A Friendly Desert Community: ‘Welcome To Night Vale’ Second Anniversary Celebration

Photo courtesy of Commonplace Books
Photo courtesy of Commonplace Books

Welcome to Night Vale is a widely popular podcast created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. It’s a radio drama focusing around the fictional desert community of Night Vale and updates of the town throughout the day.

Sounds normal, right? Well, that’s the hook of it; Night Vale is anything but normal. That’s part of the reason why it is so beloved by its dedicated audience.

Dog parks are forbidden. Glow Clouds serve on the PTA. Angels live with little old ladies. It’s wonderfully absurd, surreal, and dark all at once. In the center of all this weirdness is our radio host, the Voice of Night Vale, Cecil (voiced by Cecil Baldwin). His wonderfully smooth and velvety voice narrates the strange and silly horrors that the town encounters with regularity. He also fanboys a lot about his love of an Outsider scientist, Carlos (voiced by Dylan Marron).

The show captures the darkest and strangest side of the love of the weird, strange, and bizarre. It’s no wonder why it’s becoming rapidly and wildly popular amongst a slew of people.

So as the show reaches the second anniversary mark (June 15th). Fellow Night Vale fan, Deanne, and I, Bec, will take this moment to share with you our love for the series over a variety of categories. Be forewarned this post will contain spoilers.

So let’s get started!

How I Got Into Night Vale

Bec: I could weave a story about love and loss and Night Vale. It would be a lie. I saw a post on Buzzfeed. I was insanely curious by what I saw. I really enjoy strange stories like that. Christopher Moore is one of my favorite authors. My go-to comfort is watching the classic Addams Family. As I read it, it sounded kind of weird and wonderful. Normally, I am not into horror or anything even vaguely hinting at it. I change channels when there’s a commercial for a scary movie on. It took my six months in order for me to watch Supernatural with the lights off. I am easily freaked out. Anyway, I downloaded “Pilot” and well…I fell in love instantly. I immediately downloaded all the other 28 available episodes and had a marathon with them. It went from there and now, I wait for the first and fifteenth of the month eagerly.

Deanne: I had seen tweets in my Twitter feed and posts on my Tumblr about this place called Night Vale. I was a bit curious, but not curious enough to really check it out yet because I don’t really get into the podcast thing. (I have a hard time listening to them without my mind wandering off and not paying attention.) But one of my best friends had started listening and kept telling me about it and poking and prodding me to listen and I finally gave in. I downloaded the Player FM app on my phone where you can download the episodes, and I started listening to them on my commute back and forth to work. It wasn’t instant love for me, but I was so intrigued and confused by what I heard that I had to keep listening to see if I could figure it out. By a few episodes later, I was completely hooked and there was no turning back. Now, having to wait for the 1st and the 15th when the new episodes finally air is like a special kind of torture from the hooded figures in the dog park.

Thoughts on Cecil

Bec: Cecil is wonderful, since he’s the one that the audience is most exposed to, too. We feel a greater kinship with him. First off, his voice is amazing. It’s like I don’t know chocolate in my ears. It’s oddly soothing and comforting even though what he reports are horrifying. Plus, he’s a badass. I’ll get into more in my Favorite Moment. His constant defiance of Strex is wonderful and awesome. Cecil loves his family and his town. There’s something that I really like about that. Plus, his kind of stalkerish crush on Carlos was cute; it reminded of Helga Pataki’s crush on Arnold in Hey Arnold! Except you know it wouldn’t drive Cecil to madness like Helga’s crush did. It was just kind of sweet in a weird way.

Also, for the question of what does Cecil look like to me? Well, it changes depending on my mood. My favorite mental version is the one with the rose colored mohawk with tattoos staring on the sides of his shaved head and going down his body and three eyes. He’s a shapeshifter, though. What he mentally looks like depends on my mood. Seriously.

Although, I really like blob!Cecil created by Tumblr user saltysalmonella, who is just the cutest thing ever. I wanna cuddle with him!

Plus Cecil Baldwin, who voices Cecil, seems like a kind of awesome guy and I would love to hang out with him. You should totally follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook because he’s awesome.

Deanne: Cecil Gershwin Palmer. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Seriously though, if his full name isn’t enough to make you love him (and it totally is, by the way) then there are plenty of other reasons. For instance, his beautiful voice. Listening to his voice is like laying on a velvet blanket in front of a roaring fire snuggled up next to the one you love in the deep dark depths of winter. Completely satisfying, comforting, and perfect. His love of the listeners is another reason I adore him. When you listen to him, you automatically think he is speaking only to you…that no one else is listening and it’s just you and Cecil and he is telling you everything you need to know to get through your day, or possibly your life.

