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Welcome to Night Vale: The Viral Rise of an Impossible Town
As discussed previously on Nerd Glaze, Night Vale isn’t your typical desert town. It struggles with typical municipal issues, such as the new waterfront recreation center, which may or may not exist and definitely does not have an actual waterfront. The town is inhabited by mysterious hooded figures and scientists with perfect hair, and it’s the subject of the popular podcast “Welcome to Night Vale.”
“Welcome to Night Vale” is a bimonthly podcast with news, weather, and updates from the Sheriff’s Secret Police from the town of Night Vale. Produced by Commonplace Books, the fake town’s existentially fraught and often catastrophic news and announcements are read in a deadpan, newscaster like voice by the mostly real Cecil Baldwin, creating a result that is a snarky combination of The Twilight Zone and a Neil Gaiman novel. It doesn’t have an overarching storyline, and it’s only regular feature is The Weather, which spotlights a song from a different artist each week. And while the podcast is a wonderfully funny call back to old time science fiction and radio shows, the real news is its almost overnight success story.
The show celebrated its year anniversary in June and shortly afterwards it exploded, doubling its downloads in a matter of weeks. Creator and writer Joseph Fink told The AWL, “It took us about a week to figure out that it was just somehow we had exploded on Tumblr and we don’t know why or how that happened.”
The podcast does have a huge fandom on Tumblr, and the community seems to be generating more and more fans for the show. “What I see mostly are people talking to each other and people saying, “Thanks so-and-so for introducing me to this,’” Fink said. The exponential growth of the show has been tied to the Hannibal fandom, and while the two shows share a certain grizzly tone, both shows also demonstrate the “viralness” of fandom once the buzz gets started. Through word of mouth and an avid fandom full of fan art, cross overs, and tagging, the show has been at number one on the iTune’s podcast list for several weeks now.
So welcome to Night Vale: a town where fans multiply like tribbles, a five headed dragon may run for mayor, and a giant glow cloud heads the PTA. Tune in, just don’t go into the dog park.