Welcome To Night Vale: The Normal Town, For Weird People.


 Disclaimer: The podcast does not endorse this blog post in any way. Also, there is some light spoilers, but more for those who have already started listening, and need to catch up. :)

There is a town, somewhere in the desert of the United States that is on the list of fictional locations that we all want to go to as nerds. Night Vale, for many, joins the list of Hogwarts, Narnia, Arrakis, District 12 and other great fictional locations. But it did so, not by the traditional means of writing. It instead – did this by capturing the rise of technology that many of us started getting into recently: Podcasting.

Now we will save Podcasting, for another post. But since the summer of 2012, this show, that releases on the 1st and 15th of the month, has shared with nerds, the news of the small desert town from Night Vale Community Radio host Cecil Palmer. Through Cecil, we learn about a Secret Police force that acts in-lieu of an non-secretive police force. How the city council is just a bunch of weirdly hooded figures, that go on vacation a lot and scream when changes take place in town. (Sound familiar?) And my favorite, the reasons why their town’s Dog Park is forbidden and only a special group of Hooded Figured people can go in and out and until recently, dogs can go in but not out.

Fans of this show are known as Citizens of Night Vale. I have been a proud citizen since November of 2014. And while many of my friends, love and live vicariously through the adventures of the podcast, there are still many close to me who don’t get it. So, today, I am sharing with you some reasons why Night Vale for many, is the place we all dream of living in.

Do You Like Listening to NPR in the morning? This is the weird fictional version for you.

This show, reminds me of a far more interesting Fresh Air or Morning Talk episode from NPR. (National Public Radio for any of our non-American readers.) Now for some people this is a little harder to listen to, because for many NPR either signifies “old people” or “liberal progressives”. Which can be a bit of broad brush stroke, but many critics and fans of the show, use it as the best way to explain the show to friends and family. The show has normal segments such as traffic, community calendars, weather reports and even editorials. But what you think are just normal news episodes, shortly but surely make you wonder what kind of news is this, as well as what kind of town is this?

The attributes of Night Vale make it real

The creators have mentioned that this series, is set somewhere in the southwest USA. But the more you listen to this show, you increasingly notice how Night Vale looks a lot like your local town, only not weird at all. There is a Starbucks (in fact a whole district), they have an arena, an opera house, schools, city hall, Post Offices, and libraries that no one EVER goes into. (Albeit, the reason you wouldn’t go into Night Vale Library or the Night Vale Post Office are very different from the reasons we do not go into those real-world locations.)

Additionally, the setting of Night Vale is very modern. They have cell phones, the internet, Snapchat, Facebook, Tumblr, Amazon, Target, Costco, and all the other things that we are used to in our daily lives. While you may feel that you are being transported to another place, it’s not that far off from your town. I come from a small town, that reminds me of Night Vale in many ways. I mean, shoot, we have a Big Rico’s Pizza in my town. **

The People are DifferentAnd that’s SUPER OK

You know, we nerds, are by default type casted as outcasts in our normal society. So, when you listen about the news of a city, that makes *you* the normal one, it makes listening even more worthwhile. What I adore about this show, is how it normalizes the weird. Like it’s supposed to be no big deal that Street Sweepers are dangerous. Or how there is a faceless old woman that lives in everyone’s home. My favorite, is the Ephemeral Glow Cloud that is on the school board and has a small “child glow cloud” as a student in Night Vale. (ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY GLOW CLOUD.)

However, as a bonus, things that many people in our real world find weird and abnormal, are no big deal. Such as the relationship between Cecil and his boyfriend Carlos. In our real lives, a relationship like Cecil and Carlos would face judgements and in some places terrible homophobia attacks. But in Night Vale it is completely embraced. I mean being honest, the town has weirder things going on than two gay men in a monogamous relationship, but that’s how *not* weird it is, relationship is. Providing room for social commentary on how “weird” really should be defined both in and out of our daily lives.

You are always wondering what happens next. Always. Left. Wondering.

This show is always leaving you wondering what will happen next. There are threads that eventually are resolved over the years, but some of them, are never really resolved. Many books and series, tie everything up in a neat little bow, but Welcome to Night Vale, even if it does resolve a plot thread, leaves you tons of additional threads on which the creators can continue to work on long after the main plot has ended. There is material and themes that the writer brings up in episodes that make you go “That is from a long time ago!” – Episode 57 “The List” is one of those episodes.

