“Most people in Night Vale know there is information that is forbidden or unavailable, which is almost all information. Most people in Night Vale get by with a cobbled-together framework of lies and assumptions and conspiracy theories.”
Welcome to Night Vale,
Mostly Void, Partially Stars
The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe
It Devours!, 2017
By Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor
My midwinter reading has taken a sharp left turn.
Night Vale is a fictional desert town, somewhere in the American Southwest, where ghosts, aliens, cult religions, the banning of wheat and wheat by-products, and sinister government conspiracies are just a normal way of life for its citizens.
I first heard of the Night Vale phenomenon via one of Shoshanah's tweets
(thanks… I think!) and since my local library had all four books I picked them up and “devoured” them over the last week. Not all literature has to be serious and this collection of well over 1000 pages of lunacy is on the very silly end of that spectrum. Among the various characters in the series are: a group of “scientists” whose dubious experiments are interrupted by mysterious sinkholes, angels, a “glow cloud”, mysterious hooded figures, proselytes of The Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, a PTA treasurer and her shape-shifting son, a very unhappy surveillance helicopter pilot, the Director of Emergency Press Conferences, various ‘Troys’ and, binding it all together—Cecil, the voice of the Night Vale Community Radio station. No conspiracy trope escapes skewering and the byplay between characters is often quite amusing. Welcome to Night Vale
and It Devours!
are novels; they take their own sweet time in developing but after awhile they pick up some momentum. The other books are scripts (transcribed podcasts with introductions) and episodic, allowing you to start or stop anywhere. Of the four books, I enjoyed It Devours
the most. They are all baloney, albeit tasty baloney, so consider yourself warned.
These books grew out of the wildly successful Night Vale podcast series
(which I had also never heard of), a modern equivalent of old radio serials, i.e., “The Theater of the Mind
.” They are also available on YouTube
. After reading both novels and browsing the transcriptions, I think that none of them are quite as effective as the podcasts. Those podcasts should, ideally, be listened to late at night, while driving through a trackless desert with a hitch-hiking drifter you picked up in the middle of nowhere sitting beside you. The drifter’s name is Vic. Vic is smoking a cigarette. A light in the sky hovers just ahead of you, then vanishes. You say, “Did you see that, Vic?
” But Vic doesn’t say anything. His cigarette burns down to his fingers. You take it from him and put it in the ash tray. “Those things will kill you,
” you say, but you know it’s a lie… because Vic is already dead.