Welcome to Night Vale, created by Joseph Fink, marks its second anniversary episode on the 15th, and if you aren’t a fan yet, now could be the time.
The free podcast is presented as community radio broadcasts from Night Vale, a fictional town somewhere in the south-western United States. In each episode we find out about the town’s surreal, paranormal events through the sonorous reporting of Cecil, our host. Angels, monsters, municipal corruption, aliens – this show has it all!
WTNV parodies Horror, Dystopian and Weird fiction. The eldritch events of the town are piled on so thick it’s ridiculous, and if you are anything like me you will laugh out loud several times in each half-hour episode. It’s not all light-hearted though; some moments are genuinely chilling. Nor is it shallow: you may find yourself getting more deeply invested in the characters than you expected.
Night Vale has an extremely dedicated following, which is especially impressive when you consider that podcasts don’t tend to attract active fandoms in the same way that visual and text media do. Apart from being generally well written and awesome, I think that WTNV has taken hold in certain circles for two main reasons.
First, the show actually gives us a pretty narrow view of Night Vale. We hear everything through the radio host, who is vague and sometimes unreliable. It’s rare for us to hear directly from another character; most of the dialogue and character interaction is paraphrased by Cecil rather than broadcast. So, although Cecil gives us plenty, what we know about the town and its inhabitants actually amounts to very little in the big picture.
The silver lining lack of detail gives fans an incredible opportunity to speculate about the town and consume the show creatively. People can discuss, write fan fiction, create fan art and cosplay and have huge creative license. We are free to add our own worldbuilding and characterization because there is so much left to the imagination. Cecil himself is never meaningfully described so his appearance in fandom varies wildly. There are Cecils of all races, hair colours, sizes and wardrobes floating around the internet, although there is a trend to depict him wearing purple clothing and tentacle-like tattoos, sometimes with a third eye on his forehead, none of which is backed up by canon. Before it was strongly implied that he was human, people were even drawing him as a blob-monster. People have the freedom to make the characters whatever they want.
The second reason, related to the first, is that the show’s lack of detail is also very inclusive. Although many characters get more description than Cecil, race is almost always left ambiguous. The handful of characters that do get descriptions that hint at their ethnicity, it’s usually implied that they aren’t white, and many central characters are implied to be people of colour. Although racially ambiguous characters are often whitewashed in Night Vale fan art and fan fiction, there’s a strong push for diversity in the fandom too.
Sexuality, too, is left ambiguous. One of the central themes is Cecil’s same-sex attraction to newcomer Carlos, but the fact that this is a same sex attraction is never remarked upon. Labels for sexual orientation are never applied; despite multiple characters being implied to belong to the LGBTQ community I can’t recall any word from that acronym ever being used on the show. Cecil tends to be presumed gay by fans, but even that is technically unconfirmed. The show has many central, strong female characters. In a town with bizarre and draconian laws banning or regulating writing utensils, books and public descriptions of the moon, and inexplicable mountain-denial, there is a distinct absence of the irrational looming social horrors of the real world. No homophobia. Nor misogyny. The only character who overtly displays racial insensitivity is constantly ridiculed for it. Those characters who seem to be Queer or POCs are not defined by their queerness or their race. Those of us who belong to those groups in real life are kept engaged by WTNV because we can see ourselves without having to search through a sea of white, cis-het male faces only to settle for clichéd plot-puppets, and that’s a rare and beautiful thing.
Unlike the genre it satirizes, Welcome to Night Vale ultimately does not project horror or despair, but hope, community and love. Despite living under constant threat from the organisations, monsters and paranormal events that saturated the town, the inhabitants of Night Vale are proud, and they remain strong in the face of danger every day. Speaking characters often lapse into philosophical tangents on the nature of time, existence, knowledge and belief. You will not come away from night vale with the hollowed out feeling that relentlessly depressing horror fiction can leave you with.
I hope you give Welcome to Night Vale a try. If you love it, I encourage you to donate. I would recommend listening from the beginning; although many episodes stand alone in the beginning they start setting up some very complex arcs before long. If you like to laugh and sob, if you like chills and warm fuzzy feelings and suspense and absurdness and diversity and monsters and darkness and angels and being a part of a truly dedicated community of fans, you can listen to Welcome to Night Vale here. I hope that, like me, the first time Cecil’s resonant voice welcomes you to his town, you decide to stay for good.