Because I’ve actually been to a live event, and I’ve watched videos online, it’s hard for me not to picture Cecil Baldwin (the amazing man behind the voice) as Cecil Palmer. Of course, when I do, he’s always dressed in a white button up shirt with a purple tie with the sleeves unbuttoned and rolled up in preparation for all the news he has to tell us. Sort of like a slightly more weird version of Clark Kent in the newsroom at The Daily Planet.

Basically, Cecil is like Mary Poppins…practically perfect in every way.

Thoughts on Carlos

Bec: Carlos is a giant dork in a cool guy’s body. At least that’s how I picture him. I like that he’s dedicated to his job and that Night Vale hasn’t driven him to the brink of insanity. I really like how he eventually goes with the flow of the insanity of Night Vale. In “Lazy Day” when gravity stops working, he’s just like ‘alright, I’ll clean my gutters’, but he hasn’t lost his scientific curiosity either because he still continues to investigate and explore. He’s just not letting the insanity rule him. Now, unlike Cecil, we only hear about bits and pieces of Carlos from well Cecil and that’s fine. From what it sounds like he’s a person who is trying trying to be a good boyfriend and loves his work. Sometimes one rules the other, but he’s starting to balance it out. So that’s awesome.

And he is very hot in my mind because why not?

Dylan Marron, who has recently voiced Carlos, is also the cutest person ever. Much like Cecil Baldwin, I think it would be a blast to hang out with him. He also does these really cool YouTube videos that you should check out.

Deanne: Oh, Carlos. Perfect Carlos with the perfect hair…sigh. I think if you love Cecil, you can’t help but to love Carlos because of Cecil’s undying affection for him. The episodes in the beginning where he talks about Carlos and he is constantly trying to score a date with Carlos and is constantly reporting that so far there have been no weekend plans are some of the greatest moments. He’s so adorably smitten with Carlos, and now that we know him more, rightly so.

Carlos is a scientist. Not just any scientist, but one that was brought to Night Vale from afar because of his general curiosity of the unexplained. And even though he is no closer to explaining any of the wall of weird stuff that is the general currency in Night Vale, he still stays and he still investigates. I like that he’s not a quitter.

Much like Cecil, when I think of Carlos I picture his voice actor (the adorable Dylan Marron). To me, he’s the perfect representation of Carlos, only with the addition of some black framed glasses, a sparkly white lab coat, and a bag chock full of science-y supplies.

Favorite Character Other Than Cecil or Carlos

Bec: If they existed, I would say the Erikas. The Erikas love Old Woman Josie and attempt to still protect her when they go. They are also trying to protect the citizens of Night Vale from well whatever they need protecting from. Despite the fact that people continuously deny their existence. Plus, they have the prettiest fan art drawn about them. Since the Erikas do not exist however, because angels are not real, I would go with Intern Dana.

Dana kicks ass and sounds adorable doing it. She just gets all this help by being so naturally friendly.

Deanne: Tamika Flynn and the librarians are definitely my favorite of all the other added characters. I love that the Librarians are basically the opposite of what they are in reality, and that the library is the one place that you definitely want to avoid at all costs. I love Tamika because she is basically the voice of the uprising and the proverbial thorn in StrexCorp’s backside. With her worn-out copy of Willa Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop” and the severed librarian’s head that she collected during the Summer Reading Program, she’s become the symbol of freedom and hope and the hero of Night Vale.

Who Would I Vote For in the Night Vale Election

Bec: The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home. I like Hiram don’t get me wrong, but the Faceless Old Woman seems a bit more put together then Hiram. I think it’s because she doesn’t have five heads with five personalities, because that could be messy. Also, I find her both creepy and comforting.

Deanne: I’d have to go with Hiram McDaniels, because he’s a dragon, and who doesn’t love dragons?! He’s not just a regular dragon either; he’s a 5-headed dragon! So if you had a problem and took it to the mayor and didn’t like the answer, you’d have four more tries to get the answer you were seeking. Seems logical to me. VOTE FOR HIRAM!

Favorite Line 

Bec: “May we all be human – beautiful, stupid, temporal, endless.” -Episode 33 “Cassette” I think that’s the amazing line. It’s like the most positive thing about humanity I’ve ever heard. From episode 42 “Numbers”: “I sing the body electric. I gasp the body organic. I miss the body remembered.” It’s very poetic as Night Vale can often be.

