At the 39th annual Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) Conference held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, February 7-10, graduate film student Alec Petsche (M.A. May 2018) presented a paper on a hot new phenomenon. Titled “Welcome to Night Vale” as Consumable Paratext, his paper explored the unexpected and unconventional success of the “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast. The series, produced twice a month by Night Vale Presents and available online, provides community updates for the fictional small desert town of Night Vale, featuring “local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.” The podcast has become an international hit.
Petsche said, “The absence of visuals, the multi-faceted storytelling that supplements the audio podcast with novels and live shows, and the unique merchandise that appeals to its weird niche audience construct an environment in which fans actively imagine and create Night Vale for themselves rather than merely observing it. This engagement has led to the podcast’s popularity and success by creating a uniquely passionate and engaged fan community.”
Petsche, who won the Film and Media Arts Division’s award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Screenwriting in Film last May, wrote the paper for a Seminar in Popular Media class that focused on licensed merchandise. His professor, David Sedman, encouraged him to submit it to the conference.
“I was thrilled to have my paper accepted,” said Petsche. “Most presenters at academic conferences already have their Ph.D.s. It’s much less common for graduate students to present papers at these events, and it was an honor to be there representing SMU.”
Funding for the trip was provided by the Film and Media Arts Division.
Read more about the Division of Film and Media Arts M.A. Popular Film and Media Studies.