Welcome to Night Vale ‘All Hail’ (Tour)

For those unfamiliar with it, Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, starring Cecil Baldwin as Cecil Palmer, the voice of Night Vale’s community radio show. Night Vale is a scenic little desert community where all of the weird things that have ever happened. Think the love child of X Files and Radio 4. A world of forbidden dog parks, hooded figures, floating cats, and mysterious lights in the sky (mostly void, partially stars). In a way completely inexplicable but makes perfect sense upon listening. The show began in 2012 and releases twice a month, alongside numerous live performances, books and of course various merchandise. It’s a very ‘Millennial’ experience- released into the wild for free, crowdfunded and supported by a loyal and growing audience. But it also marks a success story of that very ‘Millennial’ approach to doing things.
I confess I’ve not listened to Night Vale in probably a year. Nothing to do with their work I am just not a podcast person. I think my dyslexia makes listening to spoken word difficult if I’m trying to do anyting else, and I rarely have time to sit and simply listen. So through no fault of their own Night Vale had fallen off my radar. But actually coming to the live show fresh, was a real advantage and treat.
The beauty of a radio show of course is that you don’t have to ‘perform’ it and if it goes wrong, you can re-record. So there’s a little worry that this won’t translate to ‘live’ performance. But Night Vale know how to pitch their work- they don’t over-perform or try and inject a ‘stagey’ element to it. It’s as if you were watching them record the podcast, which is exactly the right way to pitch it.
The show includes a musical element (The Weather on a Night Vale broadcast is always a musical guest, again it makes sense if you hear it) and on this tour it was the brilliant Erin McKeown. A great mix of soft-rock love songs and political anthems. McKeown worked the crowd well, sensing a Welsh crowd enjoys a sing-along got everyone involved. I highly recommend seeking out her music as well, particularly those fond of Queer love songs and anti-Trump anthems (I strongly suspect those categories overlap somewhat). Her song ‘The Queer Gospel’ is the actual ‘weather’ segment in the middle of the show and is the perfect addition to the world of Night Vale.
It is difficult to explain or review Welcome to Night Vale. It is very much a ‘cult following’ and the demographic- Millennials with interesting hair- are devoted. It also feels like a welcoming audience, the kind of crowd you look around and figure if you were on your own, you could find someone to chat to at the bar based on their cool T Shirt or a pin badge on their bag. And that nerd-space experience is as much a part of what Night Vale offer their audiences as much as the performance itself.
Being a bit out of the loop with happenings in the Vale I worried I’d feel left out. And while there were a few jokes that no doubt passed me by, it really doesn’t matter as Night Vale is a world weird enough that you can dip in and out of at any time. There does seem to be a fair bit of fan-service going on in the live shows, which is to be expected and doesn’t detract from the excellent writing and overall is a fun experience in which you’re carried away by the fan’s excitement and enthusiasm. Though, being a slightly grumpy person in this respect, I could have lived without the amount of audience interaction in this show. Amid the strange comings and goings of the town that are par for the course, this show ‘All Hail’ also had a strong message at its core. Based around the town’s blind worship of the now infamous ‘glow cloud’ there was at its heart a message against blind following and an invocation to action. It’s not a subtle message by any means, but it doesn’t have to be, and in the world we live in maybe it shouldn’t be.
The performers, are as brilliant live as they are in the recording. They include Meg Bashwiner as our compare and Haze-cloud Deb and others that are best left as a surprise on the night. But at it’s heart of course is voice of Night Vale Ceil Baldwin. As funny, engaging and with a voice that could sooth Tigers or politicians, Ceil really does embody Night Vale. He spins the narrative with such ease (well except when he nearly sent a microphone flying) and weaves together the strange world with such nonchalance you’d think the was reading the weather for real. It’s a sweet and funny performance and he clearly relishes the audience reactions. He’s funny, engaging and brings a real heart to this sweeping and surreal world.

Night Vale is big on a sense of activism under the weirdness. It’s an inclusive, LGBTQ supportive, and political group of people. And that comes through in the writing. And good for them. Not only does it create work with a message, but it brings people together on that message. It’s full of Queer performers and people of colour and although they don’t name names in the fictional world the trajectory of the statements is clear. But at its heart it’s sweet and hopeful and inclusive and kind. And you know what, that’s kind of lovely. 
Welcome to Night Vale ‘All Hail’ is on tour worldwide: 

Have you no decency? A month into Project Book

The above image has come to symbolize my last month: slightly unhinged in two day old clothes waving research at people who don’t give a damn or understand. Actually that might be a good image to represent my entire academic career.

As much as this blog is being used to throw around ideas for the work I’m working on, I figure I should also use it to talk about the process. And the process is…well the above.

