Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast cult darling. The show, which takes the form of increasingly bizarre community radio updates in the titular small town of Night Vale, delivers strange, funny and creepy stories with a straight face and perceived authenticity. It’s a blend which has not only resonated with listeners, but paved the way for similarly-themed podcasts, such as Limetown, The Black Tapes and others.
Alice Isn’t Dead, Fink and Cranor’s follow up to their breakout hit, premiered its first of 10 bi-weekly episodes on March 8, and just posted episode #2 this week. The show’s premiere also announces the start of a new podcasting network from the show’s creators, Night Vale Presents, which aims to encourage new original podcast content from writers and artists.
Alice Isn’t Dead is the story of an unnamed woman (played by frequent Night Vale guest Jasika Nicole) who works as a truck driver. She’s searching for her wife, Alice, who may or may not be deceased. The podcast takes the form of the narrator’s CB radio transmissions as she crosses the country in her rig, which she addresses to Alice as a sort of journal and confessional.
The show is a slight departure from Night Vale in style—Alice Isn’t Dead unfolds like a serialized narrative rather than an open-ended news bulletin—and in atmosphere. Where Night Vale used sci-fi and horror tropes to create strange, elaborate jokes, Alice Isn’t Dead is meant to be straight-up Lovecraftian pulp horror, mixed with a dose of open-road Americana.The first episode introduces listeners to a flesh-eating creature who stalks truck stop diners and gas stations. The second covers a creepy roadside town called Charlatan, as well as the mystery surrounding Alice’s disappearance.
Alice Isn’t Dead suffers a little from a narrative voice that lacks the ring of authenticity—an element that made shows like Limetown and Night Vale entertainingly disorienting experiences. At no time do star Jasika Nicole’s monologues sound like anything you’d hear an actual truck driver (or anyone without a creative writing degree, for that matter) saying.
However, the show more than makes up for this shortcoming by creating a story that’s genuinely unnerving, helped immensely by a creepy, atmospheric sound design, courtesy of Night Vale soundtrack creators Disparition. Between its philosophical truck driver protagonist and its synth-heavy music, Alice Isn’t Dead also calls back heavily to cult movie maestro John Carpenter (particularly parts of 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China), which is never a bad thing.
Alice Isn’t Dead may not trick any unsuspecting listeners, but it’s still a unique piece of narrative art that, with its promising debut, should be great fun to follow in the weeks to come. It’s also an exciting move forward for Night Vale creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, as they take the next step in their slow and steady conquest of the podcast world. So grab your trucker hat and a bottle of holy water for the road, friends—it’s about to get weird.