Also I really like the poems from episode 39, “The Woman From Italy” as in all of them. I can’t pick one, and don’t make me.

Deanne: “Emergency workers report that the damage from Valentine’s Day is worse than previously projected. They describe bodies strewn upon the ground, covered in glitter and paper cupids. Entire buildings collapsed, leaving only rubble and chalky candy hearts. Of course, there is the sad fate of those chosen to be another person’s Valentine. Little can be said to help the families of those unfortunates except that the process is, while exactly as ghastly and excruciating as feared, apparently not as horribly slow and drawn-out as it appears to outside observers. As usual, no aid has come our way from either the state or national government. The state House even went so far as to send a formal reply, the entirety of which reads, ‘Sorry. We can see what you were going for, but maybe we just don’t get that kind of thing. Anyway, creative stuff! And have a happy Valentine’s.’” Episode 17-“Valentine”

Due to my career choice (I’m a cake/cookie decorator), I have grown to hate Valentine’s Day immensely. I hate the rush of it all, all the stupid little hearts and red and pink crap everywhere, the notion that you have this one day a year that you are confined to in which to show the one you love how much you love them by buying them food and chocolate and stuffed animals. It’s ludicrous. So imagine my delight when I heard this episode and realized that Valentine’s Day in Night Vale is like a horror story come to life. It was the defining moment of when I knew that I would love Night Vale forever.

Favorite Moment

Bec: Besides the obvious, when Cecil and Carlos got together in episode 25 “One Year Later” and any adorable couple moments, I like it whenever Cecil is a badass. In episode 36 “Missing”, when he took over the broadcast using his iPhone to hack into the soundboard after StrexCorp shut him down to support Tamika Flynn. When he barricaded the doors in episode 46 “Parade Day” and urged people through Morse Code to take down Strex. His battle against the fake John Peters (y’know the impostor) in episode 38 “Orange Grove”. How he tried to protect Khoshekh from the Strex Pet in episode 43 “Visitor”. When he tried to help save Fey in episode 42 “Numbers”.

Of course the crowning moment of badass-ness was in episode 48 “Renovations”, because when Cecil came back and the traditional Night Vale music kicked back on, I cheered. After the disturbing atmosphere of the first part of the episode and the episode previous, it was so good to hear his voice.

“He is holding a cat.” Everyone cheers. I cheered.

I just really, really like it when Cecil is a huge badass.

Deanne: As cheesy as it may sound the moment in episode 33, “Cassette”, when we find out Cecil’s full name has always been one of my favorite moments. Something about knowing that his middle name is Gershwin makes the part of me that loves music and musicals ridiculously happy.

Favorite Episode

Bec: Ugh! It’s a tie. Like a multi-way tie. Sorry about that. I cannot choose one episode as my favorite. So my favorites are as follows episode 39 “The Woman From Italy”, episode 42 “Numbers”, episode 25 “One Year Later”, episode 13 “A Story About You”, and episode 48 “Renovations”. I’ll be brief with each of them.

“The Woman From Italy” – I just like the poetry a lot within it. It’s disturbing, creepy, and very pretty all at once, which I think is just awesome. I also like how Cecil’s voice changes from his normal smooth tones to something creepier. It’s fun hearing the utter obliviousness to what has happened in his voice. It’s a very great departure from the norm.

“Numbers” – I think that Fey and Cecil’s situations are both really, really similar at this point. Cecil is longing for his own freedom from Strex and wants to help at least someone get away from a bad situation. Molly Quinn (of Castle fame) does a great job as a sentient computer Fey who has a tragic fate.

“One Year Later”- CECIL AND CARLOS GET TOGETHER AND IT IS AMAZING! It’s horrible when you think Carlos is dead, but then he lives and Arby’s has never, ever been more romantic.

“A Story About You” – It’s the first time the show had radically changed format, and it’s kind of amazing with multiple listens. It’s a very self-contained story, but very great.

“Renovations” – It is, hopefully, the beginning of the end of Strex’s involvement in Night Vale. Fingers crossed. I am serious.

And if you’re curious, my favorite of the live shows is “Condos”. I just like how Cecil realizes that even though Carlos was once perfect to him, it is the imperfections of the man he is with he should love.

Deanne: My favorite episode would have to be episode 33, “Cassette”. I love a good back story, and Cecil’s is by far one of the best. I love getting to hear the younger version of Cecil on the tape and listening to current Cecil trying to figure out what in the hell is going on. The more he listens, the less he remembers and the more interesting it becomes. I do hope that this story will be revisited in the future and we can learn what “alterations” they made to Cecil and maybe who “they” is.

