brown that appears to be on hiatus, this has quickly risen to be in my favorite programs to listen to.  There really is just something about how well crafted the structure and wording of the script is that allows your imagination to flourish while you listen, and you quickly grow attached to characters that you only hear talked about by someone else.

Listen to it, and remember: the future is what you make of it.  Just remember your supplies are limited.

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