The Buying of Lot 37: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 3
Who’s a Good Boy?: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 4
by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
So many spiders. So, so many spiders.
Night Vale, as a town, is not for the faint of heart, especially if one has a problem with arachnids. (“Throat spiders” is a common ailment, the very idea of which makes me want to vomit until I die.) It’s also infested with deer, many of whom have extra eyes and heads, and thanks to the largesse of Night Vale Community College alumna Mrs. Sylvia Wickersham, thousands of English Angora rabbits. Because a Whispering Forest that ensnares victims with compliments, a tiny civilization underneath the bowling alley and arcade complex, and hordes of bloodied warriors wandering through the desert wastes are super-fun and scary, but not quite scary enough to make me check and double-check my shoes and bedding.
Unfortunately, spiders aren’t the scariest thing in seasons 3 and 4 of Welcome to Night Vale: residents have to contend with mayoral candidates plotting against the newly elected mayor and contesting the results of the election in season 2, the imprisonment of beloved scientist Carlos in a wickedly clever trap, the time-altering Blood Space War, an encroaching army of strangers, and the cutest beagle puppy in, like, ever.
Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor have published the scripts from seasons 3 and 4 in The Buying of Lot 37: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 3 and Who’s a Good Boy?: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 4 (2019). As with Vols. 1 and 2, the scripts are accompanied by introductory essays from themselves and Cecil Baldwin — the voice of Cecil Palmer — himself the voice of Night Vale Community Radio. Once again, the episodes are beautifully illustrated by Jessica Hayworth, who also provides the cover art for each volume. (For a more complete rundown of what to expect from a typical episode, see my review of Mostly Void, Partially Stars: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Vol. 1 and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Vol. 2.)
PROVERB: I’m a single-issue voter. If a candidate is not a baby polar bear, I straight-up cannot support them.
The introductory essays from guest voices Kevin R. Free, Kate Jones, Mara Wilson, James Urbaniak, and Mark Gagliardi (just to name a few), all of whom have roots in theatre and performative arts, are as educational and illuminating as the insights from Fink, Cranor, and Baldwin. It’s all part and parcel of creating characters and living worlds that feel completely realistic despite the sometimes outlandish, often otherworldly situations and scenarios. As a reader or listener, knowing that the guest contributors are just as excited to be welcomed into this strange little community as you are to read about it is tremendously validating.
The bits and bobs about their creative process from Fink, Cranor, and Baldwin — the people most responsible for the blueprints and boundaries of this universe — focus more specifically on said process in these two volumes than in the previous two, in ways that will be helpful to aspiring authors or performers interested in the work ethics and thought processes of people who have turned their labor of love into financial and, most importantly, personal success. I appreciate that they didn’t shy away from discussing details of their personal lives and politics, and how those politics and their viewpoints inform the shape and tenor of the podcast.
The Buying of Lot 37 (with a foreword by Dessa) features the scripts for Episodes #50 through #70B, along with the script for the first live touring show, “The Librarian.” Some of my favorite episodes include #53, “The September Monologues,” which provides three glimpses of Night Vale beyond Cecil Palmer’s perspective; #54, “A Carnival Comes to Town,” which turns a trope on its head in the best tradition of The Twilight Zone; #62, “Hatchets,” which has a special place in my heart due to my love and respect for print journalism; #67, “[Best Of?],” provides the audience a chance to meet Cecil’s predecessor, Leonard Burton; and episodes #70A and #70B, “Taking Off” and “Review,” in which Cecil and Carlos come to difficult and life-altering decisions, the new Old Night Vale Opera House has its inaugural performance, and the future of Night Vale’s leadership is put to its ultimate test.
The live show, “The Librarian,” owes a great and acknowledged debt to the films of William Castle, particularly The Tingler, and sounds like it would be a lot of fun either to perform or to experience as an audience member. Though this volume’s title is a nod to Thomas Pynchon’s 1966 novella The Crying of Lot 49, and Cecil’s struggle to discover the ramifications of his existence as the auctioned Lot 37 reflect Oedipa Maas’ struggle to determine the truth behind the rumors of an underground postal-delivery service, the overall plotline here is pure Welcome to Night Vale, and its resolution is uniquely suited to the podcast and subject matter.
Some of that resolution is explored in Who’s a Good Boy? (with a foreword by Jonny Sun) as one of the co-conspirators against the Mayor is put on trial for their misdeeds; the trial concludes and a sentence is pronounced, though this plot is sidelined by the more prominent and insidious story of Chad, whose efforts to alleviate his personal existential crisis have disastrous and far-reaching consequences. This is the first season that felt like there was a little too much going on at once, with a slightly-less-clear vision of what the season’s big threat would be and how it would resolve. In fact, the conspirator’s arc continues into season 5, after the entire town bands together to battle for the soul of Night Vale for a second time.
Volume 4 features the scripts for Episodes #71 through #90, along with the script for the live touring show “The Investigators.” I recommend reading (and listening to) episode #71, “The Registry of Middle School Crushes,” featuring a heist progressing in real time; #76, “An Epilogue,” written as an epilogue to the Welcome to Night Vale novel and, simultaneously, a spoiler-free episode in its own right; #79, “Lost in the Mail,” in which enlistees of the Blood Space War correspond with their loved ones, and is a painful episode for a host of reasons; #85, “The April Monologues,” which provide context for the growing number of strangers and the repeated sightings of Intern Maureen and her boyfriend Chad with their unspeakably adorable beagle puppy; and episodes #89 and #90, “Who’s a Good Boy?: Part One” and “Who’s a Good Boy?: Part Two,” in which we discover just who that good boy is. But after the battle and the blood, there are hints that even more danger awaits the citizens of Night Vale.
If you’re happy and you know it, then the chemtrails are finally working.
If you’re new to Welcome to Night Vale, the beauty of the way in which the show is written is that you can drop in pretty much anywhere, listen to or read an individual episode at random, and get a pretty clear idea of what this show is about and whether it’s a good fit for you. If the idea of a faceless old woman and a five-headed dragon plotting against a former radio station intern intrigues you, I encourage you to start again at an earlier point in the series so that you can experience the build-up leading to the climactic battle at the new Old Night Vale Opera House. Or, if you’re the type of reader who would rather pick a point to jump in and go forward from there, the plots and character development will be equally rewarding. It’s entirely up to you. Either way, I highly recommend using The Buying of Lot 37 and Who’s a Good Boy? to entertain yourself, to prepare for the ongoing/oncoming Blood Space War, or to justify adding a puppy to your household. What’s the worst that could happen?