Given the amount of time I spend in complete silence at the library, podcasts have become a crucial part of my life. I listened to all of Lore, Welcome to Night Vale, The Black Tapes, Serial, and S-Town. My only wish as an avid Booktube watcher was to one day be able to listen to some of my favourite booktubers without a screen and take them with me in silent places. Wish granted! Stephanie from That’s What She Read and Rachel from The Shades of Orange have teamed up to create one of the most wonderful podcasts I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. I subscribed to it when it was only announced, and I’m so happy I stuck by it. They are already 19 scheduled episodes in (with a few bonus ones). The podcast is called “Books in the Freezer.” There is an episode in Friends where Joey puts all the books that scare him or make him sad in the freezer. Stephanie and Rachel have adopted that concept and took it a step further. The podcast focuses mainly on horror, supernatural/dark fiction, and thrillers. The two readers have an eye for good literature, and skilled writers who can create suspense in just the right way. If a book is really frightening they will label it as a book to “put in the freezer,” however, if the book is just slightly scary and not too haunting, they will label it as “a fridge book,” and if it’s really mild “room temperature.” This scale is absolutely brilliant!
Each week, Books in the Freezer will have a topic like: “Small Towns with Big Secrets” or “Survival Horror.” In the episode both Stephanie and Rachel take turns recommending books on this topic as well as television series, movies, podcasts, or any kind of medium which fits the genre and would enrich a fan’s knowledge of the topic of the week. From time to time Books in the Freezer will have a guest speaker like Olive from A Book Olive, or conduct an interview with an author. If you find ‘horror’ to be a genre you stay away from, or think it would be intimidating, I would still recommend you listen to this podcast. I myself don’t often reach for horror books, but some of these have gotten my attention. There’s more to some books than just elements of fear that make them outstanding, and listening to Stephanie and Rachel discuss those elements at length has really widened my perspective on this genre. As a librarian, I listen to this podcast to educate myself on a genre I don’t know too much about and if you want to keep informed without spending hours upon hours reading these books, then this podcast might be what you need. I have thoroughly enjoyed every episode and each time I come out with at least two books I add to my reading list. You should also be on the lookout for references made about The Office. It’s become the podcast’s ‘easter egg.’ I thought I would review this podcast, not only because I enjoy it so much but I thought I would share this with you in case you are searching for something new, or you want to spend time with two intelligent people discussing literature. I can say it is MOST definitely worth your time! After each episode the list of books discussed is linked in this website.
I’ve been trying to find ways to bring LORE into conversation, and on this blog several times without deviating from my main topic, unsure how, and then the book came out! For anyone who doesn’t know the exact content of this “LORE” I will go into detail in the Book Review section. But first, I want to introduce you to all the formats LORE comes in. I’ve officially consumed LORE in every format.
For the month of October I binge-listened to the entire LORE Podcast (still ongoing) and caught up to the latest one. My new job allows for the listening of podcasts and audio books, so Aaron Mahnke has been my “coworker” for the last two months. Needless to say, I loved it. Every episode features a different macabre topic in which Mahnke weaves together several narratives that have been historically recorded and fit the topic. He does an excellent job, and the literary allusions, and pop-culture references are on point. One of the many reasons I adore this project is that it’s highly inter-textual.
The podcast won best history podcast last year. The podcast is accompanied by music throughout and occasional commercials. New episodes are released every two weeks on Mondays. If you’re like me and late to the party just be happy. It’s a GOOD party, and you get to binge, which is awesome! The musical accompaniment is by Chad Lawson, who will soon release an album featuring the songs from LORE called A Grave Mistake.
2. The TV Show
Just as I was deep mid-podcast, on October 15, Amazon Prime Video released Season 1 of LORE which features six of the most chilling episodes. It was so much scarier seeing these tales performed with live people and seeing the settings (most are set in times different from our own). The costumes and settings really gave another dimension to these little histories. The direction of this season was excellent. The music, mixed with live demonstrations of some of these horrific things, made me far more afraid than I thought I would be (especially since I knew from the podcast how they end). Although I found some criticisms online where people dislike that Mahnke’s voice narrates throughout the show, I found his voice to be comforting when things got scary. He was the familiar constant, and I needed that.
3. The Audiobook
This was actually my favourite format of the four, which I’ll explain at length below. It maintains the ‘cleanliness’ of the book, but it also has Mahnke’s voice and some musical effects which I loved from the Podcast. I got this from Audible. Although I completely understand why in the podcasts people often take requests for placing ads throughout, it can be a little annoying while listening, but with the audio-book, it was commercial-free and the transitions between topics were so smooth. This audio-book is a reading of the book below.
4. LORE: Monstrous Creatures | Book Review
This book is made of the transcripts from the LORE Podcast mentioned above and edited in such a way that results in a very smooth transition from one tale to the next. The book itself is a mere fraction of what is to be a longer series, published by Del Rey. The second book Wicked Mortals is set for release in May of 2018 and the third book has been announced, but the cover has not been revealed.
The book cover and the accompanying illustrations are made by M.S. Corley whose contribution to this work gives LORE yet another layer of talent and atmosphere. His illustrations are so morbid and simultaneously whimsical. I think the two choices for colors: the red and black, relate to the section in the book “Doing Tricks, Shifting Shapes” where Mahnke writes:
“Black and red, for a very long time, were considered bad colors, so if you wanted to describe something as evil, of course it was black or red or both.” (Mahnke, 76)
The content of LORE is made up of vignettes and separate accounts of mysterious sightings, happenings, or experiments done by humans. The range is anywhere from the supernatural to the scientific. All of them are rooted in real recordings and stories, even if at times humans just ‘claimed’ to have seen or done something. Mahnke reminds us with this work, that not too long ago oral testimony is all we really had, and that a lot of people were highly superstitious.
