“Hello listeners. To start things off I’ve been asked to read this brief notice: the city council announces the opening of a new dog park at the corner of Earl and Summerset near the Ralph’s. They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible you will see hooded figures in the dog park. Do not approach them. Do not approach the dog park.”
So begins the first episode of a podcast that, almost overnight, rampaged up the download charts to become a global favourite.
Welcome to Night Vale is a fortnightly podcast that defies comparison – though people throw around names such as H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King – about a fictional desert town in the American Southwest where all conspiracy theories are real. The podcast, written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, takes the form of a radio news show hosted by Night Vale local Cecil Palmer (voiced by Cecil Baldwin).
A five-headed dragon runs for mayor; a floating cat lives in the radio station’s men’s bathroom; and – sadly, perhaps the most challenging note to the current pop cultural climate – Cecil gets a boyfriend and absolutely no one makes a big deal about it.
In a short window in July 2013, the podcast became a breakout hit thanks to a devoted Tumblr following, and has since gone global, with celebrities making guest appearances on episodes, a live tour of Night Vale throughout the US and Canada, and a slot at this year’s San Diego Comicon.
Most of all, Welcome to Night Vale is a love letter to the creative, funny, and weird. In this interview with Radio New Zealand producer Charlotte Graham, Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink talk about storytelling, fandom, Tumblr, sexuality and race in mainstream pop culture, writing, horror, and podcast funding models.