Three Words: Allegorical Social Commentary

So, this one takes a lot of people by surprise. For some, they completely miss it unless someone mentions it. But once you get to Year Three (Starting around Episode 27-28), you will notice that all those weird sayings and settings, are not just plain weird. They begin to set stages, and evolve the weird things in this town into mirrors that replicate our own real world. For many Citizens of Night Vale, this is where many of us begin to change our ways of thinking and feeling both in and out of Night Vale.

One of the most infamous episodes of Allegorical Social Commentary is Episode 73 titled “Triptych”.  No spoilers, but by the end of the episode, you not only question your beliefs about a certain character, but you then start asking the question of “What would I have done in this situation?” Knowing that the ending of the episode is with Cecil literally saying the following: “Stay Tuned next, for a feeling in your chest that will never quite sit right with you again.” Truer words have never been spoken.

This is when you know, that the show is more than just weird people and events in a small town. There is more, much more, that the show allows us to see, if we are willing to see it. Night Vale has used its weirdness to not only allow people to escape from the world they live in, but a safe space for us to question our own personal emotional and social beliefs.

For example: *

  • The entire story of the Apache Tracker?!
  • Are we okay with the way Episode 42: “Numbers” ended?
  • Were you ready to go to battle in Episode 46 “Parade Day”?
  • Did Episode 51 “The September Monologues” change your opinion concerning a few recurring characters?
  • Did Episode 83 “One Normal Town” make you question your beliefs on immigration and refugees?
  • Were you emotionally devastated, yet also feeling the glaring and painful irony to the endings of Episode 87 “The Trial of Hiram McDaniel’s” and Episode 98 “Flight”?

So if you have been wondering what the big deal is with this weird fictional town – now is a good time to jump in and take a look. At 100 episodes at the end of December, there is plenty of story and time for you to listen into. Consider listening as you are waiting in line while shopping or while drive over the hills and through the woods to your designated person you are trying to reach. Embrace the weird, and discover why this town Is the town we all want to live in.

*If they didn’t – feel free to re-listen to those episodes again and think about it. Or not. It’s up to you.
** Also – The owner of the Big Rico’s in my current hometown, is a huge Night Vale fan!

 

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Don’t Call it a Comeback — Cause we never really left.


You know, one of the beautiful things about blogging, you can stop writing, and then come back to it when the need to share your world returns.

And boy, does that seem to happen at some interesting times in my life.

So we are coming back to basics after an incredibly long hiatus. After dealing with all the legal drama behind the blog, and life kicking in, I return to you now, at the turn of the tide. To write more nerdy manifestos, in a different mindset.

So what do we have in store for this blog now, that the world has indeed changed?

A couple of things:

1) Postings are coming back — We will post weekly blogs on Mondays and Patreon Subscribers will get an extra post on Thursdays. We will be full linking back to our Facebook and Twitter, so if you have followed us since the beginning, get excited — the lights are going to come back on.

2) Yes– We are doing Patreon. But not to make money — just to make the blog sustainable. We have done the math, and after figuring out costs, we have decided we need to make 300 dollars a month to upgrade the blog and fully make it working to its full potential once more. We do have longer term goals to invite new writers and pay the ones we had in the past! We plan to scale up as we go, but also work on other avenues of funding through books/projects. We will have a Patreon Post taking about all that we are doing soon!

Now, if you cannot give, don’t worry — we have plenty of old writings that you are welcome to read, and Mondays will always be our free day. Trust that we understand that the struggle remains real.

If you wish to join the Rebellion — The Patreon Link is here: https://patreon.com/preview/046d28bca8574f67abc3311c4aa645c2

3) We are just gonna catch up and write what’s on our mind about Nerd Culture. — This is what made our blog different from a lot of other blogs. We’ve been gone three years! We have so much to talk about now and share with you. Not to mention all the things coming our way as well. (Like seriously? Episode VIII of Star Wars is coming. One of my last entries was talking about the Prequels!)

We hope that you will share our mission in returning! Support our Patreon if you can, and help us go to places we have never gone before!

