Welcome To Nightvale is… well, where to begin? Let’s determine the basic facts which won’t slip away from us in existential horror.
Welcome To Nightvale is a very odd and deeply entertaining twice-monthly podcast done in the style of a small-town community radio show. Nightvale, the fictional small desert town in question, is located somewhere in the Southwestern United States. This is the town motto: We have nothing to fear except ourselves. We are unholy, awful people. Fear ourselves with silence. Look down, Night Vale. Look down and forget what you’ve done.
Our host and main narrator is the enthusiastic Cecil Baldwin, whose radio show features ‘local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide.’
…disbelieve in the existence of eggs…
Cecil narrates the everyday happenings of Nightvale with a controlled cheeriness, mostly un-phased by the completely strange events that unfold. The entire town council is led by incompetent and possibly otherworldly figures who siphon tax money into failed infrastructure projects and disbelieve in the existence of eggs. It is considered utterly normal for Noctivallians to be subjected to constant intrusive surveillance. Wheat and wheat by-products are praised one week and arbitrarily banned the next. Faceless old women in mirrors and floating cats living in bathrooms are considered unusual and interesting.
It’s clear that Nightvale life is generally dangerous and at best unpredictable and strange, though one consistently positive aspect of Cecil’s narration is when he mentions his love for Carlos the scientist, whose every feature must be described using the words ‘perfect’ and/or ‘beautiful.’
…with added mysterious hooded figures…
Rather than feeling disturbed, listening to Nightvale makes me truly happy, a feeling likely shared by many listeners as the show has been ranked in the top 10 audio podcasts list on iTunes within its first year. Perhaps this isn’t the podcast for you if you want something with a set structure and story arc, as with the original Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio show. But if you want a similar level of Hitch Hiker’s wit and imagination, Welcome To Nightvale can provide that – with added mysterious hooded figures.
Personally, I like the fact that Nightvale is a slice-of-life story set in a nightmarish world full of eldritch horrors. Sometimes, though, I realise that the events and status quo are not too far removed from real life, a thought that provokes, amuses, horrifies, and comforts me all at once. Welcome to Nightvale is uncomfortable and I enjoy that.