The original plan for today was to write something about how I currently have 30 cents in my bank account and it would’ve maybe been something real and poignant on the insecurity and stress of being a freelancer, perhaps delving deeper into the current political climate and how absolutely terrifying it is but then I realised I had already shared the song I wanted to use as a tone setter so that’s out.
Instead, let’s talk about Welcome to Night Vale.
I’ve only started to listen to podcasts in the last couple of years, at first because it was good company while I was cleaning and then because wow once you find a couple you like the list grows like an aggressive rash. I’ve listed some of the ones I’m currently more or less caught up on, but out of all of them Night Vale is the one that means the most to me. I wasn’t an early adapter and I don’t rush to listen to the new episodes, but it has made a huge impact on my life. This isn’t meant to be a review and although I preordered the first novel and went to both live shows that toured Stockholm, I don’t think I’m more than a casual fan. Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend it. It’s a great podcast, if you like weird stuff. Ghost Stories, the most recent live show, was a beautiful piece of theatre. None of these things are what I really want to talk about.
The thing about Night Vale that really gets me is what a phenomenon it’s become. I’m sure the same can be said about a lot of podcasts, but I still remember a couple of years ago when Night Vale was compared to Lovecraft and now other media that should perhaps be described as Lovecraftian is referred to as Night Vale-esque. Night Vale makes me believe in the power of making art that you want to see, of sticking with it and finding an audience and never forgetting or taking that audience for granted. It makes me believe I can do it too, not make something like Night Vale but something that I want to see and if I just stick with it, the audience will come. It also makes me believe in the power of holding yourself accountable and being honest about what a burden sudden success can be without being ungrateful to your audience.
Night Vale is good storytelling, but it’s also a political tool and I think that’s one of the most important things we have at our disposal right now. I don’t for a second agree that the threat of a fascist dictatorship will make art great again but I do think that political art is necessary, no matter what. Art that kicks up, not down. Art that grabs hold of those of us that are struggling and gives a leg up. We need that and I think Night Vale is a good example of something that’s on the right path. I’m happy to call myself a former intern of the Night Vale Community Radio and can only hope that one day be worthy of the Subversive Radio Host badge.