Authors: Joseph Fink
To Ron Fink and to Louis Nettleship
to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 2
by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, a book experience. My name is Maureen Johnson, a book person, and I have been asked to guide you into the warm water
of this second volume of
Welcome to Night Vale
One might presume that the reader of volume two of the collected
Welcome to Night Vale
episodes might have readâor at least possess and perhaps refuse to consumeâvolume one. But I will not
. I am here to guide, or forward!, your progress. I'm going to tell you what's going on.
Welcome to Night Vale
is a podcast. These are the episodes of that podcast. The episodes in volume one were the first season. The episodes you are about to read (or possess and perhaps refuse to consume) came later. The podcast arrives at certain points in time, but a bookâa book can come whenever. A book waits. A book is patient. A book will never crawl off the shelf while you sleep and walk toward you on the edges of its cover in that weird, hunched way that bats walk. Books just aren't like that. So if you want to read this volume before the otherâit's up to you. Why not? Dip in. Dip out. Read at random. Read in order. YOU DECIDE. Books are the enemy of time.
If you listen to the podcast you will notice one very particular thing: the sounds. In the podcast, Cecil and The Gang talk to you. They go on and on and on. Now listen to this book. Is it making any sounds? No?
It's no, isn't it?
books are not podcasts
. Podcasts are pretty new, so we never had to explain this before, but now it's the
thing we tell people.
Fear not. The silence will soon be filled by voices in your head. As you go through the book, you may start to hear the podcast again. You won't be hear-hearing themâyou'll be read-hearing them. Which is totally different. It's not hearing at all. Do you follow me? Take jet skis for example. They aren't jets, and they aren't skis, but somehow they are jet skis. Books are a lot like that. YOU ARE THE PODCAST NOW.
What's extra nice about this volume is that you get commentary from Jeffery Cranor and Joseph Fink, as well as from the
performers. They will explain what they were thinking when they created and performed these words. I have had the distinct pleasure and privilege of appearing in some
episodes as Intern Maureen. (I even talk about this in this book, in the introduction to “Old Oak Doors.” You don't have to go and look for this now. I promise you, it's there.
) I will repeat one sentiment I expressed in that commentary: the entire
crew are among the most thoughtful, talented, and lovely people you could ever hope to meet.
is the circus we dream of running off to join. The fact that
is so popular proves that something undeniably good is going on in the world.
In sum, this is not a podcast but a book of a podcast. The voices you hear aren't real in the same way that jet skis are jet skis. We've all joined a circus. Also, I was an intern in Night Vale but I am not an intern. I am a book person and this is a forward to a book, which is yours to read or not read, as you choose. You may choose at any time, and books operate out of time so you may choose out of time as well.
Now please complete this short quiz to demonstrate your understanding.
1.Â Â This is a:
c. jet ski
2.Â Â The voices you hear are:
b. not real
c. getting louder and more insistent
3.Â Â Night Vale is:
a. a circus
b. a podcast
c. a jet ski
4.Â Â Books are the enemy of:
c. the people
5.Â Â This is volume ________ in a series of ________.
a. two, that number you see in the mirror when the lights are off
b. six hundred, five hundred
c. twelvety, terrible mistakes
Fill in the blank:
6.Â Â You possess this book. What do you do first? Answer in the form of a statement: ________________
7.Â Â You do not possess this book. Now what? Answer in the form of a question: ________________
8.Â Â Cecil Baldwin is the voice of Night Vale, but we have established there are no voices in this book. Who is reading this now? Answer in a whisper.
Very good. Now pass this book to the person to your left for grading. If there is no person to your left, you may keep this book and continue reading. Or you may simply continue to possess it and never explore its contents. I am not here to tell you what to do. I am just here to forward.
âMaureen Johnson, New York, 2016
Not water. The first things you should learn about books is that they're not water. At least, NOT RIGHT NOW.
See previous footnote if this statement is false.
I'm just being polite. You should go look.
As previously discussed, this is a book, so putting in a year is an act of folly.
ALE BECOME SO
The short answer is: Tumblr.
The long answer is: I don't know.
I mean, I do know, but it's in the same way I know how gravity works or what peanut butter tastes like or how blue is a different color from red (spoiler alert). It involves some logic, some intuition, some reverse engineering, and a lot of wild gesticulation.
When we posted our first episode, we had fifty total downloads the first week, which seems like the grand total of all the friends who know me, Joseph, and Cecil. That number grew over the next couple of months into the hundreds. As we put out two episodes a month, each one had more downloads its first week than the previous. And we reached the low thousands by our half-year mark.
There's no way the three of us knew a thousand people total. We had strangers in our audience who listened for a reason beyond chummy obligationâa quantitative measure of true artistic success!
Our hope was that by our one-year anniversary (June 15, 2013) we would reach 100,000 total downloads over all twenty-five episodes. And we achieved that. We, in fact, beat it pretty good. We had 150,000 total downloads.
When you make theater and dance for a living, you get excited when the audience outnumbers the cast on stage. (“Please let there be at least six people tonight! Please let there beâoh good, those people I barely know from work came!”) So it's hard to process what 150,000 downloads even means, especially when you can't even see them. They're just abstract numbers and a small handful of nice e-mails. (At this point we still had no idea what Tumblr was.)
But we were giddy. We were regularly in the iTunes Top 200 comedy podcasts. Sometimes we would have a bit of a surge and jump briefly ahead of some of the greats hovering in the twenty to fifty range:
Stop Podcasting Yourself; How Was Your Week; Stuff You Should Know; My Brother, My Brother and Me; Comedy Bang Bang
, etc. It was great. We were proud.
We had no idea what was happening.
Then July 2013 came around. I was in Astoria, Oregon, vacationing with my extended family: aunts, cousins, nieces, nephewsâpeople I rarely get to see. My cousin Ryan said, “I saw you guys passed Marc Maron on the charts.” “Oh, we haven't done that yet,” I was quick to explain. My other cousin, Ashley, said, “I'm pretty sure you did.” We each raced to our phones. And there
was: #2, just behind
This American Life
, and just ahead of
WTF with Marc Maron
Then my server crashed, because we were still hosting this supposedly tiny project on my cheap, personal website.
Okay, so remember that in our first twelve months, we had 150,000 downloads. In our thirteenth month alone, we had 2.5 million downloads. Then in August 2013 alone, we had 8.5 million downloads. And we were ahead of
This American Life
at #1 for four straight months. And people would say “you're famous,” and there would be fan art and backlash and tons of e-mails, but I still worked as a database manager for Film Forum. I really liked it there. It's a great institution, a really good job.
I was, in a way, trying to keep
a secret, because I wanted my life to stay as it was. My whole life in theater was “please come to my show” and “here's a postcard” and “I can comp you in, please please someone see this.” And now, here was success being handed to me. No, not handed, thrust upon me. No, not upon, into. Stabbed. I was being repeatedly stabbed with success. It was 50 percent elation, 25 percent confusion, 25 percent certain I was dead.