Favorite Weather

Bec: I like “I Know This” by Rachel Kann in episode ten “Feral Dogs” because the lyrics and her flow is amazing. Plus the beat is just really great to follow. I also really enjoy “Movement 1: Invocation of the Duke” by the daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra from episode 14 “The Man In The Tan Jacket”. The orchestration here is just absolutely gorgeous and has a lot of great beats within it. I still go back to it and get excited for it. 

Also this may seem really bad considering “Company Picnic” (episode 47) is so utterly disturbing to everyone in the fandom, but I really, really, really enjoyed “Stupid” by Brendan MacLean. It was just a really great song.

Deanne: I cannot pick just one. As a music junkie, there are a few that I really enjoy. First, Rachel Kann’s “I Know This” from episode 10, “Feral Dogs”. One of those slam poetry songs that’s just effing amazing. I love it so much. John Vanderslice’s “Too Much Time” from episode 23, “Eternal Scouts”. It’s just a great ballad type song with great lyrics. Mary Epworth’s “Long Gone” from episode 26, “Faceless Old Woman”. Another ballad, with unusual and interesting background music and another set of lyrics that I love. Plus her voice is haunting and wonderful. Simone Felice’s “You and I Belong” from episode 28, “Summer Reading Program”. It’s got a great beat, plus whistling, which I love. It reminds me of a Michael Franti and the Spearheads kind of song and those are some of my favorites. I could go on, but I’ll stop there for now. Just know if you are curious about all the music, you can find it all online. Bless all the Tumblr people forever.

Favorite Proverb

Bec: Oh there are so many! Here are top two favorites. From episode 41 “WALK”: “Please move your brain so we can get to the drugs. And stop leaving it there. We’ve talked about this.” and from episode 16 “The Phone Call”: “If I said you had a beautiful body, would it even matter because we are so insignificant in this vast incomprehensible universe?” 

Deanne: It’s really hard to narrow this down as well, but I’ll try. I love the one from episode 4, “PTA Meeting”. “What has four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening? I don’t know, but I trapped it in my bedroom. Send help.” My other favorite is from episode 22, “The Whispering Forest”. “If you love someone, set them free. Set them free now. This is the police, and we have you surrounded.”

Why I Love Night Vale

Bec: I love Night Vale for several inexplicable reasons. I find joy in making the mundane bizarre. I enjoy something that is simultaneously terrifying and delightful. It reminds me of those shows from childhood that stay with you The Adventures of Pete and Pete is one that sticks out chief among them. I believe that we need the strange in our lives in order to bring something new to them. Night Vale offers, not an escape, but a look into a world that maybe wouldn’t be so bad. Not the interns and the blood sacrifices…those would be bad.

The emotional center of Night Vale is Carlos and Cecil. It will always be Carlos and Cecil. The thing that is wonderful is how much of a non-issue it is. No one cares that they are gay. Why? Because there are bigger things to worry about then two people being in love with each other. It doesn’t matter if Cecil talks about a hot guy he likes on the radio. Why? It’s normal for someone to have a crush on someone else. Now, let’s focus on the Glow Cloud raining down dead animals on us all. It’s what draws you in.

Night Vale reminds us that the world can be a strange and cruel place. It can be bizarre. It can be frightening and maddening. And somedays? Somedays you want to curl up in a ball and scream at the world. And you know what? Night Vale makes those things feel more normal then anything else. It’s okay to be happy. It’s okay to be terrified. It’s okay to love whoever you want to love: freely and openly without a fear of any repercussion. Because in the end? We’re all a little bit scared of something. The terror drives us but the love we find? That gives us something much more irreplaceable.

That’s why I love Night Vale. It uses the bizarre and terrifying to remind of the more important aspects of life, love, and a bit of existential terror.

Happy anniversary, Night Vale! Congrats!

Deanne: I think I love Night Vale so much because it is the furthest away from any sense of normal that there can be. In a day where TV shows and movies all seem to share the same plots, actors, and formula, it’s refreshing to have something that you never know what to expect and always keeps you on your toes. Also, much like reading, I enjoy getting listen to what is being said and picture the world of Night Vale in my head.

All I can say is a very large and ridiculously happy thank you to Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor for creating Night Vale and giving us all a place where we can share in the weird. To quote our Dear Mr. Palmer, “Weird at last, weird at last. God Almighty! Weird at last!!”

Happy 2nd anniversary, Night Vale!

Bec Heim