May the Force be with you,

Venus aka Lady Benihime/Lady Ophelia

In Praise of Older Geeks


Originally posted at Fan To Pro

“Know your roots.”
-a T-shirt featuring a NES controller.

Geekery is often presumed to belong to the young.  However, this is probably due to the stereotype that the average comic book reader is a ten-year-old boy.  Even high tech gadgets, thought to be the domain of those raised on a steady diet of Internet and cell phone use, aren’t really procured by kids unless their parents spring for it.  It’s a misconception that just because our technology is hip and new that the strongest example of geeks are fresh on the scene as well.

The average gamer is around 37 years old.  Older adults have the money to keep up with “must-have” devices, which are “must-haves” not because they’re that much better, but because the previous model is going to be phased out soon.  Therefore, by necessity, geekery skews older.  As another example, businesses require their employees to remain constantly connected, sometimes giving them Blackberries or iPhones to facilitate this.  At the same time, certain schools are still discouraging technology because some profs assume a laptop in class is used for MSN instead of note-taking.  Once again, a truly geeky world is not as youth-oriented as one might think.

At the heart of it, geek culture is about imagination, passion, open-mindedness, quick thinking, and adaptability.  These are traits that can be found in anyone.  We wrongfully associate them mainly with youth.  Young people may have plenty of “youthful” exuberance, but so do older geeks.  The difference is that older geeks have had time to refine their outlook.  Really, young people are still learning about the world, and are therefore not experienced enough to know when something is truly revolutionary.  Those of us who are interested in the world may mistake rehashed trends as something new and exciting because, well, everything IS new to us.

Remember, geek culture is based on knowledge.  You have to know your stuff, and the more you have experienced first-hand, the better.  I’m not saying an older person is necessarily geekier.  I’m saying anyone could be a geek, but it skews older, and we need a reminder of that as Geek goes mainstream.  Commercials for geek products featuring young people send the message that young people are better-versed in the modern world.  How can you be better-versed in something when you have yet to see anything else for comparison?  Does a fish know what water is before it sees the surface?  I’m quite sure, those of us who have had to help our parents send an email will get a laugh out of the “I’m a Mac. / And I’m a PC,” commercials.  However, that’s talking about a geeky child of a non-geeky parent.  When you have a young geek learning from an older geek, it’s a whole different story.

My message to my generation is that we are lucky to know these older geeks.  Culturally, they are our ancestors.  Older geeks remember when geekery was, well, geeky.  Today, if you tell someone you play “Angry Birds,” the person’s response will probably be that they do as well.  Thirty years ago, if you told someone you play “Pacman,” the response would probably be a patronizing sigh.  Older geeks “get” what we go through.  They’ve probably had it even worse, so they’re unlikely to dismiss us as wasting our time.  What’s more, they actually care about all the wacky things that we care about.

These are people who grew up Geek back when Geek meant something.  What does growing up Geek mean today?  You have a computer?  So does everyone else.  Older geeks understand that geek culture is something special.  Some of them have made geeky career niches for themselves, and they may be able to teach us how to do so as well.  They can inform us that our favourite movie is a remake, and give us the opportunity to appreciate the original in all its glory.

Most importantly, THEY UNDERSTAND our situation.  They get that we want to be writers or game designers instead of the proverbial doctors or lawyers.  They’ve been there too.  While your parents and teachers might be adamant in their positions, older geeks are understanding enough to “get” that we do things our own way.  Actually, there’s a good chance they themselves have taken the road less travelled, and they can advise us about their mistakes and successes.  They understand that we’d rather go to an anime convention than a baseball game.  Actually, you can just marvel at the fact that someone over 40 knows what an anime convention is.  Let’s not play into believing the stereotypes.

Geeks are ideal mentors.  They genuinely care when it comes to passing knowledge onward.  They are also flexible enough that they are willing to listen to us.  They want to learn from us as much as they want us to learn from them, because they understand the value of information.

For today’s upcoming generation of young geeks, the most important thing we can do is access the wealth of information that older geeks have to offer us.  They are open-minded and compassionate, for the most part, and are highly unlikely to tell us to get off their lawns.  Older geeks appreciate the new, and that applies to people as much as it does to technology.  Many of them will WANT to help us.  As the Nerdy Under Thirty, we owe it to ourselves as well as to all of geekdom to learn as much as we can from those who have geeked before us.