In the spirit of thinking about things positively here are things I have done in the last month:

  • 20, 000 or so new words on paper
  • About 60, 000 words (ok 58, 527 to be exact) pulled from drafts, the PhD and other sources in various states of editing. 
  • Vague structure
  • Interviewed Daniel Kramer and Tony Kushner and lined up a couple of actor interviews. 
(I also had a couple of creative projects that needed groundwork this month, and job applications so it hasn’t been all Angels book all the time)
The rest of the time working on the book has been taken up with emailing, searching and generally crying about the fact that nobody wants to publish it. Hence the above, waving research in two-day-old clothes. 
I never expected it to be easy. Hell I’m a failed academic with no institutional affiliation it was always going to take work. 
The thing is when I speak to people outside the academic bubble they think just the act of attempting this thing is impressive. Sadly inside it I’m the only academic who can’t find a publisher willing to touch her PhD. Everyone manages that. 
And I don’t mean to sound either mean, or conceited but I see far, far more niche things than this work getting published every day. I’m not going to give examples there because everyone’s research is important to someone, and valuable. But what I’m saying is things with a far narrower field of interest get, well interest. 
I’m fairly resistant to the Big Academic Publisher route. Partly because I know it’ll be a long road with a likelihood of failure. But I also don’t have any route into trade publishers either. So where does that leave me? Self-Publishing as an e-book is an option, but if I’m honest, as nice as it would be to have total control, that feels like a final failure in what has been a litany of failures. Couldn’t even get her PhD published what a joke. 
I have such passion for this project- and the wider work that goes with it. And I believe it’s something worth doing. I wouldn’t have kept on this long if I didn’t. But when all I get are road block after road block it’s hard not to believe I won’t always be Louis, throwing papers at a Mormon who doesn’t understand him, or what he’s saying, forever. 
And that’s a bit what I feel. You know when Louis reels off why his parents are disappointed ‘He’s a fag, he’s an office temp, oh look he’s saying Kaddish for Roy Cohn’ Let’s just all agree I feel like Louis a lot of the time. And that’s the other issue, I gave myself a month off before temping. I’m managing to eek that out a little longer. But as another dead-end admin job, a ‘for now’ retail job and temping loom once more, it’s hard not to feel like a failure. I look around and see people advancing in their careers and I seem to be back at square one, yet again. It’s hard to keep momentum. I let myself think, when I walked out of my last admin job that maybe, just maybe this was the last time and things would start to happen. I might finally make progress again. But a month on it’s hard to keep that optimism. 
So what do I want? I want a sense that this IS publishable work, that is is worth carrying on with. I’m not afraid to work hard on it, but if it’s all a pointless exercise when do I give up? 

Have you no decency? A month into Project Book

The above image has come to symbolize my last month: slightly unhinged in two day old clothes waving research at people who don’t give a damn or understand. Actually that might be a good image to represent my entire academic career.

As much as this blog is being used to throw around ideas for the work I’m working on, I figure I should also use it to talk about the process. And the process is…well the above.

In the spirit of thinking about things positively here are things I have done in the last month:

  • 20, 000 or so new words on paper
  • About 60, 000 words (ok 58, 527 to be exact) pulled from drafts, the PhD and other sources in various states of editing. 
  • Vague structure
  • Interviewed Daniel Kramer and Tony Kushner and lined up a couple of actor interviews. 
(I also had a couple of creative projects that needed groundwork this month, and job applications so it hasn’t been all Angels book all the time)
The rest of the time working on the book has been taken up with emailing, searching and generally crying about the fact that nobody wants to publish it. Hence the above, waving research in two-day-old clothes. 
I never expected it to be easy. Hell I’m a failed academic with no institutional affiliation it was always going to take work. 
The thing is when I speak to people outside the academic bubble they think just the act of attempting this thing is impressive. Sadly inside it I’m the only academic who can’t find a publisher willing to touch her PhD. Everyone manages that. 
And I don’t mean to sound either mean, or conceited but I see far, far more niche things than this work getting published every day. I’m not going to give examples there because everyone’s research is important to someone, and valuable. But what I’m saying is things with a far narrower field of interest get, well interest. 
I’m fairly resistant to the Big Academic Publisher route. Partly because I know it’ll be a long road with a likelihood of failure. But I also don’t have any route into trade publishers either. So where does that leave me? Self-Publishing as an e-book is an option, but if I’m honest, as nice as it would be to have total control, that feels like a final failure in what has been a litany of failures. Couldn’t even get her PhD published what a joke. 
I have such passion for this project- and the wider work that goes with it. And I believe it’s something worth doing. I wouldn’t have kept on this long if I didn’t. But when all I get are road block after road block it’s hard not to believe I won’t always be Louis, throwing papers at a Mormon who doesn’t understand him, or what he’s saying, forever. 
And that’s a bit what I feel. You know when Louis reels off why his parents are disappointed ‘He’s a fag, he’s an office temp, oh look he’s saying Kaddish for Roy Cohn’ Let’s just all agree I feel like Louis a lot of the time. And that’s the other issue, I gave myself a month off before temping. I’m managing to eek that out a little longer. But as another dead-end admin job, a ‘for now’ retail job and temping loom once more, it’s hard not to feel like a failure. I look around and see people advancing in their careers and I seem to be back at square one, yet again. It’s hard to keep momentum. I let myself think, when I walked out of my last admin job that maybe, just maybe this was the last time and things would start to happen. I might finally make progress again. But a month on it’s hard to keep that optimism. 
So what do I want? I want a sense that this IS publishable work, that is is worth carrying on with. I’m not afraid to work hard on it, but if it’s all a pointless exercise when do I give up?