We’ve had a guest writer write about Welcome to Night Vale before, so for yet another recommendation, check out our previous article on the topic!)
I was watching Heroes of Cosplay, giving it a try, when an interesting issue was brought up. The issue of what matters in cosplay. I believe it was the second episode when they were discussing the idea of weight and most of the cast of that episode were saying that if a guy was three hundred pounds, he probably shouldn’t cosplay as Superman. To be fair I think they were talking about it in terms of competition, but it really hit a chord with me.
I understand that when cosplaying you want to be as similar to the character as possible and that in competitions likeness is very important. But what about craftsmanship? Or stage presence/the skit performace? Or the spirit of cosplay? I mean it is very rare that a person’s body would match up with everything he or she wants to cosplay. I am going from Blondie in Suckerpunch (who has a bit of a chest) to Enma Ai (a pre-pubescent girl). The characters are worlds apart in body type, but having neither of their body types has never stopped me. I think even from a competition perspective if a person has a better costume and better stage presence that they should rank over some person with a closer body type.
I won’t deny that having the body type of your characters would help sell your cosplay a whole lot more but that should be the bonus rather than what is really essential. I mean most character body types are impossible to achieve without surgery or at the least a ridiculously strict diet and gym regime anyway.
Cosplay is all about being the character you love and having fun. If you enter into competition then there is an added level of professionalism that needs to be in the costumes but that shouldn’t eclipse the having fun part or the love of a character.
Of course there will always be douche-muffins who will say horrible things about a person’s body, but they have no lives, and you should never try to let that get to you!
However, I also have to say that if you are easily hurt by what people say, or feel self-conscious in a cosplay – maybe rethink it. You having a good time is all about being comfy, so if you want to push your boundaries, might I suggest baby steps?
So in summary: do things that will make you happy~! At the end of the day you will feel a lot better for it ^-^
The Lin Kuei can only rely on each other right? No wonder that Sub Zero and Reptile had to eventually hook up. (These are ninjas from Mortal Kombat, for those not into the game).
Mhmm…yep. I can deal with this. So glad I got a photo of this.
I found the MCM Comic Con in London to be exceptionally crowded. There were SO many people it was near impossible to move on the Saturday. Fortunately for me, I had gone on the Friday as well – so I’d seen most of the stuff available and didn’t need to browse as much and so (thankfully) could spend most of my time away from the really thick crowds.
I did get to see some of the actresses in Lost Girl speak briefly – that was kinda cool. my boyfriend really wanted to ask Kenzie if he could get a cuddle…of course this was impossible. On the off-chance she’s reading this though, my boyfriend would totally appreciate a cuddle.
This is a fan trailer, and a wonderful example of why there should be a Wonder Woman movie. They say there’s not enough content to create a solo movie for Wonder Woman? Well considering how they’ve mauled every other superhero movie, I don’t think that’s a real problem. The comics didn’t sell well when they first came out? Hello – the rise of feminism has seen an entire generation of female geeks, not to mention feminist men, who are dying to see a Wonder Woman film now…we’re a very different society from when the comics first came out.
The care and effort that has gone into this trailer is the proof.
Make a Wonder Woman movie already! (And not just as one of the characters in the Justice League!)
This is a great video and embodies a lot about what this site is about. Being gay, being a geek – they’re both communities that been built from the fact that we have been left out and ostracised from the wider community. As homosexuality becomes more mainstream, as geeks become sexier, so too are the actual members of our communities merging with the wider population including people that perhaps don’t quite fit the bill but are wanting to be a part of it.
And that’s not a bad thing.
Jennifer Landa’s awesome satirical news piece flips the whole ‘fake geek girls’ argument that goes around the Internet these days onto the shirtless men that prance comic-con. It’s a great look at how the attention that cosplay can give is becoming a pretty ‘cool’ thing in society. And how people who don’t necessarily fit a more traditional idea of what a ‘geek’ is are participating too.
But she also reveals how they should be allowed to do it. Because the more fans the better, the more people who want to be like us the better.
Wouldn’t you agree?
Thanks Jennifer, I loved this.