The way he captures these stories is in the same spirit of the Grimm Brothers. He collected and compiled tales of the macabre, but roots each firmly in historical context. I found it very useful to understand why and how certain practices were done in a particular time period. Mahnke references historical figures, other works of literature, and the sources from which one can find the details of each of these records. What I found most exciting is that he brings together stories from all over the world. We are globally united in our fear of the unknown, death, and the unexplained and Mahnke forces readers (and listeners) to look at that aspect of our human nature. He writes:
“We fear death because it means the loss of control, the loss of purpose and freedom. Death, in the eyes of many people, robs us of our identity and replaces it with finality.”
At the 200-year-anniversary of the Brothers Grimm, Harvard professor Maria Tatar—expert on folklore and fairy tales— mentioned that the reason fairy tales are so deeply ingrained in our society and why we love them so much is because they’ve been told and retold so many times that all the boring bits have been left out. What we get now is the final product of a story that has been edited through generations. I think Mahnke’s work captures the same effect through the refining of folklore, and the editing process that these tales have experienced simply by being tested in the format of a Podcast prior to being committed to text. Of course the stories and their content prior to Mahnke’s work on them were refined through oral storytelling. Mahnke sometimes even extends the use of ‘lore’ or ‘folklore’ and appropriates it to other unifying communal activities like sports and how we all share a common language like the “Curse of the Bambino” in baseball folklore for example. Mahnke constantly reminds us of the power of stories:
“no realm holds more explanation for the unexplainable than folklore” (65)
“Given enough time, story–like water–will leave its mark and transform a place.” (127)
I don’t know if I’ve convinced you to give LORE a try if you haven’t, or to experience it in at least one of its formats, but clearly I love it! No one asked me to write a review, this is just me writing about my love for this whole production, because in trying to explain what I love about it, I understand myself better, and what I enjoy about this kind of storytelling. An additional Lore-related video I strongly enjoyed was Aaron Mahnke’s speech here, on how he started out, and what brought LORE to the phenomenon it is today. If you have enjoyed LORE and want to try Mahnke’s other works, here are some of this other works:
Also, this is the official link to all things LORE.
The book is written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and is published by Harper Perennial.
Night Vale is a town in the middle of the ‘American’ desert that is overall peculiar. All its inhabitants are very strange. The main story follows a single mom (of a shape-shifting boy) Diane, and a pawnshop owner named Jackie. A mysterious man in a tan jacket arrives leaving behind a note with only two words on it “King City.” The memories of this man fade and all Jackie is left with is “King City.” It’s a mystery/thriller that feels very much like Twin Peaks, but with the storytelling style of The Twilight Zone. The strangeness of each character is fantastical similar to Stranger Things where it’s sci-fi but told in a realistic way, highlighting human mundane problems using the supernatural. Between the narratives there are passages that look like transcripts from the town radio show. The radio passages unite the narratives because the news applies to all citizens of Night Vale and as a reader one can get a better sense of what goes on in town and what all the characters talk about communally.
I understand that the Podcast is wildly popular and has achieved great success between 2015 and 2016. I did not get a chance to finish the Podcast so I will write my impressions of the book/audiobook.
First: if you can get the audiobook I recommend it strongly. In fact, if you must choose between the printed text and the audio, choose the audio. There are several reasons why it works better in audio format. The first reason is that in Night Vale there is a radio broadcast and the narrator who reads the radio host voice Cecil is also the one who does it in the podcast. The second reason is that this is not a ‘literary’ book, but a highly atmospheric one. The musical accompaniment and sound effects from the audiobook help enhance the setting and atmosphere. It reminded me of so many things (like the shows mentioned above) and reading it I just got an overall feeling of eeriness and mystery. The plot itself is not that exciting and the characters are not that deep, but somehow it works and it works well.
If I had to choose between its three existing formats as a narrative I would say the Podcast is the best. Although I haven’t heard it through to the end, I can tell from the few episodes that it is this narrative’s best format. The novelization incorporates some characters from the Podcast but not necessarily the best ones. There are several parts with lulls where the novel lost my interest but it does pick up again.
That said, overall I loved this book and the experience of it. I look forward to finishing all the Podcast episodes.
The book is filled with lines that left me in awe and some that just made me laugh out loud. Here are some examples of lines I found funny and some I found beautiful.
Humour extracted from Cecil’s Broadcast:
“coming up after this break, some exclusive clips from my recent three-hour interview with myself, in which I interrogated myself on my motivations, where I am in life, why I’m not in a different place in life, whose fault that is, and why I said that one embarrassing thing once.”
“If you see one of these False Police, act right away by shrugging and thinking What am I gonna do? And then seeing if anything funny is on Twitter”
“if the School Board could not promise to prevent children from learning about dangerous activities like drug use and library science at recess…”
“if you see hooded figures in the Dog Park, no you didn’t.”
“Later she understood databases, having become the person she’d lied about being…”
“How does a person discover whether they are shy if they never have the time to meet new people?”
“There is nothing more lonely than an action taken quietly on your own, and nothing more comforting than doing that same quiet action in parallel with fellow humans doing the same action, everyone alone next to each other.”
“She left the shower as most people leave showers, clean and a little lonely”
“A person’s life is only what they do.”
Hopefully I captured some of Night Vale’s charm. I definitely recommend the Podcast, and the book/audiobook. This work will have a sequel coming out on October 17 this year with the title: It Devours! from the same authors.
The Audiobook is available through the public library with Overdrive. The ebook is also on Overdrive, and the public library should have the printed copy in its system.
There are also two volumes of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast SCRIPTS:
- Mostly Void, Partially Stars
- The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe