Hugh Likes Fiction: It Devours!

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It Devours!: A Welcome to Night Vale novel
Written by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Crainor
Audiobook read by Cecil Baldwin

The Skinny-The creators of “Welcome to Night Vale” return with another delightfully creepy and silly novel set in their quiet desert town.

Following up their best-selling eponymous Welcome to Night Vale novel, It Devours! continues the formula of giving a spotlight to some of the supporting characters from the podcast. The story falls a bit outside the purview of the half-hour pseudo-radio show, but is still great fun for fans.
The story follows Nilanjana, a scientist investigating a series of mysterious and unofficial earthquakes, and Darryl, a member of the friendly cult The Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, which may be involved in a series of disappearances. The pair will have to contend contend with pushy spokespeople, lonely surveillance helicopter pilots, and most importantly, their very different world-views to solve these mysteries.
While readers don’t need to have read the previous novel or be up to date on the podcast, the story is full of references to both. The most important thing to know going in is that Night Vale is weird. And that weirdness comes with neither explanation nor apology. Bits like the town’s monstrous City Council, the fad for invisible food, and the barista district all swing by fast enough to upset a new reader’s train of thought if unprepared. But the story is well-told and engaging. If you are new to Night Vale and find the vast backlog of podcast episodes intimidating, It Devours! might be a great place to give it a try.
The audio book is read by Cecil Baldwin, the host of the podcast. He does an excellent job bringing the huge cast to life. Fans of weird fiction will find a lot to like in this heartwarming end-of-the-world adventure.
It Devours is available from Amazon in print and Audible in audio book. You can also find it at your Local Independent Bookstore!

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: Alice Isn’t Dead

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Alice Isn’t Dead
Joseph Fink/Jasika Nicole/Disparition
America can be a weird, lonesome place.  This is something the creators of ‘Welcome to Night Vale,’ no strangers to weirdness themselves, learned firsthand while touring with a live version of the hit podcast.  Co-writer Joseph Fink was inspired to write a new show based in part on his experience of traveling across the country.  But like the original, ‘Alice Isn’t Dead,’ takes place in a world much stranger and scarier than our own.
While ‘Night Vale’ uses its off-kilter atmosphere for humor, Alice is a straight-up horror story, with a fair bit of mystery thrown in.  The podcast follows a truck driver, played by Jasika Nicole, as she travels the country in search of her missing wife.  Along the way, she tells her story into her CB radio as though it were a letter or a diary.  At first she just wants answers, but she quickly becomes embroiled in an inexplicable conspiracy, and attracts the attention of The Thistle Man, a supernatural impossible serial killer.  From there, things only get worse.
Produced by Disparition, each episode is a rich soundscape.  I expected the CB chirps and engine hum that provide the basic sound floor to take me out of the story, but they are expertly mixed, and rather than distract, they provide a sense of realism and tension to the performance.  Set on the lonely highways and the weird nowhere towns of the American imagination, “Alice Isn’t Dead” is a creepy mystery that proves that the Night Vale creative team have real chops behind their satire.  You can find the show in iTunes, or at nightvalepresents.com.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: Welcome To Night Vale

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Welcome to Night Vale
Hosted by Cecil Baldwin, and others
Produced by Commonplace books
“Welcome to Night Vale” a podcast that almost needs no introduction at this point.  This wildly popular program is a podcast drama formatted as bulletins from a community radio station in a small desert town.  It features notices from the town’s active secret police, a kid’s fun-fact science corner, updates on the mysterious lights in the sky and the war-like subterranean culture located beneath the local bowling alley.  And of course, the weather.  Night Vale is a weird place,  but these are just the everyday foibles you might find in any isolated community, as far as W2NV is concerned.  And that is what makes this podcast brilliant.
Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Welcome To Night Vale is not only a delightful satire of horror and weird fiction tropes, it is a clever and often heartbreaking look at tolerance and what it means to be a community.  From the bourgeoning romance between radio host Cecil and mysterious and well-coifed scientist Carlos, to the struggles of a young girl trying to fit in despite the fact that she is in fact an adult man’s detached hand, the plots of the show revolve not just around the inexplicable and the fantastic, but real human interaction, even if it is presented in completely silly ways.
At its heart, “Welcome to Night Vale” is about The Other, The Weird, amorphous Unknown that kept H. P. Lovecraft up at night.  But what the Mythos never addresses, and part of what makes it problematic today, is that one person’s incomprehensible horror is someone else’s Tuesday.  Cecil Baldwin, who plays coincidentally-named station host Cecil Palmer, recently contributed an excellent short essay about his experiences working on the project to the Queers Destroy Science Fiction Kickstarter.  The thing he really loves about the podcast, and I agree, is that in all of Night Vale’s strangeness and paranoia, the same-sex relationship between Cecil and Carlos is never even considered unusual or different from a straight one.  That’s the subtext for Welcome to Night Vale.  The things that we do not understand or find inexplicable are just life seen from a different angle.  It’s an unexpected direction, almost stealth schmaltz, but it’s the most original thing in Podcasting, and it brings a delightful little bit of weirdness and joy to my feed twice a month.  Find Welcome to Night Vale in your preferred podcatcher, or visit Commonplacebooks.com.