"Alice Isn’t Dead": Discovering a Love for Audio Fiction

For a long time, I didn’t like listening to podcasts, but I recently realized that I enjoy a particular type of podcast: the kind that tells a fictional story. Rather than the narratives presented in true crime podcasts, I like audio fiction, which is presented as if the stories are completely real and recorded by your loyal narrator as faithfully as possible. I love them because they don’t require the hours-long attention required by books and movies and you can easily hear the whole story while multitasking (I like to crochet or paint as I listen).

I discovered this appreciation when I started listening to Alice Isn’t Dead, a surreal horror podcast produced by the same people who made the more famous audio fiction podcast Welcome to Night Vale (its network is called Night Vale Presents). It’s not over-the-top horror, which I’m not a fan of. There is no gore, no screaming, and no cheap jump scares for shock value. The horror is only a small element of this story, which is narrated by a truck driver who’s on a road trip to find her wife, Alice, who she thought was dead (and, as the title helpfully informs us, very much isn’t).

This is a really unique take on the road trip story, which usually involves some teenagers or young adults in an existential crisis who set out to find themselves, and often manage to do so when it seems like all they’ve found is dingy gas stations and eccentric landmarks. (Example: if you’ve taken a road trip on the East Coast, you may have seen a historic landmark in South Carolina called South of the Border that features an enormous tower decorated like a man wearing a sombrero holding a welcome sign. If you haven’t seen it, just know that it was terrifying to me as an eight-year-old who did not understand why this poorly done caricature of a Mexican immigrant in a huge sombrero was staring down at me.) In Alice Isn’t Dead, our narrator isn’t on a journey to find herself but a very specific person—Alice—and while she stumbles across some eccentric landmarks, they’re far more terrifying than men in sombreros.

I’m also a fan of the music and sound effects. The music is only a few seconds at the beginning and end of each episode, but it sounds like what would come on the radio during a road trip, while still unsettling enough you can sense a wrongness in it, especially in that low, reverberating note at the end. Throughout each episode, you can hear faint sounds of engines roaring and tires screeching as our narrator drives down the highway, each sound adding a note of urgency and tension to the narrative.

Also, I love that we get WLW (women-loving-women) representation! While I love moving coming out narratives, it’s also wonderful to see queer women doing things that don’t necessarily center on queer identity, like going on road trips and meeting strange locals while trying to save themselves and their loved ones from terrible fates. It’s also wonderful to see an established relationship between two married women, as many stories start at the beginning of a relationship rather than years into it.

Alice Isn’t Dead is a mesmerizing, unique podcast, and I’m excited to not only finish listening to it—I’m halfway through season two at the moment—but also read the novel adaptation in the future! It’s definitely gotten me more interested in audio fiction, and I plan to listen to more audio fiction in the future, especially other podcasts done by Night Vale Presents.

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